Days gone by: A history of two small, Midwestern towns

Eye on KELOLAND

DELMONT, S.D. AND BEAVER CREEK, M.N. (KELO) – It’s the story of many small towns in the Midwest. A history full of life, growth and excitement that all began with the railroads. However, things aren’t quite the same anymore.

Drive down the interstate and you pass signs for nearby towns. Communities filled with history that may be all but forgotten.

The late 1800s brought the railroad through rural Midwest, helping establish businesses and towns. That’s how Delmont, South Dakota and Beaver Creek, Minnesota got their start.

“The railroad actually ended in Beaver Creek at one time. And it had a big hotel and all kinds of businesses. It was a very wealthy little town at one time,” Ron Rauk of Beaver Creek said.

Although the life of the railroad began disappearing in the mid 1900s, Ron Rauk of Beaver Creek, Minnesota and Dick Strid of Delmont, South Dakota, have memories of meeting those that rode the rails.

“Every summer, this guy would come, he was from Iowa and he played the violin. So a bunch of us used to come over and we knew that he must be hungry, so we went home and got sandwiches and brought them over every year that he was here,” Dick Strid of Delmont, South Dakota said.

“Those people were always so nice. Like you think, boy, they’d be some bad kind of people, but they were always friendly and nice and talk about where they’d been. It was kind of interesting because a lot of those people traveled a long ways by rail,” Rauk said.

But there was more to growing up in these towns than just the trains passing through.

Imagine for a second bandstand music echoing off these buildings and children roaming in and out of grocery stores with penny candies.

“They’d all come on Saturday night, park along main street and listen to the band concert. After that, they’d go to the Home Plate Cafe at that time and they’d have a hamburger, ice cream. They’d go to the store and do some shopping. It was just always busy,” Rauk said.

Rauk’s family moved to Beaver Creek in the 1950s to help his grandfather run their grocery store.

“We made our own fun in town. We used to play a game called ‘Branchelielow’ where everybody would just run and hide and it was usually about dusk. We’d have to yell out a name, ‘Branchelielow’ and people would have to try and find us. We probably would do that for hours until the whistle blew at 10 o’clock where it was time for everyone to go home,” Rauk said.

Strid grew up in Delmont and although he left town for awhile, he came back and opened Dick’s Market.

“It was kind of crazy, because we would run around a lot and had parties and things like that. But that wasn’t the only thing, I enjoyed the school, the town and so on,” Strid said.

Staying or coming back isn’t always part of the plan for those who grew up in small towns. As time moved on, so did the people.

“Well there really wasn’t anything here that was any jobs for people. That would be one factor and that’s probably what the biggest thing was. They went on to better places,” Strid said.

Small towns all across the Midwest have rich histories, and although a lot of them don’t have a lot going on anymore, it’s the memories of days gone by that keep people around.

“It’s quiet, peaceful town. Leaves a lot of memories of a town that we once lived,” Strid said.

“A little loyal to my grandfather being here so many years and the store went from my grandfather to my dad to me and now this went to my nephews, so we’ve been here in business about 101 years. So, yeah, you could’ve went some place and made more money and did better, but just the small town feel always appealed to me,” Rauk said.

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