Giggle, tee-hee, chuckle, laugh, guffaw

Advertisement for the 1935 Donkey Baseball Game Fundraiser. Deer River News ~ Aug. 8, 1935.

When it is -20, as it was earlier in the week, I think a good belly laugh is one way to keep warm. None of the stories in this collection occurred in the middle of winter, but they are all worthy of a chuckle or two.


Naked and Not Alone

I wish the names of the young men in this story shared by the Bigfork Settler in July 1906 were mentioned. But since I don’t, I can pretend it might be my great grandfather or some of his friends.

“Last Tuesday afternoon two young men of this burg, took a pleasure trip up the river, taking with them a lunch and everything that was necessary to make the trip what it was designed to be. After paddling up the stream several miles, stopping occasionally in some desirable spot in the shade of the lofty pines to rest themselves, they at last landed at a nice clear spring on the bank of the river.

Here they kindled a fire and had their supper, then to add to the pleasure of the trip they decided to take a swim before returning home, so accordingly they proceeded to undress, one of them being in more of a hurry than the other was soon stripped and rushed for the tempting water but at this moment a boat came into sight carrying a lady and gentleman who proved to be Joe Ray and his wife who were after water from the spring that the pleasure seekers had discovered.

This was when all pleasures were turned into punishment for the gentleman who left his clothes and rushed for the woods to be tortured by the mosquitoes that swarmed about him in clouds and covered his body with bites that caused him to think of all the loved ones he never expected to see in this world again, while his friend stood at the smudge having a pleasant chat with Mr. Ray and his wife. The water pails were finally filled, and the visitors departed much to the relief of the mosquito picked gentleman who is still alive.”

A Nest of Snakes

In 1904 the Coolen and Phillips families moved from Wright County, Minnesota to homestead in the Big Fork Valley. Three years later, Lenore, age 13 and Myrtle May, age 15 traveled to Bigfork to take their eighth-grade exams. Neither realized they would be battling more than math equations and essay questions.

“The Misses Lenore Coolen and May Phillips of Effie, who are taking State examinations at this place, experienced considerable excitement Wednesday. While strolling through the pine grove near town, never letting any care enter their minds, they suddenly became horrified to find themselves surrounded by a mass of hissing snakes. Hardly realizing what they were doing the young ladies armed themselves with substantial sticks which they used in a very effective manner, swinging their weapons vigorously in the air and letting them drop with well-aimed blows upon the heads of the fiery eyed reptiles. When about exhausted from the excitement and exertion, the young heroines left the field of battle, but not until they left behind them fourteen dead and many fatally wounded enemies.” Bigfork Settler 5-30-1907


Sweets for the Sweet

Apparently, Joseph and Mary Collard, who owned and operated a billiard room on First Street in Deer River were concerned that their cute little son, JoJo was consuming too many sweets as they placed this notice in the March 26th issue of the Itasca News: “Storekeepers will confer a favor on his parents by refusing to give or sell candy or sweets to Jojo Collard, aged 3. Signed J. Collard”

Demands Payment for Torn Stocking

George Ruby was the village Marshal of Deer River for a number of years and certainly saw his share of disrespecting lawbreakers. Mr. Harold Earle Stinchfield, a drug salesman from Minneapolis was one he certainly remembered for many years.

“A fellow giving the name of H.E. Stinchfield and address of 417 So. Cedar Lake Road, Minneapolis, gave a fine demonstration of what a tourist should not do, in a local dining room last Sunday.

A meal had been served him, and the woman with him. When the meal was finished, he went to the counter and told the waitress that the woman, while eating, had torn her stocking on a loose nail in the chair upon which she was sat. He asked what the hotel management was going to do about it.

The manager was out of town, and the waitress told him she was unable to do anything, but that if he would leave his name and address, the incident would be reported, and the manager would write to him. Thereupon the fellow refused to pay for the two meals served, amounting to $1, claiming the stockings cost $1.95 and asking that the balance be sent to him.

Later Marshal Ruby intercepted the tourist and requested him to settle for his meal. He reluctantly did so, but not until after a lot of violent mouthings that could be heard a half a block. He called the marshal a liar and included in the same category two bystanders and the waitress. It was the most disgusting exhibition seen here in years. Next time you have a hole in your sock, try and get a free meal!” 7-25-1929 Deer River News

The New-Fangled Telephone

Although telephones had been installed in many businesses for a few years, some people still had a bit of trouble getting the hang of the contraptions that hung on the wall. In October 1931 the Deer River News shared this funny tidbit.

“A businessman of the village held the receiver to his ear and waited for central to plug in. Then he cranked some more and listened again. No reply being forthcoming he cranked rather vigorously and waited again for ‘Number please.’ Silence! Once more he cranked fast and long. Again, no sweet voice answered. Slamming up the receiver, he grabbed his hat and vowed and fumed he’d go over and tell that central girl plenty. ‘Better not,’ said one standing near. ‘All this time you’ve been cranking that lead pencil sharpener instead of the phone.’”

Nature vs. Human

Donkey Baseball

Beginning in the 1930s donkey baseball and basketball games were staged as a fundraiser. In 1935, the event was sponsored by the Deer River American Legion. Although frowned upon now, as the donkeys are sometimes made to participate in ways that are unkind, the fundraising event was a success the few times it was held in Deer River.

“An event which proved to be popular here about two years ago, will again be a feature of next Thursday evening’s entertainment, in the series of weekly recreation sponsored by the local Junior Association of Commerce.

Next week the Association presents a contest in Donkey Baseball played under floodlights with the more optimistic residents of Deer River composing the teams. One team will be chosen from the village and the other from the rural community.

The game is played for one hour. No one ever strikes out or gets a base on balls, blazes away until he hits it. Then his worries start. All transportation between bases is via donkey. The batter starts for first base when the donkey does, which isn’t always.

C.A. Smith of Oxford, Nebr., owner of the donkeys and the equipment, brings his own lighting and loud-speaking equipment. The game is a riot of fun and will likely draw a large attendance.” 8-15-1940 Deer River News

The Stork Won

This was the headline of a story in the Deer River News on August 22, 1940. Although the birth announcement didn’t say, the baby born to Wayne and Lila was Barbara Ann Tuomi.

“Last Tuesday evening, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Tuomi of Squaw Lake suddenly realized that they were about to celebrate another blessed event. In George Kananen’s car, they started for the hospital, but the stork beat them in the race and when they reached Cut Foot Sioux a baby was born to them. Turning the car around, Mr. Tuomi drove back home, made mother and child at ease and drove to a neighbor to secure someone to care for them. At last reports, both were doing well, and Mr. Tuomi is also expected to recover!”

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED: The last few Reminisce columns have focused mostly on men because they were the ones who were featured in the old newspapers. I would like to tell the stories of local women and hope that you will share some information about interesting female ancestors. Please call or email. If you can give me a story, I can do the research! Thanks 218-244-2127 or


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