Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

TV memories prompted by a vintage sign in Faribault May 13, 2020

A vintage sign at a former TV shop in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


TELEVISION. I remember my life without a TV. I am that old and of a poor rural upbringing which made a TV unaffordable for many years.

At some point in my youth, maybe when I was around nine-ish, my parents purchased a small black-and-white TV that rested on a wheeled metal cart. Set along a living room wall, the rack could be pushed and turned for TV viewing from the kitchen.

How exciting to get a TV and watch Lassie, Lost in Space, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Sky King and popular westerns like Gunsmoke. Our show choices were limited to CBS, the only network reception we got on our southwestern Minnesota farm. The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite became a favorite as my interest in national and world events and journalism grew.


Randy remembers buying a TV here decades ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


I’m getting sidetracked here. But all of this traces to recent photos I took of a former TV service shop along Central Avenue in Faribault. I’ve passed by the place many times with the thought of stopping to photograph the vintage signage. Finally, I did, because I’ve learned the hard way that, if you wait too long, the opportunity will be lost. And I do appreciate the art and history of old signs.


The front window of the closed TV shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.


Who remembers Zenith TVs, like those sold at Modern TV Service? Or Sylvania, RCA, Maganox? Companies that once dominated the U.S. television market. I can’t tell you the brand of my childhood TV. But I recall the excitement of getting a television and later watching a color console TV at my dad’s cousin Ruby’s house when we visited the Meier family. What a treat.


A few weeks ago I photographed the cloud-studded sky, I also photographed the TV antenna atop our house. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Unlike most people today, Randy and I don’t have cable TV or subscribe to any streaming services. Instead, we still rely on a rooftop antenna for reception on the single television in our house. And, living in a valley, that reception often proves unreliable. Spotty. Affected by weather (especially the wind), by a medical helicopter flying over or nearby, even a vehicle passing on the busy street. I am most frustrated that the public television station typically does not come in on our TV. Oh, well, at least we have a TV and it’s color, right? And let’s not forget the remote control, although I wish every set came with two…

TELL ME: Do you remember a time when you didn’t have a television? Anyone out there old-school like us with reception coming only from a roof-top antenna?

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Restored Tilt-A-Whirl car unveiled in Faribault August 21, 2014

THANKS TO TWO FARIBAULT WOMEN, a group of enthusiastic supporters and a television show, one of America’s most iconic amusement rides, the Tilt-A-Whirl, will now be showcased in downtown Faribault.

Tami Schluter, left, and Peggy Keilen reveal the restored car to an appreciative audience Wednesday evening.

Tami Schluter, left, and Peggy Keilen reveal the restored car to an appreciative audience Wednesday evening.

A restored early 1950s era prototype Tilt-A-Whirl car was unveiled Wednesday evening in Faribault following the airing of “Boy Meets Whirl,” an episode of The History Channel’s American Restoration reality TV show.

The Tilt-A-Whirl car before restoration was rescued from a junkyard.

The Tilt-A-Whirl car, before restoration, was rescued from a junkyard. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

Rick’s Restorations of Las Vegas worked its magic on the aged car after meeting with Faribault resident Tami Schluter. She, along with friend Peggy Keilen, spearheaded efforts to raise monies to restore the car built by Faribault’s Sellner Manufacturing Company. Backers raised $8,500 to refurbish the vintage carnival ride car rescued from, and donated by, Harley’s Auto Salvage.

A portion of the crowd watches "Boy Meets Whirl."

A portion of the crowd who supported the project with monetary and in-kind donations watches “Boy Meets Whirl.”

The Tilt-A-Whirl car, now on temporary display at Mill City Restaurant & Sports Bar—site of the celebration party—will find a permanent home a block away at the corner of (128) Central Avenue and Second Street by the third-generation family shoe store, Burkhartzmeyer Shoes.

Celebrating the restoration and reveal of the 1950s Tilt-A-Whirl car outside Mill City Restaurant.

Celebrating the restoration and reveal of the 1950s Tilt-A-Whirl car outside Mill City Restaurant.

Schluter and Keilen told the crowd of 75 or so gathered for the TV airing and car debut party that the restored Tilt-A-Whirl represents a much-needed icon for this Minnesota community’s historic downtown, a need revealed in a 2011 Faribault Main Street Market study. The two businesswomen—Schluter co-owns the Historic Hutchinson House Bed & Breakfast and Keilen, Faribo Air Conditioning & Heating—say the car will provide a place to sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful downtown.

Tami Schluter, left, and Peggy Keilen embrace after unveiling the car.

Tami Schluter, left, and Peggy Keilen embrace after unveiling the car.

And the Tilt-A-Whirl car likely will provide plenty of photo ops as it did following Wednesday’s reveal. An enthusiastic Schluter and Keilen posed for numerous photos and expressed their love for Faribault and gratitude to the long list of supporters that include individuals, businesses and local organizations.

Tami Schluter on "Boy Meets Whirl."

Tami Schluter on “Boy Meets Whirl.” She suggested the three pretend to be watching a Minnesota Vikings game while sitting in the car.

Both were especially pleased to bring national attention to Faribault via the television show, one reason Schluter approached American Restoration about the project. Within 12 hours, she heard that the Tilt-A-Whirl proposal was a go.

Tami Schluter's quote reaction when she saw the car for the first time.

Tami Schluter’s quote, as aired on “Boy Meets Whirl,” when she saw the car for the first time.

The women aren’t done yet with Tilt-A-Whirls. They are already focusing on raising funds for restoration of a second 1940s car to be placed several blocks to the north by the State Bank of Faribault.

The 1950s era Tilt-A-Whirl car sits, covered, outside Mill City until after the 9:30 p.m. airing of "Boy Meets Whirl."

The 1950s era Tilt-A-Whirl car sits, covered, outside Mill City before the airing of “Boy Meets Whirl.”

That second restoration, Keilen says, will be done in the Tilt-A-Whirl’s hometown of Faribault.

Sellner Manufacturing, as noted on the car, invented the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Sellner Manufacturing, as noted on the car, invented the Tilt-A-Whirl.

FYI: Sellner Manufacturing, which invented and built the first Tilt-A-Whirl in 1926, was sold in 2011. Gold Star Manufacturing purchased the fiberglass and staging part of the business and, at the time of purchase, contracted with Texas-based buyer Larson International, Inc., to make the fiberglass car portion of the Tilt-A-Whirl.

The Mural Society of Faribault created and placed the Tilt-A-Whirl mural on the side of Jim's Auto & Tire this past fall.

The Mural Society of Faribault created and placed a Tilt-A-Whirl mural in downtown Faribault in 2010.

Faribault also promotes the Tilt-A-Whirl’s origins via a mural along Fourth Street just a block off Central Avenue. It was a 2010 project of The Mural Society of Faribault.

The back of the refurbished Tilt-A-Whirl.

The back of the refurbished Tilt-A-Whirl.

The Rice County Historical Society in Faribault features a permanent exhibit on Sellner Manufacturing Company.

Mill City's new signature Tilt-A-Whirl drink.

Mill City’s new signature Tilt-A-Whirl drink.

And, at Mill City Restaurant & Sports Bar, a Tilt-A-Whirl drink has been added to the bar offerings. It features brandy, Mount Gay Bermuda rum, sweet vermouth, sweet and sour mix, cherries and lemon slices served in a pint jar.


Every party needs a cake.

Every party needs a cake.


© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The TARDIS travels to Kenyon March 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:29 AM
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The TARDIS is labeled as a Police Public Call Box. A note on the front reads: Advice and Assistance obtainable immediately. Officers and cars respond to all calls. Pull to open.

The TARDIS is labeled as a Police Public Call Box. A note on the front reads: Advice and Assistance obtainable immediately. Officers and cars respond to all calls. Pull to open. This shot was taken while driving westbound on Highway 60.

TRAVELING EASTBOUND into Kenyon along Minnesota Highway 60, I spot what appears to be a portable blue toilet seemingly randomly planted in a front yard near an American flag clipped to a pole.

Why would anyone place a porta potty in this visible location and in the snow near a flag?

Turns out I am not viewing an outdoor loo at all, but rather a TARDIS. Exactly. What’s a TARDIS, you ask?

My 19-year-old passenger son explains that a TARDIS is the featured mode of transportation on the BBC sci-fi television show, “Doctor Who.” The TARDIS, according to the series website, will take the doctor anywhere, anytime.

But to Kenyon, Minnesota?

With no time to stop and inquire about the Time and Relative Dimension in Space capsule, I can only wonder who placed this here and why?

LET’S HEAR your thoughts, readers. The more creative, the better. I’ll even accept the truth on the TARDIS placement. I am pretty much clueless as to the TARDIS and “Doctor Who.”

Another view. I don't know which house the TARDIS belongs to, the gray one or the white one.

Another view of the TARDIS.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Free beer coupon makes “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” November 9, 2012

WHY, OH, WHY didn’t I think of this? Someone submitted the L & M Bar & Grill “free beer with breakfast” coupon, the one I posted about here on October 25, to NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

The coupon was featured in Leno’s Monday night, November 5, “Headlines” monologue. You can view the piece by clicking here. Note that the Dundas bar coupon is highlighted near the end of the clip.

One of two coupons published in Rice County Coupon Connection. I’ve voided this free beer coupon.

Here’s what Leno had to say when he placed the coupon on display before the television camera:

OK, OK, this is when you know you have a drinking problem. L & M Bar & Grill. Free beer with purchase of breakfast. OK, if you’re drinking at breakfast…

So what’s the story behind that coupon and what has been the reaction to “The Tonight Show” exposure at L & M Bar in tiny Dundas, which is just south of Northfield? Well, I phoned manager Pauline Koester this morning to get some answers.

Pauline used words like “cool,” “awesome” and “way to go” to describe her reaction and that of customers to Leno’s inclusion of the coupon.

“How often do you hit national television?” she said. “That’s pretty rare.”

She was shocked to learn of the national exposure via Facebook, Pauline says, but is pleased with the advertising for the bar her father, Lyle Koester, owns. Reaction has been only positive, she added.

So how did the manager come up with this “free beer with the purchase of breakfast” idea at a place that serves breakfast only in the mornings, from 7 a.m. – 11 a.m. weekdays and Saturdays and from 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. Sundays?

Well, on a recent visit from her newspaper advertising rep, Pauline blurted, “Throw in a beer for breakfast.” The bar often offers a free beverage or drink “with purchase of,” she explained. And so two coupons offering “free beer with purchase of breakfast ($4.50 or more)” were printed in the Rice County Coupon Connection book distributed recently with the Faribault Daily News and the Northfield News.

The impromptu beer and breakfast coupon idea was an effort to boost breakfast sales among third shift factory and healthcare workers who like to have a beer before going to bed, Pauline said.

Thus far only a few free beer coupons have been redeemed. They expire on November 30, 2012, and on January 31, 2013.

Pauline’s curious, as are her customers, and me, about who sent the L & M Bar free beer coupon to Leno.

She’s contemplating sending a thank you—an L & M Bar & Grill coffee cup with a free beer coupon.

Now…if Leno shows up at the Dundas bar to redeem that coupon, wouldn’t that be something.

© Text copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Edited coupon from Rice County Coupon Connection


Super Bowl ads: The babe I liked & the one I didn’t February 7, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:49 AM
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First off, how many of you watched the Super Bowl? How many of you were more interested in the commercials than in the big game?

I could care less about the game. But the ads interest me. I didn’t see all of them, but I caught enough to be unimpressed.

I’d give “the best” award to the Doritos ad where an adorable baby rockets to snatch a bag of snacks and then munches on the chips alongside a smiling grandma. The ad was cute, memorable and I got it. I don’t always understand the commercials.

Teleflora gets my “the worst” ad distinction for its pure sex-infused commercial featuring an alluring woman encouraging men to give flowers for Valentine’s Day. “Give and you shall receive,” she purrs. “She” happens to be famous Brazilian model Adriana Lima.

Seriously, Teleflora marketing people, do not insult women by airing ads like this.

Also, and this really, truly, absolutely bugs me. A few years ago we bailed out the auto makers. Yet, they have millions of dollars to spend on Super Bowl advertising. What gives here?

Speaking of car ads, I didn’t like the Hyundai ad with the cheetah attacking a man. It reminds me too much of those animal-pursuing-animal/survival-of-the-fittest television documentaries.

A snippet from the new jcp print ad. Bold, bright and hip, wouldn't you agree?

OK, now lest you think I’m oozing negativity today, let’s turn our attention to retailer jcp, which I know as Penneys. The department store is making big changes, most noticeable to me in the magazine style advertising insert tucked inside my local daily newspaper on Super Bowl Sunday.

Changes were inevitable with former Apple executive Ron Johnson now serving as the new jcp CEO. And might I add, changes were needed to update the image of a retailer that seems more suited to my 79-year-old mother, or me, than to my 20-something daughters. I don’t really ever hear my daughters talk about shopping at Penneys. Typically they gravitate toward the more hip Target.

But it’s obvious, from the print and television ads I’ve seen, that jcp is trying to draw a younger, hipper crowd. Their new ads are crisp, clean, bold, bright and packed with motion.

Even more important, the company is eliminating those continual sales promotion mailings. Finally.

Instead of the previous complicated, ongoing, ever-changing sales system, the company is switching to a “fair and square” approach of everyday lower prices, month-long values and first and third Friday mark-downs. It all still sounds a bit too complicated. But anything has to be better than the previous marketing strategy.

So there you have it—my take on the world of advertising on Super Bowl Sunday.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? Give me your input on the Super Bowl commercials and/or on jcp’s new approach to marketing and sales? I’d like to hear what you think, even if your take differs from mine.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Remembering: Boys, blocks & 9/11 September 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:09 AM
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THROUGHOUT THIS WEEK I’ve contemplated the post I would write about 9/11. And not once have I deviated from my initial idea.

So yesterday I headed to the basement and started digging through totes in search of building blocks and toy airplanes. I found the blocks, but not the planes. Those I discovered later while rummaging through my son’s upstairs bedroom closet.

Ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, my boy was only seven years old. He was home from school that day, not feeling well, when my husband phoned with news of the first plane crashing into the first tower.

I switched on the television. Typically I don’t have the TV on during the day and would not have known about the terrorist attacks until much later.

From that moment on, I could not take my eyes off the screen even though I worried about exposing my son and a younger boy in my care that day to the news coverage. How would they react? And did they truly understand the gravity of what was unfolding in our country?

I attempted to explain the situation, to tell the boys this was “real” and not some television show. They continued playing with whatever toys they had out at the time—I can’t recall.

But clearly they were listening and watching, for soon the two pulled a box of wooden building blocks from the toy box. Then they pulled out the toy airplanes.

I watched as my 7-year-old and his friend constructed teetering towers, then smashed those miniature planes into the towers. Blocks tumbled across the living room carpet.

I reconstructed a tower using the same blocks my son and his friend used on September 11, 2001, to duplicate what they saw on television. These are also the same airplanes they flew into the towers.

They repeated the action: Build the towers. Fly the planes. Smash the towers. Build. Fly. Smash.

I could have cried over the loss of innocence—mine and theirs.

WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL memories of September 11, 2001? Please submit a comment and share your story.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The Super Bowl entertainment fiasco February 7, 2011

IF YOU WATCHED the Super Bowl, what’s your opinion of the half-time entertainment?

Here’s mine: I did not get it. None of it. Not the words, not the dancing, not the message, not anything performed by the Black Eyed Peas. I couldn’t understand most of the lyrics.

I did not “get” the lead singer’s (sorry, don’t know his name) clear plastic head covering. He didn’t look too comfortable, sweating and all. I did like the group dancers’ glowing costumes. Those were cool.

I’ll admit that I know nothing about the Black Eyed Peas. I struggle, though, to define their “music” as “music.”

But then 70s era music is my music. And let me tell you, THAT was music—Chicago, Bread, the Moody Blues, Elton John, Rod Stewart…

This Black Eyed Peas stuff is not music, in my fifty-something opinion.

So…, the half-time show disappointed me, big-time. Half-time is one of the two reasons I sometimes, and I mean sometimes, watch the Super Bowl. I also, sometimes, watch the game to see the commercials. I could care less about the football.

I didn’t see every ad, but here’s my take on those: Way too many car commercials. Didn’t we just bail out the auto makers a few years ago and now they are spending millions on 30-second spots? That doesn’t sit right with me. I know, I know, there’s more to the story than that, but I’m just giving you my gut taxpayer reaction.

I don’t know why this surprises me, but I also thought too many commercials were too sexist and too violent. Can’t give you specifics because I didn’t take notes, but I recall a club and fire, weapons and long legs and…a guy ordering flowers…

My favorite commercial—monkeys running across the tops of cars with brief cases—made me chuckle. Sorry, I can’t tell you what they were advertising, so I guess that ad probably failed.

Then to top it off, Christina Aguilera messed up on the National Anthem, singing “What so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last gleaming” instead of “O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming.”

Come on. I admit, I could probably flub The Star Spangled Banner too, but I’m not a professional performer.

At least the Green Bay Packers won the game. I was rooting for them, sort of, when I wasn’t reading the newspaper, clipping coupons and falling asleep on the couch.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling