DAKOTA DATEBOOK: Dec. 5-9
Dec. 5 — Sitting Bull’s war chief, Gall, died on this date 110 years ago. The Hunkpapa chief played a major role in the Lakota’s war with the United States.
Gall was born around 1840 near the Moreau River in South Dakota. His early childhood name was Matohinsda, which means Bear Shedding His Hair. His parents died when he was young, and he was raised by relatives. At some point during his youth, he was so hungry he tried to eat the gall – or gallbladder – of an animal killed by a neighbor. From then on, his name was Pizi, which means Gall.
Father De Smet and the Snorer
By MERRY HELM
Dec. 6 — Father Pierre De Smet entered North Dakota from Montana in 1840, calling it the best “retreat” he ever made; he was petrified of warring Blackfeet. “…only a rocky point separated us from a savage war-party,” he wrote. “Without losing time, we…started at full gallop… That day we made forty to fifty miles without a halt, and did not camp until two hours after sunset…”
His only companion, a Belgian trapper, posed a different kind of problem that night. “My grenadier, braver than I, was soon snoring like a steam engine in full swing; running through all the notes of the chromatic scale, he closed each movement of his prelude with a deep sigh, by way of modulation.”
The next day, they found a freshly killed buffalo. “We trembled at this sight, thinking the enemy was not far away; but…the Lord…had thus prepared food for our evening meal… That night we camped among rocks that are the resort of bears and tigers. There I had a good sleep. This time the music of my companion’s snoring did not trouble me.”
Lloyd Rigler, Philanthropist
By MERRY HELM
Dec. 7 — Lloyd Rigler, an entrepreneur and avid arts philanthropist, passed away on this date in 2003 in his home in California at the age of 88. He made his fortune with a recipe for a meat condiment.
Rigler was born in Lehr in 1915; when he was four, the family moved to Wishek, about 70 miles southwest of Jamestown. He learned about the business world in his parents’ general store; he started running his own counter, selling gift items and greeting cards, when he was only 11.
Rigler packed four years of high school into three so that he could go to work to earn college tuition. In 1933, he headed for Chicago and stayed with relatives while he sold irons for the Edison Co. and shoes for Marshall Fields. Within two years, he had enough money saved up to go to the University of Illinois in Champaign.
After college, Rigler worked in market research, product demonstration, and sales. Then, he went into partnership with Lawrence Deutsch, conducting business as Rigler & Deutsch Food Brokers. In 1948, they happened upon a remarkable entree at a Santa Barbara restaurant owned by the chef, Adolph Rempp. When they learned their meat had been tenderized with Rempp’s personal concoction, they asked about the recipe and ended up paying Rempp $10,000 for it. They made payments of $100 per month and named it Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer.
Over the next 25 years, Rigler and Deutsch acquired fortunes worth millions of dollars and jointly decided to develop the Lloyd E. Rigler – Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation, which supports social programs and the arts. They were among the founders of the Los Angeles Music Center and the JFK Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. They also supported the Joffrey Ballet, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the City Center of Music and Drama in New York and many more. At the time of his death, Rigler was the vice chairman of the New York City Opera.
Rigler and Deutsch sold their business in 1974, and in 1977, Deutsch died of lung cancer, leaving his estate to the foundation. Rigler now dedicated himself, full time, to supporting the arts. He launched perhaps one of his farthest-reaching legacies in 1994, when he created the Classic Arts Showcase, an eclectic television service that distributes performing arts films to public television stations free of charge.
Rigler and Deutsch also established a legendary collection of rare music, including manuscripts signed by Beethoven, letters by Wagner and a first edition of a Mozart opera; these were tragically lost in a fire that gutted the foundation’s Burbank headquarters in 1992.
Rigler was proud of his North Dakota roots and often talked of how good life had been to him during his early years. And, he didn’t forget it when he was spending his money.
Of the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks, he said, “Such quality. I can’t believe this kind of quality exists in the arts in North Dakota. I want to support the North Dakota Museum of Art.” And he did. Two weeks before he died, he issued a challenge grant of $12,500 to help the museum gain new donors.
Rigler also gave more than $100,000 in matching grants to the Northern Plains’ Ballet in Bismarck. In his hometown of Wishek, he donated money toward the city hospital and a golf course named for him.
Minot’s Japanese-Americans in World War II
By STEVE HOFFBECK
Dec. 8 — The Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, plunged the U.S. into World War II. Congress declared war on Japan the following day, December 8.
On that same day, the Japanese-American residents of Minot placed an advertisement in The Minot Daily News to tell of their loyalty to the U.S., titling it: “A Statement By the Japanese People Of Minot.” It read: “Japan has made a cowardly attack upon the United States. Her military leaders have plunged Japan into a conflict in which the inevitable end for her is a crushing and deserving defeat.
The United States is OUR HOME, OUR COUNTRY. She must and will end this war which was not of her choosing. Eagerly we await the opportunities to prove the sincerity of these words, and our loyalty to America. Count us in, we ask, in the task that lies ahead to smash forever the military machine which stabbed without warning.”
Despite this pledge, on the very next day, Tuesday, Dec. 9, U.S. Treasury Department agents, assisted by FBI agents and local police, marched into two Japanese-owned restaurants in Minot, asked all customers to leave, and informed the two owners that the government was taking over the properties.
The owners, Roy Yanagita and Tom Toyama, also had their Minot bank accounts frozen by the Treasury Department. Both Yanagita and Toyama faced background investigations, but were allowed to re-open their restaurants on Dec. 20 following an 11-day shutdown.
On the evening before the re-opening, Tom Toyama bought another ad to tell his customers that he was truly thankful for their patronage and treatment he enjoyed from the people of Minot for the 26 years he had served them in his cafe. “Everything I have in the world,” Toyama wrote, “is in Minot.” He gave heartfelt thanks to the hundreds who expressed sympathy for the recent closing, and he was grateful for the support he had been given in what he called the darkest moment of his life.
By MERRY HELM
Dec. 9 — Today is the birthday of William Henry Pratt, the great-grandnephew of Anna Leonowens, the inspiration for the book and movie, “Anna and the King.” He was born in England in 1887.
This man was a charming and gentle man who later became an actor in the United States. In 1943, Pratt performed at the Fargo Theatre in “Arsenic and Old Lace” with the original New York cast.
William Henry Pratt was not going by his given name at that point; he was using his stage name — Boris Karloff. Yep, that’s right, this was the man who would become one of the most memorable actors in horror film history, playing roles such as the monster in “Frankenstein” and “The Mummy” in the 1930s.
Movie-goers didn’t know the name of the actor playing the Frankenstein monster, because when the names of the cast were listed, the part of The Monster was credited as “himself.” However, when “The Mummy” came out the following year, Karloff’s name was displayed, and his fame as the “The Master of Horror” was secured for all time.
“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from Humanities North Dakota.