Pete Helm's Photography Studio
Years ago, there was a business place on Main Street in Anamoose that drew people through its doors like a magnet. It attracted young and old, men and women, and even teenagers. People from Balfour, Drake, Kief, Martin, Harvey, Orrin, and most of the neighboring area came to this place of magic phenomenon.
Pete Helm’s Photography Studio was that place of business! The Helms moved here from Fessenden in the early 1920s, and Pete started his studio in the area where Frank Samuel’s home is, just east of the bank. It wasn’t long before the business was moved to southwest Main Street, where the south part of Bill and Kathy Vetsch’s bar is. Some years ago, the photo shop and bar were merged into the one bar.
I remember Mr. Helm as being a very quiet man who tended his business with courtesy and patience. As a photographer, he needed a lot of patience. I found both Mr. and Mrs. Helm to be very friendly, warm people. She helped in to studio and also helped take orders for photo sessions.
Besides running his studio, Pete sold and repaired watches and also sold a few pieces of jewelry. I can still see him wearing his head piece with a magnifying glass attached to it when he repaired a watch or piece of jewelry.
As I said, people from a large area surrounding Anamoose came to Helm’s Studio to have their pictures taken. Weddings, families, graduations, christenings, communion, confirmations, basketball, women’s clubs, the mayor and his councilmen, and everything in between-you name it, Pete took the picture.
My favorite remembrance was the small picture he took called the ping-pong. For quite a long time you could get 12 ping-pongs for 25 cents. Later, it was raised to 50 cents a dozen. The ping-pong was 1 ½ by 2 inches’ however, the popularity of the photo made up for its small size.
On dance nights, Mr. Helm was besieged by the dance crowd, who all wanted their photos taken with their dates, pals, or siblings. Dances were held in the auditorium on Main Street, and the photo shop was just a few buildings to the north. I have numerous pictures of me and my classmates, friends, siblings, and dates. There are a few of me with dance tickets pinned to my collar, lapel or a necklace. I even have a photo of me and my dog, Buster.
I’ll wager if the people of this area go through their photograph books, they will find the very popular B/W ping-pong. I had my picture taken so often; I think Mr. Helm smiled when he saw me come through the door.
When we had a school play or program of any kind in the auditorium, it was a must to run over to the studio to have our picture taken in our costume. I have pictures of me and classmates with some of the craziest hats and wild, over-done make-up. We loved it. My children look at those pictures today and go into hysterics at the clothes and hairdos.
I actually had a picture taken of the back of my head to show what I thought was my beautiful pageboy hairdo. There is also a picture of me with my hair in an upsweep with a tiny ribbon hidden in the curl. Yes, back then you did things like that!
I have a picture of me and my dear friend, Mary Eve, when I had my hair cut real short like my brother Tony’s. When I asked Lester Shook, our barber, to cut my hair like my brother’s, he questioned it and asked me if my mother knew about it. Of course I said yes. He cut it so very, very short, much to the astonishment of my family. Mom soothed it all by telling me it would soon grow back. But even in the trauma of it all, we had to rush up to Pete’s shop to have my picture taken for posterity.
There are pictures of me and my friends coming from our Halloween carnival with red Mexican sombreros on our heads and crepe paper and confetti all over us. It was fun then-treasures now.
One time, my sister Minnie and I were in the studio looking for a band picture Minnie wanted. Mrs. Helm had us look through a box of photos and I found one that held my attention. I asked Mrs. Helm who the couple in the picture was because they looked so familiar. She tapped me on the shoulder and said they should look familiar-they were my parents, taken many years ago. I hadn’t even seen the photo before and she told me to keep it. That’s the way she was-kind.
It boggles my mind when I think of all the pictures Pete Helm took in the many years he ran his studio. I’ll bet if those pictures could be lined up, they would fill the old auditorium. There is a history in all those photos, pictures, and portraits. One could follow a family through them-a baby, a little girl, a teenager, a graduate, a wedding, and now that baby is here in a photo with her own children.
Pete took pictures outside of his studio. There is a history of the buildings on Main Street captured by his camera. I have a photo of my father over at the Soo Line Railroad tracks holding a spike mall to kill the huge grasshopper that Mr. Helm put on the track with trick photography. His crew members are sitting on the speeder watching the killing of an imaginary grasshopper. To me, the picture is priceless.
And so, in ending my article on Pete Helm and his studio, I would like to say that I, for one, miss that place of business very much. Mr. Helm left a deep legacy right here in our little hometown. With the Anamoose centennial coming up in two years, we will be searching all over for these precious photos taken by Pete Helm.