Darren Gislason in the Opera House.

Opera House opens to the past

Minneota’s history is just sitting there, waiting for younger generation to take notice. They did on Monday when the junior class and the seventh grade class took trips to the Open House at Minneota’s Opera House, where they were met by historian Darren Gislason and a host of information from the past.

A Minneota Mascot from 1901 proclaimed, “Ever since O. G. Anderson & Co. began the building of their new store and Opera Hall, the young people of this vicinity have looked forward to the opening ball.

They expected the ball even long before the firm decided to give it, and last Tuesday, showed their appreciation by attending this formal opening of the Anderson Opera house at least 500 strong.”

The story continued, “Rigs loaded with young people began to arrive at about six o’clock in the evening and after that it was simply one continual stream of carriages into town for several hours.

“They came from all over, Marshall, Cottonwood, Ghent, Taunton, all sent large delegations. The Cottonwood band attended in a body and, with the Minneota band, helped to make things rather lively the early part of the evening.

The two bands, numbering about thirty-eight pieces, and under the leadership of Prof. Coucheron, played several pieces in the street before the hall was opened and before the dance began, there was a band concert in the Hall.”

Gislason holds the open house each year and this year is celebrating the 117th year of the Opera Hall.

“A few years ago I decided nobody was coming so maybe I would quit — but then I saw in the guest book somebody always came, so I decided it was worth it,” says Gislason. He was overwhelmed to have the school kids tour the facility and get a little taste of Minneota history.

But with all those kids, the treats he’d prepared went fast and none were available for the visitors later in the day.

Many photos and pieces of memorabilia were available for the visitors, in the Opera Hall, that maybe still rings with the tunes played by the Caferelli Orchestra of Minneapolis, those 117 years ago.

Other accounts on display tell us the site of Minneota was first known as Nordland. “So early as 1871 settlers located in the northwest corner township in close proximity to the site of the present village of Minneota. Others came the following year, and in 1872 a post office named Nordland was established,” explained Gislason.

In another corner is an old “Royal” Typewriter, with a paper in the carriage that says the typewriter belonged to Agnes Severson, who was a charter member of the Women’s Bowling League from 1969 to 1995.

For over 20 years she kept track of the weekly bowling scores from eight teams and typed the results on this machine.

The old stage is still in good condition, rich with names of former actors and actresses carved in the wall.

For most of the year, this virtual storehouse of Minneota history remains closed, buried to the younger generations.

But at least once a year, Gislason opens it up and lets everyone who climbs the long stairs to the Opera House see and feel the past.

Most find themselves wringing wet with nostalgia — and they usually leave knowing more than they did when they arrived about the history of Minneota.

An old Royal typewriter on display. Staff Photo by Byron Higgin.

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