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History of Lundeen Bros. Ford
1993 Presentation to the Annandale History Club
Kermit Lundeen 

Kermit presented this history of Lundeen Bros Ford to the Annandale History  Club in February of 1993. In 1995 he submitted it to The Annandale Advocate as part of their celebration of 75 years in business.  Below is his address as it appeared in The Advocate.

In the last century and even in the lifetime of most of us here today we have seen some tremendous changes.  Changes in transportation.  From horses to automobile, trains, airplanes and now space travel.  We have seen changes in our homes and the appliances to make life easier.  We have seen changes in medicine, education and how we run our businesses.  We have seen changes in our lifestyles as a result of all these other changes.  We wonder if we will ever see this many changes in one person's life span again.

We are going to take a look at the effect that all these changes had on one family business spanning a period of almost 100 years and four generations.

My great-great-grandfather came over here from Sweden in the late 1870s and settled on the south shore of Lake Henry which is about eight miles south of Annandale.  Part of the original log barn is still standing but the house is gone.  John, my grandfather soon moved to the north side of Lake Henry and started his own farm.  He had five sons and one adopted daughter.  My grandfather was a natural mechanic and he would rather tinker with anything mechanical than to farm.  He and the Johnson brothers acquired a steam engine which they used to saw lumber and thresh grain in the fall. He later acquired a large one cylinder gas engine which he mounted on skids and went from farm to farm to saw wood.  He would sometimes be gone for days at a time.  He also had a telephone exchange installed in his house as people were starting to get telephones.  This was part of the Knapp Telephone Exchange.  

My grandfather soon saw a market for bicycles so he set up a shop on the farm and started to build bicycles which he named the Granite Lake Special.  This little shop is still on the farm.

When we were children he made one bicycle for each one of his sons' family.  In our family we had one bicycle for five kids which created a lot of conflict.

However in the 1930s not too many kids had bicycles.  I think there is one of these bicycles still in existence today.

It wasn't long before motorcycles became popular so he started to sell and repair motorcycles.  He had the Indian and Thor cycles.  Both names are gone from the market today.

Around 1910 the automobile started to become popular and within the price range of more people.  Grandfather purchased his first car a Model T about this time.  He decided it was time to get in to the automobile business.  He made arrangements with several dealers in the neighboring towns to sell cars for them right from the farm and he also repaired them.

In those days you not only sold a car but you had to give lessons on how to drive because in most cases this would be their first car.  He not only sold Model Ts but many other makes as well.

My grandfather was always interested in anything that would go fast, so he built two racers for his sons.  He lengthened the hood and removed the windshield and installed a high speed rear axle.  These racers could go about 60 miles per hour which was quite fast for that day.  He also customized cars.  The Model T that he had when I was young had a Studebaker roadster body on it.  His interest in speed was inherited by my father as he was always interested in anything that would go faster whether on land or water.  I could never drive fast enough for him. 

In 1917 my grandfather decided to move his car repair business to Annandale and he purchased the building on the corner of Main Street and Hwy. 55.  My father who was working in an auto repair shop in Minneapolis moved out to Annandale and went into business with him.  It had been operated as an Oakland dealership.  

A picture shows my aunt at the gas pump; my father Carl ran the shop as this was during World War I and most of the men were away in the service.  About two years later whenUncle Joe came home from the service my grandfather sold out his interest to Joe and he returned to the farm.  Uncles Walter and Henry later joined the firm.  Their brother, Edward, stayed on the farm.

The Lundeens obtained the Ford franchise in 1920 and started selling Model Ts and tractors.  At first the cars were shipped by rail, four to a car load partially assembled.  Wheels and tops would have to be put on at the dealership.

When the Ford Company started to build cars in Minneapolis, they would go in and pick up the new cars and drive them back to Annandale.  They were not always ready on the day they were supposed to be so sometimes they had to stay overnight.

In those days to sell cars you agreed to be prepared to take almost anything in trade -- horses, cattle, or whatever.  A big part of the business was storing cars overnight especially in the wintertime.  There were many salesmen traveling by car and it was necessary to put the car in a heated garage at night because they would not start in the morning.

In 1928 Ford started retooling the St. Paul plant to come out with the Model A.  This was a big change and took almost a year to do.  It was a year of no cars to sell and only pictures to show what was coming.  It was a big day when they had the first Model A to show.  This car was much more comfortable and faster which made my father happy.

About this time some of the businessmen in town who knew his love for speed thought it would be interesting to have a race between the Ford dealer, my father, and the Chevrolet dealer, Mr. Dan Figge.  It was decided that they would race to Maple Lake and back.  From what I have heard, my father met Mr. Figge a quarter of a mile this side of Maple Lake on his return.

The Model As sold quite well, but in 1931 the Great Depression came along and nobody could buy cars.  In one year they sold only one car.  Ford ran a contest on selling trucks and in our area we sold one truck and won the contest.  That one truck was sold to a wealthy contractor who had a summer home on Clearwater Lake and had a large government contract on a dam in North Dakota.  

The Lundeens had to survive by servicing cars again.  Even with the Depression coming on it was decided to build a filling station on the south side of the garage on Hwy. 55 and also install some large tanks underground and go into the bulk gas and oil business.  They built a pipeline under Hwy. 55 and between the elevators so gas and fuel oil could be unloaded directly from the tank cars.  At this time there were seven filling stations and three bulk dealers in Annandale; now there are only three stations and one bulk dealer.

In 1935 the economy started picking up and cars started selling again.  In the fall of 1935 Joe started two school bus routes.  District 81 also purchased a bus about the same time.

These, I believe, were the first motorized school buses in the immediate area, except South Haven had one bus prior to this.  Joe operated these buses separate from the Lundeen Corporation and sold out after the war to Neil Bahr.

About this time people started to build summer homes in the area so there was a market for boats and outboard motors, so they went into this business also.  The boats were the old wood boats and mostly small fishing motors.

In 1941 World War II started and production of cars, trucks and tractors came to a halt as all the production facilities were needed for the war effort.  So once again it was necessary to just rely on the service business and the filling station.  It wasn't possible for all the Lundeens to make a living on the business at this time.  My father decided to get a job in the defense plant in Minneapolis as a machinist.  With gas rationing it was not possible to commute so he had to stay in Minneapolis.

I was attending the University at the time and renting a room so he moved in with me.  I think I was the only student on the campus with his father living with him.  We hardly ever saw each other as he worked nights and slept in the daytime.

After the war when the factories started producing cars and trucks again there was a big backup in demand.  People had been making good money during the war without much to spend it on so now everybody wanted new cars.  It wasn't long and there was a big pile of orders as people went from dealer to dealer putting in orders.

This didn't mean that all the dealers made a lot of money; small dealers like Annandale only got one or two cars a month.  It took about three years for production to catch up with demand.  It was about this time that Joe Lundeen sold out his interest to Carl and he sold his school bus business to Neil Bahr.  However, he still kept working for Lundeen Brothers.

At this time there was a strong demand for tractors and farm machinery because all of the farmers were ready to get rid of their horses.  This brought on a tremendous change in farming.  Lundeen Brothers sold Ford tractors, New Holland bailers and Ward Brothers corn pickers and serviced other smaller lines of equipment.  Walter Lundeen handled this part of the business.  There were many other people that decided on going into farm machinery at that time, and soon there were five machinery dealers including Lundeen Bros. in Annandale.

This was a good business until production caught up with demand in 1953 and then one by one they all quit and now we have no farm machinery dealers left in Annandale.

In 1954 my father was getting older and needed help in running the business and it was either up to my brother or myself to go into business with him or sell out.  At this time I had started my own accounting business in Buffalo and Annandale and decided to sell that and go into the Lundeen business becoming the third generation.  I was in business with my father and three uncles.  This made for a very interesting family relationship; however it worked out.

About this time the farm machinery business was on the decline, however the boat and motor business started to grow so we expanded in that direction.  We had Johnson motors already and took on Crestline and Larson boats and many other related lines of sporting goods.  My father's hobby was guns so he had a good stock of guns also.  This business continued to grow until it became evident we would either have to build a new boat store out of town or sell out.  It was decided to stay with the auto business and we sold the boat business to Frank Ledwein who built Annandale Marine east of town.

About this time Henry Lundeen who was operating the station and bulk business started to expand by selling products to other stations including the Clearwater Truck Stop.  We also bought the station, restaurant and motel west of town at that time.  We operated the station and rented out the restaurant and motel.  For a short time we even had to operate the motel.  This part of the business came to a quick end later in the 1970s when Texaco decided to leave this area and we were unable to get another supplier because of the shortage of oil.  We were forced to sell this part of the business to Radson, Inc. from Hasty, and they recently went out of business.

In 1972 Vince decided to come into the business making him the fourth generation.  He became president and general manager in 1987.

In 1977 it became evident that we could no longer operate our business in the downtown area as there wasn't adequate parking and display for all the different models of new and used cars and trucks.  At night when we locked up we would have to go all over town and find cars that were parked here and there.  So in 1977 we built a new building east of town on land we had purchased years earlier in anticipation that we would eventually have to move.  We then built the second building in 1978.

The automobile business has changed tremendously over the years.  We have so many different models and equipment it is very hard to keep up with them.  And servicing cars is so much more complex than it used to be.  You have to have computers to do the book work, figuring car deals, ordering parts and cars and determining what's wrong with cars.

 So now we are back in the only business we had when we started and that is selling and servicing cars and trucks.  As times and needs changed, the Lundeens changed with it.  As we look ahead I am sure there will be many changes to come and I am sure the Lundeens will make changes to go with the times.

It has been an interesting business to be in as no two days are alike and the continuous changes have made for more challenges.  

As I look back the most surprising part of this business down through the years is how different family relationships stood the tests without breaking down.  First it was father and son, then two brothers, then four brothers, then father and three uncles and myself.  Now Vince with Great Uncle Henry, his father and himself.  I think what has held the families together is their strong religious heritage.

We owe much to the many faithful employees, many who stayed 30 and more years.  One who you all knew was Gib Rhoe who has passed away.  Don Repke is still there, Howard and Gina Rotsolk and many others.

At this time Vince has no sons to carry on the business, but two daughters.  Who knows -- maybe one of them will want to carry on the family business.  

Note:  Lundeen Ford is one of the oldest family run Ford dealerships in Minnesota, and as of this writing 2015 it is still in business east of Annandale on Highway 55.