Rugby Christmas 100 years ago
Living on these vast plains makes my mind wander constantly. The question that tends to baffle me the most: How the heck did people get through these winters without modern electricity and heat?
Ask a true North Dakotan and you’ll usually get a response about tough Norwegians or Germans – or in Rick Srur’s case, the tough Lebanese. This week, Christmas and warmer temperatures eased my fixation on the cold. I looked down Main Avenue and wondered what Dec. 25 was like 100 years ago in Rugby. Some nasty wind chill – I don’t find it very advantageous to keep looking at the numbers – prevented me from dwelling too long. I went down to the morgue of our 1947 newspaper building, which is a replacement of the original newspaper structure of the same location.
I flipped to the Thursday, Dec. 25, 1913, issue – a four-page edition from publisher and editor John N. Page. Interesting highlights follow.
In national news from Washington, D.C., the U.S. Senate had passed a currency bill (Federal Reserve Act) two days earlier. It created a “place to quickly convert (bank) assets into cash and to bring out federal currency when it is needed and retire it when money is ‘cheap.’ “
Mrs. Opshal (no first name printed) of Willow City narrowly escaped death in an article titled: “Weather Saves Woman’s Life: Aged Lady Fractured Hip and Crawls to Barn Where She Remained Some Time.” She had slipped near a barn and her son found her at 4 a.m. in unseasonably warm weather.
That same weather allowed the town boys and country boys of Esmond to face off in a mid-December game of baseball, according to an excerpt from the Esmond Bee. “Many brilliant plays were made by both teams to the delight of the spectators. The mild weather permitted fast playing and the boys appeared in midseason form.” The town boys got the “long end of the score.”
In state news, poet James W. Foley made a well-received presentation at the state penitentiary. Some prisoners even read their own poems to Mr. Foley.
The Sons of Norway had announcements about their lecture course and a New Year’s Ball in Odin Hall.
A 37-year-old Rugby woman, Mrs. John Anderson, died five days earlier of apparent appendicitis, leaving behind seven children.
“Any Road Boosters in Rugby” was another front-page headline. A letter from the National Highway Association regional office in Des Moines, Iowa, was preceded by a short intro from the Tribune. It read in part: “The names of many prominent men appear on the letterhead and it has the ear-marks of being something worthwhile.”
John C. Romine, 46, of Rugby had been missing since Dec. 4. The 5-foot-8, 164-pound man had brown, slightly gray hair and blue eyes. ‘J.C.R.’ was tattooed on his right arm. Apparently, even back then people tattooed their name to themselves. In case they got lost and forgot who they were?
A short item simply titled “Two Drunks,” told of two offenders sentenced to street cleaning in Rugby. One was old, while the other was a “young man who should be in better business.”
Last, but not least, was a short on a drunkard, who slipped the city jail. “The old booze scout was rather smooth and managed to slide the bar off by poking it with his fingers from inside, while alone in the building.”
Ah, the old booze scout. Troubled, but crafty nonetheless on Christmas week in the geographical center of North America.
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