Mim Dubbs to celebrate 100th birthday

Mim Dubbs
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Confessions from a country cafe

Mildred “Mim” Harriet Fossen was born Oct. 2, 1918, to Oscar and Cora (Swenson) Fossen on what is known today as the Truman and Pat Dahl farm at the top of the Bratsberg Hill.

Mim was the baby of the family, born following four sisters and one brother. She was born at the height of the flu epidemic, so there were no public gatherings being held due to the hazard of contagion. Because of this, baby Mim was baptized in her home, which her sister would later tell her was because she was too homely to take to church.

The Fossens rented farmland from Oscar’s parents, and the older children attended a one-room school in Bratsberg. Mim’s father fell ill and died of recurrent tuberculosis of the kidneys at age 40, leaving Cora a widow with five young children. The family left the farm and moved to town a year later, and Mim started school in Rushford.

She wrote about her school and life experiences in an article for the Rushford Area Historical Society some years ago. In that piece she speaks of her first-grade teacher, Miss Elsie Magelssen. “She was a great and kind teacher, so I did get a good start after all. Dr. Magelssen was Elsie’s dad who had his office in his home and dispensed that wonderful ‘Tar Salve.’ I was prone to skinned knees being active in rollerskating and park play. Elsie would send me to her home where her sister, Gyda, would fix my wounded knees with tar salve and a bandage. It did wonders. I used this salve most of my life. It was in time sold at the drug store.”

All the Fossen children were confirmed at Rushford Lutheran Church and attended Rushford High School. Mim was involved in many activities in school but recalls her disappointment at the elimination of the girls basketball program. “I had been waiting to get to high school and play but it was not to be. We had to be satisfied to cheer on our boys team which was doing very well. Basketball games were held at the Opera House as were all our plays and operettas.” Mim’s class was the first to graduate in the new school auditorium in 1937.

Mim worked at Ben Niggle’s Café while in school, serving hamburgers on bread for a dime, and coffee or coke for a nickel. “…wages had increased to $5 a week, but we worked hard every day. Tips were unheard of and one time a stranger left me a dime and I followed him, thinking he had forgotten his change and tried to give it back. That’s how I learned about tips.”

In her free time, Mim would go ballroom dancing with friends, or play her new favorite sport: golf. She borrowed golf clubs from Dr. Hammer’s wife and walked the several miles out to Ferndale with her girlfriend, carrying the clubs both ways.

Mim’s steady love, Maynard “Mino” Dubbs, was sent to Camp Rucker in Alabama early in 1942, and it didn’t take long for Mim to miss him enough to head down that way also. She took a train to Dothan, the closest city to the camp, where she met Mino. Since he wasn’t supposed to be out that late, the two spent the night hiding behind a billboard so that the Army MPs wouldn’t find him.

They were married on a September Saturday by a justice of the peace. The newlyweds were introduced to the many differences of Southern living. Mim found lady friends, who were very nice but rather superstitious in their customs. There was also a marked difference in the way the races interacted in Alabama at that time. Mim observed the prejudice and mistreatment, which she said “really didn’t set well with me.”

Another stop in their travels landed the Dubbses in Phoenix, where Mim worked for the United Fund. “It was interesting work — going to the big fund-raising dinners and soliciting from the big moneyed men who had homes out there. I know I personally talked to and received a pledge from P.K. Wrigley, the gum baron.”

The couple travelled around the country for a while longer with the military before Mino was given a medical discharge. Being unable to serve overseas, the Dubbses headed to Waukesha, Wisconsin, to work in the defense plants.

While there they learned that they were expecting, and daughter Margo was born on Aug. 14, 1945, also known as V-J Day — the day the war was over. “Sirens were going and everyone was celebrating. At the hospital it was wild and everyone was hollering the war was over. At this time I said I didn’t care and just wanted something else over with. Margo took her good time but finally arrived that evening.” The family soon moved back to Rushford for good.

Over the ensuing years, the Dubbses farmed, raised turkeys, and managed the Legion Club, Ferndale Golf Club, and Westfield Golf Club in Winona. They then opened the Dubbs Variety Store in the space now occupied by the clinic and drug store, which they ran from 1960 to 1975. The two retired to their home in Brooklyn, where they lived until Mino died of a heart attack in 1983.

Mim remained in the home until 1990, when she moved to the Carriage House Apartments. Through her retirement years Mim remained active with the American Legion Auxiliary, Rushford Lutheran Church Women and Rushford Area Historical Society, as well as golfing and playing cards with friends. Mim currently resides at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Home, where she continues to attend church and many social activities.

At the time of publication, the birthday celebration that had been scheduled for Mim has been postponed after a fall that has left the birthday girl laid up with a fractured hip. In lieu of a party, cards and well wishes for Mim are appreciated, as are your prayers. Please send cards to: Mim Dubbs, PO Box 747, Rushford MN 55971.