George and Nina Johnson's restaurant and store
(Donald's paternal uncle, aunt and cousins)
Top: George Johnson, Ardelle and an employee, Alse Evert, at George's restaurant (The Gem) in West Salem, Wisconsin. Tootsie Rolls in square glass box on candy counter at left, a bowl of marshmallows to right. The machine next has salted peanuts. (You got quite a few for one cent.) Pipes and cigars in the next case. (Per Ardelle Johnson Blazeski.)
Middle: George Johnson standing in the remains of his earlier store in West Salem, destroyed by fire in 1911. The fire was started from firecrackers and half of the main street was burned. There was no insurance and it was a total loss. Inscription says "Looking north on Leonard Street." George and family moved to West Salem from LaCrosse and burned out right away.
Bottom: Nina, left, Ardelle and a "stranger" beside George Johnson's Overland, packed up and ready for a picnic, with coffee pot, etc. strapped to the side, banana crate on front fender. "We went to a picnic in the country, hence the stove and coffee pots -- always had to have coffee." Nina "always wore black when she dressed up." (Per Ardelle Johnson Blazeski.)
After the store burned, George opened The Gem Restaurant down the street and ran it awhile and then bought a grocery store there and ran that until about 1923 when he moved to LaCrosse, where he drove an ice cream truck for Gibson Ice Cream Company.
Excerpt from Donald B. Johnson manuscript:
"Uncle George came to visit us in Minnesota when I was about 3 years old. He was a camera nut and took a lot of postcard size pictures with a folding camera. Apparently the photographers in our family inherited the talent from way back then.... He married a city girl (Nina Overn) and did just what he said he was going to do -- that was to have a good time when he was young and could enjoy it and then work when he got too old to have a good time. He raised two kids, Ardelle and Arnold, and lived in [West Salem and] LaCrosse."
"We went from [southern Minnesota, where his mother's relatives lived, see Plate 2 in 1921] to visit Pa's relatives, scattered around the small towns in Wisconsin, just beyond LaCrosse. Pa's brother George and family lived in [West Salem] upstairs over a cafe, but the rest of the relatives lived on small, hilly farms scattered around the country. They had kids, and you didn't have to say "Cousin" first before you said their names." [2.3-8]
"When we were at Uncle George's in [West Salem], there wasn't much to do there, except, probably, play some sissy game or something with my cousin Ardelle, who was about my age.
"There was one kind of exciting night when they had all the relatives come in and that apartment over the cafe was really crowded and hot.
"Pa's mother was still living, and she was there, but awfully old-looking. She and Pa just sat and talked. I don't remember her even noticing me."
"There was an upstairs porch and country cousins, my age and older, all over the place. One cousin and I spent the evening just milling around out on the porch, inside and out again.
"Uncle George went down to the cafe below and brought up ice cream cones for all the kids when the older people had coffee, and it was quite a memorable evening." [2.63-2]