Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Pilgrimage to SPAM

SPAM Museum?? Really?? In a rural town in SE Minnesota also! But....in Austin, Minnesota, you'll find the SPAM Museum.

So....as we got out of our coach, the people next to us, getting out of their car, remarked, "Making the pilgrimage to SPAM eh?" We grinned, said "Yes" and went in.

If you didn't know....SPAM is made from pork, hence the pigs in the foreground.

What a cool place! SPAM cans, history, exhibits, and someone walking around with Bacon SPAM samples ! Even a SPAM Train travelling above.

How it's made....we always wondered....even though we ate it anyway.

After they combine all the ingredients, they seal the cans and then cook them in a large oven for 3 hours....in the can! Then they cool them, label them and ship them off to your local store. The factory, one of four (?) in the world is outside of town.

For all you Monty Python fans!

Kim is almost 20 cans tall.

Here's the SPAM Train above with every type of SPAM made

Hormel started, years ago, putting hams in cans....canned ham...remember?

SPAM musical instruments

"Life with Father is a lot more fun since we found SPAM". Too funny.

"I see a lot more of my wife since she found SPAM" Interesting ad campaign.

Here's all the SPAM varieties. Turns out they make a few of these only for the foreign markets, like the Philippines, South America, Japan.

SPAM sent millions of cans to the troops in WWII.

SPAM is owned by Hormel who used to be in the meat packing business.

Some of the original Hormel products from way back.

You can make your own SPAM can here and time it to see how fast you need to be. Obviously, this is Kim having a go at it.

Ok, we all have wondered: How SPAM got its name. Turns out the owner's son came up with the product and here's how the name came about.

Some of Hormel Foods' brands that they own.
...and then there's the Gift Shop. Anything you could want with SPAM on it.

You can buy all the varieties here....which we did !

And we bought some souvenirs!

You should see people's reactions when they see me in my SPAM gear!

They have SPAM singles and even SPAM Lite. We bought one of each and gobbled them down in the coach afterwards. Don't go here hungry. Katie loves SPAM....surprise, surprise.

Speaking of Katie....

She likes to keep me company when I do the blogs...even working the keyboard.

Katie says, "Hi fans ! Aren't I cute?"

Fun tourist stop on our way to Minneapolis.


Oh, if you're tired of these blog entries, please let me know and I'll take you off the list.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

You've got Trouble, right here in River City

We're going to skip around a bit on our travels as I'm not keeping up with our travels. I'll go back and fill in the rest of Utah and Wyoming and Nebraska.

Instead, we're in Iowa.

Finally, we got to the Music Man Square in Mason City, Iowa! We've gone across Iowa twice but never got up here. We read about it on tripadvisor.com, the reviews were good, the photos looked inviting so we booked at a nice RV park nearby in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Meredith Wilson wrote the musical, "Music Man" back in the 50's and it's one of our favorites. Robert Preston is fabulous as the con man (Harold Hill) who comes to a small town in Iowa to sell the locals on a boy's band. Shirley Jones is the librarian who sees right through him. Fabulous, memorable tunes. We watched it the night before going to refresh our memories.

Meredith Wilson lived here until he was 17. We got a great tour.

Large statue of Meredith at the entrance. He played piccolo with John Philip Souza at the age of 19! Then went into the NY Philharmonic under the famous Toscanini. 
They've recreated the town square inside a large building...all with private donations....no government funds at all.

Most of the stores fronts are not that easy to spot in the movie. They go by too quick but a few are easy to see....like....

The Livery Stable where Harold Hill meets his old pal.

"Trouble, right here in River City and that starts with T and rhymes with P and that stand for Pool"

Inside the den of iniquity !
There was a 20-minute movie narrated by Shirley Jones describing and showing the making of the movie....very enlightening. Turns out she was pregnant during the movie! We never knew. They wrapped here up in a girdle and then added lots of "fluff" around here dresses to cover her up. But, during the last shooting, which is where she and Harold kiss on the footbridge, the baby kicked and Robert Preston jumped back and said, "What the heck was that??!!" Then he knew, too.

Oh, and did you know that Meredith Wilson wrote the tune, "It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas" And he received a Grammy for the Music Man musical, the very first Grammy ever awarded.

I won't bore you with the details of the boyhood house of Meredith Wilson but there are a few items: Mom, Dad, two boys and one girl lived here with one bathroom only ! Upstairs ! It's an 1895 restored home. When Meredith was born, he became the largest baby ever born in Iowa....at 14 lbs 6 oz. !


Music room at the front of the house

Charlene, our hostess, was fabulous. Her enthusiasm and knowledge of and for  the house was clearly evident. She obviously LOVES this place and the Music Man.
Entrance closet

Original stained glass

The one bathroom upstairs

Daughter's room (Dixie) she worked with the Barnum and Bailey circus for two years, then wrote a book about here experiences.

Boy's room with one bed only.

Breakfast room

Kitchen with oven in foreground

Ironing board, right next to the phone so the wife can talk while ironing. 
Flour and sugar bins

Radio they listened to while eating supper.

They have a rose laying down on all the pieces of furniture that are original. Turns out they put an advertisement in the local papers asked for anyone knowing of items that belonged to the house with photos to show them and many, many people came forward with the items, including one man who came by with a large, flat cardboard box with the stained glass window in it. He'd seen the photo in the paper and recognized it.

There was a lot more to see in the Music Man Square, including a museum with musical instruments and sets and Meredith's office, etc but it's too much to show here.

Nice, nice place. We enjoyed it much more than we expected.

One last thing.....

We visited the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson played their last show before the famous airplane crash which killed them all back on February 3, 1959. As a side note...Waylon Jennings gave up his seat to The Big Bopper who had a bad cold.

Very good stop here in Clear Lake, Iowa....gorgeous countryside and beautiful country.