bruce springsteen did not attend graduation

How Mary Tyler Moore Influenced This Minneapolis Girl

Mary Tyler Moore

Bronze statue of Mary Tyler Moore at Minneapolis Nicollet Mall.

The corner of 7th and Nicollet in Minneapolis will never be the same again, and it’s not just because Mary Tyler Moore died on Wednesday. That iconic corner, yes, where Mary Tyler Moore tossed her hat into the air during the opening credits of the Mary Tyler Moore show. Dayton’s Department store was on that corner, kitty corner to Donaldson’s, spittin’ distance from Woolworth’s, and across from the Forum Cafeteria, the latter a delightful art deco lunch place where you could choose either macaroni and cheese or a dish of Jell-O for 10 cents.

Last I heard the historic building that housed Dayton’s and all the various other incarnations of department stores is closing. They already moved the statue of Mary Tyler Moore, erected in 2002 at a cost of $150,000, from 7th and Nicollet to two blocks down. What’s the point in that? That wasn’t where Mary tossed her hat.

I grew up with Mary Tyler Moore in many ways. It hit me hard to hear she had died two days ago. She was only 80. Listen to me, only 80, like 80 isn’t old. But it’s not when you’re the person who is almost 65 and hoping to reach at least 100. She was an inspiration to this Minneapolis girl. When the Mary Tyler Moore Show first aired on TV, supposedly filmed in Minneapolis, I was 18 and graduating high school. I went out to get my first real job, because waitressing at the Tick Tock Diner on 7th and Hennepin to pay the rent through high school didn’t really count as my first job.

I’d had my own apartment since my senior year in high school, but I didn’t truly feel independent until I finished school, was released from probation (another story another time) and got my first “real” job in 1970. I did not attend my graduation. Like Bruce Springsteen, an outsider who fought the establishment, I, too, considered myself a rebel, a nonconformist, and I vehemently refused to go to graduation. In fact, I did not even know for certain if I graduated. Not until I showed up at South High School, the last graduating class from that location on Cedar, and watched the office clerk dig through the pile of diplomas, teasing, “I don’t know if it’s here.”

Mary Tyler Moore portrayed a single woman working at TV station in Minneapolis. I was a single woman working at the Grain Exchange Building on the 4th floor for Checkerboard Grain, a division of Ralston Purina. My job was not as glamorous as Mary Tyler Moore’s, but we were in the same boat. Suffered the same inequities. Dealt with chauvinism and sexism as a fact of life.

When Ralston Purina executives came to visit, they always quizzed me about Mary Tyler Moore. Where she lived in Kenwood, which was crazy because she could not afford to live in that mansion or that neighborhood; where she walked around Lake of the Isles, and if we could reserve the Mary Tyler Moore table at Basil’s Restaurant in the IDS Tower overlooking the Crystal Court.

The thing about the Mary Tyler Moore Show was Mary’s character could always make you laugh. No matter what kind of situation life threw at her, she held her head high and found something amusing about it to diffuse the intensity. If she could do it, I could do it. Even though I knew the show wasn’t real, it was a lot more real than, say, watching Dick Van Dyke tumble over a chair week after week.

All of the characters seemed like real people, even bumbling Ted who later became president of the United States.

Mary inspired me to make something out of my life, and I figured out that I did not have to die a slow death at a desk on the fourth floor of the Grain Exchange Building, smoking cigarettes and breaking fingernails on a Remington nor get oogled walking across the floor of the Exchange to pick up mail. After a couple years, I moved to Colorado, then on to California, and finally attended college for several years before eventually moving into the field of real estate. Here I am today, a top producing Sacramento Realtor.

All of the influences in your life tend to make you who you are today. Mary Tyler Moore was that kind of woman for me. She did not compromise who she was, she was genuine and what you saw was what you got. Mary Tyler Moore, Dec. 29th, 1936 to Jan. 25th, 2017.

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