Dorr: Having a messy desk is not necessarily a bad thing after all

I breathed a sigh of relief this week when I read in a national publication about a new study concerning people with messy desks. I was one of those (still am) for 40-plus years as a sports writer and newspaper editor.

The study, the story said, “has found that keeping a messy desk might be a sign of creative genius, because people with disorderly environments often have fresh insights.”

Mind y0u, I’m not claiming to have cornered the market on creative genius, nor do I think I have an edge on others in coming up with fresh insights. But it was a relief to find out that I at least have an excuse for the messy desk that drew a number of disdainful looks throughout a few decades.

People would come to my office for an interview and some would soon be moving their chair side to side to be able see over the things piled on my desk. There were notebooks, pictures, scraps of paper with notes (some of them years old), books, newspapers, cassette tapes, an In and Out box piled with papers, perhaps a dictionary. an empty can of pop and/or food wrapper left over from working through a noon meal time – well, you get the idea. And I had shelves behind and to the side of my trusty decades-old steel desk that were piled with some of the same things that were on my desk, although the items on those shelves had often been there for years and years.  When it came time for a computer to replace my typewriter, the computer work station was an old door laid across a couple two-drawer cabinets that were also stuffed with notebooks, or anything else that I couldn’t find another place for. It truly wasn’t a pretty sight.

Some higher-ups in our organization seemed to avoid my office on a regular basis but, when they did come in, I could see their eyes rolling at a sight they just couldn’t understand, not knowing about the creative genius thing, or the fresh insights. The thing is, I admired the spotless desk at the end of each work day that one of those higher-ups had. When I saw that desk I’d spend a few minutes trying to arrange things on my desk in a more orderly manner – and then I’d give up.

Now that I think back on things, my desk’s lack of order might be traced back to that of my father’s desk. He died at a young age 54 years ago and one of the cherished pictures I have is of his desk in the office of the rural church where he served as a Lutheran pastor. There were books and papers piled all over that desk. I don’t know if his IQ was ever measured but I think it would have been off the charts. He was conversant in a number of languages, knew the wheelbase and engine size of every new car each fall, was an accomplished musician (vocally and playing an organ), could fix a farmer’s tractor or drive his team of horses in our small field next to the church, studied English literature, and was such a Civil War buff that he often used examples from that war in his sermons, something fellow pastors would chide him about. I don’t think the crowded desk hampered him.

And my partner in crime for 30 years at the Union-Eagle, Joel Stottrup, had a desk and office that was, shall we say, unorganized. I may have had him beat for a disorderly desk and office but not by much. And that guy was an accomplished photographer, hard worker who came up with oodles of story ideas, and a voracious reader who kept up on happenings locally, statewide, and in the world. He might have had trouble finding something on that desk on occasion but it didn’t limit his creativity.

Come to think of it, my fellow editor in Milaca, Gary Larson (who also wrote sports as I did), had an office, and another small room off to the side, that was stacked with papers and things accumulated over the decades. When his untimely death came a few years ago he was even using the darkroom to stack up some of his boxes. Gary was a guy who had creativity and insights into the Milaca community after being on the job for many, many years.  I was a part-time worker for him after retiring and in my trips to his office I felt we were kindred spirits – or, at least, we both had messy work areas.

One of those higher-ups in our organization who frowned on my disorderly desk once opined that it seemed all I wrote about in my weekly column on the editorial page was sports and/or the death of someone in the community (thus shooting a hole in that recent study’s theory about the creative genius of those with messy desks.)

I took that personally, not knowing about the creative genius thing or the fresh insight thing back then, and picked at random a couple years worth of columns to check that out. In each of those two years I found five or six such columns – so, about 10 percent of the 50 columns a year. Again, while not claiming creative genius, I did write on a variety of subjects, many of them of local interest in an era when many editors of weekly papers don’t regularly write a column. See, I had this pile of notes somewhere on my messy desk that would give me column ideas . . .

It seemed I could always find something on that desk when I needed to, even if it took a few minutes. The real trouble, however, came when it was time to clean out that desk and those shelves 10 years ago when I retired from being an editor. I stuffed papers, notebooks, pictures and various and sundry other things into box after box, carried them out to my car on a Sunday afternoon just hours before my tenure officially ended, and took them home.

You guessed it – some of those boxes remain filled in what passes for an office at my house, with at least some of the items moved to my father’s desk that I became the proud owner of back in the ’60s. It’s a mess.

Someday, maybe, I’ll delve into those boxes, arrange things nicely, and feel better about myself. Or maybe not.


Note: This is a series that began with 1967 and will conclude next March with the year 2017.

Police Chief Dave Warneke made a request to the City Council to approve the firing of officer Pam Samuelson who had brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against the department and two male officers. Two weeks later in January the council decided to allow Samuelson, hired by the city in June 1989, a hearing before Warneke. Samuelson had been on medical leave since Nov. 3, 1992. Late in March the City Council voted to suspend Samuelson, with the condition that if she didn’t respond in five days, she would be terminated. Samuelson’s lawyer responded by saying Samuelson had resigned on March 15. That was some difference of opinion about whether or not that had happened. In April the city accepted Samuelson’s resignation. The end of the Samuelso saga finally came in May when the city made a settlement of $162,500 to Samuelson, with neither side admitting guilt or liability.

Dale Dunham, who ran the Sears catalog store in Princeton, received word in January that Sears was going to close all their catalog stores across the nation. Dunham had the store for 17 years.

Todd Rust, a local firefighter for 17 years, was named Firefighter of the Year in Princeton.

A recreational area at Sand Dunes State Forest near Zimmerman was named after former state legislator Bob Dunn, a resident of Princeton.

The Princeton Area Library Societiy announced plans to purchase a property, for $225,000, on which to build a 7,500 sq. ft. library (the one that’s there today).

Pamida, Inc. signed an agreement with Chuck Kapsner to buy out his Kapsner Drug business and to hire him as a pharmacist with Pamida. Kapsner worked at/operated a drug store in Princeton for 48 years. Pamida was set to start building its store in October (Shopko today).

The new 18-hole layout at Rum River Golf Club opened on May 22 as the first foursome of Jean Davenport, Arnold Alferness, Jeff Haehn and Mike Williams teed off. Three days later the best round to that point was a 75 by Steve Sanborn from the championship tees.

There were 147 in the PHS graduating class of 1993 as outdoor graduation was held.

The city requested the county to put four-way stop signs at two intersections on LaGrande Avenue  – one at Third Street North (the Hy-Tech corner today) and Sixth Street South where the municipal liquor store was. A count four years earlier showed about 10,000 cars daily on the street. The stop signs were never approved.

Roland Benson, principal at North Elementary, retired after a 35-year career in education. Supt. Waldo Larson retired after 11 years in Princeton.

The new Fairview Regional Northland Hospital opened on July 26. About 4,000 attended an open house at few days earlier at the $12 million facility.

Former high school principal Harvey Walsh resigned from the school board position he held and was named interim superintendent for the Princeton school district.

The Pizza Barn, Princeton’s longest-running pizza shop, moved from the downtown’s south mall – Princeton Mall – to Riverside Plaza where it is today, 24 years later.

Enrollment was at an all-time high of 2,920 as school opened. There were 70 more students than on opening day the previous year. Only one class in the district had fewer than 200 students.

Princeton Bank (Bremer Bank today) pledged $75,000 in September to help build the planned new library. A drive to raise $200,000 by an October deadline, before seeking a federal grant of $200,000, was reported $80,000 short early in October.

A color picture showing autumn colors on the front page of the Sept. 30 Union-Eagle made the paper one of the first weeklies in the state to run a color picture.

Smith System Mfg., with rumors swirling that it was going to move from Princeton, asked employees to take a 50 percent pay cut (to an average of $5.33 an hour) and pay the total cost of health insurance premiums.

Elected to the school board in November were Bonnie Broda and Phillip Lingle, and incumbent Mardi Lacher. Incumbents Eldon Johnson and Tim Wilhelm, both in office since 1984, were defeated.

Local firefighter Jim Roxbury was named EMT of the year in Minnesota. Roxbury was a 16-year firefighter and had been an EMT for 13 years.

Thomas Kleppe was hired as the new superintendent for the Princeton school district.

Taxes were expected to increase in Mille Lacs County by 3.5 percent and by 8.3 percent in the Princeton school district.


Here it is Friday morning, Aug. 11, and the Minnesota Twins – left for dead a couple weeks ago by Derek Falvey and Thad Lavine, the new, supposedly forward-looking, duo running the team – are 3 1/2 games behind Cleveland in the Central Division in second place and only a half game out of the final wild card spot. The team has won five in a row and just swept four from Milwaukee, outscoring the Brewers 28-11. The new leaders traded away an All-Star closer in Brandon Kintzler and traded new pitcher Jamie Garcia after he pitched the team’s only win in a week . . . The feel-good story of the season, at least in Minnesota, has been the recent performance by 44-year-old Bartolo Colon who pitched a complete game recently and then followed it up with seven innings of shutout baseball in Milwaukee. Unflappable to the max, he’s been a joy to watch. Will his good string of pitching continue? Who knows? But it’s been fun.When he beat Milwaukee this week it was his 518th start in the majors and it came against a rookie making only his second start. That probably hasn’t happened before . . . Brian Dozier hit 6 homers in 9 games leading up to the last game in Milwaukee. Last year when he hit 42 he had 19 homers on July 31.This year on July 31 it was 17. By Aug. 9 of this year he had 22, only one short of the 23 he had on the same date last year. Will he hit 42 again? Not likely. But now 30 isn’t out of reach, something that didn’t seem possible when he had only 13 at the All-Star break . . . Kintzler, by the way, has been brilliant for the Washington Nationals. In five appearances he has pitched five innings, given up only two hits, no runs, and has been credited with two wins. Not bad . . . The Twins, 7-3 in August, have used 31 pitchers this season, a team record. And they’re 49-19 this year when they score more than four runs. What an up-and-down year. But they’re keeping us interested this late in the year, something hardly anyone anticipated. They’ve been shut out fewer times than any other team . . . When the team won its fifth game in a row Thursday, WCCO-TV’s Mark Rosen opened his sports report that night with a piece on the Minnesota Vikings’ exhibition game with Buffalo in which regulars played only a few plays. I’ve been a Channel 4 watcher for 60 years but that kind of stuff is ridiculous – featuring an exhibition game over a team in the regular season that is doing well.


Aug. 22, 1957 – Ken Weissenfluh pitched a no-hitter for the Princeton softball team in a 7-0 win over Big Lake.

Aug. 23, 1962 – The annual shortstop tournament (27 holes) was scheduled for Sept. 9 at Rum River Golf Club. Entry fee for the all-day tournament was $5. Merchandise prizes were to be awarded.

Aug. 25, 1967 – Ron Whitcomb led the Princeton town team in hitting (.372, 16 for 43) and had half of the team’s two homers . . . Coming of a 6-1-1 season, PHS football coach Ron Stsolski had 65 in grades 9-12 report for practice.

Aug. 23, 1972 – PHS football coach Jerry Peterson was greeted by 53 players as practice began, 12 of them letterwinners. Two-way players returning were Pete Teigen, Chuck Young, Tom Rogde, Don Snow and Dave Cook . . .Susan and Mary Lindquist won the junior girls canoe race in the Rum River Paddlerama.

Aug. 25, 1977 – Fran’s Beauties lost a 10-4 lead to Princeton Implement who then won the women’s city slow pitch softball title. Sandy Bakken and Jan Guimont had three hits apiece for the winners.

Aug. 26, 1982 – Chris Fransen (159 for 36 holes) won her fifth straight women’s title at Rum River Golf Club . . . The Rum River Conference football jamboree, after being played in Princeton since 1969, was moved to Milaca after someone ripped up the PHS turf by driving on the field . . . Never having more than 12 players and usually only 9, including a 16-year-old, the town team made it the regional tournament. The team finished 15-15.

Aug. 20, 1987 – The Frank Pharmacy women’s Class C softball team made it to the state tournament by placing sixth in the district tournament.

Aug. 20, 1992 — Helen Sanborn got the third hole in one of her golfing career and also won $1,000 along with it in a St. Cloud tournament . . . The Princeton Panthers, 9-15 at that point, got hot and finished second in the region to advance to the state tournament as Jason Miller and Troy Scheffel got wins. Leading hitters in seven  playoff games were Brian Dorr (.469), Chad Campbell (.414), Scheffel (.387) and Luther Dorr (.368).

Aug. 23, 1997 – A new golf course, Fairway Shores, opened south of Princeton . . . Princeton Panther statistics showed Jason Miller with an 8-1 record and a 1.20 ERA, a team batting average of .311 and a 24-4 record. Jesse Zimmer (.409) led in average and Brian Dorr in runs-batted-in (34).

Aug. 15, 2002 – The Princeton Panthers (24-6) rallied to beat St. Francis and then beat St. Francis again for the Region 1C title. Region victories went to Jason Miller, Todd Muckenkhirn and Joe Nelson . . . Dave Bue and Helen Sanborn won senior golf titles at Princeton Golf Club and Tom Daun won the super senior title.

Aug. 16, 2007 – The Princeton Panthers (29-6), following a one-year absence from the state tournament after eight straight trips, battled through the loser’s bracket to earn a trip to state. Jesse Zimmer had 4-hit and 3-hit games, Brian Dorr had two 3-hit games, and Tony Stay had a 5-RBI game.