Church and Politics
written by Merry Helm
September 24, 2019 — On this date in 1917, Grand Forks Police Chief J. W. Lave banned automobiles from parking “in the immediate vicinity of churches” when worship services were being held. Clergymen had been protesting their services were being drowned out “by the noises of the machines.”
Also on this date, Richard M. Nixon came to Bismarck in 1968 to campaign for the U. S. Presidency. He had previously run against John Kennedy and lost. Interestingly, President Kennedy, himself, was in North Dakota 42 years ago tomorrow. He spoke at a UND convocation, at which he was awarded an honorary degree. President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX, just two months later.
September 25, 2019 — On this date in 1914, the Hansboro News reported: “Several farms and members of a threshing crew claim to have seen what appeared to be a flying machine in the sky a couple of miles north of town last Saturday afternoon. They claim the object was high in the air and came from the north and passed out of sight to the east. Eyewitnesses claim that what they saw resembled pictures they have seen of flying machines, and when asked if the object they saw couldn’t have been a ring of smoke from a nearby threshing engine, they answered emphatically that it could not.”
A week later, the paper reported, “The airship story [from] last week has been [published] on the front page of the Minneapolis Journal, the northwest’s greatest newspaper.”
September 26, 2019 — Kenneth Charging, a 1946 Elbowoods graduate, entered the military in late 1950 or early 1951. Following five or six weeks of training, he spent a short furlough with his family and was then shipped to the front lines in Korea. Serving with the 19th Infantry Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division, Charging disappeared during battle on April 26th, 1951. Back home, Charging’s family learned he was listed as missing in action on June 6. The family remained in limbo until right before Christmas, when Charging’s name appeared on a list of prisoners being held by Chinese Communists in the Chiangyong POW camp.
Arnie Charging, of Roseglen, ND, says they later learned his brother and a few others managed to escape soon after they were caught. They headed toward friendly lines by traveling at night and eating stolen chickens, but after only a few days, they were recaptured and imprisoned.
In February 1952, the Charging family received a surprise letter from Kenneth. Arnie says it was censored and written on what looked like a piece of paper bag. The young prisoner reported he “was getting along fine” and asked his family “not to worry.” He said the “committee” had given them food and clothing. In reality, Arnie says, his brother’s Native Hidatsa upbringing had prepared him to survive in ways many other men couldn’t; many prisoners starved to death.
Charging’s father, George, never lost faith that Kenneth would survive. In fact, he planned a rodeo to celebrate his son’s homecoming and started building huge corrals on his ranch for the event. Sadly, a few months later, on July 8, the 59-year-old father took a rest while branding cattle, and a short time later, he was found dead of an apparent heart attack.
Arnie says he and others decided to fulfill his father’s vision. They completed the rodeo grounds, not knowing if they would ever be used for their intended purpose.
More than a year later, after 390 days in captivity, Kenneth Charging was released in a prisoner exchange. On August 26, 1953, he sent a telegram to his family from Tokyo, stating he was leaving for the States. He didn’t learn of his father’s death until arriving in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, the McClean County Independent reported Mrs. Charging was ecstatic that her boy was coming home, and although she had recently suffered a heart attack, she was supervising the plans and finishing touches that would bring her husband’s dream to fruition.
The Kenneth Charging homecoming rodeo, with shows and traditional dancing, began on this date in 1953. The Montrail County Record reported, “Indians came from the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota, from Fort Peck and Wolf Point, in Montana, from other reservations in North Dakota, as well as various other places to attend the three-day event.”
In the midst of the celebration, a large crowd coaxed Kenneth to try his hand at his former specialty, calf-roping. The Montrail County Record reported, “Although a little rusty with the lariat, he showed that he was still a good horseman.”
Bungled Train Robbery
September 27, 2019 — This date in 1897 was an inglorious day for a young group of would-be train robbers. The previous night at about midnight, westbound Train No. 1 was late in arriving in Fargo. The Bismarck Tribune reported: “The delay was due to the special request of a number of highwaymen and was unavoidable under the circumstances, as the highwaymen were temporarily masters of the situation. It was a surprising event, considering the locality, as it has always been supposed that the holdup line was a good deal farther west.”
Engineer Hooker was just a few miles east of Moorhead when he noticed a man on the mail car. A few minutes later, he was confronted with two revolvers and, as the Tribune put it, “requested to very good and very obedient in his handling of the engine. Within a few minutes, other masked men appeared with Conductor Corcoran and his brakeman, who were also left on the engine, under guard, with an injunction to behave themselves.”
The robbers seemed to know what they were doing. They unhitched the passenger cars and what they thought was the baggage car, all of which coasted to a stop in the distance. Then, they took charge of the engine, the mail car and what they thought was the “express car,” in which would be a safe filled with money.
A distance down the tracks, the train was brought to a halt, and all the trainmen were put under guard. “[It] is stated,” reads the story, “that one helper who was asleep when the raid began was
forced to stand out on the grade during the time the men were at work inside, attired in his night dress, and [wondering] what the wild waves were about.”
The robbers started first with the mail car – “to make their selections of property.” The story reads, “They took a number of loose registers, opened a number of letters looking for money, and left them torn and scattered about the floor of the car, and made away with what valuables they ran across. But their work was very incomplete, for they left a dozen registered pouches on the rack, all of them filled with registered letters and parcels – a valuable haul, had they secured it.
“The conductor of the train was also relieved of $25 in cash, but was left his watch. The other trainmen contributed as liberally as they were able, and the engine and car were allowed to proceed to Fargo, where it was discovered that they were short the balance of the train.”
The story went on to say an engine was sent out to retrieve the missing cars, including the passenger coaches. “Some of the passengers were well heeled,” the story reports. “It is said that one man had $6,000, and another $1,000, all of which will be grief to the robbers, when they learn of it. There were three or four of the robbers, and when the stop was made to rifle the mail car, one of the men exclaimed: ‘Where in [heck] is the express car,’ showing that they had intended to cut that off and go through it also.
“The men are said to have been young, cool headed and apparently adept at the business, although their rifling of the mail car, overlooking the articles of real value, and failing to land the boodle in the express car would indicate that they were a cheap brand of highway robbers.”
Investigators found the robbers left behind 20 sticks of dynamite – doubtless for use in blowing up the safe in the missing express car. “It was a solid piece of work,” the Tribune reported, “but as far as a successful looting of the train is concerned, it was much of a fiasco…”
written by Merry Helm
September 30, 2019 — Today is the birthday of legendary actress Angie Dickinson. Her given name was Angeline Brown, but the name for which she is better known came from her first husband, semi-pro football player Gene Dickinson.
Angie was born in Kulm, in southeast ND, where her father ran the Kulm Messenger. The family also lived in nearby Edgeley. Once a week, their father ran movies, and Angie developed an early fascination with stardom. It was her father’s drinking problem that inadvertently led to her acting career when Angie’s mother picked up the family and moved them to Burbank, CA.
Angie was eleven at the time of the move. Pictures of her as a teenager show a blond beauty whose unique eyes made her appear innocent and vulnerable. According to reports, she was also boy crazy. And smart. When she was a senior in high school, she won the Sixth Annual Bill of Rights Contest. She was toying with the idea of becoming a writer, like her father, but after finishing college, she got stuck working as a secretary in an airplane parts factory.
Everything changed in 1953, when she impulsively entered the local Miss America contest and took 2nd place. She followed that by appearing on a TV show called “Beauty Parade,” in which she won the competitions of the week, the month, and finally for the year. A role on the “Colgate Comedy Hour” followed, along with minor roles in small movies, including westerns.
Dickinson’s big break came for her role as “Feathers” in a 1959 John Wayne film called Rio Bravo. The book, Swingin’ Chicks of the ‘60s, says the movie “made her a star and confirmed her strengths as a spunky, beautiful, self-assured woman who wasn’t intimidated by a cast full of tough guys… Combining brains and beauty, style and independence, she’s always managed to convey both sexiness and strength in her movies, among which are several ‘60s classics.”
In 1963, Universal Studios had her legs insured for a million dollars. Twenty years later, those same legs were featured on a “memorable” billboard for California Avocados. She turned down the role of Crystal Carrington in the nighttime soap, “Dynasty,” and also turned down Playboy magazine when they asked her to pose for a centerfold after she had already turned 50.
Dickinson has been nominated for a host of awards; her own television series, Police Woman, earned her a Golden Globe. In addition to countless television appearances, she also has been in more than 85 movies, including Point Blank and Dressed to Kill. She starred in the original version of Ocean’s Eleven and then reappeared in the 2001 version of the film as… herself.
Angie once said, “My mother was against me being an actress – until I introduced her to Frank Sinatra.” Of her 10-year intermittent relationship with Sinatra, she once said, “He has a way, a magical way; it’s not just the blue eyes and their very color, but the way they look at you. You feel very, very comfortable. And he doesn’t ignore you when he’s in the company of others.”
A whirlwind romance led to her 15-year marriage to composer, Burt Bacharach. They divorced in 1980 during her chaotic days on Police Woman. Although she has never remarried, she has had no shortage of interesting admirers, including talk-show hosts Johnny Carson and Larry King, musicians Billy Vera and Julio Iglesias, and newsman Harry Reasoner.
written by Merry Helm
October 1, 2019 — On this day in 1889, North Dakota elected its first state officials and approved its first Constitution. Within the Constitution, but subject to a separate vote, was an article prohibiting the sale of alcohol, which narrowly passed.
South Dakotans managed to repeal their anti-alcohol law six years later, but in North Dakota, prohibitionists managed to keep the issue away from voters for more than four decades. Then, on September 21, 1933, the state held a special election in which residents voted against a proposed sales tax and the showing of movies on Sundays. However, they overwhelmingly voted in favor of the manufacture, sale and distribution of beer.
“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, subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast or buy the Dakota Datebook book at shopprairiepublic.org.