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RED RIVER ROAD TRIP: Heading to the future but missing those good ol’ days in Park River, ND

PARK RIVER, N.D. -- As expanding businesses and plans for a multi-million dollar sports complex edge on the horizon of the town's future, snippets of a different time still remain prevalent around the area.

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Park River resident Dale Stark stands in front of the 50's Drive-In themed mural painted on the wall of the barn in his yard. Stark restored and showed classic cars, mainly those that were popular in his youth, for decades. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald

PARK RIVER, N.D. - As expanding businesses and plans for a multi-million dollar sports complex edge on the horizon of the town’s future, snippets of a different time still remain prevalent around the area.

Six murals that have been painted on buildings by local artist Jonathan Fjeld are scattered across town, depicting scenes of the town’s history and memories of things now only recognizable by older generations.

One of the largest murals, painted on the side of a repurposed potato warehouse, captures the moment drivers stopped for a bite to eat at a drive-in café along U.S. Route 66 in the 1950s.

“It was the best time to grow up,” said Dale Stark, a longtime resident who conceived the idea to have the mural painted on his building. “The cars were cheap, gas was cheap and food was cheap.”

At 50 feet wide and 30 feet tall, the mural was the first of subsequent murals to pop up around town when it was created nearly 14 years ago.


“People want stuff like this because it reminds them of how good times were,” Stark said.

A few blocks down the road from Stark’s mural, a series of four large murals illustrating historical scenes of downtown Park River and surrounding countryside dominates the side of a building in the heart of the town.


‘Live in the past’

As if straight out of one of the murals, an old-time barber shop complete with a swirling lamp post can be found just around the corner and down the street.

George’s Barbershop, which has been in business for nearly 50 years, is one of only three barber shops left in Walsh County, according to George Moen, owner of the grooming shop.

“I was hanging around the barber shop a lot as a kid,” he said. “All of a sudden you think you might try it.”

During his time in business, Moen said the job has been fairly consistent, with trends always changing but hairstyles staying the same.


Throughout the years, he has collected more than 75 barbershop products, such as bottles and razors, to commemorate how the industry has changed.

“You kind of want to live in the past,” he said. “I’m always looking for barbershop bottles.”


A big collection

Next door to Moen’s shop, Arnie Braaten is always on the lookout to add to his collection, but not for barbershop products.

In his 81 years, Braaten built up quite the collection of fishing gear - so big of a collection he couldn’t bring it with him when he and his wife moved to the Good Samaritan Society earlier this year.

So instead of throwing the 152 rods and reels among other trinkets out, Braaten decided to buy a small shop downtown and open the Fishhook Tackle Shop at the end of March.

“I really love it,” he said. “I like the kids - they’ve got a million questions - and then the old guys come in and tell their stories.”


Fishing has been a hobby of Braaten’s his entire life and he said he wants to see more kids today get active in the activity and less involved in video games.

“It’s all about the kids,” he said. “There are a lot of little boys who don’t have a dad or can’t afford to do this - I want to take care of them.”

Although most of the merchandise for sale comes from Braaten’s tackle collection, he said there have been people in the community who donate items on occasion.

“I don’t care if I make money,” he said. “I’ll keep finding stuff to stock this place and stay open for as long as I can.”


About Park River

  • Park River, N.D., was founded in 1884.
  • The population was 1,403 in 2010.
  • Located in the center of Walsh County, Park River is about a 57-mile drive from Grand Forks.
  • Fred Hultstrand, a well-known professional photographer who documented facets of life in North Dakota, opened his studio in Park River in the early 20th century. In 1962, the U.S. Department of Treasury used one of his photographs for a stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Homestead Act.
  • In the middle of its city park, Park River houses one of the last Woman’s Christian Temperance Union fountains.

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