Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hook-Em Cows - SSP Style

What is it about the "Hook-Em-Cows"?  To understand the name, you have to know the history of South St. Paul.  A town just south of the capital city of St. Paul, it is an independent town who considers itself not a suburb but a wild child of Minnesota.  It was incorporated in 1887 with the St. Paul Union Stockyards ready for business and holding court down by the railroad tracks and the Mississippi River.  South St. Paul also became home to Swift & Company (1897) and Armour's (1919) meatpacking companies.  These operations at one time gave South St. Paul the recognition of being the "World's Largest Stockyards".  It was no wonder that to the rest of the Twin Cities we became known as "Cow Town".  As children we learned at an early to age to come back with the answer, when told our town "stinks" or "smell like manure" that "it is the smell of money."

The Hook-Em Cows was a booster club organized in 1916 to help revitalize the St. Paul Winter Carnival.  The St. Paul Winter Carnival, a city-wide festival featuring a week of parades, ice sculptures, sporting events, and other outdoor activities, was begun in 1885 as the St. Paul Ice Palace Winter Carnival Association. The first carnivals were held 1886-1888 and 1896. They were revived in 1916 and 1917. Beginning again in 1937, they continued through 1942, resuming on a permanent basis in 1946. (1) The carnival was made up of booster clubs from city businesses, and being such a large employer and colorful occupation, South St Paul rose to the challenge.  The Hook-Em Cows marched in parades, rode horses down the streets and into businesses, hosted rodeos and booyas, had a restaurant named for them as well as cigars and even had their name painted on the side of a B-24 bomber in WWII.  They went full force until WWII took many of them off the street and although there had been various attempts to bring back their heyday of fun and revelry, now they are but a memory of good days gone by.

(1)  St Paul Winter Carnival Association, St Paul Winter Carnival Association Records & Manuscripts, MN Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota

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