Treasure beneath Division Street

Bonnie Obremski/RepJNorthfield

Photo: Bonnie Obremski/RepJNorthfield

Weekly mystery object!

Joan Olson, a volunteer archivist at the Northfield Historical Society, is holding an object unearthed from deep within the city’s subterranean vaults. She knows what it is but, do you? Points for both accuracy and creativity. Tune in next Friday for an answer most people might likely never suspect. I might give a mid-week hint. Go!


  1. It is a pin from the bowling alley located right next to the ArtOrg printmaking studio in the bottom of the Perman Building at 314 Division Street. The thin wood strips from the bowling alley lanes are still present on the floor in the basement–now a storage area.

    July 18, 2008
  2. Jessica Paxton said:

    Dang. I was going to say a turn-of-the-century bowling pin but I guess Dave beat me to it. Very cool!

    July 18, 2008
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    I thought the bowling alley was underneath the Northfield News building. I guess I’d better downgrade my NHS membership from ‘family’ to ‘clueless newbie.’

    July 18, 2008
  4. Skip Zimmerman said:

    It’s called an Indian Club. Clubs of varying sizes and weights were swung in the hand as part of an exercise routine. They were used primarily around the turn of the last century up until the 1930s when organized sports became more popular as a form of exercise.

    The term “Indian Club” comes from the fact that British soldiers in India were impressed by the fitness of native policemen. It turns out they had used this form of exercise for a long time.

    Check out these descriptions:

    July 18, 2008
  5. John S. Thomas said:

    The top is all wrong for a bowling pin, IMHO. I am thinking Juggling club.

    July 18, 2008
  6. Nick Benson said:

    I can’t go into details given the family nature of this site, but, I can tell you that the ridges along the top are there for your enjoyment.

    July 18, 2008
  7. Cindy Jenson said:

    A skittle-now called bowling pin.

    July 18, 2008
  8. Bonnie Obremski said:

    OK, I’m going to have to try harder to stump Northfielders next time. Skip is, indeed, correct.

    What Skip might not know is, according to The History of St. Olaf College by Joseph Shaw, the school’s dean considered the clubs inadequate for keeping its female students fit in 1918. Dean Gertrude Hilleboe reported to the Board of Education at the time that “‘the present equipment of apparatus is limited to three dozen each of dumb bells, Indian clubs, wands, jumping ropes and some basketballs.'”

    July 19, 2008
  9. Carleton women, too, had Indian-club exercises as part of their curriculum )along with calisthenics and marching drills, by 1891. First gym classes were held in women’s dorms (anyone remember Gridley Hall? Site of first gym room in 1884). Then, miracle of miracles, Carleton women were the first of any colleges in Minnesota to play basketball in 1892-93, long before the men, when Max Exner, a friend of James Naismith (inventor of Basket Ball in 1891 in Springfield, Mass.), came to Carleton and taught “physical culture” and introduced the game to Carleton women. Exner had played in the very first basketball game ever on Dec. 21, 1891. I bet the ladies found that game more fun than Indian clubs! (I wrote about early basketball in my “Historic Happenings” column of the Northfield Entertainment Guide of April 2008,, April archives).

    July 19, 2008
  10. Leonard Witt said:

    I might some day be the last man on earth to participate in a calisthenics where Indian clubs were used. It was at the Y in New York City in the late 1960s. The guys were all old, each with two clubs in hand which they rhythmically, in unison tapped together over their hands down to the floor out to the side for like an hour. I tried it thinking this is easy. It was not, it was a great workout, it almost killed me and I have been waiting for Indian clubs to make a comeback. Hey, maybe it could happen right here in Northfield.

    July 21, 2008
  11. Mona Obremski said:

    Unrelated unsolicited observation: Seems that bruce anderson is the last man on LoGroNo to correctly capitalize the proper noun Earth. Y I insist on proper usage is revealing. oh…and…btw….PCness dictates that Native American replace Indian. Joan Olson – You rock! Looking good girl! What tribe owns that club that you are safe keeping?

    July 22, 2008
  12. Curt Benson said:

    Mona, as Skip pointed out in post #4 above, the clubs originated in the country of India. So nix the “Native American” club. Or were you jesting?

    July 22, 2008
  13. Mona Obremski said:

    I asked for the tribal owner of this particular club. No I was not jesting. I was jousting.

    July 22, 2008
  14. Mona Obremski said:

    OH! Indian! Dots not feathers. Thanks Bruce.
    Although, tribal can refer to groups other than Native Americans.
    Ah..the bewitchment of language.

    July 22, 2008
  15. Mona Obremski said:

    correction: Thanks Curt Benson! shoot
    I just noticed that if I enclose words inside the less than and greater than symbols, they do not appear…so I’ll repeat what did not appear…I’m redfaced.

    July 22, 2008
  16. Griff, Maggie Lee affirmed to me that a bowling alley was in the Northfield News building (so you are not a “clueless newbie,” as you said). She did not know of one at 314 Division St., though perhaps there was an earlier one. Maggie showed me a “step down” at her office that was part of the bowling alley.
    By the way, photo op: Maggie has a HUGE cocktail glass on her office desk.

    July 22, 2008

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