The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 21, 2013

KEYC first major business atop the hill

By Mark Fischenich
The Mankato Free Press

---- — Q: What was the first substantial business on the North Mankato hill? Did the school come first and businesses followed, or were there businesses there first?

A: North Mankato is 115 years old this year (and in Ask Us’s opinion, doesn’t look a day over 35). But the city was content to stay below the bluff for its first 60 years. And the hilltop was pretty much exclusively rural agricultural land as recently as the 1950s, said Bob Sandeen of the Nicollet County Historical Society.

Sandeen recalls aerial photos of the city taken by a local man in 1958.

”One of the pictures he took shows the hilltop area of North Mankato, and there was nothing up there but farm land,” Sandeen said. “I would guess the TV studio was one of the first things up there.”

We ran that educated guess by Bill Schimmel, who moved to North Mankato in 1962 to teach social studies at Mankato High School and later represented the city on the county board for 16 years.

”I think KEYC was before the technical college,” Schimmel said.

He’s right about that. KEYC signed on for the first time on Oct. 5, 1960, from their then-remote studio on Lookout Drive.

Mankato Area Vocational Technical Institute (now South Central College) was on Park Lane in Mankato from 1950 through most of the 1960s, moving to its new $2.5 million hilltop North Mankato building in 1968, according to the City of Mankato Historical Context Study.

As for the Taylor Corp. the subsidiaries that now cover so much of those former farm fields, those were only a glint in the eye of a stamp machine operator at Mankato-based Carlson Wedding Service when KEYC was building its studios. Glen Taylor was then just a college student working the stamp machine and paper cutter for owner Bill Carlson.

In 1962, Carlson moved his growing business to a new building in North Mankato and renamed it Carlson Craft, but that new building was near Highway 169 in lower North Mankato.

It wasn’t until 1973 that Carlson Craft, still expanding, first climbed the hill. That Taylor guy was no longer running the stamp machine. By then he was in management and two years later began buying the company from Carlson. The sprawling Taylor Corp. and its subsidiaries sprouted across upper North Mankato in the decades that followed.

Q: When we see drivers education cars around town for teaching kids to drive, the instructors all look so young. Are there any qualifications for them, or do they just have to be 21?

A: They have to be 21 or older and they are required to have been a licensed driver for at least three years to qualify as a driving instructor under Minnesota law. Also, convicted murderers can only serve as driving instructors for students older than 21.

Just to be clear, Ask Us is not suggesting that any local driving schools hire convicted murderers. Schools can set much more stringent criteria than law requires, and Ask Us is confident that they do. We’re just saying that state law technically allows murderers, other violent offenders and people convicted of sex crimes to serve as driving instructors for all but the younger driving students.

Also, to be clear, the state doesn’t have to issue a license to convicted criminals. State law requires instructors to undergo a background check, and former criminals can get an instructor license only if the state “determines that the crime doesn’t directly relate to the position of instructor or ... the person has shown competent evidence of sufficient rehabilitation and present fitness to perform the duties of instructor.”

There are other requirements to be a driving instructor, but they aren’t age-related. All instructors must have a valid drivers license and a high school diploma, and they must be able to “hear well enough to conduct a normal verbal conversation with another at a distance of five feet.”

Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, P.O Box 3287, Mankato, MN 56002. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to; put Ask Us in the subject line.