Editor's note: This classic Answer Man first ran Nov. 3, 2017. See Page B7 for another look back at the Armistice Day blizzard.
Dear Answer Man, the anniversary of the Armistice Day blizzard of 1940 is approaching. What can you tell us about a Rochester-Winona football game that was played at Rochester High School during the blizzard? And there was a concert in Winona featuring none other than Liberace, I've heard.
Fake news or true facts? -- Mike Tri
For millennials like me, the Armistice Day blizzard is one of those things you always hear about but never pay attention to. So pay attention, millennials! Quit multi-tasking, put aside your craft beer and your farm-to-table wrap and focus!
FYI, I wanted to get Mike's question into the paper today to make sure I was the first journalist to market this year with an Armistice Day blizzard story.
The quick facts: The Armistice Day blizzard was a whopper of a storm that blew in on Monday, Nov. 11, 1940, and walloped an area about 1,000 miles long. Central Minnesota got 27 inches of snow, the Twin Cities 16. Forty-nine people are believed to have died in Minnesota, including 20 duck hunters in the Mississippi River backwaters. It sank ships on the Great Lakes, two trains collided in the whiteout in Watkins, and 1.5 million turkeys destined for Thanksgiving tables were wiped out.
That's the quick backstory. Now, Mike is correct that the young pianist Walter Liberace performed in Winona that night, though his recital was nothing like his later Las Vegas shows. In 1940, he was a modest pianist from Milwaukee who played in piano bars and minor concert halls around the Midwest. Years later, he dropped his first name, bought a closet full of boas and candelabras and became simply Liberace. According to a story by MPR News in 2000, when he performed at the College of St. Teresa that night in 1940, "published reports say the roar of the wind almost drowned out his music. But when Liberace surrendered to the storm and began to leave the stage, the audience urged him to continue. As an ode to the maelstrom which was killing people just a few miles away, he ended the concert with a piece called 'The Night Winds.'"
I happen to be a renowned authority on classical music encores, as well as most other things, but I'd never heard of that encore. I looked it up and there's a tone poem by that name by American composer Charles Griffes, first performed in 1917. And in case you were wondering -- yes, Liberace performed at least once in Rochester, in 1986. The concert was one of the last biggies in the old Mayo Civic Auditorium, according to our clips, and the first with ticket prices over $20. Liberace died within months of that performance, at age 67.
Regarding the football game, I'm checking with very old and knowledgable sources and hope to have that information for you before Nov. 11. We don't have clips and I can't find anything in the Tomb, the Answer Man archives in the bowels of this historic building.
Now, prepare to be surprised: How much snow did Rochester get in the Armistice Day storm, Nov. 10-12? Barely enough to track into the house -- 2.5 inches. That's more than Zumbrota, Austin and Grand Meadow, which reported 2 inches. Spring Grove had 0.8 inches and Winona just a half-inch. But Albert Lea reported 8 inches and they had much more to the north and west -- and it was the wind and cold that made it a killer storm.
Speaking of millennials
Now that I have the fragile attention of my millennial brethren, let me share some big news.
Would you say Rochester is a hot spot for millennials? According to a census analysis published Friday, you should.
Stateline, an online publication of the Pew Charitable Trusts, says the Columbus, Ohio, metro area is "at the top of a list of cities that have attracted young, educated people from out of state, yet are still relatively affordable." But "there are other areas whose young, educated populations are growing nearly as fast as some of the most famous youth magnets like Silicon Valley; Austin, Texas; and Nashville, Tenn. — but with more affordable housing. They include Midland, Mich.; Bloomington, Ill.; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Bismarck, N.D.; Morgantown, W. Va.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Blacksburg, Va.; and Rochester, Minn."
That's all it says about Rochester, but I'll chip in the link online so you can read more about Columbus.