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Coming Home: Bristol couple called crazy for moving back to small town

Coming Home: Bristol couple called crazy for moving back to small town

by Amanda Fanger, Reporter and Farmer

When Jim and Alice Jean Peterson told their friends they were ready to come home to Bristol, they all thought they were crazy.

“They all said, ‘Are you nuts?’ People didn’t understand,” Alice Jean said.

“They had only ever lived in a big city, so they never knew what a small town was like.”

Jim and Alice were raised in Bristol and are graduates of Bristol High School, class of 1954. Jim was born into the Bristol community and Alice came there at six weeks of age when she was adopted by Albert and Ulah Achen. Jim’s parents were Clarence and Gertrude Peterson.

Friends all through grade school, the couple became sweethearts in high school.

After graduation, Jim went into the armed forces, serving as a marine until 1957. In the meantime, Alice went to Northern State College for a year. She wanted to become an elementary teacher.

But the wedding bells were ringing louder than the school bells, she said with a laugh.

The two exchanged wedding vows in 1956.

Following his patch in the marines, Jim went to a sheet metal trade school in Wahpeton, ND. However, his brother needed help with the farming operation back in Day County.

The newly married couple returned to Bristol where they farmed with Jim’s family in Day County for the next two decades.

After that time, “I just got burned out,” he said.

So Jim and Alice decided to move to West Fargo, ND, where Jim worked 17 years for Cargill, a sunflower processing


They moved on a Saturday in August and the following Monday, Alice said she went to the school and asked about a job. They wanted to know if she could type and play piano. She could do both.

As far as they can tell, Alice inherited her musical abilities from her biological father’s side, although she doesn’t know that with certainty. She took lessons from the time she was six until she was a senior in high school. Today, she is an organist at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Bristol.

Jim retired in 1997 and they decided to move back to Bristol.

“When we left, I was on the town board, and when I came back I was still on the town board,” he said with a laugh. Although he enjoys his work on the board, he says that in a small town, once a person steps forward for something, they tend to stay in that job.

Jim and Alice have helped out with the Bristol Development board, been members of the school board and is active in their church.

Jim also helped with the start-up venture of the Bristol Community Store, although that business closed when the school did.

“There’s just not enough people in Bristol to support a business,” Jim commented.

Alice says that in today’s world, it’s nothing to drive 10 minutes to Webster for groceries or to Aberdeen for shopping.

“It feels closer now. Aberdeen used to seem so far away, and today, people make that drive every day to work,” she said. “We’re really like a suburb kind of.”

Being that both Petersons are sports fans, they do miss the school for that. But they still rally support around the Webster Bearcats.

“Nothing is quite the same as being a Bristol Pirate though,” Alice said.

Jim still helps out with harvest in the area, goes golfing two to three times a week. He also enjoys fishing.

Alice looks forward to her weekly coffee gang meetings at the community center. She also enjoys reading, playing piano and her computer.

For both of them, family is pretty important. They have three kids, six grandchildren and one greatgrandchild with another expected any time now.

For the last three winters, the Petersons have traveled to Arizona to wait out the cold in South Dakota. But each year, they’re happy to get home. For Jim, it’s the absence of stoplights.

“Down there, you’re always stopping at a traffic light,” he said.

Although he says he is happy to see the addition of the stoplight on Hwy. 12 in Webster.

“It’s too bad they didn’t put that in sooner,” he commented.

“We couldn’t wait to get back,” Alice said. “It was just like we were never gone. It’s just the closeness of everybody.”

“It’s always nice to come back,” Jim concluded.

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