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Biographical Information:

Reuben Dahlstrom was born on December 1, 1902 in Milaca, Minnesota, to Carl John and Augusta Jonsson Dahlstrom. He married Bonna Valentine Wilkes on July 24, 1927. Reuben worked for his father, who was a Milaca shoemaker, and later partnered with Dahlstrom, Helman and Berg Pontiac Garage and Dealership. He began his own auto body repair shop in 1942 in Milaca and worked there until his 1976 retirement. Reuben was a member of many religious institutions including First Church of Christ Scientists and Zurah Shrine Temples in Minneapolis. He was also an active member of Milaca Historical Society and an honorary member of the Milaca Alumni Band. Ruben passed away on December 30, 1999. With wife Bonna, they had four children: David, Peter, John, and James.

Bonna Wilkes Dahlstrom was born in Milaca Minnesota on February 14, 1906 to A.C and Josephine Simon Wilkes. Bonna worked at Mille Lacs County Auditor’s office while also assisting her husband in the family business. She was an active member of Milaca Historical Society, Civic Club, Order of Eastern Star, and First Church of Christ Scientist. Bonna passed away on February 26, 1999.

Transcript Summary:

In an interview conducted on February 13 1978, Reuben and Bonna discussed about their family backgrounds, ancestry, and livelihood. She recounted where their grandparents and parents came from and how they first moved to the Milaca area when it was still a young developing town. Bonna said that her grandparents from her fathers’ side came from New York and her mother’s side came from France, settling in Sunrise near the St. Croix River.

Reuben discussed that his parents emigrated from Sweden during the 1890s and he recalled his dad saying that he first came to Milaca in an old pump hand car. He also remembered that his parents could not speak any English at the time. Reuben recalled his childhood being brought up in Milaca and how he and his brothers had to work for his father in his shoe shop. After high school graduation, Reuben explained how he got into automobile business, later owning his own automobile business. He discussed different types of cars they had in 1900s like the 1907 Ford, Imperial, Underslung car and how they were all open cars which were not driven much during winters. Most of the cars as he said were chain drive automobiles. He then recalled the Great Depression and how it affected society during the time, especially in Milaca. Reuben also discussed business during World War II and when the shop was sold to be part of a vocational school.

Interviewed by Cal Gower and John LeDoux.


Image ID: 13655

See additional files below for full transcript.

13655_transcript.pdf (279 kB)
Reuben and Bonna Dahlstrom oral history interview transcript