There were some times growing up in rural Sherburne County a few decades ago when it seemed like the rest of the world was a million miles away. We still had gravel roads, some of which eventually turned to, as the locals called it, tarvy. (My Lutheran minister father explained to me that the Latin word for road was "via", thus the word tarvy, meaning tar road.) I'm not sure the Norwegians in Santiago Township had researched that but "tarvy" it was.

One those hot summer days like the ones we've had for two weeks now in June of 2021, not a thing was moving. The favorite saying, one that has likely been passed down for generations, was that when you had nothing else to do when it was that hot, you could sit and watch the corn grow.

The only modes of transportation available for most of us kids in the '50s were a) feet and b) bicycles. If you wanted to get anywhere you could walk or run, or pedal a bicycle.

My bicycle was a  hand-me-down Schwinn that had its birth in Iowa a couple decades previously. It had balloon tires, a basket and a generator that had been attached above my front wheel so I could ride at night and be surprised by skunks or any other animal that ventured into my path. We also had 3M Scotchlite tape on our bikes and that was one of he neatest things in the world at that time.

You couldn't go very fast on those old bikes unless you were going downhill. And if you're familiar with most of the topography of Sherburne County, there aren't many real hills. 

Riding no-handed, however, did provide an interesting afternoon when it involved a steep decline. The bet with a friend was that I could ride the three miles from our house to the little town of Santiago (pronunciation guide needed - but that's another column) without having my hands on the handlebars.

The first couple miles of that ride weren't bad at all, although I had to go back and start over because I had to put my hands on the handlebars when there was a car coming one way and another going the other way. Tractors or pickups were what you usually met on country roads back in those days.

So I renegotiated those first two miles without any difficulty, knowing my toughest test was ahead. There was a sharp turn coming and the road turned downhill at the same time and went across a bridge over the St. Francis River that usually had some loose sand on it. I made the turn OK, started coasting down a hill toward the bridge and then hit some of that sand. The bike wavered and almost hit the side of the bridge but I managed to keep going 

There was a gradual hill on the other side of the bridge and now I had to pedal furiously to make it up that hill - with no hands on the handlebars - and I just barely made it. The road then curved again toward the tiny town of Santiago and on my side of the road it fell off toward the ditch and I almost went piling into that ditch. But I was able to keep pedaling and head toward my destination a few tenths of a mile away.

Then a tractor appeared ahead of me, pulling a hay mower, and a car approached from the other way. The guy on the tractor didn't know I was there (no mirrors on tractors back then) and I was about to give up my quest for riding about three miles no-handed when the car sped by on the other side of the road and left me room to pass the slow-moving tractor.

I rode triumphantly into the village of Santiago, went to the hardware store to buy a Daredevil that no doubt ended up becoming part of a sunken log in the St. Francis River after luring a few northerns to it, and headed home.

Upon arriving I informed my sisters, who were selling Kool-Aid at a roadside stand for 3 cents a cup out in the middle of nowhere (almost no traffic) what I had done. They were not impressed. In fact, they were having a hard time keeping from drinking their product which was warm because it was one of those 90-degree July days. Ice cubes didn't have a very long life on a day like that in Sherburne County, the cattails rustling in the ditch as you sped by on your bicycle.

Many trips to the river in search of northerns were made on that bike, or to the houses of friends. That same balloon-tired bike even made the 15-mile trip to Princeton on occasion so I could play Legion baseball. Of course, if you were going across the 640-acre section, you walked or ran. I ran if I was alone, walked if two or three three sisters were tagging along, perhaps if we were on our way in the winter to skate on a frozen slough located on a neighbor's property.

I was in the employ of the U.S. government at Fort Riley, Kans., when our family had to move to a smaller house and I imagine that bike is in bicycle heaven now after likely ending up in a junk heap somewhere. Its life began on gravel roads surrounding an Iowa farm in the 1930s, continued in a small town in southern Minnesota as I delivered the Minneapolis papers, and then met is demise in rural Sherburne County after covering hundreds of miles on dusty roads and those new-fangled roads covered with tar.

It's probably getting back at me in the 21st century for riding it incessantly by telling stories about me to the others in bicycle heaven. That's probably only fair.

How I miss those days.

PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES

June 28, 1951 - Princeton beat Crown 7-5 in town team baseball at Princeton in a game that was completed in an hour and 50 minutes. Kapsner pitched into the seventh inning but Hoeft got the win in relief.

June 28, 1956 - Frank Fischer was in charge of the summer baseball program but Howard Solheim substituted for him while Fischer was training at Camp Ripley.

 June 30, 1961 - The City Slickers beat The Farmers 15-5 on a 13-hitter by Howard Solheim in a softball game at the Flower Festival. Marty Dalchow was the pitcher for the rural team. Police officer "Nip" Nord injured his knee trying to steal third base and was hauled away in an ambulance, although it turned out he wasn't hurt seriously.

June 23, 1966 - Santiago (7-0) beat Princeton 7-0 in town team baseball on a two-hitter by Luther Dorr who walked 2 and struck out 12.

June 30, 1971 - Little Falls won the second annual Princeton Legion baseball tournament by beating Edina 3-2. Princeton lost 3-2 to Cold Spring in the third-place game . . . Dan Carlson was first and Phil Lingle second in the junior golf tournament at Rum River Golf Club.

June 30, 1976 - Dave Mingo struck out 20 but the town team lost 2-1 to Rush City in 11 innings. The team also rallied to beat Pine City 7-6 in the bottom of the ninth inning on Doug Patnode's two-run single. Dan Kne struck out 13 in seven innings but reliever Pete Steinhagen got the win.

June 24, 1981 - Les Nelson became the first PHS baseball player to play in the state all-star series sponsored by the Lions. He also beat St. Francis in Legion baseball, 12-3, and drove in four runs. Then his grand-slam homer ended a 13-2 win over Mora.

June 26, 1986 - After Princeton beat East Grand Forks and Grand Rapids, Mike Sternquist got the victory in a 5-4 game with Bemidji to win the Grand Rapids Legion baseball tournament as Jason Miller reached base nine times in 13 plate appearances.

June 27, 1991 - PHS grad Paul Sather played with a Willmar basketball team that won the Star of the North Games. He scored 32 points in four games . . . Paul Lepler, who began at PHS but them played junior hockey in Rochester, was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens 

June 27, 1996 - Steve Sanborn and Scott Leistman won the President's Tournament at Princeton Golf Club . . . Rick Cotter of Princeton qualified for the state amateur golf tournament in qualifying competition at Princeton. He had also qualified the previous year.

 June 21, 2001 - All-conference in softball were Genna Carlson, Shannon Miller and Christina Tanner . . . The Legion baseball team opened its season with a 6-1 win over Milaca, Luke Bakken pitching a 2-hitter and Jonathan Schoen hitting a 2-run homer,and then beat Cambridge 11-1 behind Brent Julson, Adam Edmison hitting a 2-run homer and driving in four runs . . . The Princeton Panthers saw their nine-game winning stark end but rebounded with a 13-1 win over Forest Lake as Joe Nelson struck out 10 in the nine innings and Jesse Zimmer and Brian Dorr each drove in four runs. The loss came to HInckley as Jason Miller's 22-game winning streak ended in a 6-3 loss, although he gave up only three earned runs

June 22, 2006 - The Legion baseball team opened the season with wins over Chisago Lakes (10-4), Sandstone (19-10), North Branch (9-3) and Cambridge (7-3) as Scott Roehl got two wins and Mitch Larsen and Josh Ludwig got the other two. Ludwig had eight hits in the four games and Kris Macko and Jordan Neubauer each had six. . . The Princeton Panthers had two games postponed but beat Braham 5-0 in its only game of the week as Eric Deglman pitched a 5-hitter. Jesse Donner and Ryan Carling each had three hits, Carling driving in three runs.

June 23, 2011 - Becca Hass was all-conference in softball . . . The Princeton Legion team (3-3) lost 6-5 to West St. Paul in the 42nd annual Princeton tournament, lost 3-1 to Elk River, and then beat Rogers 14-4 in five innings. (There were few details in the coverage, as well as no mention of the tournament champion.)

June 23, 2016 - The Legion baseball team split a doubleheader with St. Francis, winning 5-2 and losing 4-3 on two unearned runs in the final inning. Tanner Kinney got the win in the first game and Joe Bernard's three-run homer broke a 2-2 tie. The team also beat Mora 16-7, breaking a 6-6 tie in the third inning with eight runs. Damon Rademacher got the win and Lucas Voce and Jake Oakes each had three hits.

(Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has written about sports in the area for the past 54 years.)

Princeton Memory Lane

(Note: Memory Lane will be published once every month with items from that month's editions of the Princeton Union and Princeton Union-Eagle of 25, 50, 75, 100 and 125 years ago.

June, 1996 —This year will be one of the few times that the Rum River Festival won't include the Miss Princeton Pageant. The pageant fell through this year because there were not enough candidates. The scholarship prize was to be $500 for the queen and $250 each for the two princesses.

Rev. Marvin Blaske retired after 39 years at Zion Lutheran Church located northwest of Princeton. He also served for a number of years at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Milaca. The pastor before Blaske at Zion Lutheran, Arthur Strauch, served 41 years.

Veteran teachers Conrad Belfiori (35 years) and Shirley and Mike Skavnak (37 years each) retired from the Princeton school district,

Headline: Department of Revenue makes secret sales-tax deal with band. The story said that the Department of Revenue, without notifying Gov. Arne Carlson, entered into an agreement with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

Park Alignment ended its time as a full-service gas station, leaving only the Cenex station for full service in Princeton.

Members of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe were to meet this week to discuss with Mille Lacs County the possibility of evening the playing field when it comes to the payment of government services.

Casey Ramirez, the 46-year-old former Princeton resident convicted in 1984 of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine, as well as tax evasion, is in federal prison in Rochester, Minn., and has paid only $1,810 of the $50,000 fine that was imposed as part of his sentence.

Ninety-five-year-old Hazel Benson of Princeton will be competing in the Minnesota State Senior Spelling Bee on Aug. 21 and 22 in Hibbing after placing second in the sixth annual East Central Regional Spelling Bee in Mora on June 17.

The Princeton School Board approved three new staff positions. Included are a full-time dean, a full-time service assistant to monitor in-school suspensions, and a full-time parking attendant.

June, 1971 — Mrs. Lucille Oliver was recently honored for 30 years of teaching in the Princeton public school system. She was honored at a luncheon by the Princeton Education Association during finals week.

The Minnesota Commerce Commission denied a bank charter sought by Dennis Remus of Minneapolis, Gerald Stay of Zimmerman, and Loren Trunk and Robert Hobert of Princeton. Reason given was a failure to prove public demand, and proper management.

Teachers in the Princeton school district received a 6.4% salary increase for the 1971-72 school year. Starting salary for a first-year teacher with a BA degree went from $7,025 to $7,225.

Entries were being accepted for the second annual Paddle-Rama canoe race event in July. Entrants were to start on the Rum River in Princeton and paddle the 43-mile stretch to Cambridge over two days.

Princeton's second annual American Legion Invitational baseball tournament will begin Thursday, June 24, and continue through Sunday, June 27, with eight teams. (Editor's note: The tournament is still running, missing out last year during COVID-19, but now in its 51st year as the longest-running Legion baseball tournament in Minnesota.)

A Princeton man has won the third-place prize in a weekly fishing contest held by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Kenneth Johnson, Rt. 3, placed third with his 23 lb. 3 oz. northern caught near Crane Lake in the contest's third week, a contest reputed to be one of the largest in the world.

Princeton Speedway will sponsor a demolition derby Sunday, July 4, at 8 p.m. at the track. All proceeds after expenses will go to the Princeton Community Hospital Ambulance Fund.

Princeton honored one of its longtime baseball enthusiasts prior to the Princeton Legion tournament Friday. Tex McDonald received a plaque from the local Legion post that expressed appreciation for his baseball dedication and support. From 1929 through 1967 Tex devoted many hours of his time, money and energies in umpiring baseball in Princeton, all without pay.

June, 1946 — Princeton's first shipment of air freight arrived last Sunday when Donald Opsahl brought to Vincent Orton an airgun, which the latter wishes to use in his shop, remaking automobile parts. Donald Westling, who is learning to fly a plane, came up with Donald Opsahl in a 1946 Aeronca.

Advertisement: Legionnaires need furniture for new club room. Chairs, tables, couches, rugs or any other furnishings will be appreciated. Piano and mahogany table already donated. Boys cannot buy new furniture now. Give them a lift. They did more than that for you from 1941-1945,

Martin Teigen of Greenbush Township recently attended a reunion of the men who played football at the University of Minnesota 50 years ago in 1896. He played tackle on the team and the following year he was a halfback.

Recognizing the wives of World War II veterans, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 216 of Princeton elected Mrs. G. Diedrich president, Mrs. Milo Swanke first vice president and Mrs. Vernon Webb second vice president. The unit voted to donate $100 to the community hospital fund.

Neither County Attorney John Nyquist nor Sheriff Hans Dahl seem greatly agitated at the sensational charges brought by Rev. Henry Soltau in regard to the operation of gambling and slot machines in the county. Members of the Princeton village council also are taking the situation with a great equanimity of spirit.

Diplomas will be presented to 114 boys and girls from the rural schools of Mille Lacs county at the eighth grade graduation exercises which will be held at the Milaca high school. Dr. J. O. Christianson, superintendent of the State School of Agriculture, will deliver the address on the topic "Our Part in These Times."

The Rum River is up almost to the high-water mark of last spring. In the past week it has risen about five feet. The athletic park is flooded. The effect of the heavy rain in the Mille Lacs lake region last night has not yet been felt in Princeton, so the river may go still higher.

Mrs. Ella Kringlund reports a record attendance of 325 4-H club members, parents and local leaders at the camp at Big Lake June 17-19. At least 200 club members were registered and every club in the county was represented. (Editor's note: Kringlund was the longtime leader of 4-H clubs in Sherburne County.)

rJune, 1921 — Ray Robideau had a narrow escape from drowning while bathing in the river below Umbehocker's ice house on Saturday. There were several bathing there at that time and Ray, who cannot swim, had seen some of the others dive off a bank into a deep hole, and followed suit. He was eventually pulled out by Jet Chapman, and none too soon. 

In the ballgame between Princeton and Lindstrom at the latter place Sunday, Bob Berg, one of the best men on the team, was struck by the ball and put out of commission. He received a heavy smash on the right side of his head on the temple, which cause temporary blindness and rendered him speechless, and for a time his right side was paralyzed.

A regular meeting of the Princeton Commercial Club was held Tuesday evening at the armory. The question of assisting the Princeton band was brought up and fully discussed. It was the consensus of opinion that the proposition could best be handled through the school board.

The torridity for the past two weeks has been terrific, the mercury flirting with the 100 notch daily, and the weather man gives no promise of relief.

A couple of cars were racing out in Greenbush on Sunday, with a result that one of them, a flivver, turned turtle and was demolished. No one sustained any serious injury. (Editor's note: In that era the word flivver was used to denote a cheap car, or one in bad condition.)

Arrangements for a big celebration on Independence Day have been perfected by the local American Legion post.

Last Thursday afternoon operators and directors of cooperative creameries came together in this section to discuss means and methods of bringing these institutions up to the highest point of production in turning out a grade of butter that would demand higher prices in eastern markets. Ten creamery operators were in attendance and  23 members of boards of this district.

June, 1896 — Several hundred bushels of potatoes were left out in the wet Saturday night due to a lack of cars for shipping.

Mr. and Mrs. Alfonso Howard are now among the proudest of Princeton's citizens, for their daughter, Mildred, has been declared the winner in the college beauty contest at Hamline university.

Ed Claggett was thrown from a buggy last Friday while driving to Cambridge. Besides being badly shaken up, he dislocated the thumb of his right hand.

There is one bridge that should be built at once and that is the one needed at Page crossing. Every team going to the lake must cross the river here and at certain times it is almost impassable, owing to high water, running logs, and ice.

Farmers having straw should remember the excellent use made of it on the sand roads last fall. Keep putting it on all through the year and your roads will soon be greatly improved.

Sanford Dodge and W.I. Nolan, two talented young dramatic readers, will give an entertainment at the opera house this evening. The first named gentleman reads from Shakespeare and other classic authors, while the latter renders the humorous part of the program.

Miss Frankie A. Spaulding of the Northwestern Conservatory of Music, and some of her pupils, assisted by Miss Irma Whitemore, piano, and E. D. Claggett, violin, will give a concert at Jesmer's opera house tomorrow evening at 8 o'clock.

Cries of "help" and "murder" aroused the citizens living in the central part of town last Saturday night about 11:00. When the disturbed citizens arrived on the scene they found two very intoxicated and very frightened individuals. One thought the other was trying to hold him up and was ready to defend with a razor, and the other read murder in his companion's eye. They were both taken to Hotel de Claggett (Editor's note: the local jail) and answered to their names in the justice court Monday morning.

 

 

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