Friday, June 5, 2020
Folmer Carlsen was Minnesota’s youngest newspaper owner when he bought the Dodge County Independent in 1963. In addition to his duties as owner and publisher he served for 10 years on the Kasson City Council and was mayor from 1984 to 1986.

Folmer Carlsen was state’s youngest newspaper owner

Folmer Carlsen was born in Denmark on the Island of Fyn in 1934 which was also was the home area of Hans Christian Andersen, the children's author.  

Denmark was occupied by Germany during WWII and a German fighter base was located nearby. He said he remembered the English would conduct bombing raids over Germany during the night and the Americans over Germany during the day.  Once he saw a B17 bomber shot down while returning from a mission over Germany and nine parachutes being deployed.  

His father was a butcher so even though their family had ration cards they did not seem to be short of food. German solders would walk by on the streets while they were in school but the troops did not bother the students.

After the war was over, the family left Denmark in 1946 for the United States as his father had a sister who had come to Illinois in the 1930’s and signed paperwork to be their sponsor to enable them to immigrate.  

They were on the ship for seven days and he remembers looking out the porthole and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time when they arrived!  The family took a train from New York to Clinton, IA and then to the town of Fulton, IL where their relatives lived. 

They stayed with his aunt for a few months and were able to purchase a house with her help. His dad worked at a Ford garage, then at a greenhouse growing vegetables and later for a fertilizer plant that he retired from after 23 years. 

He was the only supervisor at that plant without a college degree, Folmer said.

Folmer knew very little English when he started school and he was placed in the 6th grade. He started reading 1st grade level books and with the help of teachers and fellow students, he was able to catch up to the schoolwork level with the rest of his class later that year. 

His father learned to speak English but struggled with writing in English as did his mother. When Folmer was a freshman in high school he was able to get a job working at the Fulton newspaper working for three hours in the evenings so he was not involved with any other school activities but was also able to earn some money. He did all kind of jobs from sweeping the floors and learning how to operate some of the printing machines that came to be very helpful in future years.

After high school he attended Clinton Junior College and studied journalism but this also gave him a chance to improve his English skills. He also continued to work at the newspaper company while attending school.  

He met Jane Weber through a friend and she lived about 15 miles from his home. They were married in 1955 and she got double use out of her senior prom dress by adding a veil and using it for her wedding dress. The Carlsen’s lived in Fulton while he worked for publications in Iowa and Illinois.

In 1963 Folmer started thinking about owning his own newspaper so they looked at three different communities.  

When Jane and Folmer’s dad saw the swimming pool in Kasson she thought, since they had three boys, this would be the place to live and that sealed the deal so at age 29 he was the youngest newspaper owner in Minnesota! 

The DCI staff had two printers and two excellent office people which really helped the business, Folmer said. They ran their own printing machines but the hot metal type were very slow in operating so they converted the paper to offset printing a few years later.  

In 1967 he purchased a share in a central newspaper printing plant in Waseca, which at one time printed 30 newspapers and was much more efficient than their own equipment.

Roger Draheim had worked at the Waseca newspaper, but now was at the Post Bulletin, so he asked Roger if they also printed any other newspapers. Roger said they did not but would ask if that might be a possibility. Up to this time the DCI had to send out photos and any maintenance on machines needed to be fixed by people coming from the cities that got expensive and caused more delays. 

The Post Bulletin was much closer and quicker to get the work the done, plus they also helped in bringing them up to speed in the use of computers for laying out the paper.

Jane and their three sons all did jobs that were needed to put the paper out each week but Randy was more interested working with the paper than Ron or Roger.  

Randy studied journalism and graduated from Rochester Community College and said he was ready to work with his dad so he became the editor, then a partner and, in 1997, bought the DCI and operated it until 2015 when it was sold to the present owner.   

Folmer became involved with the community and was appointed to the Kasson City Council serving for 10 years. He decided to run for Mayor and served from 1984 to 1996.  He was  a member of the Chamber serving as secretary and president and was on the Presbyterian church council plus other boards and committees.  

Folmer’s parents moved to Kasson in the 1970’s.

The Carlsen’s have four children, Randy, Ron and Roger, who all live in the Kasson-Mantorville area, and Rebecca who lives in St Charles. They have eight grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.  

His hobbies include hunting and fishing. One recent highlight was fishing at his son’s place in the Bahamas and this gave him the chance to also be with two sons and a grandson for a few days doing something they all enjoyed.   

He mentioned that it is going on 11 years that Jane has celebrated being cancer free which is a very positive thing. Since the weather has finally warmed up you will likely see Folmer riding his bicycle on the bike path and around town.

The Carlsen’s have been back to Denmark one time to visit his relatives in his home area and one of his sons also has been to Denmark. 

When they came to Kasson it was a much smaller community with three hardware stores, three car dealerships and implement shops plus several gas stations. While the business community has seen a lot of changes, as well as the newspaper industry, it has turned out to be a very good move for the Carlsen family.

Folmer says the Kasson-Mantorville community has always been very welcoming to him and his family and he is glad they made a good decision 57 years ago.

See full story in this week’s print edition or subscribe online. Please subscribe here or current subscribers can login here.

Steele County Times & DCI

Steele County Times
411 E. Main St.
P.O. Box 247
Blooming Prairie, MN 55917

Dodge County Independent
121 West Main St.
Kasson, MN 55944

Dodge County Printing
121 West Main St.
Kasson, MN 55944


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