I don't recall much of any organized team sports during my time. The school had no gymnasium and the potato warehouse with the hardwood floor burned when I was quite young. We had recreational softball games through the school but that was about it. Winter sports did include skiing, and there was actually a rope ski lift up the hill behind where the Speedway restaurant is now. Other than that it was climb the hill and ski down. We did ski behind vehicles with a rope and even behind horses occasionally. Skating was done on the river and the most popular spot was probably right at the forks. Usually we would have to shovel off a covering of snow, and of course you had to have a fire so that by the time you were all set to skate the ankles were already worn out. Often someone would bring an old tire to throw on the fire which would give off loads of heat and a thick black soot which was probably not easy to wash out of our clothes. A hockey stick was a rarity but you could have about as much fun with a tree branch and frozen horse droppings. The river also provided swimming in summer. Most of this was done at the Old Settlers Park behind the dam. There were even changing facilities and one of these was later moved to our farm and used as an outbuilding. We taught each other how to swim--or not as the case may be and this location has been the site of more than one drowning. There was also swimming at the dam up the Des Lacs river and at the dam on the Souris where the golf course is now. By mid summer it became difficult to find water you could actually see through.
Hunting and fishing were very popular as there was an abundance of birds and fish to be had. Fishing locally was in the Souris and Des Lacs river with good results in the spring. Setting out a highly illegal fish trap was not unusual and stealing the fish from the trap or even the trap itself was a common and of course unreported crime. The best fishing was to Canada. At that time the limits were not a problem and when a group would return with boxes full of fish on ice it was common to share with the nieghbors. My father was usually the organizer of a trip to Canada and he would set the whole thing up and do all the cooking after we got there. Participants included Vance Remington, Cliff Hegerberg, Bud Vise, Al Fisher, Dixon, Billy Marshall and others. Since Geo set the thing up I was given the privilege of coming along. Geo was an avid fisherman and always rousted the crew out early by tempting them with a big breakfast. I was probably the one in best shape not having participated in the late night card game and accompaning refreshments. Almost every summer we (the family) would go on a fishing trip to MN where fishing was also good at that time. Often we would meet Art and May Boscert at some cabin site at a lake. Early hunting for waterfowl was so organized that a group from Burlington purchased land and built a hunting lodge or cabin (or maybe even shack) south of Des Lacs. First trips to the lodge were made by horse and wagon and the return might be with the wagon quite full of birds. This was primarily a mens retreat and I don't remember that the wives were especially enthused, and the lodge was eventually abandoned, although the area is still good hunting today. There was also abundant upland game and easy pheasant hunting which we don't have today. A trip up the Souris river valley on the dirt trail would always net you some pheasants, and if you didn't want to go to that effort there were usually some to be had right behind the barn. The best shooters would include Geo, Vance, Al Fisher and Al Kittelson. I would be far down the list, although I did manage to score some. Deer were not nearly as plentiful early on as they are today. The first open season I remember was when I was in grade school when I was sent to the Speedway area on my horse (Baldy again) and drove a nice buck into a stand where Geo waited with a 22 rifle. I'm sure this was illegal even then, and if you tried riding a horse through the woods today during open season you would be lucky to come out alive. We tied a rope from the deer horns to the saddle horns and Baldy dragged the deer home through the snow. He was not comfortable with the smell of blood however and when we would stop to rest him he immediately turned around to keep his eye on the deer.
While on the subject of Baldy I suppose much of my personal recreation evolved around him, sort of like your first car which you never forget. He never liked to be caught and now I can understand why as he was often abused. He was often ridden hard up and down the hills in "cowboy games" in races or just in search of wild berries and plums. I had a scabbard with a 22 rifle which I would shoot from horseback and he tolerated the noise quite well. One thing he did not tolerate well was carrying double and had a habit of bucking the second person off. He also would take the bit in his mouth and walk into standing water and lay down completely soaking rider and saddle. We had a harness for him and used him to snake logs out of the woods for firewood, and to pull the "stone boat" a skid platform made of two logs tapered at the front covered and joined by planks. This was used for cleaning barns but was also great fun riding when pulled through the snow, and the faster the better. The problem was there were no shafts so to slow down there was only the "dragging foot" brake to keep the thing from catching poor Baldy's heels. There was still one old buggy on the farm in high disrepair but Ken and I patched it up and hooked Baldy to it. Again we had no shafts and no way to slow the buggy so that it started hitting Baldy whenever he slowed up, and this time a little higher than his heels. We were finally going flat out and Ken and I baled out and Baldy and the buggy went into the trees where the buggy completely disintegrated. It was mostly the boys who took advantage of the wide open spaces around town. There was some camping in the coulees, lots of berry picking and again cowboy related games in the hills. The old Davis brickyard even resembled some of the scenery from the early western movies and almost every boy had a cap gun and was shot (reluctantly when it was his turn) several times. Before the Dutch Elm desease the woods could be ridden through easily or walked and they also provided the raw materials for making many a raft. The trouble with rafting was the Souris was so slow it might take half a day to drift a mile.
The night life in Burlington was centered around the rec hall. Upstairs was the dance hall and there were at that time regular dances with Irene Miller on the piano and Al Miller on drums but I don't remember other musicians. If you were in the main floor cafe when they did a polka you could sit and watch the ceiling flex up and down to the beat. Although the dances were very popular--and my parents liked to dance--there would usually be at least one altercation in the evening which we boys would have to abandon the cafe to go outside to observe. The main floor was remodeled several times to match the whims of the ND state legislature. First there could be no food where there was liquor, then no liquor unless you served food and then finally back to where we started. The cafe was often manned by the Remington sisters, and Mrs Duhamel was the very capable cook. At one time there was a barbershop in the basement along with pool tables and cardtable. There was a stairway entrance from outside leading to the barber shop. After this was closed entrance to the basement was from an inside stairway. We had to ask for the pool balls and got permission to play only on good behavior, Vance being the final authority. Geo liked to frequent the card table and was a very good card player. He would often return from these late night card games to face my unhappy mother and she was only partly consoled by the amount of money he had a habit of winning. Bridge was also a very popular pastime and my parents belonged to a bridge club which they entertained in our home on many an occasion. One session included plank tables and stew served in tin cans--their "hard times party", and I remember another session where everyone had to play with heavy gloves or mittens on. A good time was had by all, except that my mother didn't like being Geo's bridge partner. Something about "why would she play her King when she had to know they had the Ace".
There was a good deal of entertaining in our home of family and friends and the door was always open and the coffee pot on. In Grandma Swanson's case that could be taken literally as the coffee was made on the wood stove in the large metal pot each morning and left there for the entire day. If you had a cup of coffee there in the evening you were definitely awake. Also the doors were literally open as few people even had locks. One of our neighbors who regularly had trouble negotiating the roads after a night in the rec center gave up knocking on the door for help and just walked in the house to wake Geo up. Ken said the same thing used to happen at their house so he apparently knew his way around houses and didn't discriminate.
I'm not sure it should be classed as recreation but Halloween was of a different nature than today with the focus on tricks more than treats. The favorite trick of the time was tipping over outhouses, or one with even more potential moving the outhouse back a few feet in hopes that the next user came there in the dark with the expected result. The town was regularily patrolled by Leo Stemen and his car with spotlight and homeowners were torn between treating the little ones at the front door and keeping an eye "out back".
Traveling at the time was not as dependent on the auto as today. The Soo Line had two passenger trains stopping at the Burlington Depot each day and a ticket office open all day. The depot agaent and his family lived in quarters above the depot. The mail also came by train and if the train had no reason to stop the sack of mail was caught on the fly by a hook arrangement. Later the passenger and mail service was taken over by Greyhound bus which ran daily from Minot to Kenmare with stops in Burlington. The depot also had a freight service and was the shipping point for cream collected in the general store. I don't remember taking the train just for a trip to Minot but many did regularly.
Going to Minot for the movies was also popular. There were three theatres, The State,Strand and Orpheum all on main street. Entrance to the Sat matinee--usually a western or adventure film--could be subsidized by a Sweetheart bread wrapper. I was disadvantaged because my mother baked all our bread as were many others so bread wrappers became valuable. On occasion when we children became especially annoying to Vance Remington he would line up a driver for his van, load us in the back and send us to the movies.