When Gordon and Norma Ashland met things were quite different in Griggs County than they are today. There were no cell phones, computers, or televisions; cars were just starting to compete with horses as a mode of transportation; and you could find a dance almost every weekend. In fact, that’s where they met: at a dance at the old Sons of Norway building in Cooperstown that stood where the Coachman Inn stands now. Norma was 16 and Gordon was 19. They married five months later and have been together ever since, celebrating 69 anniversaries with their 70th coming up on June 29, 2013.
Throughout those years their lives have been filled with music and dancing. Gordon played the piano with a band at many dances all over Griggs County over the years. People from all over would gather many a Saturday night dancing, eating, and having a good ‘ole time. Polkas, schottisches, waltzes, and square dancing kept them going until the wee hours of the morning.
While those dances are sadly a thing of the past, and the couple no longer dances like they did in their youth, they still enjoy tapping their toes to music.
They courted in a Model A and drove that Model A to the hospital in Sharon the December their first child, Priscilla, was born in 1944. Gordon had trouble keeping the car going and he had to jack the car up, put it in low, and spin the wheel to get it started again. There was a big dust storm they had to drive through to get to the hospital. They didn’t have the weather to contend with during the births of their other two children. Their second child, Deborrah was born in Valley City in June, and Bart was born in August in Cooperstown. They also have been blessed with eight grandchildren, three step-grandchildren, six great grand children, and seven step great grand children.
The Ashland’s lived on the family farm west of Cooperstown for 63 years, the farm Gordon grew up on. They raised wheat, oats, barley, sunflowers, and corn. They also raised cattle until 1962. Norma also grew up on a farm near the town of Blabon in Steele County southeast of Finley. Blabon was the size of Hannaford at one time with a hotel, school, church, two grocery stores, and a bar, but is now gone. Norma remembered how people would ask if she had running water when she grew up and she would joke that they did. They would haul the water out of the well and run it up to the house.
What advice do they have for young couples? “Talk things out and work things out. Communicate,” says Norma. Communication is key. Like any other marriage they had their ups and downs, but they always worked things out, even during those times that just about drive you to drinking. They have always helped each other out and did their best to get along.
Long marriages run in the family. Both of their parents were married until one passed away, 67 years for Gordon’s parents and 55 years for Norma’s. Their oldest daughter will be married 50 years next year.
So how have they stuck together for 70 years? They say it is a combination of hard work, music, dancing, faith, and family. Oh, and learning to cook lutefisk for your Norwegian husband when you don’t like it yourself. Now, that’s love.
farm work, faith, and family