Fergus Falls, 60 years ago this spring, ended 46 years of being a dry city. On March 18, 1959, approval of a municipal liquor store passed by just 74 votes.
Fergus Falls was a dry town between 1913 and 1959. If you wanted to purchase a bottle of whiskey, or another bottle of hard liquor, you needed to drive out of town.
Most residents opted for a 12-mile journey to Foxhome, the halfway point between Fergus Falls and Breckenridge along Highway 210.
A story has been told over the years about people in a town of 12,000 traveling west to a town of 250, during the 1950s, to fulfill their desire to purchase whiskey and other bottles of alcoholic beverages.
Even though hard liquor sales were voted out by Fergus Falls residents in 1913, beer sales continued at local taverns and also in places such as the town of Elizabeth.
Hard liquor is produced by the distillation of grains that have already gone through alcoholic fermentation. Beer and wine, on the other hand, are fermented but not distilled.
The Elks Club in Fergus Falls and other private clubs, during the dry years of the 1950s, had setups for mixes such as 7 Up and water for people who brought along their own hard liquor bottles. The same held true at other establishments such as the VFW and American Legion.
The only way to purchase a bottle of whiskey in Fergus Falls, from 1913 to 1959, was if you could obtain a prescription due to a severe cold, excruciating pain from a severe headache or other affliction. Then, whiskey could be obtained from a local pharmacy.
Some long-time residents of Fergus Falls remember the years following World War II, from the mid-1940s to the late 1950s, when people would journey to Foxhome, pick up their supplies of liquor, and stop on the way home for supper at the Skyline Café near the Fergus Falls Municipal Airport.
Many people happily made the 12-mile round trip journey to Foxhome and back, for a total of 24 miles.
Some people coming from Breckenridge-Wahpeton to their Otter Tail County lake cottages first stopped at the liquor store in Foxhome.
Legend has it that owners of the Foxhome liquor store were able to retire wealthy over the years.
In March 1959, with 75 percent of the city’s 6,304 registered voters turning out, the liquor store vote was 2,405 in favor and 2,331 against the proposal.
On June 29, 1959, a total of $48,000 worth of liquor arrived in Fergus Falls and was unloaded. This was in preparation for the opening of the municipal liquor store the following month near the intersection of Vine Street and Stanton Avenue on the west side of downtown.
The Fergus Falls Municipal Liquor Store opened July 18, 1959.
Later, the city of Fergus Falls negotiated for the purchase of the former creamery building on South Court Street, located at what’s now a parking lot behind the Viking Café. The city-run liquor store moved there in late 1960.
Today there are two municipal liquors stores, one downtown and the other on the west side of town.
County board, taxpayers
support food bank
The Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners, on behalf of county taxpayers, made the right decision in donating $50,000 to assist in the renovation of the North Country Food Bank facility in Crookston.
Additional space is needed, an example being installation of larger cooler and freezing units.
Financial assistance also is coming from other counties in northwest Minnesota.
From 70 percent to 90 percent of all food distributed to people in need through county food shelves comes from the North Country Food Bank.
North Country’s business model is simple: using surplus food products from the food industry to feed hungry people.
This is another example of taxpayer money being put to good use.
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.