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Bob Lind, Published December 10 2012

Lind: Fargoan remembers Cuban missile crisis

For the nation, it was a scary time. In the middle of it, a North Dakota family had its own nervous experience.

Maxine Schmidt, Fargo, writes that a Forum story about this being the 50th anniversary year of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 brought memories for her.

That fall her family was driving from their home in Flaxton, near the Canadian border in western North Dakota, to Valentine, Neb., to visit a Marine Corps buddy of Maxine’s father, Merwyn Larsen, who had served in Japan during the Korean War. They were pulling a camper/trailer that Merwyn had built: “My dad could and did build everything/anything,” Maxine says.

They had fun along the way, highlighted by a stop in a town where her dad bought a jacket for her baby sister, football helmets for her brothers and, for Maxine, her first Barbie doll, one dressed like a stewardess.

All went well until one day, driving down a highway, her dad yelled, “Hold on.” The car slid around and the trailer flipped on its side.

The car didn’t tip, however, so nobody was injured. “But it was scary,” Maxine says.

Other drivers stopped to help them. Then a nearby farmer put the trailer back on its wheels with his tractor and invited the family to his home, where Merwyn and his wife, Bernice, cleaned up the mess in the trailer while the farmer’s wife “kept us kids busy in the house,” Maxine says. “My mom was a good packer, and the damage and mess was minimal. She said the eggs weren’t even broken.”

The family planned to do some sight-seeing on the way home. Then they learned of the situation with Cuba, and Maxine remembers hearing her parents talking about how her dad could get called back up to serve.

“It was a tense ride home,” she says. “But of course, thanks to John and Robert Kennedy’s calm heads, it ended peacefully.

“It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how serious the situation was at the time.

“My parents just wanted to get home, back to the farm and family. I imagine it’s how other families felt during 9/11 when planes were grounded and families were separated.”

So it all ended happily, both for the nation and the Larsen family.

Footnotes: Maxine’s parents, now of Bismarck, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in November.

And remember that Barbie doll dressed like a stewardess that young Maxine got? Well, when she told her own daughter about this, her daughter asked, “What’s a stewardess?”

Times, they are a-changing.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com