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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas and Theatres   » #368: Trail Theater; New Town, ND

Author Topic: #368: Trail Theater; New Town, ND
Carroll H. Rasch
New Member

Posts: 25
From: Saint Louis Park, MN
Registered: Apr 2005

 - posted May 10, 2005 12:08 PM      Profile for Carroll H. Rasch   Email Carroll H. Rasch         Edit/Delete Post 
After WWII ended, twelve million men and women; who had stopped National Socialism, Italian Fascism and Japanese Militarism; came home to short term unemployment. Huge national projects were undertaken which quickly used the talents and organizational skills of these soldiers. One huge project was to "tame" the Missouri River Basin Project and was approved by Congress in 1944 to await the returning troops. A series of great dams was planned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The site selected in North Dakota would eliminate three towns by the flooding of the reservoir (Lake Sakakawea)and ran right through a great Indian Reservation designated as home to three Horticultural tribes (Mandans, Arikara and Awakanse).

The towns of Sanish, Van Hook and the lovely town of Elbow Woods were evacuated and moved to a new site: New Town, ND. New Town became the new "Native American" town and HQ of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Another town rose out of the plains: Riverdale. It was the US Army Corps of Engineers town...overlooking the dam site. A half dozen wild west, rowdy, noisy construction towns rose around Riverdale (Silver City, Silver Dollar, Big Bend, Sitka etc.) They were filled with WWII vets and, I remember the Sea Bees the best...They built the dam like they fought the war; 24 hours a day...Today, Riverdale is diminished but the perfect Federal plan is still apparent. Federal style brick homes for the officers and wooden duplex and four-plex bungalos for the married and two and three floor barracks style structures for the single men and the six towns for the free spirits. (I believe there was a movie theater in Riverdale as well. Or, it was a "movie night" in a large building set up as needed. I am guessing that the Corps might have records. I was very young and remember dimmly.)

The only wild construction town still remaining is Pick City. (The great planners of the four state project which built seven of the biggest earth filled and rolled dams in the world...until the Russians built Aswan in Egypt...were named Pick and Sloan. Fort Peck, Garrison Dam, Oahe Dam, Big Bend, Fort Randall, Gavins Point and and Canyon Ferry. Colonel Pick was in the Burma-China-India theater of WWII and had overseen the construction of the Ledo Road. He helped save New Orleans in 1927. W. Glenn Sloan was from the Bureau of Reclaimation. The Great General Eisenhower came to dedicate the dam as President of the United States. Ike was a great hero to all of us litte second and third generation German-Americans because he was proof that all German names were NOT Nazis. We would shout this to the Dutch kids who tried to beat us up after school. As in WWII, the Norwegian kids were NO help.)

New Town was also laid out in a great Federal semi-circle of streets...a large fan, the base of which was Main Street. On Main Street was the Trail Theater. Asking up and down Main Street I was assured that the pictures below are of the old Trail Theater. It (302 Main Street) has recently been converted into two or three apartments. New Town seems to have a new prosperity due to the Four Bears Casino just to the west....across Four Bears Bridge which spans a narrow part of Lake Sakakawea. (I can acually tell you who Four Bears was and why he is so admired.) The young waitresses at a New Town cafe, who pointed me to this builiding, were very saddened that it had closed. It was a windy and dusty day and, I could understand their loss.

Look at a map. It is vast and lonely but contains the most lovely scenery and sturdy people, whose satuday nights together watching movies in those rare North Dakota theaters was a socially central event, like the Post Office, the bar, the Legion Club and the church. The "show house" was a great event.

Marriages were dreamed there.

I exist because a young couple, brought together by the New Deal and the N.Y.A., held hands in the Halliday Theater in 1936.


 - [Wink] [thumbs up]

[ May 11, 2005, 08:42 AM: Message edited by: Carroll H. Rasch ]

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William Hooper

Posts: 82
From: Mobile, AL
Registered: Mar 2003

 - posted May 10, 2005 10:52 PM      Profile for William Hooper   Email William Hooper         Edit/Delete Post 
Someone from THSA was looking for quonset hut theatres, but I can't remember who it was: Jim Rankin, Richard Sklenar, or Steve Levin?

That quonset hut is of a different design I've usually seen. It's more peaked (& gothic!) at the top instead of parabolic or semicircular.

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Jim Rankin
(Jim passed away in December 2006)
Posts: 123
From: Milwaukee, WI
Registered: Oct 2003

 - posted May 11, 2005 07:31 AM      Profile for Jim Rankin   Email Jim Rankin         Edit/Delete Post 
The man looking for the Quonset information was former THSA president Lowell Angell in Honolulu, and I will forward this topic to him.

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Carroll H. Rasch
New Member

Posts: 25
From: Saint Louis Park, MN
Registered: Apr 2005

 - posted May 12, 2005 02:27 PM      Profile for Carroll H. Rasch   Email Carroll H. Rasch         Edit/Delete Post 
I would guess that this theater is so much more recent than the early quonset theaters. I think of quonset type theaters as something of the WWII era. I dunno. I don't know the topic but, I am betting that this theater (#368) was built much later - in the 1960s or even the 70s... That might be the reason for the more "Gothic" shape of the roof. There might have been a larger variety of engineering styles available at this later date. Just guessing. [Shrug]

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