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THAT REMINDS ME: GF, 1939: Movies, baseball — and faint thunder from Europe

Marilyn Hagerty

It was 75 years ago when the Women’s Relief Corps of Grand Forks rose up to remember the “boys of 1861.”

The organizers had not forgotten the Civil War. And in April 1939, the women sold flowers so they could care for the graves of those who fought for the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic). They needed to raise $156.

It was a one-time deal, the Herald reported, to pay for perpetual care of their graves in Memorial Park Cemetery.

Also in April 75 years ago:

  • Some 350 children took part in the annual Easter egg hunt sponsored by the Grand Forks Park Board. James Ferry, 8, won a pair of live rabbits for finding the golden egg.
  • Contract bridge experts from 10 cities gathered in Grand Forks for the North Dakota Open Pair Contract Bridge Tournament at the Hotel Dacotah. Mrs. S.L. Lyons was head of the host club.
  • The sixth annual Grand Forks marble tournament was held at the YMCA, with Ken Gilmour the defending city champion. Winner of the tournament was William Hennessey, 13, a seventh grader at St. Mary’s School. Runner up for the second straight year was Darrell Voiss of Roosevelt School.
  • The Grand Forks Chiefs started playing baseball April 23 at the East Grand Forks park. Manager was Johnny Mostil. Bud Ruemmele, south paw pitcher, was a big star at the opening. And Leonard Egstrom of the YMCA said organization of the Knot Hole Gang was under way.
  • A warning about the danger of bicycles was issued by A.B. O’Connor, head of the highway department here. He had driven through Grand Forks at noon when children were going home from school. "Unless something is done to control the disregard for all traffic laws, there will be an accident one of these days,” he said. There were reports of bicyclists darting out in front of motor cars that were “powerless to stop.”
  • Construction at the Peace Garden seemed assured in April 1939. There was assurance a Civilian Conservation Corps company would arrive there by May 1. The Legislature had approved $7,000 for work on the project for the coming two years.


People living in Grand Forks in 1939 did their grocery shopping at small grocery stores sprinkled around the city.

Among the stores were four Tweet markets, and Zejdlik and Martin was in East Grand Forks. There was a Cottonwood Meat Market and a Heart & Lake Red and White food store.

Then there were the Werstlein Bros. Market, Carl’s Market, Hartz Stores, Harry’s, National Food, Red Owl, Bushaw’s and Dudgeon Market.

Some of the stores offered free delivery for customers who telephoned in with their orders.

Downtown in Grand Forks, Herberger’s store had new spring hats. And there was a formal opening of Ruth M. Lavoy’s fashion shop. Neva Mills store had handkerchiefs and costume jewelry.

Grand Forks Seed Co. was located at 205-07 S. Third Street 75 years ago. And nearby Havig’s was billed as “where real men bought hats.” Giese Hardware was going strong on the East side. There was the Luggage Shop and Mahowald’s downtown.

Back then, Shirley Temple was featured in “The Little Princess” at the Dakota Theatre. And the Herald’s front page was dominated by reports about Hitler and his moves to annex nearby countries. There was a U.S. neutrality deadline nearing. Col. Charles Lindbergh was called to the forefront to ensure world leadership of the U.S. Army in the development of war planes.

Meanwhile, Crown Prince Olaf and Princess Martha of Norway ate hotdogs and potato salad at Hyde Park.

And here in Grand Forks, you could find sliced pork liver for 10 cents a pound at the Red Owl. Prunes were featured at 4 cents a pound.