Milltown makes the ‘hall’
I’m probably the only person in Henry County to be excited about Milltown. I’m probably the only person in Henry County to have heard of or visited Milltown.
Milltown will be inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this spring.
So what is Milltown?
A big chunk of my youth was spent in Milltown, my parents were married in Milltown and I had an uncle and aunt who at one time lived in Milltown.
Nostalgia gripped me the other day when a friend of South Dakota sent me the announcement of Milltown making it big.
Let’s back up a bit. Milltown is a very small South Dakota town located about 12 miles from my hometown. It’s big attraction was the James River running through the community. It was a mini-Okoboji development before there was an Okoboji.
There never was much to Milltown and probably what was there has gone in the 30-35 years since I’ve been there. Milltown had a general store where people picked up their mail (no post office in Milltown) a church, a few houses (most of which had been abandoned for years) and quite a few cabins along the river.
But Milltown’s big attraction was “Island Park” — a roller-skating rink by day and a dance hall by night. Nestled near the pavilion was a softball diamond. Island Park wasn’t really an island but a peninsula and for us fans of alliteration, Peninsula Park would have a much better ring, but we weren’t given naming rights.
Island Park was our teen hangout on Friday nights. Now we’re talking the era before computers, cell phones, the Internet and texting. Island Park was our Internet and cell phone. If you wanted to see your friends on a Friday night, you went to Milltown. Oh, yes, there were some fistfights every now and then, and strict parents warned their children of the evils of Milltown, but kids either went or snuck their way to Milltown because it was the place to be.
The first time I donned roller skates, it was at Milltown. As said before, my dad was raised in the Milltown area and also eager to return.
Parents of one of my best friends had a cabin at Milltown so that was another draw. The first boat ride I took was at Milltown.
However, I remember Milltown as much for its fast-pitch softball leagues as the boat rides, overnighters and dances. I began playing in adult softball leagues at age 12 and one my thrills during my teen years was playing against my father (we were on different teams).
Milltown also hosted a number of softball tournaments. On one particular Sunday afternoon, we were playing a team from the big city (Mitchell). Although the lack of texts and Facebook in those days prevented us from knowing teens from other towns as well as kids do nowadays, I did know some of these Mitchell kids from playing basketball against them.
I did not particularly like some of the members of the team, especially the second baseman. About midway through the game, I singled, as was the norm during that time when I was young and blessed with foot speed, I knew when I reached first that I would steal second. I assumed my position and noticed my least favorite second baseman was standing in the baseline.
Remembering that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, I had no plans of avoiding a collision with the second baseman if he didn’t move. He didn’t. I didn’t deviate from my course of action. It was a nasty collision. Although I broke my nose, I didn’t realize the extent of my injuries until years later when after a chest x-ray, the physician asked me if I ever was in a car accident.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, sometime ago, you broke two ribs,” the doctor answered.
No wonder it hurt so much when I pitched the remainder of the game. By the way, the second baseman suffered a broken arm and collarbone, so I guess we were even.
Although Island Park remains, the dance hall was a victim of floods in 1994, and that was the day the music really died.