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Olson, Melba Gardemann, 1909-2000



  • Existence: 1909 - 2000


Melba Gardemann was born to John and Clara Schlotterback Gardemann in South Dakota in 1909. In 1911, the family returned to Iowa by train. After moving twice, they settled on a farm near John Gardemann's parents, whose daughter Luella was close in age to Melba Gardemann and her brother Merle. Melba Gardemann spent her young womanhood cleaning, helping with washing, ironing, gardening, and raising poultry. She belonged to the Fremont Busy Bee 4-H Club of which her mother was a leader. She attended Newhall High School and made the basketball team as a sophomore. She and her two aunts, Luella Gardemann Boddicker and Marie Gardemann, played on the Newhall team. In their senior year, Melba and Luella Gardemann played in the 1927 girls' high school statebasketball tournament, winning the state championship for Newhall. The Des Moines Register chose Melba and Luella Gardemann as forwards for the All-Tournament team. Melba Gardemann graduated that year and was class salutatorian. Her parents sent her to Iowa State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Iowa, for the two-year, elementary school teacher's training course. She graduated in 1929 and taught in Whitten for four years, then in nearby Conrad. She taught the high school girls' physical education course in both towns.

In May 1936, she married Merle Olson. Because teachers were dismissed upon marriage and jobs were scarce, Merle and Melba Olson kept their marriage a secret the first year so that she could continue teaching. She left her job before 1937 when their daughter Karen was born. A daughter Kaylene followed in 1943. Merle Olson operated a print shop, bought and sold the Benton County Star newspaper and finally the Dysart Reporter in 1945. Melba Olson edited its news page until 1954 when they bought an insurance agency in Dysart. They retired in 1972 and Melba Gardemann Olson died in 2000.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Melba Gardemann Olson papers

Identifier: IWA0456

Benton County, Iowa, farm girl and teacher who played on her high school's basketball championship team in 1927.

Dates: 1916-1993