5.31.2021 archived

[originally published 8.27.2015]

Tremain Leading Babe Ruth by Safe Margin

Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at West Point, 1927

This was a headline on the front page of the Itasca News on September 1, 1927.  It is evident that the editor was caught up in the exhilarating challenge between Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig for the home run championship, but who was John Tremain and what did he have on Ruth and Gehrig?

John Tremain (April 1857 – December 1929) was a well-known local muskie fisherman.  At the age of seventy-two, he had been catching trophy fish on the lakes of northern Itasca County for at least twenty years.  He and his family moved from Michigan in the spring on 1903, and by mid-summer his fishing success was recorded in the local papers, where it was noted at least once a season thereafter.

Babe Ruth (George Herman Jr. February 2, 1895 – August 16, 1948) was an American baseball player whose Major League career spanned 22 seasons, from 1914 through 1935.  He began his career as a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, but achieved his greatest fame as a slugging outfielder for the New York Yankees.  He was one of the first five inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.

Lou Gehrig (Henry Louis Gehrig, June 19, 1903 – June 2, 1941) was an American baseball player who played 17 seasons for the New York Yankees from 1923 through 1939.  In 1939, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was the first Major League Baseball player to have his uniform number retired.

The September 1, 1927 article in the Itasca News states, “John says he can get a muskie oftener than Babe Ruth can hit a home run, and just at the present time John has a lead of nine on Babe.” This statement is absolutely true.  On August 31 Babe Ruth hit his forty-third home run against the Boston Red Sox and John Tremain hauled in his fifty-second muskie while guiding for Mr. Freidmann of Chicago. 

John proudly proclaimed that of his total of 52 muskies, twenty-five of them have been over thirty inches long and two were 48 inches apiece.  According to the MN DNR, the oldest official record fish for the state was in 1929.  Had trophy fish been documented earlier, no doubt, John Tremain would be listed in a category or two.  As it stands, the record for the largest muskie was caught on Lake Winnibigosh in Itasca County in 1957.  It was 54 pounds with a length of 56 inches and girth of 27¾ inches.

One of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time was One Summer America 1927 by Bill Bryson. It is hefty, 562 pages before the epilogue, bibliography and index, but  chock full of fascinating information about a forgotten summer when America came of age, took center stage and changed the world forever.

I have extracted some of the information he has gather on Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and homeruns: “Ruth in 1927 was the best paid player in baseball and proud of the fact.  He had a three year contract at $70,000 a year…On his pay, newsmen calculated, Ruth could buy a new car every week or a new house every month.

“All the fans in all the cities were drawn by the same thing – a chance to see Babe Ruth in the flesh, and ideally to watch him swat a ball into the firmament.  That Ruth was locked in a seesaw battle with the youthful upstart Lou Gehrig for the home run championship brought the kind of excitement that made people crush their hats in distraction.  There had really never been anything like it.  At mid-August, Gehrig – impossibly, unprecedentedly – led Ruth by 38 homeruns to 36.  But Ruth came back with towering clouts in Chicago on 16 and 17 August to draw level.   Gehrig went one up again on 19 August against the White Sox, but Ruth matched that the next day in Cleveland to put them even again at 39. 

“By now people were practically having heart attacks.  On 22 August, Babe hit his fortieth, Gehrig tied him two days later.  Ruth hit his forty-first and forty-second on home runs on 27 and 28 August in St. Louis.  Gehrig came back with a three run shot in St. Louis on 29 August.  Two days later, back in New York against the Red Sox, Ruth hit the last home run of the month for either player.  Ruth had 43 home runs and Gehrig had 41.”

I also learned that Babe Ruth made a movie in 1927.  It was a silent, black and white baseball comedy called Babe Comes Home.  Produced by the First National Film Company, there are no known copies of the film in existence.  I did locate a short clip of Babe Ruth’s 60th home run in 1927 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOt0Tmwc2Rk.

While researching, I decided to check out the “Baby Ruth” candy bar.  It was not named for Babe Ruth and has a controversy all its own.  I can’t effectively condense the explanation from Wikipedia, so here is exactly what I found:

“Although the name of the candy bar sounds like the name of the famous baseball player Babe Ruth, the Curtiss Candy Company traditionally claimed that it was named after President Grover Cleveland‘s daughter, Ruth Cleveland. The candy maker, located on the same street as Wrigley Field, named the bar ‘Baby Ruth’ in 1921, as Babe Ruth’s fame was on the rise, over 30 years after Cleveland had left the White House, and 17 years after his daughter, Ruth, had died. The company did not negotiate an endorsement deal with Ruth, and many saw the company’s story about the origin of the name to be a devious way to avoid having to pay the baseball player any royalties. Curtiss successfully shut down a rival bar that was approved by, and named for, Ruth, on the grounds that the names were too similar.

“In the trivia book series Imponderables, David Feldman reports the standard story about the bar being named for Grover Cleveland’s daughter, with additional information that ties it to the President: ‘The trademark was patterned exactly after the engraved lettering of the name used on a medallion struck for the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, and picturing the President, his wife, and daughter Baby Ruth.’ He also cites More Misinformation, by Tom Burnam: ‘Burnam concluded that the candy bar was named … after the granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Williamson, candy makers who developed the original formula and sold it to Curtiss.’ (Williamson had also sold the ‘Oh Henry! formula to Curtiss around that time.) The write up goes on to note that marketing the product as being named for a company executive’s granddaughter would likely have been less successful, hence their ‘official’ story.”

Deer River and Charles Lindbergh, Deer River and Babe Ruth.  I wonder what other famous connections our community might have.  There are rumors of Al Capone, Judy Garland and Teddy Roosevelt.  If you know something about them, or anyone else please contact me at reminiscewithchris@gmail or 218-244-2127.  I’d love to research your mystery!

5.30.2021 archived

[originally published 8.18.2019]

A Really Big Fish Story…and It’s True!

Last Sunday’s Reminisce column touched on the story about Minnesota’s current record muskellunge, caught in 1957. Fishing guide Art Lyons caught it just off the shores of High Banks Resort. It took nearly two hours to land the muskie, which officially weighed 54 pounds. And it took nearly twenty years for it to be recognized as the record fish. This is how the story unfolded.

Arthur George “Art” Lyons was born in the second week of May in 1900.  Perhaps his love of fishing and skill in guiding was because he was born in May when the fish are jumping.  Art’s parents, William and Annie lived along the shore of Lake Winnibigoshish.  The Lyons family, like generations before them, lived off the land by hunting, trapping and fishing.

Art married Elizabeth Hyde and according to early census records and later obituaries, their children included Thelma, Stella, Edward, Dorothy, Mary Alma, Kenneth, Alfred, Theodore, Lorraine, and Eleanor.  By about 1945, Art was guiding for the High Banks and Tamarack Resorts on the east side of Winnibigoshish. 

Lyons Big Muskie 1957

In the late afternoon of August 28, 1957, Art was out with two couples from the Twin Cities, Don and Betty Hanson and George and Theresa Ross.  Art was in one boat and the others in another, staying about thirty feet apart.  When Art got hits he would signal to the others and they would cast their line accordingly.  After about a half an hour on the water, Art had hooked a fish that took nearly two hours to land.  When they got it to shore and on to the High Banks’ scale, it weighed 57.5 pounds!

Bill and Ann Molzen, the owners of High Banks, thought it was probably a record muskie. Bill and Art quickly loaded the fish and drove to Deer River stopping first in Bena to show off the trophy.  By the time they arrived in Deer River, the fish had been out of the water a couple hours.  It weighed 55 pounds and measured 56 inches. The Deer River News snapped a photograph in front of the Sportsmen’s Cafe.

It was decided that the fish should be taken to Minneapolis and entered into a fishing contest sponsored by the Corrie’s Sporting Goods Store.  Bill drove directly to the store located on Marquette Avenue.  There the official weight was declared as 54 pounds.  The Minneapolis Morning Tribune, Aug. 30 1957, printed a large photograph with this story.

You Should Have Seen the One That Got Away!

The Minnesota season’s biggest muskellunge – 54 pounds heavy, 56 inches long – was caught by accident.  The lucky angler was Art Lyons, Indian guide from Bena, Minn., who caught the record fish Wednesday night while trying for a northern pike off High Banks Resort on Lake Winnibigoshish.  Bill Molzen of High Banks brought the fish to Minneapolis for a sporting goods contest and told the tale of Lyons’ luck, Lyons had taken a fishing party out on ‘Big Winni’ to show the anglers where to catch northerns.  He made a few experimental casts with 20-pound test line and a red and white spoon.  The monster hit.  One hour and 48 minutes later, Lyons was able to bring the fish close enough to stun it with a piece of pipe. ‘I lost a big muskie before,’ Lyons said, ‘so I played this one until he is tired out.’ The world record for a muskie is 69 pounds, eight ounces.  Lyons’ fish is the largest taken in Minnesota in several seasons.”

Art’s fish was just six ounces less than the muskie that had held the state record since 1931.  That fish was caught by John William Collins of Baudette in Lake of the Woods.  The recent catch was still considered a trophy and was displayed at Corrie’s Sporting Goods Store for several weeks according to George Ross, one of the fishermen with Art when the muskie was caught. “Art won the contest that included a diamond ring, a bunch of tackle and a new rod and reel. The ring was worth about $250 back then. But Art sold the ring and the tackle as soon as he got it.” [Interviewed by Terry Hagstrom date unknown, but prior to Ross death 2007.]

Molzen had the largest muskie caught in Winnibigoshish mounted, and it was proudly displayed at the Bena Bar.

Big Muskie Revisited 1976

In January 1976, Joe Fellegy, a writer for Fins and Feathers magazine, requested from readers reliable information about Minnesota record fish.  This prompted a review of the muskie caught by Collins, which still held the record.  The MN DNR looked at the evidence and declared that the Collins fish had been taken from Sabaskong Bay of Lake of the Woods, which was actually in Ontario!  Art Lyons’ muskie, caught nineteen years earlier, was proclaimed the new state record holder. 

The big fish was cleaned up, and a plaque proclaimed its status at the Bena Bar until a fire destroyed the building in 1979.

In the early 1980s, Fellegy was compiling a book of Minnesota fish stories and he contacted Art, who was in his early eighties.  Art suggested he talk to the fishermen who were with him at the time, Don Hanson and George Ross.  Fellegy did and included their memories in Classic Minnesota Fishing Stories: A Rare Collection of First-Hand Accounts, Anecdotes, and Reports.  The book was published in 1982 and is no longer in print, although copies are for sale on Ebay and Amazon.

Terry Hagstrom, a Minnesota muskie fishing guide, tracked George Ross down a few years ago and shared Ross’ recollections of that day in 1957 on his website.  One of the comments Ross made, that hadn’t appeared in other research, was about the fish just before they got it in the boat.  “Well, when the five of us saw this fish come to the top between the two boats, the women jumped. Don and I actually felt a little scared at the sight of it. The size of the eyes alone was enough to scare anyone. They were huge. It looked like a big log. The length! Its head was just huge!” [Interviewed by Terry Hagstrom]

In less than two weeks, Art Lyons’ state muskellunge record of 54 pounds, 56 inches, will have stood for 62 years. 

Art Lyons died in March 1983, so he was aware that his fish was indeed a record.  John Collins died in 1950, so he had no knowledge of how close Art’s muskie was to his own.  He was 66 years old at the time he caught his fish…did he know he was in Canadian waters or was it only his fishing companions who knew?  If he did know, and had still been living when Art caught the muskie, would he have given up the secret he’d harbored for years?  Hmm, an intriguing possibility for a book!

A beautiful replica of Art’s muskie is at The Minnesota Fishing Museum in Little Falls, MN.


“Mother-in-law Saved the Fish”

This week’s column is dedicated to stories about the muskellunge. In the early years, the newspapers spelled it muskalonge but is often just called muskie. According to the Minnesota State Record Fish Guide, Itasca County has held the record muskie since 1957. That muskie, weighing 54-pounds, was caught by Art Lyons in Lake Winnibigoshish. [Reminisce column A Really Big Fish Story…and It’s True! Grand Rapids Herald-Review 8-18-2019]

The youngest fisherman to catch a muskie was Glenn L. Fadden, Jr. In July 1933, he landed a 20-pound muskie at the end of the dock at his grandparents, Walter and Edith Fadden on Big Moose Lake. “Glenn attempted to land the fish by pulling him up on the shore, but when he had his prize nearly to dry land the line broke. Grabbing a spear which was nearby, Glen completed the task.  His achievement is a very creditable one and here’s our congratulations.” [Deer River News 8-3-1933]

Unusual Fishing Techniques

In a time before fancy fishing gear, creativity and quick thinking was sometimes used to land a muskie. These are three entertaining examples.

Editor’s Mother Brings Home Dinner ~ Itasca News 8-10-1901

“Our wife was out with her mother on Deer Lake, and they caught a 25 pound muskalonge.  The good wife appreciating the several meals in sight, immediately sat herself upon the ‘Jim Hill’ as he spit the hook out landing inside the gunwale. One simple flop he gave and our better half went sailing through space.  The mother-in-law saved the fish owing to her heavier weight, and the guide saved the wife – but this is no surprising story here, where so much fishing is done; you fellows should tell a ‘stronger’ one or come up here for your fishing this summer.”

Catches ‘Em New Way ~ Itasca News 7-14-1927

“Alex Steenson, a swimming instructor at Camp Minnesota on Deer Lake, has set a new pace for local muskie fishermen.

“While taking a canoe ride last Saturday evening, Mr. Steenson saw a muskie in the clear water near him.  He had no line nor bait, didn’t need any.  Mr. Steenson made a grab for Mr. Muskie with bare hands, and after quite a tussle landed him in the canoe.

“The fish weighed 14 pounds and was quite a prize.  We hand the palm to Mr. Steenson.  His feat sets a new pace in local waters. Now someone please page Mr. Robert Page Lincoln and tell him there is real muskie fishing in Deer Lake, where they catch them with bare hands.”

Robert Page Lincoln was a sportsman who wrote a column on the Outdoors for the Minneapolis Tribune newspaper.  Lincoln became well known after writing a four-part article on bass fishing in the May through August issues of National Sportsman Magazine in 1912.  His two most famous books are Black Bass Fishing (1952) and The Pike Family (1953).  The editor for the Deer River News, brings his name up on more than one occasion.

Boy Goes In, Grab, Ride Big Muskie ~ Deer River News 5-18-1933

“Richard Peck and Edward ‘Bud’ King turned in a fish story Tuesday that takes the prize!

“The boys were spearing for minnows in the river below Winnie dam, when they discovered a big muskie in shallow water.  Richard had a line with which he snagged the gray warrior, and watching his chance, Bud stunned him with a rock.

“Then there was plenty of action.  Fearing their prize might get away, Bud jumped into the water and grabbed it.  Right there, Mr. Muskie took Bud for a ride, but he stuck to his hold and shortly the boys had the big fellow on the bank.  The incident furnished a lot of amusement for a group of spectators.

“The boys brought their muskie to Deer River, where it was found to weigh thirty pounds.  It was 52 inches long. Some prize!”

Muskies in Deer and Moose Lake

Deer and Moose Lakes became known as good muskie lakes early on. The following are examples that were reported in the local newspapers.

~1904 – Frank Peterson caught a 47-pound muskie.  “It broke his pole; he had no reel and he had to coax his greatness to shore, where he fought him into the brush with a spear.  Mr. Peterson shipped the prize to friends in Minneapolis.” [Itasca News 5-28-1904]  

~ 1910 – “Last Tuesday George Metke caught a fine one in front of the Metke home on the north shore of Moose Lake.  It measured 54 inches and weighed 26 pounds.  The boys shipped it to their uncle, R. Schmerler, in Minneapolis. This specimen excited P.R. Brooks, who is a “profesh” at the game, and he went out on Thursday to try his luck.  Dr. Fairall accompanied him, and in a few hours’ trolling from the motorboat they landed one near Brooks’ summer home on the north shore of Deer Lake.  It weighed 17 pounds and made fine eating, as a number of friends can testify.” [Itasca News 10-1-1910]

~ 1920 – “In the past week six muskalonge have been caught in Deer and Moose Lakes, each weighing from 25 to 50 pounds.  During the last three days the weather has been hot, and the big fellows are again averse to tasting a hook.” [Itasca News 8-28-1920]

~ 1926 – Prize muskie of the season will be mounted. The fish measured 50 inches in length and has a girth of 24½ inches.  The weight given was 40-pounds.  

~ 1927 -Two fisherman guided by C.A. Voigt, caught a nice muskie. It weighed 30-pounds and was 48 inches in length.

~ 1927 – George Herreid caught a 24-pound muskie.  It measured 43 inches in length, and is one he is having mounted

These next two stories include Deer River fishing guide John Tremain.  In August 2015, my Reminisce column was titled, Tremain Leading Babe Ruth by Safe Margin, which was also the frontpage headlines of the September 1, 1927 issue of the Itasca News.

The article states, “John says he can get a muskie oftener than Babe Ruth can hit a home run, and just at the present time John has a lead of nine on Babe.” This statement is absolutely true.  On August 31, Babe Ruth hit his forty-third home run against the Boston Red Sox and John Tremain hauled in his fifty-second muskie while guiding for Mr. Freidmann of Chicago.  And as you will see, by the end of the season, Tremain’s count was at 64.

Landed a Big One ~ Deer River News 8-4-1927

“A party composed of I. Freimuth and Chas. Williamson of Duluth, and Victor Kohn and Hiram Scott of Chicago, spent the latter part of the week here in quest of muskies in Moose Lake. Every day they hooked one or more of the big fellows but failed to get them in their boat.

“As they left Cedarwild Lodge Sunday morning, John Tremain, veteran guide and muskie fisherman extraordinaire, was hopping mad at their going sans a muskie.  John’s parting shot was, ‘Now I’m going out and get that fish.’ And he made good.  Before the party had time to reach the Miller Hotel in Deer River, Tremain had Mr. Muskie on dry land and phoned in for them to come back and get him.  Mr. Freimuth, veteran Duluth businessman, broke all speed records getting back to the lake where Tremain handed him a whopping 32 pounder.  It was a fine specimen, one of the largest caught here this year.

“Somebody send for Bob Becker and Robt. Page Lincoln! We want to convince them we have muskies here.”

Congressman Carss & Guide Capture Muskie Laurels ~ Itasca News 10-6-1927

“With the veteran John Tremain as guide, Mr. Carss spent Monday afternoon and Tuesday on Deer Lake in quest of muskies.  They fished from 3:00 to 6:00 Monday afternoon and from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. Tuesday.  In this time, they landed five muskies ranging from 34 to 45 inches in length, two Monday and three Tuesday.  The record surpassed any other made here in years and is likely to stand for some time.

“The work of the two days brought John Tremain’s total of muskies for the season up to 64. John says he bests Babe Ruth out by four and started a month after the Babe did.

“Now let Bob Becker and Robert Page Lincoln be fully informed that this IS a muskie region!”

1930 was the first year of the Fuller Tackle Shops Fishing Contest.  One hundred and seventy entries were made, with fish being caught from thirty-four different lakes in Itasca County. Both first and second prize for muskies were caught on Moose Lake. First prize went to W.O. Hare, Rock Island, Ill. For his 35-pound 7-oz. fish. He won $10.00 and a South Bend Split Bamboo Rod.

“C.E. Okey of Corning, Ia., and O.W. Compton of Independence, Kans., both made enviable catches in Deer and Moose Lakes the first of this week.  Monday Mr. Okey landed a 33 pound muskie that was one of the finest specimens caught here this year.  Mr. Okey also caught another muskie weighing 18 pounds, and a 7¾ pound wall-eyed pike.  Tuesday Mr. Compton captured a muskie weighing 31 pounds.  The muskies were taken in Moose Lake, with C.A. Voigt serving as guide.” [Deer River News 8-28-1930]  Okey’s second prize was $8.00 and a South Bend Split Bamboo Rod.

Muskies in the Big Fork River

The news of Bigfork didn’t always find its way to Deer River, but when the Bigfork Times was in business, a few fishing stories were covered.

Catches Big Fish ~ Bigfork Times 8-1-1930

“The biggest fish reported yet this season was caught by Harold Welte in the Big Fork River at this place on Wednesday evening.  The fish weighed 26 and one-half pounds and was caught at the Welte bridge on a bass-oreno.  It was necessary to spear the fish in order to land it. The fish was entered in the Fuller Big Fish contest and the entrant was assured that it was by far the biggest fish entered so far this season.  This is by no means an exceptionally large fish for the Big Fork River as the catching of a fish ranging from 20 to 25 pounds is an everyday occurrence.”

More Big Fish ~ Bigfork Times 8-8-1930

“Another fine specimen of muskie or northern pike, whichever it is, was taken this week in the Bigfork River and was on display at the Evensen & Beck store last Saturday.

“Jerry Knight, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Knight, caught a 17 pound—let’s call it a muskie, in the river close to his home.  This was caught on a troller but was gaffed in order to land it.  The fish weighed 17 pounds and while not as large as the one caught in the same river last week by Harold Welte, was a fine specimen.

“Argument has been rife lately as to when a muskie is a muskie and when a muskie is a northern pike. There seems to be no generally accepted authority on the question.  It is a great deal like arguing on religion. You don’t have to accept the other fellow’s argument without proof, and he has to die to prove his point, so there you go.”

I will post the two Reminisce columns mentioned here on my blog chrismarcottewrites next Sunday, May 30.

5.16.2021 archived

Hamm’s Fishing Derby 1959

[originally published 5.26.2016 Western Itasca Review]

Hamm’s Fishing Derby”
This is banner of the full page advertisement which appeared in a May 1959 issue of the Grand Rapids Herald Review.

$25,000 in Prizes

In early May, 1959, Hamm’s Brewery located in Minneapolis, announced a summer-long fishing derby for anglers in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.  Dubbed Hamm’s Land of Sky Blue Waters Fishing Derby, there were seventeen weekly contests in which 113 winners received a $100 Fishing Package.  There were also Sweepstakes Prizes for those who didn’t win the weekly contest, but had submitted a sweepstakes ticket with their entry.  The Grand Sweepstakes prize selected by a random drawing was billed as “your own private fishing retreat – lot, lake home, boat and motor.”

There were 22 official weigh-in stations designated in 22 cities; the closest to Itasca County were Grand Rapids, Bemidji and Walker.  The highlights of the full page newspaper advertisement stated:

Hamm’s Land of Sky Blue Waters Fishing Derby

“Here’s a fisherman’s dream contest.  If you catch a sunfish, crappie, walleye, northern, small mouth bass, large mouth bass or any other large freshwater fish, be sure to enter it in Hamm’s Fishing Derby.

Every week $100 Fishing Outfits will be awarded on TV, (WCCO-TV [4], Minneapolis and KCMT-TV [7], Alexandria, 10:30 p.m., CDT, Thursdays) to entrants of the biggest fish in each category. (Fish must be in season, of course.) 

And whether your entry wins a weekly prize or not, you’re still eligible to win a fabulous prize in the Sweepstake TV Drawing on September 10, provided your entry is accompanied by a Sweepstake Ticket.

Get your Sweepstake Ticket at any Hamm’s retail dealer now and start fishing for fun and prizes in the Hamm’s Fishing Derby.   Derby runs May 16 through September 7, 1959. Good Luck!

17 Weekly Big Fish Contests

The Fishing Outfit consisted of the following: Phillipson Casting Rod, Langley Streamlite Reel, Umco Tackle Box, Cortland Line, Knife-Lighter Combination, Weber Portable Cooler, De-Liar Scale and Measure, Assorted lures by: Arbogast, Buck Perry Spoonplugs, Creek Chub, Heddon, Hi Sport Lures, Mille Lacs, Kautzky, Louis Johnson Bait Co. and National Expert Bait Co.

Plus Giant Sweepstakes!

1st Prize: Private Fishing Retreat in the Land of Sky Blue Waters; Sussel Lake Home – New Shoreline Model 24’ x 32’ constructed on a private lot; Aluma-Craft Car-Top Fishing Boat and Scott Outboard, 7½ HP.

2nd Prize: Kayot Voyager – 28-foot pontoon boat, complete family playground afloat.

3rd Prize: Scott Outboard, size your choice (3.6 HP to 60 HP)

4th Prize:  Aluma-Craft Flying D Run-about Boat

5th Prize: All-expense paid one-week vacation for 2 on a Northernaire Floating Lodge at Rainy Lake, good in 1959 or 1960. 

Hamm’s Fishing Derby Rules

  1. Hamm’s Fishing Derby is open to everyone.  Fish must be registered, however, by a person of legal age.
  2. Weigh-in Stations reserve the right to open and examine any fish that is entered and to mark entries.
  3. To be eligible for Hamm’s Sweepstakes Drawing, registration must be accompanied by a Hamm’s Sweepstakes Ticket obtained free from any retailer of Hamm’s Beer.
  4. All registered fish are eligible for Hamm’s Television Fishing Derby Prizes. Fish must be available for display at Corrie’s, “Winning Fish Headquarters,” 820 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  5. Weekly contests, May 16, 1959 through September 7, 1959.  Each contest ends Monday night.
  6. In case of ties, the entry bearing the earliest date and time wins.
  7. Employees and families of the Theo. Hamm Brewing Co. and its distributors, WCCO-TV, their advertising agencies and official Fishing Derby Weigh-in Stations are not eligible.

I wish I could write about the recipients of some of the prizes, but could not locate any details about the winners.  Instead, I decided to see what I could find out about a few of the prizes. 

For instance what would be the value today of the fifth sweepstake prize of an All-expense paid one-week vacation for 2 on a Northernaire Floating Lodge at Rainy Lake?  Northernaire Houseboats still operate on Rainy Lake and offer quite a variety of houseboats.  The smallest boat listed which slept 2, is $1,400 for one week. Assuming Hamm’s covered gas and food (and beer!) it would probably be closer to $2,000 if awarded this summer.

I cannot imagine what the value of the Giant Sweepstakes Prize would be today.  But wouldn’t it be fun to know what lake the Sussel home was built on? And who has lived in it and whether or not it is still standing?  Maybe it is actually a part of YOUR family’s current get away!

I did uncover tidbits of information on almost each of the items listed in the $100 Fishing Outfit, all of which were made in the USA and many which are currently listed on e-bay.  As a non-fishing person, I found the history of lures to be most interesting, but the rod was definitely one item that has increased substantially in value.

Phillipson Casting Rod ~ The 6’4″ Scout was crafted between 1957 and 1958, so perhaps it is the one in fishing package.  It is described as featuring “detachable handle of colorful cast aluminum, redesigned to accommodate all the new “Push-Button” reels, with positive reel locking device. Spin cast rods have 5 chrome-plated guides wrapped in blue thread tipped with red painted rings.” On the Phillipson webpage it lists for $495.

Nine companies supplied lures, and the information I got on them was enough to fill an entire column, so for now, I will focus on a few I found most interesting. 

Heddon Lures ~ established in 1898 is the oldest lure company still producing quality fishing products.  In the late 1890s James Heddon launched a hand-made lure into a Dowagiac, Mich., pond and the ripples are still expanding. It marked the beginning of a new era – the artificial-lure fishing era – for all anglers. Heddon is the manufacturer of legendary lures, including the Spook, Torpedo, Lucky 13 and many more, and these lures follow the same innovative vision James Heddon captured long years ago.

Louis Johnson Bait Co. ~came to be with the 1923 patent of the Johnson Silver Minnow, by Louis Johnson, a retired Chicago foundry operator. The lake where Louis and his son fished was full of fish, but it was also weedy. So, with the practical style of many creative Midwesterners, he set out to develop a fishing lure that would not catch weeds but still catch fish. The result was the first spoon lure with a weed guard, stiff enough to keep weeds away from the hook, but flexible enough for bass and pike to get hooked. In fact, his experimental spoon lures were made from silver table spoons with the handles cut off and a hook and weed guard soldered to the concave underside.

Mille Lacs Mfg Co. ~was started by Joe and Evelyn Fladebo at their Mille Lacs Lake home in 1937.  In 1944 the business was moved to a larger building at Isle.  Their son Jim joined the business in 1955. This lure company made many lures, mainly spinners, and used the trade-mark of “Little Joe” an old time picture of a boy holding a large fish. They also bought the rights to the Slo-Poke, made in Mahnomen, MN, and the Lazy Dazy from Preston, MN. I can’t help but to wonder if I should have looked in the tackle box that I found in the cabin we bought years ago, before I gave it away!  Jon, if there’s anything of value, we split it 50-50, right?


In Honor of Mothers Who Left Us Too Soon

Two years ago, I wrote about my grandmother Hellen Scheer’s first Mother’s Day in 1939, after the birth of her daughter, my mother Marie. Last year, Mom died just days before Mother’s Day. It was unexpected and sent my siblings and myself reeling. She left us too soon.

Since 2014, when I started writing Reminisce, I have been intrigued by newspaper articles about families where the mother died leaving young children. What happened to them? Was an aunt, grandmother, or young neighbor able to step in and care for them? Were the siblings divided among various extended family or neighbors? Or, was there no option but to relinquish them to a state-run facility? After a brief look at the history of this holiday, I’ll share what I have learned.

Mother’s Day History

Celebrations of mothers and motherhood are traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. Mother’s Day became an official U.S. holiday through the efforts of Anna M. Jarvis.

When Jarvis was a young child, her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis had cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the field during the Civil War. In 1868, Ann Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” the goal of which was to foster reconciliation between former Union and Confederate soldiers by having them come together along with mothers from both sides.

Jarvis was proud of her mom and, after her death in 1906, wanted to celebrate all mothers and the sacrifices they made for their children.  She organized the first celebration of this holiday in 1908 in their hometown of Grafton, West Virginia. Over the next few years, Jarvis pushed to have the holiday officially recognized, and it was celebrated increasingly in more and more states around the U.S.   In fact, it was celebrated in Deer River. “In honor of dear old mother, the state of Minnesota has set aside a day when the nation can sing and speak praises to her loving life and revered soul. The day is tomorrow May 14.”  [Itasca News 5-13-1911]

Finally in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day an official holiday to take place the second Sunday of May. In it Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.” [Mother’s Day: Topics in Chronicling America, Library of Congress]

For those of you wondering why Mother’s Day has the apostrophe where it does, Grammarly, the grammar application I use, has the answer. “Anna Jarvis put Mother’s Day on the calendar as a day dedicated to expressing love and gratitude to mothers, acknowledging the sacrifices women make for their children. That’s why Ann Jarvis was determined to keep ‘Mother’s’ a singular possessive, as marked by the apostrophe before ‘s.’ Each family should celebrate its own mother, so that individual women across the country could feel the love, even in the midst of a broad celebration of motherhood.” [grammarlyblog]

Jarvis was pleased with her efforts until Mother’s Day became more commercialized.  She had envisioned it as a day of celebration between mothers and families. “Her personal version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. But once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity. Jarvis, who died in 1948, had since the 1930s actively lobbied the government to remove it from the U.S. holiday calendar.”  [History.com]

A Dozen White Carnations

“Tomorrow, May 11th is Mother’s Day.  A pink carnation in respect to the living mothers, and a white carnation for the memory of those departed.” [Itasca News 5-10-1919]

The file I began in 2014 now contains exactly a dozen local stories about children who lost their mothers when they were young. This is what I know of each situation.

1902 ~ Mrs. John (Anna) Nyberg died. It is hard to determine who raised the six daughters, Hulda 13, Anna 11, Jennie 9, Agnes 9, Helmar 5, and Selma 2. It appears they remained in the community.

1903 ~ Mrs. Charles (Mary Olson) Sterling died and left behind a 15-month-old child. Charlie Sterling married a widow with two children 2½ months later.

1909 ~ Mrs. John (Rosina) Tremain died from blood poisoning that she had suffered since the birth of her last baby two months earlier. Sons are Valentine, John, William, L.J. and Arthur. Daughters are Evaline and Goldie. [These names were found in their father’s 1929 obituary.] Shortly after Rosina’s death, the three youngest were taken to Minneapolis by Agent E.P. Savage of the State Children’s Home Society.

1910 ~ Mrs. John (Karolina Nyberg) Hedquist died of typhoid fever. Her four children, Emma 6, Alton 4, Della 2, and Myrtle, an infant were raised by their father.

1911 ~ Mrs. Sereno (Ina) White died giving birth to her seventh child, Rueben Asa.  The other children were, Lesley 12, Lloyd 11, Gladys 9, Alice 7, Clifford 3, and Earl 2. The baby and Earl were raised by relatives. The five other children were placed in state run facilities.

1912 ~ Mrs. Charles (Mary Olsen) Lind died of tuberculosis. She is the mother of six children, Ida 17, Elmer 15, Frank 12, Clara 12, Ellen 5, and Emma 5.  The two sets of twins were placed in state run facilities.

1916 ~ Mrs. Hilmer (Karen Nelson) Hanson died during the birth of twin daughters Hildur and Karen Marie. Hilmer and daughter Clara 14, raised them and the boys, Guy 5 and Perry 2.

1921 ~ Mrs. Simon (Marian Root) Pettit died of tuberculosis, leaving James 16, Ethel 15, Dora 10 and Myrtle 9. It appears that the children moved to Todd County where their Root relatives lived.

1922 ~ Mrs. Carl (Signa) Carlsberg died of heart disease.  Ray 15, Freida 13, Alford 10, Gustav 9, Elvin 6, Glen 5, Earl 4, and Eunice 2. The family remained together with Freida taking responsibility for the children.

1922 ~ Mrs. Ed (Irene Vance) Voigt is believed to have died from heart disease.  Ed’s sister Rose took the baby, Grace, to raise as her own. Margaret 5, and Alice 3, went with their father and his family to Polson, Montana.

1927 ~ Mrs. William (Mary Peterson) Murphy died of peritonitis. Her children were Vera 17, William 9, James 6, Della 3, and George 21 months.  The four youngest lived with neighbors Ed and Hattie Sargent until they were old enough to return to their father.

1927 ~ Mrs. Thomas Jones died of diphtheria, leaving eight children. Because her husband was in prison, the care of the children’s welfare was placed in the hands of the Judge of Probate, Mrs. Rhoda McCullough. All of the children were placed in the state school at Owatonna.

There were sixty-six children in the dozen families. About a third, those who were sent to state facilities such as the Minnesota State Public School for Neglected and Dependent Children in Owatonna, never had the love of a mother figure again and in many cases, they were the youngest children. I do hope they were able to form relationships with some caregivers and were able to provide a nurturing home for their own children. 

I do know that the White siblings, whose mother died in 1911, did reunite in the 1940s. I posted their story, first published in April 2017, on my blog last Sunday. If you know the “rest of the story,” for any of the other individuals, please share ~ reminiscewithchris@gmail.com 218-244-2127 or leave a message on my blog chrismarcottewrites. 

We grieve in many ways.  This past year, when I finally could write again, I wrote about Mom.  Mostly for myself, but occasionally I’d share a piece with a friend.  My sisters are not quite ready yet to read anything about Mom, and I understand that.  I found out just last week that Talking Stick, a respected Minnesota literary journal has selected an essay I wrote about my mom for publication in September. On Mother’s Day I will share a bouquet of white carnations with grieving sons and daughters.

5.2.2021 ~ archived

[previously published 4.13.17 Western Itasca Review

White House of the North

Leslie, Lloyd, Gladys, Cliff, Earl, and Donald White standing in front of the homeplace ~ 1940

About ten years ago, we drove in the northern part of the county when I saw what looked to be an abandoned boarding house or a large family home down a long gravel driveway off County Road 29. I photograph old buildings, schools mostly whenever I get a chance. I take them partly because I love how they look and also because someday they will be gone. It was a sunny day, so I grabbed my camera and photographed it from all sides.

I had no idea who owned the structure or the story behind it until I started visiting the Itasca County Historical Society. I found a small booklet in the research library with a hand-drawn illustration of that very building on the cover!  The title was “The Log White House,” a compilation of history and stories about the Sereno and Ina (Delap) White family from Alvwood. Mabel White, the compiler, was the wife of Earl. Earl was one of seven children born to Sereno and Ina.

Mabel dedicated the history of the Sereno White family, as follows: “Earl Delap White who at this time September 1, 1985, is the only living member of the original S.C. White family and to a herd of relatives and to Margie (Donald White’s wife) who asked me to write up a White Report.”  Mabel collected stories and information from various family members. I have filled in the blanks of a few details by looking at state and federal census records. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from “The Log White House.”

Sereno Centennial White

Sereno and Ina were both born and raised in Waushara County in central Wisconsin. Sereno’s middle name is Centennial, and he was born on September 30, 1876. His father, Asa, chose his name. “Asa Bradley White, being a proper person and aware of historical events, named that baby boy born to them on September 30, 1876, Sereno ‘Centennial.’  He was born in Waushara County, Wisconsin. The country was 100 years old then, and what better way to commemorate it than to name a son in its honor.”

Both of my maternal great-grandfathers were born in 1876, and neither one of them had that patriotic middle name, but I suspected Asa wasn’t the only one in the country to name their child Centennial. I checked the 1880 federal census and found 89 children born in 1876 with the first name of Centennial. There were 49 girls and 40 boys from 25 of the 38 states that were part of the United States. The top four states were Indiana -7, Ohio – 6, Illinois – 5, and tied for fourth place were Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, and Louisiana.


Sereno and Ina married when she was fifteen, and their first child was born with a year. By 1910 they had six healthy children but needed more space. In April of that year, the Whites and a few other families from Wisconsin moved to Alvwood, Itasca County.

The group traveled as far as Blackduck by train. “Dad said Grampa (Otis Vandervort) and Uncle Reno (Sereno White) rode in the boxcar with the livestock – a horse, a cow and a dog.”

The Whites occupied a building too small for them while a new home was being constructed and was very excited to move in before winter. “The new 24×24 house was built of hewed logs, with walls high enough for three bedrooms upstairs. It was built by ‘Scandinavian and expert builder and hewer, Pete Berg.’  When the family of eight moved into the new house, the old one became the chicken coop.”

Separation of the Family

In March 1911, Ina delivered her seventh child, and although a doctor was sent for, she died before anything could be done. With the help of neighbors, Sereno managed for a couple of months. The baby was healthy, and Ina’s brother Lugene and new wife Goldie took the child, who they called Donald, back to live with them in Wisconsin. His actual, registered name was Ruben Asa, but he only used that name when he enlisted in the Navy during WWII.

Two-year-old Earl “was given a home and loving care by Charlie Bedore and his wife, Mathilda. He lived with them until he was nine years old and then went back to the family.”

By about Christmas, it was evident to Sereno he could not care for the other five children himself, so he placed them in the temporary custody of the state. The boys were placed in an orphanage in Owatonna and the girls in Sauk Center. Sereno wanted them to return home as soon as his situation changed, but it ended up being three years, and for some too long.

Leslie and Lloyd, the two oldest boys, ran away within a year and Clifford felt abandoned because he was only six and couldn’t accompany them. “He was later put on a farm in Waseca. The boy of this farmer always blamed Cliff for all his wrongdoings, and Cliff got punished for it. He got tired of this and ran away to a neighbor’s farm, where they gave Cliff money to help him leave. He came to Horicon, Wisconsin, and found himself a job on a farm. When he ran away, he changed his name to Weise. He was married in that name. Later he changed it back to White.”


The 1920 U.S. census shows the five oldest children, Leslie, Lloyd, Gladys, Alice, and Earl, were living in the family home with their father. Donald was still with his aunt and uncle Delap. No one knew what had become of Clifford after he left the farm in Waseca. It wasn’t long before Gladys married, which meant Alice was the only female at home. She was in charge of the household and missed her sister. Her mental health and general thought processes began to deteriorate when she was about 25. Eventually, her father had no choice but to have her committed to the Fergus Falls Hospital for the Insane, where she died of pneumonia in 1932.

One by one, the White brothers married and established a farm in Alvwood. Imagine their surprise when Clifford came up to visit! He had married and with a family of his own realized he wanted to find his brothers and sisters. Cliff was only five when he and his brothers went to the orphanage. He didn’t remember where his family was from, so he sought the answers at Owatonna and ventured north.

By 1930, Cliff had returned with his family to the community where his mother and father had settled. Donald had always maintained a relationship with his brothers and sisters and was glad to meet the brother he had never known.

At the time of his death in 1941, four of Sereno Centennial White’s children were within walking distance of his home place, and he had over a dozen grandchildren whom he saw daily. Donald remained in Wisconsin, and Gladys was near Crookston. And at least sixty-six years after his death, the house stood for me to photograph. I expect it is still standing, and perhaps it is time for another photo-shoot.


“The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread”

My grandpa, Clarence “Conny” Scheer, drove a route for Bishoff Bakery of Bigfork in the mid-1930s.  One of his favorite stories to tell about that job was that’s how he started courting Hellen McQuillen, my grandma. He made a delivery to the tavern owned by Len and Irene Knotts in Effie. Hellen was staying there for the summer, following her first year of teaching, to help her sister. 

The Taggert Baking Company of Indianapolis, Indiana, introduced Wonder Bread in May 1921.  Weighing a pound and a half, Wonder Bread boasted an even texture, and soft crusts. It was sold only in Indianapolis until 1924 when the company was purchased by Continental Baking.  In 1930, Wonder Bread became America’s first sliced bread, hence the phrase “the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

Slow Start in Deer River

When there are enough patrons to make it profitable, a bakery is established in a town. Or. maybe in the case of Deer River, attempted. The first mention of a bakery in Deer River was in 1908 when the Itasca News stated that “Mrs. Hanna Gray, who was to open a bakery in the Bond house, has given up the proposition, being unable to make a satisfactory deal for the property with Mr. Ingersoll, who now owns the place.” Obviously, the villagers were interested and were pleased when Mr. Jackson arrived in September of the same year. Mr. Jackson claims to be a first-class baker and seeing the amount of trade awaiting him, he is anxious for the moving of Tellin Brothers from the market building, as he will occupy that space.  He expects to open his shop in a week or ten days.”

Small retail businesses didn’t need to advertise unless there was competition, so it is not clear how long Mr. Jackson was in business.  The 1910 United States Census lists Herbert J. Jackson as age 30 and employed at the cedar mill. If it is the same person, perhaps the position at the mill was more lucrative or the hours more to his liking. Or maybe he was still in business and the bakery, detailed below, was a second one in the village with a very short life.

“The Misses Rose Voigt and Emily LaFreniere have opened a bakery of the ‘home’ kind in the laundry building near the Everton Hotel.  They have been turning out good baking for several days and the patrons say their work is very nice.  The girls are receiving a good patronage and say they cannot keep up with their orders.” [Itasca News 9-17-1910]

“Evidently, bearing out the rule that young people cannot withstand success or much prosperity, Misses Emily LaFreniere and Rose Voigt have given up their undertaking of conducting a bakery.  The girls were in business about two weeks and were receiving orders for more goods than they could make.  They have simply quit and any other reason for doing so is not given out.” [Itasca News 10-8-1910]

City Bakery 1911~1928

In 1911, Andrew and Julia Binder moved from Duluth where they had owned and managed a successful bakery.  It isn’t clear what brought them to Deer River, but the village and surrounding community were glad they came.  When Mr. and Mrs. Binder opened City Bakery, they planned to stay.

Andrew immigrated from Germany in about 1890. Two years later Julia followed him from Germany, and they married.  Their only child, Florence, was born in Duluth in 1899. Florence helped her parents in the bakery from a young age.

When the United States entered the First World War, bakeries were greatly impacted. The main ingredients flour and sugar were restricted to ensure the soldiers were properly fed.  The Federal Food Administration encouraged bakeries to advertise their product as Victory Bread if it contained not more than 80 per cent wheat flour.  No stipulation was made as to what ingredients should compose the other 20 per cent so long as they are selected from a list which included corn flour and corn meal, barley flour, graham, buckwheat, oatmeal, rice and rice flour, potato flour, etc.

City Bakery’s First War Bread ~ Itasca News 1-26-1918

“War Bread, or what is called Deer River’s first sample of war bread, has been on sale at the City Bakery for the past week, and the public is in ecstasy over it.  The bread is made in the shape of twin loaves, weighing two pounds each and sells for 15 cents.  The local shop makes it in two forms, in pans and on brick bottoms.  The patrons seem to prefer the brick baked style. 

“Baker A.J. Binder admits this is not the real thing in the war bread brand, as it is made of baker’s flour, not the real war flour, however the ingredients are on the conservation order as no lard nor milk is used, but instead of these, potatoes are use in the recipe.  The bread is lasting and slightly a heavier food than the regular baker’s bread. When the present supply of white flour is exhausted, which will be in but a few months, the new war flour will be the best flour on the American market and then we will get the real war bread.”

Families were also encouraged to prepare at home, foods that they had previously bought at a bakery. An advertisement for Royal Baking Powder gave the following recipe for Oatmeal Bread.  It appeared in the March 23, 1918 Itasca News.

Oatmeal Bread

1 cup flour

2 ½ cups corn meal

1 tsp salt

5 tsp Royal Baking Powder

2 T sugar

1 cup cooked oatmeal or rolled oats

2 T shortening

2½ cups milk

No eggs

Mix together flour, corn meal, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Add oatmeal, melted shortening, and milk.  Bake in round shallow pan in moderate oven 40-45 minutes.

If used three times a week in place of white bread by the 22 million families in the United States, it would save more than 900,000 barrels of flour a month.

The Royal Baking Company published a pamphlet, “Best War Time Recipes” available by request, which contained four dozen recipes like the Oatmeal Bread, to encourage families to save wheat for the soldiers. 

City Bakery weathered the restrictions and, after the war, supported the community that had become their home. The Binders advertised in the Deer River newspapers, first for occasional specials and then a general weekly ad. It seems they always had butter rolls, cookies, pies and cakes.  Some of the specialty items were cream puffs, rocks, raised doughnuts, bismarks, coffee cake, honey cream cake, angel food cake and loaf silver cake.  One year during the Itasca County Fair, they featured turnovers, butterflies, cinnamon rolls, and sunshine cakes.

In 1926, Deer River had a huge 4th of July celebration and the Binders worked long hours to ensure everyone was well-fed.

The Bakery was Busy ~ Deer River News7-8-1926

“The big celebration Monday brought a lot of people here to be fed, and for several days the latter part of the week the City Bakery was the busiest place in Deer River.  In addition to the regular trade with greatly increased baking of bread, the proprietors and help made 343 dozen buns, 160 dozen doughnuts and 194 Pullman sandwich loaves.  That’s 6,230 extra pieces, a good index to what it took to feed the crowd.

“Mr. and Mrs. Binder showed a fine spirit by selling to public concessions at wholesale as a contribution to the community effort.  We didn’t hear of any outside bakery doing anything like that, which proves again that we should boost the hometown product, the one that helps boost us.”

Two years later, Andrew and Julia having both celebrated their 60th birthday, decided they were ready to turn the business over to another baker.  Their daughter Florence, a music teacher in the community, wanted to be in a more populated setting.  The 1930 U.S. Census shows the Binder family living in Minneapolis.

City Bakery Sold to Hibbing Man ~ Itasca News 6-21-1928

“A deal was closed yesterday whereby one of Deer River’s oldest business institutions becomes the property of a new proprietor.  The City Bakery was sold by Mr. and Mrs. Binder to Anton Suomalainen of Hibbing.  Possession will be given the 1st of July.

“Mr. Suomalainen is not a stranger to Deer River.  For several years he conducted a bakery in Grand Rapids, selling out there last winter.  While in business at the county seat, Mr. Suomalainen supplied regular customers here, and his entry into the local field will find an established reputation.

“Mr. and Mrs. Binder have been in business here for the past seventeen years.  They came here from Duluth.  Under their management, the City Bakery built up a most enviable reputation for the excellence of its products, always clean and wholesome.  The host of friends who are numbered by their acquaintances, will regret to learn that the Binders have sold, and also regret to have this most estimable family leave Deer River, but will wish them many years of health, wealth and happiness.”

Other Owners

Mr. Suomalainen renamed the business, New Home Bakery, and all was well until he was injured the following spring.  “Anton Suomalainen, proprietor of the New Home Bakery, last Friday received a serious injury to one of his hands, which became caught in the machinery of the bread mixer.  The fingers were badly lacerated, and amputation of portions may be necessary.  Mr. Suomalainen went to Duluth for an X-ray examination and surgical treatment and is reported as getting along nicely.” [Deer River News 5-16-1929]

New Home Bakery struggled during the time Mr. Suomalainen was healing, and by August, he had no choice but to close. Within several weeks of that decision, a new owner was found. “R.W. Ziebell of Duluth has taken over the plant and announces that he will be open, ready for business next Wednesday, Sept 25.  Mr. and Mrs. Ziebell were in Deer River yesterday with Mr. and Mrs. Suomalainen, who have operated the bakery for the past year. Mr Ziebell stated that he has spent all his life in the bakery business, working for years in large baking plants of Minneapolis and Duluth.  He has frequently visited Deer River and is a great booster for this region.

“The reopening of the bakery will be welcome news to all local people.  During the time it has been closed the past fortnight, local residents have suffered a great inconvenience.  Mr. Ziebell was looking for a residence yesterday and hoped to be able to move his family here the latter part of the week.” [Deer River News 9-19-1929]

I am not sure how long the Ziebells had the bakery, but I do know that the name, New Home Bakery, was still being used in 1938. A receipt (see inset) indicates the Skottegard’s were owners, and had filled an order for

Williams Narrows Resort. According to the 1930 and 1940 U.S. censuses, the Skottegards were proprietors of a bakery in Grand Rapids but obviously had the one in Deer River as well.

The final notes I have on the local bakery are sketchy, as most of my research ends before WWII, but I do know there was a bakery owned by Tom Abbott for several years, which he sold to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hallgren of Chicago.  “Mr. and Mrs. Hallgren have operated bakeries for the past seven years and know their business thoroughly.  They plan to conduct the business on a basis of the best bakery products and the best service they can give.

“Mr. and Mrs. Hallgren are not entirely strangers in Deer River.  They have a summer home on Moose Lake, and for the past three years have been spending their summers here.  Associated with them will be Mrs. Carl Jette and Mrs. Erika Jette of the Moose Lake territory.” [Deer River News 2-10-1944]


“Spring is on the Way”

[originally published 3.19.2016 in the Western Itasca Review]

Postcard sent to Opal Fyfe (age 11) from her cousin Ethel Barrett in 1914
[Opal is Grandmother of Jim, Don and Chuck Root]

It appears we made it through another winter and a mild one at that! Not a lot of shoveling and only a handful of days with below zero temperatures.

According to the Minnesota Phenology Network, spring officially begins in Minnesota on Saturday March 19 at 11:31 p.m. Of course, we will still have snow in the woods and ice on the lakes on Sunday morning and certainly on Easter, but there will also be a tingle of green in the grass and perhaps a tulip or jonquil emerging on the south side of the house. And any snow we might have in the coming weeks (or months) will not last.

The following news articles highlight signs of spring in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In addition to the blackbirds and robins that we consider the first birds to return to our region, eighty years ago crows were also harbingers of spring. Now though, the crows are here all winter.

For this column I have arranged the news tidbits by month rather than year and as always, I have left the spelling as it was originally published.

Jan 3, 1929 ~ Sober and Saw Crows

“Additional comment on the weather! Frank Miller called The News office last Friday morning and said, ‘Mike Guthrie saw three crows this morning, and Mike was perfectly sober!’ We’ll take their word for it, but if those crows didn’t get out of the country before 1929 arrived, they didn’t have a happy New Year. [Deer River News]

Jan 12, 1928 ~ Stays all Winter

“It was a wise out blackbird that knew months ago that we were going to have a January thaw. To see a blackbird in Deer River in mid-winter is something unusual, but there is one right here. He can be seen daily feeding in the alley back of the F.W. Miller residence.

“Mr. Blackbird didn’t go south when cold weather came. He found a gracious hostess in Mrs. Millie Hickthier, mother of Mrs. Miller, who feeds him daily. If there is no lunch out when he appears, he scolds in no uncertain terms. Mebbe you can fool the wise guys, but you can’t fool the birds on northern Minnesota winters. Our January thaw this week is a sample.” [Deer River News]

Feb. 16, 1929 ~ Notes

“Indications point strongly towards a free open air concert on the banks of the Bigfork river at Bigfork in about three weeks’ time. The concert will be given by an assembly of frogs that will pour forth all those vocal spring selections that are so welcomed in these parts after a period of several months of 30 below zero weather.” [Bigfork Times]

Feb. 20, 1930 ~ Spring is on the Way

“Emory Hadley called up yesterday afternoon and reported the first crow of the season, seen near County Road station. A few moments later Mrs. Henry Truempler reported seeing three of them. Here’s hoping these harbingers of Spring won’t get their toes frosted before the Mayflowers begin to bloom!” [Deer River News]

Feb. 25, 1926 ~ Find Pussy Willows

“On Friday, Feb. 12th, Wm. Mastellar and John Yuill, while working near the new state fish hatchery at Cutfoot Sioux, found a most unusual token of our fine winter weather. Popple buds were found that were opening, and fully developed “pussies” were waving in the breeze.  The circumstance is most unusual, indicating that the weather has not been severe enough to entirely freeze the tree and stop the sap from running. That’s another boost for our fine Northern Minnesota winter weather.” [Itasca News]

Mar. 23, 1928 ~ Notes

“Since the crows have made their appearance, we feel satisfied that spring is at hand and it is a good time to prepare the farm machinery for the spring work.” [Bigfork Times]

Mar. 26, 1926 ~ Notes

“The crows and robbins have returned t Bigfork after spending the winter in the south and their return here receives a cordial welcome. This nice spring weather, which has taken away that great white blanket that has covered mother earth for the past few months, gives us the assurance that the croaking of the frogs and the buzz of the misquittoes will soon be heard. With all the necessities to add to the pleasures of life what chance is there for say complaints in these parts?” [Bigfork Settler]

Apr. 1, 1927 ~ Notes

“Foster Root, who lives out on the Scenic Highway, was in town this week with some more of his big fish yarns which is another sign of spring. His latest is that the lakes weren’t safe for travel this winter on account of the many holes caused by the bass poking their noses out to look at the sun.” [Bigfork Times]

May 2, 1928 ~ First Arbutus Blossoms

“Trailing arbutus is in blossom. The first blooms were brought into town last Friday, although some were reported on Thursday. The time is long past when this beautiful flower could be gathered in the vacant lot in the village, although there are people living in Grand Rapids who remember gathering it where the Central school now stands. It is fund in abundance, however, within two or three miles of the village, and is always eagerly welcomed as the first wild flower of spring, as well as one of the most fragrant and pleasing of the entire season.” [Grand Rapids Herald Review]

May 30, 1934 ~ Albino Robin

“Red Lake Falls folks are interested this week in a white robin which has selected this city in which to establish its home in a tree on the Wm. Nieland farm. Aside from its color, which is white with black markings, the bird is of the same size and habits of the other robins, even to its chirping voice. Mrs. Nieland and others who have viewed the bird from close range state that it does not have “pink” eyes as white mice do. Local folks are speculating on the color of the new arrivals which are expected in this distinctive robin family in the near future. – Red Lake Falls Gazette.” [Grand Rapids Herald Review]

I encourage you to check out the Minnesota Phenology Network www.usanpn.org. It is a wonderful resource for those who like to monitor phenology and share their observations.

Another sure sign of spring is St. Patrick’s Day, so a happy day to those of you with Irish roots and a Happy Birthday to my great-great-great grandfather William Thomas Boxell born on March 17, 1830.


“Hunkidori” ~ We’ve Got Talent ~ Part III

I think writing is one of the harder ‘talents’ to document as it is hit and miss as to what gets published in the newspaper.  So, consider this just a smattering of our local writers.

Essays Written in School

In 1904, the Deer River School consisted of about three dozen students.  In February, the sixth graders were assigned to write an essay about President Lincoln. Two were selected to be printed in the newspaper.

Roy Belcher’s essay was about a half a column and here is the first paragraph. “Not long after the Boones crossed the mountains to Kentucky, a man by the name of Abraham Lincoln followed their example and brought his wife and children with him.  The Lincolns and Boones were of the same class of people.  They were hardy pioneers always seeking a new country. This Abraham Lincoln was grandfather of President Abraham Lincoln, who was born in a log-cabin in Kentucky, February 12, 1809.”

Martha McDonald, daughter of John and Maria wrote a lengthy and detailed essay which was three and a half full columns! Martha started her essay as follows: “Not far from Hodgenville in Kentucky there lived a man named Thomas Lincoln.  This man had built for himself a little log house by a brook.  There was one room in the cabin.  The chimney was broad at the bottom and narrow at the top.  In the wall at one side of the fireplace was a square hole for a window. In the summer it was left open all the time.  In the winter a deerskin or piece of coarse cloth was hung over it to keep out the cold.  There was no door nor hinges to the house.  There was no ceiling to the room.  There was no floor but the bare ground.  And the people could look up and see the bare rafters and the rough roofboards, which Mr. Lincoln had himself split and hewn.  For chairs there were only blocks of wood and a crude bench on one side of the fireplace.  The bed was a platform of poles on which were spread the furry skins of animals and a patchwork quilt of homespun goods.  In this poor cabin, on the 12th of February 1809, a baby boy was born.” [Itasca News 2-10-1904]

In March 1925, Mary Mitchell, an eighth-grade student from Bigfork, and daughter of Bessie and William Kanz (Rufus Mitchell is her stepfather), wrote an essay entitled Three Characteristics of a Good Citizen. The three points she made and supported were [1] be patriotic to his country and to his country’s flag, [2] be kind to everyone, and [3] obey the laws of the United States.

Prizes for Student Essays

Miss Betty Brandes took first place in the state of Minnesota in the Grand Third National Meat Story Contest instituted by the National Livestock and Meat Board.  Betty, a junior in the Grand Rapids High School, “has won national recognition, as well as a substantial cash prize.  One winner was determined for each state, and a national winner selected as best from the nation.  The national winner was from El Paso, Texas.

According to the report sent here, there was a very large response to the contest, which was instigated some months ago.  Over 10,000 essays or stories were submitted, and to win a state championship in such keen competition as obtained, is an honor of which Miss Brandes and instructors here may be proud.” [6-2-1926 Grand Rapids Herald-Review]

Several months later, another article, including the essay was printed on the front page of the October 6, 1926 Grand Rapids Herald-Review.  Ann Foreseen, 14 years of age (immigrated from Sweden with her parents Johan and Anna just eleven years ago) and an eighth-grade student in the Dunbar School, won a valuable prize at the Minnesota State Fair. Miss Foreseen wrote an essay entitled, “The Training of a Forester and Preserving our National Forests.” This essay was collected with other good essays and exhibited in the rural school display of the Itasca County Fair, where she was given first place.  At the state fair, the essay again received a first-place ribbon and a valuable cash prize, as well as the satisfaction of taking the highest place in that class of exhibits. 

Her introductory paragraph begins, “A forest is not a mere collection of trees.  A forest like a city is a complex community, with a life of its own.”

Local Student Winner in State-Wide Contest ~Deer River News 3-21-1929

“Miss Mable Backlund, a member of the senior class of the local high school has been declared winner of first place in a state-wide essay contest sponsored by the Minnesota Federation of Women’s Clubs, and will represent Minnesota in the national contest which will be judged later at Washington D.C.

“Some months ago, high school students throughout the nation were asked to compete in an essay contest on the subject, ‘Why I Should Vote.’  The local Women’s Club offered $5 in prizes and five students entered. Local judges awarded Miss Backlund first place and Miss Helen Foresman second.  First place winners in local contests entered the state contest, in which Miss Backlund has again been awarded first place.  Second honors went to a Luverne entry and third to one from St. Paul.

“Miss Backlund deserves great credit for the distinctive honor she has won, in representing the state in the national contest, and is being showered with congratulations by her many friends.  At the regular meeting of the Women’s Club Tuesday evening, Miss Backlund read her prize essay, much to the enjoyment of the members present.”

I was unable to find a follow-up article regarding the outcome of the national contest, so I assume Mabel Backlund’s essay was not a front-runner in that competition.

The final story about winning a cash prize is from 1935. “Eleven-year-old Dorothy and ten-year-old Donald Stangeland were named two of the winners in a nationwide school essay contest staged by Butler Bros., St Paul.  Thousands of pupils from 3600 communities competed.  Donald and Dorothy, children of George and Esther of Sand Lake, are among those awarded a crisp, new one-dollar bill.” [Deer River News 11-14-1935]

Poetry and a Novel

Godfrey Knight was a lumberjack and a poet.  He was born in January 1891, in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota to Victor and Amelia.  The Knights moved to the Big Fork Valley in about 1900.  By the time Godfrey was nineteen years of age, he was employed as a lumberjack at the Caldwell camp north of Effie.

In 1912, he won a contest sponsored by the Hand Made Boot and Shoe Company for a poem he wrote about one of their products, Hunkidori boots.  The Bigfork Mercantile sold many things needed by the lumberjacks, including Hunkidori boots.  In the fall of 1911, as new and old “jacks” were getting outfitted, the store posted a flyer sent out by the company which announced a free pair of boots for the winning entry in their poetry contest. 

Godfrey found inspiration in the late evenings and most likely entrusted his poetic entry to be mailed by the camp cook who made monthly trips to town for supplies.  Like any of us waiting for a response from a contest he eagerly awaited the dispersal of letters from the weekly mail bag. As weeks turned to months, he quit looking for a legal sized envelope.  Finally, one day in April 1912, Godfrey received word that his piece was selected.

Imagine the satisfaction he got of seeing his poem on the front page of the April 25th issue of the Bigfork Times.  And of course, for the rest of the year, distributers of the boots could include the poem in their advertisement for the Hunkidori brand if they wanted to.

Local Girl Wins First Place in Poetry Contest ~ Bigfork Times 11-13-1932

“It may be news to many of our readers, as it was to us, to know that we have a young poetess of exceptional ability in the person of Agnes Peloquin, aged 14.

“The following poem which was awarded first prize in the weekly contest of the Fair Play Club conducted by the Duluth Herald reveals a great deal more than just ordinary ability and we hope that this is the forerunner of many other products of her pen.”   The poem is printed in the inset.

Books written by local authors prior to 1960, are a bit harder to find.  Therefore, I was thrilled to discover information about a novel written by local author Mary (Gray) Mooers, in the Itasca County Historical Society archives.  The book, “Westward Wagon Wheels,” was published in 1955 by Meador Publishing Company of Boston. The description on the back of the book jacket details the problems of traveling west in 1864, but weaves in a story of love and success.

“In this novel, the author portrays with invincible reality the life of our forefathers, their pioneering spirit, their hardships, trials and sorrows endured as they settled our western frontiers. Susan Carter a lovely young girl from Wisconsin traveling west with her parents by wagon train, falls in love with Alan Wilson, a handsome young man, also traveling west in the same caravan.”

Mary Verona Gray was born in Iowa in about 1898.  On March 5, 1922 she married George Mooers.  George was born in 1896, and by 1910, his parents George and Nellie had moved the family to Deer River.  After serving in WWI, George was a civil engineer for Itasca County and then one of the iron mines.  Mary and George lived in Coleraine, and later on Pokegama Lake.  Notes from the author’s great nephew, Wayne Mooers state, “Uncle George died in 1955…Mary’s book was copyrighted the same year–George watched her write and listened to drafts for many hours.”

The Grand Rapids Library has one copy of “Westward Wagon Wheels,” and I found another on ebay for $50!

In 2019, I wrote about a book, “Little Woodsman of the North,” written by prestigious author, Bernadine Freeman Bailey, while she was staying at the Hide-Away Inn resort in Itasca County in the late 1930s.  Since then, I have learned of another book, “The Cloth Wagon,” set in Itasca County in about 1915.  It is said to be based in part on Orin Patrow of the Big Fork Valley.  The author, Antoinette (Van Hoesen) Wakeman, was probably visiting her brother F.B. Van Housen, a Minnesota State Senator, when she came to northern Itasca County.  I have found mention of her visit and her book in the “Last Frontier” by Bergit Anderson, (published in 1941).

We’ve Got Talent will appear again in the fall with Song writing, Spelling, Farming Endeavors and Professional Success.  To share your stories, call 218-244-2127, email reminiscewithchris@gmail.com, or leave a message here. 

4.4.2021 ~ archived

[previously published 3.29.2018 ~ **Easter was on April 1 in 2018]

Easter Bits and Pieces

Vintage Easter Postcard ~ circa 1900

Easter and April Fool’s Day

Easter and April Fool’s day has not fallen on the same day in my lifetime.  In fact, it has been 62 years since this has occurred.  Just a quick reminder, “The basic rule for determining the date for Easter is that it is on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21st.”

My google search shows that this is the 12th time Easter has fallen on April 1st since 1700.  A few quick calculations and I discovered that seven of the twelve times, there was eleven years between the years when this occurred, for instance, 1934, 1945 and 1956. I wasn’t going to try and figure out why this happened, but I did find it very interesting.

Easter Sunday School Program

In the 1920s the Deer River paper, called the Itasca News, was distributed on Saturday.  The publisher and editor, Murray James Taylor reminded readers to attend the Easter program the following evening. “Miss Velma Taylor who is one of the leading directors of the work, declares the features are of a nature to appeal to human interest and the most elaborate the church has ever had.  Admission is free and the public is earnestly entreated to attend.”

Full disclosure, Velma is the 14-year-old daughter of the newspaper publisher.

Easter Program was Splendid ~ Itasca News 4-10-1920

“That there is talent in the youth of Deer River is a fact proven and nailed down solider every time they are called on by the public, and the way they went ‘over the top’ in the Easter program was no exception to the high standard.  From cradlings to the young ladies every number was a winner and the entire program was keenly appreciated by the audience, which as usual, packed the church.

The opening number was a surprise to the little actor and the audience.  The name of Grace Johnson for a song was called, and the little lady of six summers who had just entered the door, sauntered up the aisle, hastily removing her wraps and with cheeks flushed by the chilly wind gracefully took her place on the platform and soon ‘warmed up’ in a pretty and lengthy Easter song, sweetly delivered and true to every note.

The vocal duet by Velma Taylor and Ova St. Peter was generally pronounced as excellent and the young ladies warmly applauded.

Norma Reid, one of those little angels, just learning to talk, did her part just like the big ones but much cuter, and spoke about four words.

Little Betty Bartholomew, always a favorite, sang charmingly.

Velma Taylor’s recitation on the ‘Easter Return of the Federal in Blue,’ captivated the audience and brought forth applause of feeling.

The six young boys in recitation each carrying a large letter which in line were to spell ‘Easter,’ did well, and more amusing than calculated as their letters in line read ‘Eatster.’

One of the best hits was the song by Gladys Hawkins’ class of fifteen girls. ‘Ring, Joy Bells, Ring,’ with Gladys doing creditable execution at the piano.

The booby prize must be yielded to baby Margurite Carlson, who, with her aunt near her side stood barely peeping above the railing and spoke some words, what they were, only her aunt Carrie knew, but the expressions and serious gestures of the little lady told more than words that her message was indeed grave.

Blanche Collard, soprano and Velma Taylor, alto, in duo gave the closing number.”

From the 1920 United States census, I learned the following about the talent named above.  I found it especially interesting that the two young ladies in charge, Velma, and Gladys were still in high school.  

~ Grace Johnson, daughter of Harry and Lillian (Metke), was born on December 12, 1912. She attended several years of college and married John Lynch. Later they moved to Hibbing where he was a member of law enforcement.

~ Velma Taylor’s parents came to Deer River from Nebraska in about 1896. He started the first newspaper, the Itasca News, which he was publisher and editor of until 1923 when he sold it to H.E. Wolfe, who changes the name to the Deer River News. Velma married Harvey Giles in 1924.  After the birth of their first two sons, they moved to Blackduck.

~ Ova St. Peter, daughter of Napoleon and Lucille, was born in 1905. The St. Peter family owned a confectionery store in town.  For many years Olga Sjolund, who was a few years older than Ova, lived with the family and worked at the store.

~ Norma Reid’s father, Hugh, is the minister at the Methodist church, and her mother Elizabeth, his helpmate. By 1930, the Reid’s had moved to Missouri.

~ Betty Bartholomew is the daughter Sam and Ella. Sam was in charge of the new telephone system. 

He bought it from the first proprietor M.L. Smith in 1915 and had it until 1926 when he sold it to J.L. Tucker. 

~ Gladys Hawkins’ mother is Nellie (Tellin). Her father, Milan died when she was quite young.  Her mother worked very hard to provide for her daughters on her own.

~ Margaret Ann Carlson was born in New York on October 2, 1917.  Her father, Albert, was in the service and stationed in New York.  After the war, Albert returned to Deer River with his wife Ethel and young daughter.  Ethel did not like the rural life and left when Margaret was still a young child.  She is raised by William and Anna Herreid. Anna was sister to Albert. 

~ Blanche Collard is the daughter of Joe and Mary. Her father’s occupation is listed as the proprietor of a railroad parlor.  So, does that mean he maintained the Deer River Depot or a recently defunct saloon? 

I wish I could have provided information about the six boys who inadvertently misspelled Easter!  Perhaps some of them were brothers of the girls whose talents are highlighted by the editor. 

Easter Baskets

By the mid-1920s advertisements for Easter candy and flowers appeared in the local confectionery and drugstores.  The candy available was not specified, but the plants included Easter Lilies, Rambler Rose Bushes, Hydrangeas, Cinerias, Begonias, Hyacinths, Tulips, and Ferns.

It wasn’t until near the end of the decade that I found mention of a local Easter egg hunt.

Hunted Easter Eggs ~ Deer River News 4-12-1928

“Mr. and Mrs. Robinson delightfully entertained fifteen little folks last Sunday afternoon at an Easter egg hunt.  Fifteen baskets of eggs were hidden in the fields adjacent to the Robinson home and there was a merry scramble to find them.  Prizes were offered for finding the largest number of baskets and the last basket.  Kathryn Wolfe found the largest number, four, and Alicemary Robinson the last one.  It was a delightful sport.”