Friday, October 21, 2016

Bob Dylan not the only Nobel winner with Duluth connections...

Bob Dylan, 2010 (Wikipedia)
By Jim Heffernan
The Swedish Academy has been having a hard time personally contacting reclusive Duluth native Bob Dylan to tell him he has been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, according to news reports. At this writing he has not personally acknowledged the great honor.

The story of how that other Nobel literature laureate with Duluth connections, author Sinclair Lewis, was informed of his selection is well documented, and it’s quite amusing.

It was described at the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, the author’s birthplace. I visited the now closed center – as well as Lewis’ early family home there – several years ago and reviewed in one of the offerings just how the famous author learned he’d won the literature Nobel in 1930, the first American so honored. 
Sinclair Lewis, 1930

Who knows how Nobel officials will eventually contact Dylan directly, maybe with a simple telephone call. It was a simple telephone call that informed Lewis of the honor, and he had a hard time believing it was legitimate.

As every schoolchild knows, the Nobel prizes are selected by a committee in Sweden and awarded in Stockholm. (Exception: the Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway.)

When Lewis was selected, the Swedish Nobel authorities notified that Scandinavian nation’s consulate in Chicago and instructed personnel there to contact Lewis and inform him of the honor, according to the material at the Lewis center.

The Chicago-based Swedish diplomat who contacted Lewis by telephone had a strong Swedish accent when he spoke English. When Lewis was told by the caller that he’d won the Nobel Prize in literature he simply didn’t believe it. He thought it was one of his friends putting on a Swedish accent to pull his leg.

Lewis’ response was the same as that of any one of us who might receive a crank call, calling out the caller to admit it was a hoax.

I have conjured up how the conversation might have gone, with the familiar Swedish accent of the caller, and Lewis’ reaction:

SWEDISH CALLER – Mr. LOOis, this is the Svedish consul calling from Chicago to inform you the good neuse that you have yust vun the Nobel Prize in literature.

LEWIS – Is that so. Well thank you very much, friend. Now who is this? Elmer? Martin? George? Who’re you trying to kid? I can see right through that fake Swedish accent.

CALLER – No, sir, this really is the Svedish consulate calling to tell you you have vun the Nobel Prize. I yust hope you believe me when I say this.

LEWIS (ridiculing the caller) – Ya sure, you betcha. C’mon, who is this?

And so on and so forth.

It took Lewis awhile to settle down and realize it wasn’t a crank call.

It really is an unlikely coincidence having two Nobel Prize winners in the same field with strong connections to Duluth. But for the record, neither Dylan nor Lewis lived here for very long. Born in Duluth in May 1941, Robert Allen Zimmerman (Dylan’s original name) resided here with his family until 1947 when he was six years old, moving to Hibbing that year.

Lewis bought his mansion at 26th Avenue East and Second Street in 1944 but only stuck around the Zenith City until 1946, presumably within a few months of when the Zimmerman family moved to Hibbing.

Duluth has honored Dylan with special commemorative manhole covers. It does nothing to honor Lewis for his association with the city. Most people around here have forgotten it, or never knew.  

NY Times story (10-13-2016) about Dylan's Nobel award: read HERE.

Duluth Budgeteer News column (1-13-2013) describing Sinclair Lewis book written in Duluth Mansion: read HERE

John G Williams House, located at 2601 E. 2nd St., Duluth MN where Sinclair Lewis lived
read  HERE

Zenith City Online post about Sinclair Lewis in Duluth: read HERE post about Sinclair Lewis & Nobel Prize Award for Literature in 1930: read HERE.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Trump's hair to boost American Agriculture on Rushmore...

Trump on Mt. Rushmore photo source:
By Jim Heffernan

Someday adding Trump to Rushmore could help boost American agriculture...
 The other day I found myself doing some deep thinking – very deep thinking – about what the future might hold if Donald J. Trump is elected president of the United States.

I’m not talking about what would happen to the country if Trump should become president. We should save those ruminations for registered, bona-fide pundits, so many of whom appear nightly on cable television to predict the future according to their political persuasion.

No, I’m speculating on what might transpire should a Trump presidency be deemed successful, even great, by the noisy majority that would have elected him (without any help from me) and it is decided that the Trump visage should be added to those of the four presidents already sculpted on Mount Rushmore.

The idea of putting a fifth revered president on Mount Rushmore comes up every so often when over-zealous supporters of one ex-president or another deem it appropriate to propose adding the face of their man (it’s always been men, unfortunately) to those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, pince-nez and all. So far we’ve avoided that embarrassment.

Remember now, I am not suggesting that Trump should ever be considered for Mount Rushmore, or that he should ever be considered for the office of president. I am merely speculating on some dreaded future time when, should he happen to be elected, after he is dead and gone his supporters could push through a measure to add him to the revered national monument.

Such were the deep thoughts running through my head as I contemplated these matters and, in a Eureka Vacuum Cleaner moment, I came to realize that, should it ever happen, the addition of Trump to Rushmore might be a good idea, as abhorrent as it seems today.

Think green.

If they sculpted his face on the mountain, to accurately portray him they could plant wheat grass on the top of his head to represent his hairdo. Wheat grass grows quite tall and is close to the hue (you wouldn’t say “color”) of Trump’s carefully sculpted mane. 

What a terrific symbol of America. Amber waves of grain beneath the beautiful spacious skies atop the purple majesty of a South Dakota mountain right on America’s third-most revered work of sculpture.

So, to bring all this together, Trump on Rushmore isn’t such a dreaded idea after all, should it come about. With wheat grass crowning his brow, it would be a tribute to American agriculture, and the face below it an enduring symbol of American folly.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Remembering the birth of the DECC fifty years ago...

Today the Duluth News Tribune paid homage to the upcoming 50th anniversary of the DECC (formerly known as the Duluth Arena-Auditorium). I was a fledgling reporter in 1963 covering the beginnings of what later became the Duluth Arena-Auditorium. A few years later, in August of 1966, I covered the events of the gala celebration week of it's grand opening. I was asked to recount some memories of that time for the Duluth News Tribune and my recollections are included in a column in today's special DECC edition of the paper. You can read the column HERE.

Pictured to your left is a photo of an event held in the arena that celebration week. I, Voula (my fiancé at that time and now my wife) sat across the table from our long-time friends, Dave and Karen Erickson now living in Denver Colorado. Many TV and other celebrities were also in attendance.

Pictured (right) is an old post card 10 years later (1976) showing the Arena-Auditorium with the Curling Club/Pioneer Hall addition (to the right of the original structure. Docked at the Arena pier on the St. Louis Bay is the Norwegian Training Ship, the Christian Radich of Oslo. A couple of years ago, I was able to again visit that ship docked at it's home in Oslo.

The DECC complex has, of course, expanded and changed in subsequent years. Read more about the 50th anniversary in today's DNT HERE.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Duluth hit hard by summer storm...

Early morning storms crept into Duluth and area fast and furiously Thursday. Strobe-like lightening flashed every second and hurricane-force winds measuring upward from from 69 mph to 100 mph swept through the area. Lots of trees were uprooted, torn in half or broken off so that neighborhoods hit the hardest had obstructions on roadways, trees on cars or roof-tops and electrical lines catching trees or laying live on the ground. Minnesota Power noted 75,000 were without power in the region, with many still without power even now. The Lakewood pumping station near lake Superior was out of power as well and area residents were asked to conserve water. Duluth was finally getting back to normal after the big 2012 flood so this has hit the city hard.

And, believe it or not, Duluth is having a heat wave. It's 90 degrees right now–hot and humid.

You can read more about it and see video footage of the scenes around town on the Duluth News Tribune website HERE and HERE.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Government Programs Benefit Millions

What follows is my letter to the editor appearing in today's Duluth News Tribune...

                         Posted on Jun 24, 2016 at 11:59 p.m.
The June 16 letter, “Intrusive federal bureaucracies kill prosperity and jobs,” ended with the statement: “We have a president and government that seems to suspect it knows what’s right for you. Do you find that comforting?”

Yes, I find that comforting when I look at the history of government programs designed to help Americans, programs such as Social Security, which was established in the 1930s and saved older Americans from abject poverty, and Medicare, which was established in the 1960s and guarantees basic medical insurance coverage for those over 65.

The liberal-led administrations and congressional majorities that instituted these programs knew what was right for millions of Americans who have benefited for decades in the face of conservative interests that rail against them even today while also thwarting any measure — such as increasing the federal minimum wage and Obamacare — aimed at improving the lives of the poor and middle class.
Jim Heffernan