Do you remember: Carl and Helen Holmgren

By Richard Karns

Special to the Herald Review

When writing an article about a family many of us remember, it is important to get the facts right.

I talked with Carl and Helen Holmgren's daughter, Bonna Hult. Bonna shared with me quite a lot of information and let me use two books she had about the Holmgren and Lundborg families. Bonna's great-grandparents, Carl Eric Holmgren (also known as Charlie) and Anna Carolina Lundborg, is where I am starting this article.

Charlie was born in Sweden in 1867. When he was 5, he and his family immigrated to the U.S. and ultimately settled in Reed City. Charlie had two older brothers, John and August, and three sisters, Johanna, Carolina and Mathilda.

Charlie, John and August didn't have formal schooling, but with the help of the Swedish Lutheran pastors, their parents and sisters, the three boys were fluent in Swedish, English and conversational German. It was important to know how to speak German because much of the population at that time was German. The three Holmgren boys would work on the farm in the spring and summer, planting and harvesting the crops. In the winter, they would work in the lumbering camps.

Some time between 1890 and 1900, Charlie and August opened the Holmgren Brother's Store, which was located on West Upton Avenue close to where the Huntington Bank is today. They carried the full gambit of groceries, shoes and dry goods of all kinds; their ability to speak German was necessary for business. When the store was doing quite well it was decided to sell the farm and move their mother into Reed City to live with August, who had a home there.

Anna was born to Paul and Ida Charlotta Lundborg in 1872 on a farm in Cadillac. The family moved to a 120-acre farm north of Reed City. The family's life was a harsh one — many times they would chase bears out of their garden — and they had unsettled feelings when the Native Americans of the area would come and beg for bread and other food. At the age of 12, Anna was hired out to the Blank family in Reed City. Her responsibilities were to care for the family's children and do house work. For this she was paid $2 each week, which went to her father.

Although she didn't have formal schooling, she was taught to read and writer by her parents. Anna had gone to Grand Rapids when she was 20 years old and found a job in cooking and being a seamstress. Anna's sister, Emma, said "no one in our family or close friends could cook, bake or sew like Anna."

When Charlie Holmgren was 47, he married 42-year-old Anna Lundborg on Sept. 1, 1914 and lived on Franklin Avenue in Reed City. They had two children, Carl James, born on May 24, 1915, and Paul Eric, born on Dec. 13, 1917. Charlie was a quiet man, had a deep faith and wanted his family to have the chance to go to Sunday School, so in 1927 he and his family joined the Reed City Methodist Church.

In 1918, August decided to dissolve the partnership with Charlie. Charlie and Anna ran the store and added a bakery and lunch counter. Charlie and Anna ran the store until 1933, but after the stock market crash, Charlie, now 62 and in poor health, left the family and lived with August. Anna and the two boys ran the store and the boys sold baked goods door to door. Charlie died in 1939 and Anna died in 1940.

Carl James Holmgren graduated from Reed City High School in 1933. After graduation, Carl had several jobs. He worked at Benkert Restaurant seven nights a week for $1 a day as a short-order cook, and for Sam T. Johnson's Ford Sales, where his job was in credits and collections. In 1945, Carl started working for Allied Roofing Company, selling insulation and was self-employed until 1950 when he started working for Miller's Industry.

Helen Jean Eclin was born in 1914 to William and Iva June Eclin in Hersey. William Eclin was the Osceola County Sheriff from 1919 to 1922 before the Osceola County seat was moved from Hersey to reed City in 1927. Helen graduated from Hersey High School in 1938 and then graduated from Ferris Institute in Big Rapids with a degree in commercial business. She worked in Traverse City, Evart and in the Register of Deeds office in Reed City. She was appointed manager of the Osceola County Abstract Office and remained there until Carla was born.

On Sept. 25, 1938, Carl married Helen, and after a short time bought a home at 512 W. Upton Ave. where they lived until the 1960s. They had three daughters, Carla, Bonna and Gretta. In 1956, Carl and Helen purchased Sam Schack's clothing and shoe store on the north side of Upton Avenue in Reed City that was established in the 1890s. Through the years, Carl renovated the store several times, including a large project to open a door to the back parking lot. The store did very well and Carl retired in 1977 when he sold it to Dancers of Stockbridge.

Both Carl and Helen were active members of Reed City United Methodist Church. Carl sang in the choir since boyhood. I sang in the same choir while growing up and saw Carl in many ways as a mentor. He, along with Alberta Norman, our choir director, would stress annunciation. I remember them telling me to be clear, so those listening will be able to understand every word. Carl was known as a soloist and because of his talents was often asked to sing for weddings, funerals, civic groups and barbershop quartets. Carl was very community oriented and served as president of the Reed City Area Chamber of Commerce, served on the Reed City Council and was Past Master of the Lou B. Windsor Masonic Lodge.

Helen was active in the United Methodist Church, was a member of the Reed City Hospital Guild and was a council member of the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, along with serving in other civil capacities.

Both Carl and Helen were genuine in their love for their family and this community. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Sept. 25, 1988. Carl died in 1994 and Helen died in 1992.