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Pathways Through Our Past

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Pathways Through Our Past
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Jack Swenson challenged me to find out about the entertainment that the people who lived in and around early Blackduck had available for them. I thought very few roads and poor ones at that, very little money to spend and for many, transportation was by foot or by horse drawn cart or wagon. After a hard days work, who felt like going anywhere? Boy was I wrong. They had more than you can shake a stick at.

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As early as 1911, the young town of Blackduck had a place called TeepeeTonka Opera House. It had shows such as Ten Nights in a Bar Room, a play endorsed by the clergy world wide. Now with a name like that you wouldn't expect someone of the cloth wanting people to see such a play and to pay 25¢ for the privilege was unheard of but the people went -- maybe just to satisfy their curiosity. The TeepeeTonka was also a place to dance and have a supper.

I wonder how many towns had a Bijou Theatre. There were vaudeville acts and hypnotists and for 20¢ or 30¢, you got to see some really famous people. Fourth of July brought out many who had never seen a caravan of rare animals such as lions and elephants.

By 1914, there was a City Opera House and a Blackduck Opera House. Admission went up to 50¢ per seat. Minstrel Shows, farmers basket dinners, Red Cross benefit dances and a wood drive where loads were brought into town and residents purchased the wood and the money went to help the Red Cross.

On the other side of the coin and not so entertaining were the heatless days in the village. To conserve the wood used to heat the businesses across the state, every Monday for eight weeks the only businesses to be open were banks and post offices. Grocery stores could be open until noon but could not sell candy or tobacco.

When Blackduck held its community fair, prizes were awarded for some very different things. Besides the normal ones like the biggest potatoes, a prize was given to biggest load of people. The load that came the longest distance, the largest family, oldest couple and latest married couple.

Other forms of entertainment for residents in the 1930s were boxing and wrestling matches. In 1935, Blackduck had one of it's own dance bands. They called themselves Tiny's Toe Teasers. I recognized a name familiar to all of us and that was Herbert Lein playing the trumpet.

Talent shows became popular and dances were sponsored by various clubs. The town had many clubs we no longer hear of. Dances were held at the Civilian Conservation Corps camps around the area.

In 1943, another orchestra was heard from. That was the Cliff Bauer Orchestra. Notice how some talents are passed down in the families?

A tradition passed down since the 1940s was a free show for the kids and a visit with Santa Claus himself. In 1948, Blackduck hosted the second largest circus in the world at Blackduck's show grounds on Highway 72 North. Is there anyone out there who can tell me just where the show grounds were? Back to pre-war prices, children 42¢ and adults paid 75¢.

Ping pong along with chess and checkers tournaments were held during winter months but the summers were for community picnics. Blackduck had it's own fair, with a midway of rides and games of chance.

Blackduck held its own Appreciation Day. In the early 1950s where businesses closed and there was the free bean feed, contests such as how many seeds in the watermelon or weight of a bag of sand. etc.

If anyone has some special memories of entertainment they wish to share, let me know.

On Nov. 14 the Blackduck History and Art Center invites everyone to come and view some very beautiful jewelry that has been passed down through several generations. While there, sign up for a $25 gift certificate to be used in the Ye Old Shoppe.

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Pioneer staff reports
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