2.6.2022 [originally published 1.18.2018]
“The extreme cold blast of Monday and Tuesday did not injure the feelings of the average school boy in Deer River for on those two days it was too cold to keep school.”
This statement was printed in the February 21st, 1903 issue of the Itasca News. The article went on to explain that the furnace was kept going night and day, but that it was Wednesday before the temperature could be raised to an acceptable level for the students to return to the schoolhouse.
The following items highlight the fun of outside winter activities of years ago. The first is written by John Broberg in his memoir, The Green Wing Story. John was a student at Scenic Park School in the late 1930s through early1940s. His teacher, Mr. John Jarvela, taught at several rural schools in the northern part of Itasca County.
The Ice Path
“One winter morning, the older boys had taken buckets of water from the pump and made an ice path completely around the school house. The water froze in minutes when it was splashed on the ground. We would line up and run to the ice path. The person who could slide the longest distance was the champion. We slid around and around the school. Making the turn at the corners without falling down was the tricky part for all of us.
I made one slide, tried to navigate around the corner, slipped, and fell on my face. Just as I started to get up, a big boy came whipping around the corner and tromped down on my right arm above the wrist. The pain was excruciating. My arm below the elbow was bent like a bow. I rolled on the ice and cried until the initial shock passed. Mr. Jarvela looked at the arm and thought it might just be a bad sprain. There wasn’t much he could do about it. He couldn’t call a doctor or my mother. He couldn’t close the school since there was no way the students could get home without very long hikes. He didn’t have his car at the school and, even if he had it, he couldn’t leave the kids. I was stuck at school all day until it ended at four o’clock and the bus picked us up. Skip and I got home that afternoon and Mom took one look at the arm and cranked the phone for the doctor in Big Fork.”
Sleigh Rides and Parties
Sleigh rides to winter gatherings were half the fun. It afforded small groups of young people an opportunity to visit with others they hadn’t seen since the busy planting and harvesting. The horses could travel more easily over snow and frozen water. And the dances often lasted until daylight.
“A sleigh-load of young folk took in the dance at Turtle Lake last Friday evening, given in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Emil Krantz who were married Monday, Dec. 4. The boys presented them with a set of silver knives and forks and received in return each a piece of the wedding cake. A bounteous supper was served after a most enjoyable time the young folks departed for Bigfork, wishing the newly married couple a successful journey along life’s pathway. – Mr. and Mrs. Krantz have accepted positions about three miles from Bigfork in one of the Pillsbury logging camps.” Bigfork Settler 12-14-1905
“A sleigh party will be given by the Caesar Club next Saturday night, each member to invite one friend. Sauerkraut and wieners will be served after the ride. All the members of the club are anticipating a good time. We hope the weatherman will be good to them.” Bigfork Settler 1-25-1929
Skates and Snowshoes
For a few years there was an ice skating rink in Deer River, but with no funds for the upkeep, it was a short-lived endeavor. As modes of transportation, skates and snowshoes were essential for those living in the wilds of the Big Fork Valley.
“Orin Patrow of Evergreen made a flying trip to Bigfork early Friday morning, coming all the way from his home on skates.” Bigfork Settler 2-23-1911
“HD Horton and Ed Carlson skated up the river to town a distance of about twenty miles and report this as being the quickest way they have ever made the trip, making it in one and a half hours.” Bigfork Settler 12-18-1913
“Another nonstop record broken: Archie Randall snowshoed from Lunde’s camp near Togo to Bustitown in seven hours, a distance of 29 miles. (What is the attraction, Archie?)” Bigfork Settler 2-21-1930
Sleds, Toboggans and Barrel Staves
Snow, a hill and something to put between yourself and the ground is all you need for this age-old bit of frosty fun. I remember how thrilled my siblings and I were to slide down a section of Mt. Baker, a glaciated volcano in the Cascades on pieces of cardboard in July of 1974.
“The ‘Rough and Tumble’ club (ladies), after an hour’s burlesque with bobsleds. Barrel staves (and one had a clothes pin) on Creamery hill Saturday night, ‘tore’ over to the Erik Johnson home nearby where by previous arrangement Mrs. Johnson had the coffee hot and a swell lunch in waiting, which they devoured and making the welkin ring, ‘hollered’ good night so we could all hear it. The late Mrs. Wicklund, who passed away this week was also a hostess, having helped furnish the lunch.” Itasca News 2-10-1923
Ski Tournament in Coleraine
The first ski jumping hill of Coleraine was built up in 1906 out of wooden battens and plates from a sawmill on the banks of Lake Trout. A Ski Jump Club was formed in 1907.It only took a few more years before the ski jump achieved notoriety. Arrangements could sometimes be made for trains to make limited trips to special events or have reduced fares for excursions to Duluth or Crookston.
“A special train has been secured by Agent Beall to run an excursion to Coleraine and return to accommodate Deer River people who wish to witness the National Ski (skee) tournament tomorrow. The fare for round trip is one dollar. The train will leave Deer River at 12 noon, and returning leave Coleraine at 7, arriving home at 8. Some who cannot leave at 12 o’clock will take the regular passenger train at 2:10 and drive to Coleraine from Grand Rapids.” Itasca News 2-19-1910