Sunday, November 19, 2017

Small Town News

News from our local "fishwrap" comes out weekly so most of the news is at least a few days old, but it is still news to most of us unless you hang out with the morning coffee guys at Buck's Hardware or the Superamerica station. Here is a brief synopsis (is that redundant?) of some stories from the Cook County News Herald.

There is a front page story this week about a meeting at the Hovland (population 272) town hall. The story starts out with, " The inside of a Siberian snowball is warmer than the Hovland town hall was on Thursday, November 9th." The blower on the furnace of the uninsulated structure had to be shut down because the blower was too loud to hear the speakers. It was 8F outside and the building cooled rapidly. The main topic of discussion was to determine what, if anything, should be done to save the crumbling Hovland dock. The dock was a hub of community activity after it was built in 1905. The general consensus was to leave it alone rather than gussy it up as a potential tourist attraction which may in turn become an attractive nuisance.

The Grand Marais Municipal Liquor store was quite profitable in 2016 with total sales of $344.4 million. How could a county of just over 5000 people drink so much? That is over $67,000 for every man, woman, and child that reside here and the average income is less than $37,000 per year. We must have a hell of an influx of summer residents and tourists and all they must do for entertainment is drink!

*Dateline: Later. The 344 million is for the entire state of Minnesota. Out local muni did 2.1 million with a $300 and some thousand profit. No wonder the numbers seemed impossible! That is only $420 for every man, woman, and child. Still, a $420 per year booze allowance for a child is a bad sign.  I stand self-corrected.

The Down Memory Lane column is one of my favorites. Since I remember some of the news from 10 and 20 years ago the more interesting perspectives are from 50 and 90 years ago. From 50 years ago, "A color television disappeared from the lobby at the Lutsen Resort last Friday evening. It was the evening before hunting season and there were a considerable number of people about. A night watchman was also on duty." It is my recollection that color television sets of that era were pretty big and hefty and I'll bet that the municipal liquor store was probably having a good year.

From 90 years ago we have these tidbits. "Helen Hedstrom sprained her thumb in physical education last Tuesday morning." Also, " H.O. Toftey has resigned his position as highway maintenance man at Tofte and is now fishing." Finally, "A man from Creech's camp was examined today before Judge A.V. Johnson as to his sanity and found to be insane." Was it the judge's turn to be examined next?

The leader in Buck's Big Buck contest turned in a deer that weighed 275 pounds dressed. That is a very large dead deer. Typically up here there are as many deer taken with vehicles as there are with guns and bows.

Not much of interest in the "Law Enforcement briefs." Mostly dead deer in the road, cell phone misdials, traffic stop warnings given, and lost hunters.

It looks like Joyne's Ben Franklin is having a 20% off sale for Black Friday. Hopefully, more than last summer's leftover clothing will be on sale.

It is early winter now and the skies have taken on "that look" they get as the days shorten. Click to embiggen.


  1. Wonderful Winter photo. The circle on the water is beautiful.
    Have not seen a Ben Franklin's since I was little. Did not know they were still around.
    I like Small Town News.

    cheers, parsnip

  2. I don't like that look. 12/21 - one month away to longer days! :)

  3. Love those shafts of light in the photos.
    I love reading those Down Memory Lane snippets too. One which has stayed with me talked about a man being charged with malicious wounding - of a church veranda. How I would love to know the story behind that.

  4. Our local paper comes out once a week too. Always an interesting read. Loved reading yours!
    Our skies have taken on that look too. We had our first snow last night.
    Take care.

  5. Jono--Have you ever considered (if you haven't done it already) making one of those photo books (via Shutterfly, for example) for gifts? That photo is gorgeous. (And that's a LOT of booze. Are you throwing the tourists under the bus to hide who the true boozehounds are?

  6. Local news is simpler in most parts than it is here in the big city.

    20 years ago, I lived in Omaha, and the top story on the news one evening was about how someone thought they had heard a dog in a storm drain and so the fire department was called, but it turned out to be two sticks rubbing together.

    That was the top story. In a city of half a million.

  7. Chop up the dock and burn it to heat the hall. Simple!

  8. Oh, there's nothing like a small town newspaper! And $345 million in annual liquor sales in your county of 5000 people? My gawd, everyone in the Grand Marais region must be a boozehound. Or is that just how everyone makes it through the harsh winters?

  9. angryparsnip, Well, there is at least one still around.

    anne marie, I keep the U.S. Navy's official chart of sunrise/sunset time on my desk at work. I am very aware of only four more weeks. :)

    Elephant's Child, The national and international news is scary. It is nice to find some respite here around the edges. I have always loved shafts of light, too.

    Cat Lover, I suspect most small town news is similar. I have subscribed occasionally to small town papers around the country. They are quite personal at times.

    Sioux, I hadn't thought of putting something like that together, but of the thousands of photos I have, there might be enough good ones for a brochure or something. About the booze. I misread and corrected. I guess my reading comprehension ain't what it used to be.

    Harry, As long as everything is quiet at the stockyards what could possibly go wrong in Omaha?

    Bill, There isn't much wood left of the dock, mostly just cribbing. It is probably too wet to burn, but there are big trees right next to the town hall. They may need some thinning.

    Debra, See my correction above, but yeah, it's probably the tourists or aliens, or zombies. With a few new breweries in town and a new distillery starting up next year (by a Canadian entrepreneur) we can all go straight to the source bypassing the liquor store.

  10. What a funny post. I don't think I've spent $400 on liquor in my entire life. I hope Helen recovered from that sprained thumb she got 90 years ago.


  11. sounds like the West News..haha...
    and love that photo

  12. What a beautiful shot of the water, clouds and light. A nice one to catch.

    Your local news, and especially the Down Memory Lane portion (sprained thumb! how personal can you get?), is a welcome change from the headlines in the major papers and on the internet.

  13. Janie, I hope the money you haven't spent on booze has been used wisely. You know, like food, rent, etc. Helen's descendants are still around to tell the story.

    JACKIESUE, I think small town news has some universal stories. Things in the police reports like, "keys were locked in a car."

    jenny_o, Thanks! Those are rare and a bit hard to capture so only a couple per year seem to turn out okay. Small town news is indeed a respite from the headlines.

  14. Our small town paper comes out once a week too, but has recently been incorporated into a huge conglomerate of newspapers, and now there's hardly any local news in it. Lots about the happenings in the larger towns in the area but not much about people here. And don't get me started about advertising!!! I know that newspapers have to make money somehow, but I think less than 5% of the paper is given to cover actual news. Good thing the paper's free cos I definitely wouldn't spend any money on it. OK Time to stop grumbling. I loved your post!!!!! It would take me many years to spend that much at the liquor store.

  15. "...a $420 per year booze allowance for a child is a bad sign". You made me laugh out loud! That does seem remarkably profitable for a liquor store in such a small place.

    Your sky looks ominous indeed. We're into the rainy season here with a vengeance, but even though there's a lot more rain than we need, I'm glad to see it after this summer's drought. But I might change my mind after a few more months of it... :-)

  16. Oh Hall sounds shivering Jono!
    really interesting news ,great fun to read .


    wonderful job indeed ,loved the showring rays through clouds over the water ,absolutely STUNNING!

  17. Shammickite, We have a regional "shopper" newspaper that sounds like yours. An occasional news article, but primarily regional advertising. It comes in the mail whether I want it or not.

    Diane, Yeah, we are raising little booze hounds around here. Don't forget the rain is what makes things so lush and green. Your drought also caused a lot of fires if I recall. Be patient as it will all change again in a few months.

    baili, reading of your life and looking at your photos always warms me up.

  18. They don't even pretend to heat public places in Ukraine, just the private offices, in old Soviet style buildings. No money. Modern businesses are modern in all respects.

    Gorgeous photo.

    I miss small town papers published by a local company. Mrs so and so visited Mrs such and such for tea on Sunday. The Biggar Independent and the Wilkie Press are still published and my brother gets them at the farm as my parents did before him.

  19. ...and the building cooled rapidly... I bet that made for some quick decisions during the meeting. Might not be a bad idea for some work meetings!

    Small town local news is the most entertaining news!