ated from St. Olaf College in 1923. Her first love was her pupils. A second was her home on Upper Broadway in Decorah, where she lived from 1910 to 1993. Estella was a tomboy and, as a child, it was difficult for her stay in one place and be quiet at the same time. Her nieces, grandniece and grandnephew remember with smiles the story of Estella, about age 6, making a bargain with the hired man on their farm near Waukon, the terms of which required her to sit perfectly still on the front porch step without making a sound until he returned from town. If she could do that, her reward was to be a bag of candy. Her desire for the candy did prevail over her active nature and I can still almost savor for myself the texture and flavor of those hard-earned candies. The “teacher with the hat" taught 3 generations of young people, mostly 6th graders, and helped train many student teachers from Luther College, who benefited from her example and experience.
Estella's sister, Clarice, was the quietest of Peter and Ellen (Lyngaas) Johnson’s children. She married Selmer Narum on 14 Aug 1918 in the living room of her parents’ home in Decorah. Their marriage lasted 56 years, until Selmer’s death in 1974. Their daughter, Ellen Lorraine (Studt) was born 10 Dec 1928 and died 27 Apr 1959. Being of cautious disposition, Clarice used to relate 2 favorite stories, with appropriate drama and intensity. One concerned an unfriendly goose who held her hostage in an outhouse on the farm for several hours when she was a child and the other involved being terrorized by a battalion of garter snakes in heavy camouflage known to attack when she approached the vegetable garden at her home on Upper Broadway to pick pole beans and tomatoes. Clarice also lived in that home for over 80 years. The sisters found great pleasure sitting on their porch in comfortable wicker rockers watching people pass by on their way to “the park."
While Estella was busy educating Decorah's children, her brother, Philip, was serving his first customers and later their sons and grandsons at Johnson’s Service Station, still officially listed as having the longest continuous owner record with Standard Oil Company - 48 years. Philip started to work for Standard Oil while a student at Luther College. After he graduated in 1928, with a degree in history and economics, he replaced his first station with one also built on Upper Iowa bottom land. That station was demolished in 1934 because of construction of the new Leif Erickson Bridge across the river. The third received wide publicity for its landscaping, large cement pool with fish and aquatic plants and modern, well-appointed ladies lounge. Phil spoke often about the many floods the station(s) withstood, a time when there was no gas tax and gas sold for 150 a gallon, the change from unleaded to leaded and back to unleaded gas, cranking cars when they came in and using glass bowl dial pumps that showed the fuel in big bowls on top. He remembered the tornado that swept along the river bottom in 1929, touching down near the station where 9 men sought safety in a drain pit. Dad reminisced about mowing the lawns at Phelps Park with a push mower as a boy and helping to build the rock wall that still lines its bluffs. He entertained his grandson with stories about the fireworks he, Mart Soukup and Harold Larsen set off at exactly one minute after midnight every Fourth of July. He was an athlete throughout his years at Decorah High School and Luther College and later was a member of the Decorah Quarterback Club and a season ticket-holder for all athletic events at Luther. He served on the Decorah City Council from 1940 to 1948 and was the longest-serving charter member (15 years) of the Decorah Airport Commission, appointed to manage the grass runway airport that had been built in 1960 at today’s present site. Philip was the official meteorologist for Decorah for 21 years, presiding over a bank of weather instruments located at his gas station.
Philip Martin Johnson and Marian Francis Newell were married 27 Sep 1936 at the Methodist Church in Harmony, MN. Marian's father was a butcher and the family lived in an apartment above the meat market on Main Street. At the end of Ethan’s long days in the market, he brought choice meats, cheeses, pickles and crackers upstairs to lone and Marian and thus began a tradition of late-night “Dutch lunches” that persists in my family to this very day. Marian learned early to recognize and use only the finest ingredients, quickly establishing a life-long reputation as a wonderful cook. Her childhood scrapbooks reflect skills in art and music. She enjoyed Norwegian folk painting and her artistic flair combined with her excellent cooking made meals at her home very special occasions. Each one had a touch of holiday about it with pretty dishes and flowers that seemed to automatically fall into pleasing arrangements as Mother moved them from the garden to a basket or bowl. Marian attended Carlton College for one year and then went on to graduate from Winona State Teachers College in 1930. She taught at Lanesboro, MN briefly and then from 1930-1936 in the Decorah Public Schools. Marian was a Girl Scout Leader and Sunday School teacher. She and Philip were avid sports fans and bridge players, members of First Lutheran Church, the Elks, Silvercrest and Oneota Golf and Country Clubs and Sons of Norway. Marian has described herself as a “dyed in the wool" collector, with her favorite collection being majolica pottery. Its bright colors and designs once made it a popular premium given with the purchase of baking powder. Unlike many collectors, Marian has always used her pieces regularly. Chicken salad served on one of her majolica begonia leaves is a favorite treat. Philip died in May 1984. Marian continues to find relaxation and recreation in her kitchen, baking half a batch of this and a fourth a batch of that. Her grandson captioned her talent when he was 8 years old and announced to the world that his grandma was “the best cooker ever."
Philip and Marian’s daughter, Maryanne (that’s me), was born 7 Jan 1939 in Decorah. I grew up with a love of hiking the hills around our beautiful town. I’m still an active walker, participating in volkssport events all over the country. I like to connect my own fondness for walking with my great grandmother, Elina (Ruen) Johnson, who used to walk long distances to market her eggs and butter; with my grandfather Eric Lyngaas who was a tireless walker; and with my great great grandmother Mary (Young) Newell who at the age of 100 insisted on walking
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this page was last updated on Sunday, 28 March 2021