How far back does the Progress edition go?

Published 3:49 pm Saturday, January 4, 2014

Column: Display Type, by Crystal Miller

The Albert Lea Tribune has a 13th month added to its calendar. You might recognize it by the name Progress.

We tenderly call the day that the Tribune Progress edition publishes our 13th month because as much work goes into a single issue that we could normally do in a single month. Since we probably couldn’t get the world to change the Gregorian calendar to the Tribune calendar consisting of 13 months, we must start early. Our work started in October. When you read the Progress edition on Feb. 23, you will know that we have been working on it for five months.

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Each year the Progress edition publishes on the last Sunday in February. It is a collection of our best work and the progress our community has made. It is a stamp in history for Albert Lea and surrounding areas.

A few years ago I came across an edition of Progress from the late 1960s. I remember marveling over the piece of history and speculating it might one of the first years that a Progress edition was published. I put this very special piece of history some place for safekeeping, never to be seen again. My husband would argue that this is something I do often.

Determined to track down my late 1960s edition, I started a paper hunt through the building. I wanted to be able to share with you, what we wrote about that first year of a 13th month. Alas, my safekeeping place remains a secret.

I needed a new plan. I would hit the microfilm. Our microfilm archives hold images of every single page of every single Albert Lea Tribune printed since 1897. I would certainly find a 1960s edition of Progress there. I scoured many of the last Sunday’s in February through the 1960s, but found no mention of Progress. Rifling through microfilm is similar to what we now call surfing the Web. I was easily sidetracked with the history of Albert Lea. I sure wish we had a search engine for the microfilm.

My random search through the 1960s proved unsuccessful. I would need to be more scientific and put on my detective hat.

The oldest paper copy I was able to get my hands on was from 1980, which proudly boasted it was the 14th annual edition of Progress. It was published on Friday, March 28. Ah ha! It was printed on a Friday, not a Sunday, and in March, not in February. Now we also know the year, 1966. Right? 1980 less 14 equals 1966.

Wrong again. Nothing in all of March or February in 1966 showed signs of the first Progress edition. I am not deterred; logic tells me that I am on the right track. I finally found the first edition of the Tribune Progress nestled neatly in March of 1967. Former reporter Ed Shannon will be proud of my new microfilm skills.

The first Progress edition was published on March 31, 1967. It’s was titled: “Action 67 – Progress.” It was 56 pages and included more growth than one can image. An article on advancement as a whole states, “The city had increased from 4.8 square miles to 5.3 square miles. Employment had increased 9 percent in the last year.”

Mayor Niles R. Shoff said, “The year 1966 saw great advancement and progress in the growth and development of Albert Lea. A high level of construction, unequaled public projects, new business and industries along with the advent of a new four-year liberal arts college. Progress, in 1966 was at an all-time level. We look forward to even greater progress in 1967.”

Many businesses had just remodeled or expanded, such as Bonnerup & Sons Funeral Chapel, Wallace’s department store, the Moose Club and the Albert Lea Professional Building at 216 E. Main Street.

New construction was wrapping up on several businesses, the Professional Building of Albert Lea at 222 E. Main St., the Holiday Inn (currently the America’s Best Value Inn) and the new clubhouse for Green Lea Golf Course.

Businesses were moving to new and larger locations, such as the Knights of Columbus to it’s current location on Broadway, Norton Ford (currently Dave Syverson Auto Center) and J.C. Penney was moving from downtown to Skyline for more space.

We tend to forget over the years how much progress Albert Lea has made. Even more, we forget how much progress Albert Lea has made in just one year. This is what the Tribune Progress edition is for, to help remind us how great this city is and how much Progress we have made. I invite you to take a look at what Albert Lea has done on Feb. 23, 2014. in the Tribune Progress edition.

If you happen to clean house and come across a 1960s or 1970s edition of Progress, please don’t throw it away. I would love to keep these old copies. I promise to not lose these important pieces of history. In case I forget, remind me that my new safekeeping place is in the third drawer in from the right on the bottom row.


Albert Lea Tribune Publisher Crystal Miller’s column appears every other Thursday.