Voices of Minnesota

Oral History Interview with Harvey Ronglien

DATE: July 29, 1998

INTERVIEWER: Barbara W. Sommer

Harvey Ronglien, the eighth of nine children, was born to a farm family near Appleton, Minnesota. In 1932, at age four, he became a resident of the State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children in Owatonna, Minnesota, and he lived there until 1943. Later he married his wife, Maxine Ronglien, and worked as a utility lineman for thirty-four years.

Ronglien has written about his years at the State School, and he and his wife established a State School museum. In 1994 the Rongliens were named the Owatonna Citizens of the Year for their work to preserve the history and remember the children who lived at the State School.

In the interview Ronglien describes his parents and brothers and sisters, the reason he and his brother, Oscar, were taken from the rest of the family and placed in the State School, life in the State School, the cottages (living quarters), the daily routine, work done by the children, the cottage "matrons", and methods of punishment used by the matrons and others to keep control of the children at the school. He also describes his two years of attendance at the Owatonna High School, his years in the United States Army, and his wife and family. Finally, he describes and discusses the effects of his growing up at the State School, both good and bad, on his life.

Background material for this interview, including extensive writings by Ronglien about his years at the State School, information about the State School museum established by the Rongliens in the former administration building on the State School grounds and operated by Maxine Ronglien, and information about the dedication of the commemorative statue and the cemetery memorial on the former State School grounds, is kept in the oral history office.

LENGTH OF INTERVIEW: 3 hours 14 minutes

TRANSCRIPT: 54 pages