Emily Hoffman
Emily Hoffman
Emily Hoffman has directions to Tiny.

Sometimes tourism is a relative thing, too.

"Somebody asked about a man named 'Tiny,' and we found him," said Hoffman, who volunteers for three hours at the Chatfield Tourist Center on Saturdays.

"He was a dump truck driver here in town. Interesting things happen, like when somebody came back for information on a person who happened to be a relative we'd lost track of."

Sometimes people come from foreign areas. Hoffman said, "I've had people from Brazil come in - they wanted a map of Minnesota, but I could only give them maps of the local area at that point. When Bob Hurley was there, he met people from Norway who came in for directions."

Hoffman began volunteering at the tourist center when it was still located in Chatfield's city hall building, the Thurber Building.

"Somebody must've asked me, and I must've said 'yes'," the 91-year-old retired teacher recalled. "I like it, I guess, because I'm helping somebody. I taught remedial kids and felt better about helping them.

"I felt maybe that if I can get them where they needed to go, maybe I could help tourists get where they needed to go. I was surprised when somebody from Brazil stopped, and we've been in touch with the lost and found relatives ever since they came in."

She's been consulted as a local authority on various topics - partly, she noted, "because I'm getting old enough people think I should know these things" - and cited that she remembers the cannon in City Park, which seems to have no known origin other than a suggested beginning at a Chatfield foundry, was found thrown in the river one year on Halloween and "has been in the park ever since."

Her hours at the tourist center, located in a log building at the edge of City Park, might be quiet or busy, simply depending on traffic that particular day, but she always brings a crossword puzzle or a book, and occasionally catches up on family correspondence if it's a slow day. The tourist center isn't her only volunteer effort, however.

"I also volunteered at the care center with the ADK sorority group. We made things to put on the doors, then that led to my helping with bingo, but now I just post birthdays once a month.

"I used to volunteer at the library, doing odds and ends and checking books in and checking them out, but the more technology they got, the less they needed someone to do that."

Also, she used to deliver Meals on Wheels for the Presbyterian church, but they don't do that anymore. Once in a while, she'll help at the Methodist church if someone gives her a call.

Hoffman elaborated, "There's a lot of work done by volunteers in Chatfield. If you want to feel like you're helping people, there are lots of places to volunteer. I know people who volunteer at their churches, and the tourist center is closed two days a week because they definitely could use a few more people to fill in."

Hoffman has enjoyed retirement since 1981, and she's kept active knitting, crocheting and quilting - things she can't do anymore due to a hand injury - but also getting out and about in Chatfield to chat with her neighbors and fellow Pioneer Presbyterian Church members.

She's considering downsizing her household right now, just to get that done, but still has plenty of space for magazines and books to read, crosswords to challenge her general knowledge and a good sense of humor to keep conversation flowing.

Hoffman concluded, "When you retire, you can be as busy as you want to be. I definitely found that out."