Our Story - The Middle Years Of The Minnesota Red Cross
Red Cross mobile canteen, St. Paul, 1942; Minnesota Historical Society
WORLD WAR II, 1939-45: During the early years of the Second World War, local Red Cross volunteers make surgical dressings and sweaters for the injured and wounded foreign countries, and raise funds for war-time services. Later, war relief efforts ramp-up with making of comfort kits and other knitted garments, fundraising for war drive, supporting families of POWs, providing hospital services at military installations, and running canteens and service men’s centers. Others join the Red Cross hospital aide and motor corps operations overseas.
Minneapolis Chapter of the American Red Cross, 1944; Minnesota Historical Society
DECEMBER 1941: Frank T. Heffelfinger, manager of the Red Cross Northern Division during WWI, donates the Minneapolis chapter house at 325 Groveland in memory of his wife Lucia Peavey Heffelfinger. Staff and volunteers take occupancy the weekend before the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7. Phone lines were installed on December 8 to handle incoming calls for assistance.
American Red Cross Blood Center, Minneapolis, 1944; Minnesota Historical Society
1942: The Red Cross opens blood donation centers in St. Paul and Minneapolis. The centers are responsible for running operations and recruiting donors. In St. Paul, there are 400 volunteers and, even before the center opens, 3,500 people are registered to give blood. The collection quota for the first week is 250 pints, but 504 are donated. During the following spring, a mobile bus begins traveling around the state for blood collection.
Children with polio, St. Mary’s Hospital, Rochester; Minnesota Historical Society
1946 and 1952: Following the end of WWII, the Red Cross nurse aid corps planned to disband, but a 1946 polio outbreak causes the corps to assist patients in Minnesota hospitals. The polio epidemic of the late 1940s and early 1950s terrifies people in the state and across the nation. The disease strikes without warning, leaving those affected with paralysis, leg braces, or confined to an iron lung. In 1952, Minnesota has 4,131 cases and 220 deaths by the end of the year, which is more than any other state. The Red Cross provides supplemental nursing care for polio patients at local hospitals and actively recruits nursing aides through 1953. The same year, the St. Paul Blood Center increases collection to support gamma globulin shots, and in 1957, Minneapolis participates in a mass polio vaccination effort. Between 600 and 3,300 children are vaccinated every day.
Blood mobile truck, ca. 1940s; University of Minnesota
DECEMBER 1948: St. Paul Regional Blood Center opens on 91 East Kellogg Blvd. following establishment of a national blood program that will supply blood for free to local hospitals. Mobile units go out to eight counties and quickly expand to blood collection in 19 additional counties.
Gray Lady service program at Veterans Hospital, Minneapolis, ca. 1950s; University of Minnesota
KOREAN WAR, 1950-53: During the Korean War, the Red Cross again steps forward to support American military efforts. The Red Cross runs canteens and recreation huts at the front and stateside, coordinates gift packages, supports military families, and raises money for war funds. Red Cross begins blood donation for servicemen.
Gray Ladies at piano, Minnesota, ca. 1950s; University of Minnesota
JANUARY 1963: Gray Lady Service expands to nursing homes in Rochester area. Local program chair, Mrs. Gary Bubeck, says the program has “all kinds” of Gray Ladies, “from older teens on up. We have young mothers who’d like to be out in the community a little, and older moms whose children are grown and want to do something for someone.”
Red Cross water safety training, Minnesota, 1962; University of Minnesota
1963: Blue Earth Red Cross has three first aid mobile units in the county. 12-year-old Bonnie Pietsch rescues a 16-year-old boy at Lake Elysian, thanks to her Blue Earth Red Cross swimming training.
Canteen for dike workers, Stillwater; Minnesota Historical Society
APRIL 1965: Melting snow and spring rains force the Minnesota River to breach its banks, inundating Courtland, St. Peter, and North Mankato. More than 7,500 residents evacuate and 5,100 of them register for Red Cross assistance. Shelters open. Food, clothing, home repair, medical and nursing care provided. The Mississippi River and the St. Croix River reach record levels. In St. Paul, the Red Cross transports people’s furniture to storage, shelters evacuees at the West St. Paul Armory, and feeds dike workers.
Tornado outbreak cover story, Minneapolis Tribune, May 7, 1965; Star Tribune
MAY 1965: A tornado outbreak in Fridley, Spring Lake Park, and Mounds View calls Red Cross volunteers to action, supporting clean-up crews and displaced families. The tornadoes kill 13, injure 683. The University of Minnesota ranks the disaster as one of the top five in the state’s history.
NOVEMBER 1965: Blue Earth Red Cross offices burn down. Scrapbooks and other items are recovered with help from a veteran who wants to repay the Red Cross for services he received during his military service.