Monthly Archives: June 2011

More on the Clontarf Play (plus…a few news items)

After reading my previous post about the Clontarf play (click here to see original post), cast member Tom Doherty sent me this email:

I believe that the year of the play was 1956.  I know that it wasn’t the late ’50s.  All of the characters we played were still alive in 1956, such as Doc Apitz who died in 1958.
I broke my arm about 10 days to 2 weeks before the play and it looked like I wasn’t going to play my Dad (Joe) as scheduled.  Then Annie Ascheman, who worked on the play with all of us, came to me with a solution.  She got the Buck Eucker players to sit down and start dealing and then she had me go and sit down and join them.  Then they all started asking me about the arm – was it broke, etc., and how did I break it.   I said that I was patting myself on the back for playing good cards and I broke my arm.
The whole house just howled and I looked out in the audience and there sat my Dad glaring at me.  Annie was over by the stage and she was in convulsions laughing so hard.  I believe her husband was Fred and they lived out in Tara & Hegbert area.  They went to church in Clontarf, so she knew about all the characters inside and out.  She put in many hours with practicing and rehearsing on this play.

Tom Doherty

What a treat to have this first-hand account!  Thanks for sharing Tom!

Anyone else remember this play, or perhaps other performances put on my the residents of Clontarf?  Leave a comment or send me an email (

The big news in Clontarf this week is the new sign that went up on Thursday.  It is a great sign.  I forgot to take a picture, so if someone could email me a picture, I would like to post it.

In a couple of weeks, on Sunday, July 10th, St. Malachy will be holding their annual Summerfest.  This is a fundraiser, complete with Mass, a silent auction, games, and a pot-luck.

Eileen would like to thank everyone who came out Thursday to the Swift County Historical Society for her talk on, The Dutiful Son Louis W. Hill: Life in the Shadow of the Empire Builder James J. Hill.  If you missed it, the book is available from Ramsey County Historical Society…just click here for more information and to order a copy.

Have a good weekend!

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Spring at McDermott’s

It’s been awhile since we’ve taken a peek at the McDermott General Store Ledger.  The month of May saw many of the typical purchases: tea, tobacco, soap, coffee, nails, sugar, and yeast cakes.  There was much building and a quite a bit of sewing going on in the Clontarf area during the Spring of 1883 as well.

One transaction that caught my eye came on May 18, 1883 when Frank McMahon bought 1 pkg envelopes and some letter paper (10-cents each.)  This stood out to me because Frank (my great-great-grandfather) was unable to read and write.  The paper and envelopes must have been for his wife!

Albert Hilla purchased 3 cigars, some ginger snaps, and a can of oysters for a grand total of 45-cents on June 7th.  Michael O’Neil spent 80-cents on a brand new manure rake.  I would bet that Mr. Hilla enjoyed his purchases more than Mr. O’Neil!

Maybe those of you who know something about construction could help me figure out what Frank McMahon was building with these supplies (I can’t even decipher some of Mr. McDermott’s script):

  • 904 ft. Dimension (?)
  • 1100 ft.  Shapers (?)
  • 1200 ft. Siding
  • 800 ft. Flooring
  • 7 X Shingles

All of that for $119.23…I can’t read the second item on the list, and I don’t understand the first one.  Any ideas what he was building?  Leave a comment!


Don’t forget about Eileen McCormack’s talk at Swift County Historical Society this Thursday (6/23) @ 7:30pm.  She will be discussing her latest project, a biography of Louis W. Hill, son James J. Hill.  Copies of the book,  The Dutiful Son Louis W. Hill: Life in the Shadow of the Empire Builder James J. Hill, will be available for purchase or order at Thursday’s event.  Please attend if you are able.


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The Clontarf Grace Avenue Theatre Proudly Presents…

Anne Schirmer shared this gem with me on my last visit to Clontarf in April:

A Jack Langan Production.

Anne had a chat with Mary Reardon Langan, wife of play producer Jack Langan, and Mary shared some of her memories of the play…

Mary said the action of the play centered around a game of Buck Euchre, which apparently was a big part of “a typical business day in Clontarf” during the 1920s and 1930s!  The actors are listed on the left and each portrayed a Clontarf resident from back in the day.  A couple of guys (Bob Perrizo and Jim Benoit) did double-duty playing two characters.  Jack based the play on his first-hand observations of these Clontarf businessmen and card players, according to Mary.

Mary also remembered some of the special guest celebrities: Brother Bones was played by Dick Perrizo, and The Dolly Sisters were Gretchen and Robbie Apitz.  This must have been quite a production!  I bet the people of Clontarf really enjoyed themselves.  I love the idea of an old-fashioned basket social.

A couple of other notes from Mary…

  • The first actor on the list should be Jerry Goulet, not aTerry.
  • “Gus’s” Place refers to Gus Heschke’s.
  • Sis Mikkelson was responsible for creating many plays in Clontarf over the years, especially St. Patrick’s Day productions.

Anyone out there remember this play, or events like this in Clontarf?  I am not sure if Mary and Anne came up with a year for this…maybe the late 1950s?  I must say that I am impressed by Mr. Langan’s production, and I would love to know about others he presented in Clontarf over the years.  Please share any memories you have by leaving a comment.  Let me know if you have any photos from this time (school photos, baseball team, etc.) or any other momentos…it would be great to see them.

Many thanks to Anne and Mary!

Have a great weekend!


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This & That

May Drawing Winner

Winner of the May drawing for a Clontarf Prairie Pub t-shirt is Eileen Doherty Bliss!  Your name was chosen from those who left comment on the blog in May.  I will send you an email to get your address.  Congratulations Eileen, and thanks for commenting!

There weren’t many comments in May, but I suppose that is because there were not many posts to the blog in May!  I will do better…more Clontarf history this summer…I promise!  What do you like to see on Clontarf History?  Photographs? Newspaper clippings?  McDermott Store ledger?  Family histories?  Let me know what you are interested in reading about!

Swift County Historical Society Program

Eileen McCormack will be speaking at the Swift County Historical Society  in Benson on Thursday, June 23rd @ 7:30pm.  The following appeared in the SCHS May/June 2011 newsletter:

The Dutiful Son

Mark your calendars.

Thursday, June 23 – 7:30 PM

Program at the Museum in Benson

The Dutiful Son Louis W. Hill: Life in the Shadow of the Empire Builder James J. Hill

Eileen McCormack, researcher for the new biography of Louis W. Hill, will give an illustrated talk on the book, The Dutiful Son. In addition to talking about the life of Louis Hill, the presentation will include a brief look at James J. Hill and his career as a builder of the Great Northern Railway and a Gilded Age capitalist.

Louis HIll’s life was more than railroads. Eileen will discuss his early life, marriage and family, development of Glacier National Park, involvement in banking and settlement along the railroad and his later life and personal philanthropy.

The power point presentation will give guests an opportunity to view pictures of the Hill homes, family, and other aspects of their lives. It will give an insight to what it was like being a member of the Hill family. Eileen welcomes questions about the Hill family and their empire. Society members are asked to invite family and friends to this special program. There is no fee to attend. Refreshments will be served.

If you are in the neighborhood, plan on attending this program.  Eileen really knows her Hill family history.  Before becoming assistant curator of the James J. Hill Family Papers (formerly located at the James J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul, now at the Minnesota Historical Society) Eileen was an interpreter at the James J. Hill House on Summit Avenue in Saint Paul.  Today, Eileen’s company (formed in 2007 with daughter Regan) Archival Solutions provides historical research and archival services for individuals, businesses, and local organizations.

Don’t miss it!

Find a Grave

Finally, I wanted to mention the website Find a Grave.  This site has added 118 graves from St. Malachy Cemetery, Clontarf to its database.  Check it out.  More information to come on how we can add more graves to the listing…this is a fantastic resource for genealogists, family historians, and anyone interested in where their family is buried.  Stay tuned…

Have a great weekend!


Filed under Clontarf, Drawing