David Anderson’s hillbilly rig is a common sight at local parades held as part of Mille Lacs’ usual summer celebrations, chugging down Main Streets with the layered collage of rustic paraphernalia. And that truck has had a regular passenger, David’s Mother, Margie Anderson Johnson. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has seen many such celebrations canceled, It hasn’t stopped Margie. She still made her annual visit to her family in Isle this July, and at the age of 90, she once more climbed her way to the top of the truck.
“It was on my bucket list this year,” Margie explained, “to come home to see my family, to climb the truck, and then get back down again without any help.” David noted that Margie has been riding the truck since 2011, the first year he featured it in the parade.
Reflecting on her history with the local community, Margie explained that she was born in Oak Park, and her family moved to Onamia when she was a child. She went on to graduate from Onamia High School. Margie’s sister had been living in Isle for many years, and Margie chose to move to Isle as well, around 1964, living in a trailer house behind the Super Valu store and neighboring white building. Margie had been looking for work, and she found employment with the Isle Municipal Liquor after her sister referred her to the manager, George Munson, and she took over for his wife, Stella Munson, working as the lounge waitress. Margie did local waitressing work for many years, including at Ray’s Cafe, Carlsona Beach, Malmo Bay, and Garry’s on the Lake. “I always had two jobs,” she added, “so I also worked at the wild rice factory and Little Joe’s.” While Margie lived in Isle, her kids, David and Denise, attended and graduated from Isle High School during this time.
Margie estimates she lived at her trailer home for about ten years, at which point David built his house, and she moved down to the Twin Cities. She worked in the New Hope area, managing apartments. Eventually, Margie said she had had enough of Minnesota’s winters, choosing to move down to Mesa, Arizona in 1984.
Margie continues to make trips up to Minnesota to see her family at least once a year. “I used to stay for four months,” she said. “Now, I stay about three weeks.” Besides her bucket list goal of climbing the truck at the age of 90, Margie still continued the tradition because of the opportunity it gave her to visit her family.
“I just thank God every day for all these years,” Margie said. “He’s been my higher power.” She noted her philosophy: “Keep moving. If you don’t use it, you lose it.” And Margie has kept moving. Even in these days that have seen the community sheltering-in-place and canceling celebrations, her accomplishment speaks to the determination and tenacity of the folks who call Mille Lacs Lake home.