by TERRY KONKLE
President, Rockford Area Historical Society
Several weeks ago, my friend Shirley Norman mentioned that she and some friends had been reminiscing about Thor and thought that his history might make for an interesting column. I knew who Thor was and remembered seeing him often when first coming to Rockford in 1960.
He was a Saint Bernard dog who made our town his home. Thor belonged to Ted and Frances Carlson and their children Dave and Kirsten. I contacted Kirsten (Kirsten Farmer now) to get more details and found that he came into the family because the children wanted a dog.
“My mother was not going to have a dog, but we persuaded her to go to a kennel to look. No dog was coming home with her, but when Thor tugged at my mother’s coat, she was hooked. Of course I promised to walk him, feed him, give him a bath and to generally watch over him,” said Kristen, “and we took him home to our house on South Fremont Street in Rockford.”
So Thor’s official residence was the Carlson house, but the town was his domain. Readers have told me that he visited stores, went into houses, sat in cars, stole laundry off clotheslines, played with children, loved to chase beside sleds and toboggans, and even attended church. He would steal mittens, drool on his human playmates and dig sometimes in yards. Several people remembered seeing him walking through Rockford carrying a large leg bone. It seems that Thor often went to Harold Stelma’s store, where he was given the prized possession.
He was friendly and liked people. I was told by one reader that Thor was present at a slumber party at the Carlsons’ house when one of the girls fell asleep. Other girls carefully put cream cheese on the sleeper’s face. Thor then did his part and licked it off. Frances Carlson sometimes would be called to come and get Thor out of someone’s house or car. One Sunday Thor came through the open doors of the Congregational Church and walked down the aisle almost to the choir area before ushers took him back outside and closed him out.
Many people in our town, including our police chief, knew about Thor and liked him even though he created minor problems.
“We had to replace part of a neighbor’s lawn because Thor liked to dig,” remarked Kristen. “Once the chief called us to come and pick up some of Thor’s ‘do-do’ from his yard.”
According to Kristen, Thor was 10 years old when he passed away in 1966.
My thanks to Kirsten Farmer, Kay Piereson, Maryanne Burns, Lee Paul, Mary Hulbert, Shirley Norman, Jerry Davis, Judy Wood, Danny Elkins, Drake Knapp, Merri Richardson and Jack Beukema for contacting me with the correct answer and information. Thor was certainly a positive part of our history.