Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Minnesota’s Twentieth Century

Minnesota’s Twentieth Century: Stories of Extraordinary Everyday People

D.J. Tice
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Minnesota’s Twentieth Century
    Book Description:

    One hundred years of remarkable Minnesota stories are brought together for the first time in Minnesota’s Twentieth Century. A collection of writings and interviews that originated with the popular feature “A Century of Stories” in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, this book reveals the progress of a courageous, industrious people and their changing state. Lavishly illustrating these recollections are indelible images—contemporary photographs of the storytellers, as well as historical views of street scenes, prohibition arrests, and landscapes—that reflect the transformations of the past one hundred years. Published in cooperation with the St. Paul Pioneer Press

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5297-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PROLOGUE The Special Feeling We Had
    (pp. xi-2)

    It was June 1944. Dorothy had just turned twenty. She and her friend Lois were sitting at a picnic table in Whitewater State Park in southeastern Minnesota.

    They sat at the table with their chins in their hands, watching the long shadows of an early summer evening spread across the grape-green valley. It was one of those achingly lovely June days.

    The two young women were the only people in the park. But shortly after the sun dipped behind the bluffs and the river ceased to glisten, they heard voices. Boys’ voices. Singing.

    Dorothy can’t remember just what she and...

    (pp. 3-9)

    Journalism is history in a hurry, written before all the facts are in. But history, for its part, often feels like dull journalism. Facts are plentiful, but people are missing.

    How the pastfelt—how it sounded and tasted and smelled: All that is dead as limestone.

    Minnesota’s Twentieth Centuryis an expedition in search of living history. The quest began for me with my mother’s story of encountering German prisoners of war beside a southern Minnesota stream on a tender June evening. The ironic images haunted me from the first time Dorothy told me about them, when I was...

  6. THE LAST HANGING The Gottschalk and Williams Murder Cases, 1905
    (pp. 11-17)

    As the twenty-first century begins, Minnesota is one of only twelve American states that do not allow the death penalty for first-degree murder.

    Most states lacking capital punishment share Minnesota’s moderate crime rate, its low-density, ethnically homogeneous population, and its tradition of social reform politics.

    It may have been inevitable that Minnesota would abandon the death penalty during the idealistic Progressive Era of the early twentieth century. But the movement to abolish hanging gained momentum from a wave of shocking events in St. Paul.

    Two gruesome double murders within two months, two botched executions, and an unabashed attack on newspapers’...

  7. UNSAFE FOR DEMOCRACY The World War I Loyality Crusade, 1917
    (pp. 19-27)

    “We always have bands in New Ulm,” says Ted Fritsche.

    Fritsche remembers the high-stepping music of a brass ensemble ringing through the Minnesota River valley on the mellow midsummer’s evening of July 25, 1917. It was the day of New Ulm’s most memorable and painful event of the twentieth century.

    In the cool of late afternoon, a spirited parade of draft-age men marched through the prosperous center of the German American enclave. The parade route ended at Turner Park, where a crowd of some eight thousand waited to hear New Ulm’s leading citizens deliver speeches about America’s recent entry into...

  8. PEACE AND DEATH The Influenza Pandemic, 1918
    (pp. 29-35)

    It was early November 1918. News from Europe brought rumors of an armistice. World War I would soon end, and a million American doughboys would come home.

    But death marched across the autumn-brown Minnesota prairie that month as the guns fell silent in “the war to end all wars.” Hattie Marier, a twenty-four-year old farm wife and mother, was afraid.

    Marier’s eldest sister, Minnie, had influenza. It was a new, horrible strain—Spanish influenza, they called it. The epidemic blew across the countryside like a deadly gust of wind.

    “Oh, the country was full of people I knew who were...

    (pp. 37-43)

    The sleek Cadillac touring car rumbled along dark, snow-covered St. Paul streets. At the wheel was Richard Thomas Hooton, a twenty-three-year-old chauffeur. By his side was his employer, wealthy businessman George M. Kenyon.

    Tom Hooton drove carefully that January night. “Drivers had to be drivers in them days,” he remembered. “You had to know how to get through mud and snow. There wasn’t much plowing. You always carried chains just in case.”

    That night, there was no time for delay. Kenyon was riding up front because it was January 16, 1920. At midnight, Prohibition would take effect throughout the United...

  10. THE MOST ATROCIOUS CRIME THe Duluth Lynchings, 1920
    (pp. 45-53)

    Michael Fedo first heard the story from his mother. He grew up in Duluth in the 1940s and 1950s. The story came from his mother’s own childhood. It was not widely told.

    By the 1970s, Fedo had become a college professor, eager to write books. He planned a historical novel that would include a version of the incident his mother had described a lynch mob overwhelming police and hanging three black rape suspects from a light pole.

    “I thought I should read something about it,” Fedo says. “I assumed that somebody had to have written a book about it.”


  11. SAVE YOUR BREATH AND START CLIMBING The Milford Mine Disaster, 1924
    (pp. 55-61)

    At about 3:45 on the afternoon of February 5, 1924, Frank Hrvatin (pronounced her-VAH-tin) was pushing an ore car along a shaft of the underground Milford Mine.

    The dark, cool, horizontal shaft, called a “drift,” was about eight feet wide and eight feet high. It was heavily timbered on all sides for support. The drift lay 175 feet below ground on the Cuyuna Iron Range in north-central Minnesota.

    Hrvatin was seventeen days short of his fifteenth birthday. He was a “dirt trammer,” one of forty-eight miners at work on the afternoon shift. His job was to shovel loosened iron ore...

  12. ANOTHER COUNTERY Life on and off the Reservation
    (pp. 63-71)

    “I’ve worked all my life,” Qucntin Fairbanks says, “just to get back to what I had as a kid. I didn’t know how good I had it.

    “I didn’t know how bad I had it, either, until somebody started telling me how poor I was.”

    In the 1930s and 1940s, Fairbanks grew up on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in north-central Minnesota. In those depression and war years, even more than today, the roughly 800,000-acre reservation, about the size of Rhode Island, was among the most physically and culturally isolated Indian enclaves in the United States.

    This land of “the...

  13. DUST BOWL SISTERS The Great Depression, 1934
    (pp. 73-81)

    They had closed up the drafty old farmhouse as best they could. Ten-year-old Phyllis Hills; her sister, Byrte (pronounced “birdie”); and their mother, Elizabeth, had even padded the front door with quilts. “It didn’t close real good,” Phyllis remembers.

    They had no radio. They couldn’t afford one. So they took turns playing the piano. They sang and talked and read Bible verses and tried not to listen.

    But all day long, trucks and wagons rumbled past the house on their way to the far end of the pasture. All day long, from where the trucks were headed, the Hills women...

  14. GREAT GOVERNORS Johnson, Olson, and Stassen
    (pp. 83-93)

    Governors are not well remembered by later generations. A few Minnesota chief executives—Alexander Ramsey, John Pillsbury, Horace Austin—lent their names to places or business empires, and so achieved nominal immortality. But little is recalled about their personalities or policies.

    All the same, a handful of governors transformed political life in the state, mainly by putting into words and actions the popular spirit of their times.

    In the first half of the twentieth century, three great governors established the political themes that have shaped modern Minnesota. Representing the three political parties that have led the state this century, they...

  15. A HAVE-NOT’S WAR The Spanish Civil War, 1937–38
    (pp. 95-101)

    Ernest Hemingway’For Whom the Bell Tollsis the most famous of many books written about the Spanish civil war of the 1930s.

    The novelist described the feeling shared by American volunteers in that faraway and long-ago struggle as “a feeling of consecration to a duty toward all the oppressed of the world,” an almost “religious experience” of “absolute brotherhood.” And “the best thing was that there was something you could do about this feeling. . . . You could fight.”

    Clarence Forester of north Minneapolis was one of the Americans who had that feeling. During a violent truck drivers’...

  16. LOST ISLAND Isle Royale Fishing
    (pp. 103-111)

    Howard Sivertson’s open boat was twenty-four feet long. He remembers that as he climbed one wind-driven wave after another, crouching in the stern clinging desperately to the tiller, he would watch the boat’s bow rise nearly to vertical above him.

    Even then, each advancing wall of frigid, black water loomed several feet above the bow, where it curled over on itself and came crashing down on the twelve-year old fisherman.

    Lake Superior, the temperamental giant of the Great Lakes and one of the most dangerous waters on Earth, has swallowed far sturdier vessels and far more seasoned mariners. With the...

  17. BARBED-WIRE WARRIORS The POWs’ Secret War, 1943–45
    (pp. 113-121)

    The old German army truck bounced down a cobblestone road in northwestern Poland. Lieutenant Royal Lee and two other U.S. Army officers bounced along in the back of the truck, guarded by two German soldiers.

    The guards were in an easygoing mood. They were happy to have an afternoon’s duty away from the nearby prisoner-of-war camp. Lee and the other two POWs would be doing all the work.

    Lee tried to look relaxed, too. POWs would naturally have been pleased to be spending a day outside their cramped, barbed-wire world. The day’s errand was a happy one of picking up...

  18. IRON LADY The Voice of the Range
    (pp. 123-131)

    One warm Friday afternoon in the late 1970s, Veda Ponikvar was working alone in the storefront office of theChisholm Free Press.She saw two men approaching the front door, and for a moment she was puzzled.

    When you’ve been a small-town newspaper publisher and editor for decades, as Ponikvar had, you know just about everybody. These visitors were clearly not from Chisholm or anywhere else on Minnesota’s Iron Range.

    The men introduced themselves and said they were researching a book. They wondered if by any chance Ponikvar knew a man named Archibald Graham.

    Doctor Graham was dead, Ponikvar told...

  19. ARE YOU COLORED? Discrimination and Progress
    (pp. 133-139)

    “Stand in one of the squares marked on the floor,” barked the naval officer. “In each square you’ll find a cardboard box with a label. Write your address on the label, stick it on the box, and fill the box with your clothes. They’ll be shipped home.”

    It was spring 1945. Jim Griffin was among the disrobing recruits being inducted into the U.S. Navy at the Great Lakes Naval Base near Chicago.

    “While I’m standing there,” Griffin remembers, “a young sailor came over and over and looked at me and said, ‘Are you colored?’

    “I said, ‘Are you blind?’”


  20. WHERE THE ACTION WAS Wars Hot and Cold
    (pp. 141-147)

    Few Americans who lived through 1968 will ever forget the jarring climax year of the troubled 1960s.

    Arguably the most traumatic twelve months for America in the twentieth century’s second half, 1968 saw the assassinations of presidential candidate Robert Kennedy and civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. King’s murder and other grievances set a dozen American cities ablaze that year with race riots.

    The Democratic National Convention in August, where Minnesotans Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy battled for the presidential nomination, was rocked and scarred by violent street battles between Chicago police and Vietnam War protesters. During the same month,...

  21. A CERTAIN DISTANCE “The Sixties”
    (pp. 149-155)

    “Wake up...wake up. We’re coming to America This morning.” It was a misty March dawn in 1957. Hans Jacobse (JAKE-ub-see) was six years old and about to complete the first long journey of his life. The cramped cabin of the old immigrant ship swayed lazily, the way it had for ten long days at sea.

    Jacobse’s father shook the boy awake. He was to get up and come out on deck to watch for the Statue of Liberty.

    “I didn’t know what a ‘Statue of Liberty’ was,” Jacobse remembers. “But when your dad says you have to go see this...

  22. SOLDIER’S HEART Vietnam, 1968
    (pp. 157-165)

    It was like the parting of the Red Sea, Charlie Wolden remembers.

    Thousands of panicked South Vietnamese civilians were streaming out of the ancient city of Hue (pronounced “way”)—“humping it out of town with whatever they could carry on their backs,” Wolden says. Mile after mile, the dazed refugees moved to either side of the road to make way for trucks carrying U.S. marines into the city.

    It was February 1, 1968. The Tet Offensive had begun a few days earlier, when Viet Cong communist guerrillas and North Vietnamese Army troops simultaneously launched ferocious attacks in hundreds of cities...

  23. WHO THE HELL IS KEN DHALBERG? Watergate, 1972
    (pp. 167-175)

    “You have to have a little luck in life,” Ken Dahlberg likes to say. But in August 1972, Dahlberg wasn’t feeling lucky.

    The Twin Cities businessman was in Miami, attending the Republican National Convention. The scent of scandal was in the air. A Florida investigator tracked down Dahlberg on the convention floor and took him in for questioning.

    A cashier’s check for twenty-five thousand dollars, in Kenneth H. Dahlberg’s name, had recently been discovered in the Miami bank account of one Bernard Barker. Barker was one of live men arrested earlier that summer attempting to burglarize the headquarters of the...

  24. ON EAGLE’S WINGS The Long Journey of a Hockey Legend
    (pp. 177-185)

    It was early spring along the Salmon River in the mountains of central Idaho.Henry Boucha (boo-SHAY) was hiking alone across a high ridge. It was 1986. Boucha says he had felt alone for a long time, even when he had company.

    “I was the sort of person who didn’t talk a lot, “Boucha says. “It’s very difficult to sort things out by yourself. It took me a while to get my anger out. I suppose I should have had professional help.”

    If there is such a thing as a quintessential Minnesota fairy tale, Boucha had lived it, once upon a...

  25. HAUNTED EXILES Saigon to Minneapolis
    (pp. 187-195)

    Luu Pham’s only memories of his homeland arc fragmentary, shadowy images.

    The young Minneapolis playwright and actor remembers a swing in the small courtyard of his family’s Saigon home. He remembers a path that led to a park and a soccer field. He remembers riding between his father’s legs on a small motorcycle.

    Pham also remembers the day he departed on an exciting trip with his brothers and sisters, mother and grandfather. They boarded a “big, dark airplane” that had no seats, just a vast cavity, as if the family had been swallowed by a whale.

    The four-year-old boy had...

  26. ROOT CAUSES The Farm Crisis That Never Ended
    (pp. 197-205)

    The ringing of the telephone—harsh and urgent, as it always seems late at night—jarred Delores Swoboda awake at 2 A.M.

    It was 1986, or maybe 1987. Swoboda can't be sure. In those years, it had gotten to be a habit, receiving phone calls at all hours.

    In a moment, Swoboda was calm—comfortable in the darkness of the old farmhouse where she had lived for decades. She also knew what the burden of the phone call was likely to be.

    It was likely to be some farmer, or some farmer's wife, panic-stricken over the impending foreclosure of the...

  27. Back Matter
    (pp. 206-206)