Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

By Laurie Swenson
Bemidji Pioneer 

Paul Bunyan: Turning 75, calendar commemorates iconic lumberjack


John Eggers stands by the Paul and Babe statues while holding the calendar he created to mark Paul Bunyan’s 75th birthday in 2012. Pioneer Photo/Laurie Swenson

With Paul Bunyan celebrating his 75th birthday next year, John Eggers wondered what he could do to honor the Bemidji legend whose statue was erected in 1937.

Eggers, a local writer, educator and public speaker, came up with the idea of a 2012 calendar, part of whose proceeds will go to the Beltrami County Historical Society.

“Next year will be a big year for Paul Bunyan,” said Eggers, who pointed out that the calendar serves three purposes: It celebrates Paul Bunyan, celebrates Bemidji and raises funds for the Historical Society.

“I think it’s a fun calendar,” Eggers said. “It’s a true Paul Bunyan collectible.”

Carol Olson, receptionist for the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce and manager of the Bemidji Tourist Information Center, said the calendar is the best thing that has come out in the 25 years since Paul Bunyan turned 50, which occurred a year after she started her job with the Chamber.

“I really, really like it,” she said, adding it makes a great Christmas gift for someone who grew up in Bemidji. “I’m fascinated with the calendar.”

The $12 calendar is being sold at the Beltrami County History Center, Cabin Coffeehouse and Café, Bemidji Woolen Mills, Kat’s Book Nook, Book World, Grandma’s Attic, Morell’s Trading Post, Chocolates Plus and Tom Stop. It will also be available at the Historical Society’s Lefse Festival Cook-off Dec. 2 at the Sanford Center.

“So far, it’s been well received,” Eggers said. “Bill Batchelder thinks it’s the most awesome calendar he’s ever seen.”

“I just think the world of this calendar,” said Batchelder, president of Bemidji Woolen Mills. “Right away, it just hits like a heartthrob of what Bemidji and the North County is.”

Paul Bunyan is like family to the people of Bemidji, so it’s good that his calendar was produced by Eggers, who loves Bemidji history, he said.

Eggers, who collects Bemidji postcards, incorporated postcards depicting Paul Bunyan – and Babe the Blue Ox, who came along a little after the statue of Paul did and was originally a traveling statue that was pulled in parades.

One postcard states, “Bemidji’s Paul Bunyan has gone to war,” during World War II. Other postcards illustrate changes in the Lake Bemidji waterfront, including the sprawl of the former amusement park. Today, Paul and Babe are backed by trees and other vegetation, but trees are few in many of the older photos.

Batchelder pointed to an old postcard on the top left of the front of the calendar, which features Paul and Babe and the name “Bemidji” in large, shadowed letters, each displaying a picture of Bemidji, as well as a message, “Greetings from Paul Bunyan Playground.”

“I think that’s the No. 1 postcard that was ever put out for Bemidji,” he said.

The Woolen Mills has used that postcard on some marketing materials, Batchelder said, adding that two weeks ago, he walked into Applebee’s and saw the image on a mural.

Eggers incorporated other statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe from different states, “and stresses that Bemidji’s statue is the first,” Olson said.

One of the elements of the calendar are speech balloons that depict Paul, Babe and other statues talking, which Olson said shows the folklore of the legend of Paul Bunyan.

Olson said she appreciated that Eggers made sure to incorporate Paul Bunyan’s “friend and companion, Babe.”

“He couldn’t have done a better job,” Olson said. “It couldn’t be any better than this. He’s a great writer.”


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