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Sports Of Then And Now


Kathy Easter


In the Red River Valley, winters are cold and summers arewarm. No matter what time of year, you can see activities of differentkinds.

Here in St. Vincent, an old Pioneer town, our recreationin general hasn't changed. We play many of the same kinds of sports. Manyof these aren't exactly what they used to be. Most of the rules and placesthe older sports took place have changed. The sports in general have stayedthe same. We still swim, skate, fish, play baseball, basketball and football,we also hunt and curl.

Of all the sports I mentioned above, baseball made St.Vincent famous. St. Vincent used to have a baseball diamond near the riverwhere the dike is now. It was a very popular place in those days.

In those days, like now, there were many teams. They allwere good sports most of the time. Every team, when it loses, gets a littleupset. there was one team that didn't do much losing. The Gooselaw boyshad one of the best teams in northern Minnesota. This team was made upof eight brothers and one cousin. This team played north western Minnesotateams and north eastern North Dakota teams. Some of these teams were semi-proteams.

The Gooselaw team had an outstanding pitcher. Eli Gooselaw,who is still residing in St. Vincent, was one of the fastest pitchers around. In fact, he was made an offer to join in with the old American League.

Happy Chandler, a former senator and governor of Kentucky,and later commissioner of baseball said, "No man ever walked in shoeleather that could throw a baseball with more speed and control than EliGooselaw." (1)

St. Vincent didn't only participate in baseball. Theyalso had a game called shinney. Shinney is exactly what it sounds like. The game is played something like hockey. Instead of using a hockey stickand puck they use an old board and a tin can. It is a good game for everyonein the family, that is, if you don't mind black and blue shins.

Another sport we often see at motion pictures and on televisionis the Rodeo. Here, men and boys would show their skills in roping calvesand riding (these words were faded out). In small places it wouldn't becalled a rodeo but it was something (words faded out) - - one of the favoritepast times for men.

Basketball was also played in those days. I'm sure tomany of us it would be funny. The players wore different uniforms and handledthe ball differently. These players didn't condition for games. In fact,at half times they would go out and smoke or have some pop.

Girls basketball has sort of faded out from early times,but they did play. The girls were pretty good and scared the boys quiteoften. These women and girls started a trend because girls sports is nowcoming back on the scene.

In early times, football was also played. The local schooldistrict organized a team. It was around 1905 when helmets weren't invented yet. Players used sweat pads for shoulder and hip gear. This team playedPembina, Neche, Hallock and Walhalla plus many more teams.

Skating and Sledding over the years has also been popular. These two activities were usually held on the Red River. Another sportwas skiing and snow shoes. Jack Turner said, "I have skied from hereto Lancaster and back again many a time." (2)

Snowmobiling even back then was a big thing. Jack Turnerhad one of the first snowmobiles in this area. His main use for this snowmobile,or better called a power toboggan, was for the mail route. He also usedto deliver groceries during the winter to many people who couldn't get intotown to get their own. If Jack would get sick, his wife would take themail for him. She could also handle a team better than most women. Shewas one of the few women who had her driver's license in those days.

Hunting was not only a sport but in many cases a way ofsurvival. In those days, people hunted without a license. They didn'thave freezers and things so they could only hunt what they needed. JackTurner, who has been hunting for years, really enjoys it. He has gone moosehunting, deer hunting, fox hunting, duck hunting, and done lots of trapping. You name it and he has probably shot one. If any one of you have beento St. Vincent, take a look at his garage. He has deer horns of all sizeshanging on his garage. It is really fun. Grandpa doesn't trap much anymore but is still collecting deer horns.

Fishing has also been a sport. Living so near to the RedRiver, you can understand why. Today we don't eat as much catfish as before,but it is edible. Occasionally, you can watch someone catch a northernor walleye but not too often.

St. Vincent isn't the town it used to be but its memorieswill never die.

Many of the people that brought most of our sports intoexistence are still living and enjoy watching the new ways. These peopleare our fathers of sports.

Now, our national sports are fun to watch. To the oldergeneration, they like the games, but don't think the money paid to theseathelets (words faded) - men used to play for fun and think that was theway it should be.


(1) "Baseball", Grand Forks Herald, 1967

(2) Interviewed John Turner, January 2, 1974



Gooselaw, Eli, Interviewed, January 18, 1974

Turner, John, Interviewed, January 2, 1974

Wilkie, Dave, "Sports in Days Gone By", HistoricalEssay Book, 1972, Pg. 159


Wilkie, Dave, "Sports in Days Gone By", HistoricalEssay Book, 1972, Pg. 159