20th Century, Americana, Food, History, Minnesota, music, Uncategorized, women

“Hormel Girls”

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The Hormel Girls, hormelfoods.com

1948
The “All GI Girls Spam Post 570” drum and bugle corps becomes the Hormel Girls—a 60-woman troupe of multi-talented entertainers. They star in a network radio show and hit the road in a 35-car caravan, making music and leaving cents-off coupons across the U.S.A.*

To properly put the Hormel Girls in context, one has to define their raison d’être; Spam. Though many of us now associate the term with unwanted solicitations and advertising on our electronic devices, it was and is an incredible food product. So what is Spam?
It’s a brick of spiced ham, sealed over by an edible gel, and then vacuum packed into a compact tin. **

Allegedly, the tinned meat was birthed out of necessity and Midwestern ingenuity. Hormel foods had tons of pork shoulder that would go bad. An employee had the bright idea to pre-cook spices, broth, and the leftover ham and sell it in a tin. Their frugality and common sense started a revolution; a meat product that seemed to keep forever.

As we entered World War II, Hormel already had the right answer at the right time. Over 150 million pounds of Spam were consumed by U.S. forces during it alone. *** In addition, Spam sustained millions around the post-war world through the “Lend-Lease Act”. ****

The incredible success of the Allies in WWII, as well as for Hormel Foods, brought new challenges and convictions to the mind of Jay Hormel. He wanted every vet to have a job and community upon return. Many of these veterans were women who had honorably served their state and nation as: WAC’s Women’s Army Corps, WAVES Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, and SPARS Women’s Coast Guard Reserves (Acronym derived from “Semper Paratus” Latin for “Always Ready”). To this end, Hormel created the all-female American Legion Spam Post 570 in Austin, Minnesota. Post 570, in turn, birthed the idea of the “Spamettes”; an all-female drum and bugle corp that would be an attractive and wholesome promotional tool for his company. *****

Locals, however, were less enthused. After three weeks, neighbors “filed a motion for a temporary injunction to stop the rehearsing.” ******* Maybe the fault was Hormel’s generous incentives to the young women. Given that they started with a base pay of $50/week, (they were only paid $50 a month in the service), they were offered a $100 bonus if recognized for leadership traits, another $100 each if they placed in a contest, and still another $100 if they won first place!?! ****** All their hard work paid off, placing them at 13th of 49 entries; a very respectable showing considering the men’s groups had been together for years. *****

Wanting to capitalize on the goodwill these young women created, Hormel sought to give them wider exposure through radio. Under the tutelage of choir director Richard Wendelken and orchestra director Eddie Skrivanek, the five dozen Hormel Girls landed on a big band sound with safe arrangements of familiar songs of the day. Many likened them to Sammy Kaye or Kay Kyser; hip but palatable for a wider audience. The first broadcast of “Music with the Hormel Girls” aired on a single radio station, KHJ in Los Angeles, on Saturday, March 20, 1948. *****

From this starting point, the group eventually garnered a nation-wide audience broadcast over 227 ABC radio stations. ***** To enhance their visibility, the group played local shows and made in-store appearances coast to coast driving 35 identical white Chevy sedans. Such a long entourage combined with the posters and promises of coupons, samples, and prizes by an advance team more than piqued local interest in the Hormel Girls, and by association Hormel Foods.***** Nearly sixty years later, World War II Veteran and Hormel Girl member Eleanor Jones recalled that “we really did connect with the housewives. They would flock around us and ask for our autographs.” *******

Lord, thank You for being an inventor. Intrinsically, each form of life is a masterful combination of so many refined systems working in balance. Extrinsically, each individual life balances within a framework of relationships within it’s ecosystem. We can be classified by species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, and kingdom, yet we retain the possibility of adaptation. Everything in Your creation seems to point us towards this paradox; we are individuals that operate as a unity. You are Eternal Father, embodied Messiah, and Holy Spirit. Will You guide us to ponder such inward and outward relationships as we remember the Hormel Girls?

To modern ears it may sound like sarcasm, but today we truly thank You for the invention of Spam; this hardy food helped millions outlast bitter times of war and scarcity! We thank You for the unnamed author or authors of it’s recipe. Will You bless the creativity and diligence of our food scientists’ in the present and future of Minnesota? Will You bless all at Hormel Foods from top to bottom? Will You bless the hog farmers, factory workers, truckers, longshoremen and shippers of Spam? We commend their hard work and overtime in an age of such incredible demand! Will You bless our present and future food industry workers to meet and surpass the needs of multitudes like they?

We thank You for Jay Hormel; survivor and Veteran of the Great War (WWI)! We thank You for the sympathy and empathy for all veterans seared into his soul through that experience. We remember and applaud his acknowledgment of the service and sacrifices of these heroic women!

Where others who had made vast fortunes considered its’ female employees a drain on the bottom line, he increased their pay four times! Then gave them bonuses!
Where others displaced female vets, he saw fit that they had their own place in Post 570!
Where others pushed women out of the factory, he mentored them out of the factory into the spotlight!

Sadly, Jay Hormel seemed to be the exception to the rule. War propaganda that taught our sisters and mothers to be “Rosie the Riveter” now pushed them go home. Dear Lord, for some, this about-face worked, but for others life had permanently changed. We have opposed those we could have lifted. We closed our ears and ears to their talents. We broke faith with them. Forgive us where we offended and wronged Your Image by sinning in these same specific ways against: the WAC’s, the WAVES, the SPARS, and all the women who worked the home front.

We thank You for each and every Spamette and Hormel Girl! We thank You for the lessons they absorbed during their time of service that prepared them for this opportunity. We thank You that they said “Yes!” to so many challenges: to the rigors of travel, the discipline of refining their individual talents, learning to perform for a live or radio audience, learning how to sell to a huge variety of people, learning how to professionally present themselves, gaining skills in representing a company, and symbolizing what is possible for the “girl next door”!

Will You bless all female veterans present and future to: take chances, think big, make mistakes, learn from mistakes, and retain such adaptability to go beyond their classification? Will You give them the same spirit of balance in relationships; to exercise moments of individual greatness while remaining a unity? Will You give them the same sense of humility to recognize Your moments’ for them; even if it’s disguised as an everyday, quotidian tin of Spam?
“The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.” I Samuel 2:7 ESV *********

* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
** https://www.foodwine.com/food/egg/egg0798/slth0798.html
*** Smith, Andrew (May 1, 2007). “The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink”. Oxford University Press. pp. 559–60.
**** Howard Yoon (July 4, 2007). “Spam: More than Junk Mail or Junk Meat” (npr.org).
***** Sullivan, Jill and Keck, Danelle D. “The Hormel Girls”. pp.282-308 https://www.public.asu.edu/~jmsulli/documents/FINAL_Hormel%20Girls.pdf
****** “It’s A lot of Noise Shippan Point Says: All-Women Drum and Bugle Corps, Seeking Legion Title, Arouses Community’s Ire,” New York Times, Aug. 24, 1947, p5.
******* Jones,Eleanor. telephone interview with Jill Sullivan, April 5, 2007. Cited in “The Hormel Girls”.
******** Want to give the Hormel girls a listen? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-4Ok5qI7J4 “Tater Pie by the Hormel Girls”. ArchiveMan78. YouTube. May 7, 2018.
********* https://biblehub.com/1_samuel/2-7.htm

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20th Century, Civics, education, History, Intercession, Minnesota, Uncategorized, World War II

It’s Your G.I. Bill of Rights June 22, 1944

colmery

Harry Colmery, Drafter of Servicemen’s Readjustment Act**

1944-1956
To help World War II veterans make a smooth transition back to civilian life, the U.S. government provided them with low-interest loans to put toward education, business startups, and housing expenses. The program, known as the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, or more commonly, the “G.I. Bill of Rights,” also contained the 52-20 provision, which paid veterans $20 per week for up to 52 weeks while seeking employment.

According to the Veterans Administration (VA), a total of 7.8 million World War II vets took advantage of the G.I. Bill to get an education, and nearly 2.4 million benefited from VA-backed home loans. Less than 20 percent of the United States’ 16 million eligible veterans participated in the 52-20 program.*

“Never again do we want to see the honor and glory of our nation fade to the extent that her men of arms, with despondent heart and palsied limb, totter from door to door, bowing their souls to the frozen bosom of reluctant charity.”
American Legion Past National Commander Harry Colmery, after helping draft the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act in the winter of 1943-1944**

As the author of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, Colmery acted as the national catalyst to offer opportunity to the 15 million men and women returning from duty. R.B. Pitkin, editor of “The American Legion Magazine”, became a key figure in consolidating grassroots proposals, summarizes them into the following objectives.
Educational opportunity
Vocational on-the-job training
Readjustment allowances
Home, farm and business loans
Review of discharges
Adequate health care
Prompt settlement of disability claims
Mustering-out pay (removed from the bill after it was enacted separately)
Effective veteran employment services
Concentration of all veterans functions in the Veterans Administration ***

How did this look in the North Star state? Soon after the end of the war, nearly half the students in Minnesota colleges and universities are World War II veterans studying under the benefits of the G.I. Bill.**
For example, 25,000 vets enrolled at the University of Minnesota in this period; the most of anywhere in the nation. Local private college attendance also ballooned with returning vets; Bethel University had to expand from a two-year program to a four-year program to meet the demand.****

Yet, one wonders, how did this program impact the lives of its participants? Below are a few quotes from interviews with WWII veterans, conducted by writer Kevyn Burger.****
“Without the GI Bill, I never would have gone to college and I would have lived with disappointment… I had a hunger for learning I had to satisfy.”
Jeanne Bearmon, Women’s Army Corps.
“The GI Bill was fantastic, I got $75 a month to live on. That was plenty, more than enough. I had a nice room a few blocks from campus for $7 a week.”
Sherman Garon, US Army

Lord, there is something so beautiful about debts repaid, it’s almost indescribable! We commend these returning vets of WWII before You. We are doubly-honored as we think of them; they showed total commitment to freedom and freedom’s G-d, and our society echoed back its gratitude! What seems so exceptional about them is that they never seemed to expect payback from America?!

Of course, this is a generalization, but the circumstantial evidence and their testimonies prove it true over and over again. It reminds me of Your Holy Word.
“And that’s how it should be with you. When you’ve done all you should, then say, “We are merely servants, and we have simply done our duty.” Luke 17:10 CEV
What a joy it must have been to give this small token, the GI Bill, to those so humble and who so thoroughly utilized it?

We also specifically commend Colmery and Pitkin to You. We thank you for their gifts of vision and its administration. Will You bless our state and nation with similar leadership and administration? We perpetually need both dreamers and the activators of dreams; Will You give us the grace to do our role?

In contrast, we confess the limitations of administering the GI Bill in the present: it seems so bureaucratic, it feels un-relational, and the benefits seem far smaller than the costs of administering them. Our society wants to give to vets, it puts money in the offering plate, but somehow only $1 out of $7 seems to reach the hand that needs it. Will You help us with this problem? Will You stop our bickering over the amount we should give, and let us draw a straighter line between giver and receiver?

In the same way, we note the increase in the costs of education and student housing. Returning vets now routinely pay seventy to a hundred times the costs these servicemen and women paid for tuition and student housing?! Too many of these young men and women start their lives saddled with debt, yet they have taken the same risks as their forbearers; doing their duty up to the cost of their lives!

Presently, it feels as though we have lost our empathy for them. We are an heinously distracted people, continuously diverted from paying attention to real people and real relationships. Will You kindly reveal our GI Bill of wrongs, and the heart attitudes that foist scorn on the selfless service of others? Have mercy Lord, we don’t fully understand the depths of their sacrifice, nor of Yours!

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4 BSB*****

Minnesota Department of the American Legion. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN. 1944. http://www.mnhs.org/mgg/artifact/gibill_rights
** https://www.legion.org/education/history
*** Pitkin, R.B. “The American Legion Magazine”. Jan.-Mar. 1969 ibid.
**** Burger, Kevyn, “GI Bill gave Minnesota veterans a path to the middle class”. StarTribune, Minneapolis, MN. 11-11-2014 Variety Section. (Kevyn Burger is a freelance writer and a newscaster at BringMeTheNews.com.)
***** https://www.biblehub.com/romans/14-4.htm

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