Museum showcases history of Spam
By Craig Gustafson
AUSTIN, Minn. Depending on who's eating it, Spam is either a slice of post-war Americana or a slice of who knows what.
"All (you've) got to say is Spam and you've got a discussion," said Nancy Barker of Menasha, Wis., emerging from the Spam Museum yesterday with a handful of memorabilia.
For 66 years this Minnesota town of 22,000 has been known as Spamtown.
"It's a part of our past and it's probably part of our future," said Barker, 65, who has her own recipe for Spam pancakes. "People are almost cult followers."
The museum has been open since September, but Spam maker Hormel Foods delayed a celebration because of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The rescheduled grand opening is steeped in Americana, with famous TV moms like Marion Ross and Barbara Billingsley, sports figures and a World War II memorial dedication.
Upon entry, one might notice the 430-foot conveyor belt around the ceiling, carrying about 850 cans of Spam.
Visitors can take a Spam exam or can their own Spam (not the real stuff). There's also a radio station KSpam and a video screen that shows Monty Python skits slamming Spam.
The museum also has exhibits on the Hormel family, explains what goes into Spam (pork shoulder, ham, spices and preservatives) and describes the product's special relationship with American troops during World War II.
The war generated huge sales for Hormel, which provided 15 million cans of Spam each week to the military. From 1939 to 1942, the company's overall sales doubled to nearly $120 million. Tomorrow, NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw will dedicate a special memorial to World War II veterans.
The museum has drawn 39,000 visitors since it opened. The figure is expected to double this weekend.
A Spam-o-meter tallies the cans of Spam produced. Hormel expects to turn out its 6 billionth sometime between June 29 and July 3.