Travels & Traditions: Twin Cities - #203

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): It was Mark Twain who first called Minneapolis and St. Paul “The Twin Cities,” but they are clearly not identical twins. St. Paul was born first. In 1840 a bootlegging saloonkeeper started a settlement that he called “Pig’s Eye.”  About a year later, a priest by the name of Lucian Galtier arrived, built a church and dedicated it to St. Paul. The citizens recognized an opportunity for a brilliant public relations move, and they changed the name of the area from Pig’s Eye to St. Paul.

There were twenty-nine miles of Mississippi shoreline with two spots that dropped down from the cliffs and formed perfect landings for riverboats. The area soon became a center for fur trading and logging. Easterners arrived, followed by European immigrants from Germany, Scandinavia and Ireland.

In 1858 the territory of Minnesota became a state, and St. Paul became the capital.  St. Paul likes to hold on to its heritage.  It preserves and refurbishes its old buildings.  Many of the structures date back for over a hundred years.

The population of St. Paul is about 275,000 but it has managed to hold on to the charm of a small town.  Grand Avenue is a shopping street, but the shops are tucked into old houses that give the neighborhood a friendly hometown feeling.

The historical heart of the area, however, has always been the river. The Native American Dakota called the area “the place where the waters meet,” a reference to the spot where the Mississippi and the Minnesota Rivers come together. You can enjoy a ride on those waters by taking a trip with the Padelford Packet Boat Company.  It’s Minnesota’s oldest and largest riverboat company and was founded by Captain William Bowell, whose ancestors came to America in 1630.  For hundreds of years the river has been the primary means of transportation, and the route for all commerce and communication. It’s interesting to explore the mighty Mississippi in the state where it begins.

One of the structures that you can see from the river is the Cathedral of St. Paul.   It’s built on one of the city’s highest hills, and dominates the skyline.

REVEREND JOHN ESTREM:  Well, the dome is one of the great features of this cathedral, and of all classical Renaissance buildings.  The large dome allows for a large inside space.  But the dome itself is to be a portal into heaven, the idea of it, and that’s why it is so richly painted with the gold leaf and the beautiful windows and the bright colors -- to draw our eyes up into the dome, as a way to see into heaven.

When a particular church is also the home of a local bishop it will house the bishop’s chair, which is known in Latin as a cathedra, and that marks the church as a cathedral. Simple:  a church with a bishop’s chair is a cathedral, no matter how big or small the building.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): As it is in most cities, the saintly citizens of St. Paul were balanced by a fair number of sinners. During the early years of the 20th Century, Andrew Volsted, a U.S. Congressman from Minnesota, was the head of the anti-alcohol movement in the United States.  He actually helped draft the the legislation that became the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which forbade the importation, manufacture, or distribution of alcoholic beverages.  Strangely, though, it didn’t say anything about the consumption of alcoholic beverages.  So I guess if you had it, you could drink it.

The amendment was passed in 1919 and repealed in 1933 -- and during those years it did more to encourage criminal behavior than anything ever produced by drinking in moderation.  During the 1930’s St. Paul became a safe haven for gangsters, and as part of St. Paul’s appreciation of its past, both good and bad, it displays that part of its history.

“EDNA MURRAY”  (CYNTHIA SCHREINER):  Well, it was the newspapers that named me “The Kissing Bandit...”

Allow me to introduce you to the notorious Edna Murray.

EDNA MURRAY:  ...We had a very clever way of robbing people.  A truck would stop at a stoplight, I would jump in and start kissing the driver all over, make him very happy, while my boyfriend would go in the back and empty everything out, you see.  And then the driver would drive away, very happy, never knowing he had been robbed until he got to where he was going, and by then my boyfriend and I were long gone, nobody got hurt.

BURT WOLF:   And how did St. Paul end up as a safe haven for gangsters?

EDNA MURRAY:  Well, for that you have to go back to the year 1900; the St. Paul Police Department had a Chief by the name of John “The Big Guy” O’Connor, and he had a brother, Richard “The Cardinal” O’Connor, who was an alderman and the head of the Democratic Party here in St. Paul.  And they decided that it was not very fiscally responsible to be spending all this money on catching gangsters.  So they came up with what they called “The O’Connor Layover System.”  That would be a little deal they entered with the gangsters, you see, whereas if they came to St. Paul and abided by three simple little rules, they would not get arrested, extradition papers from other police departments would mysteriously get lost, the FBI would not be very cooperated with, you know, things like that.  So the three rules -- okay:  Number One:  Do not commit any crime within the city limits of St. Paul.  Go over to Minneapolis all you want.  We do not care.  Number Two:  Give us a little kickback to the Policeman’s Fund.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Number Three:  Check in with us, tell us where you’re staying so we can call you and warn you.  Very efficient; in fact, you were so safe that if a pursesnatcher would, like, steal your purse, the gangsters would come up and they would go and kind of roust the pursesnatcher and say, “Look -- do not mess with our town.  The police might think it was us that robbed that cute little old lady’s purse. So St. Paul was a very safe place for the average citizen to be.

A safe haven of a very different sort is The St. Paul Hotel. In the early 1900s the leading industrialists of the city decided that St. Paul needed a first class hotel.  They built it facing Rice Park, which is at the center of the city. Across the way is the Ordway Music Theater, the Landmark Center and the St. Paul Public Library, with the James J. Hill Collection, the largest business reference library in the U.S.

The hotel’s St. Paul Grill is one of the best restaurants in town. The executive chef is Andre Halston. I worked with Andre years ago when he was in Toronto and it’s a pleasure to have him cooking for me again. Did I mention that I love my job?

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I ordered directly off the menu, but only those items which were reflective of the gastronomic traditions of the area.

First up is pan-fried walleye pike in a pecan sauce with Minnesota wild rice.  Walleye is the official state fish of Minnesota; it’s the largest member of the perch family. Hash brown potatoes with bacon and onions... I also liked the salmon with a knockout seven-flavor barbecue sauce.  For dessert, apple crisp -- Granny Smith apples, brown sugar, a touch of molasses, streusel mixture on top.  And finally, the irresistible chocolate turtle tart -- a pecan and butter crust, chocolate ganache, caramel and chocolate sauces.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): St. Paul is a government center devoted to the no-frills, straightforward preservation of its past.  Walleye pike, wild rice, hash brown potatoes -- the down-home gastronomy of its past. That’s St. Paul on a plate. Minneapolis, on the other hand, is about Big Business and the immediate introduction of everything that is new.

In 1680, a Franciscan missionary by the name of Father Louis Hennepin was traveling up the Mississippi, trying to find its source, when his forward motion was halted by the only waterfall on the Mississippi. He named it St. Anthony Falls. Waterfalls are a powerful source of energy, the kind of energy that can power industry. Minneapolis grew up around these falls, and used the waterpower to run mills, mills that ground wheat and made Minneapolis the flour milling capitol of America.

One of the first millers to tap into the power of St. Anthony Falls was Charles Pillsbury, whose “A” Mill set the standard for innovation and efficiency.  Today the company is headquartered in Minneapolis, and has over 16,000 employees and sales of over six billion dollars.

PAT BOONE:  “A cake could make a family’s dreams come true.”

But for most Americans, Pillsbury’s most famous undertaking is the Pillsbury Bake-Off. It was first held in 1949 and the changes that have taken place in the contest clearly reflect the changes that have taken place in American society. The Bake-Off is a slice of life in which you can see what is happening to the nation.

The first contest was held to mark the return of family life after the Second World War. Eleanor Roosevelt was the guest of honor. The economic boom of the 50s was a return to “the good life” and the recipes were rich and sweet. One of the most famous recipes in 1951 was French Silk Chocolate Pie.

The 60s and 70s were marked by a rising divorce rate, single parent families, women returning to the workforce, attending college, and building careers.  The theme of the Bake-Off in 1966 was “Busy Lady.”

PAT BOONE:  Well, why don’t they call this the “Busy-Ladies-And-Three-Men-And-Five-Boys Bake-Off?”

MARILYN VANDERBURG:  Oh Pat, everyone knows it’s a woman’s world.

One of the prize-winning recipes was the Tunnel of Fudge Cake, with only six ingredients.

The 80s and 90s saw the return of fancy desserts and cakes, but they were being made as entertainment. Cooking had become a hobby, a sport, something people did to relax. And for the first time, men and teenagers were winners. The changing ethnicity of the nation was reflected in the Bake-Off -- Mexican, Italian, Middle Eastern and Indian recipes were part of the mix. Two of the winners were Spicy Cuban Stir-Fry and Salsa Couscous Chicken.

In 1949 the first prize was --

ART LINKLETTER:  $25,000 in cash...”

The prize today?

AUDIENCE:  “One Million Dollars!!!”

Minneapolis is filled with tall buildings. As a matter of fact, one of the city’s early architects thought he had invented the tall building and actually held a patent for what he called a Cloud scraper.  Today, Minneapolis strives for a fashionable, urban and dynamic style.

Almost one hundred buildings in Minneapolis can be reached through the five-mile-long Skyway system, a series of glass-covered passages that run from building to building on the second floor level.  It gives the city an entire second street level, with shops, department stores and restaurants. And the weather is always perfect.

Minneapolis even organizes a series of winter holiday parades called “Holidazzle.”  They start on the evening after Thanksgiving and take place every night at 6:30 until December 23rd.  Floats covered with thousands of tiny lights... marching bands... storybook characters... and the grandstand seats are heated.

Minneapolis has a long-standing reputation for encouraging artistic achievement.  In 1963 British theater director Tyrone Guthrie created an American regional theater company in Minneapolis. He came here specifically because of the city’s support for its arts community. The Guthrie Theater has become internationally famous for its creativity.

Next to the Guthrie is the Walker Art Center.  It’s one of the nation’s most important museums.  It was founded by lumber baron T.B.Walker.  Its permanent collection is devoted to contemporary art from around the world, and it is a mandatory stop for important traveling exhibitions.

Both buildings face out on the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which is the largest urban sculpture garden in the country:  eleven acres with more than forty modern sculptures, including the town’s official favorite -- Spoonbridge and Cherry.

Minneapolis is also the home of the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices. It is a collection of bogus machines that claim to cure everything from baldness and obesity to bashfulness and tired blood.

ROBERT McCOY:   Burt, come over here and try a treatment in Dr. Kellogg’s Vibrating Chair...

Many of the devices were sent to the museum by the American Medical Association and the federal  Food and Drug Administration.

ROBERT McCOY:  Now, hold onto these handles...

Others have been acquired by Robert W. McCoy, who is the founder and curator of this unusual establishment.

ROBERT McCOY:  Are you ready for this?

BURT WOLF:   I don’t know...!

ROBERT McCOY:  What’s your name?

BURT WOLF (vibrating):   Myyyyyy naaaaaaaaammeeee issssssss...

ROBERT McCOY:  You don’t know.

BURT WOLF (vibrating):  “Iiiitt haaaad toooo beeeeee yoooooooooouuuu... laaa daa daa da daaaaaaaaaaaaaah....”

BURT WOLF (normally, after the machine is turned off):   This was invented by Dr. Kellogg, the same Kellogg from the cereals?

ROBERT McCOY:   Yes, it was.  Dr. Kellogg was married forty-two years, but never consummated his marriage because he was opposed to the loss of sperm.   

BURT WOLF:   Uh-huh.  And he thought this machine was okay?

ROBERT McCOY:   I guess so!  (Laughing)

BURT WOLF:   What else have we got?

 ROBERT McCOY:   Burt, you’re sitting in an antique phrenology machine that’s gonna measure the shape of your head and print out a paper tape and tell all about your personality.  Your sexual enthusiasm is still way too high on this reading...

BURT WOLF:   Uh-oh...

ROBERT McCOY:  I’ll set this radio for the same frequency as your saliva and turn on this long-distance transmitter to send healing rays by radio.

BURT WOLF:   Now what does this do?

ROBERT McCOY:  Burt, this is a MacGregor Rejuvenator; it’s gonna use infrared, ultraviolet, magnetism, and silent radio waves to reverse the aging process.  How long should I set it to?

BURT WOLF:   How about three months?  How long will it take to bring me to about thirty-eight?

ROBERT McCOY:  We don’t have that much time.

BURT WOLF:   Do you ever think that you’re gonna run out of new stuff?

ROBERT McCOY:  Well, I don’t think I’ll run out of things, because there are a lot of inventive people, and they’re trying to cook up things because the America public is awful gullible.  And there’s no limit as to the things that they can fall for.   There’s no way to cure people of gullibility.

BURT WOLF:   If I was a tourist coming to the Twin Cities area for the first time... what should I see?

GOVERNOR JESSE VENTURA:  Well, I would say first thing would be Mall of America.  It’s so close to the airport, about ten minutes at the most, and it’s a remarkable place to visit.  Bring your credit card, bring your cash, because you’re gonna enjoy yourself there.

Since the Mall of America opened in Bloomington, Minnesota in 1992, it has attracted over forty million visitors per year, which is more than Disney World, the Grand Canyon and Graceland put together.  It is a huge four-level rectangle covering over four million square feet.  Each corner is anchored by a major department store:   Macy’s, Nordstrom, Sears, and Bloomingdale’s.

The first three floors are dedicated to over five hundred retail outlets.

And there are more than fifty different places to eat.

We had lunch in the Twin City Grill, that serves local specialties and is decorated with Twin City memorabilia.

The top level is for nightclubs and movies.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): And in the center of the mall is the Camp Snoopy theme park. . . .  St. Paul, by the way, is Snoopy’s hometown. Charles Schulz, the creator of Snoopy, and Linus, and Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang was born in St. Paul, and the “Peanuts” strip ran for the very first time in 1947, right here in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

There are also things to amuse grownups, including an 18-hole miniature golf course... and the Y2K version of “bumper cars.”

DAVID SAUTER:  Well, you’re at NASCAR Silicon Motor Speedway, the most realistic NASCAR simulators in the world right now.

For just a few dollars you and fourteen other daredevils can race each other on an amazingly realistic motor speedway -- and what you do really does affect the other drivers in the race.

BURT WOLF:   Sorry...  All right, I hit the wall, okay?  I’m new at this!

After the checkered flag, you get a detailed printout of your race.

BURT WOLF:   Well, Dave, how’d I do? 

DAVID SAUTER:  Here you are, Burt.

BURT WOLF:   Wow.  So I was nineteenth out of fifteen.

DAVID SAUTER:  That’s correct, yeah.

BURT WOLF:   Boy, that’s amazing.  Who are the other four guys that are cheating on me?  And, um... when is the parallel parking class?

DAVID SAUTER:  That’s every Wednesday at 3 PM.

BURT WOLF:   I’m gonna be here.  That I can do.  I can park.  I grew up in the city, I know how to park...

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): People come to shop here from all over the world, over a hundred thousand every day. There are even airline packages that will fly you in, put you up for a couple of days of shopping, and send you home with slightly more overweight than you planned on.

Things are very well-organized.  A woman comes into the mall... drops her kids off at the Child Care area, where they play... drops her husband off at the Sports Bar, where he watches the Vikings... and heads into the mall, where she drops a few bucks.  There’s a store devoted to walking gear, which makes sense -- the average mall-shopper here covers over two miles per visit.

And beneath it all there is Underwater World, filled with 1.2 million gallons of water, three thousand sea creatures, and educational experts to tell you what you’re looking at. It will take you through the Boundary Waters National Park, an ice-covered Minnesota lake, the bottom of the Mississippi River, and a coral reef.   

For me, the most surprising establishment in the mall is the Chapel of Love.

MARYANNE LONDON:  Putting a wedding chapel in a mall was interesting and exciting to me.  We started with a chapel and we started with accessories, and we were the largest suppliers of wedding accessories of any store in the country.  And that was five years ago.

BURT WOLF:   The Wedding Sneaker.  You don’t see a lot of these anymore.

MARYANNE LONDON:  We asked our brides over the course of time what it was that we didn’t have, and they all said, “you don’t have gowns and you don’t have shoes,” and so we moved to a new location and added gowns and shoes.  What’s fun about the chapel here is that we don’t do things the way everybody else does ‘em.   Like the gowns that we carry, our most expensive gown is eight hundred dollars.  Most of our gowns are in the four hundred dollar range.  We don’t have all the “way things used to be” to compare to, so I’m just learning as I go along and really, we spend a lot of time listening to our customers. ... We do about nine weddings a week, about 450 a year, and our average wedding is about three hundred and fifty dollars, so it’s very affordable, very romantic, very beautiful.

MINISTER:  The wedding rings are an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace of an almighty, all-loving God.  It signifies to everyone God’s love that surrounds you, and the love you share not only on this day, but forever...

MARYANNE LONDON:  Actually, our weddings are pretty traditional.  It surprised me, when we started I thought that we would do all civil ceremonies here, but actually what we do is about ninety-five percent Christian ceremonies, and I think what it is that when people actually come to exchanging vows, they want that spiritual environment, but if they don’t have a church, or they can’t get the church, this is a great option for them.

MINISTER:  Those whom God has joined together, let no one separate.  In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, God’s blessings strengthen and keep you each and every day.  Amen.

Of course, it makes perfectly good sense:   perform the ceremony, receive your gifts, and start shopping -- all in an hour.  An American tradition, executed in its most efficient form.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Well, that’s a brief look at St. Paul preserving its past... Minneapolis building its business... and Bloomington aiding you with your acquisitions.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and I hope you will join us next time on TRAVELS AND TRADITIONS.  I’m Burt Wolf.