They were born nearly two months apart in 1950 and crossed paths several times throughout their respective childhoods.
Now 53 years later, the Seifert quadruplets -- Minnesota's first known surviving set of quadruplets who drew national attention to their hometown of Sleepy Eye as a result of their births -- said their goodbyes last Sunday to Paul Bunyan -- Minnesota's most famous lumberjack.
In today's age of fertility treatments and advanced neonatal technology which have made multiple births more common, it may be difficult to imagine the statewide and national attention that was created when Martha, Mike, Marie and Monica Seifert were born on May 3, 1950, to Arthur and Delores Seifert, a Sleepy Eye farm family that already had six other children at home, including twin sons.
When Delores Seifert gave birth to the quadruplets, there were only about 11 sets of surviving quadruplets in the U.S. The Seifert quadruplets at the time were the only surviving set of quadruplets in Minnesota and became Sleepy Eye's own tourist attraction.
Their first two summers, the Seifert quads were on display at the Minnesota State Fair. Fair-goers would pay 25 cents a piece to view the quads playing inside a glass-enclosed building.
Their births were documented in many national and international newspapers. A Chicago reporter wrote a poem about the Seifert quads while a Minnesota polka band created a polka in their honor. People would travel for miles to Sleepy Eye to catch a glimpse of the quads. Their parents placed wooden boxes in front of their home so visitors could climb up and peer inside to see the babies playing on the porch.
The Seifert quadruplets, shown with their mother, Delores Seifert, first visited the Paul Bunyan Amusement Center at age 3 in 1953, which was also the third year the park was open. Their visit, which included a stay on Gull Lake, was billed by Brainerd area business owners as the quadruplets' first vacation. The foursome became famous when they were born in 1950, the only surviving set of quads in the state and only one of about 11 sets of quadruplets in the country.
The quads were in multiple parades around the state and their birthdays were often celebrated by the entire community. The Sleepy Eye area newspapers documented every milestone, from their birthdays to their high school graduations, weddings and the births of their own babies. (None of them had multiple births of their own. Each quadruplet has two children.)
When the quads were 3 years old, they were invited by Brainerd area businesses on their first vacation -- to visit Paul Bunyan at the Paul Bunyan Amusement Center in Baxter. A full page advertisement welcoming the quadruplets and a listing their weekend activities in Brainerd ran in the June 12, 1953, edition of The Brainerd Dispatch. Twin Cities newspapers also covered their vacation, which included a stay at a cabin on Gull Lake.
The Paul Bunyan Amusement Center opened at the intersection of Highways 371 and 210 on June 29, 1950. After their first visit in 1953, the Seifert quadruplets continued to visit the amusement park nearly every summer until they reached their teens, staying at various resorts in the Brainerd lakes area. Their visits were usually photographed and well-documented. The girls would often dress alike for such outings and their birthdays. For the amusement center's 10th anniversary, the quadruplets helped Paul Bunyan celebrate by cutting his massive birthday cake.
The quads have fond memories of visiting the lumberjack. When they learned the park was closing at the end of the summer, the foursome decided to make one last visit to the park. They all happened to be in the state for a family wedding. They joined about a dozen family members and visited the amusement center last Sunday.
"I was always amazed he always knew who I was when I came in there," said Martha (Seifert) Andersen, who now lives in Albert Lea. "I'm sad it's closing because it was always a highlight for us and something to remember."
"I was always impressed by the chickens in Brainerd," said Marie (Seifert) Hoffman, a Worthington resident, speaking of the chickens who play games against visitors at the amusement park.
The Seifert quadruplets, Marie Hoffman (left), Martha Anderson, Monica Clayton and Mike Seifert, posed on Sport the Reversible Dog last Sunday, along with Paul Bunyan Amusement Center owners Patti and Don McFarland. The quadruplets posed the exact same way they did when they first visited the park at age 3 in 1953. (Photos courtesy of Don and Patti McFarland)
"The chickens on the farm weren't that smart," added their older sister, Viola (Seifert) Leff with a laugh. She lives in Walker.
Mike Seifert continues to live in Sleepy Eye where he operates the family farm and works at a golf course. Monica (Seifert) Clayton is a registered nurse in Colorado Springs, Colo., while Andersen is an elementary school paraprofessional. Hoffman is a laboratory technician. Their father, Arthur, died in 1988 while their mother, Delores, will be 91 in September. She would often write to the mothers of quadruplets when she heard about them, telling them about her own experience.
The quadruplets said they had a great childhood and never felt exploited. A big part of their childhood memories include Paul Bunyan, they said.
"We had a lot of advantages because of being quads," said Clayton. "But we weren't treated any different on the farm."
"Oh yes, you were," added older sister Leff with a laugh.
Paul Bunyan Amusement Center will close its doors after 53 years at that intersection after Labor Day weekend.
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