Column: Friendly foes, and Father Flanagan, found way hereWORTHINGTON — There is a reason for twice-told tales. Some of the time, stories are told twice (or more) because they are important.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — There is a reason for twice-told tales. Some of the time, stories are told twice (or more) because they are important.
Our democracy has come to be (for politicians) a cesspool where they demonize and smear bile over political opponents, no matter whether the opponents are from another political party or from their own party in a primary contest.
This reality often brings to mind the 1954 Minnesota senate race between Hubert Humphrey and Val Bjornson.
HHH and Bjornson both came to Worthington for Turkey Day in 1954. I embarrassed them. Humphrey was the DFL candidate. Bjornson, a native of Minneota who served in naval intelligence during World War II and who was elected Minnesota’s treasurer for 11 terms, was the Republican challenger.
In those years, when we (Daily Globers) were assigned to cover a visiting politician, we were expected to follow like puppies on the heels of their masters. I was assigned to Hubert Humphrey. If Hubert stopped for an ice cream cone, it was for me to know the flavor of ice cream he ordered.
It was late in the afternoon. HHH set out somewhat mysteriously from the Daily Globe building. He turned at the corner of 11th and Fourth and started toward 10th Street. I followed. A minute or two later, Bjornson turned off 10th and walked directly toward Humphrey.
Neither candidate appreciated immediately who I was, or what I was doing. They were slightly embarrassed — bitter rivals, many believed — embarrassed to be seen talking together cordially.
I caught their secret conversation. Want to know what it was?
Humphrey: “You ready to leave?”
Bjornson: “Any time you’re ready.”
The two candidates had come to Worthington in the same car. Neither had a great wad of money. Traveling together was one way to save dollars.
This was American politics as I once knew it. Political opponents were like opponents in a checkers game or a tennis match. Each sought a victory. Each played to win. But there was no animosity, no attack on the motives or private lives or character of an opponent.
This is a story told twice because it is a model for what we must make politics become once again. When mud is thrown, when TV commercials smell, it is for all among us to decry this, to speak out, to write, to inform candidates we don’t like it.
All right — enough of two men in politics who acted commendably. There is a second tale which needs to be recalled, the tale of a man who did his work “super commendably”.
This morning, in a prayer service at Immaculate Conception Church at Boys Town, Neb., the Omaha Archdiocese is formally opening a process to have Father Edward J. Flanagan declared a saint. In 1917, Father Flanagan opened his Boys Home that became the Boys Town of today.
Worthington has had an association with saints’ names ever since St. John’s Episcopal Church was organized in 1881. Worthington now has St. Mary’s, St. Matthew’s. But before this morning, Worthington could never say someone who has been nominated for sainthood ever walked Worthington’s streets. Father Flanagan spent a strenuous day at Worthington in 1938, three-quarters of a century gone by. It was the same year local residents went to the State Theater on Third Avenue to see Spencer Tracy in his Academy Adward portrayal of the Nebraska priest in the movie, ‘Boys Town.”
Father Flanagan got on a train at Omaha and rode through Sioux City to Worthington. (Our region had public transportation in those days.) At noon, the famed priest spoke to the Kiwanis Club in the Empire Room of the Hotel Thompson.
That afternoon he went to Worthington High School and spoke to a student convocation.
That evening Father Flanagan addressed a crowd at Memorial Auditorium.
Bill Talbud, who founded Talbud’s Upholstery in what is now a vacant building at the foot of Second Avenue, had a special feeling for the clergyman from Omaha. Talbud, a Lutheran who became an orphan as a child, was one of the first 38 residents of Father Flanagan’s Boys Home.
Bill Talbud would be one of those who would rejoice that a man nominated for sainthood once walked the streets of Worthington.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.