Attempting to fill a gap in Austin’s archives

Published 11:19 am Friday, December 23, 2011

In early 1963, with the release of their second album, Surfin’ USA, the Beach Boys were on the fast track to lasting fame, with music whose popularity would rival that of the Beatles. In the midst of that success, they played a show at the Terp Ballroom in Austin.

Mower County Historical Society researcher Sue Doocy, looking for material about the popular surfing band’s April 28, 1963, Austin show, looked for an archival copy of the Austin Daily Herald — but came up empty. Neither a paper copy or microfilm version of the Sunday, April 28, 1963, Herald is to be found at the Historical Society or at the Herald office.

Records of daily newspaper sales from 48 years ago no longer exist, but the presumption is that the Herald simply sold every existing copy on the day of the big Beach Boys show — before an archival version could be stored away.

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The same problem exists for papers associated with the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor — every copy got sold. The Historical Society did obtain a copy for its collection when a man who had retained one as a souvenir got in touch and offered to donate it.

Although a Beach Boys show may not rival Pearl Harbor as world events go, it was clearly a big deal in Austin, and perhaps someone still has a copy of that day’s Herald. If so, and if you’re willing to share, get in touch with Doocy at the Historical Society, (507) 437-6082.

The nicest and most surprising moment of the Christmas season for me, so far, came Wednesday morning while I was sitting at the Morning Grind coffee drive-through. On days that I get out of the house on time, I treat myself to a coffee that is better than what we brew here at the office, and Wednesday was one such day.

As I prepared to hand my money in through the window, the barrista (does the term apply to drive-throughs?) told me that the driver ahead of me had paid $10 and asked that the surplus be used to buy coffee for those in line behind her.

Happy Wednesday. And thank you, unknown driver.

In preparation for the usual end-of-the-year review, we were looking at a list of the Herald’s biggest stories from 2011. Although it probably won’t make the cut as one of the year’s biggest, my favorite stories were several we ran about sightings of cougars (also known as mountain lions and puma) in southern Minnesota, including some not far from Austin.

Because my wife and I like to use our vacation time hiking and camping in the wilderness, we have had many discussions about potentially violent wildlife. I am in favor of seeing mountain lions, bears and unusual reptiles. She is not. I spend a lot of time offering reassuring comments about how unlikely we are to see anything dangerous. As rural Minnesotans, I point out, we have lived most of our lives not far from animals that could be considered dangerous.

Tammy has always scoffed at this suggestion, preferring to believe that when we step out of the car or boat at some wilderness trailhead we are entering territory far more dangerous than back home.

There is no doubt that some animals can be dangerous. No one relishes a confrontation with a grizzly bear. And it is true that cougars do occasionally attempt to prey on people.

What has always struck me as the important point, however, is that except for those who live in truly urban areas, we are often around wild animals without knowing it.

So I have been quite pleased to have some back-up of my contention that anytime we’re out for a walk in the country — or staying in a cabin on the North Shore we are not far from wild animals.

A week ago, a bear was spotted in St. Paul, reinforcing the fact that black bear are just about everywhere in Minnesota. They may be relatively scarce in some parts, but they are around. The same, it seems, is becoming true for cougar (one was sighted recently near Zumbrota).

The reality is that animals are out there in the countryside, living their lives wherever they can fit into an ecological niche.