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Posts about Minnesota newsmakers

From the Strib's archives: Meet Ms. Holly Bell

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: March 20, 2015 - 12:11 PM

On September 30, 1965, Jerry Kirshenbaum, a Minneapolis Tribune staff writer, was filling in for George Grim’s popular “I Like It Here” column. Grim was on “foreign assignment.”

Longtime Dayton’s shoppers will be familiar with the column’s subject: Holly Bell, the store’s unseen and unflappable Answer Lady, and her first months on the job.

In 1965, a phone minus a rotary dial – actually, 38 of them -- were distributed throughout the nine floors of Dayton's flagship Nicollet Avenue store. It was quite the innovation, a low-tech version of “there’s an app for that.”

Here’s the story:

Holly Bell, the shopper’s helper at Dayton’s, is a lot like Santa Claus in that neither pays any income tax.

Therefore, neither is real.

Miss Bell, as friends call her, was invented last Thanksgiving by Mrs. Mary Christensen, Dayton’s special projects coordinator, as a way to traffic the department store’s Christmas shopping rush.

The problem: Shoppers were getting lost in Dayton’s labyrinth of departments.

“We were using painted arrows pointing to departments,” Mrs. Christensen confied. “It got confusing. Dayton’s is ‘L’-shaped, and it’s often hard to negotiate without a map.”

The solution: Special telephones were installed at 38 locations inside the store, each phone lettered, “Holly Bell Will Help You Find It.” The way it worked, the shopper reached for one of the hotlines to Holly and asked where lampshades were hidden.

“On the 6th floor, in the 7th and Nicollet part of the store,” Miss Bell replied, simple as that.

Mrs. Christensen appropriated the name for the new service from a Holly Bell doll she designed and sold by mail order years ago. The service was supposed to be abandoned after Dayton’s Christmas rush was over.

But it worked so well, it was retained. Now, 10 months later, Holly Bell answers between 5,000 and 12,000 queries a week. To handle as many calls, she has to have 24 hands.

All 12 Holly Bells work part time. Most are former Dayton’s employees brought out of retirement for the purpose. “Many of them grew up in the store and feel grateful to be needed again,” said Mrs. Christensen.

From two to five women serve at any one time at phone consoles on the 11th floor. They know the store intimately, and each has at her fingertips detailed department and brand name guidebooks.

Even so, some questions are more difficult to field than others. “How do I find an ironing board cover?” That’s an easy one. “Holly Bell, will you go out with me Saturday night?” That’s not so easy.

Several Holly Bells confided a still tougher question they get asked know and then, namely, “How do I get to Donaldson’s?”

Best answer, Mrs. Christensen agreed, is the old saw, “You can’t get there from here.”

Five years later, Dayton's turned to a more advanced technology to guide its in-store customers. A brief news item in the Minneapolis Tribune, dated Oct. 24, 1969, revealed that shoppers "will get information by automation from an electric push-button directory. Dayton's will be the first U.S. department store to install the electronic unit. The directory, which will be on the store's main floor, has 120 numbered keys corresponding to a cross-reference list of more than 400 departments and merchandise categories. The customer refers to a list and presses the appropriately numbered button. Within seconds, the machine provides a printed card that tells in what department an item can be found."

Holly Bell's considerable fan base didn't need to worry about their favorite shopping ambassador being put out to pasture. "The Holly Bell service, which originated during the 1964 Christmas season, will continue," said the story. Ms. Bell remained a Dayton's fixture for several more decades.

From the Strib's archives: Twiggy causes a sensation

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: March 16, 2015 - 8:03 AM

When British fashion sensation Leslie Hornby – known to the world by her nickname, Twiggy – made her first visit to the United States in late April 1967, she dropped in on two American cities: New York, and Minneapolis. (Five-foot-six Twiggy weighed all of 89 pounds). 

Yes, Minneapolis, thanks to Dayton’s. The trend-savvy department store was one of the first in the country to import London’s Mod look, and sales were brisk.

Twiggymania was evident in a pre-visit story on April 12. Minneapolis Tribune staff writer Marg Storhoff followed four local girls as Dayton’s beauty salon performed Twiggy-inspired hair-and-makeup transformations. It reads: 

The hair, styled by Erik of Norway, was tapered and cut wet with a razor. The hair is quite long in the front so it can be swept behind the ears and is very short in back. Erik set the hair on two beer cans and then combed the rest into shape.

“It’s terrific for summer,” said Erik. “Short hair looks so fresh. It’s important for girls to try to change their looks. Long, straggly hair is out.”

The makeup focuses on the eyes with the most important feature being the ‘twigs.’ The twigs, an original Twiggy idea, are eyelashes drawn under the eye with eye liner. ‘Twiggy-izing’ makeup is accenting the crease about the eye with brown blush-on shadow and powdered eyeliner, explained Susan Wilson, who applied the makeup.

White, brush-on highlighter is used from lashes to brows. A thin line of black liner is applied close to the lashes and then several pairs of false eyelashes (‘three or four pairs’ according to Miss Wilson) are attached.

The makeup base is a neutral shade and the powder is a brush-on translucent type.

‘The whole look takes a young face,’ said Miss Wilson, ‘and it takes practice to do it right. It looks ridiculous if the makeup is applied incorrectly.’

The Twiggy-like girls will model Twiggy clothes at Dayton’s when the real Twiggy is in Minneapolis on April 22 [the show is pictured, above]. 

Flash-forward to coverage after the April 22nd event. From a Minneapolis Star story by Marilyn Hoegemeyer on April 23, 1967, we learned the following: 

Twiggy appeared before a crowd of 1,500 adoring fans – mostly teenage girls -- in the 8th-floor auditorium at Dayton’s in downtown Minneapolis (pictured, above), at a fashion show with live music by the local band The Hot Half Dozen. (“There weren’t many men in the audience, a few employees from Dayton’s and some policemen who looked as if they had to be there,” reported Hoegemeyer.) Other revelations: Twiggy required about an hour to get her makeup applied to her satisfaction.

She responded to written questions, collected from the audience. For example: What do you like best about your job: “The money.”

Do you like being popular: “Yes.”

What do you eat: "Anything" and "everything."

Who’s your favorite American actress: “God, I can’t think of anybody. Pass that.”

What she likes least about her job: The long hours. “They’re tiring and I get hungry and then in the winter when you must model bathing costumes in the park. . .” she said, "in her broad cockney accent," noted Hoegemeyer. "She’s been modeling since for a year, wearing makeup since she was 15. She gets her hair cut every three weeks, 'or it gets a bit tatty.' She wore only one pair of false eyelashes yesterday. Sometimes she wears as many as five."

Her manager, Justin de Villenueve [pictured, above, with Twiggy], appeared in a brown suit, a bright orange shirt and matching pocket hankerchief. “He used to tease me – call me ‘Stick.’ Twiggy just stuck,” she said, holding Justin’s hand.

A few days later, Minneapolis Star staff writer Kristin Serum found a different angle to the Twiggy tale. The headline? Girls Bluff Way In To Talk With Twiggy. Here’s the tale:

Three local teen-agers, flashing red cards that said “Press,” bluffed their way into a carefully restricted press conference for Twiggy Friday.

Cheryl Halverson, 18, Kathy Frommer, 17, and Carol Croonquist, 17, editors of Bloomington Lincoln High School “Mah-Que,” breezed right in, through a mob of screaming teen-agers, along with reporters from Life, the Milwaukee Journal and the local media.

The Cockney mini-model’s visit to the Twin Cities is her only scheduled appearance outside of New York, and yesterday’s press conference at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport was the only opportunity for the press to meet Twiggy.

The three girls said their only real problem was finding the press room at the airport.

At one point, a representative from Dayton’s, sponsoring Twiggy’s appearance here, asked the girls who had authorized their presence.

They answered “Dayton’s” and the reply was accepted.

[For the image above, Minneapolis Star photographer William Seaman wrote, "Unidentified Girl in Crowd Glimpsed Twiggy. Some teen-agers screamed, some wept. Twiggy, the Cockney model with the walking-stick figure, caused a kaleidoscope of reactions at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport Friday. About 300 preteens staged a closely supervised mass hysteria. Girls sobbed, stampeded and waved signs behind a tight ring of policemen aided by Twiggy's bodyguard, 'The Monk.'"].

Their reactions to the press conference and to Twiggy were mixed.

Kathy thought Twiggy was bored, “probably because people ask her the same old questions all the time. It seemed as if she’d been drilled in what to say.”

Carol objected to public relations people from Dayton’s monopolizing the press conference. “Press conferences aren’t very organized and the people are too rude,” she said.

Cheryl, who later commented that Twiggy’s legs “look like spaghetti,” asked Twiggy how she keeps so thin.

Twiggy said it’s easy. She said she had already eaten two lunches yesterday, one at the New York airport and the other on the plane. “Oi don’t like planes though, Twiggy said.

Carol said Twiggy was “cute from the front, but not from the back.” She said she might wear some Twiggy clothes, but didn’t like the turquoise cotton velour mini-jumpsuit with matching tights that Twiggy was wearing at the press conference.

Cheryl said Twiggy’s “face is pretty, but her body doesn’t go with her face, and her false eyelashes are so heavy it’s no wonder she looked tired.”

Kathy thought the hysteria of the crowed that greeted Twiggy was “ridiculous. People are so stupid to idolize an ordinary, everyday teenager just like us. If I were her, I’d wonder how people can be so taken in.”

Twiggy called her reception in Minneapolis “fantastic. Oi’ve never seen anything like it,” she said.

She said fans in the United States send her “lots of stuffed animals” but “no marriage proposals so far.”

Justin de Villeneuve, Twiggy’s boyfriend and manager, warded off a question about Twiggy’s sex life. “Ask more sensible questions or we’re wasting our time,” he said.

He also refused to answer questions concerning the amount of money the pair has collected in the United States. “Ask my lawyer,” he said. The lawyer is in London.

The three girls squeezed through the crowd of reporters and cameras to collect Twiggy’s autograph, a squiggly signature followed by several “xxx’s.”

Twiggy told them she thinks American girls dress very well, “very much like London, really.”

From the Strib's archives: Women's lib comes to the Oak Grill

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: March 13, 2015 - 8:23 AM

There's a near-bottomless number of reasons why I can't get enough of this Aug. 27, 1970 story from the Minneapolis Star. 

For starters: I'd forgotten about the "midi," the calf-length skirt that was the fashion world's compromise between the miniskirt and the floor-length "maxi." Or that Dayton's had a women's apparel department called the "Out of Sight" shop, and that the shop, an apparent shoplifter's target, sold "Women's Lib" T-shirts (for $5!). Or that the store's 12th-floor Oak Grill restaurant, which opened in 1948, had originally been called the Men's Oak Grill, and that women were barred from dining there unless they were accompanied by a male escort. Or that the newspaper published the home addresses of people mentioned in stories. Or that the Star had a "Women's News" section. Or that a woman in the story expresses another woman's approval by saying that she "dug" it.

It goes on and on. Anyway, here's the story. It was writted by Star staff writer Sue Chastain, and the headline reads, "Women Served Easily at Once Men-Only Spot."

At noon Wednesday, approximately 25 women expecting a “confrontation” walked into Dayton’s Oak Grill, were seated, and ordered hamburgers.

There was no “confrontation.”

A blue-jeaned member of the group said she hand’t expected any of the women to be refused admission, but was surprised that “they made no fuss about us at all.”

A spokesman for Dayton’s said the grill at one time served only men but that this has not been enforced for the last year. Any woman with or without escort should have been admitted, the spokesman said.

The grill was the scene of another women’s liberation attack five months ago when protests from a group of women persuaded store officials to remove the “Reserved for Men” sign on the door.

“I just always assumed women couldn’t get in, so I never tried it before,” a tall browned-haired woman wearing huge sunglasses said yesterday. “If they let women in, they ought to make a public statement about it.”

A group of “Women’s Lib T-shirts” on sale at Dayton’s Out of Sight shop drew more wrath from the women assembled in the grill than the restaurant’s admissions policy.

The T-shirts, selling for $5 each, are decorated with the biological symbol for woman imprinted with the clenched fist of women’s liberation.

One of the women said another member of the group had stolen approximately a dozen of the T-shirts from the Out of Sight shop earlier.

“What Dayton’s is doing with them represents everything we’re fighting against,” she said.

No shirts were available in the shop at noon yesterday.

The women reported “quite good results” from 15 minutes of passing out leaftlets to women yesterday morning. The leaflets sketched strike demands and publicized the picnic scheduled for last night.

“We passed out over 1000 in an awfully short time,” one woman said proudly. “Amazingly enough, the older the woman was, the more she dug it.”

The “well-dressed women” who “really looked like they had made it” were less receptive to the strike message, another agreed.

“One who was really decked out crumpled up a leaftlet and threw it in the trash can right in front of me,” she said.

Two women were arrested yesterday morning in front of Donaldson’s downtown department store on charges of vandalism and defacing private property. Other women’s liberationalists said the two were gluing posters onto the store windows.

The two, Mary Berg, 18, 3261 Snelling Av. N., St. Paul, and Carol Shilling, 21, 2620 Harriet Av. S., were both scheduled to appear in Hennepin County Municipal Court today.

Other women also putting up posters on the mall yesterday morning struck a humorous note when they entered one small dress shop.

The agitated manager, evidently assuming the delegation was protesting the midi skirt fashions, attempted to placate them by assuring the leader, “But we don’t carry midi skirts here!”

The women laughed, and departed.

From the Strib's archives: A trip back in time to Brookdale

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: March 13, 2015 - 7:49 AM

The Star Tribune is leaving its 95-year-old home at the end of the month, a nostalgia-triggering occasion that has sent me, on numerous occasions, into the basement clip morgue, a repository of files that reach back into the 1950s. I've been digging through material related to food and restaurants, but I've also peeked into other various facets of local history. 

The Dales, for example. My family lived in Brooklyn Center from 1959 to 1972, which of course meant that nearby Brookdale (pictured, above, in a 1962 file photo) was our shopping center of choice. I pulled the morgue's Brookdale-related materials, and along with dozens of tiny announcements on art displays, tax preparation clinics and kids' activites -- the bread and butter of a daily newspaper -- I stumbled upon a trove of articles illuminating the development of the now-demolished shopping center

A recent update to the newspaper's electronic photo archive also revealed a number of previously unseen (well, to me, anyway) images of "Mad Men"-esque Brookdale, and they've released a torrent of happy memories. Here's some of what I found.


Sneak peek: Brookdale was built in stages. The shopping center's about-to-open East Mall was featured in a July 27, 1966 spread in the Minneapolis Star. “Air-conditioned, and accented in oak. A 35-foot-high illuminated fountain, at rear center, gives illusion of perpetual rain.”

A Minneapolis Star story dated July 31, 1966 delved into further detail. "Second-stage construction has added 421,051 square feet of space to the shopping center at Hwy. 100 and Osseo Rd. [now Brooklyn Blvd.] in Brooklyn Center. Brookdale now covers 862,460 square feet, compared with 929,815 square feet at Southdale Center in Edina, Dayton Development's first shopping center.

"Included in the second stage are: A new Dayton Co. department store, covering 195,368 square feet. Some 20 news stores, shops and servinces in the newly built East Mall, bringing the center's total number of stores and services to 55. An enlargement of the J.C. Penney Co. store to 140,320 square feet, plus a 10,269-square-foot Penney's automotive service center. 

"Construction is scheduled to begin soon on a new Donaldson's department store. When it is completed next fall it will become Brookdale's fourth major department store, joining Dayton's, Penney's and a Sears, Roebuck & Co. store that opened in 1962."



Above: A close-up of the so-called "rain fountain" (1966) which fascinated me to no end when I was a kid.


Above: The East Mall's aquariums (1966), another Brookdale attraction that I remember with great affection.


Big D: The view into Dayton's from the East Mall (1966). Bear with me for a moment. In keeping with tradition, the store's budget department was called the Downstairs Store, so named because the department was located in the basement of Dayton's original store in downtown Minneapolis. However, at Brookdale, the Downstairs Store was located on the main level (the store had a smaller second level, for housewares and restaurants). My memory leads me to believe that, if you entered Dayton's Brookdale store from the mall (pictured, above), the Downstairs Store was to the right. A double-sided overhead sign hanging over the aisle delineated the Downstairs Store from the rest of the sales floor. One side said "Downstairs Store" and the other side read "Mall Level" (or something like that) and as a 12-year-old I found that endlessly amusing. I also have no idea why I remember that.




Above: Interiors of the new Dayton's store. Unfortunately, I couldn't unearth any images of the store's Brookdale Inn restaurant, or the Bandstand snack bar.


Movers and shakers: "At the opening of Dayton's new Brookdale store (Minneapolis Star, Aug. 2, 1966) are from left: Kenneth Dayton, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of Dayton's; Douglas Dayton, president of Target; and Donald Dayton, chairman of the board of the Dayton Co." The three brothers' grandfather, George Draper Dayton, founded the store in downtown Minneapolis in 1902. Donald Dayton died in 1989, Kenneth Dayton died in 2003 and Douglas Dayton died in 2013. Their nephew is Gov. Mark Dayton.


Above: Bachman's Brookdale store, in the center's East Mall, two days before its 1966 opening.





The last big store: When Donaldson's opened in September 1967, the Minneapolis Star returned to Brookdale and published these four images (above). "When Donaldson's opens its new store in Brookdale Shopping Center, Monday, the center will be the first major enclosed mall shopping center to have four major department stores under one roof (Sept. 27, 1967). Donaldson's will join Dayton's, Penney's and Sears in the Brookdale complex. The new store will have a two-level 160,498 square foot space located on the north side of Brookdale Center. With the advent of Donaldson's the center will employ more than 3,000 with parking accommodations for 5,200 cars."


Carter-era dining: The East Mall's distinctive "rain fountain" disappeared in 1977 and was replaced by Olives East restaurant, "an airy wooden gazebo that has done well and has won national design awards," reported the Minneapolis Star on March 13, 1977. A Brookdale spokeswoman said the restaurant "has broken up the 'cattle run' look of the mall, with the result that the smaller stores between Donaldson's and Dayton's are doing better."

Midcentury modern: “Red Owl is going octagonal with two stores (Dec. 14, 1966). Model watchers are president James Watson and James E. Gottlieb, construction director. Red Owl Stores, Inc. plans to build two modern supermarkets at a combined cost of $1.5 million, Watson announced today. One of the octagonal buildings is already under construction at Brookdale. The other building will replace an existing Red Owl store at Southdale.” The Brookdale store, located to the southwest of the shopping center, opened in October 1967, and it replaced a store inside the mall. My father worked for Red Owl, and until we moved to Burnsville in 1972, a Friday night visit to this well-appointed store was my parents' weekly grocery shopping ritual. Both locations were later converted to Red Owl Country Stores (a rival to Cub Foods) and were eventually demolished. Trivia note: Watson’s daughter Lucia Watson would go on to open Lucia’s Restaurant in 1985; she sold her Uptown landmark last December.



Early eatertainery: An occasional clip reveals a bit of Brookdale-related restaurant news. ‪On Jan. 27, 1969, the Minneapolis Star published plans for the first, yes, Jolly Green Giant Restaurant. "It is intended for the business lunch and family dinner trade, according to company officials. This restaurant is scheduled to open at the Brookdale shopping Center in Brooklyn Center in July. A second Giant is planned for a later opening in Bloomington." The restaurant was a huge favorite of my pre-teen self, in part because the lobby featured a statue of the JGG. Or was it a gigantic JGG chair? I'm fuzzy on that detail. Anyway, the restaurant didn't last long. According to a January 1973 clip, it was replaced by Steak & Stein.

Another Nelson family favorite, Marc's Big Boy, opened its first Minnesota outlet near Brookdale (Dec. 5, 1968). Company president Ben D. Marcus said it was the first of 20 planned franchises in the state over the next five years. Big Boy Restaurants of America operated 480 units around the country at the time, and the chain was a subsidiary of Marriott Corp.

Yet another yellowed clip reminded me of the current discussion regarding Sunday liquor sales: In 1968, Dayton’s and Donaldson’s opened their stores at Brookdale and Southdale on Sunday for the first time. “The decision did not change the positions of J.C. Penney, Sears and Power’s, which had announced earlier that they would not do business on Sunday," reported the Minneapolis Star on March 20, 1968. "Today’s announcement followed a ruling Tuesday by the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled that a Sunday closing law by the 1967 legislature was unconstitutional. A spokesman for J.C. Penney repeated a national policy prohibiting its stores from operations on the Sabbath." Three days later, Woolworth’s announced it would open its Brookdale and Southdale stores on Sunday.

Get cooking. Or maybe not. Of course, the files contain recipes. Since its inception in 1969 and for years thereafter, a longstanding Taste feature was Restaurant Requests. Readers would call upon the newspaper to act as an intermediary and publish home-cooking versions of popular restaurant recipes. 

On Sept. 21, 1977, Mrs. Patrick Bayless of Anoka inquired after the recipe for "Poulet Elegante Crepes, as served at Dayton’s Brookdale Restaurant." The reply came from Linda Lokkesmoe of Dayton’s and, well, it’s a doozy:

“For sauce, add canned mushroom stems and pieces to Stouffers’ frozen, creamed chicken; heat. Place 2 1/2 oz. of heated sauce in each crepe, fold edges toward center and overlap. Place in microwave oven for a few seconds, until bubbly. Remove and top with 1 tablespoon of sauce; garnish with parsley.”

Judy Harding of St. Francis requested the recipes for the punch and the cranberry salad served at Dayton’s Buffet Room in Brookdale. Becky Longabaugh of Dayton’s replied, and her more formal response (again, yikes) was published on April 4, 1973.


Makes 64 (4-oz) servings.

1 gallon lemonade

2 (46-oz.) cans pineapple juice

3 (12-oz.) cans Diet 7-Up

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Red food coloring

Directions: Blend ingredients.


2 (1-lb.) pkg. fresh cranberries

2 c. sugar

1 (10-oz.) pkg. miniature marshmallows

3 qt. whipped cream (1 1/2 qt. whipping cream)

Directions: Chop cranberries; add sugar, mix and let stand 1/2 hour. Add marshmallows and cream, then put in a mold. Refrigerate before serving.

Where are all the women?

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: March 4, 2015 - 5:11 PM

The photograph of 15 male chefs featured on the cover of this month's Mpls.St. Paul magazine (above) has local female chefs and restaurateurs angry. Food-and-dining senior editor Stephanie March offered the reasoning in a subsequent blog post

The public response from 22 women, crafted in reaction to this month's cover of MSP magazine, is as follows:  

“Where are all the women?” We Are All Right Here!

As a group of female chefs and restaurateurs, we’re moved to respond collectively.

We’re outraged at the viewpoint taken by the cover and subsequent editorial comments on the March issue of Mpls St. Paul Magazine depicting the best chefs of the Twin Cities as all male. It’s a false and embarrassing representation of our diverse food community.

Did anybody notice that your mothers, wives and sisters weren’t in the room?

As a young female grocery store clerk remarked when handing one of us the issue—“Where are all the women?”

The media, as our society’s most influential institution, has a duty to advocate against gender and racial inequalities. As Alice Waters pointed out in 2013, “I think it’s a matter of how we go about the reviewing of our restaurants. Is it really about 3-star places and expensive eccentric cuisine? The restaurants that are most celebrated are never the ones that are the simple places.”

We take this opportunity to have a lasting impact by engaging in ongoing conversation on this topic in our community.

We pledge to hold the media accountable.

We’re committed to fostering the development of our diverse and talented young food industry workers for the next generation. It takes a village.

These, and many other women and men contributed to this conversation and the ideas expressed in this letter:

Lisa Carlson

Brenda Langton

Kim Bartmann

Nettie Colon

Hannah Benti

Nan Bailly

Heather Kim

Carrie L. Summer

Maren Mattson

Taya Kaufenberg

Heather Kim

Sue Zelickson

Beth Fisher

Tracy Singleton

Liz Benser 

Dana Kevlahan

Stephanie Worums 

Sarah Masters

Sylvia Izabella

Linda Quinn

Tamara Brown

Soile Anderson

Tammy Wong


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