Many fans of Fargo have written Neighbors over the years. Today, here’s another one.
Maureen (Crowley) Kerce, who has lived in Lake City, Fla., her husband’s hometown, since 1973, writes she’s wanted for some time to explain why Fargo is her “beloved hometown.” “You’ve had two columns that have added fuel to this for me,” she writes. “Vicki (Johnson) Gunness wrote you about her fun childhood times at Fargo’s Mickelson Field, and Nancy (Willson) Langness wrote about her ‘60s teen experiences in downtown Fargo. Both seem to capture the same affection I have for the experience of having grown up in Fargo in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
“Vicki said it best: ‘Fargo in the ‘50s and ‘60s covered children with a blanket of safety in a way that kids these days will not know.’ This sense of ‘safety’ is why my childhood memories make Fargo beloved to me.
“I walked alone all over downtown Fargo from the time I was in perhaps second grade until the time I graduated from Fargo Central High in 1965.
“I spent my grade school years in the 1100 block of North Fourth Street and my teenage years in the 700 block on the same street. In fact, our house was where Scandia House now stands.
“Why did I start so early? My mother arranged for me to take swimming lessons (free, compliments of the Fargo Park Board?) at the old Island Park pool (the only public pool in Fargo at the time), but she did not have access to a car at this point, so she told me I would have to walk to the pool, which must have been a distance of at least 1½ miles from my 1101 Fourth St. N. home.
“I didn’t mind, though, because walking through downtown Fargo was an adventure to me. The only precaution my mom insisted I take was to stay away from Front Street, which is now Main Avenue. I guess back in pre-urban renewal days it was considered Fargo’s skid row neighborhood. I didn’t disobey Mom about avoiding it because she convinced me that it was a scary place for children.
“Nancy mentioned going to the Fargo Theatre for movies,” Maureen writes. “I’m sure she remembers that it wasn’t the only theater in town at the time. I remember attending movies there as well as at the Isis (down from the Fargo Theatre and which burned down some time in the late ‘50s), the Roxy, also on Broadway, the Grand on First Avenue across from Daveau Music Store (where I liked to shop for sheet music), and the Towne Theater on NP Avenue. There was also the Princess Theater on Front Street, but of course it was off limits to me.
“Most of the theaters charged a most reasonable fee of 24 cents; the Towne was the exception with a charge of 35 cents, which still wasn’t bad.
“We didn’t get a television at our house until I was around 8 or 9 years old, so I went to quite a few movies as a child.
“Who remembers the free movies the theaters treated us kids to once a month or so on Saturday mornings? They usually played Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers movies as well as ‘Ma and Pa Kettle’ with lots and lots of cartoons!
“Some other downtown activities I participated in were something that the American Legion and the VFW recruited Fargo’s elementary students to do: selling buddy poppies, shamrocks and forget-me-nots, which were all lapel or button-hole doodads we’d peddle for a donation in downtown Fargo and which, I guess, served as fundraisers for these clubs. They would make a contest out of it, offering prizes to the kids who sold the most.
“I was not aggressive enough to qualify for a prize, and also I was timid, but I enjoyed having to come out of my shell enough to ask people to buy, and most of the time they were willing.
“In addition to selling/soliciting, who can forget the fun of shopping in downtown Fargo, particularly during the Christmas holidays when Broadway was lit up with its magical Christmas lights emitting a special sparkle when it snowed?”
Blanket of safety
“I not only knew downtown Broadway well, but also North Fourth Street, because my home church was Pontoppidan Lutheran, on the corner of Fourth Street and Third Avenue North. I walked to my church’s junior choir practice at night starting in the fifth grade, a distance of at least a half mile from my 1101 home.
“I can add to this list of activities: trick-or-treating on Halloween night, selling Camp Fire Girls candy and soliciting donations for multiple sclerosis research, all done throughout my north Fargo neighborhood.
“What am I trying to say?” Maureen asks.
“Fargo was kind to me and did not take advantage of a vulnerable little kid. I truly experienced that ‘blanket of safety’ Vicki spoke of… and Fargo’s generosity, too: free movies and free swimming lessons.
“Yes,” she concludes, “I’m glad I grew up in Fargo, N.D.!”
Times have changed
Last summer, Maureen read about the murder of a man at the former site of Sahr’s service station, which was directly across the street from Heritage House, where her mother spent the last eight years of her life.
“She didn’t want to live anywhere else,” Maureen says.
“If she were alive (she died in 2014), she would be distraught,” she writes, about the crime so near her former residence.
“As I wrote (and is recorded above), violent activity just didn’t happen on Fourth Street when I grew up there. If it had, I’m sure my parents would not have allowed the free-range activities they did for me and my siblings. Alas, how times have changed!”
Anyhow, Maureen writes, “I expect your readers will correct me if I’m wrong about any of this, and I welcome that.”
If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.