In the Midst
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Article by Audrey Tack from the Cokato Historical Society's newsletter In the Midst Of, Winter, 1997, Vol. 17 No. 1.
Upon first becoming acquainted in Cokato, a friend told me of an incident while she was grocery shopping in the Farmers Store. In walked a distinguished looking woman carrying a
canvas tote bag. The tote bag read "Foxy Lady".
Maybe some of you remember this lady carrying the tote bag as being Altha Dokken.
The Dokkens moved to Cokato in 1933. Elmer Dokken was raised in French Lake, and being a business person, in a small town was appealing to him, his wife and family. Their family consisted of two sons, James and Kayo, and a daughter, Nancy.
Elmer's occupation was that of a mortician and Cokato had an opening with the Cokato Co-operative Funeral Home. This funeral parlor was in the H. C. Bull house which had been converted to a funeral parlor/private home a few years prior to 1933. Altha was born in Fergus Falls, the oldest of nine children. She met Elmer at a box social in her church. Elmer purchased her box lunch and this is where their courtship began. At the time, Elmer was visiting his sister who lived in Fergus Falls. Altha was a teacher in -rural North Dakota.
In grade school, I became acquainted with Nancy. Nancy had a paper route and we would deliver the evening Minneapolis paper with the help of her brother, Kayo. He drove the paper route in his car, as we brought the papers' to each door step; perhaps he was fourteen or so. I can still visualize his black Chevrolet. After delivering papers, we would stop at Larson's Grill for a treat—a very huge ice cream cone.
The beginning of World War II is one date everyone remembers. Altha was an avid knitter, so she began to knit O. D. sweaters, scarves and sox for the American Red Cross. The draft was in full swing and many Cokato men were in the armed forces before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
For more than thirty years, Altha served as the chairperson for the Red Cross Bloodmobile which she did modestly and unassumingly. She also was the Red Cross service person liaison between the men and women in the service and their military superiors. The liaison was used in time of stress or tragedy.
The day after Thanksgiving the cookie baking began in the Dokken home. Yes, every year Altha baked and decorated thousands of cookies, from Poison Cookies to Mrs. Loberg's Lovely Cookies. Servicemen and women received this special treat from the Dokkens. The cookies were carefully packed in cigar boxes among popped popcorn to ensure a safe arrival. Altha had a great interest in sports and in school events; consequently the Dokken home was a mecca for many young people in Cokato. After a football or basketball game, kids would congregate and enjoy the fellowship of being teens in their home.
There was always much to do. Board games, Canasta, or just sitting around and rehashing the game, or various school events and what was happening in activities at church were the preferred topics.
The evening was topped off with a delicious lunch which was more like a meal, prepared by Altha with the assistance of Nancy.
Those years were patriotic years, and they were scary too. There were the civil defense black outs, I can remember wondering if war would come to the United States. And I know these thoughts weren't just mine.
During all of these years, Altha was a loyal benefactor of worthy causes in Cokato and our country. She was involved with her church, Girl Scouts, American War Dads, Red Cross, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and she had a most unique profession as a Funeral Director. She indeed was a woman before her time.
Entertaining was an everyday occurrence. I'm sure there are former faculty members and their wives who remember being hosted with an afternoon tea or coffee by Altha and Elmer. This was an annual event. For those who do remember, it was always "good egg coffee." Also, the football and basketball teams and their coaches were feted with an annual dinner.
Going down memory lane is good. It is especially good to remember people who were once a big part of Cokato. I remember Altha with a great deal of warmth and love, and of course her tote bag "Foxy Lady."
Find out more about influential Cokato women