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Christmases Past – Eileen Mrdutt tells of Christmas traditions

By Kelsie Hoitomt

GLENWOOD CITY – Eileen Mrdutt is a winter baby as she was born on November 19 and just celebrated her 84th birthday before the holidays.

Mrdutt has been spending the holiday season lately by “going with the flow” and spending Christmas Day at church and then at whichever one of her children’s homes is hosting the family.

“There is lots of decorating and stuffed stockings. I’ve made saurkraut soup, lutefisk and desserts,” shared Mrdutt of her Christmas traditions.

As a child, Mrdutt spent the holiday with her parents and her older brothers and sister at their home on the outskirts of Forest.

“Dad went and cut the tree on Christmas Eve and we decorated it with real candles that were clipped on and there was a porcelain bird with real feathers that was clipped on too. We also strung together popcorn and cranberries, shared Mrdutt. We would all sit around the dining room table after lighting the candles, then we would carefully blow out the candles and go to bed. Us kids would wake up early Christmas morning and run down stairs to open our presents.”

She remembers her mother making new clothes for her old dolls and giving them as presents. One year they were given sleds and she had to share it with her youngest brother.

The family was always treated every Christmas with a big bowl of chocolate covered animal crackers and then bowls filled with apples and oranges.

They would all go to church that morning and then have a big dinner of either roasted turkey or chicken, lutefisk, lefse, and desserts. In the afternoon they would visit her grandparent’s house to celebrate the rest of Christmas.

Mrdutt attended the Woodland grade school where she remembers the entire eight grades participating in school programs each year.

“It was so much fun and exciting, we hung up a sheet to cover the stage and we each had a part in the play. The parents brought food and the kids got a bag of Christmas goodies. My mom always sewed a new dress for us girls each Christmas,” shared Mrdutt.

Winter time also meant the pond behind the grade school was frozen over and the kids could ice skate.

“Dad would hitch up the horses to the sled and take us to the pond and around other places. Mom would make us homemade snow pants and coats, everything was homemade,” said Mrdutt.

After reminiscing about her childhood and growing up in a home without electricity or running water, Mrdutt said she is not one bit unhappy about growing up when she did.

Mrdutt graduated in 1946 and went to school during the time of the second World War. Because of this, she remembers that girls were not allowed to participate in sports and at that time the boys played baseball, basketball and football.

After graduation, Mrdutt headed out of the small town of Forest and into the big city to St. Paul where she worked for an insurance company, then a newspaper in Minneapolis and eventually back to St.Paul to work at 3M.

Mrdutt worked in ribbon and advertising at 3M where she also taught gift wrapping.

“I used to gift wrap boxes that were shipped to Arthur Godfrey in New York and I also gift wrapped cars and put big bows on them which were displayed in showcase rooms at dealerships,” shared Mrdutt.

Mrdutt then met and married Ken Seydel. The couple moved back to Glenwood City where they had their child Sali was born.

Ken left and Eileen began working at 3M again while Sali stayed at her grandparents house.

In 1959, Eileen married Emil Mrdutt and they had three children, Roger, Jon and Mary.

Emil worked construction in the cities and then the pair bought a bar/restaurant in St.Paul that they called “family bar”.

Eileen decided she wanted to do something else, so they packed up and moved to Siren where they bought a store/resort.

They eventually sold that because Eileen wanted “to do something else” so they packed up again and moved to the state of Washington to a town near the Canadian border.

Emil and Eileen bought a bar/ dance hall there where they met a wide variety of people.

“There was a group of Russians that lived in Canada and they would frequent often as they loved to dance and drink,” said Eileen.

Eventually the Mrdutt’s made their way back to the Glenwood City area and they discovered that the Boondocks bar was for sale.

So in 1970, Emil and Eileen purchased the Boondocks. Emil passed away in 1981, but Eileen continued to run the bar herself until 1994 when it was sold to the Booths.

“The people were so good to me and I had a lot of fun so that is why I stayed there after Emil passed,” explained Mrdutt.

After selling the bar, she decided to travel to Florida where she met a fellow named Bob from New York. They became companions and Mrdutt moved to upstate New York where she lived with Bob for nearly 13 years until he had a stroke.

The pair spent their winters in Florida where they played cards and went to shows along with their other Floridian friends.

Mrdutt once again moved back to Glenwood City almost four years ago. She has since been living happily at the Glen Park Manor.

Mrdutt spends her days reading, playing cards, visiting the ladies at bowling on Wednesday nights and cheering on her grandchildren at sporting events.

This year was especially important to Mrdutt as she watched both her grandsons, Nick and Nathan, become football state champions.

“I am very proud to say I have a son who won a championship in 1985 and now my two grandsons. I sat at home glued to the TV until the fourth quarter when I couldn’t take it anymore I had to leave and go to Leakers and enjoy the victory with a bunch of other people. There was lots of clapping and cheering,” shared Mrdutt.

This Christmas, Mrdutt wasn’t too sure of her plans, but assumed she would be spending the day at Jon and Barb’s home with the rest of the family.