Friday, January 9, 2009

Rediscovering Businesses

Rediscover Anoka formed two years ago when several Minnesota businesswomen gathered to drink coffee and share ideas. Now the group includes nineteen business people interested in promoting their historic town as a shopping destination. Located at the confluence of the Rum and Mississippi Rivers, Anoka retains its small town, historic appeal though it is part of the growing Twin Cities metropolitan area. The downtown businesses, all within easy walking distance of one another, include many antique and specialty stores, as well as a tearoom, a Victorian bed and breakfast, a bookstore, and a full-service department store. A river walk along the Rum River features interpretive plaques focused on the town’s rich history, and the Anoka County History Center and Library showcases other aspects of local history.

Because of its river location, Anoka has been home to many businesses throughout its 150-year history, including industries important to Minnesota’s beginnings, lumber and flour milling. When these industries faltered in the Panic of 1873, local citizens rallied to bring a shoe factory and potato starch factory to town. According to a history written by the 1943-1944 Social Science classes at Anoka High School, business people rallied after an August 16, 1884 fire burned most of downtown and began selling their wares from shanties the following day. Many of the current businesses inhabit buildings from the period immediately following this fire.

Anoka businesses came together in 1920 to solve another civic problem—Halloween vandalism. In 1919 youthful antics got out-of-hand. Citizens awoke on October 31 to find cows grazing on Main Street, a cow sleeping in the sheriff’s office, and another devouring the globe in the local high school. To deter a repeat performance, the local businesses started a Halloween festival, now in its 83rd year. Today’s celebration includes a kiddy and an evening parade. Local schoolchildren paint murals on merchants’ windows, and scarecrows on lampposts add a festive touch to downtown. According to a 2001 souvenir booklet, Anoka’s was the first communitywide Halloween celebration in the nation.

By 1938 Anoka claimed that the town was the Halloween Capitol of the World. A collection of Anoka County Union articles Mary Caine compiled gives a sense of the event’s rich history. While parades and bonfires were centerpieces of early celebrations, many other activities also occurred. Businesspeople dressed in costumes, decorated store windows, and sponsored guessing contests. Throughout the 1920s romance was an important feature, including dances at the armory and the 1928 wedding of Emma Merkins and Louis Melberg, who wed while standing on their car at a parade attended by 10,000. Even the Great Depression didn’t dampen the spirit of the event. In 1933 Old Man Depression in mannequin form fueled the post-parade bonfire at Goodrich Park and comic boxing matches added to the attractions. Only the early years of World War II, 1942 and 1943, resulted in no Halloween festivities.

Anoka’s Halloween celebrations have also marked changes in American culture. 1940s celebrations reflected post-war growth with the addition of commemorative buttons, the Anoka High School Pumpkin Bowl, and decorative Halloween jackets on light poles. The 1949 celebration took a serious turn when Governor Luther W. Youngdahl burned the restraints from the Anoka State Hospital in the bonfire after giving a speech comparing the restraining of the mentally ill to the burning of witches in Salem. The 1950s brought big names including Rex Allen, King of the Cowboys, and Tex Ritter. In 1970 a couple on The Dating Game won a trip to Anoka and flew in via helicopter for the parade.

Today the Anoka Chamber of Commerce and Rediscover Anoka have added a Christmas event to their downtown festivities. The first weekend in December Santa arrives in town via1 horse-drawn carriage. A tree lighting ceremony with Mayor Bjorn Skogquist officiating ensues at city hall. As carolers stroll the streets, Santa walks through town handing out money to lucky shoppers. Many businesses plan special events in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Both special events and its rich history make Anoka a great place to spend the day. Rather than searching for a parking spot at a bustling mall and walking through chain stores, a visitor to downtown Anoka can slip into a municipal parking lot and begin a relaxing day of shopping. Whether browsing in antique stores or looking for unique home decor is the purpose of a visit to downtown Anoka, the visitor will find friendly stores and a small-town pace make a memorable shopping experience.

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Jane Austen

Jane Austen has been called the “prose Shakespeare,” and Sir Walter Scott; one of age’s greatest writers, once lamented that her “exquisite touch, which renders ordinary common place things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment, is denied to me.” Sir Walter Scott, believed that Miss Austen is one of the greatest novelists of all time. Some critics have even claimed that she is the first great novelist. Miss Austen’s significance on literature, through her novels is equivalent to Shakespeare. There are Austen societies and circles, and the Regency Period of her novels has become the preferred setting for countless historical romances (Felder 46). They are mostly overheated and sentimental imitations of her work. She set precedence for romance. She gave every woman an idea of what true love means. Miss Austen did this in an unexaggerated but still compassionate way (Sherry 89). Jane Austen had an ironic humor to all of her works that made her an original.

Jane Austen was born on December 16,1775 at Steventon (Austen-Leigh xiiv). During this period of time, women built their lives on marriages. They were not welcomed into labor and men looked only to marry when it increased their fortune. In this era, Jane, the youngest of seven and the daughter of a clergyman, would break the mold and become a prominent unwed writer. She was educated, along with her sister Cassandra, in private schools and well versed in many languages (Austen-Leigh 12). Jane spent her days traveling with her sister, Cassandra, with who Jane held a close relationship. In 1782 they traveled to Oxford and stayed under the care of Mrs. Cawley. Mrs. Cawley was Doctor Cooper’s, a friend of the families, sister. In 1783 they moved to Southhampton where Jane caught a fever and almost died. Jane and Cassandra left Mrs. Latournelle’s school at Reading and returned home in 1785 (Austen-Leigh xiiv). Ten years later Cassandra became engaged to Thomas Fowle, who died before they were to be married. By November of 1797 Jane had moved, with her sister and mother, to Bath (Austen-Leigh xiiv). After Jane became ill she moved in with her sister so they could share the remainder of her days together in Winchester. Austen died in 1817 due to an illness (Austen-Leigh xiiv). Even when her illness overtook her she still wrote up until the end. Because Austen never married, the tendency is to see her as a wise, ironic spinster aunt, writing exclusively about courtship and marriage matters outside her experience. However, Miss Austen had opportunities for marriage and proposals. In 1802 Jane returned to her hometown of Steventon and received an offer of marriage from an old friend. Instead of marriage, Austen involved herself with her large circle of friends and family (Clausen 32).
‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ What she is implying is that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be the target of all the unmarried women who are looking for a husband. This opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice could be taken as the theme of each of her six novels (Clausen 62). Jane Austen used a bit of irony in her writing. The ironic humor must not be allowed to disguise the fact that we have to hear the opening of a love story. She saw marriage as women hunting for prey. This is best exemplified in Charlotte from Pride and Prejudice. “Without thinking highly either of men nor matrimony, had always had marriage as her object,” Jane said herself of Charlotte (Clausen 63). However, Austen also saw the romantic prospect of marriage for what it could be. The other woman; Elizabeth; in the novel was not a romantic, but like most of Austens’ heroines, she had a certain ideal marriage based on her observations of the marriages she knows. All of Austen’s works are about country families and their trials at love and of money (Jenkyns 148).

Beyond the practical drama of courtship and marriage, Jane Austen schooled her heroines in the unalterable laws of human nature, class, and custom. Willful and headstrong heroines like Elizabeth Bennett and Emma Woodhouse are shown going through a sobering process of maturing and gaining a deeper appreciation of the rules and elements that govern their lives. Austen wrote of educated heroines, women who had class and not extremely rich. Heroines who all women could, and still can identify with. She showed women that it was okay to want more, and men not to underestimate women (Felder 47).

Jane Austen’s life itself became an inspiration to women. She entered a profession when it was thought that women were only for sowing and birthing. She excelled at that profession and surpassed many men to do so. Her novels also attract men. It is said that Austen had given pleasure to more men in bed than any woman in history had (Tomalin 341). Many men have found themselves attracted to such characters as Elizabeth Bennett. Men in those times did not possess television or Playboy, they relied on their imaginations and literature to evoke fantasies. In 1796 Pride and Prejudice, then called first impression was wrote, it was her first novel. However, it wasn’t until 1813 that is was published. Jane’s father sent it in previously, but Cadell. rejected it. Northanger Abbey was wrote in 1798, but she actually sold her work in 1803 to Crosby of London. In 1811 Sense and Sensibility became published (Austen-Leigh xiiv). Marianne and Eleanor became adored by all. Many critics say that the relationship between the two sisters was taken from Austen’s own relationship with Cassandra (Felder 47). Finally in 1813 Pride and Prejudice was published and began selling copies (Austen-Leigh xiiv). It became a wide success. The same people who had come to love Marianne and Eleanor now would come to cherish Elizabeth and Darcy as well. The characters of Elizabeth and Darcy were loved and on the tips of every readers thoughts. This enabled he other works to be published without objection. Due to these novels, Emma, which was written in March of 1815 was published only a few months later in December. In May of 1814 Mansfield Park was published (Austen-Leigh xiiv). Many critics believe that Fanny Price, Mansfield’s heroine, to be the most unfavorable. She does not have the same zeal that the other of Austen’s heroines has, but she is a different character with different ways to handle the situations that are thrown her way (Sherry 495).

Perhaps Austen’s most popular novel, Pride and Prejudice has become a classic in today’s literary world. Her characters handle situations with what is proper and right (Austen 223). In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne and Eleanor show opposite views on how to handle situations. Marianne is very passionate and open when she meets Willibee. She does not contain her adoration of him. After he is proven to be a dishonorable person that she does not even attempt to hide her Diaspora. Eleanor, on the other hand, holds appearance the most important thing of all. She holds her composer when she finds out that Edward in engaged. Marianne finds Eleanor unfeeling, while Eleanor finds Marianne to passionate. But each finds happiness with the one they love (Austen 294). In Emma, Emma Wood house buries herself in trying to fix up her friends. She is so busy with these that she doesn’t realize until almost the end of the novel that she loves Knightley. Again Emma and Harriet Smith both marry the men they love (Austen 766). This seems to be Austen’s trademarked. Always the true loves marry. But each character is remarkably vivid and her words transport the reader into the novel. Each story is basically the same and still so much different. This was summarized by Somerset Maugham who once said,” Nothing very much happens in her books, and yet when you come to the bottom of the page, you eagerly turn it to learn what will happen next. The novelist who had the power to achieve this has the most precious gift a novelists can possess (Felder 48).”

Jane Austen lived her life in a way that many women of that era dreamed. She became an accomplished writer and supported herself. She brought joy into the hearts of both men and women. Her novels seemed real, because she drew from only what she witnessed. With that realistic description she made up the most intricate characters. Who abided by honor and a sense of moral code. There were always a few characters in each novel that feel victim to the money and gave up everything for it. Isabelle in Northanger

Abbey is a perfect example, she chose money over the person she loved (Austen 273). The draw to her novels now reflects how timeless these stories are. Women can still identify with the heroines. This is what has immortalized Jane Austen forever. Even though Jane is long since perished she will live forever in the hearts of anyone who picks up one of her novels.

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