By Richard Peterson
What was going on in Benson County 50 years ago? In checking the copies of the Farmers Press at the courthouse, among front page articles were several about whist and pinochle tournaments. These were the days when television was only beginning to become a major part of our lives. But not everybody had a television set and reception left something to be desired. The tried and true entertainment of 1955 was that which people did themselves, rather than vegetate in front of a television set.
One article told of a 40-man whist team from Minnewaukan which descended on the bars in Esmond. The Minnewaukan team, captained by Tony Pfeifer, won handily. Rochus Vetter was the captain of the Esmond team.
Card playing has pretty much gone by the wayside. In the 1960’s and 1970’s you could walk into almost any bar in the county and there’d be at least one game of cards going. The card players didn’t consume much alcohol, but the town drunks made up for them. Today we don’t have card games and few town drunks, if any. All the town drunks that were created by prohibition have gone on to their reward.
Card playing in bars started to wane in the 1980’s and by the 1990’s games were few and far between. Today a card game in a bar is rare, indeed.
Basketball was big stuff in 1955 and it still is. It’s probably the major spectator entertainment for North Dakotans in the wintertime.
Back in 1955 there was another spectator sport that provided great entertainment. Wrestling.
A group of wrestlers made Esmond their headquarters the winter of 1955. It was probably because Marvin Bergsrud, a professional wrestler, lived there.
He wrestled under the name of Dutch Hart. He was also a horse enthusiast and the Esmond city cop. In 1968 he and his family moved to Devils Lake where he was a city policeman, star route mail hauler and later an insurance agent. He also owned some race horses. He died in 1981 at the age of 55.
Marvin was a soft-spoken, non-flamboyant individual. Just the opposite was the star wrestler, who trained in Esmond that winter. His name was The Great Karpozilos and he was supposedly a champion wrestler back in Greece.
He could put on a real show. I was in high school at Esmond at the time and I remember the wrestlers training regularly. One day Karpozilos came to the hall where basketball was being practiced. He invited the biggest and strongest among them to throw the basketball at him. They did. Hard!
Karpozilos met the ball with his head and butted it back to them. One time the basketball hit the backboard of the basket with such force I thought either the basket or the backboard would shatter. It made quite a noise.
He also was a singer and sang several songs before his wrestling matches.
He also sang in the bars and entertained the locals with his antics.
There were other wrestlers there as well, females, too. I don’t remember their names, except that I seem to remember that Esmond native Annette
(Gefroh) Fordyce was training with them at the time. She would’ve been a senior that year. She later did become a professional wrestler and now lives in Yakima, Wash.
The big match was held in the hall in Esmond on Feb. 4, followed by a match in Maddock Feb. 8. Leeds had to wait until March 2 for its turn. The Leeds Fire Department sponsored that event. The wrestlers also performed in other towns more distant and returned to Esmond as their home base that winter.
Admission was 50c for those under 12 and $1 for others. All three matches drew huge crowds. At the Esmond match, which I attended, Marvin was cheered mightily and his opponents were booed loudly. I don’t think Karpozilos wrestled against Marvin. Both were "good guys," and naturally, they won, much to the delight of the crowd.
From the Internet:
A group of senior citizens were sitting around the pool talking about all their ailments:
"My arms have gotten so weak I can hardly lift this cup of coffee," said one.
"Yes, I know," said another. "My cataracts are so bad I can’t even see my coffee."
"I couldn’t even mark an ‘X’ at election time, my hands are so crippled,"
volunteered a third.
"What? Speak up, I can’t hear you," said a fourth.
"I can’t turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck," said a fifth, to which several nodded weakly in agreement.
"My blood pressure pills make me so dizzy I can hardly walk," exclaimed another.
"I forget where I am and where I’m going," said an elderly gent.
"I guess that’s the price we pay for getting old," winced an old man as he slowly shook his head. The others nodded in agreement.
"Well, count your blessings," said one woman cheerfully. "Thank God we can all still drive."