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Carlton man makes his name in service to others

There are very few people in this world who are widely known by just their first names. Some athletes, celebrities, or the occasional politician might achieve this distinction, but it is a fairly unusual thing. Yet, in Carlton and Wrenshall, and even in Cloquet, when the name "Harold" comes up in conversation, longtime residents frequently know the man to whom the name belongs.

Harold Ankrum is the rare, memorable person who merits this sort of recognition.

Owner and operator of Harold's Service in Carlton for "40-some years," Harold grew up - one of six brothers with two sisters - on a farm in the Wrenshall area, farming and milking cows.

When he was still a farm kid, Harold was severely hurt in a tractor accident that left him with a lifelong hip injury.

"I was in the hospital in Cloquet with the leg in traction for four months. I had my 15th birthday in the hospital," he recalled.

Harold graduated in 1965 from Wrenshall High School.

Coming out of high school, he worked a year at Conwed (now USG) in Cloquet, but then took a job with Bechtel for a year as a Teamster, constructing a nuclear plant in Monticello, Minnesota.

"Then I came back here and started working for Sonny," Harold remembered.

Sonny Paulson owned Sonny's Mileage in Carlton, and Harold started working for him back when the price of regular was 25.9 cents per gallon. "I ran the wrecker, pumped gas, and ran the shop," Harold said.

Harold, who does not like talking about himself, then quickly summarized the next 54 years of his life: "So, long story short, 12 years with Sonny and 40-some years here (at Harold's Service). I've been in Carlton a long time."

From Harold's view, it might belabor the point to say that Harold's Service is well-known in the area for straight talk and fair-priced auto repair.

Wishing to move on from all such talk about himself, Harold changed the subject.

"Let me tell you about the golf tournament, started 30-some years ago," he said. "It was Dave Bjorklund started me with that. Dave used to own Dave's Transmission in Duluth. Dave said, 'Let's get some guys together and have a tournament.'"

"We're not what you'd call golfers, we're hackers, but we golf," Harold added.

He continued the story saying, "So, a handful of guys got together at Pine Hill (a golf course near Carlton). This was 35 years ago, whatever it was. We'd put $5 in the pot for the winner. But then, after a few years we decided we've got to separate the greens fees from the golf game, instead of just giving it all to the golf course.

"Long story short, we ended up with $400 or $500. Well, it ain't mine, and I can't keep it. So, we gave it to a lady with a lung and heart transplant that year. The next year we gave it to a family whose son had cancer, and every year we got more money. We started to give it to the Cancer Society, and presented them with a check for two or three years, and it was about $4,000."

The casual golf tournament that Harold and Dave started between friends had quickly become the annual charity fundraiser, "Harold's Golf Fiasco."

Some of Harold's friends, ones he calls "the Chattanooga Boys," informally named the tournament "Half-Fast Harold's Golf Extravaganza" in a humorous jab at their buddy.

Harold's Golf Fiasco continued to grow.

"About 20 years ago (Wrenshall native and then B105 radio host) Cathy Kates approached me and they wanted to do a golf tournament in this area. Because ours was already established, she had me do it for them. So now, it's St. Jude's Cancer Research (that we raise money for)."

Harold recalled how the money raised each year grew from $4000 to $5,000, to $10,000, and $12,000. Last year, they made about $18,000.

"It just grew every year," Harold said. "One year we had the tournament for two days, Saturday and Sunday. But that was just too much work for the volunteers. So, we went back to one day, and when we did that, we doubled what we took in.

"We put 220 golfers through in one day. It's a 'scramble,' and every 10 minutes a group goes off. It's fun, and we have lots of prizes," Harold added, happily.

While entry into Harold's Golf Fiasco costs $20, Harold and his team of volunteers also offer participants a raffle and an auction after the tournament.

"We've got a lady that works for the Wild, so every year we have a Wild jersey signed by the players, and a signed hockey stick, too. So, that's some of the stuff we auction off at the golf tournament," he said. "The auction is a lot of fun, a lot of laughs. We have a good auctioneer who is always getting after people, and making them laugh. People turn out for the auction just to hear that," Harold chuckled.

But the Golf Fiasco is far from the only thing that Harold does to raise money for St. Jude's.

They do a pancake breakfast in April, at the Four Seasons Sports Complex in Carlton, and a hog roast a week after Labor Day at the Carlton VFW.

"All that goes to St. Jude's, too," Harold said. "So, last year we sent St. Jude's $30,800."

As a big thank-you to the community, Harold also puts together a wild game feed each year on NFL Conference Championships weekend.

"It's free, and it's just saying thanks for all the different things people do. We have elk, moose, bear, halibut, walleye, pheasant, you name it, all kinds of fish, it's a smorgasbord," Harold said.

How Harold finds time to do all this, and still run Harold's Service is a mystery. But longtime employee Brian Johnson is key, and the comfortable humor between the men is evident. Johnson has worked for Harold "for close to 40 years, right from school," Harold said.

Or, as Johnson said, "Way too long. I should have stayed in school."

Harold clearly enjoys his daily routine. His favorite things about running Harold's Service are "Helping people, and having coffee every morning at 6:30. That's when I open up, make coffee, guys come in, and we BS."

Harold's Service. In the world of service to others, Harold seems to have made quite a name for himself.

Tim "Mothy" Soden-Groves is a writer and thinker, a one-time baker and candlestick maker living around these parts in Carlton County. He wishes you and yours all the very best.

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