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, Catholic, football, History, Intercession, Minnesota, sports, Uncategorized

Smith Wins Heisman

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Bruce Smith’s number, 54, became the first officially removed from the roster in 1977.**

December 9, 1941
Halfback Bruce Smith (1920-1967), a college football sensation, becomes Minnesota’s first and only Heisman Trophy winner, then goes to Hollywood to play himself in the film Smith of Minnesota.

Smith was born in Faribault, Minnesota, where he excelled in high school football under the legendary football coach Win Brockmeyer. He then attended the University of Minnesota where he played halfback for the back-to-back national champion Gophers in 1940 and 1941. He received the Heisman two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.*

In 1910, the Minnesota Gophers lost the championship to Michigan 6-0. Tackle Lucius Smith, somehow, blamed himself for the loss. He vowed, allegedly, to have a son who would correct this wrong. Bruce Smith was that son. **

The following excerpt is an amplified account of his infamous “Run of the Century” from the Minneapolis Star Tribune written by Joe Christensen.

“That November battle for the Little Brown Jug needed no hype, pitting No. 2 Minnesota against No. 3 Michigan in Minneapolis. Eventual Heisman winner Tom Harmon threw a touchdown pass, giving the Wolverines the lead, and a crowd of 60,481 shivered beneath wind-swept rain.
“I just remember it was a wet day,” said Smith’s youngest sibling, June, who watched with her family at Memorial Stadium, where tickets cost $2.75 apiece.

Her brother’s No. 54 was barely visible with the mud. He stood in his leather helmet in the days before facemasks, a 6-foot, 195-pound force in Bierman’s single-wing offense.
On the play of the day, if not the century, Sonny Franck took the snap at Minnesota’s 20-yard line, heading right. Franck finished third in that year’s Heisman voting, so the Wolverines crashed toward him. But he quickly handed the ball to Smith on the reverse.
Smith hit the hole, jetted through two linebackers, and made a breathtaking cut left to avoid another tackle, sprinting the final 60 yards untouched. The Gophers held on for a 7-6 triumph.
“Some seven Michigan players took their shots at Bruce … yet he kept those hard-driving legs churning and scored,” Harmon later said. “It was a run that would have to be rated as one of the finest football has ever seen.”
Afterward, instead of hanging around campus to bask in the adulation, Smith followed his postgame ritual — jumping in the family car for the 50-mile drive south to Faribault.” ****
In effect, Bruce received the greatest honor in American college football, the Heisman Trophy, yet he contextualized the relevance of the sport in light of the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II.
“I think America will owe a great debt to the game of football when we finish this thing off,…”. “If 6 million American youngsters like myself are able to take it and come back for more … and fight hard for the honor of our schools, then likewise the same skills can be depended on when we have to fight like blazes to defend our country.” ***

Mr. Smith maintained a certain heroism at the end of his life also. Struck with cancer, he refused self-pity as he went from 200 to 90 pounds, but sought to encourage and pray with others in the same struggle. He made the rounds with Paulist Fr. William Cantwell who nominated Bruce for sainthood after his death on August 26, 1967. ****,*****

Holy One, the life story of Bruce Smith strikes the author with a sense of awe at his example of servant leadership. Throughout the Scriptures we find this archetype written in the lives of its’ authors. We see patriarchs who form and lead tribes because they have practiced following You in obscurity, total dependency, and want. We see the judges who are both human and erring, and yet reflect Your divinity in superhuman moments of brilliance. We see kings succeed because they continually revere and serve You, therefore, are equipped to rule equitably and wisely lead their nation. We see prophets whom You have broken and humiliated externally, often at the hands of their own foolish authorities, yet live as champions of Your conscience and unfailing love. What will You teach us today, Holy Spirit? What lessons are in the life of this amazing football player and human being for us today? How can this Heisman-winner lead us into rest and repentance?

We thank You for his example of redeeming his father’s sense of failure and shame. We freely confess that we sometimes want our kids to succeed for selfish motives. We should be feeding our kids’ souls regardless of outcomes, not them padding our fragile self-concepts. In spite of the motives of Lucius Smith, You allowed his son to succeed in almost the exact conditions where his father failed?! We thank You for this moment of triumph between father and son. Will You give us a passion for the success of our children like Lucius, but detach their lives from our vows, shame, and egos?

So often, heroism is defined in the blink of an eye. Perhaps this is why your Word constantly calls us to character training. The disciplined mind does not waste time in crisis, but instinctually has chosen beforehand how to respond. Maybe this is a part of Smith’s momentary greatness in his “Run of the Century”? His training overtook his consciousness so that he could simply be in the moment! We thank You that a few moments of his serendipitous action blessed his generation of Minnesotans; both on and off the field! We give You thanks for the supreme beauty of seeing a person being themselves; of fulfilling their purpose so completely that it looks easy! Will You help us remember, right now, this day, that no act of momentary greatness can surpass Easter: Your Passion, Your Crucifixion, and Your Resurrection! Will You inspire our youths’ in Minnesota to actively train their total beings so that they can intuitively and instantly respond with authority to moments of dilemma?

It’s notable that Smith, after this astounding battle against Michigan, responded to victory by just going home. He subtly demonstrates to us that a hero already has a life, and does not attempt to get life out of accomplishments. He defined his own success instead of success defining him. Lord, thanks for his example of fulfillment: he came, he saw, he won, and then he rested. Will You bless us to do the same? Will You help us to choose what success looks like to us, and to relax in it?

Eternal Father, Smith is beloved for many things, but another noteworthy attribute of his was a lifestyle of teamwork. He related to the Gophers as he related to the team of Minnesota as resident, and as a team member of the United States to the threat of World War II. He saw that the principals of winning a football game applied to our American team standing up to existential threats. Jesus, thank You that this young man practiced a lifestyle of teamwork. He saw the necessity to rally his neighbors the same way he rallied his team. He chose to believe that winning is possible, therefore, it is. Will You give the same sense of integration and encouragement to our team’s leaders both present and future?

Bright One, thank You for the light shone through the life of number 54. He realized some brilliant insights early in his walk. Conceivably, the greatest moral of this event in state history is that experiencing heroism makes one want to call out other heroes.

Even as he was dying, he sought opportunities to lift up his team to be cancer survivors. He went out under the spiritual authority of his elders, Father Cantwell, and under You!He wanted share Your heart, the heart of a champion; the heart of faith. Thank You for Bruce Smith and his life of faithful servant leadership! Thanks for Cantwell and the ministry of the Paulist Fathers to: reach out, bring peace, and seek unity. Will You release our generations to: live the same heroic life of faith, to choose our response before a trial, and to be prepared for momentary greatness? We really can win this game! Amen!

“But God gave him back to life, having made him free from the pains of death because it was not possible for him to be overcome by it.” Acts 2:24 BBE ******

* 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://gophersports.com/sports/2018/5/21/sports-m-footbl-spec-rel-heisman-html.aspx
*** Written by Joe Christensen for Minneapolis StarTribune, December 12, 2016. http://www.startribune.com/bruce-smith-among-the-greatest-gophers-lifted-a-heisman-trophy-and-american-spirits-75-years-ago/404527966/?refresh=true
**** https://www.paulist.org/who-we-are/bio/fr-william-cantwell/
***** https://www.heisman.com/did-you-know-the-1940s-heismans/
****** https://biblehub.com/acts/2-24.htm

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