More about Albert Lea’s mystery papers

Published 9:41 am Friday, March 4, 2011

Column: Between the Corn Rows

This column for the Feb. 11 issue featured Albert Lea’s long forgotten newspaper, the Freeborn Patriot. What inspired this column was a new microfilm in the archives of the Freeborn County Historical Museum Library.

However, this microfilm doesn’t have all the copies for the Patriot. Also, the microfilm has single copies of two other newspapers. One is a 1936 copy of the Unionist of Austin and the other is a copy of still another obscure local publication, the Albert Lea Shopping News.

Email newsletter signup

This issue is dated March 27, 1936. What was a combination of local news and ads from local business firms was issued on Fridays and may have been free for folks in the Albert Lea area. The issue number for this specific copy was 42, which indicates it was started in 1935.

According to local historical researcher Kevin Service, the Shopping News was printed at 121 N. Broadway Ave. by Portmann-Stevens. I did a check with the 1936 city directory and found out Portmann‘s first name was Harold and his occupation was printer. No further information was available for Stevens.

Kevin and I were unable to find much more information about the Albert Lea Shopping News and how many issues were actually published before it faded away.

While looking over the microfilm and doing research for the Feb. 11 column, I came across an indication that the Freeborn Patriot made a switch to a daily newspaper. In fact, I even included this tidbit in the original column. However, this detail couldn’t quite be confirmed, so I deleted it from the final column copy.

Since that time Kevin has found proof that the Freeborn Patriot did start issuing a daily newspaper on Dec. 7, 1936. The clipping he found said the cost for home delivery by carrier was a dime a week.

Kevin also found an ad in the Dec. 24, 1936, issue with “Christmas Greetings from the Freeborn Patriot Force.” This force consisted of 15 people and three were members of the Ostby family. Roger B. Ostby was the editor, J.G. Ostby was associate editor and Melba Ostby was one of three staff correspondents.

A portion of the mystery regarding what happened to the Freeborn Patriot is partly solved with another news item found by Kevin. It’s from the May 1939 issue of Albert Lea’s Community Magazine. It reported:

“Vinton C. Bird, formerly of the New Richland Star, has purchased the Freeborn Patriot and will continue the publication of the newspaper. The new owner has had several years experience in the newspaper game. The paper will be known as the Freeborn County Journal.

A 1939 city directory listing found by Kevin shows the Freeborn County Journal office being located at 121 Traffic Lane. And right here could be still another local mystery.

In reality, Traffic Lane was once a designated city street. Its location is the alley next to the Heart of the Artichoke that goes from East Clark Street a half block south to the post office building. The address clearly indicates the Freeborn County Journal office was located in the rear portion of what’s now the Heart of the Artichoke building.

Right about here would be the logical place to emphasize that there’s a real mystery as to how long the Freeborn Patriot’s replacement publication continued to publish a newspaper. My guess is that the Freeborn County Journal didn’t last too long.

By the way does anyone still have a copy of the Freeborn County Journal?

I have been contacted by Roger Ostby Jr. of Elk River. Hopefully, we’ll have more information about both the Ostby family and the Freeborn Patriot in a future column.

Wrestling update

There seems to be questions as to when wrestling actually started at Albert Lea High School and who was the first coach.

A check with the 1941 yearbook shows O.W. Sjowall was the first coach. His wrestlers won the Big Nine championship and were regional runner-ups, plus sending three team members to state.

Wrestling is again featured in the 1942 yearbook. However, there’s no mention of Sjowall or a wrestling team in the 1943 yearbook.

The first listing for LeRoy Maas and his high school wrestlers is in the 1944 yearbook.

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.