Local View: What's up with Hibbing's chill toward Dylan?
Last summer I rode my Harley to Hibbing for the heck of it. Lunch, etc. Hibbing always has been my favorite Range city. Well, it's actually in a tie with Eveleth. Or maybe little bit behind Eveleth on account of Margies Roosevelt, the pub.
At any rate, while in Hibbing, I did not see — and I rode about freely — any mention of Bob Dylan. Anywhere. I know there is something modest in the library. And by snooping, I know you can find his boyhood home.
But it made me think: What's up with Hibbing? Remarkable: a Nobel prize laureate and a defining artist of the 20th century is from there, and there's hardly a peep about him.
I asked a coworker about this appalling lack of recognition by the hometown of one who arguably is the state's most celebrated artist. My coworker grew up around there and was more of a contemporary of Bob Dylan. He theorized that it's because there is lingering embarrassment. Maybe Dylan was treated poorly by his fellows there and suffered bullying and insults.
I also have been told there is simmering resentment in the town because Dylan has not been effusive enough in his praise for Hibbing. I doubt the community could be so puny. I suppose the reasons are more complicated. Or maybe more simple: money.
Still, consider Sauk Centre, Minn., and the pride taken there in American novelist Sinclair Lewis. And Lewis, America's first Nobel laureate for literature, did not treat the place all too gently in his masterpiece "Main Street." Yet I recall seeing a photo of him there late in his life. He was in front of the movie theater. It is still called Main Street Theater. There he was, smiling, standing right there on, of course, Main Street — which is just shy of its intersection with Sinclair Lewis Avenue.
Now I can just hear someone out there whining: "Yeah, Dylan wrote some songs, but he was no crooner, no Perry Como." But Como's hometown of Canonsburg, Penn., has his statue. And plays his music 24/7. (Bobby Vinton was born there, too, and has a statue. It's in a McDonald's, though.)
Further, tiny Sunrise, Minn., has a historical marker denoting actor Richard Widmark's birth there.
Albert Lea, Minn., happily celebrates musician Eddie Cochran.
Grand Rapids? Judy Garland? They might also someday celebrate "Leave it to Beaver" actor Hugh Beaumont's retirement. (And Dylan even, like Garland, has won an Oscar.)
I know Bemidji, Minn., doesn't crow about actress Jane Russell's birth, but it does boast Paul and Babe.
Austin, Minn., is mute on Super Bowl-winning football coach John Madden's birthplace, too, but it does have the Spam Museum.
Yes, Hibbing has the Greyhound Bus Museum, so it is right up there with Austin. Cool. But in 100 years, I fear Greyhound's significance will have waned.
Not Bob Dylan's.
And Madden was out of Austin when he was 6.
Even Cook has a mural about Johnny Cash getting busted there for speeding.
Well, what should be done?
I don't know. I am more of an ideas man. I draw the line at actually doing the work. I wisely leave that to others who have talent.
Not to club Hibbing again with Grand Rapids, but Grand Rapids also has the Reif Center. And Myles Reif is not exactly a household name. So maybe there is a wealthy benefactor somewhere in the world, someone who would be delighted to add her or his name to something connected to Dylan in his hometown? Imagine the Bruce Wayne Performing Arts Center on the local college campus with its sparkling Bob Dylan Theater. Or, perhaps, the Jed Clampett Center with the Bob Dylan Auditorium. Something like that.
I don't know. But do something, Hibbing. Even a simple sculpture in a set-aside little bricked-in square. Maybe a young Dylan holding a guitar and harmonica. Or, better yet, a rendering of him grinning on that Harley when he was a kid. (And perhaps include a word nearby about pop musician Gary Puckett and baseball great Roger Maris.) Or a mural perhaps. Downtown. Minneapolis saw fit to have one. And it's a beauty there at Hennepin and South Fifth Street.
Just someplace where folks can go, snap a picture, or just reflect on this remarkable artist and the unique place that was once his home.
Jeff Smith of Duluth is a retired registered nurse who enjoys music, motorcycles, Minnesota history, and "The Big Lebowski."