A local flower maker and a long-due correction

Published 9:30 am Friday, April 30, 2010

It’s time once again to feature a contribution from local historical researcher Kevin Savick. For this column the topic is about a former Albert Lea resident who created flowers. And the correction part is based on one of the former Grove Avenue homes.

Now there are two ways to create flowers. The most obvious is to start with seed or bulb, soil, water and warmer weather and wait a few months for the flowery results. However, for Robert Joseph Muehe the quickest way to make flowers was to use various materials to create the artificial and hopefully realistic versions.

What Kevin happened to find was a Tribune article in the Oct. 29, 1947, issue about Muehe’s hobby that was evolving into a “budding national business.” The article said his flowery creations were more than just paper and wax creations.

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At this time he was making flowers for about two days at a time in his home workshop on David Avenue. (This avenue is one block long on the east side and just off S.E. Marshall Street and next to Eberhart Park.) Then he would go out and sell his creations as a door-to-door salesman. There were also at that time some mail order sales.

This news report said, “He makes the flowers in a variety of shapes. Some are in pots like houseplants. Some are table centerpieces. Others are in baskets which he fabricates. The corsages, in a variety of shapes and colors, come protected in cellophane bags.”

“Mrs. Muehe (Grace) is the originator of another specialty which is particularly in demand at this season …It is Christmas trees and holiday decorations.”

One could emphasize that these fake flowers and Christmas trees were American made, but we digress.

By November 1947 this flower maker and his wife had set up a firm listed as Bob Muehe Artificial Flower Co. Prices listed in a Tribune ad were table trees for two dollars, corsages for a quarter and 75 cents, and a potted poinsettia for a dollar.

There was a strong hint in the Tribune article that Muehe’s venture had the potential of becoming a local industry. This never became a reality. The Muehe family left Albert Lea about 1953 or ’54. According to research done by Linda Evenson, librarian at the Freeborn County Historical Museum, the man who also operated his business with the name of Bob’s Florette died in Mesa, Ariz., on June 16, 2006.

Now, at this point, I’m going to correct an error I made in the April 18 article about the Grove Avenues homes.

One of those homes was at 314 Grove. Ave. It was built in 1911-12 for Charles Jorgenson and later became the residence for the John Nolander family. In my article I indicated this home was moved in the 1970s to a location south of the city. I thought this large building was the same one I saw being moved when I was then working at Olson Mfg. Co. In reality, I now know it was another house from the area near Grove Avenue.

I might add here that the Nolander home actually sat behind the Watland home and closer to the lake.

After the article appeared, I received two telephone calls. One person said this home was moved in 1984. The other person said it was 1986.

To do some further checking, I went to the Inspection Department in the City Hall. This office had no record of the house at this address being moved; evidently no city permit was needed for the move. However, there was a building permit issued in 1982 for some repairs to this home.

I then rechecked the late Bidney Bergie’s photo and found out the one taken at this location with the lake in the background had a 1980 date. (The helicopter pad is now at this location.) Yet, Bidney’s photo of this home said it was moved in the late 1970s.

Still another check with the city directories shows that this home was vacant in 1982, and listed as an annex of Naeve Hospital from 1982 to 1986. I have no idea as to what this annex deal involves

With this, the correction has now been made.

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.