Langdon Long Ago

Over the years we have had to learn to adjust to road and street construction. Years ago, when the coulee flooded and we could not get across on the makeshift bridge (planks laid from rock to rock), we learned to walk the extra blocks to the highway and then go east or west and sometimes back north or south to get where we were going. After World War II the first main street into the hill area (now 8th Street) was the entry way into many new families moving into Langdon on land that had previously been garden or pasture land. The young man hired to dig the basements for houses that would be moved from other areas was conveniently hired to also dig in the water and sewer lines residents of the area had been asking, pleading or demanding for more than 30 years – none of this with the fullhearted blessing of Langdon’s city fathers. People who lived then or now on the hill were resilient. Since cars could not travel in the area, plank bridges were laid across the ditches to give walking access to the coulee shortcut, and pipe layers down in the ditches would look up to see bike riders racing across on these same plank bridges. No remembered accidents.  Homeowners filled in the ditches themselves as early winter snows fell. This year the road construction signs north of the highway include most of the streets area residents are accustomed to take to shop, go for mail or other daily stops, so finding a street that goes through and is not currently under construction has become a daily adventure.

Posted 7/3/19

By Rita Maisel

As most readers know, I grew up in Langdon’s Dorval Addition with its three short streets at that time known as Arbour, Charlotte and Alberta named by Judge Dorval for his first wife’s family and his two daughters, Charlotte and Alberta.  Since street signs were not yet commonplace, we learned these names from legends and old maps. Today when the city begins to dig up streets, we get messages in the form of large machines blocking the street we might normally use or signs telling us “closed to traffic” accented by piles of dirt, orange cones and so on. Old habits die hard so when the intended route was closed I had to wander around to get where I was going. My car, however, automatically wanted to take the old route, and street after street that I might have taken was closed. And so, I ended up more than once on one of Langdon’s shorter streets now called 9th Street.

9th Street currently dead ends at both its north and south ends making the north end a place where children have long enjoyed street hockey and similar games. Driving along I was remembering what I knew about this street that had been special years ago. When I first knew the area, the Borusky Hospital and adjacent park were at the north end where a fence marked “Tony’s pasture” would later give way to the Mukomela Addition to Langdon. The railroad crossing the highway marked its south end. There were no paved streets. The hospital and two or three homes had telephones. Most houses had large gardens. Some had barns for cows, horses or if they had a car, garage facilities for that obvious sign of wealth. Most yards had a swing, sandbox, sometimes a playhouse, a hammock or a teeter-totter. Later several homes would have basketball hoops on a pole or the side of a building. Girls were not welcome to play. It was a given that flowers surrounded all the houses, and most yards had children, wagons, bikes or tricycles. What is now 9th Street had something else rarely found elsewhere in Langdon – twins.

The first two sets of twins we learned about were born before we moved to Langdon. Neither my class at school nor my brother’s class had twins before high school, so we grew up just knowing that these were special children. The first remembered set in that neighborhood were said to have been born at the Borusky Hospital since Mrs. Borusky was their grandmother.  Little Geraldine Reetz died shortly after her birth but since all children living on the hill walked through the coulee to school, we got to know her twin brother Gerald on this daily trek.

Dr. Mulligan and his wife, Alice, both worked at the Borusky Hospital in those days, and like the Reetz family, they also lived on 9th Street.  Some of the older Mulligan boys were born in Grand Forks, and it could be that when Pat and Mike Mulligan made their appearance on Christmas Day in 1934, they might have arrived at Grand Forks or been delivered at the Borusky Hospital as well. Pat and Mike raised the count of Mulligan boys to five with their arrival. The count of little boys in the Dorval Addition by that time became well-known as they played day after day in their own and neighboring yards.

Girls living in this neighborhood might have paper dolls of the Dionne Quintuplets, and we all studied the five little celebrities in catalogs each year, but our knowledge of twins in general was very limited. As it happened, the elegant Vangstad Twins (always dressed in identical outfits including matching hats, shoes, gloves and purses) would visit at church on occasion. The ladies were no longer teaching in Langdon by that time. High school brought several sets of twins to both LHS and to St. Alphonsus. Sometimes we knew them personally and other times only heard about them. Our church got a closer lesson on twins when the Alesons came to town bringing Dennis and Darrell along. In the same block as the Alesons was a pastor at Redeemer Church who had twin girls. Twins were reported to be “catching” in pastoral families, especially when Rev. Aleson was followed by Rev. Ackerman and both served at Emmanuel EUB Church. The Ackerman twins were girls. Early in the history of United Lutheran Church Rev. Keszler and his wife had welcomed their twin girls, Vickie and Valarie Keszler, born on the exact day a laundry manufacturer offered a new washer and dryer to the parents of twins! These girls possibly first saw sights of Langdon from windows on 9th Avenue before both the church and parsonage were located farther west. When Rev. McKay served the Langdon Methodist Church and several other congregations in Cavalier County, Langdon residents got to know their twin sons, John and James McKay. All of those church families lived in another part of town. Later Baptist pastors lived in a parsonage on 9th Street, and while I did not find the family name, the daughters graduated from high school in Langdon “sometime after the missiles” I was told.

The Twaddle family, who came to Langdon in the early 1950s, are not remembered as living on 9th Street, but they still hold the twin record in the town of Langdon and among graduates. Rick and Rita Twaddle graduated from LHS in 1953, followed a few years later by Ardith and Judith and then in the early 1960s by Tom and Jim Twaddle.  Jim also taught in Langdon for many years.

However, at least in the neighborhood, ninth street became generally known as a good place to live if you had twins, wanted to have twins or happened to be the grandparents of twins. At some point in time Mutcher grandparents moved to a house on the east side of 9th Street. They had a niece and nephew who were twins (Gordon and Grace) and could add to the twin lore by telling about their twin grandchildren, Tim and Kimberly Mutcher. Across the street from Mutchers was Mrs. Carrie Welsh, mother of Vivian and Lillian Soderstrom, twins who had married brothers. Later, after Grandma Carrie had died, Vivian would live in an apartment on the west side of 9th Street. Neighborhood gossip surfaced when a young couple, Kurt and Becky Gellner, moved into a house on the east side of the street.  Hopeful neighbors were sure their new neighbors would add to the twin lore since “both of them were twins”. A more factual story could have been that both had mothers who were twins. Twins do run in families, and a later set of Gellner twins made their home on 12th Street.

Then came a New Year’s Day when a young father went out to the radio station to announce that his wife had just given birth to twin boys! Howie and Betty Nelson lived, at that time, in a large corner house on 9th Street. Their twins were Garret and Michael. Until they had bikes and began to roam the neighborhood, some of the neighbors referred to these boys as “the invisible twins”.

About this time a family on 10th Street was heard from. I do not know if their children were born near Mt. Carmel or after they moved to Langdon, but Mark and Margaret Kartes were the parents of two sets of twins. People, of course, mentioned it must be something in the water.

And then there were the Girodats, Don and Arn, who had been twins long before they settled in Langdon and raised their families here. Ethel and Arnold may have been the first to move to 9th Street where they lived just across the street from one of her sisters. A few years later Don and Delores (another case of twins marrying sisters) found a house one door from 9th Street and settled there. The three sisters in this story were from the same Balsdon family (no twins rremembered) so when an older house was replaced by a newer model, Bill Balsdon and his wife, Jeri, also moved to 9th Street. Jeri is grandmother to a set of Langdon’s best known twins, Justine and Brianna Stremick.  After Bill’s death Jeri married Gordon Mutcher – yes, Gordon is one of the twins mentioned earlier.

A young couple living at Nekoma had twin girls, Jodi and Jill Parker. I am not sure if their father was teaching or farming (maybe both) but mom Jayne was hired to teach at nearby Langdon Elementary School. The house they purchased in Langdon was on 9th Street.

The turnover in people living on 9th Street has contained a lot of names associated with twins: Doris Stein, who had an apartment there for several years, is the mother of Kevin and Cregg Stein and living below Doris at that time was the late Clair Moen with twins in his siblings. There were probably many others I missed.

Part of the reason conversations on 9th Street began was that as I drove up or down the 9th street whose population seems to grow by leaps and bounds, I often passed a house where twins were expected. Those twins have now arrived. Reports are that the girls are named Maida and Medora Coyle- Maida for a town where paternal homesteaders have lived since the earliest days and Medora for a lady originally from France who once lived where the town named for her is now located. The original Medora’s house, as well as the surrounding town and countryside, are popular North Dakota tourist attractions.

Currently 9th Street also has its first set of triplets with the addition of Nyk and Carrie Hope’s Nadiya, Lynkyn and Cartyr along with their older brother – all just a hop, skip and jump from Langdon Area School.

Post Comment