“Company Town” book project receives grantThe Minnesota Historical Society announced Nov. 1 that William M. Kelley High School will receive a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant for $6,008 for its “Company Town” book.
By: Catherine Hannula, Lake County News Chronicle
The Minnesota Historical Society announced Nov. 1 that William M. Kelley High School will receive a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant for $6,008 for its “Company Town” book.
Northwestern College professor Kent Kaiser, who grew up in Silver Bay, is heading the project and will write the book this spring. Last year Kaiser received another Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant that allowed him to interview about fifty people who lived in Silver Bay between the 1950s and 1980s. The book will be compiled from those interviews. Kaiser said that the book will give people a sense of what a different kind of community a company town is.
“A lot of people live in a small town, a lot of people live in a small town in Minnesota, but there are very few instances where a town existed and was built for a company,” Kaiser said. “The town was a benefit to the company and the townspeople.”
Kaiser said that the idea for the book came when he visited his family in Silver Bay for his nephew’s high school graduation. After talking with his father, brother, and former WKHS principal George Starkovich about what life used to be like in Silver Bay, Kaiser realized that “someone needed to get these stories down.”
Kaiser said the best way he found potential interviewees was through word of mouth. Kaiser conducted group interviews at the Carefree Living facility in Silver Bay and was assisted by WKHS students. Kaiser also conducted interviews over the phone and interviewed Twin Cities residents who had lived in Silver Bay during that time. Kaiser said that he wanted to capture the “quirky things” about living in a company town, like housing.
“The company came in and built houses and they’re all very similar. There were different levels of houses. If you were in management, you were in a different area. Teachers had to live out of town or in apartments,” said Kaiser. “That’s what we wanted to capture.”
Kaiser said that he would like high school students to help him market the book and that he hopes to unveil the book this spring. He said interest in the book is strong. “People keep asking me about it when I go up North,” Kaiser said.
He is still open to interviewing more people. To contact Kent Kaiser, e-mail him at KLKaiser@nwc.edu for consideration.