20th Century, ekklesia, History

Minnesota Governor Harold LeVander: A Quiet Storm

The appointment of the first Met Council by Gov. Harold LeVander, seated center, in 1967. minnpost.com

January 2, 1967-January 4, 1971
About 1966, a Minnesota attorney unknown to many outside legal circles decided to throw his hat in the ring. He was, by definition, a true outsider who had no political experience other than vaguely supporting the Republican Party. Yet, Governor Le Vander arguably changed the premise of Minnesota’s politics more than his peers in a single four year term.

To backpedal, Karl Harold Phillip Le Vander was born in Swede Home, Nebraska on October 10th, 1910. His parents were Swedish immigrants, and the family followed his father’s call as a Lutheran minister to St. Paul. This calling led the family to move frequently before settling in Watertown circa 1926.

Young Harold loved high school and sports and excelled at both until his graduation in 1928. He went to Gustavus Adolphus for his undergraduate degree where he competed in the debate team, played football, but excelled in hurdles and pole vault for their track team. * Le Vander matriculated in 1932 from the famed Swedish institute, and headed for the University of Minnesota to study law receiving his LL.D. in 1935. ** Other than his brief time as Governor, he remained active as an attorney with Le Vander, Gillen & Miller through the remainder of his life.

So, what of his years as a politician as the 32nd Governor of Minnesota 1967-1971? Perhaps this moderate Republican’s term could be summed up with the phrase “clarification and consolidation”. His cornerstone accomplishments sought to clarify gray areas in law, and to consolidate the structures of leadership to operate more efficiently.

Governor Le Vander differed with many of his party, and acted to demonstrate that big government could be a force for good. Out of the gate he re-organized the structure of the Executive Branch, and dove headlong into a series of “firsts” in Minnesota politics. He greatly expanded the funding of regional governments and schools supported by the first sales tax and $1 billion budget. The term “Le Vander’s pennies” entered the local vernacular in reference to this major change. ***
Another of his famous “firsts” was that Minnesota became the first state to ratify the 26th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. This law lowered the voting age to 18 years old, and clarified the issue and the dissonance brought by the Viet Nam War. He believed along with many of these draftees, that if they were “old enough to fight, then they were old enough to vote.” ***

Next, he sought to elucidate our legal boundaries: human to human, and human to nature. As to the former, he created the Department of Human Rights to protect our civil rights through the Minnesota Human Rights Act largely considered to one of the strongest in the nation. **** To the latter, he created the Pollution Control Agency “ensuring that every Minnesotan has healthy air, sustainable lands, clean water, and a better climate.” *****

His coup de gras, in terms of consolidating regional authority, came with the formation of the Metropolitan Council. Le Vander wanted this agency for long-range planning: of a transportation for the 21st century, and to aid in regional development. As an institution, it is an anomaly in that it is granted power to override the decisions and actions of local governments.

Despite the honor of receiving the most votes to date as a Republican, Governor Le Vander declined the opportunity before his primary. *** His decisions, and the institutions of government they initiated in his one and only term, are still with us today. No longer would Minnesota be a place without a plan, or disengaged decentralization.

We pivot to You, Father. We come to You for clarity. We get disjointed and need Your “consolidatus”; (Latin) make us solid again. Our first step towards this is remembering that You are El Roi, (the Strong One who continually sees), and reveals Himself more and more. Yet, You are King of the Universe, the True Judge, and though a never ending enigma, You reveal Your laws in ways we all can easily understand. Glad to increasingly know You, dear Father, and to be known!

Let’s start with giving You praise for the wisdom of Governor Le Vander and his heart to make clear our laws, and to facilitate consolidated efforts across the spectrum of civic leadership from the state level down to every township. It seems good and right that the weight of our legislation is much lighter when spread out, and the horses are all hitched and pulling in the same direction! Your Word bears witness to this principle in many places, but this is the specific word I hear now.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NASB

Can we mull some of his noteworthy accomplishments with You now, dear Source? Will You bring discernment into these milestones of Le Sander’s administration from 1967-1971? Help us identify what is pleasing, what is honorable, and what may be an offense in these actions towards Your Kingdom.

As a first cause, we take note of the Department of Human Rights. While any sentient person could easily agree with the notion that everyone deserves equality, dignity, and freedom from discrimination based on any sort of physical markers or attributes. Do not all of G-d’s children deserve a life free from discrimination?

However, we can also attribute some inherent motive conflicts when Minnesota’s government attempted to become the authors and enforcers of virtues of the heart. Those critical of civil rights in this era, often were skeptical of such legal changes because they inserted the power of government into relationships it formerly had no authority over. It raised the question of “who” gets to differentiate wise and unwise choices in Harold Le Vander’s epoch; the government or the individual?

Further, Civil Rights were posited as a solution to the failures to treat people equally under the law. Yet, doesn’t this very notion betray that the government was also a guilty party in denying the rights of its citizens before its ratification? For example, did the neighbors living in the Rondo neighborhood create a system of “redlining” to shut out unwanted ethnicities, or was this the work of those well-familiar with the law such as: the City Council of Saint Paul, Ramsey County, and the Federal Housing Authority?

So we appeal our broken track record, as individuals and as State institutions, of our failures to acknowledge the image of G-d and the civil rights of our people. Will You forgive us as individuals when and where our discrimination denied Your Image within our neighbors? Will You similarly forgive us our misapplications of the laws and denials of justice as extensions of city, county, Minnesota, and Federal governments? Will You take this root offense up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ? Will You impart to us the gifts necessary to govern ourselves as You give the Department of Human Rights the same humility?

My next point of prayer touches Your environment in the formation of the Pollution Control Agency. Again, at first glance, who could rationally be opposed to “healthy air, sustainable lands, clean water, and a better climate”? Enforcing laws is normally a cut and dried issue when it comes to shared resources, but perhaps, the dirty little secret of compliance is that even “good” laws can become overly bureaucratic and subject to corruption.

May I offer You a brief example, Father? Allegedly, Dr. Stan Reminiski, formerly of the University of Minnesota, invented a state-of-the-art water purification system in the same timeframe that could capture heavy metals from various industries that were polluting our rivers. His system used some type of magnetism or ionic bonding to “grab” these polluting metals, and far exceeded the requirements of the technology then in use; perhaps a million times more effective. Yet, his labor of love was denied even as an experiment on the Mississippi River because environmental officials could not tick the box that it had a filter to change!?!

How many innovations and revelations, Eternal Father, have You given us through bright humans like Dr. Reminiski that have been blocked from better preserving Your lands and waters? Will You forgive us where our environmental protectors act as simpletons who only follow orders, and as the corruptible officials who are seduced by temporal power and or other types of gains? Will You build a heart and awareness of true compliance, and a humility in our expressions of environmental law such as the Pollution Control Agency? Will You forgive us where we have despoiled Your land, waters, and atmosphere for gain?

As a final point, we ponder the achievement of streamlining regional development through the creation of the Metropolitan Council. We see the same undercurrent of thought in Governor Harold’s push for this over-arching planning body; how can we better harness the energy of various counties to achieve a common goal such as public transit? Or to use his words more exactly, then-Governor LeVander said the Council “was conceived with the idea that we will be faced with more and more problems that will pay no heed to the boundary lines which mark the end of one community in this metropolitan area and the beginning of another.” ******

Eternal One, my point here is not to belittle the accomplishments of this organization, but to wrestle with some of the limitations of its organizational theory. For the sake of my argument, this body’s authority encompasses 188 communities, 22 special purpose districts, and 7 counties with a current 2021 budget of $1.164 billion. ***** If this cost were evenly spread across these cities and townships, it would be a price tag of $6,191,489.36 each. This appear to be a significant price tag for planning, not executing, the various developmental projects. To compound this cost, this body is able to override the will of local governments. Lord, I am probably making this too simplistic, but isn’t that a big ask?

In simple terms, if I asked my kids to pay me a fee to plan their future, and then also told them that I could override their dissent; would they see me as an “aid” to their growth? How can the member-communities maintain motivation to participate with this body, when there is an atmosphere of “voluntary compliance”? Does not this mandate created in 1967, supersede the roles defined by our State Constitution? Where is the accountability in this authority? What are the checks and balances that govern the Metropolitan Council?

Granted, I am only scratching the surface in this plea, and my knowledge is very limited. I simply wish to acknowledge to You this conundrum of compliance. In Ephesians 5:21, you ask us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Yet how does one submit to a friend that won’t? Doesn’t this set us up for a co-dependent and unhealthy relationship? Dear G-d, how was this basic aspect overlooked by such brilliant minds 53 years ago? Will You remove this bitter root sown in 1967? Will You create a new way of planning that does not negate the will of the beneficiaries in the 7 county metro area? Will You take this weight; up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ?

In sum, Governor Le Vander brought marked changes that are still with us in Minnesota. No one, however brilliant and wise, can forsee all the potential strengths and weaknesses of their actions. To his credit, he surely did make the levers of government work more efficiently. Yet, one is left with a new awareness of why righteousness and humility are virtues so reinforced in Your kingdom; even a good system is as good as the hearts and wisdom of those who operate it. May we forever plan, build, move, create, honor the lowly, respect Your nature under Your authority. May we walk out our new laws and new paths with grace and truth. May we forever love the law like governor Le Vander, but remain cognizant that we are all lawbreakers in need the mercy of Our Father and our neighbor! Amen!

LeVander, Harold. “What I Remember Most.” Minneapolis Tribune Picture Magazine. January 1, 1967. Print.
** Roberts, Chad. Internet. July 29, 2011. https://patch.com/minnesota/mendotaheights/dakota-county-history-101-harold-levander-1910-1992-g99bcd2ad36
*** Minnesota Historical Society. Internet. “Harold P. LeVander Biography” https://mnhs.gitlab.io/archive/governors-of-minnesota-collections/collections.mnhs.org/governors/index.php/10004227.html
**** https://mn.gov/mdhr/
https://www.pca.state.mn.us/about
***** https://metrocouncil.org/About-Us/Who-We-Are.aspx
****** https://metrocouncil.org/About-Us/Publications-And-Resources/History-of-the-Council.aspx

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20th Century, Environment, History

Wilderness Act of 1964 establishes the Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Looking back at what led to the 1978 BWCA Wilderness Act. virginiamn.com

1964
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, named in 1958, gains new protections in the federal Wilderness Act. Amid conflict between recreationists and conservationists, more than one million acres of forests, lakes, and rivers are set aside as a federally managed wilderness. *

In 1909, a vast wilderness some 150 miles long and 1.2 million deep of forest
straddled the border of Minnesota and Ontario. President Theodore Roosevelt had just claimed it as the Superior National Forest and Superior Game Refuge which removed it from grasp of developers; usually logging or mining interests. By 1938, this area’s moniker became the Superior Roadless and Primitive Area which mostly meant that boats, trucks, snowmobiles, planes and permanent roads were curtailed. Within twenty more years in 1958, the United States Forest Service officially renamed and repurposed the Superior Roadless Area to the even more pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area. It would take another 6 years for this new area to be codified and defined by Federal law was wilderness.

Over half a century ago, our Federal government saw the pressure placed on public lands through economic development and population growth and sounded the alarm. What shall we do to protect areas from commoditization, and foster nature to remain wild? According to the United States Department of Justice:

“Congress passed the 1964 Wilderness Act in order to preserve and protect certain lands “in their natural condition” and thus “secure for present and future generations the benefits of wilderness.” 11 U.S.C. § 1131(a).” **

So, what are the tangible ramifications of these two generations of preservation?
For starters, it contains “the largest contiguous areas of uncut forest remaining in the eastern United States.” **** Additionally, the area boasts 1170 lakes, about 1200 miles of canoe routes, and approximately 2000 specified campsites. About 160,000 visitors interact with this wilderness each year. *****

Now we turn to You, Lord of the Lakes, and meditate with You. What do You wish to underscore about the Wilderness Act and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area? Can we watch this era in history with You?

As a first reflection, we establish this baseline truth from King David; “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof, the world and all who dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1 This establishes You as the Sovereign of this planet, and all living things within it including humankind. What does that mean in this context, Sovereign One?

Though some of our peoples may have acknowledged You as the first holder of the deed, our state already had established laws surrounding property rights and obligations. We see the Superior National Forest, motivated at the Federal rather than the local level, removed from Minnesota and Minnesotans their rights to development and the use of its primary commodities: mining, timber, and water. The next circle drawn around this property established it as a Primitive Area; but granted that its neighbors and inhabitants could use basic machinery and vehicles for transportation and safety.
We see the BWCA/Wilderness Act as a third redefinition of this property which disallows even humble outboard motors and snowmobiles.

So we see this source of agreement and conflict in 1964; users agreed that setting aside this land is wisdom, but disagreed strongly on what wilderness looked like. To illustrate, imagine that your family lived remotely on one of these lakes. It is likely, almost a given, that your family loves solitude and nature because that is where you have chosen to live. How is your safety affected, should an injury occur, if one cannot use an outboard motor? Should your child bleed out from an axe wound because canoeists are irritated by waves and even the noise of a motor? Shall original homesteaders be refused the use of a snowmobile and cargo sled to bring staples from town because it breaks the silence of the forest?

We confess these three rungs of conflict and judgment to You today in the finalization of the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the establishment of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, dear Father.
We have judged each others ability to utilize the land You have stewarded to this generation. In doing so, have we dismissed and judged Your intentions for this land?
We have judged each others heart in the second rung of preservation, though agreed in intent, and greatly curtailed the access to these lands by roads. In doing so, did we judge Your Children whose physical limitations do not allow them to hike or canoe from enjoying this property?
We have disagreed strongly over the limited use of an outboard motor or snowmobile in winter on this specific geography. In so doing, did we offend You? Did we deny our brothers and sisters a modicum of connectivity and safety for the sake of pristine silence for hikers and canoeists?

We are ashamed of the irony before You; we created a primitive area, but deny those most reliant on this land for survival their primal rights. Surely, these accrued offenses were not what Howard Zahniser had in mind when he wrote the Wilderness Act of 1964! We agreed to set aside this land, but have so little empathy set aside for those who oppose us internally. Will You heal these bitter roots that have and still embroil us in conflict over our National and State Parks? Will You lift these judgments up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ? Come and heal our past, free our present, and bless our futures to align with the land use intended in Your Economy and Dominion. Amen.

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20th Century, History, Theatre, Uncategorized

Guthrie Theater

Original Guthrie Theater – circa 1963. Amy Sanders. guthrietheater.org

May 8, 1963
The Guthrie Theater, named for its founder and first artistic directory, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, opens in Minneapolis with a performance of Hamlet. Known as an innovator “interested in places that aren’t central marketplaces of theater,” Guthrie assembles a distinguished repertory company that includes George Grizzard, Hume Cronyn, and Jessica Tandy. *

In a private conversation over breakfast, three friends despaired the commercialization of Broadway. This triumvirate, composed of uber director Sir Tyrone Guthrie, stage manager Peter Zeisler, and producer Oliver Rea, committed to move elsewhere and build a theatrical community of their own design. ** They were determined to bring gravitas, excellence, and elevation to audiences not exposed to classical theatre.

To be more precise, Mr. Guthrie gave the following quote as to why he saw a promising future of theatre in the Twin Cities.
“We believe that something here (Minneapolis-St. Paul) had a chance growing into an institution where we did not believe that such a growth was absolutely possible on Broadway. The over competitive, over stimulated, over crowded nature of the Broadway theatre makes it impossible to take a longer view than Thursday next.” **
In Minnesota, these men found a fertile soil to plant their theatre. Local businesses and foundations donated exploratory money and land. Renowned local architect Ralph Rapson was tapped to provide his forward-thinking concepts to the building, and Tanya Moiseiwitsch designed the thrust stage.,* Public support was profound, and Minnesotans volunteered to boost ticket sales, and raised $2.2 million to establish the project.****

To embellish this point further, Dr. Guthrie gave the following answer to local Minnesota students when asked about the importance of “this kind” of theatre. His reply reveals his heart to inspire.
“Plays are meant to be acted, not dissected in a classroom…Just as a community needs a public library where great books are available, or an art museum where you can see great pictures, or a symphony orchestra where you can hear great music, so you need a theatre where great plays can be brought to life.” *

So we turn to You, Host of History, to remember this moment when a theatre is born. No one but You can write a script eons long, heighten the drama of the human experience, or provide the unexpected denouement of our Christ! Today, we remember You, first, as the Supreme Author and Director of the drama of life. Be forever praised!

We applaud Sir Guthrie’s efforts to establish a beachhead of this art form within the seas of entertainment of the 1960’s. Bravissimo! Has he captured Your heart when he stated, “Plays are meant to be acted not dissected in a classroom…”? We see something very sacred here; when one acts, they are placing their whole being in participation of a storyline while potentially engaging both themselves and their audience very deeply with the virtues of a great script. Engagement through action involves risk. Yet, the potential for learning at a much deeper level, and the rewards of making a brave journey are only known by those who partake. So, we thank You for this moment that sparked this vision in the Guthrie Theatre Company, its patrons and volunteers, and its impact on Minnesota of 1963!

It is apparent that this venture, which has captured the hearts of at least two generations of Minnesotans, had to battle through the seas of modernity. Since the era of movies and television, theatre has been largely monetized. Where can we find a place where “stories for the sake of stories” exist?

Although they can and do exist in live venues, we still and feel the encroaching arms of influencers. Playwrights become famous, often, when they sell their rights to make a movie of their scripts. All kinds of foundations seek writers, directors, dancers, and theatre companies who will bend a story to their liking. Even political and spiritual groups are in on the game; i.e. “we will fund you if you heighten this issue, let’s call it “Issue X”, in the public’s mind through your artistry.” Good G-d, have we moved an inch as artists from being the court jesters, poet laureates, or entertainers of the aristocracy?

But You, our Prophet of Parables, taught us in a similar way except You forsook our purse strings for our heart strings! Help me remember a few, Lord?
The Lamp-Matthew 5:14-16
The Mustard Seed-Mark 4:30-34
The Good Samaritan-Luke10:29-37
The Prodigal Son-Luke 15:11-32
The Sheep, Shepherd, and Gate-John 10:1-18
Though these fables and apologues were given to mostly agricultural Semetic people groups over fifty generations ago; they retain Your genius today for those not familiar with those sub-cultures! Conversely, the Messiah also intersected in parable with the educated and worldly within Israel, and freely spoke with relevance to Arabian, Persian, Greeks, and Romans. You spoke in parables to portray the unspeakable words of our hearts to us. Those not ready to engage with You heard a good story, while those who were found themselves exposed before Wisdom Eternal.

Will You forgive us our judgments past of a man who desired cultural engagement in greatness through the means of the Guthrie Theatre? Will You forgive us our misapplications of artistry, through all aspects of theatre, towards the highest bidder? Will You guide us as playwrights, actors, directors, crew members, costumers to “allow” our audiences to feel rather than emotionally manipulating what they “should” feel? Will You bless Minnesota theatre to go beyond Guthrie’s vision of greatness and into the Messiah’s chesed of heart?

Lord, I leave You with a story, (I’m sure You know it), and a prayer. About a century ago, three children climbed a hill outside Fatima, Portugal; Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta. There, they encountered an angel who taught them this prayer. I wonder if it was to buffer the suffering of the Great War? Today I echo this prayer which I amend only slightly.

“My G-d, I believe (in theatre and story), I adore, I hope, and I love Thee. I ask for pardon for those who do not believe (in theatre and story), do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Thee.”

P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
** O’Neill, Hannah. “An Englishman in Minneapolis: Sir Tyrone Guthrie”. May 12, 2017. Internet. https://www.continuum.umn.edu/2017/05/englishman-minneapolis-sir-tyrone-guthrie/
*** Combs, Marianne. “Architect Ralph Rapson at 91”. September 13, 2005. Minnesota Public Radio. Internet. http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2005/09/13_combsm_rapson/
**** A brief history of the Guthrie.https://www.guthrietheater.org/globalassets/pdf/guthrie_history.pdf
* “Guthrie Theater: Miracle in Minnesota”. (The Minnesota Theatre Company)1963. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkIXv_L3QHQ&t=456s

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20th Century, Governors, Minnesota

Governor Karl F. Rolvaag

Karl F. Rolvaag: Governors of Minnesota. collections.mnhs.org

March 25, 1963-January 21, 1967
After the one hundred thirty-nine day recount, Lieutenant Governor Rolvaag becomes the thirty-first Governor of Minnesota by just 91 votes. Governing on principle more than charisma, this disciplined leader effectively changed: the junior college system, reapportioned legislative districts, and improved mental institutions. He had the distinction of being the first to serve a four year gubernatorial term. *

Few politicians of this era had more authentic bragging rights as to their Minnesota roots than Karl. Let’s recount a few that would deeply resonate with any Midwesterner of this age:
Karl was born in Northfield, MN. in 1913, and attended St. Olaf.
His father was the iconic Norwegian novelist of “Giants in the Earth”; Ole Rolvaag.
He dropped out of university the year his father passed, 1931, to “head out west”.
He spent six years as a railway “hobo” of sorts, chasing the man-camps and working as a logger, miner, teamster, and various roles on the rails.
He joined the I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of World), and experienced the infamous logging strikes of 1936.
He returned to St Olaf and finished his degree, got married to Florence, and promptly was sent to serve in WW II where he won a Silver Star, and a Purple Heart.
He showed himself to be a man who could work with his brains, and his hands. **
After his military service, he had more education at the University of Minnesota, and earned his LL.D (legum doctor) from the University of Oslo. *

This dichotomy of life experiences shaped his ability to relate and show empathy to all kinds of Minnesotans. For example, he was a 3-term Lieutenant Governor under Democrat Orville Freeman, and also served as LG under his Republican successor, Elmer L. Anderson!? This kind of balanced character was an object lesson of the DFL platform of his era; an educated everyman!

Digging in, we find that his practicality drove his reforms in education; ie “How can one effectively attend junior college unless its nearby?” Formerly, the community colleges were run by local school boards. Rolvaag pushed to place more leadership under the state, capitalize on economies of scale, with the overarching goal to put these junior colleges in both financial and geographic reach of students. ***

During his era, the rural political districts had more representatives than the metro areas. In the session of 1965, rural representatives passed a bill that Governor Rolvaag called a “blatant, calculated, political gerrymander.” This battle lasted 3 more iterations before a consensus was reached on redistricting in a special session. ****

A tertiary set of accomplishments could be found in the governor’s advocacy for Minnesotan’s wrestling mental illness and the Minnesota Mental Health Association, as well as his promotion of groups such as ARC (Minnesota Association for Retarded Citizens). Below is a quote from the speech from the President of ARC circa 1964.

“I am equally certain that an educated, informed and aroused citizenry is absolutely essential if we are to solve and give top priority consideration to the critical problems relating to the lack of community services and gross understaffing, gross overcrowding, herd care, and continued use of some antiquated residential and other facilities in our state institutions for the mentally retarded.
Irrespective of your and my political affiliations, I assure you that we can all be most appreciative of Governor Rolvaag’s leadership and sincere interest exhibited on these tours. Governor and Mrs. Rolvaag were most impressed with the day care centers visit ed at Duluth, Atwater, St. Cloud and Rochester, and the Sheltered Workshop at Fergus Falls. They were also impressed, as were we all, with many of the dedicated and able employees of and some of the new projects being conducted in our institutions for the mentally retarded and mentally ill.” *****

Essentially, Rolvaag did for these two communities as he had done for junior colleges and their students: make them more accessible, make them affordable, provide State assistance and support to staffing and standards, and make the public aware of their pressing needs.

A wonderful summary of Karl’s term in office came from no less than then Vice President of the United States; Hubert H. Humphrey.
“Karl Rolvaag may not be a comet, racing across the sky, but I will tell you this: Karl is as steady and reliable as the North Star. You know where he is, you know where he has been, and you know his record-solid, solid as a rock.” ******

Avna, Ho Lithos, Stone the builders rejected, Capstone of the Universe; we remember You. We applaud Your perfect consistency in authority, truth and justice. Yet, You are as immovable in Your unchanging favor towards the human race!
It seems like Karl Fritjof Rolvaag learned some of this character trait from You, and applied it in the way he led Minnesota. Even his Norwegian middle name, Fritjof, speaks of balance; “thief of peace” or “tranquil”. Will You guide us to acknowledge this moment of his leadership in history?

Our first gratitude is given for the tremendous variety and breadth of his education before office: son of Ole (a giant Norwegian mind), educated in tremendous universities, strengthened by years of heavy labor, and battled hardened in World War II. All of this preparation decries Your hand: an educated man can invite the wisdom of others, a laborer knows the sanctity of the body, and a soldier savors the depths of peace like no other! We thank You that such a man could relate to so many of us because of these joys and trials.

Subsequently, we see these experiences fulfilled in a governorship of balance and boundaries. He was not a partisan, but served the people of Minnesota as Lieutenant Governor under both parties. He wanted fair boundaries for equal representation. He wanted our people to be able to attend a junior college nearby. He drew a circle of protection around our most vulnerable citizens a decade before American society caught up. Will You remember these gifts and examples of his leadership?

On the contrary, we see judgments made of him in this era. Clearly, he believed in government as a force for good, and consolidated some powers of individuals and associations into the hand of the State. He barely won his election, therefore, did not have a perspicuous mandate. For outstate citizens then, he redrew political districts to favor the power of the metro areas over them. Will You forgive this judgment and counter-judgment past, free us from such battles in the present, and bless the future of the integrity of all political redistricting?

Further, another bitter root in our state in Governor Rolvaag’s term is the usurpation of local control of junior colleges, tech schools, and community colleges. Yes, many problems are resolved with state funding of education, and a uniformity of standards. However, this necessitates the locus of choice be removed further and further away from the individual student and the desires of their town. An example of this would be how our schools still take a summer break that is relevant to an agricultural society, even though their urban students will never plant or bring in the harvest. Will You take the dance of state versus local control of education up, out, and onto the Cross? We have gained more education, and yielded our wisdom. Will You free these judgments past, heal this balance in the present, and bless the future of our junior colleges?

Another request, Avno? We honor the actions of Rolvaag in giving dignity to the mentally ill and the developmental disabled among us. There is so much of Your heart in that! Unfortunately, his generosity towards the mentally ill has become, in some cases, enabling dysfunction. Our mentally ill citizens are afraid to move towards wellness or they may lose their benefits. We give You this “catch 22”, and invite Your solutions. We thank You for both the developmentally disabled and the mentally ill among us. May we acknowledge the incredible value of their lives, and invite their participation in society. Will You forgive us our judgments of mental illness and developmental disabilities, and the counter-judgments of those populations towards others? Will You make us like Governor Fritjof; stealing peace from discontentment?

“Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but an accurate weight is His delight.” Proverbs 11:1 Berean Study Bible *******

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols. https://www.nga.org/governor/karl-fritjof-rolvaag/
** Ross, Carl interview of Rolvaag, Karl. Northfield, MN. “Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Karl F. Rolvaag”. August 31, 1989. Internet. Minnesota Historical Society. http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/display.php?irn=10362505
*** Internet. Prabook. 2021. https://prabook.com/web/karl_fritjof.rolvaag/672210
**** Nelson, Paul. “Legislative Redistricting, 1959–1993”. Internet. MNHS. https://www.mnopedia.org/event/legislative-redistricting-1959-1993
***** https://mn.gov/web/prod/static/mnddc/live/past/pdf/60s/64/64-RBT-MDH.pdf
****** Quote by Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Speech at Minnesota DFL Beanfeed. October 29, 1966. http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00442/pdfa/00442-02055.pdf
******* https://biblehub.com/proverbs/11-1.html

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20th Century, Architecture, History, Uncategorized

Skyway System Begins

Construction of the Skyway in Minneapolis, Minnesota – 1962. u/mrhistoricalmaniac. https://www.reddit.com/r/minnesota/comments/ihsla5/construction_of_the_skyway_in_minneapolis/

1962
The first Minneapolis skyway is built, linking the Cargill and Roanoke buildings across 7th Street. Eventually, a system of 50 skyways turns much of the downtown area into an enclosed city within a city.*

When futuristic, climate-controlled Southdale Mall opened in 1956, the downtown real estate developers saw “the writing on the wall”, or rather the writing in the sky. Single connections between buildings above ground already had the example of the 17th floor connection between the Merchants Bank and the First National Bank circa 1931 in Saint Paul, MN. ** Architect David Griswold brought that idea down to the 2nd floor, bringing the idea of an interconnected city to a more repeatable and feasible level.

The following synopsis of Griswold’s achievement has recorded by mid-century real estate experts at TCModern.
“It was a simply designed, convenient way to get to the Golden Rule shopping store on (then) Eighth Street (now Seventh Place) and Minnesota street from their parking lot across the street. It was a very basic, crude structure, measuring roughly 8 feet wide with a concrete floor over a metal deck. It also didn’t have heating or air conditioning. It was however a very convenient way to get to and from the store without having to navigate through (at the time) one of the busiest intersections of both trolley lines and pedestrians in the city.” * Following suite to modernize downtown Minneapolis, real estate heavyweight Leslie Parker tapped Minnesota architect Ed Baker to design the first branch of its soon-to-be skyway system ca. 1959. This branch opened in 1962 connecting the Cargill and Roanoke buildings.** (Northstar Center and Northwestern National Bank) Mr. Baker’s design improved upon Griswold’s in its aesthetics and climate-controlled environment. *
Fueled by this success, Parker championed adding more branches in downtown Minneapolis. Within it’s first decade, Parker had built a bridge between Ed Baker and Phillip Glass in the design of the show stopping IDS Center. Moreover, it’s new Crystal Court become the hub connecting beaches of the skyway on all four sides in a dazzling, all-season semi-public space. ****

Though critics have decried the development as the demise of street life, time has shown that this may be a partial truth. Granted, the skyway system grew to encompass 80 city blocks and about 8 miles of connections. Acknowledged, this second-story system competes with street level development, making an indoor or outdoor walk a choice. As early as 1972, city officials and developers noted that this choice also doubled the options for walk-up traffic to small businesses, and raised the price of second floor rents. In the bi-polar environment of the Twin Cities, perhaps, two stories are better than one? *****

Developer of the Cosmos, let me come and join You in Your eternal “right now”. Can I sit by Your fire, and take a load off? Can we chat about this creative moment in the life of Minneapolis? On second thought, I will remain quiet and hear Your thoughts as You are the only Architect and Builder of life in this universe.

The foundation of this time is remembrance, so I remember these specific names to You. Thank You for the imagination of developer Leslie Parker. I won’t judge the motives of his heart, that’s Your job, but I am grateful for a human being that wanted downtown to remain relevant.

By the same token, let’s remember the names of Ed Baker and David Griswold. There is so much about architecture that is an Imitation of Our Father! One must be aware of history, art, aesthetics, engineering, mathematics, and materials to create relevant structures. We thank You for the insights, discipline, and positioning of these men to create these skyways at just the right time.

Additionally, we thank You for the jobs created in all the trades necessary to actualize these visions: steelworkers, riggers, crane operators, to name but a few. We are grateful for the nearly doubling of walkable areas downtown, and the small businesses supported by this foot traffic. It’s a good thing to add the notion of “third spaces” to a growing city. Thank you for these insights!

We have judged the skyways and their creators: in their beauty or lack of it, in utility for downtown renters, as advantageous to major and minor downtown businesses, and in a means of isolating the business class from the urban street level. Will You forgive us in our criticisms in this era of 1962 and through to the present?

Will You forgive our judgment of another’s sense of aesthetics? Will You forgive our judgments of the skyways in relation to downtown residences? Why is it our business if someone else wants to have their home interconnected with and 80 block grid? We have exuded envy that our major or minor workplaces have too little or too much access due to the skyway system, and broken Your command not to covet. Will You forgive us?

Lastly, some of us have judged that this system is inherently classist because it is not entirely public. Conversely, protagonists of the Skyway believe their rights allow them to choose between maintaining privacy, semi-public, or completely public access to the property they own. Will You stand between these parties and help them understand each other, even if they never agree?

In the present, our significant forces in urban planning and city government have suggested removing the skyway system because it only functions for those with access to the system, dear One. This notion makes us think about the wisdom of Solomon in solving his contemporary urban issues in 970-931BCE.

“At that time two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him.
One woman said, “Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth while she was in the house. On the third day after I gave birth, this woman also had a baby. We were alone, with no one in the house but the two of us. During the night this woman’s son died because she rolled over on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I was asleep. She laid him in her bosom and put her dead son at my bosom. The next morning, when I got up to nurse my son, I discovered he was dead. But when I examined him, I realized that he was not the son I had borne.”
“No,” said the other woman, “the living one is my son and the dead one is your son.”
But the first woman insisted, “No, the dead one is yours and the living one is mine.” So they argued before the king.
Then the king replied, “This woman says, ‘My son is alive and yours is dead,’ but that woman says, ‘No, your son is dead and mine is alive.’ ”
The king continued, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought him a sword, 25and the king declared, “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
Then the woman whose son was alive spoke to the king because she yearned with compassion for her son. “Please, my lord,” she said, “give her the living baby. Do not kill him!”
But the other woman said, “He will be neither mine nor yours. Cut him in two!”
Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. By no means should you kill him; she is his mother.”
When all Israel heard of the judgment the king had given, they stood in awe of him, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.”

Will You impart mercy, clarity of understanding, and wisdom of the proponents and opponents of the Skyways? Will You take these bitter roots: up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ? May our love for our city cause us to yield to each other rather than extinguish the life that remains! Amen.

P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
** https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/first-national-bank-building-skyway
*** http://tcmodern.com/who-was-first-minneapolis-v-s-st-paul-skyway-system/
**** https://frankedgertonmartin.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/the-great-skyway-indoors-in-minneapolis/
***** Nathanson, Iric. Internet. “Minneapolis Skyways”. MNopedia. December 31,2013. https://www.mnopedia.org/structure/minneapolis-skyways
****** Read this wonderful story in full. Kaufman, Sam H . The Skyway Cities. Minneapolis: CSPI, 1985.

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20th Century, Americana, Folk, History, music, Uncategorized

Bob Dylan before his First Album

Bob Dylan Music as a Child. ca. 1953-57. Fizz.net

1961
Hibbing’s Bob Dylan, once a play-for-free minstrel at bars around the University of Minnesota, releases his first album. He takes folk into rock and rock into politics, and becomes a legend of American music. Born Robert Zimmerman, he assumes a new name that pays homage to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. *

So many words have been spilt attempting to uncover the mystery of Bob Dylan. As an historian of Minnesota, I don’t want to play musicologist, but rather focus on a few early relational aspects of his youth that may have contributed to his character which may have contributed to his epic impact on the 20th century.

Louie Kemp began his friendship with Bob at Herzl Camp near Webster, Wisconsin during their preteen years. To his recollection, he witnessed Zimmerman’s first concert at camp in 1954 as an 11year old. The boys hung out in their teen years around Duluth, Minnesota where Kemp grew up. Dylan played around the U of M when Kemp when in attendance there. He likened their adventures to “a modern-day Jewish version of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.” **

Out of respect, let us allow Mr. Dylan to tell his own story of his Minnesota roots.

“My brains and feelings have come from there… The earth there is unusual, filled with ore,” Dylan said in a 1978 Playboy interview. “There’s a magnetic attraction there: maybe thousands of years ago some planet bumped into the land there. There is a great spiritual quality throughout the Midwest. Very subtle, very strong, and that is where I grew up.” ***

Now we turn to You, Adonai, and listen to Your music. You spoke and created. Did the music of Your voice assemble the matter of this universe? Only You know. Yet we remember, today, the place that writing and music has in Your heart! May we sit with You and watch this moment, Eternal Father? May we listen with You to this exciting beginning when You laid the foundation for Bob Dylan’s artistic release?

We remember first the importance of Herzl Camp. A place with the stated goal of the formation of lifelong Jewish friendships. We remember another after Your heart, David, who bound himself to Jonathan “in close friendship”. (I Samuel 18:1-5) We remember this place and thank You for its contribution in bringing root friendships into the lives of many. Will You bless and keep it in perpetuity?

Next, we thank You that friends give us the place to become. When we are safe, when we are accepted, we begin to believe that we have a self worth knowing. What a treasure You put into us; the longing to know and be known! We praise You that these boys, Louie and Bob, could experience this kind of brotherhood.

Additionally, we thank You for the importance of place and context to Your people and Your Kingdom. You made the tabernacle a place to intersect with Your Presence. You rescued Israel from the famine and placed them under Joseph in Goshen. You gave Your nation Canaan and established Jerusalem. And You gave Bob Dylan the context of Hibbing?!

Yet, in Your economy of purpose, it all makes sense; Hibbing is a place of great contrasts. It’s surrounded by silence and the noise of the largest iron mine on earth. It’s both “Anysmalltown, USA” and significant to the world. Maybe it’s like the writing of Dylan: compact, expansive, verbose, but not over-baked in its turns of phrase? Perhaps it’s like Your storytelling: only honesty, robust, mysterious, prophetic, and believable?

In any case, we remember and applaud this memory of Mr Dylan’s first record to You. We thank You of the inheritance and richness brought to Northern Minnesota through the Jews of Lithuania and all Eastern Europe. We commend You for seeing the talent of an 11 year old, in the middle of the woods, next to the largest open pit mine, in the center of a continent.

We thank You that this young poet participated in many of the most significant events of the next decade, but did not lose his identity. For some reason, Dylan could explore subjects that were misconstrued as political, but not yield to the generational political pressures of the Greenwich folk movement or the hippies. Similarly, though critics tried to place him in a religious box, he always seemed to know the secret of the Messiah; faith is an internal freedom and a permanent hat tip to the Eternal One.

Will You forgive the misbeliefs, unbeliefs, and offenses against You through the folk movement of this era? Will You commend the honest questions of this generation, and bring the inward as well as external peace they sought? Only the Messiah can radiate and impart such healing to our stumbling and prideful race because You know our brokenness, yet still CHOOSE to love us.

Will You speak words of life to this generation and the next and the next as You did through Bob? Will You bring chesed through the music of Minnesota?

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” ****

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20th Century, Americana, baseball, History, Minnesota, omnipresent history

Minnesota Twins First Game

1961 Press Photo Calvin Griffith, Cookie Lavagetto. origins unknown.

1961
Calvin Griffith’s Washington Senators are reborn as the Minnesota Twins. They lose ninety games in 1961, but Killebrew, Battey, and Kaat lead them to an American League pennant four years later.*

The history of the Twins is like an old baseball, two pieces of horsehide** somehow stitched together around a lot of yarns! In this case, the Saint Paul Saints and the Minneapolis Millers fans yielded a potent and sometimes violent 59 year rivalry (1902-1960) to back the new team in town. Gone were the days of streetcar double headers where fans and players alike could wind up bloodied by spikes and baseball bats in grudge matches both on and off the field for supporting their team. Baseball was about to become a bona fide professional sport when Calvin Griffith brought the Washington (DC) Nationals/Senators to town and renamed them the “Minnesota Twins”! ***

To backtrack a bit, Calvin Robertson may never had pursued a lifetime of baseball were it not for the tragedy of losing his father James at a young age. At age 11, the boy was taken in by his aunt Addie, whose husband Clark Griffith owned the Washington Senators, and the couple raised him as a Griffith. This meant his participation in baseball: he immediately worked as a batboy for the Senators through his childhood, and went on to both pitch and catch for at George Washington University.***

After university, he entered headlong into the business of baseball. He worked various office positions for farm clubs for the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Charlotte Hornets. **** Returning to DC, Calvin filled a variety of roles in the front office, and gained the trust and business acumen to assume more and more leadership roles. When his uncle passed in 1955, he was elected the President of the team that Clark had built.

Always a close-knit crew, Mr. Griffith and his sister Thelma inherited 52% of the franchise, and they populated its leadership with kin. Take for example that the positions of pitching instructor, farm director, stadium supervisor, and concessions were filled by their brothers and in-laws. In spite of the solid economic footing provided by their adoptive father, the club strained to fill the seats, and Calvin sought a way out of the doldrums in DC. ***

At a serendipitous moment, investors from Minnesota guaranteed $430,000 a year and attendance of 750,000 just as many in the American League were in a mood to expand. On October 26, 1960, it voted to expand to 10 teams and allow the move that Griffith longed to make.**** In their first season in 1961, attendance went from 743,404 to 1,256,743 fans, and the team placed 7th in the league.***** Within five years, they would arrive at the World Series led by superstar hitter Harmon Killebrew, and thereafter be taken as a team to contend with.

So now we come to the All; the Champion of the Universe! We remember today that You chose to include us in the business of Your family, and even to intimately know Your thoughts. You have searched for us when we weren’t even looking for You; You have adopted so many into Your family. All-Knowing One, can we sit with You and remember this time in history, and the lessons from the life of Mr. Calvin Robertson Griffith?

We initiate our prayer with remembering the power of Our Heavenly Father who chooses us. We commend to You Clark Griffith and whatever method You worked in his heart to want little Calvin. We applaud a man who took in a son just because that boy needed him, and then built him up the rest of his life. We are happy to learn the good story of Clark and Calvin Griffith.

We thank You that, perhaps, precisely because he was fathered into the family business, he could also be the conduit of blessing for so many in his immediate family. We thank You that a man who was mentored through every step of the ladder of success by his dad also had the ability to bring that out in his staff and players. We thank You for all the lessons learned between 1922 and 1961 on his slow path to ownership and success. Will You give us the diligence to pursue our goals, even if it takes forty years?

Again and again, we thank You that his determined persistence turned out to be the antidote for the schisms of our twin rivalry between Minneapolis and St. Paul. We had 60 years of experience in baseball before Calvin Griffith, yet we failed as fans and farm teams because our overidentification with our teams and the honor of our cities. How did this outsider teach us to just “play ball”? How did he ease us past some of our pettiness that couldn’t abide the letter ‘M’ on our ball caps because it might just mean ‘Minneapolis’ instead of ‘Minnesota’? Even the “TC” logo is a testament of binding the “Twin Cities” together under one roof to become one team.

Lord, we also remember to You the shortcomings of Griffith as father of the Twins. Though made in private, he allegedly made statements about choosing this city for expansion instead of New Orleans as follows,
“I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota,” he said. “It was when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.” *******
This statement deeply wounded his star player Rod Carew. Carew left the team shortly thereafter for the Los Angeles Angels. And to the Hall of Fame.

Years later, Rod Carew gave this assessment of Mr. Griffith:
“When he traded me prior to the 1979 season, Calvin told me he wanted me to be paid what I was worth. Later that year the Angels made me the highest paid player in baseball. A racist wouldn’t have done that.”********

Lord, will You forgive Calvin Griffith his bitter root judgments of African Americans, New Orleans, and the Twin Cities? Will You forgive any counter-judgments made towards him by the fans and players of this state? Will You help us forgive our biological fathers, figurative fathers, mentors, and coaches when they have betrayed us? Will You heal the pain of these our Twins? Take these sins and separations up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ. Help us reach out; across the Mississippi or any other barrier, until we are on the same team again!

“The Law came, so that the full power of sin could be seen. Yet where sin was powerful, God’s gift of undeserved grace was even more powerful.” Romans 5:20 CEV******

P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
** https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1676509-the-evolution-of-the-baseball-from-the-dead-ball-era-through-today
*** Hennessey, Keith. “Calvin Griffith” Society for American Baseball Research. Internet. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/calvin-griffith/
**** Internet. “Calvin Griffith” Baseball Reference. https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Calvin_Griffith
*****Ison, Jordan. “Minnesota Twins: On This Day in 1961, the Twins made their Minnesota Debut”. Puckett’s Pond. Internet. https://puckettspond.com/2021/04/19/willians-astudillo-pitched-breakingt-made-awesome-shirt/
****** https://biblehub.com/parallel/romans/5-20.htm
******* Calcaterra, Craig. “Twins have removed the Calvin Griffith statue”. Internet. NBC Sports. June 19, 2020. https://mlb.nbcsports.com/2020/06/19/twins-have-removed-the-calvin-griffith-statue/
******** Carew, Rod. “STATEMENT FROM ROD CAREW ON CALVIN GRIFFITH” (PDF). KSTP. Retrieved June 19, 2020.

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20th Century, Governors, History, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Republican

Governor Elmer L. Anderson: A Progressive of Head and Heart

January 2, 1961- March 25, 1963
Elmer Lee Anderson, the thirtieth governor of Minnesota, was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 17, 1909. His education was attained at Muskegon Junior College and at the University of Minnesota, where he earned a business degree in 1931. He established a successful career with the H.B. Fuller Company, first working in the marketing department and eventually becoming the owner and president of the company. Andersen entered politics in 1949, serving as a member of the Minnesota State Senate, a position he held ten years. He next secured the Republican gubernatorial nomination and was elected governor by a popular vote on November 8, 1960. During his tenure, a fair housing bill was sanctioned; a statewide sanitary law was authorized; highway safety measures were initiated; and a governmental ethics act was instituted.*

“I remind people I want to be known as a liberal Republican. If that’s a dirty word, so be it.” Elmer Lee Anderson **

Governor E.L. Andersen led a life of enthusiasms, that led into ventures, that usually led into success. Though his parents split at a young age, he discovered that he had capabilities to provide for himself and his family selling: soft drinks, candy, and newspapers. He loved birds, and wrote articles as a young teen that made it into the local newspaper.***

Already a natural salesman, he sold for Sheldon, a specialty school furniture company, and this is when he moved to Minnesota. After graduating from the U of M in 1934, he entered H.B. Fuller as a sales manager, and eventually went on to become its president. His formula of good sales seemed firmly based in his solid ethics. The following quote shows his heart-felt business acumen.

“Anything the customer wanted should be seen as an opportunity for us to provide it. Number two was that the company should exist deliberately for the benefit of the people associated in it. I never liked the word employee. It intimated a difference in class within a plant. We always used the word associate. Fuller’s third priority was to make money. To survive, you have to make money. To grow, you need money. To conduct research and develop new products, you must have money. The need for money can be desperate at times. But corporations must put the quest for money in its proper place. Our philosophy did not leave out service to the larger community. We put it in fourth place, behind service to customers, our associates, and the bottom line. Community service cannot be paramount to a business, but it ought not to be omitted, as it too often is. Business must concern itself with the larger society—for reasons of self-interest if nothing else.” ****

Maybe this heart and philosophy underscores some of Andersen’s key achievements during his governorship, and the scope of human interests they spanned? We see his love of nature and ornithology as the loon was named our state bird during his tenure. What ne plus ultra! What more fitting symbol of this place and people; our idiosyncrasies and achievements? This bird is capable aloft or underwater, but walks poorly on land and must run on the surface of the water to take off!?! Its beak is a spear for fishing, and its sharp eyes a vibrant red. Don’t be taken aback by the loon’s haunting lonely cry; it just wants to live in solitude. In this, Andersen is our Adam!

His administration officially recognized alcoholism as a health problem. Maybe the most impactful change for posterity of his term is in his sanctioning of a fair housing act. (Though the Fair Housing Act 42 U.S.C. did not see fulfillment until 1968, his was a quick response to just the problems that were brought to light in the public domain issues of the Rondo neighborhood.) *

Though succeeded by Karl Rolvaag after his one term in office, Elmer remained committed to the Republican Party, and his many pet causes and interests. Governor Andersen became a publisher, writer, and archivist while owning interests in ECM Publishing. He clearly was a bibliophile, and amassed a collection of over 12,000 rare books that went to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Library. He was known as the father of Voyageurs Nation Park, working ceaselessly with other famous Minnesotans like aviator Charles Lindbergh, to preserve this beautiful land and interconnected waterways for generations.***

We now bow to You: Governor of Governors, Sovereign of Sovereigns, Crown of all Crowns! As Isaiah rightly prophesied, “On that day, Adonai-Tzva’ot will be a glorious crown, a brilliant diadem for the remnant of his people.” Isaiah 28:5 CJB * We owe this land grant and political state of Minnesota to You alone Lord. What wisdom do You wish to convey through the life and events of Governor Elmer Lee Andersen?

We thank You that Andersen relished the pathway of sales from childhood throughout his life. What a blessing to realize one is talented in an area, and to remain in such a strength for life! We thank You that this particular salesman clearly articulated his raison d’être in writing for posterity, and approached his business with a sense of balance between profits and people. May You be praised in this, and give our salespersons your heart of community service within provision!

As a second proviso of well-being, we acknowledge Elmer’s willingness to name the elephant in the room; “Alcoholism”! Though he aptly called it a disease of the body, we remember to You that is also a disease of the spirit. A satisfied mind doesn’t need alcohol to amplify Your wonders; but a needy heart craves the next drink. We praise You that he chose to name this issue, and create pathways of help for generations of Minnesotans!

Prolonging his memory to You, we see his desire to end discriminatory practices in housing. He began the end of discriminatory lending practices; a practice of unnecessarily stratifying of a generation of Minnesotans. Surely there is a way to honor liberties of private property without racializing Your land! May we keep asking for wisdom in this! Willing You forgive us: in our business and finance industries, as communities, and as individuals made in Your image of this offense towards You and Your land which we temporarily occupy?

In sum, there is much praise worthy in Governor Anderson’s life. His love of books became a fruitful business, which circled back to bless the branches of the University of Minnesota. A passion for the Creation led him to advocate to preserve Voyageurs. In this, he is just like You!

Precisely because of Governor Andersen’s good character and habit of fulfilling good desires, I am reticent to criticize, yet I must add these words and questions to You, Lord. We, who love progress, must define what progress looks like to move society towards it. Often, progressive movements work through the machinery of the State to fulfill their purposes. Does not this oblige others to both sanction and fund a definition of progress that they do not hold in their heart?

Forgive my weak wordplay, Messiah, but who protects our figurative loons from progress? Who stands for those who are undefiant, yet choose to fly alone? Maybe I have an inordinate fear of progressivism because of it’s inherent humanistic roots; “the progress of man”. Where is Your place in this worldview? Does it make allowances for Your Kingdom of forgiveness, humility, and innocence? What place do virtues such as patience and persuasion hold in a climate that waves a banner stating “Advancement Now!”?

Yet this is where I arrive in watching this era of Elmer’s leadership; we need You to stand between us. We ask forgiveness where our version of progress diminishes another; in this age of the early 1960’s, in the present, and into eternity. We invite Your wisdom into the ways we must yield to each other. Keep us from conceit as we make concessions to the greater good. And may our self-defined greater good be submitted to our Greatest G-d.

“It is good to grasp the one
    and not let go of the other.
    Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” Ecclesiastes 7:18 NIV **

*https://www.nga.org/governor/elmer-lee-anderson/
** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmer_L._Andersen cited in Saint Paul Pioneer Press. 2004 article
*** Andersen, Elmer L. (2000). A Man’s Reach. Edited by Lori Sturdevant. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
**** “1941: Harvey Fuller Sells Company to Elmer Andersen”. H.B. Fuller. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
https://www.justice.gov/crt/fair-housing-act-1
***** “Publications: Princeton Union-Eagle”. ECM Publishers. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
****** Smetanka, Mary Jane. (1999). “Former Governor’s Gift Is Voluminous”. Minneapolis Star Tribune. Metro ed. April 1. p. 1A.
******* https://www.nps.gov/voya/learn/historyculture/index.htm
********https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Isaiah%2028:5
*********https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes+7%3A18&version=NIV

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20th Century, African American, History, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Uncategorized

Rondo Neighborhood Removed

The Place to Be. blackthen.com

1959
Freeway construction passes through established neighborhoods in the Twin Cites. The Rondo neighborhood, long a center of black community life in St. Paul, is razed to make way for Interstate 94. Four hundred houses are condemned and torn down.*

“If New York has its Lenox avenue, Chicago its State street, Philadelphia its Wylie avenue, Kansas City its Eighteenth Street, and Memphis its Beale street, just as surely has St. Paul a riot of warmth, and color, and feeling, and sound in Rondo street.” 
–Earl Wilkins, The St. Paul Echo, September 18, 1926**

Connecting the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul had long been in the minds of local civil engineers. The excerpt below from the MNopedia article by Ehsan Alam sums up their thoughts rather precisely.
“In the 1930s, commuters and city planners began to call for a highway linking the business districts of downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis. After World War II, city engineers chose St. Anthony Avenue as the route. This street was located between University Ave and Marshall Avenue, and went all the way to Minneapolis.”***

Yet, that is not the whole story. We find that there is a viable alternative to either Rondo or St. Anthony Avenues that wouldn’t split an existing neighborhood in half. Minnehaha Avenue, now known as Pierce Butler Route, is road that runs adjacent to the rail lines between Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Often, the land adjacent to rail lines is already publicly owned, and would suggest that this route may encroach less on neighborhoods and privately owned property. ****

Given these circumstances, one wonders “Why did these cities and Federal Department of Transportation leaders choose to place I-94 through many neighborhoods (including Rondo) instead of adjacent to them?” In any type of city planning or civil engineering events, there are myriads of motives and opinions that compete to be heard. Below, we explore a few hypotheses.

George Herbert Herrold, an engineer and city planner far and away has the most documentation of the City Planning Board of St. Paul, Minnesota. His manuscript covers a 33 year time frame from the start of the Board in 1920 until 1953; just the years that would tell us of their motives, studies, and actions. This research suggests that the city had an interest in eliminating slums. To elaborate, their working definition of a slum constituted a neighborhood with a high percentage of rental properties whose owners did not live in the neighborhood. *

However, what the Board defined as “slums” also was home to the largest African-American neighborhood in St. Paul. Granted, there were some run-down rentals, but there were also a large contingency of fine homes belonging to Rondo’s middle-class residents. Rondo had a population of roughly 30,000 of which about one-third were black, and the remainder composed by Italians, Jews, Native Americans, and a sprinkling of other ethnicities. It is precisely because of Rondo’s diverse assemblage that suspicions of “red-lining” or racist motives arise in criticism of St. Paul’s role in routing I-94 through this neighborhood.******

In contrast, we find evidence that does not support this conclusion. Department of Transportation employees did extensive studies on both alternatives, as they did elsewhere through the Interstate Highway System. Commonly, this looks like engineers doing on-site observations and gathering data: counting cars on every East-West thoroughfare, establishing “desire lines” (i.e. which roads are most preferred), collecting data on rush hour usage, travel times from origin to destination, etc. Of these DOT engineers professor C. Wells of Macalester College states, “the process that they went through would seem to suggest that race had nothing to do with it…”. **** The data collected suggests that the direct route along St. Anthony Avenue was the preferred route, and support for the “northern route” along Pierce Butler and the railway diminished.

As the neighborhood of Rondo saw the writing on the wall, they peacefully protested and gained concessions. According to the research of Mark Simonsen, their focus became the four points listed below.
1. Stay in homes as long as possible.
2. Receive Fair Market Value for homes.
3. Depress the freeway below street level.
4. Requested that they be able to buy new homes anywhere they could afford them. (Open Housing Law)****
Residents won the first three of these requests, but failed to enact the Open Housing Law. In fact, even the city of Saint Paul declined to honor the Open Housing Law within its boundaries. It’s City Attorney denied O.H.L. on the basis that it conflicted with Minnesota’s constitution; sellers could legally choose to whom they sold their property. ****
Shall we pray? Eternal Father, we are reminded of your words of promise today as we sit and watch this snapshot of history that physically divided the Rondo neighborhood with an Interstate.
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” Matthew 19:29-30 BSB *
We love that we can always come to You for a hearing, and that Your Hearing and Presence bring justice! Be forever praised!

As a starting point, we acknowledge that You provided two paths for Interstate I-94. We acknowledge that the outcome of following the less disruptive “northern route” may never be known. Yet, there was a solid opportunity to choose a route that had less impact on human lives and relationships. Did we miss You in this? Maybe so. In any case, we acknowledge that we chose the road that wrecked neighborhoods. Will You forgive the seeds of division sown in this moment by the proponents and opponents of running the highway by the railway? Where we judged our neighbor, we have offended You; will You heal the past, free the present, and bless the future in this decision of 1959?

Next, we see the depth of consideration and the data collected to resolve this issue. We remember that the DOT and civil engineers went out into the neighborhoods between Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and actually observed where our people drove, how many, and how long it took them to arrive at their destination. Like Your message to the prophet Isaiah, You continually invite us to “come now and reason together”. You are not threatened by our observations, science, data, or investigations!

We thank You that the numbers don’t lie, or in this case, the numbers don’t lie about where we drive; we voted with our wheels. Yet, we fully acknowledge that though “numbers don’t lie”, we are often skewed by our own biases as we interpret them! Will You lift the suspicion of these studies up, out, and onto the Cross? Will You be with us as we reconsider this moment with You?

To continue, we see this data filtered through the distorted looking glass of banking. As a short backstory, we find that the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) had created a system of segregation, real ethnic and racial division, and negated facts that challenged their narrative. It is here, if I can be so bold Lord, that I see some of the ugliest acts of racism and ethnocentrism committed in St. Paul of this era. It is a fact that the FHA created maps based on ethnicity and race. It appears that though the FHA commenced with noble pursuits, in reality it fostered and reinforced the racialization of space.

Lord have mercy! Christ have mercy! We allowed these dreams of placing a home within reach of all to take a wrecking ball to those deemed not worthy by bureaucrats! We give You the damage caused by our State and Federal government’s judgments contained in the word “slums”. We acknowledge to You all the pain and falsehoods spoken over the residents of Rondo like, “a black family will not be given a home loan west of Lexington Avenue.” We acknowledge the defilement of this land through judgment and counter-judgment: from the Mississippi River to Marion Street, from University Avenue to Marshall Avenue; this land is Your land! Will You take these lies, curses, unbeliefs, and misbeliefs up, out, and onto the Cross?

Conversely, will You speak truth to cursed ears and broken hearts? Will You impart life where it has been crushed and stunted? Will You uproot those who have negated human choice because it interferes with their vision of what “helping” looks like? Will You release Your Holy Spirit, and replace the memory of wrecking balls with “Welcome” mats in this Rondo corridor forever?

“Do not afflict your countrymen, but let every one fear his G-d: because I am the Lord your G-d.” Levitcus 25:17 Douay-Rheims Bible

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