It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s … a man jumping off Mitchell City Hall?

We haven’t yet done the research to figure out what the heck was going on in this photo. Maybe one of you out there on the World Wide Web can help.

All we know is that the packet containing these negatives was labeled 1966, and the images show some kind of crazy stuntman jumping off the top of Mitchell City Hall onto a ridiculously small pad on Main Street.

These and many more compelling images are being cleaned, scanned, indexed and stored in archival binders this summer by a pair of part-time employees, Reggie Van Driel and Tatum Dean. Both worked last school year for the Mitchell High School student newspaper, the Kernel, and came for a tour this spring at The Daily Republic. The visit turned into a summer job for both.

More on that in a later post. For now, if you know anything about the jumper, please chime in.

Who’s that in front of the Commodore PET?

This image from The Daily Republic’s photo negatives archive was in an envelope dated 1983. No identification was found for what appear to be students using a Commodore PET, a personal computer produced in 1977 by Commodore International. After the photo published as part of a 1980s retrospective, Don Stedman came forward to say he thinks he’s in the image. (Daily Republic file photo)

The photo seen above published as part of our series on the 1980s in the Mitchell area and the decade’s impact on modern life. At the time of publication, we had no way of identifying the people in the photo.

After the photo published, we got a note from Don Stedman, who thinks he’s the one seated at the computer in the photo. Here are some excerpts from his email.

As an avid ’80s fan, I was reading your article tonight on the Daily website.  Very well written and I really enjoyed it.  When I saw the photo, my jaw about dropped to the floor.  I think there is a chance that the guy sitting at the PET could be me (but it is hard for me to tell for sure from that profile view).  Has anyone else contacted you about the identities of the people in that photo?

Please allow me to tell you why I am very interested in this:  in 1983, I was in the 9th grade and the Commodore PET(s) at Junior High allowed me to write my  very first computer program!  30 years later, I still remember this life-changing little piece of code written in BASIC:

10 “Enter your age in years”


30 PRINT “You are “ A*365 “ days old.”

There were no structured computer classes at the time, and the 3 computers we had were located in the school library (most of the time).  I remember how supportive Keith Christensen (the library/media director/x-country coach at the time) was towards me. He pretty much let me spend as much time as I wanted on the machines, and even let me take one home over Christmas break to experiment with. I think I was supposed to be cataloging some floppy disks for the school or something, but I remember playing lots of games and writing some small “apps” as I learned the BASIC language. At the end of the year, I remember giving a demonstration to members of the school board and some local elementary principals regarding the machines potential uses. This early influence obviously had a big impact on me as I have been writing software professionally now for the last 20+ years, and I’m currently a consultant up here in Brookings.

Jack Benny and George McGovern at the Corn Palace Festival, 1967

It took ordering a scanner, sending it back when it wouldn’t work, begging a used scanner from the corporate office in Fargo, and cutting an ill-fitting film holder in half, but I’m finally able to scan 4×5 negatives.

Images like these make it worth the effort. This is George McGovern, a Mitchell native and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, with legendary comedian Jack Benny backstage at the 1967 Corn Palace Festival.

I’d never seen this photo until I found it in our archives, and there’s probably a good chance that nobody, or at least very few people, have seen it at all since the day it published in The Daily Republic 46 years ago.

Bobby Vinton and Skitch Henderson at the Corn Palace Festival, 1967

1960s pop singer Bobby Vinton enjoys the 1967 Corn Palace Festival carnival on Main Street in Mitchell. (Daily Republic archive photo)

Mitchell’s Corn Palace Festival has changed a lot over the years. The headliner acts these days blow into town, do one show, collect a check for around $70,000, and leave immediately.

Back in 1967, the relationship between the entertainers and the festival was a lot more intimate. According to an August story from that year, headliner Jack Benny, along with tag-along acts Bobby Vinton and Skitch Henderson, presented 15 performances during the Sept. 17-23 festival. Between shows, the stars could be seen at the festival’s carnival (as seen in the photo above) and around town. Throughout the festival week, The Daily Republic ran stories, photos and interviews with the stars, who basically set up camp and held court for days on end.

When The Daily Republic photographed the 1967 festival, the newspaper was apparently using a pair of cameras, because the envelope containing the negatives includes both 4×5 and 35mm negatives. Sadly, all the Jack Benny photos are on the 4x5s, and we don’t currently have a way to scan those. But there are dozens of 35mm images of Vinton and Henderson that I was able to scan, including a couple that are attached to this post.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the names, Vinton was one of the most famous pop singers of the 1960s and is probably best known for his hit song “Blue Velvet.” Henderson was the original bandleader for “The Tonight Show.”

Skitch Henderson, center, and Bobby Vinton, right, pose for a photo during the 1967 Corn Palace Festival in Mitchell. The woman at left is apparently the singer Mary Lou Collins. (Daily Republic archive photo)

1957 Daily Republic staff

The 1957 staff of The Daily Republic.

Things have changed just a little, haven’t they?

Back in 1957, the dress code apparently included skirts for women and suits and ties for many of the men.

I still have to wear a tie, as do other male department heads, but you won’t see many suits and ties or skirts — especially ankle-length skirts — around The Daily Republic anymore.

In this photo, I’m guessing the woman on the far left is probably Florence “Floss” Ronald. Her husband’s father owned the paper for decades, and then she and her husband Malcolm owned it. After Malcolm died, she owned it herself for a time before eventually selling it in the 1960s, if I have my history correct.

I’m assuming this photo was taken at the old Daily Republic building near the Carnegie Library. That old Daily Republic building no longer exists — again, if I have my history correct — and Floss Ronald moved us to our current location in the 1960s, I think.

If anybody can identify any of the other people in this photo, or if my identification of Floss Ronald is wrong, please feel free to post a comment.

A young Brock Lesnar?

Is this an image of a young Brock Lesnar wrestling in a South Dakota high school event? Leave a comment with your thoughts. (Image from The Daily Republic archives)

I found the image above while rummaging through an undated, unlabeled box of prints among our photo negative archives.

Having been a young wrestler myself when Brock Lesnar was in high school, I saw him in action on the mat many times. My first impression upon seeing this image was that it has to be Lesnar. The crew cut and the rest of his distinctive facial features are unmistakable. If it is him, the image must be from the early 1990s, when he was in high school.

But then my journalist’s skepticism crept in. Is it really Lesnar? I can’t say with 100 percent certainly. Maybe you can help.

For those who aren’t familiar with the name, Brock Lesnar grew up in Webster where he was a high school wrestler of some renown, known for his impressively muscled physique. He went on to wrestle at Bismarck State College, where he won a junior college national championship, and at the University of Minnesota, where he won a Division I national championship.

After that, he found fame in the World Wrestling Federation (since renamed to World Wrestling Entertainment) and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

When Interstate 90 was young

A Daily Republic file image of Interstate 90 under construction in 1966 at a location that was then south of Mitchell. Today, thanks to a development boom over the past 15 years, the interstate runs through Mitchell.

These aerial Daily Republic file images, which are scanned from 4×5 negatives, were shot in 1966 when Interstate 90 was being built near Mitchell. As you can see, there was no development around the I-90 area back then. But today, as we noted in a recent story, the area south of Interstate 90 accounts for about one-third of Mitchell’s sales economy.

A Daily Republic file image showing an aerial view of Interstate 90 under construction in 1966.


Daschle vs. Roberts, 1982

In 1982, South Dakota’s two U.S. representatives faced an unpleasant reality. The state’s two House districts were being consolidated into one, so the state’s two congressmen would have to run against each other in a rare incumbent vs. incumbent battle.

The race pitted Tom Daschle, an Aberdeen-raised Democrat from the state’s eastern side, against Clint Roberts, a Presho-raised, mustachioed cowboy Republican from the state’s western side.

From the vantage point of today, most people would assume Daschle won big. It wasn’t so. He eked out a slight 4-percentage point victory, 52-48.

Daschle later moved on to the Senate and served through 2004, including a stint as majority leader. Roberts was never again elected to Congress.

But in 1982, as you can see in these images, they were both still very young with unknown futures.

JFK in Mitchell

A Daily Republic image of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 visit to Mitchell.

Many presidents, future presidents and would-be presidents have visited Mitchell’s Corn Palace. Few generated as much excitement as John F. Kennedy.

In 2003, on the 40th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, I wrote a story about his Mitchell visit based on The Daily Republic’s original account of the event and fresh interviews I conducted with people who witnessed it.

Here’s how the story began:

The Corn Palace was probably as far away from Camelot as John F. Kennedy ever traveled, but one night 43 years ago, the East Coast politician appeared in Mitchell and tried to win the hearts and votes of rural South Dakota.

About 5,000 people crammed into the Palace to glimpse Kennedy, who was then a 43-year-old U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Another 1,500 people stood outside.

The date was Sept. 22, 1960.

Kennedy flew to Mitchell after a midday speech at Sioux Falls, where Vice President Richard Nixon had also made a campaign stop. On the front page of The Daily Republic, the rivals generated headlines that captured the essence of their opposite styles.

The story of Kennedy’s stopover in Mitchell began with a line that mirrored his youthful vision and vigor: “Food is Strength, Freedom And Peace, Kennedy Tells CP Crowd.”

The account of Nixon’s speech began with the sort of uninspiring, businesslike tone that might have been his downfall in the election: “Nixon Favors Effective Price Support System.” …

Read the rest here.

When we published that 2003 story, apparently nobody in the building was aware that we possessed a stockpile of photo negatives from Kennedy’s visit. Since becoming the editor of The Daily Republic in 2010, I found those negatives, including the one with this blog post.

If you’d like to read the full text of JFK’s 1960 speech at the Corn Palace, click here.