The Entertainment Guide

Northfielders Have Forever Found Fun, Even in the Frigid Days of February

Susan Hvistendahl

Susan Hvistendahl

Susan Hvistendahl wrote 119 monthly Historic Happenings columns for The Entertainment Guide between 2007 and 2016. After she moved from New York in 2004, she assisted the Northfield Historical Society as a researcher, editor and collector of oral histories. She has a B.A. in Spanish from St. Olaf College and an M.A. in English from Iowa State University. In 2014 and 2015, The Entertainment Guide and Northfield Historical Society partnered to publish three volumes of Historic Happenings about Northfield, St. Olaf and Carleton. In 2019, By All Means Graphics published Milestones and Memories of the St. Olaf Band 1891-2018, which she co-authored with Jeffrey M. Sauve.

What would have been on the covers of the February Entertainment Guides had they been around in the 19th century?

In 1892, we may have seen images from four consecutive plays by the traveling Billy Marble’s Theater Company: “North Carolina Folks,”“Uncle Daniel,”“The Midnight Bell” and “The Two Orphans.” Or perhaps a few of the 50 artists performing “the Chimes of Normandy” at the Opera House.

Through February 1907, Northfielders enjoyed a variety of entertainment at Ware Auditorium (later renamed The Grand). “A deafening cheer” filled the packed auditorium when Carleton won first and second prize at the annual Ware Oratorical Contest between Carleton and St. Olaf. A bonfire followed at Carleton. A violinist, a comedian, and “splendid singing and dancing at popular prices” were also part of the February fare. A New York company came to town with the drama, “When Knighthood Was in Flower.” Northfield High School students presented the three-act comedy, “Our Boys,” at the Ware to a “well-pleased audience, the largest ever present at a local entertainment.” Tickets were 35 cents and 50 cents.

Image courtesy of Northfield Historical Society archives.

Ten years later on, Feb. 19, 1917, the Grand Movie Theater opened for business with a movie called “Still Waters.” Tickets were 10 cents. On Feb. 17, 1933, Grand Theater manager Everett Dilley purchased the Grand and in his first month of ownership had the coup of booking the first release of Warner Brothers’ musical comedy, “42nd Street,” in Northfield, ahead of the first national showing in Washington, D.C. on inauguration day.

Image courtesy of Carleton College archives.

In February 1933, at a time when temperatures were as low as 28 below zero, Carleton professor Dr. Laurence Gould, second in command of the Byrd expedition to the South Pole, drew a crowd to hear him speak at a father and son event at Skinner Memorial Chapel at Carleton. Also on the program: “Dan the Collegiate Magician” from St. Olaf and pipe organ selections. Defying the cold, St. Olaf enjoyed a Winter Sports Day on Feb. 18 with a ski jumping contest featuring an Olympic skier. NHS juniors presented the play “Daddy Long Legs.”

So as you enjoy your forays along the frosty February streets of Northfield, know that you’re walking on grounds well trodden. 

Information for this article was found with-in the archives of the Northfield Historical Society.

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