Saturday, March 17, 2018


Weird Jobs Part 2


The grease and the sleep deprivation of the Twinkie factory finally got to me and I quit and took a job at Fairview Hospital. Fairview is just across Riverside Avenue from Augsburg so the commute was a walk.

Hospital workers have a pecking order.  As you might expect, doctors are at the pinnacle. They bark orders and expect the rest of the world to scurry. Nurses actually run the place so they are next. Orderlies are down the hierarchy and then come janitorial, but at the very bottom are the laundry workers. My new job. I worked a couple afternoons and on weekends. (Of course, well below laundry workers are medical students.)

The Fairview laundry room is in the bowels of the hospital and the soiled linen, scrubs, surgery drapes and anything washable reached the "receiving room" by laundry chutes, similar to what we had on the 2nd floor of our 2-story house in Lowry - a chute that gravity fed laundry straight to the basement.

The laundry room was a large space, about 40' x 20' and 20 feet or so high. Arriving for work on a Saturday at 6:00 AM, this room was filled to the ceiling with bags of laundry, the bags the size of a duffel. 15,000 cubic feet of dirty laundry.

There were 2 of us to deal with this mountain, Ricky & I. Ricky had seniority so to my dismay, he controlled the radio. But he was cheerful and talkative so that made the day more tolerable. The job was analogous to a coal-miner's. We mined the bags and loaded the dirty laundry into carts which sat on a floor scale. "Normal" laundry loads were 40 lbs. Blue-toned surgery linen were 35 lb loads.  There were no surgical masks or rubber gloves on this job. Lots of the linen was soiled with what you might imagine coming from hospital rooms & surgery theaters - and some things you might not. Surgery linen tended to be a bit "skanky". It now seems to me a miracle I survived without succumbing to some pernicious disease.

We rolled the 2 loaded carts across the hallway to the laundry room where we stuffed the cart contents into 2 industrial washing machines. Visualize Tokyo subway loading. The 40 lbs. of linen filled that washer tightly. We added the prerequisite detergents and kicked off the wash - which basically boiled the linen.

We then retreated to the "receiving" room to fill 2 more carts. The second trip across the hall and each subsequent required pulling the washed linen - hot-hot-hot - from the washer and loading it into dryers. Then pulling the dried linen into carts and handing the cart off to women operating manglers to finish the process. Repeat, repeat, repeat ... (For Fortran programmers , Do until ..)

By 10 AM, we could just about see the floor. That's when the trucks from Fairview Southdale showed up and refilled the room. Fairview deemed it more economical to operate one laundry for both hospitals so they ferried Southdale dirty laundry to the Minneapolis hospital and returned with clean laundry. The arrival of these trucks sent me into despondency. I was living the Greek Myth of Sisyphus, rolled back to 6 AM. By 2:30 the room was empty except for the scattering of drops from above that was pretty much constant and I got to go home to a hot shower.

This job, more so than the Twinkie factory, convinced me I had to finish my college degree. At least Hostess let you eat free pies. I could never have survived an assembly line job.

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Twinkie Factory

I think most college students have "weird summer job" stories. De-tasseling corn, Green Giant creamed corn production, Eklund's tuxedo delivery, ...

Well  - here's my story.

Part 1

While a student at Augsburg College, I worked a couple summers at the Continental Baking Company, located downtown at 11 St. & 3rd Ave in Minneapolis, roughly 20 blocks from Augsburg. My motivation was to earn enough pocket money to take the girl of my dreams to Bridgeman's for Hot Fudge Banana sundaes. (Eventually, she agreed to become my wife saying if I was half as nice as my father she would marry me. She settled for considerably less.)

I rode my rickety bike to the place, which wasn't bad in the summer. 35W wasn't there, so it was a straight shot downtown on 7th St. to 3rd Ave. But I also - for a short time - worked 1 night shift a week during the school year. This had a deleterious effect on my 7:30 Computer Science class attendance. Augsburg's compSci department consisted of one Univac programmer who taught the class before going to work - hence the 7:30 start time. We submitted our homework on paper tape - just to give a reference to how long ago this was. It also meant I rode my bike downtown in the winter for the 10:00 PM - 6:00 AM shift -  and wiped out a few times. That experience and the sleep deprivation drove me to find yet another "weird job" - a future post.

This was Continental Baking's Hostess facility, a 4 story red brick building with an "Outlet Store" on the ground level, where you could purchase discount priced Twinkies. On the 2nd floor, they baked Wonder Bread, made of mostly air with a dusting of flour; and Hostess fruit pies, which were pretty good actually. The 3rd floor, where I spent my time was the assembly line for Hostess products. We called it the "Twinkie Factory" and I had to join the bakers' union to get the job.

The ingredients for all the Hostess cake products as well as the marshmallow for the Snoballs were mixed on the 4th floor. These concoctions were mixed in 300 lb aluminum bowls on wheels and transported down to the 3rd floor in a freight elevator where the ovens and the "assembly line" took over. Twinkies were baked in 30" x 18 steel pans, holding 36 (I think) Twinkies. The two ovens had 8 foot revolving shelves and the "baker's" job was to load each shelf with 6 pans before it disappeared below and then pull them out when the revolution through the oven was complete. I did this job on occasion and still have burn scars on my forearms from reaching in to get the pans in the back.

The pans were then transferred to 7' high cooling racks - on wheels, holding roughly 16 pans of baked goods - and after a proscribed cooling time, wheeled over to the assembly line. One worker fed pans of Twinkies into a machine topped by a hopper filled with "Twinkie goo". This filling was mixed on the 4th floor and transported by freight elevator. Eventually they figured out that a chute from the 4th to the 3rd would be more efficient - except for the marshmallow which lacked the basic flow properties necessary - see below. Each individual pan of Twinkies was fed into the machine which "injected" each cake with the cream filling. You might have guessed this was the process by looking at the bottom of a Twinkie. There are perforations. A second person on the other side of this injection machine took the pan, pivoted 180°, lifted the pan above his head and slammed it down onto a conveyer belt to dislodge the cake from the pan. This usually worked fine but on occasion the pans were not sufficiently "oiled" and it required several slams to remove the cake from the pan. I broke my little finger on one night shift because of this. And you got quite a workout doing this, with a pan coming through the machine about every 5 seconds.  There were times that the operator jammed the machine and broke the dies to get a rest. (I only ever did this by accident, not intentionally).

After the dump, the pan was thrown in to a "pan washer" - a wash machine with a conveyor through a spray of scalding water. The worst job in the place was at the end of the pan-washer - pulling those burning hot pans and putting them on those same cooling racks, hands protected by a pair of Wells-Lamont cloth gloves which were quickly soaking wet.  This was the first job for new-hires and if they survived a week, they moved on to more glamorous jobs, like Twinkie dumping.

Once dumped the cake moved down the conveyer to the packaging machines. Damaged cake - like those that came out in several pieces - see the above multiple slams description - went off the end of the conveyer into garbage bins. However, waste not, want not. This damaged cake served as the base for the "Spice Cake" batter.  Add enough spices and you never know you're eating Twinkies.

Hostess cupcakes followed the exact same injection procedure plus an additional step with the cake passing under a hopper which coated the cake with chocolate frosting and a vanilla drizzle.

Hostess Snoballs were more complicated.  They are the same cake as the cupcakes but they are smothered in marshmallow and coconut. When I was there - this was the process. (I think the FDA forced some changes after I left.) The Snoball process required one additional person on the conveyer line to transfer the marshmallow into the hopper over the conveyor belt. For a time I had the job of manhandling the 300 lb bowls (empty weight) of batters, chocolate, and marshmallow to the freight elevator and down to the 3rd floor. This was a just-in-time process so speed was essential. And the bowls were not that steerable so it was not uncommon to bang into the plaster walls - with the expected result. (I picked the larger chunks out of the bowl.)  The marshmallow being quite thick needed to be transferred from the bowl to the hopper - roughly 6 feet above the floor. This was done "by hand" - I am not kidding. I would scoop handfuls of the warm marshmallow from the bowl into the hopper. Uffda.  I never did put "marshmallow dipper" on my resume. There were only white during my tenure.

The Continental Baking building is no more, the business shutting down in 1987. The site now home to a Holiday Inn Express. In 2012 Hostess filed bankruptcy and it was announced Twinkies would no longer be produced, causing world-wide panic buying. (Urban legend says Twinkies have a 100 year shelf life). One of the "benefits" of the job was all the Twinkies you could eat. I haven't eaten a Twinkie in 50 years.

In 2013, out of receivership, a management company bought Hostess for $413 million and Twinkies once again appeared on the US market. A side note - in 2016 the management company sold Hostess for $2.3 billion. Twinkies roar.

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

True Grit

"Well, pilgrim, ya just need to persevere & persevere and persevere some more."  John Wayne, sort of.

From time to time I like to delve into the realm of cognitive science, so bear with me here.

I ran across a study by Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews & Kelly published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology titled:

"Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals".
"Grit", of course, is a highly technical term that measures an individual's resolve quotient. (Not really, I made that up.)

Nevertheless, this psychological study attempted to assess how the non-cognitive trait "grit" factors into individual achievement. The authors' definition of grit is a passion for achieving long-term goals that can span years. A marathon, not a sprint. There are well established correlations between intellectual talent and achievement, but that is just part of the story.
The authors developed a "grit scale" which, when used at West Point, turned out to be a better predictor of success for plebes than West Point's homegrown candidate scoring system. The grit scale measures an individual's ability to focus & persevere.  The researchers found that a significant indicator of how successful you will be is how you handle setbacks and failures. Do you learn from your failures, get off the deck and dive back into the fray? This may seem obvious, but continuing to continue through trials and criticism is fundamental to becoming the best you can be and takes an enormous strength of character. (see Olympic athletes like Lindsey Vonn for example.)
A side lesson from these conclusions can be a guide when building teams to accomplish specific goals. Make sure you don't have all blue-sky idea people. Include some nose-to-the-grindstone folks as well, those who can get you from inspiration to execution. And character is important because when most projects complete, you must persevere through the final test - the rewarding of the non-participants.

If you dare, you can get your your "grit score" with this University of Pennsylvania survey:
(I'll tell you my score if you tell me yours)
I'm kind of tired of this topic now, so you should probably go read the research paper.

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin

Thursday, February 8, 2018

How to Hire a Programmer

I spent most of my work career in the software development business. I hired many programmers. Programmers are different beasts than most job seekers. And interviewing programmer applicants can be a challenge. (They may not look at you. And perhaps vice versa.)

So I created a just-for-fun software developer interview question list. This may be all you need.

4 questions:
1.  What's your favorite sci-fi book?
2.  What's your favorite Monty Python line?
3.  What musical instrument do you play?
4.  What's the name of your cat?
*Answers in the back of the book

If you get positive answers from all 4, hire that person now.

* Back of the book
1. Any sci-fi book will do. Extra points for Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" or Heinlein's "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" or some well known classic. The point is not some specific book but rather just being a sci-fi fan. It indicates a love of technology, especially technology that doesn't exist yet. [A digression.  I am a big fan of Neal Stephenson's books.  If you haven't read his Cryptonomicon, do - hackers, cryptology, WWII, corporate espionage ...  "a tour-de-force".  And then try his Baroque CycleTrilogy  - medieval techno sci-fi.] Here's a flowchart for choosing a Sci-Fi book just right for you. (From NPR)
2. Just knowing a Python quote will do. My favs - "You're all individuals" or "Tis only a flesh wound" or "We're destitute. I've got no option but to sell you all for scientific experiments". The point here is having a sense of the absurd. Putting up with the absurdities of software development with humor is a success indicator. Can you quote from Hitchhiker's Guide & Monty Python?

3. Any instrument will do. There is a creative aspect to programming and I've found musicians/artists make good programmers. Programming is more like composing or painting than engineering.  And like painters, programmers just code over their mistakes.

4. Just having a cat as a pet will do. Cats are night-time creatures & prefer to be left alone - much like programmers.  And managing programmers is like herding cats. If they own a ferret or a snake, end the interview.

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin

Monday, January 29, 2018

How to do Lutheran

Any number of writers have documented the quirks and foibles of Minnesota Lutherans.  As a life-long member of the ELC, ALC, and finally ELCA, I recognize myself in these - mostly good-hearted - ridicules.

▶︎ A rule: The jello for the church dinner must match the liturgical colors. Peas in the hotdish tend to be gaudy. Yes - hotdish, not casserole.
▶︎ Pastor: There's something wrong with this microphone. Congregation: and also with you
▶︎  Basses and tenors, please sit in the back of the bus on the ride to the lutefisk supper at Vang Lutheran.
▶︎  Catholics glorify Mary. We glorify rice.

... There's a million of em.

2017 marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door.  Unless you are Lutheran, that sentence probably made no sense. But be it known that masses (pardon the pun) of Lutherans made the trek to Germany to commemorate this dawn of the Reformation.

I experienced all the standard accoutrements of growing up Lutheran in a small town. Sunday School, Confirmation Classes and recitations from Luther's Small Catechism .. this is most certainly true, Wednesday night Lenten services, Christmas programs, church basement suppers ... and I attended a "Lutheran" College. So I felt I was well versed in the Lutheran thing. (see St. Pauli post)

So to my amazement, through the auspices of cousin Mark, I learned there is an actual "Lutheran Handbook" documenting in detail how to be an upright and righteous practicer of this faith. And a special "500th Anniversary" edition - The Essential Lutheran Handbook" - was produced through that august organization, Augsburg Fortress Publishing - the bulwark of church publishing that never faileth.

In addition to the standards: "How to listen to a sermon"; "How to share the peace"; "How to be a greeter"; "The seasons of the Church Year"; "Lutheran denominations"; "How to be saved by grace not works"; the entire Luther's Small Catechism ...

this new commemorative edition adds some critical elements that previous editions failed to include:

▶︎ How to avoid getting burned at the stake.
Avoid public heresy.  Like nailing theses to a door. As you know, the punishment for heresy is to be publicly burned at the stake and if you are accused you are probably doomed ... but defend yourself by citing biblical references for your attack on dogma. But consider recanting - you might be wrong. And if none of this works, request dry kindling - it burns hotter and quicker.

▶︎ What to do if you accidentally drop the bread into the common cup.
Don't panic. Receiving only one element - bread or wine - counts as full participation. Or the communion server can provide you with more bread.

▶︎ How to sing a hymn.
Assume a good posture. Keep your chin up. Hold the hymnal's spine with one hand and the other on the open page. Begin singing.  Loud-singing neighbors may or may not be in tune, so follow them cautiously. Some hymns may be difficult to understand ".. here I raise my Ebeneezer".  Use a bible or concordance to clear up uncertainties.

▶︎ How to show the world you are a Lutheran without being flashy or boring.
Lutherans tend toward humility and avoiding a spotlight. You could show your Lutheranism with a bumper sticker - "Lutherans do it with Grace" - but that probably shouldn't be the full extent of your faith expression. It's not about the words but how we live our lives. Martin says a shoemaker shows his Christianity not with crosses on the shoes but by making good shoes. And since most people consider "boring" a synonym of Lutheran, if you must err, err on the side of flashier.

▶︎ How to chose a bible translation that's right for you.
Unless you are proficient in Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic, consider a bible printed in a language you actually speak. If thou dost not maketh use of words like dost and maketh, chooseth thou a different translation. Seek an actual translation, not a paraphrase. Unless you carry your bible everywhere you go, do not use a nylon cover with zipper and pockets. They're geeky.

Who knew? Lutherans with a sense of humor.

Did you know there are 43 Lutheran colleges and universities in the USA? And 10 of them are named "Concordia".

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I Read It In The Lowry News

Lydia Bjorklund was the Pope County Tribune's roving reporter for the Lowry area. Each week she captured the scoop on the happenings in Lowry. This trove was published in a "Lowry News" segment on p.8 of the Tribune. Any social interaction that occurred in Lowry was destined for a line or two. My aunt Ruth seethed, as every time her car arrived in Ole Hoplin's drive, it was reported in the PCT.  "Mr. & Mrs. Lynn Lundin and family and Ruth Hoplin of Minneapolis spent the weekend with their parents, the Ole Hoplins".

Some kind of radar involved it seemed. But, I believe Lydia's column was the most-read item in the paper - by Lowry-ites at least. No secrets in a small town. (see The Lowry News post).

But during my era in Lowry, there was also a tradition of printing a stand-alone "Year in Review" in a Christmas issue of the "Lowry News", a compendium of all the notable happenings in the village for that year. I think the Starbuck Times did the publishing. I have custody of a few copies of this publication, saved by a relative. The "news" included notable events in the life of a small town: births, deaths, swimming certificates earned  - all recorded for posterity. (e.g. d hoplin, intermediate swimmer certificate, 1959. Although to this day, swimming is still desperately trying to stay alive in the water).

And often a pithy saying: "A pleasant thought for the holidays - pushing yourself away from the table at the right time is a surer way of controlling weight than trying diet fads."

Here are some tidbits extracted from these classics.

Dec 1935 - 1944 briefly

New elevator opens
Highway 55 completed through Lowry
Fire completely destroys the Lowry Roller Mill (see Lowry's Best post)
Waterworks system installed. A WPA project. (see Depression Years post)
Hwy 114 constructed to Starbuck (see Lake Malmedal post)
Counterfeit bills were found in circulation
Jo Moellers buys Lowry Cafe from James Robieson
Leland Thompson is the new barber (see The Barber Shop post)
Armistice Day storm leaves Lowry streets looking like canyons.
Lowry bowling team had a good record
Philemon Chan family have 5 sons in military service (see Lowry Area Honor Roll  and Othelia's Story  x8 posts)
Hilmer Opheim bought the Lowry Meat Market and Locker.

Dec 1950

Children have a fine record in Water Safety Achievment: Jr Life Savers:  Martha Engebretson & Lorraine Heggestad

New Homes in 1950: Signer Rykhus, Phil Wagner, Oliver Bartos & Cal Smith moved into new homes in the past year.

Skating Rink: The skating rink just south of the clinic has been flooded and put into readiness by the Legion Post and the young folks are enjoying it every day. (see The Rink post)

Record Price: Oscar Smedstad, manager of the Starbuck Shipping Assn, stated that a record price was received for 2 bulls shipped to So.St. Paul. One bull, weighing 1725 lbs received 27¢ a pound for a total of $465.75.

Dec 1953

Dr. L.S. Wright of Minneapolis has opened his office for the practice of general dentistry in the clinic building in Lowry. Dr. Wright graduated from St. Olaf College in 1943 and from the Dental College of the University of Minnesota in 1947. He was discharged from the U.S. Air Force in October. (see Main Street West Side post)

Signer Rykhus home.  ...Just a little way west of town looms his home, conspicuous even with its white paint against a wide background of snow. The white rail fence around the two acres of land catches and holds the eye. Here the hatchery man lives with his wife and two sons and two daughters ranging in age from 12 years to a little baby - and three saddle horses. His stable in this age of gasoline fumes is a landmark of the countryside.

Hoplin & Nelson. With a highly attractive new 50-foot front on its Lowry store and new shelves and general beautification of the interior of the large building, the firm of Hoplin & Nelson has taken another step in its steady advance of many years and stands well out in the foreground to is wide area of customers in its varied and intricate field of benefit to humanity. (see Hoplin & Nelson and/or A Good Place to Trade posts)

Leroy Molander opened the doors of a new International Harvestor dealership.

Swenson's Superette opened. A big-little grocery store.

Dec 1959

Lowry Bank open house. "More than 600 persons attended open house in observance of the new ownership of the Lowry Bank on Saturday.  Clifford E. Mork, the bank's new president was pleased over the nice response from the people ..."

Charles Thompson, after 2 years in the army at For Devins, MA, started working at Lowry State Bank.

Pastor Fred Granstrom moved from Herndon, Kansas to Lowry to take over the Mission Covenant Church.

Chester H. Bennet was reelected Mayor of Lowry receiving 47 of 52 votes cast.

Merlin Heggestad is enjoying a 30 day leave from his Navy service.

The Dingwall twins, Bonnie & Betty are assisting at the Kalina Cafe after school hours.

Dec 1961

Pastor & Mrs. H.N. Schey were guests of honor at a farewell reception in St. Paul's Lutheran Church parlors. Pastor Schey has accepted a call to serve a two point parish in rural Madison, Minnesota. His parishioners regret his departure and their best wishes go with him

Dingwall Tire and Oil is a new business in the new building constructed on Highway 55 a short distances west of Lowry Village. It is owned and operated by Jim Dingwall.

Dec 1963

Three sons of Mr. & Mrs Harold Weisel were married in 1963. Harvey Weisel & Beverly Huntley. Roger Weisel and Marlys Westphal. Eugene Weisel & Marcia Gulbrandson.

The Vrooman Grocery and Post Office building has had its face lifted from floor to ceiling. These improvements give the buildings a distinctive look.

Dec 1964

St. Paul's Lutheran Church celebrated its 90th anniversary with a special service led by Rev. Odd Gornitzka. Pastor Allen Hagstrom, son of the congregation, preached the sermon.

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin

Saturday, January 6, 2018


2017-2018 handoff °F

It's been on the nippy side for the past couple weeks here in the Northland. Whenever we get a week or longer stretch of frigid temps, it brings back vivid memories of Hoplin & Nelson hardware's "inventory week". Since the counting needed to be done by year-end, inventory was always taken during the week between Christmas & New Year's. This was an "all-hands" (plus some outside recruits) operation - and invariably coincided with the coldest week of the winter.

The next time you go into a hardware store, take a look around. There's a lot of stuff. Think about counting and recording every item in the building. I was recruited to help in this process at an early age. At age 10, I was given the job of counting the items in all the drawers and leaving a slip of paper with the total so someone could come along and record it. 76 #10 wood screws. 64 boxes of 22 long rifle shells. Six ½ x 4 nipples. 42 feet of canvas webbing. Deadly boring, but a lesson in stick-to-it-tiveness.

Hoplin & Nelson was a farm oriented hardware business. You could buy nails by the pound, a single screw or bolt if that’s what you needed - in hundreds of size/length combinations, a hog trough, a manure spreader, a vice grip, udder balm, bailing twine, a 4-10, dynamite, a Schwinn bike, a gopher trap, a P-trap, a pitchfork, a shotgun can, a can of paint - and linseed oil to stretch it, Melmac dishes, a spatula, a depression glass bowl, a Maytag ringer washer, ... and have your broken window or torn screen repaired while you waited.  Or a coffin. (see Hoplin & Nelson post)

The hardware was also home base for my father's plumbing, heating and electrical business, so the visible part of the store was only the half of it. There were 3 outside warehouses, 2 back of the store storage areas; an upstairs storage for seasonal merchandise; the basement for machinery parts (all these unheated). These spaces held as much merchandise as the store proper. The electrical shack out back had all kinds of curiosities that the electricians seemed to have some use for. The gas dock held dozens of 100 lb. tanks of propane. The main warehouses across the alley held the big stuff that took up a lot of space – conduit, soil pipe, duct work, water heaters, appliances. The lots to the north and south held the farm products – manure spreader, hay rake, hog troughs, chicken waterers and the like.  

And, then there was the dynamite shed, a tin shack behind the store with sandbagged walls and a padlocked door, holding several cases of dynamite. In those days, farmers used a lot of dynamite for blowing drainage ditches, removing rocks or tree stumps from fields – it was just part of farming. A half a dozen cases of dynamite in the middle of town wasn’t considered a serious threat to public safety.  

All this needed to be counted , recorded, priced and extended, item by item.
39 grease gun zercs @ $.15 ea = $5.85
87 2 gal Red Barn Paint pails @ $2.49 ea = $216.63
and about a million more entries ...

Once I got to high school age, I got the job of recorder with my father dictating as fast as he could. I was quick enough at math (not as quick as Martin) to do most of the cost extension calculations in my head, which saved some pain for Dave & Martin who had to do the extensions and totaling for the mountain of inventory sheets that resulted. And of course, working with my father meant "doing the warehouses". For this outside duty, I tried to squirrel away an empty Maytag washer box to sit in with my trusty clipboard, 3 sharpened pencils, fingerless gloves - and a kerosene heater to ward off the frostbite. But it was still brutal.

I hope you're still reading, because what I really wanted to get to is weather and some peoples' insistence on equating it with climate, implying that a stretch of cold temperatures proves that global warming is a hoax. This is pseudo-science at its worst and is either ignorance or deliberate deception. Weather is not climate. In fact, colder colds, hotter hots, more devastating storms, longer droughts are all indicative of a warming planet. The planet is warming, that is indisputable. It can and has been measured. You can claim that human-kind is not the cause, but annual carbon emissions into the atmosphere (measuring ~37 gigatons annually - that's giga as in billion) doesn't really seem prudent.

And a warming planet affects weather. Some truths:
  • Planet warming most affects the poles - reducing ice packs. (you've seen the time-lapse glacier photos)
  • Warmer air accumulates at both poles causing less ice, more water. (see next bullet)
  • Darker surfaces (eg. water vs ice) absorb more heat. (Wear your black t-shirt on an August day)
  • Warmer temps cause increased air pressure. (Blow up a ballon and set it in the sun)
  • Higher polar pressure disrupts the jet stream and allows the cold air to move south. Normally, the jet stream traps the cold air well to the north of Northland. (see NASA photo below, normal on the right)

So the fact that the Carolina's get 5" of snow and Orlando temps are in the 40's; that 2017 saw 10 hurricanes with 3 category 5's (Harvey, Irma, Maria); that there were massive drought related fires in the far west; that 2016 had dramatically above average temperatures for the planet (+1.7°F, an enormous increase); that 2017 experienced record shattering heat-waves in the US, as well as in Europe, India and elsewhere; that coral reefs are dying; and on and on - should be an overdue wakeup call. You, dear reader, probably will not live long enough to see it significantly affect your life - unless you live on a coast or the desert southwest. But consider the world your children and grandchildren will inherit.  

There is hope. Things are happening at the state level. Even an oil-baron dominated state like Texas now gets 17% of its electrical power from wind power. Take a read: NASA's climate change assessment And if you want to be proactive - check out the Citizens' Climate Lobby.

Perhaps we all need to take an inventory.

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Pope County Arcana

The area that became Pope County was acquired by the US in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux in 1851. Traverse des Sioux was a trading post on the Minnesota River near St. Peter.

A large chunk of what is now west-central Minnesota was transferred to the whites excepting a 10 mile strip of land on either side of the Minnesota river, another in a long line of treaty travesties.

The land was opened for settlement by whites in 1854.

General Pope (Napolean pose)
I had always been proud of the name "Pope", after General John Pope, although I confess to envying Grant County residents. As a kid, I was under the impression that Pope was a hero of the Civil War on the Union side. In fact, he Civil War service is mostly remembered for his role in the Union debacle of the 2nd Battle of Bull Run where his attack on the Confederate center was repulsed by General Jackson's forces, winning Thomas Jackson the moniker "Stonewall" Jackson. Pope, not watching his flanks, was attacked by other Confederate forces and the rout was on. General Pope was then banished to the far west of Minnesota where in 1862 a Dakota Indian uprising needed suppressing. Pope was familiar with this western outpost, having participated in 1849 as Captain Pope in a mission of exploration from Fort Snelling west to the Red River and north to Pembina, passing through what would become Pope County on the "Plains Trail" to the Red River. This trail passed just north of Lake Minnewaska. His post-Civil War military career through the 1880's was spent fighting Indian wars against the Apaches and the Sioux.

I now live in Dakota County.

The boundaries of Pope County were established in 1862 and Stockholm (yes Stockholm) in Gilchrist township was designated as the county seat. In 1866 a convention held in Stockholm petitioned the Governor for the organization of Pope County. In 1867, the county seat was moved to Glenwood.

The only trace of a Stockholm in Pope County I could find is a cemetery east of #104 between Sedan and Sunburg.

If anyone has more info, please comment.

The original log cabin which served as the first courthouse in Stockholm is on display at the Pope County Museum. The current courthouse (#4) was constructed in 1930 at the cost of $153,000. This was at the start of the Great Depression. My great-uncle famously stated that ".. if that courthouse ever gets built, I'll be first in line for a marriage license." He remained a life-long bachelor claiming he proposed to every eligible girl in Pope County and was turned down every time. (See Uncle Dave post)

Glenwood was named in 1866 by Kirk J Kinney and Alfred W Lathrop and named for Kinney's former home of Glenwood, NY. The town was platted on the Kinney homestead. The first building was the Kinney & Lathrop General Store.

The first school was established in 1869. In 1894 a private Norwegian Lutheran School, Glenwood Academy was formed. In 1910 this academy consolidated with Park Academy in Fergus Falls, a trend well ahead of its time.

The Carnegie endowed library was opened in 1908. Although it is called "Glenwood Public Library", the by-laws were graciously changed to allow use by all residents of Pope County. This is one of 65 libraries in Minnesota built via Carnegie endowments and one of 24 still operating as a library. (18 have been razed).

Starbuck, at the west end of Lake Minnewaska, was named for William H Starbuck, a New Yorker, who financed the Little Falls and Dakota Railroad and was an official of the Northern Pacific Railway, which was completed through Pope County in 1881. A counter-claim states the city was named after Stabekk, Norway, a community just west of Oslo. Given the preponderance of railroad tycoon named villages in Pope County, I think that's a long-shot, but I'm going with it. The village was platted in 1882 and the first building was a boarding house for the railway workers.

Fron Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church dates from 1888.

Cyrus abt 1920
Cyrus was originally established in 1881 as "Scandiaville". In 1882 , a Northern Pacific branch line from Morris to Little Falls was built which gave the town a depot and spurred development. In 1888 the town's name was changed to Cyrus to avoid confusion with another Minnesota village - Scandia. Apparently the name was taken from Lake Cyrus, south of the town. (For detailed Cyrus history, see here.)

Lowry circa 1910 (MNHS)
Lowry was founded in 1886 (or 87) when the Minneapols, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie railway was extended to what is now the Village of Lowry. Lowry was named for the railroad baron, Thomas Lowry, then president of the "Soo Line" and the man behind the extensive Minneapolis/St. Paul street car system. For early Lowry history see earlier posts. (see Lowry Pioneers and The Town),

Sedan circa 1910 (MNHS)
The village of Sedan was originally called "Fowlds", after James Fowlds, an early settler, but in 1893 the name was changed to Sedan, purportedly for Sedan, France and the battle fought there in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. Seems far-fetched, but I found it on the internet.

Farwell was a stop on the "Soo Line" in 1886, platted as a village in 1887 and incorporated in 1905 with businesses including a hardware, general store and a hotel. The name possibly stems from the Norwegian word "farvel" which translates to "farewell" in English. Seems far-fetched, but I found it on the internet.

Originally Chippewa Falls, the name was changed to Terrace to avoid confusion with Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. The name presumably stems from the terrain of Chippewa Falls township. It was the site of a sawmill in 1871 and as a rare example of a town developing around a mill. Terrace is listed on the National Registry of Historic Sites as the Terrace Mill Historic District .

Villard was established in 1883 and named for Henry Villard, president of the Northern Pacific Railway at the time.

Westport & Grove Lake are too far east to be in Pope County.

Martin Heggestad promised me that he would take me to the metropolis of New Prairie one day and I would be astonished. Never got there tho. It's still on my bucket list.

The most notable landmark in Pope County is Lake Minnewaska: "minne=Water, waska=Good". However, the original Indian name for the lake translated to "Dish Lake", reflecting its basin-like quality. Opinions differ on which side of the lake is more beautiful and whose residents are nicer or more intelligent. Lake Minnewaska's name was changed to White Bear Lake when the Chief was buried on an Indian Mound on the lake's north shore and then to Lake Whipple - after Bishop Whipple of Faribault - and happily back to Minnewaska in 1883 by legislative decree.

Copyright © 2017 Dave Hoplin