We often associate history with boring textbooks, dry lectures, and dusty artifacts, but Granite Falls residents Sharla and Doug Bengtson are working to change that. They recently collaborated with Annandale-based graphic designer (and former Echo and Granite Falls resident) Marcie Cohrs to create an Andrew Volstead themed coloring book.
The coloring book features different scenes from the life of the progressive politician who represented western Minnesota in Congress for 20 years and was a tireless advocate for Prohibition, cooperatives, and a host of other causes.
“We want something the kids could get and color and find history of the Volstead house,” the couple said. They added that with the coming centenary of Prohibition next year, they felt it was important to “tell some history of the [Volstead] House and the Granite Falls area.”
They specifically highlighted the legacy of 1919 Root Beer as a popular alternative to alcohol during the 1920s, connecting this history with the Kiwanis Popcorn Stand (which today sells 1919 Root Beer to honor this legacy).
For this project, the couple turned to Cohrs to create the images. Cohrs, who holds a degree in graphic design from Alexandria Technical & Community College, explained that Sharla and Doug sent her old photographs they wanted to include in the book. Using a special computer program, she then traced outlines from the original picture to create the coloring book images. She said this project was different from her usual work, which mainly consists of creating free form advertisements and other custom illustrations and designs that she then sells online.
Cohrs said that she had a lot of fun working on the coloring book, though it did come with some challenges. She said that capturing the complexities of Andrew (with his famous bushy mustache) was particularly challenging. Nevertheless, she said the project was “a lot of fun.”
After Cohrs finished creating the new images, The Bengtsons reached out to Dave Rupp of Clarkfield who agreed to print the pages. Sharla and Doug then put the pages together to create the final product.
Sharla and Doug hope to create future coloring books that bring to light other aspects of local history. They specifically mentioned creating something for the centenary of the Capper-Volstead Act of 1922 (the legislation that legalized agricultural cooperatives). For the time being, they’re hopeful that their efforts will popularize important aspects of our past while also bringing smiles to children and adults alike.