Bridgetown Blizzard

It is March 1931, and in Bridgetown in Olsen County, Minnesota near the Canadian border the long winter is starting to thaw. The nearest city is Duluth, over 100 miles to the south.

Remote rural farms are connected by a “barbed wire telephone”, a system that uses the barbed wire fencing to hold simple telephone calls. The system is a party line, and the farmers have worked out a system for telling who the calls are for. The telephone system is also connected to the General Store in town.

Everyone on the remote farms has been snowed in for the last few weeks by the blizzards and the barbed wire telephone was out of order for six weeks. The line should be fixed shortly.

Basic information

  • Number of players: 10
  • Setting: March 1931, rural Minnesota
  • Time to run: 2.5 hours (including setup and debrief - actual game lasts for about 2 hours)
  • Space Requirements: Online - we recommend Discord
  • Authors: Sue Lee, Steve Hatherley, Julie Winnard, and Roger Gammans

Cast List

Grandpa Jakob Erikssen (M) – Old farmer, grandfather, and father-in-law of Mrs Erikssen. The Erikssen’s have been struggling financially ever since Jakob’s son, Hans, died in March 1926.

Mrs Freya Erikssen (F) – now a widow, after her husband Hans died in 1926. Mother of three children. Winner of last year’s apple pie contest.

Mr Brendan Ryan (M) – Farmer, married to Mrs Ryan and father of two children.

Mrs Cara Ryan (F) – Farmer’s wife, skilled sewer and mother of 2 children. Winner of two years ago's apple pie contest.

Mr Lukas Stein (M) – Middle-aged farmer and brother of Sheriff Karl Stein. Lukas maintains the telephone system. Lukas’ first wife, Petra, died in January 1929. He remarried last August, to Hannah.

Mrs Hannah Stein (F) – Young wife of Mr Stein. Hannah arrived in Bridgetown in July last year from San Francisco, where her family were gold panners. She married Lukas last August.

Ol’ Zeke (A - Ezekial/Ezekia) – Ol’ Zeke lives alone, and was one of the first settlers in Bridgetown. Ol’ Zeke’s partner passed away twenty years ago and is buried on O’ Zeke’s land.

Ma Nellie Larson (F) – owner of the Bridgetown Stores, where everyone gets their supplies. Mickey’s older sister. Ma Larson’s husband lives and works in Duluth.

Doctor Mickey Larson (A - Michael/Michelle) – the Bridgetown veterinary surgeon. Ma Nellie is Mickey’s sister. As the closest thing that Bridgetown has to a doctor, Mickey is often approached for all sorts of medical advice.

Sheriff Karl Stein (M) – Bridgetown’s sheriff, brother of Lukas Stein. Sheriff Stein is a new member of the Bridgetown Spring Festival Committee.

Background

History of Bridgetown being settled: Eighty years or so back in the 1850s many families travelled to America. The Irish came because of the potato famine, the Germans were mostly farmers looking for freedom of religion, and from Scandinavia came families wanting land. They all wanted the opportunity of a new life.

The pioneers including the Ryans, the Steins and many other families travelled in wagon trains for protection across the country, taking the arduous journey to further the dramatic expansion west to farm, mine, and hunt to provide the many resources needed by the growing population.

The stories told around the campfires tell of how the wagon train reached Bridgetown in Olsen County which was a tiny waypoint along the way. It had a trading post, with a crossing over the Olsen River. The settlers reached the crossing point across the river and camped out overnight, but in the morning their guide was dead, of some contagion. Many stayed rather than pushing further west as the land was fertile.
No one is quite sure how the feuds between families started, there are many stories, something about a dead cow, a star-crossed romance between two of the children, arguments about what should be planted in Black Bottom Field. The Irish wanted to plant potatoes and the Scandinavians wanted to plant rye, each for their own purposes. The Erikssons, by the by, are incomers to the county having arrived in the 1870s.

Prohibition: Prohibition has been in place since 1920, banning the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. One night in October 1928 all the local stills were smashed.

The Annual Bridgetown Apple Pie Contest: One of the highlights of the spring festival is the annual apple pie contest. This has been running since before anyone can remember. The trophy, which was made back in the 1890s, is constructed of metal tubes, valves, and parts in the shape of an apple tree.

Each family has their own recipe, which they clearly believe to be the best. In the past families generally have voted for their own pie. In 1926 the town asked Sheriff Stein to pick the winner, but he was biased and picked the Stein family pie that was generally regarded to be inferior. Everyone remembers the 1925 contest when the voting slips got wet and could not be read, and last year when the trophy couldn’t be found.

Recent winners:

  • 1925: No winner - slips ruined
  • 1926: Mrs Petra Stein
  • 1927: Mrs Pfeifer
  • 1928: Miss Klopp
  • 1929: Mrs Cara Ryan
  • 1930: Mrs Freya Erikssen

General background: Click here for a general overview of life in 1931.

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