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Do you remember the 'Big Slipper' slide that delighted Moorhead residents in the 1960s?

The big slide right in the middle of town might have been just what locals needed in 1968.

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Riders enjoy the "Big Slipper" in the middle of a Moorhead parking lot in the summer of 1968. The ride cost just a dime and was a welcome distraction in a summer of turmoil.
WDAY Film / State Historical Society of North Dakota Archives
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MOORHEAD — When someone mentions 1968, mostly likely what first comes to mind is the turmoil — the social and political upheaval, the raging war in Vietnam and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

Certainly people in Fargo-Moorhead were paying attention to all of it — the triumphs and the tragedies. But sometimes, they just needed to have a little fun. That’s where something called the "Big Slipper" came in.

The Big Slipper was a popular, albeit stomach-dropping way people got their kicks in ‘68. And it all happened right in the middle of a shopping mall parking lot.

The Big Slipper was a 35-foot-tall slide in the Holiday Mall parking lot at what is now the southwest corner of 10th Street and 24th Avenue South (close to Planet Fitness). According to Clay County archivist Mark Peihl, the slide was constructed at a cost of $43,700 by two local businessmen.

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Moorhead Mayor Ray Stordahl and Barbara Cooper of Moorhead try out the Big Slipper. She had just been named "Miss Big Slipper."
Contributed / The Valley Times

“Fargo insurance agency manager Vincent Crary saw a slide on a trip out West. On his return he told beverage wholesaler Jim Beaton, ‘We've got to get one of these things here,’” Peihl says.

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In a really fun old WDAY news report (provided by the State Historical Society of North Dakota) from the summer of 1968, right after the slide was built, anchorman Marv Bossart interviews Beaton and takes a trip down the slide himself. You might also recognize longtime weatherman Dewey Bergquist hamming it up for the camera — reading a newspaper on one trip down the Big Slipper.

One ride cost just 10 cents, or you could get three rides for a quarter. If you really wanted to go nuts (or your mom just wanted to get you out of the house for a while), you could ride the slide 15 times for just $1.

The ride lasted an awesome seven seconds as thrill-seekers would sit on burlap sacks or sailcloths for the 153-foot ride over dips, drops and the occasional bump on the butt at ride’s end.

Peihl says Beaton’s son, Mike Beaton, worked at the Big Slipper. His job was to wax the slide.

“He and other kids would place waxed paper under the burlap bags and take a few runs. For extra speed, they’d apply a coating of Dance Wax, powered wax designed to smooth dance floors. Dance wax made the ride very fast — too fast at times, with riders careening off the end of the run,” Peihl says.

The Moorhead tabloid The Valley Times (formerly the Red River Scene) covered the Big Slipper’s grand opening in August 1968. A Moorhead teenager named Barbara Cooper was honored with the title “Miss Big Slipper” by Moorhead Mayor Ray Stordahl.

(Does anyone know Barbara Cooper? No doubt it was the thrill of her young life and we now need to find out what her life was like as Slipper royalty and how she adjusted once she gave up the title. Or perhaps, she never did. Perhaps she still reigns. We need to talk, Barbara. Call me.)

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Moorhead Mayor Ray Stordahl crowns 18-year-old Barbara Cooper, of Moorhead, "Miss Big Slipper."
The Valley Times

As popular as the slide was, according to Peihl, it only remained at the Holiday Mall for two summers.

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“The mall next door had an oil-fired heating system. As the temperature cooled, the furnace put out an oily exhaust. It became difficult to keep the slide clean,” he says.

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The view as you descended the Big Slipper in the Holiday Mall parking lot.
Contributed / State Historical Society of North Dakota archives

According to Peihl, the slide was eventually sold to Bud’s Amusement Center in Moorhead and later to “Kiddie Land” in Detroit Lakes, Minn., but Kiddie Land closed in 1996. The Big Slipper remained up until the property was sold to a condominium developer. Peihl says the new owner presumably scrapped the Big Slipper.

Of course, big slides like this are still around if you want to relive the thrill of the Big Slipper. You can find them at state fairs and larger amusement parks.

But the days of a big slide right in the middle of Moorhead are gone — perhaps too soon. Or perhaps, given that it was here in those two wild and tumultuous years, it was here when it needed to be, providing a welcome and wild distraction for anyone willing to take the plunge.

Do you remember going down the Big Slipper? If so, email me your stories at tracy.briggs@forumcomm.com for use in a possible follow-up story.

Trac
Tracy Briggs (right) and a friend throwing imaginary hats in the air in front of the Mary Tyler Moore statue in downtown Minneapolis.
Tracy Briggs

Tracy Briggs is an Emmy-nominated News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 35 years of experience, in broadcast, print and digital journalism.
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