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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published December 07 2013

Halgrimson: Red River Valley’s ‘best’ sure has changed over the years

Last month when I looked at the ballot for the “Best of the Red River Valley,” it was brought home to me how many things have changed since I was a young adult in Fargo in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In those days, Dick Tracy was the only one who had something like a car phone in the form of a 2-Way Wrist Radio. Adding machines were big, bulky contrivances with a keyboard of about 88 keys. And while the electric typewriter made its first appearance in 1902, they were not standard equipment in offices and schools until the mid-1960s and everyone who had to use one carped about how difficult they were to work on.

Milfred T. Bakke was the only massage therapist, and we survived without convenience stores, nail salons, taco trucks, tattoo parlors, karaoke, sushi, frozen yogurt and vegetarian restaurants. In fact about the only vegetarian meal you could get then was an order of french fries.

And a good martini was made with gin or vodka, very little dry vermouth and an olive.

As for outdoor dining, it was what people did in their backyards or one

of the parks.

Hair salons were called beauty parlors and there were drive-in restaurants rather than drive-thru. At the drive-in, you’d park by a microphone, place your order and a car hop delivered it on a tray that was attached to an open window in your vehicle.

I remember the A & W drive-in, Crown Drive-in, McDowell’s Big Boy Drive Inn and King Leo’s (burgers 15 cents) in Fargo and the White Spot in Moorhead where KVOX disc jockeys played records from 6 p.m. until closing, causing traffic jams on Highway 75 where the restaurant was located.

Except for the YMCA – for men only – exercise facilities were the same as those for outdoor dining – backyards and parks. In the summer, there was kickball, hide and seek, touch football, pickup baseball games and tennis and in the winter, ice skating and tobogganing. And at one of the bowling alleys, the pins were still hand-set. We danced at the Crystal Ballroom on south Broadway. And we walked or rode our bicycles to get around.

The only name I recognized on the best of local celebrity and sports star lists was Roger Maris, and he wasn’t either then. But if you went to a Fargo-Moorhead Twins game at Barnett Field in north Fargo, you could see him play.

And a baseball game at Barnett and the fair, also on north Broadway, were good places to take a visitor. There were no shopping malls and no zoo, and not many people wanted to watch a Bison game unless you were in love with one of the players.

If you didn’t want to drink when you were being entertained, you attended one of the many wonderful events in the lyceum series sponsored by our three colleges.

If you wanted a drink with your music, you went to Fargo’s Five Spot or Todd’s Tavern for country-western music and Moorhead’s Skol Room for jazz. If you just wanted to drink, there were many options. The Flame, Empire, Bismarck and Bison taverns were in Fargo and in Moorhead, Rudy’s, the Blackhawk, the Aquarium, Diemert’s and the Comstock Hotel Bar. And those are just a few that I remember.

While a number of Chinese families owned restaurants in Fargo, they served very little Chinese food. The Greeks who owned restaurants served no Greek food. But in 1956, Gene Cortese opened the Pizza Shop at 301 Broadway, and it’s still there.

(Mexican Village and Phil Wong’s didn’t open until 1970.)

And so it goes and there isn’t space to list the old department stores, clothing stores, hardware stores, hotels, cafes and restaurants. Maybe another time.