Forging Our Life Together

Jack and I were giddy with excitement about buying our first house in Eau Claire—with financing from the bank where I worked. My parents, Mimmi, Helen, and Jake helped us move in and furnish our house. This cute little bungalow on Crescent Avenue was close to our jobs. We quickly settled into married life. Between my 30 cousins, Jack’s seven siblings and their spouses, plus our Gang, we had a large social circle and lot of fun as a young married couple.

I made a new friend, Fern, at the bank. She was pretty, nice, and fun to chat with. After I introduced her to Jack, we started to scheme about setting her up with his brother, Bob. One day, Fern captured—and temporarily adopted—a stray puppy who ran into the bank. We helped her find a new home for the puppy. Through this twist of events, we were able to introduce Fern and Bob. They hit it off immediately and got married not long after us. I guess that “puppy love” is contagious!

Our ties to Grace Lutheran Church led us to become youth counselors. Not much older than the kids in the youth group, we planned picnics and other exciting outings to nearby lakes and parks. We also frequently visited my parents out at the farm, as well as Helen and Mimmi at their house on Ferry Street. And the Hysen picnics and gatherings were always a hoot.

With guidance and encouragement from my mom, Jack decided to go to college on the GI Bill. One of Jack’s professors raised cocker spaniel puppies. He asked us to take care of two puppies for a weekend and we happily agreed. (I’ve always loved dogs.) When he never came back for the puppies or asked us to return them, we wondered what to do? Jack was too concerned about offending his professor to broach the subject with him, so Ginger and Taffy became our first pets. I was already attached to them, so that solution was just fine with me!

In 1953, Jack graduated from UW-Eau Claire with a B.S. degree in chemistry and secured his first teaching position in Spooner, WI. A competitive offer from Sturgeon Bay (in Door County, WI) tantalized him. But I didn’t want to move so far away from our families. Plus, the Spooner High School had no chemistry lab. And the district offered to build a new lab to Jack’s specifications. How could he turn down such a thrilling prospect? Our families encouraged us to seize this opportunity.

But our last summer in Eau Claire was bittersweet. My cousin, Onie (Leone Helmstrom) and her husband Keith, bought our house. The Hysen clan gathered at Carson Park for a large, send-off picnic. Everyone was excited for us. However, I was sad to leave our family and friends behind. It was heart-wrenching for me to leave the bank and let go of my career aspirations. And I was scared to think about living in a new town, where I knew no one. Plus, I was skeptical that a small town like Spooner would be as fun as Eau Claire.

In the fall of 1953, we moved to Spooner, and the Eau Claire chapter of our life came to a close. Pregnant with our first child, I was excited—but also nervous—about what was ahead of us.

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