MARILYN HAGERTY: Alexander Griggs, Fido Purpur will visit classrooms, meetings in Grand Forks

Don't worry about him. It's all right if Gary Malm, chairman of the Grand Forks County Commissioners, goes around acting as though he is Capt. Alexander Griggs, the father of Grand Forks.

Don't worry about him. It's all right if Gary Malm, chairman of the Grand Forks County Commissioners, goes around acting as though he is Capt. Alexander Griggs, the father of Grand Forks.

And don't be concerned if you see Kirk Smith, a retired district judge, taking on the role of Judge Ronald Davies.

Malm and Smith are among a dozen local people who have agreed to pose as those who were part of the history of Grand Forks city and county. They will be introduced at the annual Ice Cream Social at the grounds of the Historical Society in July. And they will volunteer to tell their stories in classrooms, meetings and other events.

Joanne Yearwood has agreed to portray Ebony magazine editor Era Bell Thompson. And Bonnie Cameron, who has become known as the city storyteller, will take on the role of M. Beatrice Johnstone, a longtime Grand Forks County Superintendent of Schools.

Mike Meyer will be showing up around Grand Forks as Cliff "Fido" Purpur, who was instrumental in getting hockey started in this city. Robert Kulack is checking out the facts so he can represent Elroy Schroeder, a longtime superintendent of schools in Grand Forks.


Tony Meyer will turn into baseball player Roger Maris. And Dan Rice will become Webster Merrifield, president of UND from 1891 to 1909. Roger Melvold will portray UND President John C. West. And Don Fisk will play the role of Robert B. Griffith, an early businessman.

Sonya Hathaway is turning into Mathilda Engstad, wife of the early physician, J.E. Engstad. June Randall will discuss Indian culture as an American Indian shawl dancer.

The cast of storytellers was put together by Don Lemon, president of the board of the Grand Forks County Historical Society. He doesn't take 'no' for an answer. After a grant proposal was turned down, he set out to raise the money needed for costumes for the historical crew.

He doesn't mind asking businesses and individuals around town to help out. "After all," he says, "our Mayor (Mike) Brown wants Grand Forks to be a destination city. And I think this is one way we can make it that way."

Lemon is a retired Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor Emeritus of educational leadership at UND. He came to Grand Forks from the University of Kansas in 1968. Although he and his wife, Ann, have traveled from time to time, he enjoys being at home in Grand Forks. This is where he wants to be, he says, because this is where his friends are. He spends countless hours working for the Historical Society.

At the recent meeting of the board, he talked of the events to come this year. He looks ahead to the appearance of the U.S. Army Band on June 26 and the ice cream social July 10. School House Days are set for Aug. 8-15. History Rocks will draw old-time car lovers to the grounds of the Myra Museum on Aug. 28.

Lemon visualizes a September harvest festival, and he looks ahead to the Legends of Terror that has drawn people to the Myra Museum and grounds on Halloween the past few years. He would like to recognize veterans Nov. 11. He will seek out board members and friends to come out and help decorate the grounds in November.

He points to the outreach of the Historical Society with Director Leah Byzewski and Marsha Gunderson, board secretary, currently holding classes in genealogy at the Grand Forks Library. They also are offering help for visitors who want to use computers now available at the Myra Museum.


The Grand Forks Historical Society looks to memberships to help pay the bills. And there is help from the Craft Guild that meets faithfully Tuesdays and comes up with funds from its annual December craft sale.

The museum itself has come alive with activities and with changes in displays. This summer, there will be an exhibit of law enforcement in Grand Forks County. And before long, there will be an opening of the Lustron House on the museum grounds that will tell the story of life in the 1950s.

Reach Hagerty at or (701) 772-1055.

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