Among Other Things, He Invented Himself

My grandfather, Arthur, was born fourth out of five children in Hibbing, Minnesota.    Among his earliest memories is seeing his mother, Nina, march with a group of ladies wearing white uniforms when they were volunteers in the World War I effort.  His dad worked for the railroad as a fireman on a steam locomotive.  Arthur remembers riding the train with his mother and sisters to and from a place in the country where they picked blueberries.  From the railroad, his father went to work with horses that were used to haul coal and ice.   His three older siblings were girls, so he and his younger brother often helped his dad at work and at home.  Art also delivered newspapers and magazines as a boy.

1 l-back-Freda Ivy middle-Viola Arthur front-Bob14c- Hugh Art Viola Robert Freda Nina

Dog derbies were quite common at that time.  With some help from his brother, he trained his dog Rover well; taking first place in his division and second place in the finals, winning a ham from a local merchant.

1 b-Art and Bob Vredenburg dog-Rover they harnessed pets to carry a wood box for newspaper delivery 1 c-Art V Bob V and dog Rover in Hibbing MN 

It was in the middle of the depression when Arthur was 14 years old and his shoes were wearing out.  There was no money for new shoes and not even enough money for food, so Art left home to find a job.  He created a long list of employers, going from one business and city to the next as he followed opportunities.  He supported himself and sent money home, allowing his parents to keep their house.

He met Dorothy (or Dottie, as he called her) at a dance and married her in 1934.


They had two sets of three children and my mother was their oldest.

3- Dorothy Art Donald Rhoda JoAnne 100a- Jim Arthur Linda Dorothy Roger on trip to MN

Art and his brother started a business called Broadway Manufacturing Company where quality steel was formed into useful tools.  By this time in Art’s life, he had a diverse history of jobs in a competitive market.  His experience and curious personality led him to become a resourceful problem solver.  His analytical mind was always seeking a better way of doing things and he became an entrepreneur.  He invented adjustable saw horses to support wood or other materials while they were being cut or otherwise worked on.   They are displayed here on a parade float as an advertisement.

Jim Simon and saw horses

That’s my dad next to them – he used them often in his carpentry work.  Art sold the patent on that invention.

He also invented a safety flag for bicycles, a spinning toy and a plastic shield to cover keyholes on mailboxes (protecting them from the wear caused by dirt, sand, rust, etc.).  He  had a taxi-cab business for years and later a vinyl repair shop to fix car upholstery, restaurant booths, etc.

33- Arthur Vredenburg - Cab Company     vinylcraft brochure outside (2)

Art had a lot of great ideas and was motivated to succeed.  He repeatedly started thriving businesses, but never made it big in the business world.   I suspect he lacked  enough knowledge of finances to maintain and grow his businesses long-term; but he successfully supported a wife and six children for many years and managed to maintain self-employment, which was important to him.  He was a very complex and interesting man, who seemed to know something about everything – and what he didn’t know, he was eager to learn.  Machines fascinated him.  He noticed the world around him and was intrigued about things like how a toothpick was manufactured. He had an interest not just in how things worked, but also in the people who made things work.

Pictures show evidence of his many friendships and hobbies.  He developed a talent for carving wood and Art created many pieces of art.

Cane Carved by Art Vredenburg Wood carved bell made by Art Vredenburg 2 (2)

He loved the world of aviation, earning his private pilot’s license and staying involved in and contributing his time and talents to the local aviation community long after he stopped flying himself.   He spent many years building a fiberglass airplane, but was not able to complete it in time to fly it himself.  With the excitement of a child, he attended the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Fly-In in Oshkosh, Wisconsin whenever he could.

17- Arthur Vredenburg 1961 34- Jul 87 Arthur Vredenburg at Crites Field

Art could look like a gangster, but was more playful than serious.

15d1- Art with hat and cigar 40bbc (2)

When I was young he had a pony, who we grandchildren were invited to visit and receive rides from.  At least twice, he spontaneously brought Snuffy the pony to our house.  Always a good sport, he gave all the neighbor children rides in our yard.  When I married, he traveled many miles to borrow the same pony (who had been sold years earlier) to give my husband and I a ride in style after our wedding ceremony.

67-1970 Arthur Vredenburg, Snuffy, Pam,Cindy,Lori,Kerri,Steve20g- ride after wedding

Art maintained contact with all of his siblings through the years, acting more like a big brother than a younger one.  He and Dottie had many grandchildren and great-grandchildren they were proud of and they knew how to have fun together.

28- Pilgrim Dorothy and Indian Art 19b- 1988 Christmas Day

36- July 4, 2003 Arthur and Dorothy 34b- Valentines 2

They  fought through difficulties in their marriage, surviving 70+ years together before Art’s body failed him four years before Dottie’s body wore out too.

In spite of his love of nature, Art didn’t spend much time thinking about the God who created it, and him, until the end of his life; but he did trust God before He went to meet Him.  He touched the lives of many, including my mother who remembers him warmly as a good and caring father.  I remember him as a fun-loving grandpa who wanted to hear about my life and showed an interest in my husband’s job and our travels.   I am thankful for his influence in my life and many others, and am glad the inventor was my grandpa.

About Climbing Downhill

Wife and mother of grown kids, in my 60's and dealing with MS, making life's moments count and trying to offer something of value to others along the way.
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1 Response to Among Other Things, He Invented Himself

  1. Lovely profile. I never got to meet either of my grandfathers, so thanks sharing yours!

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