In my column a couple of weeks ago, I noted that the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will be making a stop in Owatonna on Monday, Dec. 7, at 4:15 p.m. The train will be parked on the DM&E tracks at 1145 Park Drive, just south of the Owatonna Bus Company in the Industrial Park. You are all invited to come, enjoy the brightly decorated train and take in a Christmas musical show that will be given on a stage located on a converted boxcar. Performers this year will include Prescott and Adam Puddington with their blend of country, rock and blues and Wisconsin singer/songwriter and guitar wizard Willy Porter.
Besides offering a great holiday atmosphere, the objective of the holiday train is to raise food, money and awareness for food banks all across the country. So when you come, you are urged to bring either a cash donation or non-perishable food items that will all be collected on site. All of the contributions collected here will be turned over to the Steele County Food Shelf.
During the time the train is stopped in Owatonna, the Park Drive rail crossing will be blocked to traffic. Motorists are asked to refrain from using the Owatonna Bus Company lot for parking so that returning school buses can enter. You will be able to view the show from the north side of the tracks.
Owatonna passenger railroad memories
While having breakfast at Wagner’s Pool Hall this past week, I had a chance to sit down and re-live the great passenger railroad days with Pete Schneider of Owatonna. Pete was the agent at the Owatonna Rock Island depot on Riverside Avenue for 16 years. His career with the railroad totaled 41 years. Most of those years were with the Rock but the last seven years of his career were with the Chicago Northwestern that purchased the Rock Island when the line went bankrupt. CNW transferred him to Albert Lea where he finished his railroad career.
The Rock Island bus
How many of you remember the Rock Island bus that met the trains from the south daily? This bus was specifically run to accommodate passengers who were going to the Mayo Clinic and Methodist Hospital in Rochester. The two drivers of the bus were George Knowlton and H.L. Peters. They would meet the train from St. Louis and then travel to Rochester.
The carnival trains
The day after Labor Day was always an exciting one for Owatonna railroad and carnival buffs. Following the closing of the Minnesota State Fair, the Royal American Shows would pack up their carnival onto rail cars and would travel south on the Rock Island Line. I would keep close touch with Pete and we would inform the listeners of KRFO as to when the two carnival trains would be passing through Owatonna. When the trains came through they were met by a large delegation of Owatonna residents at trackside. Carnival employees would wave at us when they passed through town. The trains were colorful and it was a thrill to see the cars loaded with carnival rides.
Memorable train wreck
I brought up the derailment of the southbound Rocket and Pete said he’ll never forget that day. It was back in the late ’60s when the passenger train hit a truck loaded with cement blocks at a crossing near Wickes Lumber north of town. The train derailed… the engines landed in a field and passenger cars were tangled together all over the place. The two men in the truck were killed but there were only injuries to a few of the passengers and crew on the train. Pete said, “I had a station full of people waiting to board the train. I knew that it had left Faribault on time but then it never showed up in Owatonna. Then I heard sirens going north and I knew that something had happened to the train. The engineer finally called me and let me know that they had derailed. He was really shaken by the whole incident. We had to arrange for buses to take the passengers to Kansas City.” My partner, Jerry Boos, and I were one of the first ones on the scene. It was quite a sight.
Exciting news at the airport
I found it interesting and exciting when I read about the John Klatt Airshows making Owatonna their national base of operations. Finishing touches are being put on a new hanger being built for the company and they will take occupancy of their new facility by the end of this year. JKAI is a successful and rapidly growing business with an extremely energetic leader, John Klatt, at the helm.
I was interested in the critical factors in the decision of John Klatt Airshows to select the Owatonna airport for its business headquarters and operational base. The decision was based on a number of factors including geography, size and condition of the airport, a progressive approach on the part of the airport commission and Owatonna’s historically positive approach to business development.
Here are the items that prompted John Klatt Airshows to pursue their proposed project in Owatonna:
• Geographically situated adjacent to US Highway 35, the Owatonna Airport provides convenient land transport accessibility and is within 60 minutes of the Twin Cities International Airport.
• The Owatonna Airport is a well maintained and managed facility depicting the pride the airport management, airport commissioners, city council and community have in this landmark.
• The airport is well equipped with air navigational and landing systems, ample runways in excellent condition and aircraft handling capabilities sufficient to support our requirements.
• Owatonna’s history of economic development clearly expresses a desire to support the growth of the community and thereby is considered a solid location for JKAI to invest.
• Dealing with the airport manager, Dave Beaver, and the airport commission has been a positive and encouraging environment from the onset. It became apparent early on, that the level of sincere and open dialogue we received complemented the desire to realize our goal.
About the company
John Klatt Airshows Inc. is a privately held aviation based branding, marketing and advertising entity. They provide services to the US government and commercial businesses nationally via air show presence, national media exposure and outreach programs. JKAI is the largest privately held business of its kind employing a full time staff with positions ranging from performance pilot, relocation pilots, marketing and media manager, air frame and power plant mechanics, logistics coordinator, field operations manager and business manager.
Jerry Carlson, VP of Business Development said, “We are delighted to have the opportunity to establish a base of operation in Owatonna. The support we have received has reaffirmed our decision and we look forward to becoming part of the very successful Owatonna business community. This project, coupled with the addition of the crosswind runway has made for an extremely busy year at the airport. An important tool for local economic development, the airport continues to grow to meet and support the needs of the Owatonna community.”
So, congratulations to the airport commission and to airport manager Dave Beaver for bringing this exciting addition to our airport. This is another entity that puts Owatonna on the national map.
Public Muskie meeting
The third annual “Money for Muskies” banquet, which is open to the public, will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m. at the Eagles Club in Owatonna. Speaker will be Bob Mehsikomer, host of the television show “Simply Fishing.” Tickets are $20, kids 12 and under free. Call (507) 390-3549 or (507) 259-5074 for tickets
Elks for Wishes benefit
The Owatonna Elks Lodge will sponsor their third annual Elks for Wishes benefit this Saturday night, Nov. 28. The Owatonna Elks have adopted the wish of Jackie, a five year old from Claremont. Music will be provided by the Fabulous Love Handles and there will be a live auction. Proceeds go to the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Minnesota. Tickets are $15 and are available at the Elks Lodge. Jackie was diagnosed with Ataxia when she was 18-months-old. In March of this year she was also diagnosed with Hallervorven-Spatz disease. If the disease runs its normal course, Mayo doctors say Jackie only has 12-18 months to live. Her mental development is that of a child between one and two years old. Jackie’s wish is to swim with the Dophins at Disney World in Orlando.
The Steele County dairy banquet for all Steele County youth dairy participants, family members and guests will be held this Saturday, Nov. 28, at the Owatonna VFW Club. Social hour at 6:30 p.m. with a Windsor chop dinner at 7:30 p.m. and awards program to follow. Reserve tickets from Karen VonRuden at (507) 213-4964 or firstname.lastname@example.org by tomorrow.
Gifts to the schools
Here is the latest listing of gifts to the Owatonna Public Schools. OHS Boys Cross Country received $1,000 from the Owatonna Clinic. OHS SHOC (Students Helping Others Choose) received $300 from Federated, $250 from the Owatonna Clinic and $250 from Hy-Vee Foods, The Hy-Vee “Smiles for Education” program provided $5,000 to Willow Creek School as well as a Mac laptop to student, Jessica VonRuden. Thirty businesses in Owatonna gave from $150 to $300 for the OHS Homecoming Parade and three businesses contributed services including sound equipment from Jeff Kath Auctioneers, parade crew shirts from Oak Glenn Sportswear and garbage service from Stewart Sanitation.
• This Wednesday, Nov. 25, is the final day to donate used and new mittens, gloves, caps and scarves to the Grandparents for Education collection that will be used for students who come to school unprepared to go outdoors during recess to play in the cold temperatures. Drop them off at Hy-Vee and Cash Wise Foods, SeniorPlace, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Sterling and Walgreen Drug and the Pizza Ranch. Cash donations for purchase of new items can be sent to Box 1085, Owatonna, MN 55060.
• The Thanksgiving Day community dinner will be held this Thursday at the VFW Club in Owatonna. Serving starts at 11 a.m. For home delivery of meals, call the VFW beginning at 7 a.m. at 451-1001.There is a limit of five meals for delivery. Volunteers are needed… just show up at the VFW and you’ll be put to work.
• If you can help the Salvation Army in Owatonna by being a Christmas kettle bell ringer, call Maureen Schlobohm at (507) 676-2869. Shifts are two hours any time between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. beginning this Friday, Nov. 27. Owatonna locations include Hy-Vee and Cash Wise Foods, Cabelasx, Fleet Farm and Wal-Mart.
I gave you the wrong address for former Owatonnan Denny Dunkirk, who is still on the mend from five by-pass heart surgery. If you sent a card, you probably got it back. His correct address is 445 Corvair Dr, Lake Havasu City, AZ 86406.
Todd Hale can be reached at email@example.com or write him at 632 14th St. S.E., Owatonna, MN 55060.