Hoines celebrates 100th birthday


CRESCO - Marlys Hoines celebrates her 100th birthday Sunday, May 7. The public is invited to help her mark this milestone occasion by honoring her with a card shower. Send birthday greetings to her at Evans Memorial Home, 1010 North Elm Street, #99, Cresco, Iowa 52136.
Marlys has lived through many historical touchstones: When she was born in 1917, women did not yet have the right to vote, Albert Einstein published his first paper on cosmology, Babe Ruth was in his fourth year with The Boston Red Sox, the end of World War I was still one year away and Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States.
Marlys, along with her daughter and son-in-law, Sonja and Dan Lively, reflected on her life during an interview at Evans Memorial Home with the Cresco Times Plain Dealer.
As she considers all she has experienced and seen, what does Marlys credit for reaching the century mark?
“The secret to a long life is a happy life,” she said, her smile and sociable demeanor ever-present throughout the interview.
Marlys took the time to record her life story in a memoir titled ‘The Story of Marlys’ Life in 2007:
“I was born May 7, 1917, in Winneshiek County, Iowa,” she wrote. “I have no knowledge of where, if it was at home or in a hospital. My thinking is that it was at home as there was no recorded data at the Court House in Decorah. Sometime after my marriage, I wanted a passport and that was when I found no record of my birth. My uncle Albert Fulsaas, came to the rescue and swore that I was born and am Marlys Melaas.”
She grew up on a farm near Ridgeway, and remembers her early years fondly:
“I had a wonderful childhood. I had a sister, Ila, and we were two-and-a-half years apart. When we were little, we played house up in the tree, and just had a lot of fun.”
In her memoir, she writes, “I thought my childhood was perfect. In 1920, my younger sister, Ila, and only sibling was born. She and I were not only sisters but best friends, sharing our memorable childhood in the Christian home which our parents provided for us…We lived on a 160-acre farm two-and-a-half miles north of Ridgeway which had been a Melaas farm for years.
“We had a large white house and a large red barn, a granary, two corn cribs, a separate hog house and a machine shed built by my grandfather, Hans Melaas. The machine shed sheltered our Model-T Ford passenger car. The buildings were all red. The barn is put together with wooden pegs and stands to this day in perfect condition, even standing up under tons and tons of baled hay, which is much heavier than loose hay which it was built to hold.”
She continued, “The granary, corn crib and hen house have long been gone, replaced by modern sheds and corn storage bins and silos. The farming was diversified as we had hogs, chickens, cows, horses and turkeys.”
Recalling her childhood, she writes, “Our days were spent playing with dolls, sewing doll clothes with scraps of Mamma’s material, playing house in a make-believe house in the small group of trees northwest of the granary. We had wooden orange crates for cupboards and made mud cakes served teas and kept this house very clean and tidy. This was summer play as in winter, we played in the house. We had an organ parlor which Mamma played and that was such fun but in the winter, the parlor was not heated, so no music.
“We never had spending money except when we trapped pocket gophers and got 10 cents a gopher from Papa.”
Marlys remembers her family hosting barn dances, where the entire community would take part in the social event.
“We used to have barn dances, and we had a great time,” she said, adding that the children would go to sleep and the adults would keep dancing.
The family belonged to the rural Madison Lutheran Church in Ridgeway.
“We had church service every other or third Sunday, as Rev. Jordahl had three congregations and could only do one a Sunday, as there was no fast mode of transportation,” she wrote. “There was no Sunday school, but we had six weeks of parochial school in the summer where we memorized the catechism, hymns, explanation to the catechism and Bibles. The six weeks were intense studies. I learned all of this in Norwegian.
School Days
She went to school at Ridgeway, and recalls her years there:
“When I started school, I could talk very little English, as we talked Norwegian at home,” Marlys wrote. “We walked to school in every kind of weather. Ila and I were lucky, as we lived only a quarter of a mile from the school house. It was a one-room school with primary and all eight grades. We learned reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography and history. If we had homework, it was done by lamp light from our kerosene lamp.”
She remembers Ridgeway as a bustling town:
“Ridgeway was a thriving little town with three general stores: Bakken’s, Hopperstad & Brekke and Baker & Johnson, one on each corner of the city block with the Opera House on the fourth corner….We took our eggs to the store in exchange for merchandise.”
She recalls going to silent movies at the Ridgeway Opera House, where Norma Johnson would play piano to enhance the moods of the various scenes.
Marlys remembers traveling to Cresco as a child:
“We could do all our business in Ridgeway but sometimes we went to Cresco to buy clothes and Mamma’s beautiful hats that she usually purchased at the Laub Store. It was great fun going to Cresco, and we would get a treat of an ice cream sundae at the beautiful Bluebird Restaurant,” she said.
She remembers, “People used to take their hogs to town in a wagon. The wagon would have three steps on it so they couldn’t get out. It’s not like that anymore. When they sold hogs, they most likely had a couple of men who would chase them on the road to town.”
Normal Training
Marlys went to Normal Training in Cresco, for teaching. She taught in Lincoln Township (at a country school) from 1935-1940 for students ages kindergarten-through eighth grade.
“You couldn’t teach school if you were married,” she explained.
In her memoir, Marlys wrote of those years as follows:
“In September 1935, I started teaching in our home school, Lincoln No. 6. It was very challenging to me the first year on the job. Although we learned the important basics of teaching in Normal Training, there is nothing like actual experience when one works with the students. Every child is unique with his own particular needs. Not one pattern fit all, so a teacher had to attend to each student’s personal and unique needs.”
Meeting Elder
During this time, Marlys met the man who became her husband:
“Anna Hoines was in my Normal Training class. One day, my senior year, we went downtown to Cresco together and into the Milz Drug Store where her brother, Elder, worked. I met him and did not see him very often until one day in the summer, after my graduation, he came to ask me to the movies. I was gone with another date, so he asked Ila, and they went. Soon Elder called, and we started dating. Soon he wanted to be the only guy, and so it was. I was accepted 100 percent by the Hoines family.”
She wrote, “Lenora and Al Smith and Elder and I had fun times. Once, they decided to drive to Spring Grove (Minnesota) in Al’s new car. The movie was in Norwegian so that was always a laugh, as no one except me understood the movie.”
Recalling her relationship with Elder: “We had a five-year courtship…We both saved money so that when June 29, 1940 arrived, we were married in the Madison Church….I purchased my long, white wedding gown in La Crosse, Wis. My long veil was borrowed from Gertie Kuntz, and I carried a beautiful bouquet of white roses.”
Marlys said, “For our honeymoon, we were gone for one month. We traveled all through the West.”
In her memoir, she writes, “We had made plans for the honeymoon for a long time in advance, saving money for it. Elder had a Chevrolet Coupe, and we were gone four weeks. We had an extended trip in the western United States. We went to Colorado, Utah and Arizona, where we visited Milton and Gertie Kuntz. The weather was hot there in July at 116 degrees. We drove across the desert to California at night with a bag of ice hanging on our radiator. There was no air conditioning in cars in those days. We attended the World’s Fair in San Francisco.”
Hoines Drug Store
In 1942, after the death of previous drugstore owner, Billy Milz, banker Art Thomson came to the drug store and told Elder if he wanted to borrow some money, he could buy the drug store. He bought the  store in January 1942.
Marlys’ son-in-law, John, added, “When they bought the drug store, Elder was not a pharmacist. He worked in the store and did deliveries, and when Art Thomson said he would give him money to buy the store, Elder went off to Iowa City and went through pharmacy college for two years. They hired a pharmacist to come in and dispense the drugs. Marlys stayed back and ran the store and incorporated the gift part of the store.”
In her memoir, Marlys remembers the early days of her work at Hoines Drug Store:
“We had decided that Elder should go to the Iowa University College of Pharmacy. He left in September. We had hired Phil Ohler and Wilma Anderson so the four of us ran the store. I did not know much about ordering merchandise, so Elder drove home the first weekends, but I soon learned how to do it all. The salesmen were all very nice and helpful. The store opened at 7:30 a.m. and closed at 9:30 p.m., except on Saturday night when we were open until 11 p.m. or later. Saturday night was the social time for farmers, so they stayed late and enjoyed the shopping. Sunday morning we were open until 12:30 p.m. and sold lots of newspapers…We sold the Minneapolis, Chicago, Dubuque and Des Moines newspapers which we picked up at the depot every morning.”
Marlys worked at the drugstore until a short time before her daughter Sonja was born in 1946.
“What a happy day! It was my time to be home and enjoy being a mom,” she wrote.
Marlys and Elder’s son, John Elder, was born in 1949.
“That was such an exciting day as was Sonja’s (birth),” Marlys wrote. “Our hospital was run by the Catholic Sisters at that time. The Sisters said they couldn’t carry on a conversation when John was born as I kept saying, ‘A boy! It’s a boy!’ I had no brothers so I was so excited Sonja would have a brother, and Elder and I would have a son. We stayed in the hospital for 10 days after a baby’s birth in those days. I was a proud mother, taking them out in the baby buggy. There were no strollers or safety seats in cars for infants.”
Traveling with Norman Borlaug
Marlys and Elder were good friends with Norman Borlaug, now renowned internationally as ‘The Father of the Green Revolution’ and winner of the Nobel Prize in 1970.
“The family lived out on the Borlaug farm and he had two sisters. We had a good time together. We went to Mexico with him. We left Sonja and John with their grandpa in Texas, and we went with Norm south of the border. He had experimental farms all over Mexico. We went with him to all of his experimental farms to check on them.”
Recalling the experience in her memoir, Marlys wrote, “It was the trip of a lifetime, traveling with Norm in Mexico as he did his work. Little did we know then that he would receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and that Elder would be president of the Cresco Chamber of Commerce when Cresco honored Norm.”
Additional travels
She remembers traveling extensively, including a Mediterranean cruise, where they visited Ephesus, Turkey, Egypt and the Holy Land. They also visited Hawaii, Europe and Norway.
Marlys said, “My son-in-law, Dan, wondered if I really could speak Norwegian, but we went to Norway, and he discovered I could talk Norwegian with all of those Norwegians over there.”
She can still recite the Norwegian Table Prayer from memory, and did so during the interview with The Cresco Times.
‘The best mom’
Reflecting on her mother’s milestone birthday, Sonja says, “She always was and still is the best mom.”
Marlys answers, “Well, I can tell you, I have two good kids, and two special in-laws.”
She also has three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Asked if there were more stories she could tell about her life, Marlys demurs.
“Yes, I do, but I don’t think I’d tell those to a newspaper,” she smiled. 

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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