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‘Auntie Kreamsaugen’ keeps them chuckling

Park Rapids woman, started doing comedy at age 69, still making ‘em laugh at age 88

By Vivian (Makela) Sazama


“Auntie Kreamsaugen” celebrates her 20th year at Jasper’s Theater in Park Rapids. Auntie is also known as Darlene Helde-Rolle, 88, of Park Rapids. She has been performing comedy since age 69. Contributed photo

For most of us, retirement is something we work all our lives for and look forward to, living out our Golden Years and enjoying the fruits of our labor. Darlene Hilde-Rolle of Park Rapids retired at age 69, only to retire into a whole new career as comedienne extraordinaire. Auntie Kreamsaugen, at her family’s Jasper’s Theater in Park Rapids. She is now 88 and in her 20th year. And she hasn’t missed a show!


“I started doing comedy at Jasper’s Theater because my sister, who was the first generation of their advertised four generations, died of cancer, and her family needed someone to fill in. So I jumped in. I was scared out of my bloomers that first time to get up and act stupid in front of 380 people.  I’d always been a storyteller and my family thought I could be their comedian. I thought, ‘Yeah, right!’ but to my surprise the audience laughed. The second year I told a few more stories and the audience laughed again.”


Around 2007 she decided she needed a stage name.


“The name Auntie Kreamsaugen surfaced from living in California in the 1960s when my husband and I belonged to a boat club. We would get together with friends and sit around a fire at night and I would play my ukulele and tell Ole and Lena stories,” she said. “One of our friends, a doctor, began calling me Lena Kreamsaugen. At Jasper’s, I didn’t want Lena, as that’s pretty common, so I decided to take the name Auntie Kreamsaugen, since I’m an aunt to the younger three generations at the theater.”


Darlene has her Midwest Norwegian/German roots and experiences to draw from. She was born to Silas and Katie Hilde in 1936 and lived on a farm in the Ulen, Minn., area until her freshman year in high school, when they moved into Ulen.


“I married my high school sweetheart, Richard (Dick) Rolle,” she said, whom she refers to in her comedy as “Knute.”


“Mom and Dad were both very instrumental in the origination of the Rollag Threshing Bee,” she said. “Daddy had a PA system there and Mother brought her spinning wheel and she would spin yarn and teach the young people how they would knit and make mittens and caps in the old days. Daddy played many instruments and also made a calliope out of plumber’s pipes that he played at Rollag every year. He also made several organs powered by a vacuum cleaner. The last one he made was used by the Ada State Bank in many parades.


Auntie Kreamsaugen’s even dipped her toe into the political waters with a fun political campaign as she promoted an upcoming show. Contributed photo

The calliope had a sound like an ice cream wagon and was also used in many parades. Daddy is on the Rollag Wall of Fame because he was the first one to introduce gasoline engines there. Up until then everything was run by steam.”


Both of her parents were well known in Clay County.


“Mama was Outstanding Senior Citizen in Clay County one year. Daddy worked for Clay County maintaining the roads for Hagen Township and west of Ulen,” she said. “Mother also had the first nursing home in Ulen, because she had a big house and took in people couldn’t care for themselves... and took care of them, and the doctor was right there in Ulen. She was a caregiver.”


After graduating high school Darlene went on to nurses training and graduated in 1956. “I worked in surgery at Dakota Clinic for five years, before moving with my new husband to California where I worked eight years for the Kaiser Foundation Permanente Medical Group and Health Plan as a Service Rep. We moved back to the Midwest and I again worked for Dakota Clinic for another seven years. I then managed the General Nutrition Center (GNC), and also a weight loss center in West Acres. Then I worked for OBGYN for 10 years as an Office Nurse and First Assistant in the operating room. From there I became one of two real estate agents for the Bluemont Lakes Development in Fargo and later became the administrator at Evergreens Assisted Living in Fargo-Moorhead.


“When Dick retired as a Special Agent of the North Dakota Bureau of Investigation, we sold our home in Fargo and moved to East Shore Drive in Detroit Lakes where we lived for 27 years. Five years ago we moved to Park Rapids to be closer to the Jasper’s Theater,” she said.


After the first several years of performing at Jasper’s Theater, Darlene had enough material that people laughed at that she began doing comedy in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, where they spent winters. She began getting calls to do her comedy at private parties, which led her to perform at the Texas Showcase. The first year she booked 42 venues in retirement villages and stage shows, and even a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. She won Overall Favorite Entertainer two years in a row in the Winter Texan Times newspaper through write-in votes and was awarded the FAME award (Families Advocating Moral Entertainment). She is particularly fond of her time in the Rio Grande Valley. She then began getting calls to perform in Arizona, so the couple sold their winter home in Texas and moved to Mesa, Ariz. She performed her own shows at the Silver Star Theatre in Mesa. “The largest audience I’ve had was over 700 people, when I opened for the Sons of the Pioneers from Branson, Mo.,” she said.


Auntie Kreamsaugen, in one of her promotion photos. Contributed photo

For about eight years, Darlene performed at the Norsk HostFest in Minot, ND. “At first they put me in a corner. So many people were crowded around that the fire marshall said we’d have to move next year. The second year they put me up in the mezzanine. So many people crowded in and on the staircase that the fire marshall again said we’d have to move! From then on I was in the big Reykjavik Hall,” she said. “I had a lot of fun there. I did a lot of shows with Master Yodeler Kerry Christensen. One year as a promotion for the HostFest we did a lefse cook off with Williams and Ree, Mollie B., and Ricky Nelson’s son in front of many live TV cameras. My lefse making wasn’t very good, so I got a packet of really nice lefse from the vendor and hid it under my apron, and when the timing was right slipped one onto the pan. Ree caught me and called me a cheater right there on live television! Because of my cheating Mollie B. won, but we sure had a lot of laughs!”


Auntie Kreamsaugen’s act at the Jasper’s stage has taken many “trips,” places like including Las Vegas, Class Reunions, Hawaii, and the Rio Grande Valley. She said that after Oprah resigned, she “took over” for her. Several years, she also “ran for President,” complete with banners and flyers!


Darlene has also been a keynote speaker at many Aging Forums throughout the region, encouraging other retired people to pursue their passions, using the acronym A.L.I.V.E.


A...Attitude, wake up in the morning with “Good morning, God,” instead of “Good God,

it’s morning!”


L…Laughter, quoting Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine...”


I…Initiate, don’t wait for someone else to invite you, YOU invite them out for coffee!


V…Volunteer, there’s always a need for volunteers somewhere!


E…Elevate, sincerely compliment others.


Darlene encourages seniors not to slow down, to start a new career that’s challenging.


Darlene and Dick Rolle have been married 66 years. Contributed photo

“We not only need Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy, but we need to exercise our minds too!” she said. “Stay relevant, text, go on Facebook, get a computer!” She shared that when her mother was 90 she told her, “‘Darlene, continue to make new friends because the old ones may die off and friends are important as we grow older.’ I’m an old nurse and too old to pass meds now but as it says in Proverbs 17:22 ‘A cheerful heart is like medicine.’ I feel like I am still dishing out medicine,” she said. “Many medical facilities have determined that laughter raises your endorphins and contributes towards pain control and healing, so I always ask my audience, ‘Are your endorphins up yet, because you’ll feel better tomorrow!’”


Darlene is quick to give God the glory for her success, and always gives thanks for the people who watch her perform and her husband, Dick. She likes to end her shows by telling her audience, “You don’t stop laughing because you grow old, but you grow old because you stop laughing. If you’re leaving here today with a joyful heart then my purpose for this show has been accomplished.”

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