There was a wealth of reminiscing one evening as Roland and Shirley Bosch shared memories from their home on the Bosch farmstead between Atwater and Lake Lillian. It’s a farmstead that has been on the National Registry of Historic Places since 1987. Four generations have called it home. The couple has lived on the historic property for all of their 56 years of married life. Except for a brief time in Renville County, where Roland was born, he has lived on the farmstead nearly all of his 80 years. The homestead gained national recognition due mainly in part to John Bosch, Roland’s uncle, who led the movement of the Farmers Holiday Association in Minnesota during the 1930s. Its focus was to alleviate the economic troubles of the farmer during the Great Depression by stopping foreclosure auctions and withholding their produce from market until higher prices were assured allowing farmers to meet their mortgage and tax payments. As a young boy, Roland remembers going to a foreclosure auction with his father, Richard, who along with other relatives were active in the movement led by Uncle John. The sales were commonly known as penny auctions at which farmers would assure that a distressed neighbor would be able to buy back his own farm by holding bids down to pennies, nickels, and quarters. Most popular in the Midwest, the Farmer Holiday Movement halted at least 140 foreclosure sales that were stopped by direct action by farmers. They would also picket highways and place nails or spikes on the roadways in order to stop goods from reaching market. Confrontations of violence and destruction were not as common in Minnesota as they were in Wisconsin and Iowa. The historic property was first owned by Gustavus Adolphus Glader, who came from Sweden in 1853 and settled on the Lake Elizabeth Township property in 1869. Glader served as a state senator from 1891-1893. The large 5-bedroom Victorian house was built in 1887 and was remodeled in 1912. John B. Bosch, Roland’s grandfather, purchased the property in 1914. (There are three generations of men with the name of John Bosch.) In addition to the large house, prominent structures on the farm are the 100-year-old barn, silo and the 60-foot high Monitor vane less (no tail) wooden windmill that provided water for the family in the early years. It has a football-shaped counterweight and the folding wooden wheel opens and closes the hole in the middle to regulate the speed. The original wooden wheel has been replaced with an identical one. “I remember it was my job to climb the high tower to grease the wheel,” Roland said. “The tower has always been a draw to the children to climb on through the years.” Roland graduated from Atwater High School in 1949. He went to Macalester College for 1½ years. “But I was always expected to come home to help plant or harvest, so I took a year off and never did go back to school,” he said. He farmed with his brother Evan, who lived on the south portion of the Bosch property that had three farms. Roland said the brothers worked together but the farms were two separate businesses in which they shared the machinery and helped each other with the work. Evan was killed in a car accident in 1980 south of Belgrade that was caused by a drunk driver. Relying on his brother’s help for nearly 50 years, Roland put farming aside in 1983 and went to work in the refrigeration department at Jennie-O for nine years until his retirement. He met Shirley Olson back in the 50’s while roller skating at the Spicer Pavilion, once a popular gathering place for skating and dancing, which was torn down in 1973. Shirley grew up in Willmar and graduated as co-valedictorian in 1953 from Willmar High School. After graduation, she began work at Northwestern Bell. The couple was married in 1954. She worked for “Ma Bell” for four years but was forced to quit her job. “It was a rule back then that you couldn’t work after three months of pregnancy,” Shirley explained. “But I worked as a cable cutter and worked in the office mapping out all the cable cuts. I do remember that my boss would hide me in the basement when the higher-ups would pay a visit in order that I could get my job done. But I eventually had to quit since I was called an occupational health hazard. That wouldn’t happen today!” Roland and Shirley have lived all their married life in a smaller home that Roland built next to the large house. It’s been added on to several times making room for their two children, Jay and Heidi. Jay and his wife, Linnae, have lived in the “big house” for the past four years. Jay works as a project manager and Linnae is a nurse at Rice Hospital in Willmar. They have two sons, Aaron and Matthew. Daughter, Heidi and husband, Fred Street, live near Princeton and Heidi is a medical doctor in Cambridge. They have two daughters, Hilary and Molly. While Roland farmed, Shirley worked ten years as a secretary to the late Earl B. Olson, the founder of Jennie-O. But she had a strong desire to continue her education and at the age of 34 was one of the first “older” women to enroll at the former Willmar Junior College (now Ridgewater). From there she moved on to St. Cloud State and to Saint Benedict’s, driving 120 miles round trip to attend classes. “My kids got the message that an education is important,” Shirley said. “Every night we would sit at the dining room table and we would do our homework together. They both did very well in school and they have good jobs today!” Shirley graduated with highest honors and earned three degrees from St. Ben’s and taught there for five years after graduation. But with a deep interest in social work she moved on to a 26-year career as a social worker with Kandiyohi County, retiring in 1999. She enjoys playing the piano, reading, gardening, and has a collection of nearly 1,000 CDs. Their home has several pieces of antique furniture from both sides of the family. One of Shirley’s most treasured items is her grandmother’s spinning wheel from the 1860s. Roland also has some large collections including many shelves filled with some of the original toys he had as a child including metal cars, trucks, tractors and airplanes. He’s added to his collection by shopping on e-Bay. He will buy the same toy even though he may already have one. In a glass case he has three different sizes of a blue Chrysler Airflow, a car that was manufactured from 1934 – 1937 but was a commercial failure. He doesn’t only collect toy cars but drivable cars as well. The member of the Willmar Car Club has had Model A’s and Model Ts but he is most fond of the Nash, a car that was discontinued in 1957. He currently has three Nash autos – two 1948 models and a 1955 Nash Rambler. He still has the three tractors he used for farming with the “newest” being a 1948 Minneapolis Moline and a non-running steel-wheeled tractor is the oldest. “I like old things,” Roland commented, “including my wife!” Writing is another interest of Roland’s who first started writing about life on the farm for his children and grandchildren. Now he writes about a variety of subjects from the seasons of the year, door knobs, or the “The Great Chicken Lip Controversy”. Confessing he’s not a typist, he handwrites all his stories and Shirley types them. His stories have been published in the senior section of the West Central Tribune newspaper and the Kandiyohi County Historical Society’s newsletter, with Roland serving on the society’s board. He also shares his writings as a member of the Pen & Ink Club. He now considers his handwritten stories as therapy for his hands. Eight years ago, he was stricken with CIDP (Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy), which he refers to as the “deluxe version of French polio.” It’s caused by the immune system attacking the insulation (myelin) around the nerves. Although the disease can strike at any age, it’s most common in young adults, especially men. Roland’s first symptoms were stiffness in his legs and a “horrific” back ache. It progressed rapidly leaving him completely paralyzed except for the movement of one finger. With many hospital and nursing home stays plus extensive physical therapy, Roland now gets around with a walker and wears braces on his ankles. During his illness, his church held a benefit for him. The members of the Pen & Ink Club presented him with three notebooks, “Bits & Pieces,” that are filled with his writings. “The doctors didn’t expect me to make it but here I am,” he said with a large smile. In his latest writing, he talks about the many blessings he has received… “. . . Without a multitude of skilled doctors and the care and concern of family, I would not be here. I have been blessed with the most faithful wife in the world, or at least my world. She was with me 24/7, sleeping in the hospital. If she wasn’t there, other members of my family were. . .” It’s been a long journey for Roland and Shirley in the past eight years. They are blessed to have each other, their families, and a rich heritage to pass on.
top of page
bottom of page