Kids had to be sneaky back in the day to avoid getting caught hitching a ride on Rocky, but climbing aboard the concrete statue the Great Northern Railway's mascot was worth the scolding they'd get from depot agents if caught.
It's still forbidden to ride Rocky, but he remains on public display albeit not out in the elements that have been harsh on one of Minot's most photographed attractions. The statue is now safe within a picket fence enclosure inside the The Railroad Museum of Minot downtown.
According to Roger Burchill, facility manager at the museum, Rocky remains popular with youngsters who visit the museum, open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free.
The mission of the museum, in part, is to collect, catalog and protect the personal and material record of railroading in the region, so acquiring and moving Rocky indoors in December 2002 made for a good fit. And like everything else in the museum, Rocky has a story to tell.
Rocky Mountain goats, actually members of the antelope family, are plentiful in Glacier National Park which the Great Northern was often identified with. According to the May 1956 issue of Modern Railroads magazine, Rocky was chosen as mascot for Great Northern in 1921, when the company's vice president at the time, W.P. Kenney, became inspired by the mountain goats he viewed in Glacier. From a marketing standpoint it proved successful almost immediately and the mountain goat logo was placed on every locomotive and box car in the system, but Rocky didn't acquire his name until 1955.
Minot already had its Rocky statue by then. It, and according to Burchill, many others like it, were made by Scott Schuyler Boden at his SS Boden Cement Co. in Minot. Exactly how many were made isn't known but Burchill believes the major depots along the Great Northern line eventually received Rocky statues with just two surviving today, Minot's and one in Montana.
Minot's Rocky spent most of his years outdoors on the lawn south of the Great Northern depot, until the railroad merged with Burlington Northern in 1970. At that time, Rocky was moved to Roosevelt Park where he remained until the museum acquired him in 2002.
Burchill is well aware of how attractive Rocky is to children and how common it was for kids to have their pictures taken on his rough back, perhaps clinging to his spikey steel horns. So, Burchill is attempting to make a collage of such photos to add to the display. Anyone with photos or copies of photos they'd like to donate can mail them to The Railroad Museum of Minot at P.O. Box 74, Minot, N.D. 58702.
- Trivia answer: In the April 24 Back in the Day article about the Theodore Roosevelt statue in Roosevelt Park, we asked for fun what the name is of the street within Roosevelt Park which passes by the statue. The answer is Coe Drive, named for Dr. Henry Waldo Coe, of Portland, Ore., who donated the statue to the Minot Park District.
- Trivia question: The Minot High School Class of 2011 graduates May 29. When did the school's first graduating class get their diplomas and how many members were there?
(Kent Olson is managing editor of The Minot Daily News)