1. How and when did you get hooked on history?
Although I didn’t know it at the time, my first experience with history came early in my life. I was six years old when WWII ended. I remember vividly the day Germany and Japan surrendered.
2. What role does history play, or has it played in your personal life?
I know a few people who know a lot about history. It has always been important to me to have meaningful conversations, and it seems historical facts always are weaved into these conversations. Personally, I strongly believe it is important that we always realize how history impacts the present and always has. I tell the story of many events with a strong emphasis on the progression of facts, weaving them into a complete picture. History is a passion of mine.
3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?
My career of 28 years in Law Enforcement, serving as Deputy Sheriff & Patrolman was interesting to say the least. This is a long time to navigate what I call living history. Law enforcement was different when I first started than it was when I retired. Equipment was different. Training was non-existent in the beginning.
What I discovered is that culturally, people don’t change too much from one generation to the next. Which leads to my response to the next question.
4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
Harry Truman said if we don’t know our history, we’re bound to make the same mistakes over again.
5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
My favorite part of history is American History, especially the taming of the West by incredible people like Cotter, Smith, Carson, etc.
6. How did the Spam Museum come about?
What we now refer to as the original SPAM® Museum was actually a museum to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Hormel Company, which was founded here in Austin, MN by George Hormel in 1891. This museum was established in 1991 at our local mall here in Austin. The museum was less than 50 square feet, and its doorway was an image of a SPAM® Can being opened. Though a Hormel Museum, if became increasingly evident that SPAM® had many fans and warranted a museum of its own. It was then that Hormel bought a vacant Sears building on north main street. It was used partly for office spaces and then SPAM® got a museum of its own at this new location. With the Grand opening in 2002, it drew hundreds of visitors far and wide, with big names such as Tom Brokaw as the main presenter. By 2015, with more growth within the company, more office space was needed. Plans began to move the museum for this to be accommodated. Hormel purchased green space in the heart of downtown for the museum to be relocated. Opened in 2016, the SPAM® Museum has been a huge success, and the community has benefitted greatly. The first three years brought over 100,000 visitors per year through our doors. Covid slowed that down considerably, but the past two years has shown that folks are gaining confidence in traveling again and our numbers are growing again. We welcome visitors from all over the world.
7. What do you hope visitors take away with them and how does the Spam Museum reflect American history?
I hope visitors take away that the Hormel Foods Company is more than a meat packing company – throughout history the company has always given back to the country and world. It reflects how a fledgling company grew and how its procedures changed the way things were done in America. How SPAM® fed (and feeds) the world. We are a living history.