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Bob Lind, Published January 11 2009

Hat’s off to this romance

Love story bloomed in last remaining seat on crowded train

The young gal had a choice: her hat box or the guy.

Happily for both of them, she chose the guy.

Readers of this column (all three of them) know that a story printed here often generates other stories. Columns about the old days of local radio and favorite restaurants and the Galloping Goose branch line trains all resulted in people sending in their memories of those topics, and Neighbors appreciates them.

Now a new (and romantic) series seems to be going: how husbands and wives first met.

Today’s story comes from Jack Evert of Moorhead, who grew up on a farm at Sabin, Minn., attended Minnesota State University Moorhead and North Dakota State University (back when they were known as MSU and the AC, respectively), was an officer in the Army Air Corps, then graduated from Purdue University in 1948 with an engineering degree.

He moved to Detroit, where he was in the executive training program of the Ford Motor Co.

Jack came home for Christmas 1948 and the beginning of the new year of 1949, then headed back via trains.

He transferred to a Detroit-bound train in Chicago. The train was packed, though, so he had trouble finding a seat. Finally he found one, sort of, because it had a large hat box on it.

It obviously belonged to the young woman in the adjoining seat, so, Jack says, “I mustered enough courage to ask her if I might place her hatbox on the upper storage rack so that I could have that seat. After explaining that I had already walked through two coaches without finding a seat, she consented.

“Being the inquisitive guy I am,” Jack says, he introduced himself and peppered her with questions.

Who she was, he learned, was a farm girl from Stromsburg, Neb., a 1946 graduate of the University of Nebraska, and was working in Detroit.

Her name was Harriet Freeman, but she was professionally known as Ann Woodward, taken from Woodward Avenue, the location of the J.L. Hudson department store where she was a sewing and fashion consultant.

Well, before they got to Detroit, Jack, smooth guy that he was, had obtained Harriet’s telephone number. Later, three things happened:

- He called her several times.

- They had their first date, attending a Detroit Symphony concert.

- Then, in April 1950 (cue the violins), they were married.

Last month, Jack, Harriet, their four children and their six grandchildren got together at Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead to celebrate Harriet’s 85th birthday.

And once again, Jack and Harriet told the family of what Jack understandably terms that “most memorable train ride” that occurred 60 years ago Jan. 2.

Neighbors imagines Harriet no longer has the hat that was in that box. But of more importance, she still has the guy.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com