The New Guy

IMG_0858As the new Curator of Collections for the Scott County Historical Society, I wanted my first blog to be something of an introduction. I was going to tell you a story of who I am and about my background in history. However, I was given the idea to instead talk about what it is like to be the new guy. What is it like to start at a new place, with new people, and new ways of doing things? How do you start? What do you do? How do you feel? I thought about this and realized that this is a good opportunity to tell you about myself in a different way. On that note, I would start by saying that my first few days could be summed up in two words, “I’m lost!”

It has been my experience that starting a new position can be one of the most exciting and confusing times in someone’s career. I’m still not entirely sure how I got here, I remember asking for a job and suddenly having one. Since I started with SCHS I have had to learn whole new ways of doing things, while at the same time knowing exactly what I am doing. The history field is strange in that way, everyone does things differently but we all end at the same thing. You save the same types of history and information no matter where you go. I only wish best practices told me how to manage my office.

As you can see, my office is full of all kinds of things, each one with a story, and each one a total mystery to me. For example, I found a box on a shelf full of pictures. I looked and looked and couldn’t find a thing on them. A box of 300 some pictures and I had no clue what to do with them or even what they were. Here begins the lesson of a new job, ask questions, every question. After some digging, and reaching out to me predecessors, we found out that all of those photos are copies. Here at SCHS we don’t accept copies of things into our collection, we want the genuine article. Still, the photos have a ton of history locked up in them. Those photos have been meaning to go in our library for years, I just happen to be the one doing it.

I admit I was lost when I started here, I didn’t know where to start or what to do. I look at that mess of an office and froze. It didn’t take long though for me to prioritize and begin tackling all of the projects and loose ends that needed tying up. I hope this quick blog gives you a sense of who I am, and if not feel free to stop in and meet me. I am always happy to talk with people and get to better know my community.

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 “O, gone now are the good old days of hot cakes, thickly spread”

Spring is beginning to peek in from between the piles of snow, and Minnesotans from around the state are turning their attention towards their lawns and gardens.

A hundred years ago, that attention was cast as patriotic as well as recreational. As the United States entered World War I, food production was in the forefront of war preparation efforts.

Between the Civil war and World War I, cooking and kitchens were transformed in America. Iceboxes were being slowly replaced by refrigerators, invented in 1913. Farming changed too as gas powered tractors were becoming a commonplace sight in Minnesota’s fields. Crop, husbandry and soil research from large land-grant universities was making a difference in the daily lives of farmers. As A. D. Wilson, the director of the University of Minnesota said at the time “The changed conditions are placing more and more bright progressive men and women on our farms who are not ashamed to study their profession and put their best efforts into it. As a consequence, we are developing a true science of agriculture. We no longer depend on ‘chance’ or ‘good luck’ for results in farming but know the conditions necessary for good luck”. Scott County got into the game too. Entire pages of the Scott County Argus were devoted to the latest Agricultural research, with rousing headlines such as “Sugar Beets and Mangels Tend to Increase Milk When Fed to Dairy Cows but Corn Silage is Far More Economical” and “Prevention of Corn Smut Through Formaldehyde Use”, both appearing on March 16, 1917.

Less than two weeks after war was declared, President Hoover issued the proclamation “We must supply abundant food for ourselves and our armies… and for a large part the nations with whom we have now made common cause… without abundant food the great enterprise which we have embarked upon will break down and fail”.  In 1917, approximately half of Minnesotans lived on farms, and many of them began to view their efforts as essential to US victory.

An editorial published in the March 9th 1917 issue of the Scott County Argus declared:

“With conditions like these everyone who has a piece of ground should plant some food products. Most all of the large cities in the country are entering the worldwide movement of greater food production. If Shakopee does not do her part in this great movement it will not be the fault of her public school teachers, for all boys and girls are being encouraged to take up some form of the work and more encouragement from the homes of our young people is needed…Education should help us live better NOW as well as later in life, and NOW is the time for the young folks to get into the game.”

A much shorter letter to the Argus published on May 18th 1917 advocated “Minnesota can aid materially in averting a food shortage during the war and save millions of dollars annually on food in times of peace if we will take steps to utilize the millions of fish that inhabit the lakes”

During the war, meat and sugar were deemed important for the creation of foods which could provide compact calories for shipment abroad to feed soldiers and allied nations that were directly impacted by the fighting. Americans were also encouraged to conserve wheat so that bread could be distributed to hungry troops. In exchange, Americans were asked to use more milk, fish, and grains such as oats and corn

Throughout these efforts a lot of emphasis was put on the role of women. While most men and women still operated in distinct spheres during this time, the war provided the need and opportunity for female leadership, particularly in the role of food conservation.

The Minnesota Commission on Public Safety was organized in the spring of 1917 and a women’s auxiliary was created simultaneously. The sentiment of this organization was summed up thus in the May 1917 issue of Farmers Wife Magazine: “With the farm women lies the sacred charge of serving this nation in its hour of peril… on farmers’ wives and daughters, in large measure, rests the fate of the war and the fate of the nations”. The April 20th 1917 issue of the Scott County Argus described the creation of a statewide committee on food preservation and conservation by the governor. The article lists as one of their primary duties “… to encourage home economics and the organization of groups of town women to assist farm women in harvest and other periods of labor stress”.

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The Woman’s Committee booth at the 1917 Minnesota State Fair

The efforts were not without humor. A poem in the January 2018 issue Northfield Norwegian American described rationing with these words:

“Oh gone now are the good old days of hot cakes thickly spread

And meatless, wheatless, sweetless days are reigning in their stead

And gone are the days of fat rib roasts and two inch t-bone steaks

And doughnuts plump and golden brown, the kind that mother makes

And when it comes to pies and cake, just learn to cut it out”

Mr. Hoover’s goin’ to get you if you don’t watch out”

In terms of sheer volume, these efforts were largely successful.  In first year of war the US shipped 9 million more tons of food overseas than before the war, approximately a 250% increase. Listed below are a selection of recipes shared in Minnesota newspapers to help tTheGreatWar-202x300heir readers practice conservation of sugar, wheat and meat in the kitchen. For more recipes and local war stories, visit the “The Great War” exhibit currently on display at the Scott County Historical Society. Let us know your results if you try any of these recipes!

 

 

 

 

Written by Rose James, Program Manager

Sources:

Hitchcock, N. (1918). The Mobilization of Women. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 73.

Eighmey, R. K. (2010). Food will win the war: Minnesota crops, cooks, and conservation during World War I. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press.

 

 

Easter Greetings

The celebration of the arrival of spring began in ancient times.  The pagan goddess Eostre was an Anglo-Saxon goddess of dawn and spring – bringing brighter and longer days.  She was also the goddess of fertility (eggs were a symbol of fertility and newborn chicks represent new growth).  Around the 2nd century AD, Christian missionaries ventured north and used existing pagan holidays as a way to convert people to Christianity.  They allowed people to continue their seasonal celebrations, but added Christian meanings to them, and gradually over time overtook the pagan meaning.  This is why the pagan goddess’s name Eoster – is now the name of the spring holiday Easter.  It is also why some of the symbols used to celebrate the pagan holiday are still seen today – brightly colored eggs, baby chicks, rabbits, and flowering plants.

Although eggs have always been a symbol of the season, the practice of delivering eggs was first introduced in German in the early 17th century and brought to the U.S. by Dutch settlers in the 1700s.  German children would make decorated nests for their eggs – which were filled with eggs and little gifts by the Easter bunny the night before (kinda like Santa).

We can really see the blend of seasonal and religious symbols in the holiday’s greeting cards.  Ancient Egyptians would exchange notes on papyrus – and this practice was also shared by Greek and Chinese cultures.  These would be much the same as handmade paper cards that were popular in the early 13th century.  But it wasn’t until postage stamps were introduced in the 1840s that greeting cards came into their own.

Cards became an extremely popular way to send personal messages – and with the availability commercial production – they were made on a mass scale.  Cards were made for all the holidays, but since Easter was mostly seen as a religious holiday, the use of greeting cards didn’t take off until the turn of the 19th century.  The Easter card was born in Europe when a stationer in Victorian England added a drawing of a rabbit to his greeting card.  Later cards included chickens, eggs, rabbits, the cross and more. Early Easter greetings were sent on postcards that featured Easter symbols or natural scenery.  Many were colorful and often embossed, or had gold cutouts.

According to American Greetings, Easter is the fourth most popular holiday for sending cards, just behind Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.  Here are a few from our collection…

And just for fun… here is a stereoscope card of a woman “Trying on the Easter Bonnet”.  Easter was also known as the holiday were it women would sport their new spring hat/bonnet.

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Funny Photos From The Lebens’ Collection

As we finish inventorying our collection of LeRoy Lebens’ photographic work, a whopping 32,617 images, we thought it would be fun to share some of the most entertaining images that we’ve found through the past year. Having taken photos for most everything you could imagine: weddings, portraits, advertising, and nature, just to name a few, Lebens caught a lot of interesting and funny moments. These are only a small selection of what we have found. If you are interested in finding out more about the LeRoy Lebens collection, come by and give us a visit at the Scott County Historical Society.

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Groom being pulled into the church by his fellow groomsmen (Joyce – Sames Wedding)
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Groom being carried up the stairs at St Mary’s Church for his wedding (Schmitt – Rosckes Wedding, 1972)
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Leroy Huth posing against a fence post (1966)
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Valley Players (1966)
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Just a posing clown (Circa-1965)
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Clown (Circa-1980)
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Ad for the “Barron Book Rest” (1960) Probably not the safest idea…
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Pirate
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Just a Jailbird (1965)

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Probably my favorite picture of the collection, a turkey dressed up with a doll’s head, named “Roy Turkey” (1963)
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Photo for a Friday the 13th calendar (1967)

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1967

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Valentine’s Day 100 Years Ago And Beyond

Since this past Wednesday was Valentine’s Day, I wanted to take a look back through our newspapers and see if Valentine’s Day was celebrated one hundred years ago. Valentine’s Day landed on a Thursday, February 14, 1918. As most everyone knows, 1918 was a time of difficulty since the world was in the middle of World War I. World War I would not end until 11 November 1918, so in February, the war was still going strong.

I searched through five different newspapers, the Shakopee ArgusShakopee Tribune, Jordan Independent, New Prague Times, and the Belle Plaine Herald, to see if there would be any advertisements about the romantic day that is now so eagerly celebrated. Unsurprisingly, much of the newspapers were chalk full of information concerning the war at a local, state, and international level. The entire newspaper was not all doom and gloom, however. There were advertisements for local theatre shows and information on local individuals and their recent visitors. I had been expecting the heavy focus on the war in the newspapers, but was surprised to find that there wasn’t a single mention of Valentine’s Day in any of the newspapers published in February 1918.

In fact, I found mention of other days that were celebrated in February in 1918 that are not observed today, or if they are, only in certain states. The most mention was that of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12. In 1918, all four newspapers had advertisements for the celebration of his birthday, but no mention of Valentine’s Day. Today, only Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and New York celebrate February 12 as Lincoln’s Birthday. The advertisement below is from the 8 February 1918 edition of the Shakopee Tribune. Also mentioned in the 1918 newspapers was the celebration of George Washington’s birthday, February 22. In modern-day Minnesota, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington’s birthdays are celebrated as Presidents’ Day, which occurs on the third Monday in February.

Although Valentine’s Day is not an official holiday, I still found myself searching for that word ‘holiday’ when it came to that romantic day. An article in the Shakopee Tribune, published 8 February 1918, page 2, featured mention of holidays, as well as Abraham Lincoln’s and George Washington’s holidays. Again, no mention of Valentine’s Day, although the day most certainly was observed by Minnesotans at this time.

It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a New Prague Times article that was published the previous year, in 1917, that I found any evidence of Valentine’s Day. Amidst the information concerning local matters on the home-front of the war, there was this lovely advertisement that popped out at me.00001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To my delight, there was yet another advertisement in the 8 February 1917 newspaper a few pages over.

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Buoyed by this discovery, I searched the Belle Plaine Herald in both February 1917 and 1918, and was pleased to find another, small, advertisement concerning Valentine’s Day in the 8 February 1917 newspaper, but again, no mention of Valentine’s Day in the 1918 newspaper. 

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It is interesting to know that Valentine’s Day was a day worthy of printing advertisements for in Scott County in 1917, but not in 1918. Perhaps individuals in the county could feel the end of the war, and wanted to focus on what was occurring overseas in their newspapers? That is, of course, just speculation on my part. What I do know is that WWI ended in November of 1918, and Valentine’s Day was once again a day to show off in the newspapers.

I did not search Scott County newspapers in the period of World War II, but instead chose to see what we had for Valentine’s Day memorabilia in the collection. We have many Valentine’s Day cards in our collection, and I chose a few of the cutest, and loveliest, to show you. Valentine’s Day is often thought of a day simply for couples, but as many of these cards indicate, it can also be a day for loved ones, be they from a daughter to a father, or a grandchild to their grandparent. These cards below range from the 1950s to the 1990s, and all were written with love. I hope that you have had a wonderful Valentine’s Day, whether you celebrated it on Wednesday, or plan to do so over the weekend. Or any day you please. Enjoy these cards, and if you’re interested in learning more about Valentine’s Day in Scott County, feel free to stop by.

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Images of Football in Scott County

With the Super Bowl in Minneapolis this weekend, what better occasion could there be to share some historical photographs of football in Scott County from our collection? Pictures that begin around 1890 show an interesting progression of equipment, from padded body suits with a simple leather cap to the more recognizable shoulder pads and hard helmets with facemasks we’re familiar with today. Many of the later images were captured by LeRoy Lebens as part of his work as the official photographer for the Waniyetu Shakopee High School Yearbook, which are a part of his larger collection we are currently inventorying here at SCHS. If you’re interested in learning more about sports in Scott County or the LeRoy Lebens photo collection, come by and see us at the Scott County Historical Society!

1 20050600009 Frank Dierberger of Shakopee 1890
1890- Frank Dierberger of Shakopee
2 19990530075 Rock Spring 1905 George Vierling, Reno Ketterer, Ed V. Mertz, Math Klinkhammer, Joseph R. Witt, Emil Strehlow
1905 Rock Spring Team- George Vierling, Reno Ketterer, Ed V. Mertz, Math Klinkhammer, Joseph R. Witt, Emil Strehlow
3 20060180211 BP Minn Valley Champions 1914 Lorenz Woods, Bill Crahan, Emmett O'Neill, James McDevitt, Martin Donovan, George Brown, Mike Pendy, Tom Sheehan, Leo Pendy, Herman Beutow, Bo
1914 Belle Plaine Minnesota Valley Champion Team- Lorenz Woods, Bill Crahan, Emmett O’Neill, James McDevitt, Martin Donovan, George Brown, Mike Pendy, Tom Sheehan, Leo Pendy, Herman Beutow, Bob White and John Weibeler
4 20120140821 Leo Hartmann SHS 1922
1922- Leo Hartmann of Shakopee High School
5 20090490024 1922 SHS Team
1922 Shakopee High School Team
6 20090490015 1936 SHS Football
1936 Shakopee High School Team
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1939 Shakopee High School Team
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1939 Shakopee High School Team
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1942 Shakopee High School Program
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1955 Shakopee High School
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1958 Shakopee High School
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1958 Shakopee High School
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Shakopee “Small Fry” League 1955-1960
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Shakopee “Small Fry” League 1955-1960
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Just for fun, from the Maurice Stans collection, the 1969-1972 Nixon Administration Cabinet as a football lineup. Maurice Stans can be seen in the middle of the middle row as #16

The Unboxing of Fallout Shelter Items – 56 Years Later

The very last donation of 2017 was given to SCHS by the Rahr Malting Company on December 21, 2017. It was exactly as if the we had received an early Christmas present. The donation consisted of five boxes, of both the small and large variety, and all that was written down on the paper was that they were civil defense supplies from 1962. Needless to say, it was very exciting opening and uncovering the items inside of these civil defense boxes. As it turns out, these boxes were like a Christmas gift to SCHS, just opened up fifty-six years after they were originally packaged. Although it may have felt like Christmas here at the museum, the items in these boxes were originally packed for a much darker and serious purpose: in the event that a fallout shelter was needed in the future.

The Rahr Corporation, established in 1847 in Michigan, has since expanded to several different locations, one of them happening to be on 1st Avenue West in Shakopee. The facility in Shakopee was built in 1937, and had been added onto in 1954, 1977, 1981, 1994, and 2016.1 The information that many may have forgotten, however, was that the Rahr Malting Company was designated as a fallout shelter in 1961-1962 for the citizens of Shakopee. The boxes that were donated to SCHS were chalk full of fallout shelter items, many of them having been undisturbed for more than fifty years.

Included in the items were lists for Medical Fallout Shelter Kit “A”, which was one of the smaller boxes that could treat 50-65 shelter occupants, and for Medical Fallout Shelter Kit “C”, which was one of the larger boxes that could treat 300-325 shelter occupants. Each list identifies the items and the quantity of each item. Kit “C” contained the exact same items as in Kit “A”, just in larger quantities due to the larger number of proposed occupants. Also included was a brochure titled Fallout Shelter Medical Kit Instructions, dated July 1962, as well as a thicker brochure titled Family Guide: Emergency Health Care, which detailed instructions on caring for individuals while in a fallout shelter. These lists and brochure can be viewed below.

The items that were packed in these boxes were medical supplies, which would be extremely necessary in the event of needing a fallout shelter. Any and all items that could fit were made to sit inside their own individual brown cardboard box, the name of the item written on the front of the box. Items included several different kinds of bandages, scissors, thermometers, tweezers, safety pins, isopropyl alcohol, surgical soap, toothache remedy, eye and nose drops, diarrhea medication, many different kinds of pills (sulfadiazine, penicillin, aspirin, cascara (a laxative)), as well as tins of baking soda, petroleum jelly, and bottles of table salt. Also included were small bottles of iodine pills that would have been used to treat water in fallout shelters. All of these items were necessities when living in a closed off fallout shelter, be it with either 50-65 people, or 300-325. These items were chosen and packed with care, ready to offer aid to those who were sick. Although many of these items were labeled as being packed and stored in 1962, we, unfortunately, don’t have information on which building on the Rahr Malting campus was to be used as the fallout shelter.

Nonetheless, these items are a museum’s treasure, and very much a look into the past when nuclear war felt very much like an imminent threat. These boxes stored in the Rahr Malting Company show that a very national fear was felt by everyone everywhere throughout the United States, even in small Shakopee, Minnesota.

Many of these items have not been viewed since the 1960s, so I am pleased to allow you a secondhand look at these fallout shelter items. Enjoy.

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All of the items unpacked from their boxes, gathered together by type of item.

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(https://www.rahr.com/rahr-malting-co/shakopee-malthouse)

Snowy Scenes of Scott County: Winter Images from the LeRoy Lebens Collection

As a man who seemed to always have a camera on hand, LeRoy Lebens managed to catch great photos of life in Scott County, even in the cold depths of Minnesota winters. As we continue an inventorying of his collection here at the Scott County Historical Society, a number of his photos have stood out, showing the beauty and life of Scott County in winter. Despite our current frigid temperatures, I feel that these photos are a great way to celebrate winter. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Lebens Collection, please come visit us at the Scott County Historical Society.

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Shakopee House (Dangerfields) and Mill Pond
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Ducks on Mill Pond

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Lebens’ Home on Fifth Ave
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LeRoy Lebens shoveling his sidewalk after a blizzard
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Sometimes a bigger shovel is needed
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Train at Shakopee Depot 1950-1960
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Shakopee Depot 1950’s
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Jordan High School
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Rahr Malting
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Rahr Malting
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Aerial photo of West Shakopee

THE LUTEFISK LAMENT

Thanks to SCHS volunteer Paul for sharing with us this holiday season.  Enjoy!

‘Twas the day before Christmas, with things all a bustle.
As Mama got set for the Christmas Eve tussle.
Aunts, uncles, and Cousins would soon be arriving,
With stomachs all ready for Christmas Eve dining.
While I sat alone with a feeling of dread,
As visions of lutefisk danced in my head.
The thought of the smell made my eyeballs start burning.
The thought of the taste set my stomach to churning.
For I’m one of those who good Swedes rebuff,
A Scandahoovian boy who can’t stand the stuff.
Each year, however, I played at the game,
To spare Mama and Papa the undying shame.
I must bear up bravely.  I can’t take the risk
Of relatives knowing I hate lutefisk.

Then out in the yard I heard such a clatter.
I jumped up to see what was the matter.
There in the snow, all in a jumble,
Were three of my uncles who had taken a tumble.

From out in the kitchen an odor came stealing,
That fairly set all of my senses to reeling.
The smell of the lutefisk crept down the hall,
And wilted a plant in a pot on the wall.
Uncles Oscar and Lars said “Oh, that smells yummy,”
And Kermit’s eyes glittered while he patted his tummy.

Mama announced dinner by ringing a bell.
They rushed to the table with a whoop and a yell.
I lifted my eyes to heaven and sighed,
And a rose on the wallpaper withered and died.
Then Mama came proudly with a bowl on a trivet.
You would have thought that the crown jewels were in it.
She set it down gently and then took her seat.
And Papa said grace before we could eat.
It seemed to me, in my whirling head,
The shortest of prayers he ever had said.

Then Mama raised the cover on that steaming dish,
And I had to face the quivering fish.
The plates were passed for Papa to fill,
While I waited in agony, twixt fever and chill.
He dipped in the spoon and held it up high,
As it oozed to plates, I thought I would die.

Then it came to my plate, and to my fevered brain.
There seemed enough lutefisk to derail a train.
It looked like a mountain of congealing glue,
Yet oddly transparent and discolored in hue.
With butter and cream sauce I tried to conceal it,
I salted and peppered, but the smell would reveal it.

I drummed up my courage, tried to be bold,
Mama reminds me, “Eat before it gets cold.”
Deciding to face it, “Uffda,” I sighed.
“Uffda, indeed,” my stomach replied.

Then summoning up resolve for which we are known,
My hand took the fork as with a mind of its own.
And with reckless abandon the lutefisk I ate,
Within 20 seconds, I’d cleaned up my plate.
Uncle Kermit flashed me an ear-to-ear grin,
As butter and cream sauce dripped from his chin.
Then to my great shock, he spoke in my ear,
“I’m sure glad that’s over for another year.”

It was then that I learned a great wonderful truth,
That Swedes and Norwegians from old men to youth,
Must each pay their dues to have the great joy,
Of being known as a good Scandahoovian boy,
And so to tell you all, as you face the great test,
“Happy Christmas to you, and to you all the best.”

 

 

Most people attribute this poem to “Boone & Erickson” – a team of WCCO radio personalities in the Twin Cities who recorded it years ago – or “Anonymous.”  The actual author apparently is a man named Dan Freeburg, who copyrighted it in 1978 but seemed to have given up trying to enforce it. 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Snow falls gently outside the frosted window. Candles and cookies fill the house with a comforting aroma, mixing with the sharp scent of the pine tree in the corner. Small lights twinkle in the darkness, lending their glow to the darkness. The music of Irving Berlin and Andy Williams croon from the radio. There is only one time of year where all of these things come together, and that is Christmas. Christmas has been celebrated in nearly every town in Scott County with special events for many years, and the Scott County Historical Society houses records of many of these events. Prior Lake, Jordan, and Shakopee perhaps have the most significant events, but the stories that come from the surrounding communities are equally, if not more so, interesting.

In Prior Lake, Christmas celebrations included a wide variety of activities, such as theatre parties, visits from Santa Claus himself, and a blood drive sponsored by the Red Cross. While these happenings seem fairly standard, in 1975, an unusual Christmas story appeared in the local newspaper. Lorraine Borka returned home one day to discover a package on her front doorstep. Curious, she ripped open the paper to reveal a child’s sled. Though it seemed strange, to Lorraine, the sled held a much deeper significance. 35 years earlier, she had received a sled for Christmas from Santa. She had gotten dressed to go outside to try the new toy, but at the end of her very first slide, a group of boys stole the sled and proceeded to ruin it beyond repair. The new sled was given, 35 years later, by the same group of boys who had spoiled the fun so long ago

In Jordan, festivities often involve the entire town. In the past, variety shows were put on by the area schools, as well as a Red Cross Christmas Seal Program. Christmas carolers were a common sight to see, and the all-around spirit was a happy one. Santa also visited Jordan on various occasions, and all the children were given the opportunity to see him and receive a small gift bag of Christmas goodies. The Jordan Theater also hosted two different movies for kids to enjoy during the holiday season. Agnes Morlock, a longtime Jordan resident, recalls in As I Remember Scott County, “Our Christmas tree was the most beautiful. It was usually a large tree with real white candles. These were only burned once, while we sang Christmas carols. The ornaments were animal cookies…cut out and frosted in white on both sides. These cookies and candles were intermingled with garlands of strung white popcorn. What a sight!”

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Shakopee also hosts quite the number of holiday activities. The local historical park, The Landing (previously Murphy’s Landing), presents their award-winning “Folkways of the Holidays” demonstration every year. The official description describes the event as “a recreation of the ethnic holiday traditions of the Minnesota River Valley which focuses on frontier life from 1840-1890. Music, dance, food, and folk arts combine to illustrate the cultural diversity of the region. The festival showcases holiday traditions as celebrated by a variety of immigrant and religious groups.” The different cultures that are celebrated include French Canadian, American, Norwegian, Finnish, Czechoslovakian, Moravian, Swedish, and Victorian English. The Landing demonstrates the different specialty desserts, formal dinners, and other important traditions. In downtown Shakopee, there is a tree-lighting ceremony complete with photos with Santa, hot chocolate and apple cider, Christmas lights, decorated storefronts, ice sculpture, a petting zoo, and caroling.

Recollections from older residents of the community are featured in the anthology As I Remember Scott County, and many of them mention the Christmas season among their favorite memories. Edna Weckman, from New Market, describes, “The one thing I’ll never forget is going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve with the horses and the sleigh. We bundled up to keep warm. The stars shining brightly, the church lighted up and the Christmas songs made one feel happy and peaceful.” She is not the only one who fondly remembers mass. Patrick Devine of Belle Plaine mentions attending the 4:00 mass, and then returning home to open gifts. Stockings commonly held apples, oranges, and nuts, and occasionally a new shirt or handkerchief would be presented. After the gifts, the family would visit his grandmother’s house for dinner, and Patrick recalls that she “always made the best pies.”

Though the gifts and festivities are fun, the most important part of Christmas is not lost on the Scott County residents. To love and be loved in return, to spend time engaged with those around you, listening to stories of days past, is what Christmas is all about. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.