The birthday girl, Doris Spielman, is on the right as a young woman. Her mom and also Sherry Trepp’s grandmother is in the middle on crutches, having had polio.
Left to right in photo: Fred Trepp, Vera Trepp, Doris Trepp.

A fond century of connections to Land of 10,000 Lakes

By Sherry Trepp Guest contributor 

Had it been safe for Doris Trepp Spielman to travel back to her roots this year, we would have found her in Parkers Prairie, in the SE corner of Otter 

Tail County where she was born on January 4th, 1921. Instead, Doris celebrated her 100th birthday this month by sharing cupcakes with her “bubble” in Heritage Point of Tulsa, OK. 

It proved to be a busy week getting her hair done, opening cards and gifts, telling stories about her life and visiting family via Facetime with the help of very caring staff. 

As a young girl, Doris lived in Parkers Prairie and Fergus Falls, and Fargo, until Doris’s mother, Vera, contracted Polio in the 1920s. While her mother Vera traveled by train to hot springs in hopes of recovering the use of her legs, Doris and her brothers stayed with friends and family as her father continued to work in Fargo. Once it was determined that Vera would remain on crutches, Doris’s parents chose to relocate to Oklahoma City where there are fewer icy days. 

Prior to becoming an Okie, Doris spent summer days visiting aunts and uncles on the north shore of Pelican Lake where in the 1920s, she learned and liked to swim. By contrast, once Doris became an Okie, the Minnesota waters seemed a little cool. 

A couple of incidents on Pelican Lake in the 1920s involving her two brothers must have made a lasting impression as Doris has shared them many times. In one story, Doris’s older brother, Kenny, was in a lot of trouble after going missing from the family beach activities, having walked to Cormorant without asking or telling anyone causing the whole beach to search for him. Kenny had a nickel burning a hole in his pocket and walked to Cormorant for candy. 

Doris’s younger brother, John, fell off the dock so many times one afternoon while visiting relatives at the lake, he ran out of dry clothes to wear. Doris doesn’t share any similar stories of troublesomeness about her own behavior.

In the 1930s, after moving to Oklahoma, Doris’s parents thought about buying lakeshore to build their own cabin and in the early 1940s they purchased lakeshore from the farmer, Mr. Ballard and built 4 cabins for themselves and relatives on Broadwater Beach of Pelican Lake. 

Doris made the journey from Oklahoma back to Pelican Lake most summers, traveling over 800 miles each way on 2 lane highways before the era of freeways and motels. She recalls the first few years in the cabin with a red cast iron handpump in the shallow, high back enamel kitchen sink, an ice block under sawdust down the beach and a kerosene stove in the combination dining room/living room.

Doris graduated high school in Oklahoma City and attended the University of Oklahoma. A young man at a church group, Victor Spielman, asked her if he could take her home and she said only if he would read the Bible lesson for the evening. He did and the rest is history. They enjoyed 53 years of marriage. Doris had a long career at Southwestern Bell becoming the Treasurer Cashier. She and her husband retired to their lake home on Grand Lake in Oklahoma and continued to visit Otter Tail County by motorhome.

Now 100 years later via Facetime, Doris can see the familiar snowy white yard blending into the snowy white lake and shakes her head, purses her lips and says in a long slow southern drawl “Pelican Lake is soooooo cooooold.”

Editor’s note: Writing this article is the niece of the 100-year-old birthday girl, Sherry Trepp. Her aunt Doris, age 100, was a seasonal visitor on the north shore of Pelican Lake as a youngster, when the lake was still in a largely natural state—prior to development. 

 Trepp is a Pelican Lake resident, Pelican Rapids book club member and past president of the Pelican Lake Property Owners Association. In the summers she is a recreational employee of Fair Hills Resort. Trepp is Treasurer of Zion Lutheran Church on Franklin Lake.