Many of us remember the dawn of the 1960s and Christmas holiday shopping in downtown Fergus Falls.

At the northwest section of the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Mill Street was Skogmo Café, a favorite dining establishment for people of all ages. Right across the street, at the southwest corner, was Arneson-Larson-Milton clothiers.

At the southeast corner of Mill and Lincoln was Norby’s Department Store and across the street, on the northeast side, was First National Bank.

These establishments, in 1960, were busy places during the holiday season along with other Fergus Falls downtown businesses such as O’Meara’s Department Store, St. Clair and Rovang clothiers, and others.

During the Christmas holiday shopping season, model trains ran behind the show windows of places such as Montgomery Ward, Gambles, Our Own Hardware and in the old days Frankoviz Hardware in Fergus Falls.

Woolworth operated its store on the 100 block of West Lincoln Avenue.

In 1960 Fergus Falls was not unlike other similar-sized towns all across the country.

Those communities offered, in addition to those businesses already listed, furniture stores, hardware stores, drug stores with soda fountains, shoe stores, dime stores, jewelers, appliance stores, bakeries, bowling alleys, farm implement dealerships, auto dealers, lumber yards, movie theaters, grocery stores, meat markets, barber shops, gas stations, pool halls, a hospital and offices for doctors, dentists and lawyers.

In Fergus Falls there were various dining establishments downtown, in addition to Skogmo Café, and drug stores also had counter service where a shopper could purchase a cup of coffee and piece of pie.

The Normandy Café, Viking Café, City Café and Bakery, Nelson’s Café on Washington Avenue and Western Café also were good places to eat. The Log Cabin restaurant and service station once stood where the Western Café later was located. Today the site includes Century 21.

It was an exciting time on the national scene, with the recent presidential election of 43-year-old John F. Kennedy. He assumed office in January 1961, replacing Dwight (Ike) Eisenhower.

Various churches in Fergus Falls were within walking distance of downtown, where many people lived in apartments on the upper levels of business establishments.

The Fergus Falls Daily Journal was located downtown, next to Norby’s and across from the post office on South Mill Street. Headed by publisher Chuck Underwood, the newspaper moved to East Channing Avenue in 1972.

“Flames of Discontent”

a book well worth reading

On Oct. 15 Gary Kaunonen was one of four award-winning authors who spoke in the evening at M State’s Legacy Hall in Fergus Falls.

His book, “Flames of Discontent,” talks about life on the Iron Range in northeastern Minnesota during some very tough times in the early 1900s.

Steel was a combination of Minnesota iron ore, carbon and other elements. Because of its strength, steel became a major component used in buildings, infrastructure, tools, ships, automobiles, machines, appliances and weapons.

Minnesota iron ore provided the base ingredients for steel that propelled the United States to victory in World War I, in 1918.

“Mine workers sank deep shafts into the earth, blasted iron-ore bearing rock, and hoisted the hard ore rock to the surface. It was dark, difficult and often deadly work,” wrote author Kaunonen.

Injuries in the mines were frequent and, in many cases, debilitating. Many mining camps were tar-papered shacks situated next to the open pits.

“Gary Kaunonen, in his book, digs out the raw emotion and surprising details of a strike in 1916 that changed the American labor movement and the rise of the middle class,” wrote book reviewer and noted radio host Aaron Brown.

Finnish immigrants in Virginia and Hibbing took leading roles in organizing the immigrant workforce across the Iron Range. They brought to light grievances that included low wages, long hours and abhorrent working conditions.

“They made a meaningful impact,” wrote Kaunonen, “ and that working-class identity endures today.”

Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.


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