Surprisingly, there were many forms of entertainment available to our early settlers. Those who enjoyed the outdoors found our district exceptionally good for hunting and fishing. Deer and moose were plentiful and the many surrounding lakes provided an abundance of fish. The winter season found many of our settlers and their children skating on the sloughs, skiing on the slopes or bob sledding on the hills. During the summer season they participated in various outdoor games such as baseball or softball. The nearby lakes provided swimming, picnics and camping. Those who remained indoors found numerous home devices which proved entertaining. At all times, some of which I will attempt to describe.
The Edison Cylinder phonograph was one of the most popular devices available during the pioneer years. It was invented by Thomas A. Edison in 1887. There were many models available to the public which were priced from about $7.50 for the small Gem to about $125 for the more luxurious Concert and Opera models. The earlier Edison Cylinder phonograph was equipped with an outside horn which was a real dust catcher. Later models concealed the horn within the case. The records were cylindrical and made of celluloid. There were thousands of records available for as little as 50 cents each. Some of the more popular tunes at that time were: “My Wild Irish Rose," “Ramona," “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” “Casey Jones,” “Wreck Of The Old Number Nine,” “Trail Of The Lonesome Pine,” “Peggy O'Neil,” “Silver Threads Among The Gold,” and “By The Light Of The Silvery Moon.” Another popular home entertaining device was the stereoscope. It was quite similar in construction to our viewmaster.
Two identical pictures placed side by side on a card were inserted into the stereoscope and when viewed a 3-dimensional picture appeared. Without leaving your living room you could visit the Alps, see the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and the Egyptian Pyramids. Stereoscope cards could be purchased almost anywhere for as little as 25 cents a card. The radio first came out in about 1915 and was called a crystal set. It required no batteries nor was it powered by electricty. It consisted of a cylinder with many coils of copper wire, a tuner and a set of headphones. It had a very poor receiving range and unless you were near a broadcasting station it proved to be worthless. The battery powered radios came out about 1918 and were powered by an “A,” “B,” and “C” battery. Some of the earlier models still came equipped with earphones as a well as massive exterior horn. Some of the more popular radios available at the time were the Philco, DeForest, Crossley, Radiola, Stewart Warner, Atwater Kent and the RCA Victor models. The receiving range of these early battery powered radios was extremely good. Two broadcasting stations that always came in loud and clear were KOA Denver and KSL Salt Lake City. Radios provided our settlers with many hours of entertainment especially during the winter months, a time when they had to remain indoors because of our long, cold, wintery weather.
Some of our early settlers brought a piano with them when they took out their homesteads. There weren't many who could afford this luxury but those who could, found their homes a popular place to visit. Later, other settlers were able to purchase a Player Piano. This piano was always popular and it provided many hours of entertainment to those both young and old. To play it, you inserted a roll of music into a top compartment which was then attached to a lower reel. You then pedaled to your heart's content. Without taking a single music lesson you became a talented pianist. Additional music rolls were available for as little as 75 cents a roll. Two smaller devices available at the time which were very popular, especially with children were the Kazoo and the Jew's Harp.
Violins were always popular during the early years and it seemed every community had one or more good violinists who could provide the music for house parties, barn dances and other get-togethers.
Newspapers and magazines also provided many hours of entertainment for our early settlers. They were available for about $1 a year and were mailed out to the subscribers. Some of the more popular publications were: The Nor-West Farmer, Family Herald and Weekly Star, Winnipeg Free Press, The Chicago Herald, The Toronto Star Weekly, Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, The Country Guide and the Liberty magazine. Reading material was never thrown out, it was generally passed around to the neighbors or filed in some storage room for future use. Some of the available weeklies provided four pages of comics which were eagerly looked forward to by both young and old. Some of the better known comics were: "Maggie and Jigs," "The Katzenjammer Kids," "Tillie the Toiler," "Tarzan," "Major Hoople," "Little Orphan Annie," "Moon Mullins" and "Mutt and Jeff."
Although many of our early settlers lived in remote, outlying areas, they were never short of some form of entertainment or other.