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How Do People In This Town Make Air Reservations?

Wed Aug 28, 2002 11:12 am

How do people in this town make air reservations?

I have the same name as my father and my grandfather.
We usually find 2 of the 3 reservations cancelled by airlines
because the agent who booked out seats forgot to add "Jr."
and "III" behind the names...  Sad

Town struggles with abundance of people with the same name

Associated Press

Published Aug 25, 2002 NAME25

MOUNTAIN LAKE, MINN. -- On some occasions, people have paid the bills of others. One time, a man dutifully answered a court summons meant for someone else.

And long ago, one Henry Harder, weary of continually being mistaken for all the other Henry Harders in town, up and changed his name to Mike.

Mountain Lake is a Cottonwood County town of 2,000 residents and an ungainly preponderance of people with the same last names, frequently the same first names, and in some cases even the same middle initials.

Years ago, Jacob W. Harder was ordered to appear in court on a tax issue. Gloomily assuming he was about to be audited, he gathered up his tax records and trudged to meet the judge, who dismissed the matter in quick order.

Right name, wrong Jacob W. Harder.

It was an honest mistake, because Mountain Lake has a hoard of Harders. It's also full of Fasts and Friesens, dense with Dicks and home to a clump of Klassens and an effusion of Everses.

"We like living in confusion," said Carol Harder, one of four Carol Harders in town.

Sometimes, she said, this is not a good thing.

"Several years ago, I went to the doctor for a routine physical. After that I got a letter telling me to report to the Mayo Clinic neurology department. My heart just sank," she said.

Oops, wrong Carol Harder.

At one time, the town also had three Peter Fasts, five Anna Stoeszes and seven or eight Jacob Harders. Also, two Elmer Friesens, who took employing their middle initials -- E. and G. -- to avoid confusion.

"I'm Elmer The Excellent," Elmer E. would say, "and he's Elmer The Great."

Mountain Lake's abundance of alike appellations originated with the town's settlement in the 1800s by Russian and German immigrant farmers. Each family had many offspring, who in turn spawned many of their own. Families begat, and the same surname population increased accordingly.

The situation is compounded by people's pronunciation preferences. Some families with the Loewen surname prefer "Low-en," while others opt for "Lay-ven."

Over the years, Mountain Lake postal officials have utilized a variety of means to get ill-addressed mail to the right parties. For example, if a letter arrived addressed only to "The Harder family," post office might check with the patriarch of one of the three Harder clans in town. If the correct addressee can't be deduced, someone from another clan would be solicited, and so on.

Sometimes, the post office simply would scrawl a question mark on a piece of mail and put it in a resident's P.O. box.

Same surnames in a small town also can lead to embarrassment. One resident who asked to remain anonymous said she once opened a letter she thought was meant for her, only to discover the highly personal correspondence was intended for another person by that name.

The upshot: When the right person finally got the letter, she not only knew other eyes had seen it, she also had a good idea who did.

And in one instance, Mountain Lake's mimicking monikers netted one innocent guy a full ration of heat. A Dick family member was chewed out royally by his friends for not showing up at a gathering he was invited to by mail.

Yup, the invitation had been mailed to someone else with the same name.

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