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Sunspots - Melvina Larson

A perfect game in bowling consists of 12 consecutive strikes, one for every frame, and results in a total score of 300. Melvina Larson said she hasn't bowled a perfect game... yet.

"I started bowling in 1962," said Larson. "I cleaned the bowling alley owned then by Liz and Walt Ross." That first team was comprised of Larson, Ross, Vera Jones, Veronica Bergherr and Irene Cook. Through the years Larson has bowled for the High Rollers, Lucky Strike, and Donnelly Doubles teams. "It's fun," she said. Her first team trophy was earned when she bowled for the Tip Top Tap owned by Dale Thompson. Now she bowls for Crystal Lanes.

Larson was born to Meyer and Della Wevley on March 13, 1922, in Highland Village, Iowa, a small town about seven miles from Decorah. She is the sixth of 14 children, seven girls and seven boys. "I lived in Iowa until I was six years old," recalled Larson. "We had a huge farmhouse, seven bedrooms upstairs and the two downstairs where we all slept when it was very cold. The house had a big kitchen, pantry, dining room, front room and three porches.

"In 1928 we moved to a farm near Rothsay, Minn., where we lived until we moved to Tenney, Minn., in 1938. In 1941, my family moved to a farm in Stevens County."

When Larson was featured in an earlier Morris Sun Tribune "Sun Spotlight," she shared: "My father was a very big man who loved to tease. When we had cake, he'd always eat all the frosting! Dad liked to make homemade beer in 25-gallon crocks. He experimented with making chokecherry and dandelion wine, too. One time, we were upstairs and heard these popping noises coming from the basement. Dad had bottled the wine too soon and the bottles were blowing their caps.

"My mother was a good, hard worker who you never saw wear anything but a dress and apron. She sewed all our clothes. I remember she made the little girls' bloomers out of Our Best flour sacks." She would bleach the cloth, but, since the Our Best label was still visible, she sewed the bloomers in such a way that "Our Best" appeared across the seat," said Larson.

Larson attended rural school District 25 in Wilkin County. "I had the same teacher for all eight grades, a wonderful teacher. I didn't go any farther than the eighth grade. I didn't need any more schooling than that for the work I did."

In those days, she recalled, cows were milked by hand and bread was eight cents a loaf. Larson's first job was picking potatoes at age 13. "We were excused from school every day for six weeks, so we could help earn money for the family. We worked in pairs, earning two cents a bushel, plus room and board," she said. "I could pick about 100 bushels a day. I came home that fall with $98. 'All I want is a new dress,'" she told her mother. It would be Larson's first store bought dress--dark blue with pink and blue flowers--for $2.49.

Larson married Lloyd Amelsberg, who was a grain hauler. They were married for 19 years and divorced in 1962. Her second husband, Carroll Larson, was a farmer near Donnelly who died in 1974. Larson has three living children: Ruth Seurer (Prior Lake) Violet Heins (Morris) and Kelly Larson (Zimmerman). Son Robert passed away in 1998 of heart disease. She has 10 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.

"I always told my kids when they got done with school to come home first before they went anywhere else," said Larson. Neighborhood kids would organize ball games in the family's backyard. "I told them to bat toward the alley, not toward the house, though sometimes a window did get broken."

"I've done all kinds of physical labor," said Larson. "Hired girl, housekeeper, nurse's aide, painter. I cleaned houses in Morris for 57 years and worked for 62 different Morris families." Her first housekeeping job in Morris was for Walter and Rosella Watzke. Walter and Herb Probst had the Corner Bar in Morris. She also cleaned for local businesses like the Citizens Bank and Citizens South, as well as bartending for the Morris VFW. "I was a good house cleaner. I moved everything and people said their homes were spotless," she said.

When she suffered a heart attack at age 76, Larson quit working, but her community activities continued.

She's been a member of the Morris VFW for 47 years and has served as a color bearer and trustee. She joined both the Morris American Legion and Eagles Clubs the same year and has headed the American Cancer Society Daffodil Days program for all three clubs. Larson has worked in the kitchens of the Eagles Club and Grandview Apartments.

In addition to bowling, she fills her days with reading, sewing, quilting and watching sports such as baseball, hockey and basketball, and "The Bold and The Beautiful" soap opera on television.

"The Lord shows me what I have to do today," she said. "And at the end of the day, I thank Him."

Larson, who turned 90 this year and has had recent knee surgery, continues to bowl. As for bowling a perfect game, she is still determined. "When I first started bowling I averaged around 165; now I average around 129. I'm not going to quit until I get 300."