Hi! Throat-clearing introduction with some useless observations about the weather, and how it's now Tuesday. Done? Done.

Some backstory on this piece in the paper. It’s one of my fortnightly then-and-now architectural archeology features. I pick a picture at random from the 1960 Survey Project, and tell the story of the block. Here’s the old view:

Seedy and run-down. Bumtown. The Grand Theater, which was not, was something of a mystery; none of my reference books on Twin Cities movie-theater history mention it. Then I thought ah ha, cinema treasures.org, and there it was. There were five comments, and the last one mentioned something intriguing: it had a glass screen. A big glass screen with rear projection. The comment mentioned the brand and size of the lens on the projector. The author of the comment said he’d worked there as the projectionist in 1958.

Whoa. The comment was seven years old.

I looked at the user name, and reverse-engineered a real name, because it sounded like he’d compressed his moniker. Did a search using some variations, and came up with a guy in Florida who was 81, and had previous residences in Minneapolis and northern Minnesota. I figure: could be.

There’s a number and an address. I call it. dee dee dee, the number you have dialed is no longer in service. Damn. Go back, check the list of people to whom he’s connected. (This is one of those sites that dribbles out a little info and charges money for the details.) There’s a female name; the age is right for a daughter; the location is the same town in Florida. No phone, but there’s a connected person with the same first name and same age: married name, I presume. Different phone - but same address.

I call the number. A man answers. I ask for the woman’s name.

“That’s my daughter,” he says with immediate vehemence. “What do you want her for?”

I say well, as it turns out, I want you, and I give my name. Calling from the StarTribune newspaper. I have a question about a movie theater where you worked, the Grand.

Pause. With unexpected vituperence:

“You’re not one of those jerk kids who want to build a clay model of the Terrace theater, are you?”

“Noooo, I’m not. The Terrace is beyond saving.”

“I know! They tore it down! And now these kids want to build a clay model.”

I have the right guy. But what the hell.

“How did you get my number?”

I explain that I figured it out from a comment he left on a website seven years ago.

“Who are you? What is this about?”

I explain. And eventually, I hear him relax. I don’t blame him. It was an odd thing to happen. So I start asking questions about the old movie theaters; he’d worked them all downtown. Every one of them.

And he had absolutely nothing to say about any of them because his entire experience had consisted of sitting in a hot box reading books and magazines while the movie played. That was it.

“I had to sit through The Sound of Music for six months,” he said. But I got a few quotes about the Gopher, and that was enough. I thanked him and told him that if I saw the jerk kids trying to make a clay model of the Terrace I’d tell them to leave off already.”

“They keep asking questions about the management. I’m not going to talk out of school!”

I hung up exhausted. And then I wondered: who are the jerk kids?



1915: time for all the old patriotic tropes.

Lucky him! He'll get all the girls now.

I'm guessing he doesn't come back with mustard-gas damage, since this is the start of the war when everyone was still excited.

The war effort cranked up fast, and everyone did their part:

Let us print your address and tell everyone there are no men in the house anymore!



1953. England. What did they have to buy and sell?

Hardly have father’s thoughts turned yearningly to boyhood, when the world was simple and kind, and mother would bring hot chocolate -

Okay, this is a coincidence

In England in 1953, it went by the attractive name of “Soluble Coffee Product,” which was blunt, honest, and unsentimental.

The child is wearing a tie. As one did.

What . . . oppression of youth. THIS HORRIBLE WORLD MUST BE DESTROYED



Meanwhile, back in the old Colonial Spirit:

You too can imagine yourself a member of the Explorers Club, smoking one gasper after the other, regaling everyone about the thrashing you had to give one of the bearers.


American-type cigarette? Don’t know. Fine print: “leave seal intact tear here to expose a few cigarettes

They had to tell them that?

Now it gets peculiar. Searching around for the brand, I can find only Waldorf-Astoria-Zigarettenfabrik, a German company. The “Astoria” part was a tribute to John Jacob Astor (b. 1763), the richest man in America. For a while. Then he died. A latter Astor, William Waldorf Astor, built the Waldorf Hotel; his cousin (and rival!) John Astor IV built the Astoria right next door. They merged in 1897.

BUT. The cigarette company’s “Waldorf” name was a reference to Waldorff, the town where John Jacob Astor was born. So the hotel’s name is, more or less, Fargo-Lileksy.

BUT. The owner of the cigarette company, who had nothing to do with Astor, wanted a school for his employee’s children.

The first school based upon Steiner's ideas was opened in 1919 in response to a request by Emil Molt, the owner and managing director of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company in Stuttgart, Germany, to serve the children of employees of the factory.

We have a Waldorf school in Minneapolis. I had no idea where the name came from.

  You can pick one up on eBay for a fiver.
  Here they are, in color! Thank you internet.



The artist is either instantly familiar, or not:


Searle aside, look at that logo: BP is a trademark of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. There’s a story.

For half a century, profit from the company flowed into European hands. Not only did the British government own a majority share but revenue that Iran did receive was used to re-pay debts owed to European creditors, which earlier shahs had incurred.

As for the cartoon, Searle was just coming off a series of cartoon books about a girl’s public school, and had embarked - reluctantly - on a new one about a boy’s school.

Nigel is a schoolboy at St Custard's, a fictional (and terrible) prep school located in a carefully unspecified part of England. It is ruled with an iron fist by Headmaster Grimes (BA, Stoke-on-Trent), who is constantly in search of cash to supplement his income and has a part-time business running a whelk stall.

Whelks are snails.

Oh, pinking? Think “pinging.” Think “knocking.” Think “No-Knock gas.”


Still around:

In 1881, the Fishermen’s Mission (also known as the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen – RNMDSF) began its work by going out in a fleet of boats under the banner of ‘Preach the Word, Heal the Sick’ offering food and medical supplies. We met with fishermen while they worked, trying to alleviate the terrible conditions on board.

Last year, the site says,

• Helped 152 children of Fishermen
• Last year we visited 4,861 fishing boats and had meetings with 2,452 Fishermen
• 8,054 welfare visits
• 221 fishermen helped after an emergency at sea


Pelmanism! You too can be Pelmanesque:


Nice little day in the countryside dressed all proper and such


Well, for a cigarette, what else would?

Here’s the magazine from which these ads were taken.

It was assumed that the waterfall in question may have been, at one point, British territory. And assumed that it wasn't any more. Those days were over.

Lack of bloody Pelmanism, that's what it was.

That'll do; see you around. Some more Frank! There's no end to his brilliance.



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