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Posts about Minnesota History

Sept. 12, 1966: No rockin' chair for this sprightly elder

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: March 18, 2014 - 5:37 PM
Elizabeth Gilfillan, a native of northern Minnesota, made a delightful appearance on “What’s My Line?” in 1952. Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen and the rest of the panel were charmed by the wit and energy of the 72-year-old contestant. She fooled the lot and earned $15. Her unique line of work: She taught facial exercises to men and women interested in keeping their skin supple and radiant. Fourteen years later, still radiant herself, the New York entertainer was invited to bring her act to Minneapolis. The Star published this profile on 6B, the “Women’s News” page.
Gilfillan, 86, demonstrated one exercise, an exaggerated pout guaranteed to keep lips full and youthful. (Minneapolis Star photo by Russell Bull)

No Ol' Rockin' Chair for This Elder

Minneapolis Star Staff Writer

“The rocking chair goes to and fro.

“And makes you think you're on the go.

“But keep off that ole rocking chair,

“It won't get you anywhere.”

With a toss of her head at the idea of such props for the senior citizen set, an 86-year-old New Yorker sings and dances her way through a new life she created for herself about 20 years ago.

“There's something strange about me,” Elizabeth Gilfillan will tell her audiences, mostly New York women's clubs.

“I'm a woman who doesn't mind telling her age. The older I get, the more valuable I'll be. I can hardly wait until I reach 90. I will do what I do now even better then.”

What Miss Gilfillan does now is an informal act in which she plays the guitar, sings and dances, usually all at once.

And she gives delightful interpretations of humorous verse she has written – “My Eightieth Easter Outfit,” “Who Wants an Old Age Pension,” “No Old Age for Me” and “On Your Rocker.”

These and others were recently published in a book, “Sensible Nonsense.”

In addition to these activities, she also teaches facial exercises, which she developed herself.

She recently completed a visit in Minneapolis with her sister, Mrs. Ernest Meilman, 130 Orlin Av. SE. And she was the guest of honor and entertainer at a luncheon by Mrs. Owen L. Johnson, 3203 E. Calhoun Blvd., who first saw Miss Gilfillan on the television program “What's My Line?” (facial expressions) 14 years ago.

Mrs. Johnson decided this spring to look up Miss Gilfillan and called New York. When the New Yorker said she would be in the Twin Cities in September, Mrs. Johnson made arrangements to meet her.

Miss Gilfillan was born in Minnesota. Her father was a missionary among the Indians in the northern part of the state. She left the state to attend Cornell Medical School, Ithaca, N.Y., and then graduated from the Sergeant School of Physical Education.

“I used to be very shy,” she explained. “I played the piano for a Russian dancing teacher for 46 years. I was beginning to think the job was permanent.

“Then I was asked to give a speech on the school's history. I tried to make it humorous, and I tasted success.”

Miss Gilfillan at the time was 65 years old. “I wanted to entertain so I started preparing myself by taking voice lessons. They say I can be heard two blocks away when I want to be.”

She said she also began exercising to “make myself more presentable.” And she developed facial exercises at this time.

“I had studied at a school of physical training and I felt that if exercises could change the body, it could also change the face.

“As the face ages, the muscles shrink and unsupported skin falls into wrinkles. Exercising the muscles makes them thick again and brings back the original design of the face.”

Miss Gilfillan said she doesn’t claim the exercises perform miracles but most persons can shed 10 to 15 years.

“And if they start in the early 30s, they will never look old.”

She added that another benefit from the exercises is improved circulation which gives the skin color and radiance.

“I teach men too, but they don’t need the exercises. When they get older they look distinguished. Women look extinguished.”

And, she added, “all my pupils are good looking. Otherwise, they wouldn’t bother with the exercises.”

Feb. 28, 1948: Meet Minnesota's best family doctor

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: March 1, 2014 - 2:33 PM
After earning his medical degree at the University of Minnesota in 1905, Dr. William Wallace Will set up practice in Bertha, Minn., 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis. For the next four decades, he cared for the residents of the small town, treating fevers, setting broken bones, delivering thousands of babies and writing more than 100,000 prescriptions. In 1948, the State Medical Association honored him as Minnesota’s outstanding general practitioner. The honor earned the 68-year-old physician a photo spread in the Minneapolis Tribune’s Sunday magazine. Two of the best photos shot by staffer Bud Jewett are republished here, along with their original captions.
Shoveling snow is one of the few ways Dr. Will exercises. He has no hobbies.
Dr. Will has delivered more than 4,000 babies since he set up practice in Bertha. His latest one was Steven Lee, shown when he was five days old, son of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Hukriede. Three of the Hukriedes’ other six children were delivered by Dr. Will after the parents moved to Bertha. Dr. Will has been an officer in the state medical society since 1921.
FOLLOWUP: Looking at the second photo, I wondered: How'd that howling baby turn out? I found a phone number for a Steven L. Hukriede, 66, in Florida. I called and left a message. I'll let you know if I hear back.

Feb. 12, 1914: We need a substitute for swearing

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: February 11, 2014 - 8:32 PM
I’ve worked on construction sites, at a foundry and in the newsrooms of a half-dozen American newspapers. In all those workplaces, vigorous cursing filled the air each day, growing stronger when tools failed or deadlines neared. I can’t speak for the trades, but foul language is still common in newsrooms, muted somewhat by the efforts of our HR friends.

In 1914, this syndicated piece on the Minneapolis Tribune's "Family Circle Page" called for worthy substitutes for cursing, sharp enough "to make a truck driver’s ears tingle and yet not offend a clergyman."  A century later, I ask you: What substitute curse words do you rely on in the presence of children, ministers and HR managers? At the Star Tribune, I’ve heard some shout “Oh snap!” and “Shizzle!” on deadline. Not bad, but there must be more satisfying cuss words out there, dag nab it!

Wanted – A Substitute for Swearing

In a cursory discussion on “cussing” in a British medical journal it was solemnly urged that some one really ought to discover a substitute for profanity.

Anger is a violent and dangerous emotion which liberates sudden floods of nervous force. This force was meant by nature to be expended in violent action, fighting, smashing or tearing. Civilization has put various restraints on this action and one must either vent the energy in some other way or grit one’s teeth and hold it in.

Women having been taught in prehistoric ages that physical combat was a losing venture with the stronger male, took to the relief of tears.  When her fury goes surging and reverberating about her system, threatening to burn through the insulation of her nerves, she “short circuits” it by weeping.

Man, being ashamed to cry, discharges the lightning through language. By uttering a volley of profanity he has the feeling of damaging at least the feelings of those who overhear.

The angry person needs only to have a sense of damage done to be once more at peace with the world. As even the word “damn,” relieved of all its more pungent associates, has a more or less sacrilegious meaning, something else equally snappy and vicious-sounding should be found in its place.

Of course, the language is full of slang substitutes for profanity, from “Darn!” to the rural “Gosh all hemlock!” These are only feeble imitations of genuine “cuss words.” As far as they give any satisfaction it is through suggestion of the irreverent words themselves. What is needed, so this writer urges, is a sort of esperanto of profanity. It must be something which will make a truck driver’s ears tingle and yet not offend a clergyman nor be understood by a “perfect lady.”

Copyright, 1914, by the Star Company.

March 2, 1877: What it feels like to be guillotined

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: February 10, 2014 - 6:13 PM
This wire story – the source is unclear – appeared in several U.S. newspapers, including the Minneapolis Tribune:


What It Feels Like to be Guillotined -- a Rare Experience.

We know how it feels to be poisoned, to be hanged and to be drowned, but it has been reserved for M. Mondate, an Italian gentleman, to let the world know, through La Defense, what it feels like to be guillotined.

He was in 1873 condemned to death for a crime of which he was innocent, and it was not the fault of Italian justice that he escaped. The blade of the guillotine fell, but the wood in the grooves of which it ran had swollen slightly, and the knife stopped barely two centimeters from his neck. While they were repairing this defect a reprieve arrived – the true murderer had been found and confessed his crime.

"It was 8 o'clock A.M., August 17, 1873," says M. Mondate, "that my confessor, l'Abbe Fernia, entered my cell to announce to me that I must die. When at the touch of his hand upon my shoulder I awakened, I comprehended at once the nature of his errand, and despite my confidence, it seems that I turned horribly pale. I would have spoken, but my mouth contracted nervously and no saliva moistened it. A mortal chill suddenly invaded the lower part of my body. By a supreme effort I succeeded in gasping, ‘It is not true!’ The priest answered I know not what. I only heard a confused buzzing.

“Then a sudden thrill of pride shot through me. For some minutes I felt no fear; I stood erect; I said to myself that if I must die I should show them that an innocent man died with courage. I spoke with great rapidity; I was horribly afraid to be silent or to be interrupted; I thanked the governor of the prison, and asked for something to eat. They brought me a cup of chocolate, but I refused it. Again I had become fully possessed with the horrors of my situation; I had visions of what the scaffold would be like, and mechanically asked the attendants, ‘Does it hurt much?’ ‘Not a bit,’ answered somebody, and I saw before me a new person in a gown of black woolen – the executioner.

“I would have risen, defended myself, asserted my innocence, but I fainted, and when I returned to consciousness I was pinioned in the cart which was entering the death place. I cast a shuddering look at the horrible machine. I had no more connected and coherent thought, and the uprights through which the knife runs seemed as high as the masts of a ship. I was lifted to the platform. I had but one fixed idea – that of resistance. But how could I resist? I was seized and flung down upon the plank. I felt as if I was paralyzed and lay there for an immense time. Then there was a sharp blow on my neck, and I fainted again with the instinctive idea that the knife had struck me. It was not the knife, but the upper part of the lunette. When I came to myself was in the prison hospital.”

May 4, 1903: Your mediocre shoes betray you as commonplace

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: February 7, 2014 - 1:45 PM
In the early 1900s, the Plymouth Clothing House at Sixth and Nicollet sold "Correct Dress for Men, Women and Children." This shoe ad, which appeared in the Minneapolis Journal on May 4, 1903, asked the women of Minneapolis: Can you afford to be commonplace?


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