North Dakota Hall of Fame
Bismarck, North Dakota
Bismarck has to be the sleepiest, lowest-key political city in America. The capitol mall is surrounded by quiet suburban homes. The state capitol building -- "The Skyscraper of the Prairie" -- is the tallest in North Dakota, all 19 stories of it.
The North Dakota Hall of Fame occupies a long hallway on the capitol's ground floor. The Hall wasn't begun until 1961, and its first inductee was Lawrence Welk. It's been an elite club ever since, with only 34 members as of August, 2004. Framed oil portraits of each honoree hang along both walls in the hallway, protected only by a velvet rope. The portraits from the earlier years have those warm, saturated Kodachrome colors that remind one of 1950s illustrations from The Saturday Evening Post.
While you might -- might -- recognize Peggy Lee, Angie Dickinson, Bobby Vee, and Eric Sevareid, you may not automatically recognize Harold Schafer (founder of the Gold Seal Company, maker of Mr. Bubble), Bob Bahmer (the fourth United States Archivist: 1966-1969) and Casper Oimoen (a brick layer who became captain of the U.S. 1936 Olympic ski team). One point is clear: In order to get into the North Dakota Hall of Fame it helps to get out of North Dakota.