When Ellen decided to marry her high school sweetheart Clelland when they were about 18 years old, people were skeptical.
“Everybody said puppy love could never last,” she said.
They were wrong. On June 2, Ellen and Clelland Darr celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. Family from all over the country converged on the Midwest for a get-together at The Farmstead senior home in Andover on June 6 where they have both lived for almost five years.
Ellen and Clelland met when they were freshman and started dating when they were juniors at Silver Lake Township High School in Iowa. There were only 17 students, including the two of them, in their graduating class. Only one classmate is still alive today and they remain close.
Ellen believes their first date was going to a movie. While in high school they went to junior and senior prom together. They spent a lot of time together outside of school because they lived near each other on their respective family’s farms.
Their first home was a “square cracker box” on a farm in the Iowa town of Webb. They cooked, ate, slept, bathed and visited with company in the same room. Clelland only received $30 each month to milk about 50 cows every day. However, they did not have to pay rent and they got free milk and eggs from the farmer.
One prominent memory Ellen has from this home is when one of the bulls came to their screen door and then their open bedroom window with a screen during a thunderstorm and snorted at them. Their door was open because they did not have air conditioning or electricity, so fresh cool air was very welcome in their home.
Luckily, Clelland was able to corral the cows and bulls that had got out of their enclosure.
Just a few months later in the fall of 1937, they moved to the town of Ayrshire, Iowa, because Clelland had a job offer. He actually had two job offers. One was hauling bundles of hay for $1.25 per day. Another job was stacking straw for 18 different homes for $2.50 per day. He chose the higher paying job.
Clelland’s main job throughout his working life was on the farm. They moved to a 160-acre farm in the Minnesota town of Dodge Center in 1956 where they milked cows and grew corn and beans.
Ellen helped out on the farm, but her main occupations were working for JC Penny for 10 years and being a dental assistant for 18 years.
The Dodge Center farm was the first one they owned. They had leased space from the owners at the two other farms. They saved $10,000 for this transaction, but needed to get a loan to help them with future payments. The trouble was they could not get a loan from the bank for a purchase this large because they had no credit rating. They had never borrowed any money before.
The banker was the owner of the Ayrshire farm on which the Darrs were farming. He told Clelland that he was sure he could make it, but he needed to get a credit rating first. Therefore, he said the bank could loan the Darrs $1,000 a month for six months.
If they made the principal and interest payments on time, they could get a credit rating and get the loan they needed. The Darrs made all the payments on time and six months later had the loan they needed.
The Darrs lived at that Dodge Center town for 51 years before moving to The Farmstead senior housing facility in Andover to be closer to their daughter Virginia Ritchey and their three grandchildren. Ellen and Clellend had six children — three boys and three girls. They are Mardell Truog, Darrell Darr, Dennie Darr, Sharon Gibbs, Virginia Ritchey and Richard Darr. Richard Darr is deceased.
They have 18 grandchildren, 46 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren. Their youngest great-great-grandchild is 10 months old.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]