Lind: Memories of growing up during the Depression in North Dakota

In today's "Neighbors" column, a reader recalls those tough times, and another reader remembers a local radio show.

Bob Lind
Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist. The Forum

A “Neighbors” column earlier this year about growing up during the Depression in the 1930s caught the attention of Lola (Murray) Patnoude, Breckenridge, Minn.

“My parents were married in 1931,” Lola writes “Neighbors.” “They farmed near Penn, N.D., during those difficult years.

“I was born in 1934,” she says. “I was the oldest of four; my brothers were born in 1936, 1939 and 1943.

“I remember most of the items from the 1930s mentioned in the column; I’m sure most people who were born during that decade are familiar with them, too.”

Among things the previous column mentioned from those years were woodburning stoves, wringer washing machines, listening to the radio, treadle sewing machines, women sewing clothes for family members, and certainly, little income.


Lola also notes her family didn’t have electricity until the Rural Electrification Administration provided it in the late 1940s.

And there you have more memories of the “Dirty Thirties,” thanks to Lola.

1950s talent show

“Does anyone remember when WDAY’s Ken Kennedy and the Phillips 66 Talent Parade used to visit various towns?”

That question comes from Lorraine Holmstrom, Fargo.

“In 1951-1952, they were in Lisbon, N.D.,” Lorraine writes “Neighbors,” “and my brother Lee (Elmer) Mahrer, who was an Irish tenor, was the winner, singing ‘Danny Boy.’

“So, as a winner, he was invited to sing each morning the following week on WDAY Radio. He was accompanied by Pat Kelly and Frank Scott.

“Lee passed away about five years ago in Gilbert, Ariz., where he and his wife, Char, were residing.

“Also, I recall the dances in the Armory in Lisbon in the ‘40s, with big bands playing. My parents, Henry and Marie Mahrer, won a waltz contest one time.


“In the ‘50s, it was Bernie Ostrom and the Minnesota Woodchoppers band that played in all the small towns in the area. They drew big crowds and provided really great dances.

“I grew up in Lisbon,” Lorraine writes, “and married Bill Holmstrom from Gwinner, N.D. We were married for 48½ years before he passed away in 2010.

“I moved to Fargo about three years ago.”

So, do any of you remember the Talent Parade show Lorraine mentions?

Fargo theaters

Now, let’s shift over to old Fargo movie theaters, and a column earlier this year in which a woman said that when as a kid living in another area, her family would visit Fargo, where her parents would let her and her sister see a movie “in one of the two small theaters on Broadway.”

In response, Rodney Nelson, Fargo, writes that “She must have meant the Isis and the Roxy.”

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

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