A.C. Carlson

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My Minnesota: Retired appliance dealer now crafting calendars

  • May 25, 2013 - 4:31 PM

His goal is to crank out 20 more of his “Wit & Wisdom” monthly calendars. Parkinson’s disease, be damned.

Every month for more than six years now, A.C. Carlson has kept busy in retirement by creating, copying and mailing out 100 of the calendars to friends, relatives and his old customers.

“I’m a big believer in setting goals,” he says. “And I want to make 100 of these.”

For 50 years, Carlson sold appliances along Bass Lake Road in a store that carried his name. He retired at 80. From his perch at the Arbor Lakes senior complex, he sprinkles his positive philosophy, laced with Lutheran bromides, into each square of the simple calendars that are sometimes corny, sometimes sweet and always from the heart.

“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.”

“Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”

“There is no sense in advertising your troubles: There’s no market for them.”

You get the drift. He picks up the quotes from various sources, including his neighbors at the Maple Grove senior housing center, and drops in some jokes: Why are there so many Johnsons in the phone book? (They all have phones.) How many seconds in a year? (Twelve, Jan. 2nd, Feb. 2nd, March 2nd …)

The youngest of seven siblings, Alton Carroll Carlson was born in 1926 in Center City. “Everybody’s always just called me A.C.”

He sheds tears when he remembers how his father, William Carlson, lost the 40-acre farm during the Depression and the family went on welfare.

“They called it relief back then. I started with nothing and I have most of it left,” he says, blue eyes twinkling. “We didn’t have much — we didn’t need much. In fact, we didn’t know much was available.”

With neither plumbing nor electricity, he delivered bakery goods by a horse-drawn cart in 1945. He lost some customers when bread went for 13 cents a loaf to 14. “Too expensive.”

He met Gladys, his wife of 62 years who died in December, when she roomed with his sister in Minneapolis. Gladys insisted their marriage would have to wait until he saved up $1,000 from hawking bakery items, by then delivered in white trucks. After a few months, she asked how he was doing.

“I was earning $38 a week and had $62,” he recalls. “She said: ‘Close enough.’ ”

They wed in 1950 and he opened his first A.C. Carlson Furniture and Appliance Store four years later in Crystal — the first of five locations all on Bass Lake Road.

A 1982 fire, set by a burglar who failed to crack the safe, gutted the third store in New Hope. He retired in a fifth location, now run by his son, David. His brood also includes three daughters, a dozen grandkids and a couple of great-grandchildren.

The Parkinson’s diagnosis came six years ago, but that didn’t stop calendar production. Or slow his sense of humor. As a recent calendar square suggests: “When everything is coming your way, you’re probably in the wrong lane.”


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