It’s been said that the actions of an average person can impact the course of history. But can an average person with an interest in the history of a small community have an impact? If the person is Carol Day, the answer is a resounding “yes!”
The last of seven children, Carol arrived, to the wonderment of her siblings, in the early morning.
“I was born Carol Mae Norgren, May 23, 1928, to parents John and Nannie, on a farm in rural Evansville, where I lived the first 14 years of my life,” said Carol. “It was a more innocent time and on the day I was born, I lay on the dining room table wrapped in a blanket. When the doctor asked my sister Edith if she’d like to see the baby, she replied, ‘Where’s momma; does momma know?’”
Chores for the children included filling the kerosene lamps, getting the wood in and filling a bucket with kindling. Carol knew that all was right with the world when she came downstairs in the morning “and Dad was at the dining room table, the lamp was turned down low and his glasses were on the Bible. He had brought coffee to Mother, a Swedish tradition. On birthdays and Christmas, he brought coffee to all of us kids too. He also made the pancakes and waffles.”
Carol attended School District 52, located about a quarter mile down the highway near the northwest corner of the family farm. “We walked to school and also walked to the neighbors to play.”
I finished school to the eighth grade in seven years, taking both first and second grade in the same year,” said Carol. “Another friend did the same thing and, although she lives in California, we still get together every summer.”
Following graduation in 1945 as the valedictorian of Evansville High School, Carol attended Moorhead State Teachers College. Courses started two weeks after her high school graduation and she took accelerated elementary education courses during the summer and academic year. Carol’s mother, also a teacher, had attended the school in 1914 (then called Moorhead Normal School), as did her sister and at least one person in each generation since. Carol later continued her education at the University of Minnesota, Morris, taking classes in education, history and library science.
Carol taught in rural school District 41 near Hoffman for three years. “It was a wonderful community in which to work. The kids were typical farm kids, energetic and talented.”
It was while working in Hoffman that she met her future husband, Eugene Day.
“My best friend and his best friend invited us to go to a movie,” said Carol. “We dated for two years and were married Nov. 25, 1950, at Evansville’s Emmanuel Lutheran Church.”
The Days enjoyed traveling by car to places like Duluth, Itasca State Park, California and New Orleans. Their daughter’s employment with the federal government led them to drive on the Queen’s Highway in Canada, to New England and also to fly to Alaska. In 1978, Carol spent three weeks in Sweden. In recent years, she has traveled with her daughter and son-in-law to Palm Springs and makes an annual fall trip to the North Shore.
Eugene, a road builder in business with his father, Harry Day, died March 30, 2004.
Following the birth of daughter Candace, Carol was a homemaker until Candace entered the sixth grade. “I taught as a substitute for eight years in the Morris Elementary first through sixth grades.” Carol then worked with the Title I program in Morris for the next 25 years, retiring in 1996. She was a member of the Morris Literary Club, disbanded early this century, for 49 years.
And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
“Mrs. Freda Judd was curator of the War Memorial Room at the Morris Armory. She had been a neighbor of the Day family in Rendsville Township in pioneer days,” said Carol. “She and I became acquainted in Literary Club and she asked me to help judge a contest during the Minnesota State Centennial in 1958. History and geography had always been my favorite subjects. This was the beginning of a long association with the historical society.”
When the Armory burned in 1967, historical artifacts were stored until the Carnegie building (formerly the Morris library) became available.
“In the years following the celebration of the Morris Area Centennial in 1971, activities of the Historical Society gradually declined. I believed that Stevens County had a history worth preserving and called a representative group of county residents to help in this effort. A re-organization of the Society resulted, staff was hired and educational programming developed,” said Carol.
Carol wrote a column for the Morris Sun and Morris Tribune—Yesterday in Stevens County—under then editor Arnold Thompson in the 1970s. In 1976, she compiled a yearlong calendar for the United States Bicentennial. “I used newspapers and history books to gather information, so that the calendar included something that happened in Stevens County for every day of the year. It was published in the newspaper.”
In the late 1970s, local newspaper general manager Jim Morrison asked Carol to write Looking Back, a compilation of historical events that happened in Stevens County, which Carol wrote until about 2008, when she developed macular degeneration. Following Arnold Thompson’s death, Carol’s nephew Steve Lang was the editor for several years.
“I’ve learned and enjoyed so much because of my interest in history,” said Carol. “There are so many ways to share history with people and a variety of fascinating people to meet along the way. There are those who can ignite my interest in further research through their involvement and donations to the Museum.”
Carol has collaborated on several books including Syrup Pails and Overshoes, An Honest Day’s Work, and A Time for War, A time for Peace. Along with Ward Voorhees, she co-authored the history of the First Lutheran Church of Morris.
Her long association with the Stevens County Historical Museum has introduced her to groups and individuals she might not otherwise have met.
“There was a filming crew from Ireland who came to research the history of Irish settlers near Graceville. A copy of their film is available at the Museum.
“Three lovely sisters from Washington state, descendants of Thomas Thomasson, who came to Stevens County in 1867, visited the Museum several times to explore their family history and to donate priceless information and artifacts. A real friendship developed.”
Today, Carol is working with Ardath Larson of Morris to transcribe Ida Hancock’s diaries. As a builder, Hancock built the Carnegie building and several schools in the area. Ida was the originator of the historical society.
“I had read about Ida Hancock and was fascinated by her community involvement. She was a charter member of the Morris Floral Club, later called the Morris Students Club, still in existence today.”
Although she has only peripheral vision in her right eye and limited vision in the left eye, Carol continues to be active, and, on occasion, do the unexpected.
When her sister Edith Lang celebrated her 90th birthday two years ago, Edith’s son Steve had arranged for a friend to take his mother for a motorcycle ride. A nephew was also there with his motorcycle and Carol was urged to ride with them. So the two sisters, aged 90 and 83, went “tooling down the road, hair flying in the breeze.”
On a less adventurous note, “I help to assemble the mailing for our church newsletter. I get together once a month with retired teachers, and also enjoy attending concerts on the campus. I continue to read on my Nook.”
My greatest satisfaction is a happy marriage and a happy family,” said Carol, “being a wife and mother and finding a niche in life where I could do things that interest me. Growing up in the 1930s made life rather grim. I learned from my parents, who never pushed, but had expectations of their children. I’ve traveled to places I could never have imagined I would see.”
Still, there’s no place like home for Carol, who has remained in her historic Morris home among welcoming neighbors and dear friends.
“This community offers access to many good things, not the least of which is an excellent transit system and a grocery store that delivers groceries for a dollar.”