Of course the photo of three North Dakota State football coaches that gained attention recently on a popular Twitter account was taken by Colburn Hvidston III.

Honestly, I'm embarrassed that obvious fact didn't dawn on me earlier.

Colburn, or C3 as he was known in The Forum newsroom, took photographs for newspapers for more than 40 years, including the 34 years he spent as photo chief at this newspaper. And in those 40 years, he took thousands of photographs of North Dakota State football games, practices, banquets, celebrations, media days and everything else the Bison did.

So of course he took the photograph of Bison coaches Ross Hjelseth, Pat Simmers and Steve Armstrong that the Twitter account "Super 70s Sports" used July 7. The account is an irreverent, humorous, sometimes vulgar look back at sports and pop culture in the 1970s and '80s. It's run by Chicago-area sports fan Ricky Cobb.

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The photo online was captioned, "I believe it was actually illegal to be an assistant high school or college football coach in the 70s or 80s unless you looked exactly like these guys. Just sign the (expletive) pledge, Pink." The last sentence was a reference to the movie "Dazed and Confused." The Twitter posting has received 210 retweets, 1,934 likes and a whole lot of replies from middle-aged men with memories of coaches who looked exactly like the three Bison in their tight polo shirts with wide collars, tighter coaches shorts and white socks almost up to their knees.

It was a mystery who took the photograph, though. Cobb said he found it online using one of the weird search methods he employs to find obscure 1970s photos.

Mystery solved as of Tuesday, July 18.

Hvidston, who retired from The Forum in 2004, displayed the photograph at an exhibit he's holding at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.

He took it.

Well, duh.

The description of the photo Hvidston provided reads: "It was in August of 1979. Don Morton had just come on as Bison football coach and was officiating Press Day activity as his assistant coaches and NDSU's athletic director Ade Sponberg looked on. The group's body language caught Hvidston's eye and he recorded this image of Ross Hjelseth, running backs coach, Pat Simmers, offensive line coach, Steve Armstrong, defensive line coach and Athletic Director Ade Sponberg."

What's obvious when viewing Hvidston's original and the image used on Twitter is that "Super 70s Sports" used a cropped photo, one that was cut off and excluded Sponberg.

Which is unfortunate because the Bison AD looks glorious with his wide-collared dress shirt unbuttoned down to mid-chest and what appears to be a sweet polyester sport coat and slacks. Sponberg's outfit screams 1970s.

North Dakota State University football coaches attend Bison Press Day on Aug. 22, 1979, Fargo. Colburn Hvidston III / The Forum
North Dakota State University football coaches attend Bison Press Day on Aug. 22, 1979, Fargo. Colburn Hvidston III / The Forum

While the photo of the Bison coaches might be Hvidston's most-viewed work on the internet — "Super 70s Sports" has about 274,000 followers — it can't match the important and historic work he did during his years at The Forum and elsewhere. The award-winning Hvidston chronicled history in North Dakota and western Minnesota for decades.

He shot photographs of presidential visits, floods, murder scenes, blizzards, court cases, crashes and every other major news event in the Red River Valley and beyond — for more than 40 years. He also shot sporting events, county fairs and rock concerts. He went overseas with Forum reporters.

Hvidston's most-famous photograph came on Dec. 5, 1987, when he captured an image of Moorhead boy Alvaro Garza being pulled from the Red River after being submerged for more than 20 minutes. Garza lived in what was widely deemed a miracle. The photo was published worldwide.

Shortly before dusk on Dec. 5, 1987, Colburn Hvidston III recorded the image that has probably been published more than any other he has taken: Alvaro Garza being pulled from the icy Red River after being submerged for more than 20 minutes. Garza is alive today. Colburn Hvidston II / The Forum
Shortly before dusk on Dec. 5, 1987, Colburn Hvidston III recorded the image that has probably been published more than any other he has taken: Alvaro Garza being pulled from the icy Red River after being submerged for more than 20 minutes. Garza is alive today. Colburn Hvidston II / The Forum

One of his favorite photographs came in 1999, when Hvidston captured a strutting and preening Keith Richards hamming for his camera (at least that's what Hvidston's wife believed) during a Rolling Stones concert at the Fargodome.

In a story about Hvidston's retirement written for the July 28, 2004, edition of The Forum, reporter Bob Lind wrote that the photographer's biggest challenge was, in Colburn's words, "Making images that evoke a response."

Lind continued:

Those responses have come, and come often, sometimes years after one of his photographs was published.

He once used a telephoto lens to capture a shot of a young couple embracing by the Red River in Fargo-Moorhead.

"Twenty-five years later, I got this old yellow clipping from the woman," he says. "They’d gotten married, and this picture brought back fond memories for them. For that to arrive out of the blue, that was fun."

Judging by the reaction to Hvidston's photo of the Bison coaches that appeared on Twitter, his images are still evoking responses 40 years after he took them.

Of course.