A History of STRUM
by Roy Matson
The MWA Hall

Every live community has had at least one meeting place wherein the community could
gather for a variety of purposes. Sometimes the second floor of a business place served
this need, a school room or a village hall, any place that provided light and heat. Here in
Strum the second floor of Chris Finstad’s blacksmith shop was the first place within
village limits that housed meetings. Annual township meetings began there in 1887 and
about that time the local temperance society began their crusade to keep Unity “dry”. But
when Finstad permitted a public dance on his floor the society built their own hall across
the river and a note exists somewhere that Hans Willumson, likely the promoter, permitted
meetings for a dollar fee. Temperance meetings were held regularly and beginning in 1894
annual township meetings were held in that hall for the next 84 years. Unity acquired
ownership of it in 1939.

However, the temperance hall had limited meeting space and along about 1900 or just
before, the Modern Woodman, an insurance group, moved into the community and
convinced the locals that Strum must have a gathering place representative of such a live,
growing town. Said “town” had no bank, no telephone system, only a few board walks,
only frame buildings. It did have some ambitious businessmen.

A “hall” was a needed addition to the community at the time. The railroad was bringing in
new business. There was talk of a bank. A new fangled gadget called a telephone was
mentioned. Homes were being built. St. Paul’s Church planned an enlargement. All in all
things were booming and a good meeting place was in order.

So the MWA hall was built. A site on south main street was selected. John Olson, a local
builder, erected a wood frame building with a stage and hardwood floor. Heat was
furnished by a pot bellied stove while kerosene lamps gave light to evening performances.

The first social gathering beneath its roof was a wedding reception for Mr. and Mrs. Nels
Robbe. Gay events succeeded each other and one not so gay occured when Ed Kenyon,
the town’s butcher, died in 1902. He had no connection with either church of the
community so the funeral services took place at the hall. A good attendance was

From its beginning the building played a prominent part in community life. Medicine
shows were popular those days. Home talent plays always drew a full house. Lecturers,
musical groups, and the first hesitant dance steps of present day great-grandmothers may
have graced its well worn floor. For at least fifty years school programs were held on its
stage. A governor campaigned within its doors, the first hand-cranked movie projectors
blinked their thrilling photodrama there, auctions of all kinds, numerous church socials,
and once a magician nearly drowned while demonstrating one of his own “Houdini” acts.
And who can forget the night Postmaster Claude Burton demonstrated his powerful
5-tube, squealing, superhetrodyne radio to a full house back in 1922. Basketball,
rollerskating, lyceum courses, band rehearsals, dozens of fiddle contests and once
Thorstein Skarning, a Norwegian billed as the world’s greatest accordianist, performed on
stage. The audience had little appreciation of a Mozart sonata but raised the roof when he
stooped to rip off a Norwegian hop-walz.

The depression increased its use. The place would fill with farmers trying to better their
lot. It became a gathering place for youth, renamed the “Playmore” by operator Alton
Holte. A musical trio would entertain for dancing. Unbelievably, gasoline was only twenty
cents a gallon, admission was 25 cents, your girl was admitted free. A hamburger
sandwich at a nickel was a big evening. Ski tournaments brought contestants of all levels
and from three directions, including several U. S. champions and the world’s champion
lady ski jumper form Norway. Banquets were held at the Playmore although cooking
facilities were nill. The Commercial Club met there for years, owned the building and
planned and