Volume 123, Number 50
50 years ago Benson County had thriving business climate
BY RICHARD PETERSON
What was happening in Benson County 50 years ago? One can find out by viewing the January 3 and January 10, 1957 issues of the Benson County Farmers Press.
The first issue of the New Year reported that Leeds Postmaster J.B. Kinneberg was unable to continue as March of Dimes chairman for Benson County because he had been injured in an auto accident and was recuperating at home. Former Benson County Sheriff Walter "Red" Crane of Leeds took over for him. Benson County co-chairman was H.J. Hugelen of Maddock. Mrs. Edward Foss of Maddock headed the March of Dimes women’s activities and the township campaign. Alice Thompson of Minnewaukan was in charge of the drive in rural, consolidated and township schools. In addition to the schools in towns, most townships had grade schools.
Among the more interesting items in the January 1957 newspapers were the advertisements. Benson County had many, many more businesses than it does today. That isn’t too suprising because there were about 25% more people in the county in 1957. The 1960 population was pegged at 9,435 and the 2000 population was counted as 6,964.
Ed Peterson & Son of Minnewaukan (Benson County Implement – Oliver dealership) listed Gillette Super Power Bar tractor tires for sale.
The most expensive rear tires were 15-34 4-ply tires at $163.14 each.
The most expensive front tires were 7:50-18 6-ply tires for $29.22 each. Few farmers buy tires that small these days.
Banks at Leeds, Minnewaukan, Maddock and Sheyenne advertised 3% interest on 12-month certificates of deposit.
Larson Implements at Leeds (Bud and Cammy Larson) advertised Farmhand loaders. Dick Carter of Leeds (call HO6-2514) advertised Cadmium auto batteries 6v or 12v for $39.95. Howard Olson of Olson Drug at Minnewaukan and Maddock announced all prescriptions will be filled from the Maddock store. Hi-Way Inn at Minnewaukan advertised Sunday dinner. Gerald (Dubie) Peterson ran the gas pumps and Dimo Aabrekke was boss of the kitchen.
Advertisers from Devils Lake included Devils Lake Glass & Paint (E.A. "Al" Thompson), Killalea Implement (Ed Killalea’s John Deere dealership), Toomey-Sorvick Funeral Chapel and Goodman Electric.
The Oberon Lumber Yard reopened under the ownership of William E. Sullivan and Laurits Nielsen.
Esmond was a viable business town at that time. Bengson Implement (IHC) ran an ad, along with Streifel’s Fairway, which had a half-page ad telling of its dry goods department. Among advertised items were ladies’ dresses for $5.55, $4.44 and $3.33, men’s parkas for $14.99 and girls’ pajamas for $2.33.
The Lyric Theater at Rugby, the Roxy Theater at Maddock and the Leeds Theater advertised movies. By this time movies at the Memorial Hall in Minnewaukan were apparently a thing of the past. Home Supply advertised RCA Victor TV sets (261 sq. in.) for $189. Black and white, of course.
The Minnewaukan Red Owl Agency, operated by Milson and Grace Ball, advertised coffee 2 lbs. for $1.89 and 3 lbs. of perch fillets for $1.
The January 10 issue of the Farmers Press revealed that Minnewaukan was probably going to get a new post office next year. The old post office was located in a wooden building just west of the Butterwick-Hiaasen building on Main Street. The Legion Park is located there now.
It was reported on the front page that Dot Mahany made coffee one morning at her little cafe in Minnewaukan and when she tried a cup, the coffee tasted like it had been run through rags. Then she remembered that she had placed the previous day’s receipts in a bag and hid the bag in the empty coffee pot. She had forgotten to remove it before making coffee that morning. Farmers Press editor Les Strand found the incident highly amusing.
It was reported that 150 men and boys from Leeds, Maddock, Brinsmade, Esmond, Baker, Fillmore, York, Isabel and Harlow took part in a rabbit drive organized by Victor Jacobson and Arnold Lunde of the Fish Lake Wildlife Club of Harlow. Ninety rabbits and two fox were taken. Proceeds of $71 went to the Crippled Children’s School at Jamestown. Other organizers were Quentin Maristuen and Bud Fogelson of the Leeds Rod & Gun Club, Gordon Smith and Milton Erickson of the Maddock Wildlife Club and Don Seibert and Richard Salisbury of the West Bay Wildlife Club of Minnewaukan.
A lengthy story on the front page told of rodeo rider Duane Howard of Minnewaukan starting his fifth season as a professional rodeo contestant. The story said he had earned $20,000 in winnings in 1956, a small fortune at the time. Nothing was said, however, about his expenses.
Melvin Christianson was sworn in as the new state’s attorney. Former state’s attorney M.C. Hiaasen returned to his former quarters above the Plummer Store. Today the Plummer Store is the home of the Nelson Funeral Home.
Olger Hanson of Oberon was seated as a member of the Benson County Commission. Ernest Toso of Esmond was re-elected chairman.
Two large new car ads appeared in the January 10 issue. It’s been many years since the Farmers Press ran a new car ad from the manufacturer. This probably isn’t surprising because there are no new car dealers in Benson County. Liechty’s at Leeds (Paul Liechty) advertised the new Ford station wagon and Jacob Wolf Implement of Esmond advertised the new Chrysler. In the 1950’s Jake sold lots and lots of new Chryslers and John Deeres. Times were good.
Among advertisers from Leeds were the Farmers State Bank of Leeds (Arne Gregor), Johnson Funeral Home (Alfred and Carlyle); Great Plains Supply (Forrest Ankenbauer, mgr.); Petsinger’s (Harold "Pete" Petsinger), which advertised ladies’ dresses for $8.98; and Larson Implements, which ran its Farmhand ad again. There were few advertisements from Maddock because at that time Maddock had its own newspaper, the Maddock Standard.
Advertisers from Devils Lake included Lake Supply (Alvin E. Swan, IHC dealer); Glickson’s Store for Men advertised T-shirts two for a dollar, 12 handkerchiefs for $1 and sport shirts for $3.99; Toomey-Sorvick Funeral Chapel; Killalea Implement; and Goodman Electric (Ed Byrnes).
Standard Oil ran a large company ad promoting its gasoline.
Theaters at Leeds, Maddock and Rugby ran ads promoting movies they were running.
Other advertisers included the Farmers Union Elevator of Harlow and from Minnewaukan, the Hi-Way Inn, Benson County Implement, Farmers State Bank of Minnewaukan (V.A. and Mason Helberg), Home Supply and the Red Owl Agency, which advertised half a gallon of ice cream for 79c and 16 rolls of toilet tissue for $1.
Curtis Hvinden of Maddock, left, chairman of the Benson County Board of Commissioners, presents a plaque to Benson County Deputy Sheriff Jeff Bercier who returned to his home town of Rugby to take a law enforcement position there. Bercier was a Benson County deputy for 12 years under former Sheriff Ned J. Mitzel.