YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association)

Of the many interesting items to be found in the collection, there are quite a few that have to deal with the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association).

In the early 1900’s, the city of Aberdeen had a huge fundraising campaign in order to establish and build their own YMCA. As seen in the campaign pamphlet “A Civic Movement to Meet a Great Civic Need,” it was believed that “If a boy’s time is occupied usefully, he will not want to become vicious,” and a local YMCA would certainly occupy a boy’s time. It was portrayed as a combination of a club, athletics, education, religion, and organization, all to be housed in one single building. There were dormitories to house away-from-home young men, a gymnasium, night school, a pool, and kitchen facilities. Everything needed was to be provided.

YMCA Drum and Bugle Corps

In 1915 the plans for the YMCA came to fruition when Mrs. A. E. Boyd donated a site for building, provided that the facility be erected in 5 years. The money was raised, and the cornerstone was laid on September 25th, 1921. Unfortunately the funding ran out, and the unfinished structure was closed up for three years. Then there was another funding campaign, and a reported $75,000 was raised in a time of 12 days. The building continued, and the YMCA was complete in the fall of 1926. Since then, there has been quite a lot of remodeling and additions, including some campsites with cabins. Staying with Aberdeen through the years, “the Y” remains a prominent fixture in the community for all to enjoy.

Other useful links:
A Civic Movement to Meet a Great Civic Need
YMCA Sustaining Membership
50 Years of Service and Growth
Dedication Exercises
Aberdeen Family YMCA Website
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Melgaard Park

One place in Aberdeen that the whole town, including all of the college students, knows is Melgaard Park. Located only a couple blocks from Northern State University at the end of State Street, this beautiful city park got its start in 1909 when Andrew Melgaard, a pioneer of the Aberdeen area, generously donated 11 acres to the city and offered to sell another 14 acres at $250 per acre, which was less than a quarter of the market price at the time.

The donation of the land itself was quite a gift, but what really put the frosting on the cake was a large stand of trees included in the donation that were already fully grown and healthy. As was written on May 5th in the Aberdeen Daily American newspaper:

While we provide for the health and joy of future generations, we are ourselves able also to get equal enjoyment out of such a park, for it comes to the city and the people ready grown with shade trees and ideally situated to become the greatest beauty spot of our entire park system. (May 5th, 1909)

 Along with the land that was given and offered for sale, Mr. Melgaard also decided to donate a boulevard that would encircle the entire property. It was to be 66 feet wide and made of gravel, and it intersected with State Street. Furthermore, it gave access to a series of roads running through the park, so it was created to be ideal for both horses and automobiles.

Then, on June 7th, 1931, there was an unveiling ceremony for the Melgaard Park statue. Made by the American Bronze Company out of Chicago, it was 6 ½ feet tall and cost around $3,000. The unveiling was held in conjunction with other activities that concluded Aberdeen’s Golden Jubilee Celebration. Since then, several improvements have been added to the park, including tennis courts, shelters, and a variety of playground equipment that makes the park a great family spot to this day.

A college student enjoys a sunny day at the park (7/20/2012).

(Click to view larger.)

Other useful links:
Official Aberdeen Site
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Brownco Courier

The education system has changed quite a bit since the mid-1900’s, and some items from that collection that attest to that fact are a group of “Brownco Courier” newsletters dating from 1945 to 1949.

(Click to view larger.)

The “Brownco Courier” was published by the county superintendent’s office and sent out to all of the teachers on the Saturday of the fifth week of each six week period. Contained within these newsletters was a myriad of ideas and activities to help teachers in the classroom. They were given examples showing how to grade students’ work and teach them the correct way to write, and they were provided with lists of books and equipment they would need for the selected curriculum. Also included in the mix were some patterns teachers could use to decorate their classrooms, like this picture of “Mr. Squirrel” seen below (click to see on pg 53 of original document).

Another thing included in the newsletters was a letter from the Brown County Public Health Nurse, who happened to be Rose Nelson after 1946. These letters included tips for the teacher to keep an eye on her students to make sure that they all remained as healthy as possible, like using as fresh of milk as possible and washing hands before eating. Teachers were also supposed to clean their classrooms daily, since cleanliness promotes good health, so between cleaning and teaching and helping students with their YCL (Young Citizen’s League) projects, the life of a teacher would have been very, very busy. Be sure to check out the links below for more detailed information.

A labor excuse form, letter from the Brown County Nurse, and a suggested daily schedule (Click to view larger).

Some useful links:
Brownco Courier 1945-46
Brownco Courier 1946-47
Brownco Courier 1947-48
Brownco Courier 1948-49
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Northern Normal and Industrial School

Black and white photograph of the entrance to the Northern Normal and Industrial School, with central building in background.

The other college that has a place in the collection, Northern State University, has roots just as deep, if not deeper, as Presentation College here in Aberdeen. It was not, however, always known as Northern State University. In fact, it all began as Northern Normal and Industrial School.

Two postcards showing the central building of NNIS.
(Click to view larger.)

Interestingly enough, it was Father Robert Haire who made the first official proposal for an institution of higher education to be placed in the northern part of the state. (For more on Father Haire, see the Sacred Heart blog post.) It would be some time until this proposal would come to fruition, but in 1901 Northern Normal and Industrial School was finally established through legislative enactment.Construction began in short order, and by the time December of 1901 rolled around, the first central building of the school was almost complete. Unfortunately that one was destroyed by fire, but it was rebuilt, and in March of 1902 faculty were selected to teach at the new Northern Normal and Industrial School when it opened on September 9th with Miss Jean Mitchell of Hecla being the first student to register.

Postcard shows three main buildings of Northern Normal and Industrial School, Aberdeen, South Dakota.

After its opening the school was quite successful, so in 1903 legislature decided to build a Ladies’ Hall for the school. Two short years later George W. Nash succeeded Mr. Koehler in his position as president of the school, and with him came new courses of study as well as a new Mechanic Arts building. Several more structures were built shortly thereafter, some of which are still recognizable on campus today, including the Administration building dating back to 1907 that was one of the first modern fireproof structures in the state.

Colored postcard showing the buildings on the campus of Northern Normal and Industrial School.

To make a long story short, as Northern Normal and Industrial School grew and changed, so did the focuses of the institution, and with these changes came changes in name. Slowly Northern Normal morphed into Northern State Teachers College, then in 1964 with much controversy it became Northern State College, and finally in 1989 it went into legislate with Dakota State and Black Hills State to become the university that we know today.

Other Useful Links:
NNIS 25th Anniversary Booklet
NNIS Basketball Postcard
NNIS Football Postcard
Northern State University
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