A rough beginning

Glenwood man was successful despite disjointed and tragic childhood “I guess it worked out OK,” says Charles Bullock of Glenwood now of an upbringing that makes his comment a colossal understatement. Bounced around from one family to another following a series of dying adoptive parents in his early years, Bullock went on to marry and raise a family, own part of his own business and spend nearly 68 years in the men’s retail clothing industry. In fact that career in the clothing business just ended earlier this year. Bullock was born in a Wayzata hospital in the late 1920s and put up for adoption immediately by his birth mother. He was adopted by the Charles Lindholm family, a family that managed a farm on the shore of Lake Minnetonka near Crystal Bay. “I believe the farm was owned by a person from Chicago who was the publisher or editor of a newspaper,” said Bullock. When he was about three the Lindholms adopted another boy, this one named Jack, who became Bullock’s brother. “That’s when things began to happen,” said Bullock, as he started an explanation of one of the most bizarre series of events a person could imagine. Charles Lindholm died and when he died his family lost its job and home. His mother moved the family to Minneapolis so she could learn to be a hairdresser and become a provider for herself and her two boys. The plan was that a woman in the same apartment building would take care of the two boys during the day while their mother attended training. “She didn’t do too good of a job,” said Bullock of the caretaker. The two boys found a box of ExLax and ate it. “It tasted pretty good,” said Bullock, who still grins when he talks about it. His mother decided that the day care arrangement wasn’t working and took the two boys to Henning to stay with the Herb Wheeler family. Bullock wasn’t sure what the connection was between Mrs. Lindholm and the Wheelers. After a week Bullock was taken back to Minneapolis to stay with a woman who had lost her son. “He had a lot of toys but I couldn’t touch any of them,” he said. Not too long later the woman had an appendicitis attack and Bullock was sent back to the Wheeler’s place in Henning. Then Marion and Mable Bullock of Battle Lake, who had a relative in Henning, heard about Bullock and came and picked him up and brought him to Battle Lake where they intended to adopt him. “Then the man who was supposed to become my father was killed when a saw blade broke in a saw mill,” said Bullock. “The woman who was to become my mother went ahead with the adoption.” And that was where he got his last name. But the strange saga had still more twists. Mable Bullock had a bowel obstruction and had surgery in the Fergus Falls Hospital. Before leaving the hospital after what had been a successful surgery, she contracted pneumonia and died. Once again death had taken an adoptive parent. Bullock was then taken by Mable Bullock’s mother, his adoptive grandmother, to live in Fergus Falls. Around that time, believe it or not, she lost her husband in a farming accident. “All of this happened over a period of three or four years, said Bullock. Also during that time frame Jack was adopted by the Wheeler family. While this was going on an aunt acquired through the Bullock adoption decided Bullock should have a birth certificate; none existed at that point. “She spent a full year tracking down information,” said Bullock. “Apparently the hospital never sent the records of my birth to the court house.” His aunt eventually tracked down the nurse who had helped deliver him and he was issued a certificate of birth, but it did not contain information about his birth mother or father. Bullock went on to attend Fergus Falls High School starting in the ninth grade and eventually graduated in 1944 when he was still 17. In high school he had a paper route and started his career in the retail business. “I had the longest route with the fewest number of customers for the Fergus Falls Journal,” said Bullock. “It wasn’t bad in the summer when I could ride my bike but in the winter I had to walk it. That was not much fun.” A job in a meat department in a grocery store didn’t last long when Bullock decided that cutting the heads off chickens wasn’t his cup of tea. Another job at the A&P Grocery in Fergus wasn’t much better, he didn’t consider himself very strong and lugging around 100 lb. sacks of potatoes and heavy bags of sugar and flour didn’t sit well with him either. “Then a man from church took me down and introduced me to Ken Gunderson of the St. Clair Gunderson men’s store,” said Bullock. While he didn’t know it at the time, the seed was planted for his lifetime vocation. “It was in the early 1940s and two of the store’s employees were off in the service,” said Bullock. “I remember him telling me to always keep the socks lined up and to be sure and do the dusting,” said Bullock. After he had been there a while Gunderson started to have him come in Sunday afternoons and remove the clinkers from the coal furnace. “I thought that was an honor to be given a key to the store,” said Bullock. “It was a real sign of trust.” After graduation the job became full time but then Bullock was called into the service in the US Army 1945. The war was winding down and Bullock eventually found himself working to help separate soldiers from the service at Ft. Shelby in Mississippi. When that activity was closed down he found himself out of the service after 17 and a half months. After he got out of the Army he rode a bus back to Fergus Falls. On his way home from the bus stop Ken Gunderson saw him and asked him to come see him about returning to work in the men’s clothing store. He hadn’t even gotten home yet! “I was thinking about going into something electrical but he talked me into going back to the store,” said Bullock. He worked in Fergus Falls as the store made the name change to St. Clair Rovang and before he moved on worked there for a total of 26 years. While in Fergus Falls in the early 1950s he thought he was going to be activated for the National Guard and called up for the Korean War but it turned out he had enough time in the inactive military reserves to miss being called into the active reserve. Bullock met his future wife, Marie, in Fergus Falls. She was working in the Sears store there and she was his gal when the issue of the military activation came up, an issue that dragged on for several months. “Marie said that if I was going to be activated and go off to war we were going to get married first,” he said. “And we did.” In the end he wasn’t activated, so he remained in Fergus Falls and he and Marie started their family. Then he was asked to go to Albert Lea and open a new St. Clair store in a new mall that was built there. That lasted about two years; the slow development of the mall’s anchor tenants resulted in St. Clair pulling the plug on the store. “I was asked where I wanted to go,” said Bullock after the store closed. What happened was that Harold Irgens of Glenwood was ready to retire and sell his men’s clothing store. Vic Johnson, who Bullock already knew from Fergus Falls, wanted to purchase the store but didn’t want to do it alone. So the two bought the store and Johnson-Bullock became the store name. Bullock worked there through 1996. But he wasn’t done yet. Randy Spoden, who operated Randy’s Men’s Wear in Alexandria, called him in 1997 and asked Bullock if he still wanted to do some work. Bullock went to work there part time and spent another 13 years in men’s clothing business, retiring from that in January of this year, bringing his total years in that business to 68. While Bullock was working in the men’s retail clothing business, his brother Jack, who was very handy mechanically, started rebuilding engines for Downtown Chevrolet and ended up with a career in performance car engines, even doing specialty work for some NASCAR drivers. He is still alive and now lives in Baxter where he still does some engine work. Chuck and Marie Bullock had four children, Rob, Craig, Bonita and Beth. Marie died in 2001. From such a tumultuous start, Charles Bullock’s life did work out OK.

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