Saturday, October 29, 2011

The battle for Floyd of Rosedale: A symbol of the civil rights movement! 

Iowa and Minnesota have just concluded their rivalry game, and (sadly for Your Blogger) the bronze trophy pig Floyd of Rosedale is staying with the Gophers. "Floyd of Rosedale", you ask? The story of the trophy says a great deal about the progressive upper Midwest before the war:

The 1934 football game between Iowa and Minnesota had been filled with controversy over the treatment of Iowa star halfback Ozzie Simmons. Simmons was also one of the few black football players of that era, and several rough hits by the Gophers on Simmons forced him to leave the game multiple times in Minnesota’s 48-12 victory. “What it amounted to was that they were piling on – late hits,” Simmons recalled. “I had bruised ribs...they came at me with knees high, and some of it was pretty obvious."

The following year, Coach Bernie Bierman’s Gophers were 5-0, and Coach Ossie Solem’s Hawkeyes were 4-0-1. Before the 1935 Iowa-Minnesota contest in Iowa City, Bierman received a flood of threatening letters from Iowa fans. He requested and received special police protection for the team when it detrained in Iowa a couple days before the contest.

The day before the game, Iowa Governor Clyde Herring told reporters, "If the officials stand for any rough tactics like Minnesota used last year, I'm sure the crowd won't." Herring’s message was clear. “What he was saying was, ‘If you treat Ozzie like you treated him last year, we’re coming out of the stands,’” Simmons said.

The news quickly reached Minnesota. Coach Bierman threatened to break off athletic relations. Minnesota Attorney General Harry Peterson practically accused the Iowa governor of thuggery. "Your remark that the crowd at the Iowa-Minnesota game will not stand for any rough tactics is calculated to incite a riot," said Peterson. "It is a breach of your duty as governor, and evidences an unsportsmanlike, cowardly and contemptible frame of mind."

To lighten the mood, Minnesota Governor Floyd Olson sent a telegram to Governor Herring on game-day morning, which read, "Minnesota folks are excited about your statement about the Iowa crowd lynching the Minnesota football team. I have assured them that you are a law abiding gentleman only trying to get our goat...I will bet you a Minnesota prize hog against an Iowa prize hog that Minnesota wins."

The Iowa governor accepted, and word of the bet reached Iowa City as the crowd gathered at the stadium. Things calmed down and the game was untroubled. Minnesota won 13-6, and Iowa star Ozzie Simmons played an injury-free game. Afterwards, the Minnesota players went out of their way to compliment Simmons, and Simmons praised the Gophers for their clean, hard-fought play. Minnesota went on to win their second straight national championship.

Governor Herring obtained an award-winning prize pig which had been donated by Allen Loomis, the owner of Rosedale Farms near Fort Dodge, Iowa. Dubbed Floyd after Minnesota Governor Olson, the pig was the brother of BlueBoy from Will Rogers' movie State Fair. A few days later, Governor Herring collected "Floyd of Rosedale" and personally walked him into Governor Olson’s carpeted office.

Iowa social crusader Virgil Case swore out a criminal warrant in Des Moines against Governor Herring, alleging that the bet violated Iowa gambling laws. Herring jokingly stated that he had retained Governor Olson as his attorney, who argued that it was not a true bet because Herring did not have a chance of winning it. However, an assistant Iowa attorney general convinced a judge to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds because the bet had been made in Minnesota and Iowa City, beyond the local court's jurisdiction. Case also argued that the governors were guilty of violating federal gambling laws because the pig had been placed into interstate commerce when Herring made good on the bet, but the U.S. Attorneys declined to prosecute.

President Franklin Roosevelt's former son-in-law, Curtis Dall, who attended the 1935 game as a guest of the governors, suggested that they name the pig "New Deal." Herring vetoed that proposal.

The early integration, the highly refined sense of justice, the reserved sense of humor, the outrage over gambling, and the ultimate civility: All of these traits define both Iowa and Minnesota even today.


By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Oct 30, 02:26:00 AM:

Re: the 'civility' stereotype.

My first day in Iowa City, my new neighbors managed to insult my profession, my home state, and my two year old son.

In my two years there, they absolutely fell over themselves to label me a racist hick because I committed the radical sin of being a Texan, an idiot because I had been in the Army, and a misogynist because my wife doesn't work outside the home. I hardly made a single friend who was a native Iowan. Illinoisans(?), North Carolinians, Missourians, Pennsylvanians, Californians, Texans, no problems. Moreover, a North Carolinian and I had a conversation to this effect in Jerusalem, about how we felt more at home and welcome among the Jerusalemites than we did in Iowa City.

Iowans = assholes. Incredibly sheltered and naive assholes.  

By Anonymous Jeff in Arizona, at Sun Oct 30, 10:25:00 AM:

Something tells me there is another side to that story Dawnfire.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Oct 30, 12:00:00 PM:

Oh you're totally right. You got me. I'm a raging dick. When I showed up on Keokuk with my luggage in hand and smiled and introduced myself to my older, professorial neighbors and landlord I was actually begging to be told that soldiers were "ignorant bozos," that I should thank God I got out of Texas (twice), and that my toddler son was annoying. That was literally my first and second encounters with Iowans in Iowa, the first hour of my first day in the state. And it didn't improve. Virtually everyone I met in the state had to jibe in at Texans, about being dumb, backward, racist, or whatever, absolutely oblivious to the grotesque irony. Some of the more charitable ones decided that I was a "good Texan," because I surpassed their pathetically low expectations.

Oddly, when I lived in Arizona, Jeff in Arizona, I got along with everyone I met. But then, I didn't have any children to insult back then.

I've lived in six states. Only in Iowa have the natives been so rude so consistently. My wife (A Floridian who has lived in five states) despises them, a factor which weighed heavily on our decision to leave again as soon as possible.

Although it is possible that this phenomenon is present only in Iowa City/Coralville (where we lived), it is a phenomenon.  

By Anonymous Jeff in Arizona, at Mon Oct 31, 01:52:00 PM:

Well, I am sorry you had such an experience. I lived in Iowa for 31 years, all over the state, including Iowa City and Coralville, and while there are jerks in every town, the description of your experience is unique in both my historical observation and my own experiences.  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Tue Nov 01, 05:40:00 PM:


Iowans = assholes. Incredibly sheltered and naive assholes...When I showed up on Keokuk with my luggage in hand and smiled and introduced myself to my older, professorial neighbors and landlord I was actually begging to be told that soldiers were "ignorant bozos"..Although it is possible that this phenomenon is present only in Iowa City/Coralville (where we lived), it is a phenomenon.

Did you live in a university town in the other states where you did not encounter bigotry against Texans?

I see the bigotry you encountered in Iowa more as a comment on a university town in Iowa than on Iowa. There are plenty of smug, self-righteous libs in TX -especially in and around universities- who consider wingnuts to be ignorant, primitive, warmongering racists.It ain't just Iowa.

Minnesotan Garrison Keillor is not from Iowa- in fact he often has Iowa jokes on his show- but he and the Iowans you describe appear to have similar attitudes.

Unfortunately such attitudes are neither confined to Iowa City, nor to Iowa. They are commonly held nationwide among many of the liberal persuasion, especially in university towns.  

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