Holly Johnson: Gaining perspective at 50

Published 6:30 am Saturday, September 5, 2020

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I recently had a birthday. Though I wouldn’t normally shout that to the world, this was a big one (50) and I just can’t fathom how I got to this point.

I am not complaining.  I am just kind of in shock at the pace in which time has flown by.  In order to gain perspective, I decided to look back at what George and Lillian Hormel were doing when they crossed the half century mark.

For George that would have been in 1910.  At that point he had successfully led a company for 19 years. In 1910, the company processed over 188,000 hogs.  The Austin Daily Herald reported on the company’s success in the Nov. 16, 1910,  paper.  Items of interest in the report were the number of rail cars coming in and out of the company that year.  For instance, it was noted that 74 cars of cattle, 19 cars of lard tins, and 50 cars of salt were brought in.  Leaving the plant were 535 cars of cured pork, 18 cars of grease, and 5 cars of hogs hair.  Apparently these numbers were indicative of a successful year as the article concluded with a detailed account of how the group celebrated their accomplishments at the close of the annual meeting.

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At age 50, George’s only child was 18 years old and in his senior year at Shattuck Academy. Unfortunately, George lost his mother as he was about to turn 50.

And for Lillian, that 50-year milestone occurred in 1917.  Shortly after her birthday in August, her only child enlisted in the Army and was eager to serve his country in World War I.  I can only imagine the fear and worry that permeated her life at that time, but I am certain she was proud of the young brave man she had raised.  In that year, her husband’s thriving business processed over 426,000 hogs. My guess is that more hogs meant more headaches and strain on her hard working spouse, and, therefore, on her.

My life span parallels George’s in that at 50 years old I have an 18-year-old son.  It is also similar to Lillian’s as, at age 50, she was worrying about her son entering a new chapter of his life.  My sons are not entering the service, but they are beginning or continuing their journeys as college students during a pandemic.  I am counting encounters with the public vs. numbers of rail cars to measure our success at the HHH.  George and Lillian Hormel reached 50 years of age just as I have with hopes and dreams, through obstacles and triumphs, with good days and not so good days.  But life is precious and I am choosing to close out the first 50 years with gratitude for all of life’s experiences and to celebrate each day ahead as a gift, no matter what comes next.  (And I’ll never age because the picture the Herald uses each week is from eight years ago! Ha!)

Upcoming Events

History’s Sweet Reads Book Discussion

5-6 p.m., Monday, Sept. 14

Sponsored by the Hormel Historic Home and Sweet Reads Book Store. Join in person or virtually as we discuss the life and experiences of George A. Hormel as told in his 11 chapter autobiography.  Pre-registration required on our website. $5 per session or $45 for whole series. Register at www.hormelhistorichome.org