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Generations f a l l t w o t h o u s a n d n i n e t e e n • detroit lakes, mn

REVISITING A FORGOTTEN CHAPTER IN DL HISTORY The Edgewater Resort’s controversial employment of Japanese-Americans during WWII


Pickleball, ‘Unretiring,’ & Tim ‘Sugar Bear’ Bauer



Supplement to the Detroit Lakes Tribune, August 25, 2019 511 Washington Avenue • Detroit Lakes, MN 56501 218-847-3151 • Fax 218-847-9409 • Melissa Swenson, publisher Marie Johnson, magazine editor Sara Slaby, magazine designer Nick Weisser, creative manager

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‘There was this chapter in our history’ The Edgewater resort’s controversial employment of Japanese-Americans during WWII 2 Purple Hearts, 2 silver stars, 2 bronze stars A conversation with my Grandfather, Tim ‘Sugar Bear’ Bauer, about his service in Vietnam Working after work: ‘Unretirement’ a growing trend After a career as a U.S. Marshal, Robert Gard is now enjoying security work at the Becker County Courthouse Net results Pickleball players say the sport is a fun way to get exercise and meet people

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An artist’s rendering of the Edgewater Beach Resort Hotel & Cottages, from a 1960s-era promotional brochure. (Submitted Image)

‘There was this chapter in our history’ The Edgewater resort’s controversial employment of Japanese-Americans during WWII


t’s a particularly sorry aspect of America’s World War II history: Within 48 hours after Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the U.S. government quietly began rounding up thousands of Japanese-American citizens who were living on the West Coast, forcibly relocating them to 10 designated “relocation centers.” Those centers later came to be recognized for what they really were — internment camps. During the spring and summer of 1942, about 110,000 JapaneseAmerican men, women and children came to be housed in these camps, after being ordered by the U.S. Army


STORY: VICKI GERDES | PHOTOS: SUBMITTED to evacuate the Pacific Coast area. The War Relocation Authority (WRA) was the United States government agency established to handle this mass relocation — and it was the WRA that brought about 16 of these Japanese-Americans to Detroit Lakes to work at the Edgewater Beach Resort Hotel during the summer of 1943. This “experimental project” by the WRA has been nearly forgotten over the years, becoming an oftenoverlooked footnote in Detroit Lakes’ history. At the time, however, it created tension and controversy in the community, with anti-Japanese protesters lashing out against the resort’s owners.

In an Aug. 8, 1943 article that appeared in both the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, Associated Press writer Jack MacKay reported that the workers’ placement at the Detroit Lakes hotel was “a sort of experimental project … but the experiment is working out so successfully that (the regional WRA office in Fargo) has been swamped with calls for similar assistance by Minnesota and North Dakota farmers, and others who have heard about it.” Through the efforts of Fargo WRA officer Elmer Isaksen, several more Japanese-Americans were placed at farms along the Red River Valley where workers were requested.

According to Detroit Lakes native Fred Wright, whose father, Frederick Holmes Wright, owned the Edgewater at that time, the hotel was just one of many area businesses hurting for manpower due to the fact that a majority of able-bodied men were serving in the war. A quote from Isaksen in the 1943 article bears this out: “We have just submitted a number of job offers from North Dakota cafe and restaurant operators, garage owners, ranchers and poultry farmers for help,” he said. “In all of these cases the employers are extremely anxious to get these AmericanJapanese workers, having heard of the Edgewater Beach project and from farmers in the Red River Valley where many already are placed.” Wright’s father was also quoted in the article, stating, “These men are excellent workers, loyal to our government, and doing their part in helping to solve the labor problem. They are paid the prevailing wage and apparently they are happy to be out of the relocation centers.”

“Dad was a true pioneer on this “The FBI swept through the (employing Japanese-American community and arrested various workers),” Wright said. “But there people suspected of being alien was a downside.” leaders,” he stated. “If you got certain The war had created so much antimagazines, you could be arrested. Japanese sentiment, he explained, There was great anxiety among the that protesters actually burned older Japanese. I remember mother crosses on the lawn of the Wrights’ sitting by the kitchen stove, throwing home on Lincoln Avenue (they later in letters and pictures she’d received relocated to a house over the on Summit Avenue, years from her family which he still “Dad was a true because she owns). pioneer on this (employing didn’t want to In a special be suspected Minneapolis Japanese-American workers). of being a Sunday Tribune But there was a downside.” foreign agent.” publication from Though 1979, several -Fred Wright, son of former Edgewater he wasn’t as Japaneseresort owner Frederick Holmes Wright personally Americans who affected by the were relocated relocation as others, Hosokawa said, to Minnesota during World War his greatest fear was that the loss of II were interviewed. One of them, freedom would happen again. Bob Hosokawa, said it was difficult “Americans have to be aware there for “people today (i.e., 1979)” to was this chapter in our history,” he know the fear and suspicion about said. “In wartime, there could be Japanese-Americans that existed on enough hysteria by special groups the West Coast (and elsewhere) after to bring this about. I think there is the war broke out.

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LEFT: Here’s what the lobby of the Edgewater Beach Resort Hotel looked like in the early 1940s, which was when a group of 16 Japanese-American workers from a relocation center in Heart Mountain, Wyoming, came to work there. (Photo courtesy of Fred Wright). CENTER: These two Japanese-American workers were employed in the kitchen of the Edgewater Beach Resort Hotel in Detroit Lakes during the summer of 1943. RIGHT: Frank Onishi served as head waiter at the Edgewater Beach Resort Hotel during the summer of 1943. (Minnesota Historical Society photos)

always a threat to freedom. People who are strong are going to seize power from those not strong enough to defend themselves.” May Tanaka, another JapaneseAmerican interviewed for the Sunday Tribune piece, said, “this should not happen to anyone who is an American citizen. It is an injustice. It was not right to intern people who were American citizens.” According to the 1943 MacKay article, nearly all of those JapaneseAmerican workers placed in the northern Minnesota-North Dakota area by the WRA came from the relocation center at Heart Mountain,

return to their homes in California, but others said they were fearful their original jobs would be closed to them after the war, and were looking for a fresh start somewhere else. “Placement of evacuees at the Edgewater Beach Hotel and on farms in the Red River Valley is apparently working out very satisfactorily,” Isaksen said in the article. One tidbit that Wright learned from his parents about the JapaneseAmericans working at the Edgewater that year, he added, is that many of them had played in a band at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii, before they were relocated by

“Americans have to be aware there was this chapter in our history. In wartime, there could be enough hysteria by special groups to bring this about. I think there is always a threat to freedom. People who are strong are going to seize power from those not strong enough to defend themselves.”

-Bob Hosokawa, in a 1979 Minneapolis Sunday Tribune publication about JapaneseAmericans who were relocated to Minnesota during WWII Wyoming. In order to be able to qualify for “indefinite leave” from the relocation centers, each worker had to be “investigated with regard to his loyalty and background,” stated Isaksen. Some of the workers who were interviewed for the article (anonymously) said they hoped to PAGE 6 | GENERATIONS FALL 2019

the government. “After their shifts at the Edgewater were over, they would put on shows for the guests,” he said. The Edgewater was Detroit Lakes’ first luxury resort hotel. Frederick and Marie Wright purchased lake frontage at the edge of town in 1933 to build the family-oriented resort, and by 1936, they had opened a two-

story, rustic-style chateau with a recreation room and four bedrooms. The following fall, five cottages with steam heat were available for rent; three more were added the next year. Only two of the cottages remain standing today. According to Fred Wright, part of the charm of the Edgewater Beach cottages comes from the construction method used to build them — the only known example of pioneer stovewood construction in Minnesota. In this energy-efficient design, walls were built of logs sawn into short sections and stacked with their cut ends facing out. This form of architecture is more typical of northeastern Wisconsin than Minnesota, according to information provided by the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS). “The logs were mostly tamarack and pine,” Wright said, with mortar in between. George Jewel was the carpenter, according to MHS. In 1989, the remaining Edgewater Beach cottages were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Wright was interviewed about his family’s memories of the Edgewater, including the Japanese-Americans’ time there, in a 2019 documentary video commissioned by the Lake Detroiters Association for its 50th anniversary celebration, titled “What a Beautiful Detroit.” The video is currently available for purchase, in DVD form, from the Becker County Museum in Detroit Lakes.

“When he finally sat down and shared his story with me, so that I could share it with all of you, it was the first time I’d heard all of it. All the gritty details, good and bad.”


-Writer Desiree Bauer, on interviewing her grandfather for this story

Purple Hearts silver stars bronze stars

A conversation with my Grandfather, Tim ‘Sugar Bear’ Bauer, about his service in Vietnam STORY & PHOTOS: DESIREE BAUER


remember taking the 4-hour trek up to Frazee as a kid to visit Grandma and Grandpa Bauer. The stars and stripes of the American flag decorated their house, inside

and out. The dining room was even painted red, white and blue. On the wall above the couch was a photo of a man leaning over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall,

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Tim (SugarBear) Bauer holds a memory box of the medals he received for his service in the Vietnam War. One bronze star is missing from the box.

which I looked at often. I knew Grandpa had served in the war, where he lost one of his closest friends — and some of his own youth. I think I saw him in that picture.



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“I was drafted for two years,” my Grandpa, Tim ‘Sugar Bear’ Bauer, told me. He earned himself that nickname in those two years, thanks to his friends at base camp who spotted a letter from his then-girlfriend, lovingly addressed to, “My dearest Sugar Bear.” After that, ‘Sugar Bear’ was all they ever called him. He also earned himself two Purple Hearts, two silver stars, and two bronze stars. Up until very recently, I knew very little about what Grandpa went through in Vietnam. There were some things he just didn’t talk about at all for a long, long time. When he finally sat down and shared his story with me, so that I could share it with all of you, it was the first time I’d heard all of it. All the gritty details, good and bad. The hits, the injuries, the losses, the victories, and in the end, the rewards and challenges of coming home. It was hard. Hard to ask the questions about stories that I knew would be difficult for him to share, and hard to watch him and Grandma repeatedly wipe tears from their eyes during the two hours we talked.


“I was just out of high school,” Grandpa recalled. “It (the draft notice) came right around Christmas time. My parents weren’t going to give it to me.” But on Jan. 3, 1968, he reported for duty to the U.S. Army. He was part of Company B, 4th Battalion of the 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. As he went through basic and infantry training, he was selected by his sergeants to become a sergeant himself, at just 19 years old. “I accepted it,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’m going to take all the training I could get.’ I knew where I was going.” When he got to Vietnam, it was hot, rainy, stinky, and always wet. For meals, they used the explosive C4 to cook everything. “You roll it up into a little ball and put the can on top of it and light it on fire. You’re alright as long as you don’t slam it,” Grandpa explained, PAGE 8 | GENERATIONS FALL 2019

“We couldn’t move, we were just pinned down. Bullets were moving all around me... We couldn’t get it to stop ... laying there was worthless.” -Tim Bauer, recalling a particularly bad day in Vietnam, March 25, 1969

watching my shocked expression. He learned tricks like that quickly over there. He also learned that socks and underwear were no good for soldiers in Vietnam. As one soldier warned him, “The socks … with the swamps, will stick to your feet and rip off your skin, and your underwear will climb up your a--.” Grandpa discovered the hard way that the guy was right.


On Dec. 23, 1968, Grandpa and nine of the friends he had made in Vietnam were ordered to get in a Jeep towing a food wagon, even though it was a well-known rule to not do that. After much arguing, Grandpa allowed it. All of them, plus the driver and passenger, were blown up by a rocket, with small arms fire following it. Grandpa remembers seeing a flash of light and waking up on the ground. Shrapnel had sliced open his head and was stuck in his wrists, but he worked through it, attending to the rest of the men in his group. “Everybody was a little wounded. There was one guy, his leg was just dangling there,” he said, shaking his head. Grandpa was awarded his first Purple Heart for the injuries he received that day. He also got front row seats to Bob Hope’s Christmas Show. “That was fabulous,” he said with a smile, fondly remembering what that was like. The following month, January 1969, barely recovered from his shrapnel injuries, Grandpa earned his second Purple Heart. He was sitting alongside his machine gunner, waiting to give the order on when to fire at boats that were moving weapons, when

something hit him. He’s not sure what exactly it was, but he remembers being “whapped along the side of the head” and then flying into a ditch. A helicopter came and transported him to doctors at the base. He had shrapnel injuries again. This time, the shrapnel was in his head, and the doctors didn’t want to try and cut it out. They suggested he be sent home, but a general told him he had to stay. That shrapnel is still in his head today. It can either move further in toward his brain, or out toward the surface. No pieces have come out for a long time.


The battle that Grandpa was silent about for many years happened on March 25, 1969. He still has nightmares about it. As soon as I asked about it, I could feel an emotional shift. “That was the day that we lost a lot of men,” he said. There were two sergeants that day: Don Wallace, who was on point, and Grandpa in the rear. He and his men had just gotten to the woodline when “everything broke loose.” “We couldn’t move, we were just pinned down. Bullets were moving all around me. Didn’t dare shoot because it would hit Wallace and the point,” Grandpa said. “We couldn’t get it to stop ... laying there was worthless.” Eventually, the fire died down enough that he could move a little bit more. As he shuffled along the wet ground, he found a grenade launcher not far away. Further down was a bunker with two enemy soldiers in it. Grandpa grabbed the grenade and aimed it at the bunker. “I made a shot at the bunker, and luckily I got it and blew it up,” he said.

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much it would affect her, too. For blowing up that bunker and helping his lieutenant, Grandpa was awarded a silver star.


One of Bauer’s few remaining photos of himself in Vietnam.

While Grandpa did that, the battalion commander came in with his helicopter and rescued as many people as he could. Grandpa didn’t know that until after the fact. After he blew up the bunker, he regrouped his team. The lieutenant wanted the men to go back toward the woodline, where they had just come under fire. They did, and the lieutenant got hit. One man got up to try and drag the lieutenant to the medics, and Grandpa stepped up to help. A third helped out, too, but the three of them only made it a few steps before more rounds went off. The man beside Grandpa was shot and killed instantly. The lieutenant died, as well. Grandpa and his remaining men were then stuck in that spot for almost 24 hours. “I remember sitting there in that field (thinking), ‘Three rounds left I’m not going to waste it. Those suckers try to overrun us, at least I have three shots,’” Grandpa said. Grandma cuts in here, sharing that, “One of the guys said they were so out of ammunition that they were down to throwing rocks.” All that time, the battalion commander kept returning with his helicopter, rescuing more people. “Meanwhile the helicopter (pilot) kept saying something like, ‘I knew we were going to die today,’ but he just kept coming back,” Grandma said, choking back tears. She and Grandpa both had a difficult time retelling that story. I knew it would be hard on Grandpa, but until then I didn’t realize how PAGE 10 | GENERATIONS FALL 2019

Two months later, on May 22, Grandpa hopped out of a helicopter and headed toward the woods with his men. Enemy gunfire opened up, the lieutenant was hit and Grandpa had to get his men to safety at his pre-found hideaway: the canal. As they slowly moved, they released their own rounds. “It worked beautifully, got everybody back in there, nobody got hit,” Grandpa said. Then he looked around and realized he was missing two “newbies.” He looked at his machine gunner and told him he had to go find them. “He says, ‘No, no, no, Sugar Bear, no. They ain’t worth it.’ I said, ‘If that was me or you out there, I’d want somebody to come get me.’ And I went out there,” Grandpa said. “I found them. They were alive.” Of the two newbies, Grandpa said one was bigger and the other was small. He yelled at the bigger one, telling him to get back to the canal. The smaller one wouldn’t listen or budge, so Grandpa “picked him up by the ammo belt and start carrying him back,” he recalled. “The big guy was crawling backwards; he looked like a giant spider. I couldn’t believe it.” As he got them back, the machine gunner said, “Sugar Bear, you dumb--.” Beyond that, most of Vietnam is a blur for Grandpa. He received two bronze stars, as well, but isn’t quite sure anymore how he got them. His battalion was one of the first pulled out of the war. They were sent to Hawaii, and Grandpa enjoyed a little leave time at home. He was discharged shortly after.


About one month after being discharged, Grandpa’s friends dragged him out of his room and took him to a bar, The Domino, in

St. Cloud. They sat at a table beside another table full of girls, which eventually melded into one table. Grandpa sat beside a fiery redhead, whose name he soon learned was Linda Swanson. “After that, we went to Tomliono’s Pizza and Tim ordered a tuna fish pizza,” Grandma said, cut off by my laughter at the idea of tuna fish pizza. “I thought, ‘Oh my god.’ I was not impressed with him at all.” He must have done something right, though, because a few days later he called to ask her out on a date, and she accepted. He showed up an hour late, but Grandma said, “That was the night I pretty much fell for him.” It was January of 1970, Grandma was 18 and Grandpa was 22. They were engaged within five months, and married in another four. This October, they will celebrate 50 years of marriage. They’ve lived in Frazee since 1979, and Grandpa has been very active in the community and with veterans organizations. He worked for the post offices in Frazee and Perham, helped start the Frazee Rescue Squad, was a commander of the VFW for many years, spoke at Frazee High School about Vietnam and spoke at the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall when it was in New York Mills. He is the treasurer of the local Purple Heart chapter and a member of the Disabled American Veterans. He was also featured in two novels, the national bestseller, “Steel My Soldier’s Hearts,” by Colonel David H. Hackworth, and “Doc: Platoon Medic,” by Daniel E. Evans Jr. and Charles W. Sasser, in which Grandpa shares his memories about the war. To this day, he’s still remembered by many only as ‘Sugar Bear.’ At a Band of Brothers Reunion he attended about 25 years after Vietnam, nobody knew him as Sergeant Tim Bauer. He had to make a new name tag, labeling himself as ‘Sugar Bear,’ and that’s when he was recognized. To his Army friends, there’s no other name. To me, the only name is Grandpa.

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Robert Gard at the Becker County Courthouse security screening area.

Working after work: ‘Unretirement’ a growing trend After a career as a U.S. Marshal, Robert Gard is now enjoying security work at the Becker County Courthouse


fter a busy career with the U.S. Marshals Service, Robert Gard, 66, did what more and more people are doing these days — he ‘unretired.’ He reached a point where he felt ready to quit working full-time, but still felt “too young to not work” and wanted to keep making a little money, he says. So he retired from his career, but with the intention of PAGE 12 | GENERATIONS FALL 2019

STORY & PHOTO: NATHAN BOWE finding another part-time job to keep his schedule — and wallet — more full. It’s a choice that many seniors are making as they reach retirement age. A study by the AARP shows that 70 percent of experienced workers plan to keep working in retirement, either full-time or part-time. Many say it’s because they need the extra income, while others do it because it gives

them something to do and makes them feel more fulfilled. For Gard, it was a little bit of everything. He found a part-time gig as a security screener at the Becker County Courthouse seven years ago, and he says he’s been really enjoying it. It’s a far cry from his days with the Marshals Service, where officers protect federal judges and

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prosecutors under threat, run Indiana, but his dad was in the the witness protection service, Army and was stationed much of and track down and apprehend the time in Oklahoma and Texas, federal fugitives. when he wasn’t overseas for tours “Some of the most dangerous of duty. Gard immediately joined people in the country, we go and the Army himself after graduating find and put them in front of a from high school, serving four judge or back in prison,” Gard spit and polish years with what is says of the Marshals. essentially the nation’s honor guard, As a security screener, he interacts the “Old Guard” or 3rd Infantry with much pleasanter people. He Regiment, which is responsible for and other screeners operate the military honors at Arlington National walk-through metal detector or use Cemetery as well as serving as a hand-held metal detector to ensure military escort to the president. that people entering the courts wing During those four years, he met of the courthouse aren’t armed. Sandra, who was also in the Army “We’ve never discovered a firearm,” and was stationed at the Pentagon. Gard says. “We got married “We’ve found and moved to a lot of pocket Glyndon (her “Often people come to us, knives, cell hometown) after phones, that I was honorably retired for a year or two years, kind of thing discharged,” Gard and say ‘I’m bored, I want ... It wasn’t says. intentional, After moving to do something.’” they forgot there, Gard joined -Yolanda Nolan, service coordinator they had a the Clay County for Home Instead pocket knife Sheriff’s Office as in their a two-week fill-in pocket.” for a jailer who had The security screeners make sure a medical condition, and ended up that “no weapons whatsoever” get staying eight years, until he was hired into the courts wing, but their station by the U.S. Marshals Service in 1983. near the main courthouse entrance He was sent to Austin, Texas, also serves as an information office where he worked for eight years as for the public. They talk to a lot of a deputy U.S. Marshal. Then he was people coming in the door who need promoted to Supervising Deputy U.S. directions to the right county office. Marshal and transferred to Norfolk, “It’s proven to be a very effective Virginia, where he supervised the program for the county — the public U.S. Marshals Office both there and has received it very well,” says Gard. in Newport News, Virginia. “We make coming to the courthouse After five years he transferred a little easier.” to Great Falls, Montana, where he And the money he earns helps him supervised the U.S. Marshals Office out in retirement, he says. When he in Great Falls, Helena and Missoula. and his wife, Sandra, moved here in No quiet backwater for federal law 2004, they built a house on about 20 enforcement, Montana had its share acres in the Dunvilla area, where they of militias and anti-government keep two horses. Posse Comitatus-type groups. The “This job pays for the hay and other Unabomber was captured there a few horse-related things,” Gard says. years before Gard arrived. While the horses can feast on green After he retired and moved back to grass in the summertime, it takes 10 Minnesota, he spent four years doing or 11 tons of hay to get them through security background investigations the winter — and they somehow seem for the federal government, checking to produce about twice that much in out applicants for customs and manure, he says with a laugh. border patrol on the Canadian Gard was born in Rushville, border, as well as for Homeland PAGE 14 | GENERATIONS FALL 2019

Security and for military clearances. “I conducted all levels of background checks — there are a lot of levels, and each level has different requirements,” he says. The job involved a lot of travel around Minnesota and the Dakotas, too much travel, eventually, and in 2012 Gard had had enough and landed the courthouse security job in Detroit Lakes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, labor force participation among 65- to 74-year-olds is predicted to hit 32 percent by 2022, up from 20 percent two decades prior. The fastest-growing segment of the workforce is expected to be men and women in their 70s, 80s and sometimes beyond. Meanwhile, the participation rates among younger age groups are expected to flatten or even fall. Sometimes, a desire to stay productive and keep busy inspires people to work past the traditional retirement age, but wages are also a factor: The longer you can hold off on filing for Social Security, the more you’ll have to live on in retirement, when you really want to be done with work, or have to be done working for health reasons. Some businesses see the ‘unretirement’ trend as a chance to hire skilled, experienced and compassionate part-time workers, and so they actively recruit retirees. Home Instead Healthcare, for example, seeks out those “who want to do something more meaningful or give back,” says Yolanda Nolan, service coordinator for Home Instead. “Often people come to us, retired for a year or two years, and say ‘I’m bored, I want to do something,’” she says. Home healthcare is perfect for retirees, because there is a shortage of workers and “it’s not a full time job, it’s not a long-term commitment — it’s working when you want to.” In cases like that, it’s not so much about the money as building relationships and adding fulfillment and a sense of purpose to life, she says, by making a positive impact on someone else’s life.

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n Detroit Lakes, like everywhere else, the popularity of pickleball is soaring. The game has gone from near nonexistence here just five years ago to being a favorite pastime for upwards of 160 regular players — and that number keeps growing. While the sport has seniors to thank for its recent momentum, local pickleballers say the game is now gaining ground with younger adults and kids, too. Ginny Imholte, a member of the Detroit Lakes Area Pickleball Association’s board of directors, says the local outdoor courts at Peoples Park are sometimes packed with players of all possible generations. “You should see it out here on Saturdays,” she says, looking around

Pickleball players say the sport is a fun way to get exercise and meet people


That mirrors the pickleball boom the courts with a smile on her face. “Forty-somethings, kids, grandkids… seen in communities across the nation. they’re all out at the courts. It’s becoming more popular with all THE RISE OF ages, not just PICKLEBALL “It’s a great game, good retirees.” According exercise, and the other thing is, Imholte says to a 2019 NBC she learned News report, it’s a great social opportunity. about pickleball pickleball first I’ve met a lot of people I would shortly after it caught on in the was invented, sunbelt states have never met otherwise.” in the latearound 2009, in -Jerry Enget, Detroit Lakes Area 1960s. She RV communities Pickleball Association President was in middle and 55-plus school and the centers. It Detroit Lakes snowballed rec center offered a pickleball class; from there, and the USA Pickleball the sport has quietly been around in Association reports that the sport the community ever since then — but has had a 650 percent increase in didn’t really take off until recently. numbers over the last six years.

LEFT: A group plays a round of doubles at the Detroit Lakes Pickleball Courts in early August. The sport is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and membership in the local pickleball association has exploded over the past few years. TOP RIGHT: A spread of six new pickleball courts opened at Peoples Park this past June, after about a year in the making. Jerry Enget, the Detroit Lakes Pickleball Association President, calls them “a magnet” for activity. Bottom Right: Pickleball is essentially a mashup of badminton, tennis and pingpong. It requires a lightweight paddle, wiffle ball, and not much else in terms of equipment. Players say the game is easy and inexpensive to get into, and doesn’t take long to learn. PAGE 16 | GENERATIONS FALL 2019

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Brian Maki postures for a hit during a Detroit Lakes Area Pickleball Association mixed doubles tournament at the new courts.

Detroit Lakes Area Pickleball Association President Jerry Enget serves a ball during a game of doubles at the outdoor courts at People Park in August. Laughing beside him is Jerry Tharaldson . Local pickleball players say the game is always fun, with jokes served up almost as often as whiffle balls.

“Every game you play is different. You connect with so many people.”

-Ginny Imholte, Detroit Lakes Area Pickleball Association board member


The biggest subset in that growth is the younger crowd. The ‘snowball’ reached Detroit Lakes in 2014, when Lee and Laurie Swanson started offering pickleball lessons to anyone who was interested. These pioneers of the local pickleball scene learned to play while wintering down south, and grew to love the game so much that they didn’t want to stop playing once they got back to Detroit Lakes in the summer. There were no pickleball courts in town at the time, so the Swansons duct-taped their own pickleball lines onto a tennis court. They started the lessons so they could have some other people to play with. It turned out there were other snowbirds here who had heard about pickleball or were already playing it down south, and they were interested in getting it going in Detroit Lakes. Before long, the Detroit Lakes Area Pickleball Association was formed. Large numbers of people were regularly seen playing pickleball after that, and eventually the sport caught the attention of the city’s Parks Department. By 2017, local pickleball players were working with city leaders on the design and construction of 10 new courts to meet the rising demand — two at each of two impending parks on the north and south sides of town, which have yet to open, and six at Peoples Park, which just opened this past June. The new courts at Peoples Park offer an impressive spread of smooth, safe playing surface, with a sloped design that assures proper water runoff and a sunfriendly, north-south orientation. It’s designed for optimal playing performance, association board members say, and there’s also a roomy strip that runs down the middle of the courts, with six benches, where players can meet, rest and socialize in-between games. “They’re the nicest courts from Fargo to the Twin Cities,” says

Jerry Enget proudly. Enget is the current president of the local association. Today, there are more than 160 players through the association. Many of them are seasonal residents and are active here only in the summer, but even in winter, there are still about 80 regulars. They play their winter games on the indoor courts at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center.


“Once you get hooked, you’re hooked,” says pickleball player Clair Hanson, of Hawley. Hanson visited Detroit Lakes recently to check out the new courts and play a game of doubles. He was introduced to the game by friends at his winter condo down south, he says, and he took to it right away. The sport is an easy way to meet and connect with people, players say, as well as a great way to get some exercise. There’s always a lot of laughter and chatting, both on and off the courts. Pickleball was designed with families in mind, says Detroit Lakes Area Pickleball Association board member Dave Welte, as the focus is more on continuous play than quick wins. “You get good exercise, and good games, and good rallies, with people of all different skill sets,” he says. “You can get a total workout in 10 minutes. You feel good, you lose weight, and it’s fun.” Welte and fellow board member Imholte say pickleball often has surprising outcomes — “wiffle balls are designed to do unexpected things” — and that tends to bring the competitive edge down and keep people from taking the game too seriously. Since the games only last about 15 minutes each, there’s a rapid rotation to the games, Imholte says, “which means you get to meet a lot of new people.”


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“Every game you play is different,” she says. “You connect with so many people.” In Detroit Lakes, players see each other regularly for games and tournaments and get to know each other well. They run into visiting players from out of town, like Hanson, and also meet new people at the courts they frequent in their winter communities down south. Some, like Imholte, even make new friends along their travels, stopping at pickleball courts in different cities and states as they drive from point A to point B. That social aspect is a big draw for most pickleball players, and for that reason, monthly potluck socials and other occasional get-togethers are part of the annual routine for the local association. Players have the opportunity to see each other every day, as the courts open for play every morning at 8:30 a.m. and there is almost always a group of pickleballers there. The association also hosts twiceweekly tournaments and other events. “It’s a fun deal,” says association president Enget. “It’s a great game,

good exercise, and the other thing is, it’s a great social opportunity. I’ve met a lot of people I would have never met otherwise.” The new courts have been an added draw for people this summer, Enget says, bringing in all sorts of curious folks from within and outside of the Detroit Lakes community. Residents of all ages are interested in the activity they see happening, and pickleballers from out of town like to stop by and try out the new courts. “You come any day and we’ve got people out here playing the courts,” he says. “It’s really a magnet.” “It is, right now, seniors playing a lot, but it’s young people, too,” he adds. The courts are free and open to the public. They’re open daily until 10 p.m. A bulletin board at the courts contains a schedule of Detroit Lakes Area Pickleball Association tournament dates and other information. For more, visit the DL Pickleball Facebook page, email, or visit

A BRIEF BACKGROUND ON PICKLEBALL Pickleball was invented in 1965 near Seattle, Wash., by three dads – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum — to keep their bored kids entertained in the summertime. Accounts of how the name originated differ. Joel Pritchard’s wife, Joan, said she started calling the game — which is essentially a mashup of badminton, tennis and ping-pong — pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the ‘pickle boat’ in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.” But according to Barney McCallum, the game was named after the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles, who would chase the ball and run off with it during their backyard games.



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Profile for Detroit Lakes Newspapers

Generations - Fall 2019  

REVISITING A FORGOTTEN CHAPTER IN DETROIT LAKES HISTORY: The Edgewater Resort’s controversial employment of Japanese-Americans during WWII...

Generations - Fall 2019  

REVISITING A FORGOTTEN CHAPTER IN DETROIT LAKES HISTORY: The Edgewater Resort’s controversial employment of Japanese-Americans during WWII...