By Kelsie Hoitomt
GLENWOOD CITY— Norm Hagen is a long time resident of Glenwood City. He grew up just three and a half miles south of town on a hilltop, which is where his family farm rested.
He is the son to the late Herbert and Ellen Hagen and there were two other children in the family, Dorothy and Richard.
Norm reminisced about how he and his family always spent Christmas Eve preparing for the big holiday.
“We had to work extra hard to get all the chores done earlier,” said Norm. “The cows and chickens were always given an extra helping that day.”
After all the chores were finished, the family would gather around the table at their home along with Norm’s uncle, George Hoffman and his family.
“Earlier in the fall, Big Bill Nelson had come over and butchered a hog or beef and it provided the makings for blood sausage, potato sausage and meatballs, which was all a part of the dinner,” explained Norm.
The Hagen family is Norwegian and with that being said, Norm remembered there was always a strong smell of lutefisk in the house during Christmas too.
“Before the holidays, Ben Forrest always came around selling lutefisk and herring. We also enjoyed the traditional Norwegian treats of lefse, krumkake, fattigmann and rommogrot,” Norm said.
Norm was born in the 1930’s so growing up, he was without electricity for some time.
This meant the Christmas tree was decorated with candles.
“The candles were beautiful when lit, but they could only be allowed to burn for a short time because of the fire danger,” said Norm.
Along with the candles, there were strings of popcorn threaded throughout the branches and homemade decorations that the kids all made.
Then on Christmas morning, the children would wake to find an orange and some candy stuffed in their stockings. There were several gifts under the tree as well.
Norm remembered one special year he received a tobbogan. This was something he and his brother and sister had a lot of fun with.
There were steep hills surrounding their home, which made it out to be the neighborhood hot spot.
The Hagen kids along with the Wold, Dahl and Hoffman children would all get together and slide for hours.
“We also had a small ski-jump in the middle of the hill where we took many tumbles in the snow,” laughed Norm.
Being a country kid, this was their means of fun in those days. Norm did occasionally make his way into town to ice skate at the old rink that used to be near the fairgrounds.
Winters then always seemed to be filled with a great abundance of snow. One year Norm recalled, there was a blizzard the night of a Christmas program at the Lutheran church.
“We had to get there so our horse and sleigh took us down to my uncles. My Uncle George drove a milk van, so they had us kids get in the back where the milk cans were kept and the adults rode up front. The roads were not good, but we made it and it drew a lot of laughs when us kids came piling out from the back of the van,” Norm said.
“We never had all that much in those days, but our Christmases were just as happy as they are for kids today,” expressed Norm.
After graduating from the Glenwood City High School in 1949, Norm began working down in La Crosse at a W.T. Grant store, which is where he spent sometime living.
Norm remembers how the roads were terrible in those days during the winter months and the drive back home in his Model A for the holidays took quite a long time, but he always made it.
After that, Norm came back to the area and began working construction in St. Paul. It was while in the cities, that he decided to enroll in college at St. Paul in a Barber School.
Norm began work at the barber shop in town in 1953. He had to complete nine months of schooling, a year of apprenticeship, journeyman for three years and then it took a few months to receive his Masters, which qualified him to be a shop manager.
It was between 1956 and 57’ that Norm officially took over the barber shop in Glenwood City. Over the years Norm has continued to decorate his shop with Christmas cheer.
In the earlier years, stores in town always offered a Christmas gift to their customers; an ash tray being one of them.
Prior to owning the shop, he married a young woman from Boyceville named Mary in 1956. Together they had four children and they were raised at their home just on the outskirts of town.
With a family of their own now, Norm and Mary created their own Christmas traditions with their children, which included a big meal, decorating, church service and chores.
In those days, Christmas shopping was done in town at Steffen’s Hardware store, which had all the holiday fixings one needed unlike today where a 20-30 mile trip is sometimes needed to find everything.
Santa Claus used to be in town on the street as well. Norm said that Santa would sit outside on a band stand on Main Street and children would line up and wait just to have a chance to see him and get some candy.
Today, Norm spends Christmas with his family. He said that he will either go to Todd’s or Chris’s home.
Norm has five grandchildren now as well whom he spends the holidays with.
“I wish everyone a Happy Holiday,” said Norm.