Bob and Elinor Olson celebrated 70 years of marriage on Mar. 6 2013. Their secrets: working hard and choosing to be happy. PHOTO BY ANTON ADAMEK/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
Bob and Elinor Olson celebrated 70 years of marriage on Mar. 6 2013. Their secrets: working hard and choosing to be happy.

The couple that dances together, stays together, gets married and is still married 70 years later. This is short version of the long-lived love story that is still being written about Robert (Bob) and Elinor Olson, who were united in marriage on March 6, 1943, and haven't looked back since. Working hard and taking care of each other have been the pillars of their marriage to each other and they have taught and inspired their relatives and friends a thing or two about commitment.

Bob Olson, 96, grew up near Lanesboro on a 280-acre farm and was the youngest of six boys in his family. When he finished eighth grade at 16, he began working, grinding feed for farmers in Chatfield for four years. He continued grinding feed closer to home after that and did so for 21 years.

His work ethic challenged even the farmers in the area. "I would start work at four in the morning and have a half a day's work done by nine in the morning," he explained. "The more I ground, the more money I made."

Meanwhile, his future wife, Elinor Wendland, 93, held down sometimes four jobs in a day. Growing up in St. Charles, where she graduated from high school, she worked as a switchboard operator for three and a half years. After that, she would work for the city recorder in the morning, a lawyer in the afternoon, the bakery in the late afternoon, and maybe even babysit at night!

Both Bob and Elinor readily admit they were both workaholics when they met, but even that couldn't keep them away from each other.

They met for the first time at a dance hall in St. Charles. In those days, the Saturday night dances, held in a hall above a business, were the places to be.

"She was a good dancer," said Bob.

The two started going together, but only saw each other on Saturdays since their weekdays were so busy with work.

It worked out for them, though, and they stayed together for a couple years.

Elinor said they broke up for two years at one time, but she can't remember why. "Maybe we were dancing too much with someone else," she joked adding, "But we got back together, and then we made it legal that time."

On one of their regular dates to the Pla-Mor Ballroom in Rochester, Bob decided to bring an engagement ring along. "We were sitting in the back seat, and another couple was with us when he gave me the ring," Elinor said.

They then celebrated by dancing, which was normal.

They were married at the North Prairie parsonage and paid $10 for it. That wasn't the only deal that has lasted their lifetime; their first bedroom set cost them $79 and they still own it.

After they were married, they left on their honeymoon. However, because of World War II, they were restricted in their travel due to gasoline rations.

"You couldn't buy gas, you had to use coupons for the gas," recalled Elinor.

They ended up saving enough to visit family in Galesville, Wis., which is only an hour and a half drive away. Upon their return, they began living in an old church that had been converted into an apartment.

"We paid $8 a month for rent and we lived there for a year and a half," said Bob.

After moving to another house for five years, they moved permanently out to an 80-acre farm that would be a 55-year witness to their continual hard work as landowners and, most importantly, parents to their children.

Bob and Elinor had two boys who both graduated from Lanesboro High School. They also both learned how to have a very strong work ethic. They would help their dad manage the hogs and registered Brown Swiss cows, while their mother managed the bookwork and upwards of 10,000 laying hens.

"Bob got me talked into it," Elinor explained when she said how she got into chicken farming. She already managed a large garden, did all the house and yard work, and cooked all the meals.

To this day, Bob is adamant when it comes to describing his wife as "one of the best cooks in southeast Minnesota."

Even though Elinor grew up in a town, her work ethic matched her husband's. Besides the farm work, Bob dug graves for 25 years for 25 different cemeteries. He estimates he dug over 1,500 graves, and most of those by pick ax and shovel.

"One time I did a grave when it was 30-below-zero with an 80-below degree wind chill," he stated, "They paid me an extra $25 because they said 'it must have been cold.'"

The hard work paid off; they built up a beautiful farmstead and two strong boys. Bob has also received awards at county and state fairs for his Brown Swiss.

Something they both learned through their hard work was that it never helped to argue. "The secret to happiness is working together," shared Elinor adding, "Whatever you do, keep happy."

"It was a lot of hard work that we went through, but we made it and everything we have was through work," stressed Bob.

They moved to their house in Lanesboro 10 years ago and have continued to live and work together in harmony. "I think we know each other pretty well," said Elinor.

They have three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren they love to see when they get the chance. "I never miss any birthdays!" said Elinor.

Their daughter-law-law, Sandy Olson, shared, "They have installed upon us his strong work ethic and when you think you've given 100 percent to something, reach for 110 percent and go for perfection."

Being fussy is a trait both Elinor and Bob share, but Bob says that is something that he really likes about Elinor. "Everything is always in its place, and I like that."

Elinor said she loves everything about Bob, who is glad since he said when they were younger he "thought many times she would leave me, but she never did!"

It is clear both couldn't live without each other and that commitment is what will keep them together for many more years. This 70th anniversary is just one more page in their continuing love story.