Many have wondered and asked me about this small town called Raging Ford. Are the people there really that nice? How is that possible? And who would put marble floors and walls in a high school bathroom? What’s up with that?
Finally…(drum roll)…the answers! In a previous post, I mentioned that Raging Ford was based on my mother’s home town of Hibbing in northern Minnesota. The riches from the millions of tons of iron ore scooped from the world’s largest open-pit mine in the world (now known as the Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine) built this town. It has an amazing history and as the demand for iron ore grew, so did the mine, and subsequently the town and how the founders built the infrastructure.
Hibbing High School was only one of the many original buildings to benefit from the iron ore riches. The halls had marbled floors, the school bathrooms were floored and walled with marble, just to begin. The school library was painted with gigantic murals of the town’s mining history wrapped around the main library lobby. Hibbing High was also the first high school in Minnesota with an indoor swimming pool, half the Olympic length. My tour guide a few years back (the principal, now retired) took us to the floor below the swimming pool to see the “windows” (made of thick, thick, thick–did I mention thick–glass) on both sides of the start/end of the pool so judges could “see” who touched the wall first and won the race. So very cool. But beyond that, the student auditorium looked like something from Austria or Paris! Rows and rows of red velvet seats with crystal chandeliers above them faced a spectacular stage.
Bet you didn’t know that Bob Dylan was born and raised in Hibbing. His family’s home is still there, and he played his first “concert” in the high school auditorium!
You can see lots of views of all of these wonderful things at Hibbing High School here: https://www.google.com/search?q=hibbing+high+school&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS882US882&oq=hibbing+high&aqs=chrome.0.0j46j69i57j0l5.8367j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8.
Or Google for more views of the high school and town. If you’re more interested in the history of the town itself, just Google “Hibbing Minnesota history.”
There’s also the most amazing little “house” that was converted to a bigger structure to house all the town’s historical photographs, very similar to the one I “recreated” in fictional Raging Ford. They have everything–all the photographs going back to the beginning of the town.
Then there’s the Hibbing Historical Museum. My grandmother’s wedding dress is there in the “Kohrt” section. My grandparents were among the “founding or first families” in the town. My grandfather and his two brothers owned and operated the Kohrt Brothers Meat Market, which also sold a lot of “general store” goods. While they lost the store in the 1929 crash, it was one of the original stores in Hibbing, which, like many others, had to be “moved” (dismantled and moved and rebuilt) to a different part of town when the mine had to be expanded to meet the ever-growing demands for iron ore. The move also explained why there is an Old Cemetery (where my uncle was buried) and a New Cemetery where all the rest of the Kohrts were buried (just like in my fictional Raging Ford).
Now for the people. I have never met nicer people than those in Minnesota. They let you into the traffic lane ahead of them if they see your turn signal. No horn honking. And in the grocery store, they stop and let you go ahead of them. Kind, giving, sharing people. My mother’s family used to use the word “nice” a lot. Now I understand why. THEY ARE NICE, not something you see too often, at least consistently, in our busy world these days. I can’t shout this out enough.
I will finish with saying that, regardless of all the riches poured into Hibbing’s infrastructure, the town remains a small town with all of the flavor of a small town, to this day. They welcome visitors, so please go visit there for a taste of something very special.