Barbara Flanagan: We should all follow Mayor Rybak's healthy example

  • Article by: BARBARA FLANAGAN
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • August 31, 2008 - 11:35 PM

The Flanagan Memo: Re: A new book by Bruce Dayton and our oh-so-very-healthy Minneapolis mayor.


We begin September knowing that our mayor, R.T. Rybak, is one of the healthiest mayors in the country. And how do we know? Well, he is the first mayor to bike, hike, in-line skate and walk to City Hall, urging all of us to join him along the way. He is also for improving mass transit and that includes the return of streetcars. Hooray!

But how do we really know how healthy Rybak is? Men's Fitness magazine says so, pointing out that he is a five-day-a-week exercise guy. Congratulations.


At his 90th birthday party last month, Bruce B. Dayton celebrated with about 200 friends and family. It was a gala dinner. The guest list featured quite a few Daytons, including Bruce's four children. Former Sen. Mark Dayton, his oldest, served as emcee and his son, Brandt, and daughters Lucy and Anne all had a few words to say. So did Bruce's wife, Ruth, his brother Doug and his two grandchildren, Eric Dayton and Marina Dayton. And there were a few non-Daytons asked to speak.

The climax of the evening was a short response by Bruce and then the distribution of his new book, "The Birth of Target,'' on which he collaborated with Ellen B. Green.

Most of the book is based on Bruce's memories. He notes that when he and his four brothers -- including the late Donald, Wallace and Kenneth -- took over the store in 1950, Sears Roebuck was 40 times bigger in terms of sales. "Our small company eventually became Target Corp., now larger than Sears and Kmart combined,'' he writes in the new book. "We must have done something right.''


Reader Nancy B. Miller adds some historic facts about the Foshay Tower. The architect who designed the Foshay Tower was Leon Eugene Arnal, a Frenchman from the region around Marseille who trained in Paris and became a member of the Architecture Department at the University of Minnesota.

He joined the architectural firm of Magney, Tusler and Setter and worked on designs for the U.S. post office in downtown Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Woman's Club and the Calhoun Beach Club.

Miller grew up at 1 Seymour Av. SE., in the house where the late Ralph Rapson and his wife, Mary, lived for many years. Arnal and his wife, Mari, were neighbors and used to dine often with Miller's family.

"He was a storyteller, especially long and involved shaggy dog stories, rich in amusing detail and with the French accent he never lost,'' she said. "Laughter was loud and long, and it was a wonderful way to keep up our French.''

Here are two things she said she heard about the building. "One was that Leon suffered a nervous breakdown from dealing with the difficult Wilbur Foshay,'' Miller said. "Another blamed his breakdown on the fact that each of the successive floors of the tower was reduced in size from the floor below it by 8 inches. Seems to me that would reduce just about any architect to jelly.''


There won't be any live flamingos at Jax on Sept. 21, but the place will boast a bunch of Kozlaks, that is for sure.

The event is the 75th anniversary of Jax, at 20th and University Avenues NE., and that is quite a record.

The restaurant is owned now by Bill Kozlak Jr., but you can be certain that Bill Sr., and his brother Jack, now living in Naples, Fla., will be somewhere in the crowd.

As for the flamingos, well, the story goes this way:

When Joseph Kozlak Sr., the father of Bill Sr. and Jack, created the glorious garden at Jax, it was our town's original outdoor cafe. To make it even more alluring, Joe bought a couple of live flamingos to decorate it. But the flamingos proved to be a bit expensive -- they ate only shrimp, rice and freshly grated carrots. So, the Kozlaks gave the flamingos to a zoo. And the garden has grown and prospered without them. One big draw is the creek with trout in it. You can catch your own dinner if you order trout.

Did I report that our grandson, Charlie, caught a trout with his bare hands last year but put it back? He doesn't eat trout. On our trip to Jax this year, Charlie tried again, but no luck.


Another reader, Jack McHugh, a good friend and the man who "sold" the Nicollet Mall to its curbside tenants back in 1965, said he recalled that I like fried oysters. I do. He recommends the fried oysters at McCormick & Schmick's restaurant in the new Westin Hotel in Edina.


There are a couple of oops to note:

Reader Devon Dougherty writes that he is happy about Minnesota Proud -- where stars will be put into the Hennepin Avenue sidewalks to honor the state's show business stars -- but he is disappointed at the omission of the Northwest Angle from the walk's state of Minnesota star design. "The angle is the reason we are the North Star state because it makes us the farthest north in the lower 48 states,'' he writes.

Tom also notes the Minnesota Twins made the same mistake on their promotional materials, but have finally corrected their error.

And reader Tom asks "Where are the Andrews Sisters? You would think that a trio who had more top 10 hits (46) than Elvis (42) or the Beatles (21) and entertained more than 160 million GIs during World War II would be listed for stars before people like Al Franken or Steve Zahn. Must be a money thing.''

I agree that the Andrews Sisters -- Patti, Maxene and Laverne -- were raised in Minneapolis and became internationally famous after starting to sing here in talent shows. So I am for them, plus Judy Garland and Bob Dylan. OK?

Barbara Flanagan, longtime columnist for the Star Tribune, writes on the first Monday of each month. Her interests are the metro area -- what's good and what's bad -- and the fascinating people who live here. She can be contacted at

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