This morning I replaced the batteries in the house’s thermostat as a safeguard to be sure the HVAC brings heat when needed. (Whoever thought it was a good idea to have battery powered, basic thermostats should have their heads examined.) Nebraska experiences very variable weather conditions in March. Outside temperatures can range from sub-zero Fahrenheit to mid-90s within the span of a few days. Such is the glory of living in one of North America’s Great Plains states.
Today is a somewhat special day that Nebraskan’s should celebrate, but barely pay attention to. March first is our Admissions or Statehood Day. Back in 1867, our status officially changed from Nebraska Territory to The State of Nebraska. We were the first state to gain admission to the Union following the U.S. Civil War.
We are thought of as one of those boring, “fly-over” states. That may be a good idea if you seek anonymity or just some peace and quiet. We do have some noteworthy things some Chamber of Commerce people claim as bragging rights. Maybe you are aware that Kool-Aid was invented by Edwin Perkins in Hastings. Johnny Carson grew up in my hometown of Norfolk. American football fans know about the University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s Cornhuskers. Some folks know that savvy business investor-billionaire, Warren Buffet lives in Omaha.
Some of the lesser known factoids about our state are: William Petersen of DeWitt, Nebraska invented “Vise-Grip” locking pliers in 1938. Butter-brickle ice-cream was first formulated at Omaha’s Blackstone Hotel. Rueben Kulakofsky, also at the Blackstone Hotel, is widely credited with creating the first Rueben sandwiches. If you’ve ever eaten TV Dinners, you can thank Omaha based Swanson Foods for inventing those.
Cushman Motors in Lincoln invented the Cushman “Model 53 Airborne Scooter” which was developed in order to be dropped by parachute to accompany airborne soldiers during World War Two. The company went on to manufacture vehicles for the Post Office and other industrial purposes in Lincoln, until the company became a subsidiary of Textron, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photographers, club-goers and special effects people like strobe lights. Fremont’s Harold Edgarton formulated the idea behind the split-second lights in Nebraska before he wrote his thesis at MIT. While we’re remembering Fremont, there is some controversy as to whether or not SPAM canned meat was invented in Fremont or in Minnesota.
The 911 emergency call system was invented in Lincoln, Nebraska. It received its first practical application in Alabama.
Oddly enough, structural engineer Jim Curran, employed by Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha, invented the ski lift. His brainstorm happened while adapting a loading system used to load and ship bananas.
Meanwhile, Nebraska is currently an economically healthy state –around 12th in the nation. More than 10,000 minorities are self-employed here. We average around a tenth place ranking regarding employment rates. We’re 7th in energy infrastructure. Nebraska is out-pacing the national average for renewable energy usage at 18.6%. This is rather amazing for a state that ranks in the bottom third of the nation’s population ratings–approximately 1,800,000 people live here.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Danish immigrant (raised in Nebraska), and renowned sculptor (Mt. Rushmore), Gutzon Borglum. “Nebraska people have the heart and power to create real beauty and art if they will only wake up and do it.”