I grew up with SPAM – in the usual 1970’s quantities. Not a meal staple, but there for camping or in a pinch.
As an adult, I’ve a had a good friend whose sausage-casing of life is firmly packed with Hormel meat products. If not for her, I probably wouldn’t even know about the museum.
Martha was born an hour away from Hormel HQ and lived in Austin through 2nd grade. Her grandfather Jack Smith worked there beginning in 1909, where he eventually became treasurer of the employees’ credit union in1930 and remained employed there until 1955.
Her mother Jeannette went to Austin High School. Here she is, before marching in a parade during the 1940-41 school year.
Martha and I have an annual Hormel-themed Christmas get-together. Over the years, we’ve had various Hormel meats and SPAM casseroles (did you know there are many variants of Spam?). It’s through her that I came to know Hormel’s “Cure 81” – their best ham. I’ll be wearing the SPAM t-shirt she gave me to the museum.
Years ago, I found a company video on the Prelinger Archives called “This is Hormel”.
Before I see the museum, and Austin today, I need to revisit that video. I love this video (and meat) but for some it’s not easy to watch. It’s not quite like Mr. Rogers’ factory tours we grew up with.
Or Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory.
If you’re thinking of watching this video, please read through the following terms used (ordered by my patented gore-o-meter) in advance. If none of these make you squeamish, watch away.
- Austin plant receptionist
- Hormel batch-master
- Spam mixture
- Large saw-wheel
- Pigs feet
- Root-cut machine
- “The story of bacon”
- Slaughtering operations
- Mattress of gelatin
- Disassembly process
- Mechanical skinner
- Hog carcasses
- Fleshing machine
- Picnic boning line
Ready to spend a half-hour with Brad, Greg, and Mr. Rugg as they meander through a meat plant? Then go.
“Nothing in bacon processing is more eye-appealing, or mouth-watering, than a view of bacon as it emerges from the stainless steel smoke chambers. A beautiful sight, isn’t it?”
“There’s plenty of good eating on this table”
“Now you see the end result of controlled, scientifically-aged beef. Imagine yourself enjoying this meat!”
“Just imagine the zesty aroma, and tangy taste, in this bowl.”
I think all the ladies in the video were instructed to go to the same Austin, MN hair salon for a curl and set. I am determined to find that salon.
The music is noteworthy: jazzy, industrial, and mariachi (during the chili section). The 1960s computers are amazing. And the white smocks are surprisingly clean, at all steps of the processing.
I have one more connection to Spam. I play with the South Florida Symphony Orchestra. This year, we performed a world-premier ballet (paired with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring) called Legend of Bird Mountain by Tom Hormel. The music was beautiful, and well-danced by the Martha Graham Dance Company. Mr. Hormel is the son of the inventor of SPAM (well, created under his direction), Jay Hormel.
How’s do you pronounce Hormel? The announcer says “horMELLE”, while the two boys say “HORml”.