Monday, February 28, 2011

Girlie Shows

"Step right up!  See beautiful, exotic women..."
When researching this fascinating subject, I found reference to girlie shows at the Pembina County Fairs of the past, as well as an ad for one at the Kittson County Fair (see image below...)

In the early to mid 20th century - long before the advent of television and the Internet - freak shows and girlie shows were escape for residents of isolated rural areas.  It may have even provided a release valve for lonely souls as they struggled to make human connections.  Whatever they may have been - and whatever the public at large may have thought of them - they were a colorful and complex part of our area's entertainment past...
Recently the Minnesota Federation of Fairs passed a resolution urging member fairs to bar midway strip and girlie shows. Sparked by objections of some youth leaders who objected to a few shows which worked strong, the resolution is certain to serve as a brake on such shows. However, midway revues of objectionable nature will continue to play Minnesota annuals.
From:  Billboard Feb 5, 1949
Established fairs were beginning to dispense with girlie shows, concentrating on rides and games…at smaller fairs and vagabond carnivals in remote areas, however, dancers could get away with more provocative displays, and cooch shows continued with unabated vigor. Into the 1950’s, a few state fairs still offered shows that at least appeared to have lascivious themes.
From:  The American State Fair by By Derek Nelson
"Girl" and "Grind" shows advertised for Kittson County Fair
From:  Billboard, February 2, 1957 [Click to enlarge...]

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ferry was "Water-Powered"

From W.P Davies Newspaper Columns,
Chester Fritz Library Digital Collections

It's fascinating to read this article that includes information on the Red River ferry that once connected St. Vincent and Pembina.

The method Davies alludes to in the article, must have been a rudder (possibly used in conjunction with a tiller control)  that was pushed along by the current, and the ropes were just used to guide it in the desired direction, instead of using a more common pulley system...

Heading to the St. Vincent side of the Red River...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sibling Rivalry

From W.P. Davies Newspaper Columns,
 Chester Fritz Library Digital Collections.
I don't know if the story above is talking about this July 4th, or another one during the time period both towns had Independence Day celebrations.  But I was amused to find this recount of a 'friendly competition' between St. Vincent and Pembina in their youth.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Immigration Chaos

Settlers often had a very long and stressful journey;
things didn't always work out according to plan...
From a traveler's observation of an immigrant train arriving in St. Vincent comes this account...
It was a dull rainy evening when we bade farewell to Pembina, and were ferried across the shallow muddy river to St. Vincent. I suppose it is called the Red River because the water is of a whitey-brown color. At the railway station confusion reigned. A large party of immigrants had just arrived with through tickets by the steamboat line to Winnipeg. But owing to the lowness of the water, and an accident which occurred a few weeks before, there was no boat ready to go down the river. The party must go on by rail, and the officers of the branch line from St. Vincent to St. Boniface, opposite Winnipeg, refused to make any allowance for the steamboat tickets. Despair ruled in the crowded, murky car into which we were packed. Many of the poor immigrants could ill afford the additional cost. We had to pay $3.25 for riding over sixty-five miles of wretched track at the rate of ten miles an hour. The road-bed is so rough that when they run at higher speed, the engine bell is rung by the oscillation.

Long after midnight we were landed in the mud at St. Boniface. Here we fell into the hands of the custom-house Philistines. Never have I seen courtesy and intelligence so successfully concealed under the veil of rude stupidity...
From: Harper's Magazine (May 1880)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Profile: James Scobbie

St. Vincent EFC - formerly Valley Community Church, Green Store 
(circa 1960s)
A big part of growing up in my hometown area was your church.  My church began in St. Vincent, and eventually moved to Pembina. The church was literally at the end of the road from my house, due south, and across the side road from my grandparents' home.

Of the St. Vincent church, I have fragmented memories:  large hanging ceiling lights; the piano on one side of the platform and the organ on the other; a nursery room in the back of the sanctuary near the entrance; a basement kitchen and eating area with several curtained sections, used for both Sunday School and potluck dinners; high, exterior entry steps that were used as a dare to jump off of.  I remember other things - after everyone greeted the pastor on their way out, there was lots of visiting after the services between the adults.  I suspect that there wasn't always a chance to visit otherwise during the week, men and women being too busy working and taking care of families.  People took more time then to find out how you were doing, and what the latest news was.  Social events like church were the 'Facebook' of their time.  Often we kids got restless, wondering what on earth the adults could possibly be talking about that long, so we'd start playing games like hide 'n seek, or kick the can.  Games like this were particularly fun if it was an evening service and were played after dark.

Some of that changed when the church moved to Pembina in 1968 - but that's another story.  This story is about the first pastor I remember of my church:  James Scobbie.  I recently reconnected with Mrs. Scobbie, or Ena (short for Christina), and asked her if she would be so kind as to provide some memories of their time with us.  The other day, she wrote to share...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pembina Fire Department (1904)

In 1904, this was the Pembina Fire Department...

PEMBINA, pop. 929; fire area, 300 acres; mercantile bldgs., wood, 2 stories; private, wood, 2 and 3 stories; wooden roofs permitted; fireworks ordinance; fires investigated. Fire dept - 1 steamer, 50 c. ex., 1 aerial h. & 1 truck, 1 hose carriage, 1 hose wagon; hose, rubber, good 1,500 ft; fire alarm, bell; value of dept. equipment, $4,500; value of bldgs., $500; annual expenses, $750; total members, 20 - paid full time 1, volunteers 19; H. Miller, chief; underwriters' rating, third class.
Water Supply—Source, Red River; system, pump to reservoir.; capacity of reservoir, 60,000 gals.; works belong to city; J. M. Chisholm, mayor.

The Insurance year book: Fire and marine, Volume 32 (1904)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Old Pembina City Hall

Old City Hall in Pembina (1934) - Does anyone know when it was built?
[Source: SHSND's Digital Horizons]
Until recently when a reader of this blog alerted me to this image in an online collection, I had never seen a photo of the old Pembina city hall.  I definitely had never seen the building myself.  What happened to it? I found out that in 1935, a new city hall was built - the one I had been familiar with - and soon after that building was started, the old one burned down.

An earlier photograph (date unknown, but presumably around the WWI
time period) showing parade, with old Pembina city hall in background...
I notice one difference in the building in this earlier shot - no 'City Hall Pembina' sign on the bell tower.  It's possible there is no exterior staircase, also, but the soldiers in the parade prevent that determination.

Since this post is about city hall, let's review some of Pembina's past mayors:

Charles Cavileer - He was also (at various times), Pembina's postmaster, Collector of Customs, and a territorial librarian.
J.M. Chisholm - In 1897, Hamilton, ND is listed as his residence, but by 1904, he's in Pembina, and listed as Mayor.  However, later that same year, he is listed as deceased...
Albert J. Christopher - He was mayor of Pembina for over 38 years in 1968 when I found this quote of his:  "I was elected mayor in 1931 and I am now in my 38th year as mayor.  My present term expires in 1970.  I was 34 years old when first elected."  I have not yet confirmed it, but I think there is every reason to believe he holds the record for the longest-serving Mayor of Pembina!
A. Franklyn Barron - I am fairly confident that he was mayor right after Albert Christopher, according to this record found online - his length of office, however, is not known.
Hetty Walker - Wife of Charles Walker, and another long-time mayor, including during the 1997 Red River of the North flood...

Sunday, February 06, 2011

County Seat Battle II

Pembina County Courthouse, Pembina, ND
Although built in 1881 (as a sign reads near the roof line),
Pembina wasn't officially designated as the county seat
until 1897
 [Source:  State Historical Society of ND]

St. Vincent wasn't the only town to lose its standing as its county's 'seat' - Cavalier tried in 1894 to have the Pembina county seat moved from Pembina to Cavalier, putting it to a (failed) public vote.  But the fight was far from over.

Front Cover of Cavalier's booklet, published during 1910 debate
regarding having county seat changed from Pembina to their city

Source: State Archives of North Dakota  
Later, in 1910, the two towns launched a public debate issuing competing booklets espousing their arguments.  One of Cavalier's main points was that their city was more centrally-located.  After looking at their map below, it's hard to argue with that!

Let's take a closer look at Cavalier's arguments...

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Spot Revisited

Click to Enlarge
I came across these images on an eBay auction the other day, for an item of local ephemera.  I love the air of innocence yet double-entendre and innuendo of the back cover graphic, not to mention the bit of history giving the name of a past owner (Larry Lang, who was born in Kittson County) of one of Pembina's businesses!

According to a historical essay, Larry started his business in St. Vincent, but later moved it to Pembina - it was the genesis of the Spot1 bar!
Lawrence worked on the farm for a while then decided to have his own business and opened up a beer parlour in St. Vincent which is now in Pembina - "The Spot".

1 - Doc Harris built the building that we now know as part of the "Spot Bar" in 1905 (oral history from Chuck Walker...)