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Why New York Mayor Bloomberg won’t be coming to Minnesota

Al Eisele
MinnPost illustration by Hugh Bennewitz
Al Eisele

Even though I helped persuade Mikhail Gorbachev to come to Minnesota in 1990, I’m sorry to say I can’t do the same for the current mayor of New York City in 2012.

Not that I blame Michael Bloomberg, because I know he’s dealing with almost as many problems as the last president of  the Soviet Union had when his Communist empire was falling into the dustbin of history more than 20 years ago. But I thought Hizzoner might welcome the opportunity to get out of Gotham for a spell and learn about rural America.

I invited Mayor Bloomberg to visit my hometown of Blue Earth on June 16 to help dedicate the installation of one of the thousands of art deco lampposts designed by New York industrial designer and Blue Earth native Donald Deskey, many of which still stand on Fifth Avenue and all over New York City.

Deskey, as I explained in a letter to Bloomberg, was born in Blue Earth in 1894 and died in 1989, and was one of the nation’s leading industrial designers. Among other things, he designed the interior of Radio City Music  Hall; dozens of familiar household products such as the Crest toothpaste tube, and furniture. He was also an accomplished painter.

But Deskey was best known for his art deco extruded aluminum lampposts that were installed by the thousands on New York City streets between 1958 and 1980. In fact, Mayor Bloomberg can see the first one from his office, at Broadway and Murray near City Hall Park.

Some wearing out, being replaced

Deskey LamppostForgotten New York/Greater Astoria Historical SocietyNYC's first Donald Deskey lamppost

Because I knew Deskey was from Blue Earth, when I read in the New York Times last July that many of his lampposts were wearing out and being replaced, I contacted the New York Public Works Department, acquired one of the discarded ones and had it shipped to Blue Earth, where it was recently installed on Main Street.

The Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce and Faribault County Historical Society are dedicating the Deskey lamppost on June 16, so I invited Mayor Bloomberg, along with former Vice President Walter Mondale – who grew up 10 miles from Blue Earth and for whom I once worked – along with Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Gov. Mark Dayton and Rep. Tim Walz, who represents the congressional district that includes Blue Earth.

However, I explained that there was a more personal reason for my interest in Deskey. On the day I was born in June, 1936, my late mother, Susan Frawley Eisele, was named the nation’s outstanding rural newspaper columnist by New York-based Country Home Magazine, for her column in the Fairmont Sentinel. The award included a trip to New York and Washington, which she took in August, bringing me and my nurse with her.

During her visit to New York, she was treated as a celebrity. We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, and she was interviewed by all the New York newspapers. Syndicated columnists Walter Winchell, Westbrook Pegler and Dorothy Kilgallen wrote columns about her, and Winchell even asked her to guest edit his column. She also met with Deskey, as well as the daughter of President Franklin Roosevelt, and with one of Bloomberg’s most famous predecessors, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. (When she was in Washington, she was supposed to meet Roosevelt, but ironically, he was in Minnesota for the funeral of Gov. Floyd B. Olson.)

'We have plenty of babies'

In my letter to Mayor Bloomberg, I enclosed an article from the August 24, 1936, New York American (“Mayor Yearns to be Columnist”), with a photograph of Mayor LaGuardia presenting my mother with a 5-foot-long pencil in recognition of her column, titled “With a Penny Pencil.” When my mother told LeGuardia she had not seen many babies in New  York, he replied, “Oh, we have plenty of babies. That is one thing we haven’t any depression on.”

I included a copy of an article from the May 17, 1990, New York Times about my role in bringing Gorbachev to Minnesota, and articles from the 1936 New York newspapers, including the Aug. 24, 1936, New York Times (“Rural Journalist Not Awed By City”) and Herald American  (‘Lights of City Fail to Dazzle Rural Writer)” with a photo of my mother holding me. I also sent Bloomberg a copy of my recent article in Commonweal magazine about another New Yorker with ties to Minnesota, Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer, who designed the world-famous church at St. John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville.

And while I noted that my hometown doesn’t have any skyscrapers, I promised that if the mayor found time in his busy schedule to honor Donald Deskey and Blue Earth with his presence, I’d show him the 60-foot statue of the Green Giant on the edge of town on Interstate 90.

But the mayor’s office just informed me that he can’t come to Minnesota in mid-June because he’ll be dealing with budget problems. Too bad. I could see the headline, “From the Big Apple to Blue Earth,” instead of “Mayor Bloomberg to Blue Earth: Drop Dead.”

Maybe I’ll invite Mikhail Gorbachev, since he doesn’t seem to have a lot to do these days.

Albert Eisele is editor-at-large and founding editor of The Hill, a newspaper that covers Congress, and author of a dual biography of Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy.

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