Most people remember the movie Grumpy Old Men. Well, New London has a handful of men in their 90s who, at first glance, may seem a little grumpy, but really aren’t.
The scene takes place in a restaurant in downtown New London, and the five were busy shaking dice and catching up on the latest news when this reporter walked in to interview them.
While these men may look a little grumpy, they’re not, they’re mulling over serious business as they meet for coffee and goodies. Gordon Gravley, Kenneth Gravley, Arlos Jones, Burt Lundberg and Bud Gravley enjoy their morning outing because not only do they catch up on the latest news, but bit of gossip as well. Photo by Bev Ahlquist
This is pretty much an everyday occurrence for them, except for the weekends. They love getting together. It pretty much starts their day off on the upbeat, as they drink their coffee and shake that dice to see who’s going to pay. And, of course, there’s a bit of “gossip” thrown in the mix. Of course, they don’t call it gossip; they’re just catching up on the latest news.
Arlos Jones, who isn’t quite 90 yet, said he has been with the group for quite a while. He attributes his long life to a good wife and good cookin’. He grew up on a farm, and ended up working different jobs that included the mobile station, cutting meat, putting the white walls on tires, and doing carpentry work. Eventually, he went to work in maintenance at the school in New London. “I put in 35 years there, retiring in 1991.”
He said friendship stands out the most in his life. “The kids at the school kept me young. Just being around them gave me a perspective on everything in life. And I got along good with the teaching staff.”
Arlos had two brothers and a sister. “I’ve had a good life. I enjoy playing dice. I win my share. I get lucky once in a while.” Again, he said, it’s been a good life, and he enjoys knowing people and all his friends.
Bud Gravley, who happens to be 95, said he went through school up to the 8th-grade, when he started working at his uncle’s farm. “It was long days, 5 a.m., lot of cows. I worked there for a year or two and then the war broke out, and I was deferred for farming.” After the war, he started working out again for Herbert Henjum at the farm by Norway Lake. He also worked for three years farming for the three Huseby Brothers at Sunburg. He worked on the road one year for the DeRuyter Brothers driving open-cab trucks. After that he went into the backhoe business. “I done that for over 50 years, dug a lot of graves, probably buried about 1,000 people in 26 different cemeteries.”
Bud said when he was 5 years old he got kicked by a horse and lost his hearing. “I’ve been wearing a hearing aid practically all my life.” Bud said he didn’t get married until he was 50. “I married a family, a wife and kids. She died in 2008. One girl died, but two girls and one boy are still living: Diane, Galen, and Faye.
Bud went on to say he loves to dance and has done that all his life. “I went to dances many times. I love it. I still love it but haven’t danced for a few years.” He said his friend has arthritis in her legs really bad so dancing is pretty much out for her. “I love to go, but she doesn’t like it.”
He said he really likes playing dice, and his dice-playing buddies said he wins most of the time.
Burt Lundberg, who is 99 years old, said he started out as Elroy Burton Lundberg, but didn’t like the name Elroy so he cut that out of his name.
“My life started in 1918. I was 99 Oct. 7 of 2017, and I feel like I’m 84.” He’s still getting around with no problem. His heritage is a combination of Norwegian and Swede. He grew up in Willmar by the old courthouse. His folks had several homes there and a cottage at Eagle Lake, and those are the two he went to all the time. He went to school in Willmar, went to St. Cloud State and got a degree and came to New London after that.
“They had an opening for a band director at the high school there, and I worked there close to 40 years as band director.” There were lots of kids in band, he said. The marching band went to Canada a couple of times. “We had a lot of fun, and they enjoyed it.” Burt got into music because of his parents. He said they had a piano in their front room. They’d play it all the time, and when they left, he’d try to copy what they did. “That’s how I got started. I played lot of places. I played here, in St. Cloud, Glenwood, overseas and all over.”
He still plays at the Elks in Willmar for their meetings and has been the organist there since 1955. “I play every meeting I can make. It’s a lot of fun, lot of good people there.” Burt said he doesn’t read much music; it’s all in his mind.
Burt said he likes people and likes to be out where there’s a lot of activity going on. “I like the big band sound and watching people enjoy life. That’s half the battle, and I’ve watched Bud dance many times.” Burt loves coming to the restaurant to play dice. “This is where we learn what the latest news is. And once in a while we learn something exciting. I come because it’s a good place to learn something new.”
Kenneth Gravley was born in 1920, so that makes him just about 99. He grew up on a farm where he worked until age 21 when Uncle Sam called on him to serve in World War II. He was in the Army for almost four years, three of those years in the South Pacific. “There were some rough times, but I made it through. A lot of times it was tough. It wasn’t good.” He got home in late 1945 and from then on did some work on the farm but later worked as a carpenter. He did some work in Minneapolis with a cousin’s husband and worked in Willmar also doing carpentry work.
In the fall of 1947 he went to California and worked with Allen Construction out of Los Angeles. “He had a contract to build a western movie town, so I got a job there. It was very interesting. I was on that about four months. They started shooting some western movies while I was there.” He saw Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Sons of the Pioneers and others.
When he returned home, he worked at Strong Motor Company about four years. From there, he worked in the meat department at The Big Store for about five years. He had a chance to get a job at Sibley State Park, where he worked for 20 years, after which he retired. He was mainly in maintenance work. The first two years he was on the road a lot traveling to other parks. Then, he became assistant manager at the park. “They were good years for me.”
There have been several highlights in his life. He met his wife, Dorcas, and got married in 1951. They have two children, a son Jay, and a daughter Jane. Kenneth’s philosophy in life is to live each day to its fullest, don’t worry about tomorrow; it may never come, just focus on the day. Kenneth said he enjoys getting together with the guys, and they can’t get together enough. “That’s an everyday occurrence. We give each other a bad time, and we wouldn’t think of gossiping.”
Gordon Gravley is 92. He grew up on a farm west of New London, then started trucking, a business he was in for 42 years. He hauled livestock to St. Paul and freight back to Spicer, New London and Willmar.
He married Karemae Anderson, and they will have been married 62 years this fall. They have four children, Bonnie, Trudie, Jerry and Gary.
Gordon retired 20 years ago. He said he enjoyed driving truck the most. “I really loved that.”
He enjoys the get togethers at the restaurant and is usually there a couple of times a week. He said there is a standing joke when they shake dice. There are three Gravelys, so a Gravely will for sure win one of the games.