Space Balls
written by Tessa Sandstrom
May 20, 2019 —Two strange metal balls were found near Create in southeastern North Dakota.
Both were similar, weighing about 20 lbs. with faded stripes, were very hot and were 15 inches in diameter. One, found by Corwin Brumond, had a hole five inches in diameter, and the other, found east of Oakes by Mike Michel, had a hole six inches in diameter. What were these strange things?
Today in 1971 the Oakes Times reported that they had fallen from the US Experimental Satellite.
It was later learned that two others had been found, one near Engevale and one near Litchville. According to Oakes native Irving Tedin, a space project manager in Huntsville, Alabama, the mysterious balls came from the Agena spacecraft, a multi-purpose vehicle used as a docking vehicle in the Gemini program.


Cho Cho the Health Clown
written by Tessa Sandstrom
May 21, 2019 — Today there are a growing number of trends and diets that are supposed to help Americans, especially children, get healthier. From avoiding carbs to eliminating trans fats, some people have tried everything. Or have they?
On this day in 1920, Bismarck was trying to promote health another way: with Cho Cho the Health Clown.
For two performances each day for two days, Cho Cho would be at the Bismarck City Auditorium to “carry his message of health and good cheer.”
Cho Cho was sponsored by the Women’s Club, the County Home Demonstration Department and other organizations.
According to Elsie Stark, a Home Demonstration agent, “It is a fact that 15 percent of our children are suffering from malnutrition not so much from eating too little as from eating and drinking the wrong kind of foods. To remedy this, we must have the co-operation of both parents and child and they must be eager to make the necessary gain.
Cho Cho, the health clown, and a pair of scales on which each child can be weighed once a month will go a long way toward bringing the desired result.”
Cho Cho was hired by the by the child health organization to promote health and its elementary rules:
1. A full bath oftener than once a week.
2. Brushing the teeth at least once every day.
3. Sleeping long hours with windows open.
4. Drinking as much milk as possible, but with no tea or coffee.
5. Eating some vegetables or fruit every day.
6. Drinking at least four glasses of water every day.
7. Playing part of every day out of doors.
8. A bowel movement every morning.
According to the Bismarck Tribune, very few methods have been successful in addressing child malnutrition, and it was thought that “Cho Cho … seems the happy solution of the difficulty, and Cho Cho and a pair of scales, on which each child can be weighed once a month, is a combination that will go a very long way toward bringing about the desired results … It supplies the child with an incentive to better his condition.
It is building up the next generation of citizens by giving these children pills of wisdom and good advise concealed in a sugar coating of jest and merriment administered by the universal favorite of all children a real, sure ‘nough circus clown.”

Too Much Sunshine
written by Merry Helm
May 22, 2019 — Back in 1909, Dr. S. Carlsen of Spring Grove, MN, wrote a paper titled, The Climate’s Influence on Emigrants From Northern Europe and Especially Norwegians in America. Dr. Carlsen felt that Norwegians were settling so far north in America – even into Canada – because those who settled as far south as southern Minnesota were “degenerating.” As proof of this, he pointed out the large number of Norsemen in the insane asylums at that time.
Carlsen felt that this degeneration was caused by our climate. To back up his theory, he quoted an Irish physician’s statements that northern Europeans couldn’t tolerate the climate in America, because there was too much sunshine. As further evidence, Carlsen argued that Norwegian second and third generations weren’t as strong or as healthy as their pioneer parents as evidenced by their weak physique and poor teeth. It was just too much sun.


Blackburn, Marksman
written by Merry Helm
May 23, 2019 — In 1910, A. M. Blackburn traveled from Winnipeg to visit his brother and buy a half section of land outside of Hansboro. The Hansboro News reported that, “Mr. Blackburn is the manager of the Grain Growers Association’s business of Canada, and … make(s) frequent trips to Europe… Last year it so happened that he was in England at the time of the contests in marksmanship. Being a good marksman and by reason of being a member of the Ninth Regiment of Canada, he qualified to enter the contest… with the result that he carried off the championship of the British possessions and actually of the world, as his record has not been equaled in any country.”
Not a lot is known about Blackburn anymore. But the Manitoba Provincial Rifle Association Inc. has written, “…the most outstanding marksman of those days was A.M. Blackburn. In 1909 alone, he won the Empire Service Rifle Championship, Prince of Wales Competition, Wingrove Trophy, Binningham Silver Cup, Martin’s Rapid-Fire Cup and the London Financial Times Cup, all at Bisley in the UK.

Mcleod’s One-Room Schoolhouse
written by Merry Helm
May 24, 2019 — When school let out on this date in 1986, People Magazine had already been to McLeod, in Ransom County, to cover the story. There were only 14 one-room schoolhouses still operating in the state, and McLeod’s was closing its doors. Of the three students still attending in 1986, two would be moving up to seventh grade, and there was no way to keep the school running for the youngest remaining child.
The story of the Salund School was used as the lead “Up Front” story in People and was 10 pages long. It was the first time the magazine led an issue with a feature story told only through photographs and captions. That was probably due to extra care taken by photographer, Barry Staver, who considered the assignment one of his most personally rewarding. He recalled visiting the classroom in February – it was 18 below when the kids went outside for recess.
The title of the People article was Lowest Paid Teacher in America. Janice Herbranson had taught kindergarten through sixth grade at the school since the death of her husband in a plane crash in 1970.
At the time of the school’s closing, her salary was only $6,800 a year, the lowest of any teacher in the country.
In addition to teaching, Herbranson also prepared two hot meals a day for her students. Arriving early each morning, she cooked a hot breakfast, and throughout the morning, she would periodically check the lunch simmering on the stove. After school was out for the day, she also cleaned, swept the floor and worked on the paperwork needed to obtain grants to keep the school open. The only thing that allowed her to work at such a low salary was her income from co-owning of the Sand Dune Saloon in McLeod.
In an article for the Fargo Forum, Kevin Murphy wrote, “As each student left Friday, clutching paper bags to protect just-made scrapbooks from a light spring rain, Herbranson handed them their report cards and an ice cream bar.”
“In a way, it was a blessing to have the media here,” she said. “If we were all alone, we’d have to dwell on this being the last day. This is a day the kids will remember. I don’t want them to remember it with tears.”
Two preschoolers who attended the school two afternoons a week joined the three students for a picture in front of their desks. Then she let each of them pick out a book to call their own. As they walked out the door, she leaned over each one and said, “I love you.”
When the door closed, she retreated to a corner of the room and cried. “You spend so many hours of so many days of so many years in one building. It becomes part of you.”
Herbranson planned to move to Alaska to teach after the school closed. Since then, we’ve learned that she took college courses the following year, then spent a year teaching kindergarten in Texas. The McLeod school board had two years to either reopen the school or disband; in 1988 they elected to reopen. They gave Herbranson a call, and she came back to McLeod to pick up where she left off — but not for long. The school is closed, and Ransom County Historical Society now owns it.
Oh, and yes… the answer you’ve all been waiting for: Herbranson did get a raise when she came back.


“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.

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