Found scrapbook gives reporter a window into Carlton County's past
It all started a couple of months ago when my editor texted me and asked if I was interested in doing a story about history.
My immediate response was an emphatic "yes." She handed me a blue scrapbook with all kinds of newspaper clippings, accomplishments and just plain adventures of Norman Granholm, a 1961 graduate of Carlton High School.
It didn't take long for me to realize this might be more mystery than history. While we had plenty of information about Granholm from the early 1960s — he was in the Carlton High School Band, accepted to the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1964 and, most interesting to me, he seemed to have a past working at newspapers — we could find little about what happened to him after he left Carlton.
As it turns out, I wasn't the first to have trouble finding information about what happened. Gary Androsky, a graphic artist in my office, was at Estate of Value's monthly warehouse estate sale in Superior in November. He purchased the scrapbook for $10.
Androsky, a collector and board member at the Douglas County Historical Society, couldn't find any information either, and asked us if we were interested in trying to track down Granholm.
I first tried my father-in-law, who graduated from Carlton in 1968, if he knew. No, he said, but I should ask his sister, since she still lived in the area.
My wife's aunt had heard of some Granholms in the area, but didn't know Norman Granholm and hadn't heard anything about the family in many years. Others I asked said almost the same thing.
I began to wonder: What happened to this young man who seemed so accomplished in high school? Would this story have a happy ending?
Finally, my editor said: "Jamey, just put it on our Facebook page and see what happens."
Within a couple of hours I had several comments, some promising leads and — finally — an email address for Granholm.
Jenn Capra, the director of nursing at Sunnyside Health Care Center at Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet, helped care for Granholm's mother the last few years of her life. His mother died in 2013, but Granholm still sends a card each Christmas to the facility.
I contacted Granholm — after Capra made sure it was OK to share his email address — and his response made me laugh out loud.
"Curiouser and curiouser," he began, quoting from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."
It turns out Granholm is alive and well living in McGregor, Texas, about 10 miles south of Waco. He's retired and, while he never became a physician, he did earn a doctorate and spent his career in academic medicine.
He's lived in Oregon, Galveston, Texas and Rhode Island before finishing his career at the University of Cincinnati.
I finally got to talk with him about two weeks ago, and let me tell you something: I had a ball getting to know Granholm a little. He said his mother must have put the scrapbook together and it was probably lost around 2001. His father died unexpectedly that year, so the home he grew up in just outside Carlton was too much for his mother to care for on her own.
"So there was no question that she needed to sell it and leave, but at the time, it was a house filled with 50 years' worth of stuff," Granholm said.
He was surprised to hear from me and even more surprised I had a scrapbook his mother had assembled.
"It's just amazing," he said. "I can picture the house and where it would have been ... My mother and father would see things that they would refinish and put them in the house and they just accumulated all kinds of stuff — even a pedal organ."
Wait — what?
"Norm," I said, "I'm really sorry, but I've got to stop you. This is really weird, but I swear you could have been describing my folks' house — right down to the organ."
My dad used to collect and refinish furniture at my parents' house in North Carolina. Some rooms, especially the one with the organ, are just filled with things he's worked on or furniture he's collected over the years. I was just tickled to find a connection like that between myself and a man who grew up decades before and thousands of miles from me.
Granholm went on to tell me how he got a Boy Scout merit badge for bicycling when it was 20 degrees below zero and how he used to help set type and deliver papers for the Carlton County Vidette.
Most of the scrapbook's clippings from the Vidette are about the Carlton basketball team's run to the state finals in 1959 — the first team from Carlton County to play in a state championship game. Granholm wasn't on that team, but he was a member of the band.
"In those days, you didn't stay overnight in hotels, no matter how long the trip," he said. "So we went back and forth every night. That's 150 miles on Highway 61, a two-lane road, but if they were winning, we were happy to go."
The thing is, I'm getting ready to mail Granholm his scrapbook, but I'm a little sad. His book on my desk has become a defining part of my first few months working at the Pine Journal. When I've felt a little stressed or needed a break, many times I've turned my chair and flipped through the book. It's been a window into the Carlton County that existed, not just before I lived in the area, but before I was even born.
On the other hand, I'm also glad Androsky brought us the book and I could make a connection with Granholm. It's fun to be a part of returning this scrapbook to its rightful owner. I just wish I could be there to watch him flip through when he receives it.