Remembering the bustling Walcott of days past
“For old lifelong Walcott residents like me, it is striking to think about the huge changes that have gradually taken place in Walcott and many other small towns like it over the past century or so since pioneer days.”
So writes Arnold Jordheim, a lifelong resident of Walcott, N.D., and who at one time was its postmaster and city auditor.
For you who now or once lived in a small town, some of what he writes probably will resonate with you.
“Considering our proximity to Fargo,” Arnold writes, “Walcott has evolved into a mostly bedroom community. Now only a bar and grill and post office are retained as retail services.
“We do have a cabinet shop and a machine tool calibration business, and the elevator remains, however owned privately by large farmers for their personal use. And our Lutheran church, established in 1889, remains, but our school is gone.
“But once upon a time there were many businesses, such as a hotel, two cafes, two taverns, two general stores with groceries, meat market and butcher shop, cream station, locker plant, harness shop, funeral parlor, bowling alley, lumber yard, newspaper office, millinery shop, barber shop, drug store, hardware store, auto repair, auto body repair, machinery dealer, bulk oil service, service station, blacksmith shop, three public grain elevators, theater, depot with passenger and freight service and dray service, opera house and the school, including high school.
“There was even a ‘stockyards,’ where prior to the West Fargo stockyards opening in about 1935, farmers could load their cattle, pigs and sheep onto rail cattle cars to be shipped to the St. Paul market.
“Most needed services were provided locally.
“There was a town band, local Sons of Norway lodge, roller skating and dances where local musicians played music young and old could dance to.
“Everyone knew their neighbors in those days.
“There were many social events in the opera house and in the large hall located above the main general store.How things were
“But now, with Walcott being only an easy 25-minute drive on I-29 to Fargo,” Arnold writes, “this has totally altered the town, and even though the population is greater than ever with many new houses, it is a place the ‘old-timers’ wouldn’t recognize.
“I have many memories of how it used to be,” he says, “and well remember talking to old-timers who pre-date me about how things were in former times.
“In many ways, things were better, the pace was slower, with time to visit with one’s neighbors and appreciate the simple pleasures.
“But alas, change cannot be stopped and we must accept it.
“But the memories remain.
Walcott comes up again in a note from Merle Hough, Detroit Lakes, Minn., because he’d seen an item in this column about the tornado which struck Walcott on July 5, 1955.
“I was 14 years old and living with my mom and dad on a farm near Lake Franklin west of Vergas, Minn., then,” he writes.
“On July 6, we visited the George Olson family east of Barnesville, Minn. Then they said they’d ride with us when we went to Walcott to see the destruction.
“It was a very sad sight,” he says: “dead chickens, dead animals, broken machinery, straw driven into fence posts, etc.”