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North Long Lake couple finds historic newspaper treasures

The couple has a stack that is about 2 feet high of publications from the 1940-50s of the Brainerd Dispatch and Minneapolis Tribune.

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Richard and Debbi Berg kneel down in their bunkhouse Monday, July 27, on North Long Lake holding a Brainerd Dispatch newspaper from Aug. 12, 1949 (right), Sunday's Brainerd Dispatch edition, July 26, and a Minneapolis Sunday Tribune. Steve Kohls/ Brainerd Dispatch

When Debbi and Richard Berg began remodeling their bunkhouse on North Long Lake, they never thought they would find a historic treasure.

The Bergs found several publications of the Brainerd Dispatch, the Minneapolis Tribune and other magazines and newspapers — some in pristine condition — under the floorboards of the bunkhouse.

The publications stack up about 2 feet in height and are from a 10-year period between 1940-50. A top headline from Aug. 12, 1949, in what was then called The Brainerd Daily Dispatch was “CITY OF BRAINERD IS BORN” along with front page stories tying into the state’s Territorial Centennial celebration. Other front page stories looked at Pioneer Fort Ripley, resorts as big factors in the county’s history, the founding of the Brainerd Historical Society and a whimsically written story on the role of county fairs in the state’s progress.

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A few local headlines on May 27, 1950, included “2 Explosions At Merrifield Blast Station,” “Memorial Day Plans Completed” and “C-I Memorial Day Parade To Be Sunday.”

The Bergs purchased the home in 2006 from Richard Berg’s aunt, Rosie Robison — known as Grandma Rosie at Riverside Elementary School, where she volunteered for many years. Robison, now age 95, is a resident at Good Samaritan Society-Bethany. She bought the house in 1952 when it was about 900 square feet in size. There also was a bunkhouse on the property near the lakeshore.

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Richard and Debbi Berg smile Monday, July 27, on their back porch of their North Long Lake home holding two Brainerd Dispatch newspapers. Richard is holding a Brainerd Daily Dispatch newspaper from Aug. 12, 1949, and Debbi is holding Sunday's Brainerd Dispatch edition, July 26. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“I came up here for years with my brothers growing up,” Richard Berg said. “We’d stay in the bunkhouse. It was our vacation spot to come to see Aunt Rosie.”

After purchasing the lakeplace, the Bergs began as seasonal residents until 2017. Then they retired and moved from North Dakota to the lakes area as full-time residents.

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Once the Bergs were living full-time in their North Long Lake home, they decided in 2018 to renovate the home to add square footage. Then this summer, they decided to do new siding and renovate the bunkhouse. They began tearing out the carpet, which was laid on top of vinyl flooring.

“That is where we found all these treasures,” Debbi Berg said.

The Bergs carefully collected all the newspapers in the floors that were used as insulation back in those days. The couple has enjoyed reading all the publications they found.

“Some of the fun, fun things we loved about this is it looked like it was printed yesterday,” Debbi Berg said. “There is a picture of a woman whose name is Mrs. Berg, who has no relationship to the family — just a coincidence.

“And how about this Back to School Sears catalog. We got a kick out of it because it has everything and it’s been so much fun to see how much everything cost back then.”

According to the Back to School catalog by Sears, Roebuck and Co., based in Minneapolis, a pair of jeans cost about $1.22 and a pair of socks ranged from 24 cents to a more dressier pair of socks for 59 cents.

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An advertisement for the brand Honeylane for all wool classics stated they were a “Click with the Teen Crowd.” The classic boxy cardigan was sold in three different qualities with “good” quality at a cost of $2.54; “better,” $3.19; and “our best,” $3.74. Pullovers and sweatshirts for “every active fellow” ranged from 85 cents to $1.03. A pair of Wearmaster working boots for boys cost $5.35 a pair.

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The catalog included household products, such as tissue paper for a quarter.

“I’m just so amazed by how much the everyday items cost back then,” Debbi Berg said. “There is an ad for a TV in 1949, with the whole console that was $249. That was expensive back then. I couldn’t believe that. They had a lot of plans for people to pay for things with terms as low as $5 a month.

The Bergs also found some Duluth newspapers in the floor.

“I’ve just enjoyed reading all of this,” Debbi Berg said. “I’m a big reader and needless to say I've done no books online since I found this stuff because it's just too fun to read this stuff.”

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The Bergs Monday morning went to visit Rosie at Bethany, but she is unable to comprehend the news of them finding the newspapers in the bunkhouse because of her medical condition. However, the family said they know she would be excited about the hidden treasures.

Richard Berg said before the bunkhouse was built he believes it was an old gas station, from what others have said.

The Bergs checked with the Crow Wing County Historical Society to see if they wanted the newspapers, but Debbi Berg said they don’t collect the old newspapers. She said they are going to take some of the newspapers and frame them or do some type of project with the newspapers.

“Others may not think this is a big deal, but we find it very fascinating,” Debbi Berg said.

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at jennifer.kraus@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.

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