Sinclair Lewis' Minnesota: A State of Mind; 3; The Myth of a Small Town Today
Didn't. You live. Here. College broadcasting service under a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the. Minnesota state of mind. The series was written by Dr. James Bond with.
Native Minnesotan and author of several articles and a book on Sinclair Lewis. I half century has passed since Sinclair last betrayed his hometown the Sauk Center Minnesota in the novel that brought him his first and perhaps most lasting success. Main Street. This novel was and perhaps still is the most insightful and important analysis of the American small town. That had the Gopher Prairie is of America changed so much that Lewis is a picture of them is no longer the clear thing it was in 1920 a visit to present day Sauk Center may answer this question for us. Here is our narrator Leslie Davis with Sauk Center. The myth of the small town today.
Judging from the response to the publication of Main Street most inhabitants and small towns did not like to be thought of in the way that Lewis depicted them while they extol the virtues of small town life. They didn't want to be thought of as a small town or as Hicks an obvious solution to this dilemma would have been to move to the city and become sophisticated. But this would have meant giving up the security and congeniality of banjo crossing or Mudville center so more than one town dweller hit on the idea of staying where he was but trying to encourage sufficient growth of the talent so that it would become larger more important and more respectable. It was assumed of course that the small town could become a prosperous city and still retain its general stores and Cracker Barrel's like most of the foibles that sprang up in the villages of America. Lu was was aware of this one and toward the end of Main Street he satirizes the boosterism that
seems to afflict most undersized municipalities are known as Jim Blauser is called in to put some pep into the Gopher Prairie City Fathers. And this is what he has to say. I certainly was astonished in the streets of our lovely little city the other day. I met the meanest kind of critter that God ever made. Meaner than the horned toad or the Texas Lollapalooza. I mean you want to know what that an a mule was he was a knocker will occur in the fall and I want to tell you good people and I was just as sure as God made little green apples. The thing that distinguishes our American commonwealth from the pikers and tin horns in other countries is our punch. You take a genuine honest to God a homo Americana of us and then write anything he's afraid to tackle. Snap but and speed are his middle name. And who put on a course if he has to ride from from a held up
breakfast and believe me I might a got in sorry for the boob that that someone lucky as to get in his way because that poor slob is going to wonder where is that when all Mr cyclon hit town. I look and there are some folks some young woman small and and so few in the pod that I go to work and claim that those of us that have a big vision are off our trolleys. They say we can't make Gopher Prairie God bless her just as big as Minneapolis or or St. Paul or Duluth. But let me tell you right here and now that there ain't a town under the blue canopy of heaven that's got a better chance to take a running jump and go go shooting right up into the two hundred thousand class than little ol GP and if there's anybody that's got such a cold Kismet that he's afraid to tag after Jim blows on the big going up then we don't want him here. No I think you're right. You folks are just
patriotic enough so that right got out of it and he's standing for a guy sneering and knocking his own town no matter how much of a smart alec he is. I. Now the point of this is now I'm not only insisting that Gopher Prairie is going to be Minnesota's pride the brightest Ray and the glory of the North Star State but also and furthermore that it is right now and still more shall be as good a place to live in and love in and bring out the little ones in. And it's got as much refinement and culture as well as any burg on the whole bloomin expanse of God's green footstool and that goes Get me that. That was the kind of boosterism that once afflicted most American small towns and such dreams of glory were not unknown to soc Center whose inhabitants were at one time not beyond suggesting the possibility that their Metropolis might someday
rival Minneapolis St. Paul as a commercial center. That day has not yet come as a municipal report on Sox center indicates this is the report put out by the Sox at her chamber of commerce. The estimated population of the city at this time is 4000. The city also serves a rich diversified farming area which is well populated with prosperous farmers. There are nine churches and three schools. The Great Northern Railway Northern Pacific Railway Greyhound bus lines and Municipal Airport serve the city. Highways twenty eight fifty to seventy one and Interstate 94 junction here business wise the city is retail the stores are well stocked with a wide selection of merchandise. There are 14 resorts around sock lake a part of which is inside the city limits. The state Conservation Department survey showed that stocked Lake contains twice as many fish as the average lake in Minnesota.
It has taken over 100 years for stock standard to reach its present stage of development. It is located in an area that impressed visitors from the start the early explorer Radisson recorded in his diary these words about the song River Valley. We killed moose stag of wild cows caribou caps of the mountains and child of the devil. In a word we lead a good life. Life was not so good however for some of the first sutlers who had to face both mortal and economic dangers as James B Hendricks author of many adventures stories and a Sauk Center boy himself wrote the town that made Main Street famous and started with Joe Casper store a stage station on the Abercrombie trail and along fortune stockade. This was at the time of the last Indian raid in central Minnesota when Alexander Moore killed his horse riding the 150 miles from St. Paul to warn the settlers. Alexander Moore is still remembered by residents of Sauk Center and in large measure the
existence of the city is due to his accomplishments. As one resident put it it was built. Yours. Didn't have much time for niceties. That we wished them to have. Making a fair living in a community. Square Market is about Xander more than the river built the first. Aggressor. Did tremendously with the community effect is. The damming of the river started to talk after the Civil War Sauk Center began to flourish. New settlers arrived almost daily. New buildings were constructed and not even the flood of 1867 or the fire of 1870 were able to slow the development of Sauk Center for along the railroad came in 1878 and by eight hundred eighty to two other railroads were intersecting the
town. The local economy hesitated when weak farming began to become unprofitable in the area but the slack was taken up by small industry and at the turn of the century factories were turning out a variety of goods there ranging from farm implements to kitchen chairs. But the twentieth century brought mail order merchandising along with the centralization of production in the larger cities and the expansion of stock centers stopped the inhabitants themselves settling into the frank acceptance of their community as a small town. Why probably Sauk Center would have remained in its in conspicuous condition had it not been for a book that made it an enduring symbol in American culture. I am referring of course to Sinclair Lewis's main street which was published in 1920 with Main Street Sauk Center became small town USA. A somewhat dubious honor or so it seemed at first to the inhabitants as they were muttered OHS against the author of the book and certain speculations about whether or not he would be tarred and
feathered when he returned to his home town. That is if he had the nerve to return. But Main Street does not present an entirely negative picture of the small town. And even if Fred Lewis did take a few sharp pokes at his own people suck center was quick to perceive that the honor of being the hometown of such a famous author is no slight thing. So now if you go to soc center you will see a sign just off the interstate highway proclaiming Sauk Center is the home of Sinclair Lewis. The central thoroughfare in the town is named the original Main Street and the street running past the Lewis family home has been renamed Sinclair Lewis Avenue in the basement of the library is the Sinclair Lewis Museum. And there was his boyhood home has become a national historic landmark. Just a historical site and the author recorded Lewis in his hometown extends further. The original main street is right with signs advertising the main street music company. The Main Street Cafe is the main street
Chevrolet company on the main street theater. Sachs center boasts a dairy which calls its part of the pride of Main Street and the high school athletic teams seek immortality under the name of the Main Streeters. Sinclair Lewis has become something of an industry in Sauk Center and a Sinclair Lewis Foundation has been established to direct the various spinoffs from the Lewis talk with the city. The foundation presently has three goals for which it is conducting a fund ride a scholarship program for promising writers the restoration of the loo was a boyhood home and the construction of a memorial building in which documents concerning Lewis and his life can be exhibited. The plans for the memorial building also will call for classroom space and which a summer Writer's Workshop can be conducted. Sachs said her officials are not at all hasn't had to talk about why they are placing so much emphasis on the city as Sinclair Lewis is birthplace. We asked John Cox of our the young manager of SOC Center's Chamber of Commerce about
the Interpol role the various Sinclair Lewis projects seem to be playing in the economic development of Sauk Center. I told. Her. That I have basically one thing in mind as far as I'm concerned. Very few altruistic ideas. In my particular position that's I'm looking for. They've tried to contract our interstate here on various markets. We can. Do so. There are so many cars. In the Minnesota tourist. Bureau. Estimates of 61 percent of the people traveling on Interstate highways are willing to. Depart from the highway to see something of. Educational cultural or just plain interest to them. 61 percent of those cars have them flying through science center with. Carson City. Do we have
to have more than one stuff for free. But definitely I feel that with this being considered a. National Historic. Monument as well as being given a state. Once this thing gets going once it gets rolling I think. I think it's going to help a good deal. Of course tourist dollars go farther than any other dollars change hands faster. Than the dollar. We also asked Allan Polak Nick the mayor of Sox center about the financial implications of the emphasis on the Sox center. Sinclair Lewis relationship with your. Writers for the world. To. Bring meaning to your. Fingers are doing. Better than the rest of. Your you know you're right back to. Business better. Say if any.
One of the men who knows center best has been to boy a retired banker persistent a sponsor of liberal causes and a contemporary of Sinclair Lewis like the other people we talked to in Sauk Center he was willing to speak frankly about Sinclair Lewis as a financial asset where the future is a transitional stage. So far. It's been costing us money. Maybe we're maybe the town as a whole was guarded back by people coming in and destroying the people right. It's. Trying to kep it was like. This. Mark Twain. That's a common practice. Mr. DuBois was careful to point out that Sinclair Lewis is not sock centre's only literary tradition I want to claim that source and it was a literary seller minister.
Percentage wise have been heavy on offers. Several noted author offers out of a population of about thirty seven hundred today. That's. Minneapolis can't do any better. Our first. Writer. Fell over them in to invade. He was kind of sad. Boomer. And a very prolific painter. Historical Society has got a whole section. Like it was stuffed down there. And. There were five by. J.V. Brown the Aborigines are going to sort of many other books. And. He was a man that established a K line. Runs up north here or wherever I was named after him. Then we had Henry Johnson I wrote the other side of Main Street as a professor at Columbia for years. Ever made sure there were some delightful novels. Then of course Jim Hendricks is a more realistic writer but of all the writers
Sauk Center has produced only one has had much impact on the town. The economic impact was obvious but we wondered if the satire Lewis directed against small towns in general had any heavier impact on the town that served as the model for the Gopher Prairie of Main Street. Since Mr. DuBois seemed better qualified and more willing to talk about this than anyone else we encountered in Sauk Center we asked him whether mainstreet affected the way people in Sauk Center look at themselves. Why do you think so I don't think so. Some are quite critical of it I think it is just maybe a good. Part of it. It might have had a traffic effect. It's hard to. Figure things out. Boxer never read the Sauk Center as well as Jimi Hendrix's books. Gemma wrote more books and. Venture stories
and fit in with the thinking of the community better. Reverses. Course a trafic way of expressing himself. He had eyes and could see. There was sort of the human nature magnified him. Along with his. Idea of shocking people. He got on advertising. He know. How to. Get headlines very nicely. Nor did Mr Boyd think that Sinclair Lewis succeeded in changing the community very much. There's other things that. Changes the attitudes of a human to the information they can get over television. Some may have more publications. They're sure people that don't even have television or radio. And. We. There's no reason why a small town can't keep
arrest time. I think sometimes a small town maybe we have advantages over some of the city. There's less confusion. We can read more. Perhaps we can set backdoor thinking. But. He has called attention. Perhaps to some of our. Favorite Things. And are failing as it seems to me at that time was that we were overly often darks. Unduly conservative. And that afraid of new ideas. I remember one thing. We had a party for him. In the hotel. I think in 21 African mainstreet. He's a celebrity there and of course. We're all. Paying homage to him. But during the course of the dinner. Someone. I think present Specter my father. Asked him what he thought of Eugene Debs.
And you know Jais Eugene Debs. And for a measure comparing very favorably with Jesus Christ. And he was doing a quest to shock. The community and I happened to be sitting across from a very conservative respectable backer. And he got off a regular face. And had a very prominent had a map of which begin a bob up and down. I couldn't help. But. Enjoy his discomfiture. I felt easy because that year. I had voted the year before I had avoided for he was dead when he is still president along with partner a million other people. So. The remarks said he's here with me. The matter of whether Sauk Center has changed basically since Main Street was published as a matter of some debate among residents the wife of one of the local ministers was quoted as saying a few years ago. But when she and her husband came to soc center she had this reaction after a year. I thought Main Street was an accurate
book. No I think it's very accurate. Lewis himself when he visited Sauk Center during the 1940s was asked whether the town had changed enough so that if he were rewriting main street he would have to make it a different kind of novel. I think the group needs only mechanical changes. It was before radios came into the home before cement roads and when people could travel only 25 miles an hour. Now the citizens of Gopher Prairie can get to Minneapolis in a few hours. That's a great change. Change stores change things to the old village character zone around here anymore like there are skis in the old suite are used to keep stored. Maybe the kids don't put on their hats right after supper and take off like they used to since television has come. Main Street would seem like well an antiquarian shop now. As Riley is however Sinclair Lewis emphasized that the only changes the book would need are mechanical changes. Thus implying that the townspeople are perhaps
not so different. Certainly many of the town's institutions have survived the red dot M club started 60 years ago by Lewis's stepmother and satirize by him in Main Street as the fan atop his club is still running. The topics include government ology over new states and Christian ideas one of the younger club members said some time ago. I don't think we're much different than ever before. An older member frowned and insisted Oh yes we've changed over the years. We didn't always serve food at the meetings. And while the social life has moved from the lakes to the golf course and Country Club old timers still gather at John's Place sit around wooden tables cards the quiet broken only by a request for more beer or by now you've heard me say that yes even foreigners not fives. We asked several people whether or not they thought Sauk Center was a good place in which to live. And the answers we received while all in the affirmative stressed the
same values that appeal to the residents of Gopher Prairie. The beauty of the cleanliness of the town the good fishing here is what one newcomers said. Sounds like you're saying these are things I was concerned with like the job here. I spend a good deal of time driving around almost without exception. Streets are residential as well as. Traffic street. Traffic and. It's a fine school system here is outstanding. Just constructing a new wing on a school. School was. Nothing like 66. There are more facilities here and I want to spend it in a small time as farce
and quality of living. And here is what the city clerk furred Borgman who has lived in Sauk Center almost all his life had to say it was good kind of quo but very nice golf course here. Bowling Alley in the winter. A lot of the people have gone to school doing in the winter. And of our summers. It's just. The. Fishing. If I were the impression in visiting Sox center is that the myth of the small town lingers there as the dozen most towns of its size its inhabitants are generally proud of their community and readily point out that it is up to date with good streets and schools that it is a good place to raise children and that there is plenty to do if you like the outdoor life. This kind of pride is justifiable and in many ways Sauk Center is a fine place in which to live. And it may have the kind of industrial development that has alluded to it so far. The town recently attracted an
industry that employs around 300 people and the transportation facilities along with a ready labor supply may bring more factories to town. But at present the town seems almost hauntingly like the picture given out but in Main Street not necessarily in the PROVENGE reality which has largely vanished. But in the attitudes that are cherished their attitudes about what is good right. As Ben Dubois said a spall town maybe has advantages over the city. There is less confusion. We can read more. Perhaps we can sit back and do a little thinking. While Sauk Center was the primary setting for Main Street his version of
small town life was also based on his observations of many other Minnesota municipalities. Among them which has grown the way honest Jim Blauser the professional booster of mystery predicted for Gopher press. Next weekly show visit to man hoping to find out whether commercial growth and cultural development had eradicated the myth of the small town for man. You have been listening to. Carlos is Minnesota. A state of mind. This 12 program series has been produced by the same thought State College broadcasting service under a grant. From the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Both are still exposed to. The north. That's where they would say. You speak with
you and you cannot hide. Sinclair you. Run with. That and. I say. This is very well written by Dr King's monk with. Of the St. Cloud State College Department of English. Music composed and performed. Oh psyche. This program was produced and directed. By East Scott. Bright. Sun. To. Me. The part of Lois and other characters were played by members of the St. Cloud State College Department of
theatre. This is the national educational radio network.
- Episode Number
- The Myth of a Small Town Today
- Producing Organization
- St. Cloud State College
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- Episode Description
- In 1920, Minnesotan Sinclair Lewis published his novel "Main Street," an inciteful analysis of the American small town. This radio series, produced five decades after the novel was published, explores whether "Main Street" still holds true of small towns.
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- Media type
Producing Organization: St. Cloud State College
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 71-9-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Sinclair Lewis' Minnesota: A State of Mind; 3; The Myth of a Small Town Today,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-tb0xv14q.
- MLA: “Sinclair Lewis' Minnesota: A State of Mind; 3; The Myth of a Small Town Today.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-tb0xv14q>.
- APA: Sinclair Lewis' Minnesota: A State of Mind; 3; The Myth of a Small Town Today. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-tb0xv14q