Worthington was the fastest growing town in the State of Minnesota. When the Anderson family moved to Worthington there were only 500 people in the town. The coming of the railroad changed that. Worthington grew very rapidly. Twenty years later there were 5000 people living and working and enjoying life in Worthington. Worthington was the business center of Southwest Minnesota and Northwest Iowa.
Olav Anderson was twenty-five years old and was very energetic. He was a genius at mechanical things. No one understood the steam engine principle as well as Olav. Olav had been working in the railroad’s maintenance shop for five years. He had moved up to the position of chief of the engine department and supervised twenty men. This was a major responsibility for one so young but Olav proved he was up to the challenge. The railroad had three facilities for maintenance. Worthington was the smallest. The largest was in Spokane in the Washington area. Billings was the next largest. However, Worthington was the most efficient and put out cars and engines with fewer defects than the other maintenance shops. In fact, it was rare to find a defect in any of the products that the Worthington shop worked on. The workers and supervisors of the Worthington shop were proud of the record. No one was more proud than Olav.
The management of the railroad was very aware of the various records of the maintenance shops. Some of the defects that were coming out of the other shops were creating a safety hazard. They were concerned enough that they knew that they would have to make some changes. They did not want to break up the team at Worthington as they were successful working together. The men working for Olav were very happy working with him and they respected his knowledge and his leadership skills. Olav was an up and comer with the railroad.
One of the skills that Olav exhibited was an ability to recognize people with ability. Not just the ability to fix something. That ability can be taught with proper training. Olav recognized people with the technical skills and the leadership skills. He found people that could lead and be respected by the people working under them. Olav had such a person in Sven Oleson. Sven was an exceptional young man. He was a year younger than Olav but very mature for his age. Sven and Olav were not close. They were not even friends. Both men recognized the danger of being friends if they were working together with one supervising the other. They did have a great deal of mutual respect and Olav gave Sven the tough jobs as he knew he would not have to worry about the job getting done.
The railroad management in St. Paul was very concerned. One of the cars that had been in the shop in Spokane had a problem. One of the wheel bearings froze and the car left the track with a full load of apples from the Yakima Valley. On investigation they found that the wheel bearing had not been checked when the car was in the shop. The maintenance check list says that all wheel bearings must be examined and greased and it did not happen. They knew that they must make a change.
The Vice-president of maintenance for the railroad, Frank Wilson, came to Worthington to talk with the shop manager, Gus Morris. They asked if there was a qualified individual in his shop to take over the Spokane shop. Gus had already told them that he was not interested in moving from Worthington. He was happy and, at his age, it did not make sense to uproot his family and move away from his children and grand children. He was quick to recommend Olav Anderson as an extremely competent manager and the person that could do the job for them. They called Olav into the office to discuss the matter. They did not want to leave the Worthington shop in worse shape so the first question they had was did he have anyone qualified for a promotion. Olav started extolling the virtues of Sven Oleson as a person that was ready for additional responsibility. He knew that he was capable of doing an outstanding job.
The vice-president of maintenance was very impressed with Olav. He had known Olav for a long time as he had frequently stayed in one of the railroad’s rooms at the family’s hotel. He had watched Olav and Clarine grow up and had a great deal of respect for the hard working Anderson family. Frank was getting older and needed to find a replacement that he would be comfortable recommending for his position. He offered Olav the job of General Manager of the Spokane shop. There was a significant increase in pay to go with the job. It was almost three times the amount that Olav was making. Olav was certain that he would be able to do the job but wanted to talk it over with his family. He had lived in Worthington all of his live and everything and everyone he knew was in Worthington. Frank gave him a week to make the decision. He said that he would be back in a week on his way to Spokane and would like Olav to accompany him. If Olav was taking the position then he should be ready to leave in a week. If he was declining the opportunity, it would not affect his current job and he would still be in line to manage the Worthington shop when Gus retired.
Olav wanted to take the job. He felt it was a golden opportunity to move up in the hierarchy of the railroad and could make for a very satisfying career. He told Lars and Frida about what had been offered. Their first thoughts were that they did not want him to leave. He talked with Clarine and Richard and their first thoughts were that they did not want him to leave. He talked to Axel Jorgensen and Axel told him he would be crazy not to take the job. This job, if he did as well as Axel knew he could, would set him up for the rest of his life. Everyone got together and talked it out. They discussed the pros and cons of Olav taking the position. In the end it had to be Olav’s decision.
There was one other factor that caused Olav to hesitate on accepting the job. He had been seeing very nice young lady named Inga Rasmussen. She was from a very nice Norwegian family and Olav was certain that she cared for him. He had to discuss this with Inga as he did not want to lose her. He told her that he needed to settle into the job before he would have time to get married but hoped that she would wait for him. Olav said it would probably be six months before he would have the time, not only for a wedding, but also to give Inga the attention she deserved. Inga was moved by Olav’s proposal and promised to wait as long as it took. Inga’s promise made the decision easy for Olav and he decided to accept the job.
He only had four days before he had to leave and had much to do. His first duty was to join the general manager of the Worthington shop to see if Sven Oleson would take over the job as supervisor. Sven was quick to agree. Sven congratulated Olav on his promotion and he started getting ready to take over. The men in the shop were also happy for Olav and were happy that Sven would be taking over and not some outsider.
The day arrived and Frank Wilson was happy to see Olav waiting on the platform with all of his belongings. He immediately knew that he had a new General Manager for Spokane. The two men had three days of travel before they would reach Spokane so they had plenty of time to plan. Olav suggested that he work a few days in the shop before taking over. That would enable him to spot the weak areas and help him to determine what he needed to do and what people he would be able to keep too work with him.
They arrived in Spokane. Frank did not want anyone to know he was in town until he was ready to take Olav in as the new General Manager. He wired his assistant to send a cable to the Spokane shop that he had a man they needed to hire and gave them his name. He knew they would follow that order. Olav went to the shop and was put to work. He kept his eyes and ears open and found many areas that needed improvement. For four days he watched to see what had gone wrong. He listened to the workers and found they had some good insight into what was going on and he took heed of what they were saying.
Finally he was ready. He contacted Frank. They met and he discussed what needed to be done. Frank was correct that the General Manager had to go. Two of the supervisors were not worth keeping. About ten of the shop workers were below standard and not trainable. Now that he had all of the information, Frank informed the General Manager that he was in Spokane and would be in to see him. He advised the General Manager that he was fired. He called in the two supervisors and advised them they were fired. He called in each of the workers that Olav had told him about and advised them they were fired. They removed thirteen of the poorest employees out of a work force of seventy-five and now had sixty-two good and decent workers. Olav was certain that he could now start to make the improvements needed to make the Spokane Maintenance shop a reliable operation. They had a meeting with the employees that were left. They explained the reasons for the changes and Olav was introduced as the new General Manager. He explained that there were two supervisor positions open and he would be acting as supervisor while he evaluated the work force to see who could be promoted. He promised the men that the supervisor positions would go to people in the existing work force and not to an outsider. The men were excited that the change was made. They were not happy with conditions at the shop and knew that this had to be an improvement. The new job was looking good to Olav.
It had been a long and tiring day. Olav and Frank left the shop to go to their hotel. As they left the building, six shot were fired. Olav and Frank were both dead. The fired General Manager was identified as the murderer by some of the workers and was quickly apprehended and charged with the murders. Three months later he was hung in the town square of Spokane.
The railroad transported Olav’s body back to Worthington and Frank’s body to St. Paul for burial. Olav’s family was devastated. Inga was devastated. The workers at the Worthington maintenance shop were devastated. Olav had made a significant impression on the people of Worthington. The entire town attended the funeral.
Life would go on but it would take time for it to be good again.