History of Toonerville Trolley

The Detroit Lakes Jaycees “Toonerville Trolley”
The “Toonerville Trolley” was a widely popular cartoon in the major newspapers for over fifty years. In 1953 Dr. Tom Rogstad developed the idea of building a “Toonerville Trolley” to promote the Detroit Lakes Jaycees in Festival Parades around Minnesota. A Studebaker car was acquired by the Jaycees with a bad body but a motor that was in perfect condition. With a great deal of enthusiasm work began on the very first version of the “Toonerville Trolley”. The body of the car was removed and a wooden structure was built to fit over the Studebaker frame. This framework was then covered with a laminated board called “Masonite” which created the flat panels on the sides, roof, front and back of the Trolley. The completed unit mirrored the human like looks of the cartoon drawn trolley.

With yellow paint and black lettering and a small coal stove to put out black smoke the unit looked great and garnered a huge amount of attention for the Jaycees. However, when brought up to highway speeds to attend parades in other towns the joints were constantly shifting and the entire assembly was always coming loose. Even though the original version did not last for more than a few years it set in motion both major and minor revisions which continue sixty years later.


In the late 1950’s the Trolley was entirely rebuilt. A surplus WW2 jeep was purchased. The wooden frame was replaced with a pipe frame using electrical conduit brazed with brass rod. Sheet metal was then screwed to the conduit to create the sidewalls. The roof, back and front end were made out of wood which was cut into a curve and then covered with sheet metal. This building was done at a company owned by a couple of Jaycees, Earl King and Harry Grabow. Their company did heating and air-conditioning. They supplied the sheet metal and the
equipment to bend it along with the expertise in the formation of the sides. Dale Hagen, an electrician, supplied the conduit and the expertise on bending and brazing (welding with brass rod) the conduit. Heavily involved with this project was also Jack Renner, Duane Wething, Curt Cherry, Darryl Swanson, Dave Knutson and many others whose names have been lost to time.

In 1974 Don Davis, who was given the responsibility of caring for the Trolley, purchased a 1953 Ford pickup chassis. Mark Hagen and Jeff Swanson were drafted by Don Davis to “do a little welding and wiring on the trolley” two nights maximum. This was about the beginning of June. Water Carnival was over a month away. When Don brought the unit to Jeff Swanson’s shop it was discovered the unit needed to be attached to the frame, the back and front rebuilt, new wiring installed, and the entire unit repainted and lettered.

A month of late nights later the trolley had still wet red paint as it was headed to its first Water Carnival event. According to Jack Renner the 1958 version of the Trolley also entered the Water Carnival with wet paint. In the late 70’s the back end of the Trolley was rebuilt and the color was changed from yellow to red. TJ Foltz was responsible for the Trolley during the late 80’s. During that time it was parked at his house when not in use. TJ arranged for the all metal frame roof to be built and installed which replaced the rotting roof. In addition TJ’s mechanical and electrical skills were in constant use with upgrades to the PA and the wiring of the unit.

Many businesses over the years have been involved in working on the Trolley as a donation to Jaycees. They are to numerous to mention but their contributions are what kept the Trolley moving year in and year out. Jim Gulson took over the Trolley in the mid 90’s and replaced much of the rotten wood, put in new carpet, and provided the maintenance to keep it running. Always susceptible to vapor lock the trolley once went through a parade in Barnesville with the Jaycees pushing the entire route. During this time one of the more unusual stories found the Trolley going from Detroit Lakes to Vergas on an old trail dirt trail.

While in winter storage about ten years ago a number of parts were stolen from the Trolley including the carburetor. The engine had been giving problems so the decision was made to make the Trolley into a tow only unit. Certainly something was lost Recently TJ and April Foltz donated their motorhome chassis to breath new life into making the “Toonerville Trolley” self propelled again. A group on enthusiastic Jaycees are right now hard at work creating the newest chapter in a long history of the Trolley.

The “Toonerville Trolley” has served the Jaycees well for over sixty years. The unique idea, combined with the eternal enthusiasm of young Jaycees, has left behind hundreds of stories, most which will never be told in print.

History of the Northwest Water Carnival

The Detroit Lakes Jaycees have been sponsoring the annual Northwest Water Carnival since they organized as a chapter in 1935. The Water Carnival, now in its 77th year, is one of the longest running festivals in the state of Minnesota. It has become one of the premier summer events in the lakes area, and includes a wide range of activities for the whole family.

The first Water Carnival was held in 1935. It took several years to become established, and was even cancelled in 1937. However, it has been held every year since then. Water Carnival has been well-attended, and has grown to be as much as an 11-day affair with more than 60 events. In its current format, it will be a 10-day event, beginning Friday, July 13th, with the Miss Northwest Pageant at the Historical Holmes Theater, and will conclude on Sunday, July 22nd with everyone’s favorite: The Parade of the Northwest.

The Detroit Lakes Jaycees is an all-volunteer civic organization. Led by the “Admiral,” the Jaycees work hard all year planning and coordinating the Water Carnival, which is supported by our area’s business community. After the parade, the Jaycees traditionally gather by the Pavilion to find out who will be the next Admiral. The Admiral is selected by the current Jaycee President to be in charge of the Water Carnival. The identity of the new Admiral is kept secret until after the Parade, and is the subject of much speculation by Jaycees past and present.

Past Admirals

1935 1 F. C. Schroeder
1936 2 Dick Glaholt
1937 Cancelled
1938 3 Dick Glaholt
1939 4 Paul Borlin
1940 5 Norman Olson
1941 6 John Huss
1942 7 Bill Piechowski
1943 8 John Pearson
1944 9 Elmer Hanson
1945 10 Maurice Garter
1946 11 Robert Oman
1947 12 Ray Glaholt
1948 13 Wally Kershner
1949 14 Leroy Carlson
1950 15 Walter O. Anderson
1951 16 Wayne Lance
1952 17 Bob Eide
1953 18 Bill Steinke
1954 19 Gordon Hutton
1955 20 Earl King
1956 21 Jack Renner
1957 22 Sigwel Wood
1958 23 Gerald Price
1959 24 Dale Hagen
1960 25 James C. Larson
1961 26 Duane Wething
1962 27 Dick Johnston
1963 28 Curt Cherry
1964 29 Dave Knutson
1965 30 Lynn Hummel
1966 31 Robert Bergquist
1967 32 John Moling
1968 33 Arnie Porkkonen
1969 34 Ed Rotenberger
1970 35 John Quam
1971 36 Dave Rogstad
1972 37 Jim Sinclair
1973 38 Wayne Benson
1974 39 Larry Anderson
1975 40 Dick Duffney
1976 41 Roger Hesby
1977 42 David Stowman
1978 43 Dennis Schurman
1979 44 Larry Buboltz
1980 45 Randy Bauer
1981 46 Brian Lund
1982 47 John King
1983 48 Jim Shoemaker
1984 49 Jerry Rogers
1985 50 Dale Westley
1986 51 Glenn Gifford
1987 52 Mark Hagen
1988 53 Bruce Imholte
1989 54 Thomas Reiffenberger
1990 55 Steve Spaeth
1991 56 Dave Aune
1992 57 Carl Malmstrom
1993 58 T. J. Foltz
1994 59 Karen Skoyles
1995 60 Jeff Radermacher
1996 61 Don Beaton
1997 62 Ann Jenson
1998 63 Jim and Dana Gulson
1999 64 Patti Boller and Greg Nyland
2000 65 Dawn Olson
2001 66 Patti Nelson
2002 67 Rita Stelzer
2003 68 Tom Trowbridge
2004 69 Bryan Domholt
2005 70 Rob DuChene
2006 71 Josh & Kim Bettcher
2007 72 Andrew Gag
2008 73 Cara Frank
2009 74 Dave & Melissa Opsahl
2010 75 Nathan and Jackie Weber &Chris and Johnna Thorson
2011 76 Aaron Lauinger
2012 77 Jon & Angie Olson
2013 78 Matt & Amy Boeke
2014 79 Nick Omberg & Tom Winters
2015 80 Alma Alaniz & Nathan Woodard