In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

August 22, 2019

Driver’s Grandson Had a Front Seat to Mayo’s History

By In the Loop

Jerie Eckholdt's grandfather, Fred Dahle, was Dr. Will Mayo's chauffer in the 1920s and 1930s, giving Jerie the unique opportunity to witness history in the making.


You could say Jerie Eckholdt had a front seat to history. Jerie's grandfather, Fred Dahle, was Dr. Will Mayo's chauffeur from the early 1920s to the late 1930s, logging 60,000 miles each year in service behind the wheel — quite a feat in the days before the national highway system was established. Dahle was also Dr. Will's household manager, "hiring and firing staff," Jerie tells us. That staff included Jerie's grandmother, Peg, who served as an assistant to Hattie Mayo, Dr. Will's wife. "Grandma had a buzzer in their bedroom that would ring when Mrs. Mayo needed her," Jerie says. "It was a totally different lifestyle. People were absolutely dedicated to these families."

That dedication included traveling across the country and around the world with the Mayos, and relocating to the couple's Arizona home each winter during their retirement. After Dr. Will's death in 1939, the Dahles continued to accompany Hattie to Arizona. And one year, Jerie and his mother went along for the ride. "My dad was killed in a car accident when I was 5 and my mom and I moved in with my grandparents," Jerie says. "That winter we went to Arizona and stayed on Mrs. Mayo's ranch." Though he doesn't remember much about Hattie — "She was old and I was young," he explains — Jerie does have fond memories of his time at the ranch. "I had a pony there," he says. "I remember my grandfather putting out a can of oats in the sand every night. Mrs. Mayo liked to sit and watch the wildlife come and eat."

While his memories of the Mayos are fuzzy, Jerie's memories of his grandparents — especially of Fred— are crystal clear. "My grandfather was a very special person," Jerie tells us. "He was my hero." He was also "extremely loyal," a quality shared by his employer. Shortly before he died, Dr. Will had a conversation with Dahle. "He told my grandfather, 'When Hattie and I are gone, you'll have a job at Mayo as long as you want,'" Jerie recalls. And Dahle did, working in General Service until he retired.

After Dahle's death, Jerie became caretaker of his grandparents' mementos, including photos and home movies of their time with the Mayo family. Dahle "had one of the first home movie cameras and used color film — a rarity at the time — to record the Mayo family's journeys," our friends at Sharing Mayo Clinic report. "Excursions in the desert were formal affairs, with men in suits and ties, and women in hats and gloves." You can see that for yourself in the Mayo Clinic Heritage film Call of the West: The Mayo Family in Arizona, which includes home movies and photos from Dahle's collection, some of which Jerie has donated to Mayo Clinic.

You can learn more about Dahle and his work in this Mayo Clinic News Network piece, which includes a glimpse into Dr. Will's sense of humor. After looking at some photos Dahle had taken in California, Dr. Will remarked, "These, Fred, are neither a work of art nor a means of identification." And you can see photos of Dahle (correctly identified, we're sure) in "The Mayos and their Motorcars" exhibit, now on display in Heritage Hall in Rochester. While you're there, look for a sterling silver travel alarm clock that Hattie Mayo gave to Peg Dahle, also on display.

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Tags: Employee Stories, History & Heritage

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