By Delta Daggett

Guest Columnist

I was born in late April, 1940, at the Otto Hospital in Frazee. The building and I are still standing but one of us is beginning to weaken.   

Growing up in the 40’s and 50’s was great in Frazee and the surrounding area for kids. I have seen many changes in Frazee—I remember the restaurants as Berends, The Diner, Skyview Café, Suzie Dunn’s, Ralph’s Ice Cream Parlor and the Blue Tea Room in the corner of the Hotel. The Blue Tea room was fine dining with, as I recall, white tablecloths. Ladies wore dresses, hats and probably gloves. They came from a wide area to eat here.  Plus, there were many good late night meals with beer or pop within the four concrete block walls of Carroll Julius’ City Limits Club.

Grocery stores were Lorsung’s Hartz, Barney Aldrich Grocery, Bill and Dells and Bob Hodgen Red Owl. Gas stations included Charlie Pierce’s Champlin, Sander’s Deep Rock, Nelson’s City Service, Jake’s Skelley, Lausch Mobile, Carslon Texaco,  Rudy Rethwisch Shell and Anderson’s Standard.

There were two barber shops, a bakery, clothing and shoe store, Marie Pitz’ variety store, a jewelry store, two hardware and appliance stores, the Lynn movie theater (with the best movies on Sunday through Tuesday and a lesser grade the rest of the week, such as a Western or Ma and Pa Kettle. Other stores included Lyford’s plumbing and tin shop,   beauty shops, a dry cleaner, antique store, funeral home and furniture store, Wilcox lumber yard, Hall’s Harness and shoe repair and Dewey Hitchen’s shoe repair.   

Dewey was always good for a visit. I must have been a teenager when I took in a pair of black shoes for repair. Dewey told me that I must be a higher-upper now as I was wearing black shoes. This was his criteria for a “higher-upper”.   

Next to Hall’s and Don Harmer’s Barber Shop was Matty Brenk’s card room, complete with spittoons and a pool table. He sold beer, pop, snacks, candy and tobacco products. Behind was a two-lane bowling alley where we could earn 10 cents a game for setting pins. 

Rosenbaum’s clothing store was on the corner where the new bank is now located. I do not remember them being open so it must have closed in the 1930’s or early 1940’s. 

The school moved the music room from the Methodist Church basement to this location in the middle 1950’s until the new school building was built in 1958 and 1959. Next to Rosenblums was the Jess Garage where people parked their cars if they did not have a garage. This later became Northern Turkey Hatchery.

The VFW building was built about 1950 and there were four active churches, a blacksmith and Kachels Welding. Plus, there were car repair shops, three car dealers, an implement dealer, insurance and realtors, the bank and a creamery that made great butter to be shipped to a Pennsylvania food store chain.  The creamery also had a meat market, cold storage and one of the two feed mills in town. Ketter’s Meat Market has been here for close to 100 years. The revenue from the liquor store next to the Post Office supported the village budget. These businesses all brought people to town and town prospered.  

I remember when the Frazee Fire Department acquired about a 1946 Ford Pumper to add to the 1938 Ford they still own. This doubled the chance of them running into something on the way to a fire.     

The 1900 population of Frazee was 1,000 and grew to about 1,650 in 1910 because of the sawmill. By 1920, it had dropped to 1,300 after the mill closed, to 1,050 in 1930 where the count varied little into the 1970s with a slight bump up in 1940.   (       

My grandparents’ generation saw Frazee transform from a rough lumberjack town with many saloons and an active red light district to a merchant town serving area residents.   The appropriately named Hanging Tree Saloon was located where the drug store is now located. 

My parents’ generation saw Frazee grow from board sidewalks and dirt streets to cement sidewalks and blacktop streets and from two livery stables to three car dealers. So change is always occurring. No matter how long or when you have lived in the Frazee area, you have seen change.

I sense a new enthusiasm in town to add to the economy of Main Street. The more businesses there are, the more traffic comes to town to buy something.   I have read that each dollar spent in town, cycles through the local economy seven times.  We locals need to give them our support now.  

There is much talk about the walking and biking trails that will soon be passing through the Frazee area. Many volunteers have spent hours to help make this happen. There is another group in the formative stage to push for the Wannigan Park project. Two successful grant writers have recently volunteered for the board.  This would be a regional park with camping spots and great local field trip for area schools.   Visitors could learn about Frazee’s early settlers, lumbering and area Indian history with interpretive centers.  Projects like these take years to accomplish but are worthy of our support.

I am reminded of the Hamden Slough north of Audubon when it began a few  decades ago. The federal government purchased farmland from farmers that had been drained during dry years and turned into farmland. Returning the land to wetlands was not very popular with Audubon area farmers and town folk.   The Fish and Wildlife personnel that were brought in to restore the wetlands with dams, joked about having to drive fast through Audubon so they could not be shot. Now, years later, this area is one of the top birding areas in the U.S. Watching and studying birds is not my cup of tea, but it brings people from all over the U.S.  into our area. An example of how projects like this take years to see the positive results.

I have been encouraged by a few to write some about Frazee and our history.    I can’t say I have lived here all my life because my life is not over yet, but no matter where I am, Frazee is always my home.

If this story is acceptable to the Forum Publisher and the readers, I will probably submit more thoughts from time to time. Some on history, life, travels, experiences and maybe a political thought. I have been told many stories and memories and the Forum might have a slow news week and need to fill some space. Comments and feedback to the paper or myself would be greatly appreciated.  We all grow from comments, both positive and negative.