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New Salem Bachelors


New Salem hit the news in June of 1968, when Parade magazine, a Sunday supplement in newspapers throughout the country, reported that an anonymous ad had been received by the student newspaper at Harvard University, telling of “the desperate plight of bashful New Salem bachelors, who were eagerly searching for educated and attractive wives.”

Following this, the Mayor, Henry Kaelberer, the New Salem Journal, and the Lions Club, received responses from women all across the country, all indicating their willingness to give up “their social circles to enjoy the simple, rural life.”

So, on this date in 1968, the Lions Club in New Salem sponsored “Bachelor Day,” celebrating these “bashful” bachelors that populated the small town. Fifty-seven bachelors and 12 bachelorettes registered for the day. A majority of the bachelors came from New Salem, but they also came from Minot, Mandan, and Bismarck, among other towns.

Barbara La Valleur from the Fargo Forum travelled to New Salem to cover the event. She reported that it was well attended, as many additional people came, “despite perfect harvesting weather.”

The celebration kicked off that afternoon with a parade. School let out early, and hundreds gathered to watch. The city’s chief of police led the parade, on horseback, carrying two guns. He was followed by the New Salem School band and the “drastic action committee” – two ministers and a driver in a white Cadillac. The bachelors followed, some in cars, some on horseback, many displaying slogans like “It’s Cold in here alone,” “I’m rough and ready,” “One empty saddle,” and “I’m still available.” City fire trucks and the community ambulance were interspersed amongst the bachelors.

Afterward, there was a horseshoe tournament, and later, a Sadie Hawkins-esque dance. Ray Olin was named King of the bachelors, while Clint Rusch was named the dance’s best dressed bachelor.

It was an event in fun, yet Barbara La Valleur reported that some bachelors were very serious. A list of women who had written to the men was circulated, and the single women who attended were certainly entertained. Some men, she said, were confirmed bachelors, but Durwood Toepke, chairman of the celebration, told her, “This isn’t just a town promotion. These guys are serious. They are really looking for wives.”

She added, “For this Forum reporter who came into town a day early, it only took a three-hour acquaintance until a proposal was made. A proposal of marriage, that is.”

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

The New Salem Journal, Wednesday, September 18, 1968
The Fargo Forum, September 15, 1968