MARILYN HAGERTY: In 1938, Santa came to Grand Forks and stayed

Santa arrived in Grand Forks early 75 years ago. The Herald said he was landing in an undisclosed spot and would ride into Grand Forks down DeMers Avenue by sleigh.

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.

Santa arrived in Grand Forks early 75 years ago. The Herald said he was landing in an undisclosed spot and would ride into Grand Forks down DeMers Avenue by sleigh.

He allegedly sent a radiogram to the Herald saying, "Well, well, well! Here I am, flying through clouds with only the moon to light the way -- 250 miles per hour and 5,000 feet in the air."

There were no Black Friday deals in those days. So, the merchants of Grand Forks in 1938 were making sure Santa would stay around for two weeks. And they spread the word that he would like to see little friends from miles away.

Then, as now, the Santa Claus Girls were gathering at the Herald to pack gifts for children who might otherwise go without.

A Yuletide concert in Central High School ushered in the holidays in 1938. H.J. Humpstone directed the chorus and orchestra along with John Howard.


The Bjarne Norwegian Men's Chorus that had been organized here in 1883 also was part of the Christmas season.

Churches of Greater Grand Forks observed Christmas in 1938 with pageants, musicales, children's programs and parties. There was a "Service Beautiful" pageant at First Presbyterian Church. Shepherds were Floyd Rathman, C.C. Carpenter and Oscar Nygaard. Alice Carter, as Mary, sang a Christmas lullaby. John Howard directed the music. Mrs. L.C. Harrington was at the organ. And Rev. James Robertson gave the sermon.

An octet was featured at the Methodist-Episcopal Church. And the annual Julefest was arranged by Gyda Varden lodge of the Sons of Norway.

On the business front 75 years ago, Norby's department store became the successor to Odell's -- an early general store here. Art Tweet acquired his fourth grocery establishment.

While the holidays were jolly in Grand Forks, the Herald told of troubles that marred the season around the world. There were conflicts in the Holy Land and in Spain.

Among the top stories in 1938 were:

• The treatment of Jewish people in Germany and elsewhere, which was causing worldwide repercussions.

• Douglas Corrigan gained world admiration in a sensational "wrong way" flight to Ireland from New York in a "crate." He had filed a flight plan to fly to California.


• Orson Welles broadcast an invasion from Mars and it created hysteria among millions.

There was turmoil here over the State Mill and Elevator in Grand Forks as 1938 drew to a close. Gov.-elect John Moses was replacing William Langer. It was reported that payoffs and ousters affected 123 at the mill.

The appointment of Owen T. Owen as the new mill manager was described as a house cleaning that would be in the interest of economy and efficiency.

Sugar beet slicing was finished at the East Grand Forks factory of American Crystal Sugar. More than 200,000 tons were reported sliced at the East Side factory with the balance of the Red River Valley crop going to a Chaska, Minn., plant.

Contracting practically was finished for the 1939 crop. The quota for the Red River Valley was reported in excess of 26,000 acres.

In other year-end news, a total of 70 homes were built here 75 years ago. And a total of $325,932 was spent on building and remodeling programs.

In its year-end review, the Herald reported that although Grand Forks entertained several dignitaries in 1938, the most thrilling likely was the unexpected visit from Clark Gable, motion picture actor. He was thronged by admirers when he stopped here after a Canadian hunting trip.

As the year 1938 bowed out, Larry Roberts and his 12 Collegians were playing at the States Ballroom on New Year's Eve. Ladies paid 50 cents to get in, and it was $1 for gentlemen.


Ira Scott and his band were playing Saturday, and Olaf Roisum was providing the music for dancing at the Eagles Ballroom. There was a dance at the Dacotah Hotel on New Year's Eve featuring Don Hiestad's three-piece band. And the New Year's dinner at the Ryan Hotel and Cafe was advertised as 50 cents to 90 cents.

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