Dakota Datebook

Thanksgiving News, 1931

Thursday, November 25, 2004

As it does this year, Thanksgiving Day also fell on November 25th in 1931. Around the state that year, there was good news, and there was bad news.

In Minot, 13 year-old Boy Scout, Arthur Grandin, received a certificate of heroism from the National Boy Scout Court of Honor that day. The previous summer, Arthur had rescued a 4 year-old boy, Roland Berg, from the waters of the Mouse River. The paper read, “He plunged into the river, grasped the child who was struggling in the water, (and) brought him to the bank where he performed artificial respiration.”

There was also a story about the price of turkey. It was reported that housewives in Dallas, Texas, were shelling out 29 cents a pound for turkeys “on the hoof” that year. In Chicago, they had to pay from 38 to 43 cents per pound, but that was nothing compared to Boston, where turkeys were selling for the astronomical price of 60 cents for (quote) fowl executed and dressed for the oven (unquote). In comparison, North Dakotans were paying less than half that amount.

Out in Timmer, ND, it was reported that Chauncey H. Frost had died at the age of 88. He was Bismarck’s last surviving member of the Grand Army of the Republic. He joined the Union forces when he was 19 and was a private with the Iowa Infantry during the Civil War.

The next story involves a Park River boy named Sigurd Melstad, who attended the Walsh County Agricultural and Training School. The previous May, Melstad was among nine Future Farmers of America whose records were found to be outstanding; for his performance, Sigurd was awarded a gold key and named “State Farmer.” On this date in 1931, it was learned that Melstad had advanced in the FFA standings and was to be awarded the degree of “American Farmer.”

The next two stories from Thanksgiving 1931 concern two kings. The first was a Gypsy King who died while he was traveling from New York back to his home near Jamestown. King Zek Marks’ funeral was held in a Russian Greek Orthodox church, and he was buried beside his wife, who died in North Dakota the previous year. King Zek was buried with an extra shirt, handkerchiefs, underwear and socks, and tucked into his pocket was his favorite pipe. In his hands were gold coins and his personal papers – all according to Gypsy, or Romany, traditions. The funeral was followed by nine months of mourning, during which Zek’s followers didn’t cut their hair and beards. They also gave up singing during this period, which ended with the crowning of a new king, John Costello, the following year.

The second king in the news was Joseph Leon Cohen Segal Lazarowitz, king of the hoboes. A news story read, “Lazarowitz blew into Fargo heralded by news stories in half a dozen northwest papers, which recounted how he was resigning as ‘king’ to marry a Winnipeg girl and how he had called a national hobo convention for Chicago in 1932 to elect a new monarch.”

Fargo police arrested Lazarowitz for vagrancy, and he was the jail’s only Thanksgiving customer. “The hobo king was given a turkey dinner at noon Thursday,” the story went. “But for religious reasons (he couldn’t) eat turkey. The bread that went with the dinner was buttered and he could not eat it for the same reason. When supper time came, the main dish was roast pork… Two Fargo Jews visited Lazarowitz…with the intent of bailing him out, but after a few minutes conversation, during which they received his views on life and the world generally, they decided to let him stay in jail.”

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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