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MARILYN HAGERTY: The naked truth: Red River skinny-dipping, 1913

"Those who wish to swim in the Red River must wear bathing suits in the future or be prosecuted for violating the Grand Forks city ordinance which makes it a misdemeanor to bathe in the river within city limits without proper suits," the Herald r...

Marilyn Hagerty
Longtime Herald columnist Marilyn Hagerty and her review of Olive Garden going viral is the Herald's 2012 story of the year. Grand Forks Herald photo by John Stennes.

"Those who wish to swim in the Red River must wear bathing suits in the future or be prosecuted for violating the Grand Forks city ordinance which makes it a misdemeanor to bathe in the river within city limits without proper suits," the Herald reported in August 1913.

Also during that month 100 years ago, a warning went out from Chief of Police J.W. Lowe. He would put a stop to swimming in the river without suits, he said.

Many complaints had been made to the police. And they pointed out the law applied only within the city limits and in the parks.

•In other news from the Red River of a century ago, a party of six arrived by canoe in Grand Forks after covering more than 200 miles in three canoes. They carried two tents and cooking utensils with them. They would stop by farms along the way to buy what they needed. Their trip took a week.

Sometimes, the Herald reported, men had to enter the water and push the boats. There was some difficulty getting the boats through at Climax, Minn. Near Nielsville, Minn., the party found the only place where the Red River flowed directly north with no bends or turns for more than two miles.


Upon arriving in Grand Forks, the boaters went to the Dacotah Hotel and had a dinner party.

Over the years, the Red River has claimed the lives of many. One hundred years ago, there was a news report that "the slow moving, sleepy Red River -- so shallow in places that one can fjord it and so narrowed to its confines by drought" claimed the life of Ardell Swiggum, 9.

When swimming with friends, little Ardell was caught in a deep hole about one mile south of Lincoln Park -- near the rear of the Jensen Dairy Farm. He had gone with a group of boys to hunt plums along the river, then waded out to his armpits and suddenly slipped off into deep water.

On Aug. 1, 1913, about 200 members and teachers of the Sunday Schools of First Baptist Church held their 31st annual picnic in Riverside Park. Each class ate together, some bringing basket lunches and others roasting hot dogs over a bonfire.

"A number of boys spent a pleasant half hour in the swimming pond," the Herald reported.

Races of many kinds were held. Superintendent R.B. Griffith of the Sunday School was in charge. He furnished ice cream, lemonade and cake.

After that picnic, all roads led to Lincoln Park the next day for the big annual jollification and outing of the Commercial Travelers of the state.

Those were different times. A Mrs. Westrom of 813 Cherry Street arose early on Aug. 1, 1913, and found an empty clothesline when she went out to check clothes she had hung out the night before.


"Supposition is that some hangers on after the circus or state fair paid the premises a visit during the night," the Herald reported.

These also were the days when sale of butter imitations without warning was prohibited. A Herald headline declared, "Oleomargarine Law Effective."

In other news 100 years ago:

•UND President and Mrs. F.L. McVey and their three children -- Virginia, Janet and Frank -- left for Bemidji to spend the rest of the summer at their cottage. McVey planned to make occasional trips back to Grand Forks to attend important business.

Also going to Bemidji were Dr. and Mrs. O.G. Libby and family.

•The temperature of 97 degrees on Aug. 2, 1913, was the hottest August day on record here.

•"Half a Chance," the three-reel Reliance motion picture showing at the Metropolitan theater, was called one of the strongest picture dramas ever. It related a story of a prize fighter wrongfully accused as murderer of a woman.

•A.G. Sorlie was elected new alderman from the seventh ward. His election was approved by Alderman James Dinnie. The mayor was M.F. Murphy.


•Harvest laborers were in demand in the area, and it was reported that some refused to work at the rate of $1.50 a day.

Local nimrods were out in the fields looking around by Aug. 15 in 1913. Hunters were reporting more prairie chickens and other game birds. The first day of the season was to be Sept. 7.

Hunting rules were announced early. The spring hunting permits were prohibited, and $10 would be paid to informers when a person was convicted.

Open season on prairie chicken, grouse, woodcock, snipe or golden plover would run from Sept. 7 to Dec. 15. Wild duck and crane and wild geese could be hunted in the same period. Crows, blackbirds, English sparrows, sharp-shinned hawks and great horned owls could be killed in all seasons.

Deer were protected until Nov. 10, 1913, and only males could be killed after that time. Antelope, beaver and otter were protected to Jan. 1. Quail, partridge, pheasants, turtle doves, swan and all song birds and insect-eating birds were permanently protected. Mink and muskrat were protected from April 15 to Nov. 15.

And it was noted that hunting dogs were not permitted to run loose in the fields from April 1 to Aug. 15, inclusive.

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