Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Part 2: 150 Minnesota moments we’d just as soon forget


Cars stuck in snow following the Armistice Day blizzard, 1940
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society/Photo by the Minneapolis Star Journal
Cars stuck in snow following the Armistice Day blizzard, 1940

MinnPost’s tribute to Minnesota’s 150 years of statehood continues with 50 more examples of bad weather, wars, a boneheaded decision to drop a cartoon strip and other moments we’d just as soon forget. Part 1 can be found here. The series will conclude Friday, July 4. Lest we forget: Happy Sesquicentennial, Minnesota!

Nov. 11 — The Armistice Day Blizzard kills 49 people in Minnesota after temperatures suddenly plunge from the 60s to zero, winds gust to 32 mph and 16.8 inches of snow fall in 24 hours. (     

The Minnesota Legislature asks the federal government to set up a prisoner-of-war camp to replace the droves of workers joining the military in World War II. About 3,000 POWs were held in 21 camps between 1943 and 1945, according to “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges into Minnesota.”


By the end of World War II, 6,278 Minnesotans lose their lives serving in the war effort.

Carey McWilliams, writing in a 1946 issue of the liberal journal Common Ground, describes Minneapolis as the most anti-Semitic city in the country. At the time, Jews were barred from membership in service clubs and trade unions.   

The Minnesota State Fair is canceled because of a polio epidemic.

Linus and Snoopy, circa 1950
Linus and Snoopy, 1950

Editors at the St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press decide to drop a cartoon strip called “Li’l Folks.” Turns out the cartoonist named Sparky is actually Charles Schulz, who went on to great success with a revised version of the strip called “Peanuts.”


April — More than 2,600 families are evacuated in the Upper Levee and portions of St. Paul’s West Side after the Mississippi River shatters the flood stage record of 19.4 feet set in 1881. This time: 20.4 feet.


By the end of the Korean War, 688 Minnesotans have died in the fighting.

The dismantling begins of one of the world’s largest urban trolley systems with more than 500 miles of track connecting Stillwater with ferry boats on Lake Minnetonka and linking to trains traveling all the way to Northfield. Light rail, anyone?

The removal of trolley tracks near the intersection of Fourth and Wabasha in downtown St. Paul, 1955.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
The removal of trolley tracks near the intersection of Fourth and Wabasha in downtown St. Paul, 1955.

June 9 — A military jet crashes in South Minneapolis, killing six people. Four days earlier, another jet crashed and killed a mother and daughter out for a look at the new Bloomington stadium.
Homes in St. Paul’s Swede Hollow immigrant neighborhood are burned after the city health department declares they are contaminated.

Cincinnati Royals player Maurice Stokes, in a March 12 game against the Lakers at Minneapolis Auditorium, falls hard on a drive to the basket. Days later, Stokes loses consciousness and falls into a coma for weeks. He is left a quadriplegic after being diagnosed with post-traumatic encephalopathy.

Coya Knutson campaigning, circa 1955
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Coya Knutson campaigning, circa 1955

It’s hard to imagine Bill doing this to Hillary: Andy Knutson helps sabotage a third term for his wife, Minnesota’s first congresswoman, Coya Knutson, with the “Coya Come Home” campaign. (PDF p.338)

St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, considered the heart of the black community, is demolished to make way for Interstate 94.

Businessman Bob Short moves the Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles.

Minneapolis Lakers
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Minneapolis Lakers, circa 1950

April 16 — Albert Lea rocker Eddie Cochran, of “Summertime Blues” fame, dies in a taxi accident while on tour in England. He was 21.

Nov. 30 — Novelist Ernest Hemingway undergoes shock treatment for depression at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn. He commits suicide in Idaho a few days after leaving Minnesota. 

Early summer — For the first time, Dutch elm disease is found in Minnesota among trimmed branches of elms in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood.

Demolition of the Metropolitan Building, with its fine wrought-iron interior, begins in Minneapolis.

St. Paul’s most notorious crime case — the murder of Carol Thompson — rocks the couple’s Highland Park neighborhood and inspires a yearlong media frenzy that produces near-daily developments as a botched murder-for-hire case unravels, implicating her husband, T. Eugene Thompson.

June 12 — In their first Minnesota appearance, the Rolling Stones flop badly, drawing only 283 fans to Danceland at Excelsior Park, when a promoter decides not to advertise the concert because of fears the event would produce a new round of fan-driven hysteria similar to Beatle-mania.

Jim Marshall
Minnesota Historical Society
Jim Marshall, circa 1975

Oct. 25 — Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall picks up a fumble but runs the wrong way into the opponent’s end zone. He throws the ball out of bounds, scoring a safety for the San Francisco 49ers.  

May 6 — Two F4 tornadoes hit Fridley, and 13 people die as six tornadoes touch down in the Twin Cities.
For two weeks, St. Paul and Minneapolis are on different times, when the capital city decides to join most of the nation by starting Daylight Saving Time. Minneapolis opts to follow the later date set by state law.

July 19 — Stone-throwing rioters, upset about racism, break windows and set fires along Plymouth Avenue in North Minneapolis.

Sen. Eugene McCarthy on a campaign visit to St. John's University.
Minnesota Historical Society
Sen. Eugene McCarthy on a campaign visit to St. John’s University, 1968.

U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy refuses to stand with Democratic presidential candidate Hubert H. Humphrey at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Super Bowl IV: Kansas City Chiefs, 23; Minnesota Vikings, 7.               

The Monticello Nuclear Power Plant’s tank of radioactive cooling water overflows, eventually reaching the Mississippi River.

Jan. 7 — Pulitzer Prize-winning poet John Berryman, suffering from alcoholism, jumps to his death from the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis.

Jan. 23 — Minnesota Gopher basketball players beat up Ohio State players, hospitalizing their center, Luke Witte. Gopher players Corky Taylor and Rob Behagen are suspended for the remainder of the season.

Virginia Piper
Minnesota Historical Society
Virginia Piper, circa 1975

July 27 — Virginia Piper, wife of a retired investment banker, is kidnapped from her Orono home. The $1 million ransom is paid and she is found in Jay Cooke State Park. Two men are arrested for the crime but eventually acquitted, leaving the case unsolved. Just $4,000 of the ransom money was ever recovered.

Excelsior Amusement Park closes and is demolished.               

Super Bowl VIII: Miami Dolphins, 24; Minnesota Vikings, 7.

Super Bowl IX: Pittsburgh Steelers, 16; Minnesota Vikings, 6.
Nov. 10 — The Edmund Fitzgerald, en route from Duluth to the steel mill on Zug Island, near Detroit, Mich., with a full cargo of taconite, sinks during a massive winter storm on Lake Superior. All 29 aboard are lost.

By the end of the Vietnam War, 1,072 Minnesotans lose their lives.
A heavy January snowstorm damages 325 cars in a pileup on a Minneapolis freeway.

Super Bowl IX: Oakland Raiders, 32; Minnesota Vikings, 14.

June 27 — Duluth heiress Elisabeth Congdon is smothered to death in her bed and her night nurse is bludgeoned to death on the stairway of Glensheen, the 39-room Congdon family mansion in Duluth. Congdon’s son-in-law, Roger Caldwell, is later convicted of the crime. Her adopted daughter Marjorie Caldwell is later accused of planning the murders, but is acquitted.   

Calvin Griffith
Courtesy of MHS
Calvin Griffith attends the World Series, Met Stadium, Bloomington, 1965.

Sept. 29 — Minnesota Twins owner Calvin Griffith makes his infamous speech to members of the Lions Club in Waseca. Among other things, Griffith is quoted as saying, “I’ll tell you why we moved to Minnesota. It was when we found out you only had 15,000 blacks here.”               

The Minnesota Daily publishes its “Christ speaks!” parody issue featuring sexual references, prompting the University of Minnesota administration to try to take back a portion of the Daily’s student-activity fee. A court takes a dim view of the U’s attempt to interfere with the First Amendment.

May 16 — Ming Sen Shiue kidnaps former missionary Mary Stauffer and her 8-year-old daughter, Beth, and holds them for seven weeks. Ming Sen Shiue is apparently seeking revenge for a bad grade Stauffer gave him 15 years earlier at Roseville High School. The mother and daughter are rescued when Stauffer frees herself from a shackle and contacts police. Shiue is later convicted.
November — A rapid accumulation of more than 10 inches of snow causes the roof of the Metrodome to collapse, requiring it to be re-inflated just 48 days after it was inflated for the first time.

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, 1982

Nov. 25-26 — A Thanksgiving weekend fire, set by two juveniles, destroys an entire block of downtown Minneapolis, including the 16-story headquarters of Northwestern National Bank (now Wells Fargo) and the vacant, partially demolished location formerly occupied by Donaldson’s department store, which had recently moved across the street to the new City Center mall. Nobody is injured or killed.

Nov. 6 — Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale of Minnesota loses 49 states, and the election, to Ronald Reagan.

Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro
Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro campaigning in 1984.

Lou Holtz resigns as the coach of the Golden Gophers and goes to Notre Dame.

Jan. 25 — Three Gopher basketball players are arrested on rape charges in Madison, Wis. The University of Minnesota forfeits the game; Coach Jim Dutcher quits in protest and all players are eventually acquitted.               

Joe Niekro, the knuckleball pitcher with the Minnesota Twins, is ejected in the fourth inning of an 11-3 game against the California Angels after umpires find an emery board in his pocket. He is suspended for 10 games.               
Jacob Wetterling of St. Joseph is kidnapped by a masked gunman and has yet to be found. In 1994, the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, more simply known as the Jacob Wetterling Act, is passed in his honor. It’s the first law to institute a state sex-offender registry.

June 13 — Lightning strikes during the U.S. Open Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, killing one spectator and injuring five others.

Next: The bad weather continues in 1991, what with the Halloween blizzard and the wooden head of Paul Bunyan’s wife being sliced off in a windstorm.

Did we miss an event? Please feel free to send a “Minnesota moment we’d just as soon forget” to comments below. Reference sources are much appreciated.

150 Minnesota moments we’d just as soon forget: Part 1 | Part 3

Credits: This concept can be blamed on News Editor Casey Selix, but she could not have compiled the list without the wit and wisdom of reporters Doug Grow, David Hawley, Joe Kimball and David Brauer. Nor could the list have been executed without the brilliant expertise and contributions of Web Editor Corey Anderson, News Editor Don Effenberger, Co-Managing Editor Susan Albright and Office Manager Virginia Kujawa.

Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Ed Stych on 07/03/2008 - 11:47 am.

    LOL … Reagan has been proven to be a very good president and you put his victory on this list.

    And in regards to “Christ Speaks,” yes I understand the First Amendment angle, but I had a fleeting moment where I thought the wish-we-could-forget moment was going to be the disgraceful treatment of the Lord by a bunch of immature college students. As usual, I was wrong.

  2. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 07/03/2008 - 10:01 am.

    2008- Gas climbs over $4 a gallon – DFL announce “mission accomplished.”

  3. Submitted by John Sherman on 07/03/2008 - 10:28 am.

    The 1965 entries of tornadoss and the day light savings dispute ignored a major flood on the Mississippi. All three of the events together created the basis fopr the following question.

    Q. Who is Minnesotan?

    A. A Minnesota is someone with water in his basement, no roof over his head and doesn’t know what time it is?

    All in all the spring of 1965 was an interesting time.

  4. Submitted by Patrick Coleman on 07/03/2008 - 03:49 pm.

    Thanks for the fun idea MinnPost although too many of the sports moments seem trivial to me. How ’bout the 1890 Sea Wing disaster on Lake Pepin? Almost 100 people died when an excursion boat flipped? I would also nominate two dirty political campaigns as moments to forget: the red baiting and anti-Semitic 1938 gubernatorial race between Elmer Benson and Harold Stassen and the phony charge in 1962 by Rolvaag against Elmer L. Andersen involving work being done on Highway 35.

  5. Submitted by Susan Lesch on 07/03/2008 - 06:48 pm.

    1971: Harry Davis agreed to run for mayor of Minneapolis. His family was threatened daily. The police department guarded their home. The FBI loaned them guard dogs. Better to remember than forget this.

    Source: Harry Davis, Twin Cities Public Television

    1869-1870: Tunnel construction under Saint Anthony Falls collapsed. The recovery effort may have saved Minneapolis industry including its mills but it also changed what was the only natural major waterfall on the Mississippi River into man-made or artificial waterfalls.

    Source: Wikipedia

  6. Submitted by Casey Selix on 07/05/2008 - 10:31 am.

    Dear Readers:
    Good thing we asked you for suggestions. We’ll look into the flooding of 1965 (see 1952 entry), the Sea Wing disaster, the threats on the mayor and the Saint Anthony Falls tunnel construction.

    Entries from the late 1800s and early to mid-1900s are very much appreciated. Perhaps you’ve noticed that part 3’s 50 entries came in the span of 17-18 years?

    As always, sources of information are quite helpful.

    Keep those ideas coming. In the next week or so, as we verify the suggestions, you’ll see some tinkering with the list.

  7. Submitted by Steve Peterson on 08/07/2008 - 10:14 am.


    October 14th – Minnesota Twin lost their first World Series appearance to the L.A. Dodgers 4 games to 3.

  8. Submitted by Patrick Donnelly on 08/29/2008 - 03:02 pm.

    1949 — Slayton, the deadliest two-car crash in U.S. history kills 12 young Minnesotans:

  9. Submitted by Lisa Steele on 09/05/2008 - 02:20 pm.

    In the moments Minnesota would like to forget section, the fact that Ming Sen Shiue murdered a six year old boy should have been mentioned. He is still in jail today for that murder.

  10. Submitted by Roger Pollack on 11/14/2008 - 04:28 pm.

    MinnPost can’t determine which year Super Bowl IX was played in, so they go with 1975 AND 1977.

    Super Bowl IX: Pittsburgh Steelers, 16; Minnesota Vikings, 6.

    Super Bowl IX: Oakland Raiders, 32; Minnesota Vikings, 14.

Leave a Reply