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New book highlights life in a small southwestern Minnesota town in early 1950s

‘The Ice Harvest’ is written by Minneota native Sharon Locy

Cover photograph by Julius E. Locy

A new book has been published that focuses on life in Minneota, Marshall and Ghent.

“The Ice Harvest” is about a family in 1952 in a small town in Minnesota, a snapshot, if you will, of a time of transition in their lives.

The novel is written by Sharon Locy, who grew up in Minneota. Her father was Julius Locy, who died in 1999 and was a well-known photographer in Marshall. He also worked part time for Mascot publisher and editor Ragnar Guttormsson as a typesetter and ad salesman and drove a school bus in Minneota.

Sharon Locy’s mother, the former Evelyn Savoie, was killed in a car accident when Sharon was 8 years old. Her parents were driving back to Minneota after photographing a wedding when a drunk driver hit their car.

“This was before seat belts and my mother was thrown out of the car,” she said.

Years later, her father remarried, to Lois Tiedemann from Chaska who was a teacher at Minneota Public School.

“She was willing to take on three children,” Locy said. “They had a long and happy marriage until she died 10 years before my dad did.”

Locy said her dad spent his retirement years at Hill Street Place in Marshall.

“My family moved to Marshall when I was a teenager,” she said.

She graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1959. Locy received a B.A. in English at the now closed College of St. Teresa in Winona, and a Ph.D. in English at the University of California, Davis. She stayed in California and taught literature and writing at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles for 35 years.

Now retired, “The Ice Harvest” is Locy’s first novel.

“I started the book a long time ago,” said Locy, who now lives in Santa Monica, California. “My dad read some of it.” He commented on the father character selling insurance instead of being a photographer.

She was able to ask her father all about the details of ice harvesting.

“I asked him about 100 questions,” she said. “And one of my aunts had old pictures.”

Other information she got by researching the period. She consulted books such as Joe Amato’s “Servants of the Land: God, Family and Farm, The Trinity of Belgian Economic Folkways in Southwestern Minnesota,” Torgny Anderson’s “The Centennial History of Lyon County Minnesota,” Bill Holm’s “The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth: Minneota, Minnesota” and Ralph Larson’s “Minneota: A Centennial History 1881-1981.”

When Locy was young her grandfather told her “‘don’t be like me,’ she said. ‘Be smart, go to school, make something of yourself’ and then he said, ‘I’m a man who built my house on ice.” An avid reader, Locy said even at a young age she “knew a metaphor when it hit me in the face.” The phrase stuck with her.

The book begins in the fall of 1952 when the preparation for the upcoming ice making season begins. For decades, Henry Loos has enjoyed the process of harvesting ice from the Yellow Medicine River. He is proud of the quality of his ice — “My ice is always clean,” he says. Loos has to come to terms with the change from ice boxes to refrigerators. He is down to one customer, who buys from him mainly out of loyalty. Loos’ son, Ed, and preteen-aged granddaughter, Margaret, are also prominent characters in the book. “The narrative is shared by these three characters, each trying to define themselves and their place in a changing world,” according to the back cover book synopsis.

Some of the business names in the book will be familiar to longtime area residents such as The Big Store, the RoundUp and Minnie’s Coffee Shop in Minneota, and she mentions St. Eloi Church in Ghent. Locy calls the city in the book Grandview after the Lyon County Township, but says Grandview is a composite of Minneota, Ghent and Marshall.

“Ice Harvest” is 144 pages and is available for order online at www.tsehaipublishers.com for $14.95, plus $6.50 shipping.

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