Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Local history at its best...

Posted 12/12/17 (Tue)

Do you ever wonder how local people reacted to a powerful or catastrophic event in the past?

Are you the slightest bit curious of what happened in your community as history was being made?

It may sound like a cliche to some people, but you can go back into the archives of your local newspaper and find this information.

When we talk about catastrophies; the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor instantly comes to mind. But for anyone who has studied history, or is interested in it, many of us have been given some sort of generational stories or have seen newsreels of Dec. 7, 1941, as well as Dec. 8 when Franklin Roosevelt sought a war declaration.

My initial question is geared more toward those obscure events that took place that seemingly appeared like just another day at the time but became major dates in American history.

When it’s described that way, the Stock Market crash on Oct. 29, 1929 is the one that comes to mind first. How many people actually knew on that day the Stock Market was crashing?

When you look at your local newspaper, you’ll find many people, including newspaper editors, didn’t see a red flag that day at all. Instead, it was in the days following when the American people began to feel the effect of what had happened on Wall Street.

It’s like a chain of events; banks began to panic, workers started getting laid off and the American dollar essentially became worthless for a time.

How did North Dakota residents react to this phenomenon? Many didn’t have the insurance or financial backing that we have today and it didn’t take long for many to realize they were doomed economically.

One day in history that has always fascinated me is May 10, 1910. That’s when the news came out that Halley’s Comet was most likely going to crash into Earth somewhere between Duluth, Minn., and Boston.

Can you imagine what might have happened next?

As a college student in Bismarck in 1985, I did extensive research on Halley’s Comet and I found out through reports in the Bismarck Tribune that people began purchasing gas masks because the rumor was going around that sublimation was releasing deadly gases from the comet.

It was also feared that it would cause massive earthquakes and tidal waves.

Science didn’t know in 1910 what it discovered by 1985 when the comet returned to the skies over North Dakota.

Halley’s Comet was harmless and the tail was nothing more than water vapor in the night sky.

Do you remember what occurred  when the Russian satellite Sputnik was launched into orbit Oct. 4, 1957?

Many people believed it was a spy satellite to keep an eye on the United States. Others were fascinated that humans actually accomplished the feat of putting a rocket into space.

Just a month later, on Nov. 3, 1957, the Soviet Union sent Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow, into orbit.

There are varied accounts of this event as well, but I specifically remember my Dad telling me how heartless the Russians were to have sent a dog into space.

Laika, who was aboard Sputnik 2, died after orbiting the Earth for about a week.

And so the space race began and continues today with talk of sending people to Mars.

There’s also the other historic extreme, the euphoria that North Dakota residents must have felt when something incredibly good happened.

As an example, consider Roger Maris hitting his 61st home run on Oct. 1, 1961. That may not have been the absolute pandemonium as there was leading up to that day.

If you visit the Roger Maris Museum in Fargo and watch some of the videos of Roger’s 1961 season, you’ll find the people of Fargo became more excited as the season progressed and by the time he hit his 60th home run, tying Babe Ruth, that was perhaps the most exciting, according to Fargo Forum accounts.

The end of World War II, the opening of the Bank of North Dakota, completing Garrison Dam and numerous other events happened and likely someone in our families were involved in one way or another.

If you read history books, they’re all abstract, printed in black and white in more ways than one.

But if you read your local newspaper archive, you’ll find a wealth of information at your fingertips that you either didn’t know existed or you forgot.