My Bemidji roots

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I was not born in Bemidji, but I do have some strong connections to here growing up.
In the late 1970s, my grandparents (Gene and Delores Froemming) owned and operated the Singer Sewing Shop that was located downtown.
They relocated from Alexandria, where my grandfather was a door-to-door salesman. After my father and uncles grew up and moved out, my grandfather decided to branch out and operate his own store.
The decision as to where, according to my dad, was not difficult. Grandpa was a big outdoors man who loved hunting, fishing and camping. And he apparently had always wanted to move to the Bemidji area. So he did.
His first month here, he lived in the family’s airstream camper (he had nowhere else to live). Eventually, he bought a house and the business did well.
For me, growing up the family always made trips up here. As I written before, I’m originally from the St. Cloud. I’d say we’d visit about two or three times a year.
On those visits, my grandpa would take me and my brother fishing — his favorite passtime. The rule was if we caught a fish, we would have to clean the fish.
I refused to do that as a little kid. My brother was forced to do it for me (to be fair, I don’t think my parents wanted me at age 5 to be slicing up fish with a sharp knife).
My grandparents ran their store until about 1998 I believe. I remember helping clean out their business’ basement, which had some odd souvenirs (my favorite was the Ike Eisenhower election memorabilia ).
The last time I visited Bemidji was in 1999, when my grandpa first got sick (apparently he got a get-well card from Joe Lueken because he was a regular at the store). He suffered a stroke that he never really recovered from. My grandparents moved down to St. Cloud to be taken care of shortly after.
Cut to more than a decade later, when I applied for a job here at the Pioneer. I remember after getting the job, my dad was excited because I was finally moving somewhere he was willing to visit (before, when I was living in Worthington in southwest Minnesota, my parents visited me two times in the two years I was there).
My first week here, I lived at a hotel because, like my grandpa about three decades earlier, I had nowhere to live. Granted, the hotel was probably nicer than an airstream, but still.
My family also have a cabin about 40 minutes from here that was built on land my grandpa bought in the 70s. It’s on Mallard Lake, an area when I tell people here about, they get a confused look on their faces. It’s not surprising, Mallard Lake was a lumber town that became a ghost town a long time ago.
What also stood out to me when I first started working here was how much Bemidji had grown. I mean, obviously cities grow over time but from my last visit in 99 to 2013 I was pretty impressed.
When I started working here, I would sometimes ask folks who have been here for a long time if they remember my grandparents. In the past year, I have not met anyone who has.
I would like to know more about my grandparents’ life here, but from what my dad told me, they were not super-sociable.
But those are my roots here in Bemidji.

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