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June 30, 2021

Transcript Episode 2: The Early Years

[Music: Theme Song: The Last Prayer for Isadore Blumenfeld by Paolo For Lee]

Amy

Hello and welcome to Volsteadland. We are your hosts; I am Amy and this is Heather

Heather

Hello!

Amy

Join us as we take a trip back in time to the 1920s and 30s in Minneapolis and discover the city's underworld. 

If you're just joining us for the first time and you haven't listened to the introduction episode yet, you might want to go back and take a listen to that just so you get the full picture. 

We just wanted to introduce ourselves. We met…god how long ago? 

Heather

I don't know, probably five or six years ago maybe. 

Amy

Sounds about right, yeah. And we're not sure which bar we met at, but it was a bar for sure. 

Heather

Yep, it's always a bar. 

Amy

It's always a bar. And we know that we started chatting at Sushi Tango on a Sunday. They used to do a Sunday fun day and it was happy hour all day and it was a great deal. 

Heather

And they had dollar oysters. 

Amy

Yes. Anyway, so this episode is probably going to be a little shorter than some of the future ones because we are going to break up some of the bigger things into segments. There's some stuff that's pretty lengthy, and it's going to take more than the length of time we expect anyone to sit and listen to us talk, [Heather laughs]

So we'll be splitting some stuff up, but this one we just wanted to do a little intro talk about a little about who we are and. Most of you have probably already heard the extended trailer or the introduction, so you know why we're here and what we're doing. 

Heather

Just a disclaimer here: This podcast is not meant to glorify organized crime or this man. We understand that kid can and his crew caused a lot of pain to a lot of people and we don't want to downplay that. 

We just found his story really interesting and thought you might too whether or not you have ties to Minneapolis. 

Amy

This story all takes place in Minneapolis, MN and I know that some of you may not be familiar with Minneapolis: and what it…where it is,  what it's like now, and or what it is… well, we're going to tell you what it's what it was like back in the day, but so Heather has prepared a little… 

Heather

Overview perhaps? 

Amy

Overview, that's a good word…of Minneapolis for us. 

Heather

OK, so Minneapolis has several nicknames, including Mill City, the Twin Cities, the Mini Apple, Water City or city of Lakes and Minneapolis is the most populous city in Minnesota. 

Minnesota is known as the land of 10,000 lakes. But despite what the license plates say, there are actually 11,842 lakes, 22; of them in Minneapolis proper. And legend has it that these lakes were forged by Paul Bunyan’s, footsteps that passed through Lake Wobegon, walked by a Little House on the Prairie, traveled past Snoopy's doghouse, and of course, created the purifying waters of Lake Minnetonka.

Amy

Of course, gotta have the Prince reference in there.

Heather

Minnesota became a state in 1858, and Minneapolis was incorporated in 1867. On the census in 1870 was just over 13,000 and in 2019 it was estimated to be around 430,000. 

People who aren't from here have always asked me how can you stand the winters. Minnesota is known for its harsh winters. The lowest recorded temperature was in January of 1888. It was a frosty 41 degrees. My glasses are fogging up just thinking about that. 

Amy

Below zero, right? 

Heather

Negative 41 degrees. [laughs]

Amy

I was gonna say 40 degree sounds lovely in the winter, my goodness we’d all be in shorts!

Heather

OK, negative 41 degrees below the snowiest winter on record was the winter of 1983-84 when a whopping 98.6 inches fell to the ground. 

The water city we call Minneapolis was developed around Saint Anthony falls, the highest waterfall on the Mississippi River. The forests of northern Minnesota created a thriving lumber industry powered by this water. The planes to the west of the Mississippi provided grain to Minneapolis is 34 flour mills and Amy, Here's an obscure fact I bet you didn’t know: Due to the occupational hazards of milling, 6 competitors manufactured artificial limbs by the 1890s. Thank you, Wikipedia. 

Amy

Wow, I did not know that. 

Heather

There's a lot I could say about Minneapolis and its rich history, and of course, this podcast will be exploring the bootlegging and the seedy underworld of organized crime. 

I moved here from Massachusetts after college 29 years ago to pursue a career in theater, and as it turned out, that wasn't the path I ended up taking. But I stayed here because I fell in love with the city: The lakes, the theater scene, the music. I even sort of call myself a Vikings fan. It's a place I'm happy to call home. 

Amy

Great! And we're glad you're here. 

Heather

Yeah, I'm glad to be here. 

Amy

Well, I've lived here all my life and there's not much of a story there, so should we just dig in I'll get... 

Heather

Yeah, why don't we ? 

Amy

Give you some…

Heather

New, why don't we just dig in>

Amy

OK so. Isadore Bloomfield arrived in Minnesota in 1902 with his parents Phillip and Eva when he was just about a year and a half old. He was born on September 8th, 1900 in a shetl of Romania called Reminicu Seurat. 

His dad was a furrier and he settled his family in north Minneapolis. Isadore was an only child at this point, but the family would soon grow to 8 total. He ended up with two brothers, Harry and Yiddy. 

(Yiddy’s real name was Isaac) and three sisters: Ethel. Ann, and Marion. 

Because his family was quite poor, Isadora started working at a young age. He dropped out of school when he was just 15, he had only completed the 4th grade though. He started selling newspapers on the streets of downtown Minneapolis on newspaper Row. 

For those of you who are familiar with Minneapolis, Newspaper Row was on 4th St. and Nicolette Ave. 

Right now, what's there is an Excel Energy…two Excel energy buildings that are across the street from each other, a condominium, and a couple of parking ramps. I believe all the old buildings have since been replaced. 

Back then, paper boys had to battle for the best selling locations, so I'm guessing that's where he started learning about gangs and how to maneuver through them and manipulate people. 

He also admitted to picking up and reselling bus tokens and began running errands for the pimps and madams of Minneapolis’ Red Light District. 

Apparently there have been 3 red light districts in Minneapolis, but at least at this time, in 1915-1920-ish, I think it was Hennepin Ave. and about 4th St, what's there now is the Hennepin County Library and kitty-corner from that is the gay 90s nightclub. 

The newspapers and the police always called him Kid Cann. There are a few stories about why he was called this one was that he did a short stint as a boxer and this was his boxing name. I've seen articles that say he was never a boxer, but he himself sticks to this story, but he was a big fat liar, so who knows? {laughter]

Another story is that whenever trouble went down, he would be found hiding in the bathroom, known as “the can”. But this doesn't really seem like his style from what I could tell, he really likes the action. 

Another more plausible story is that he always just said he was in the can during the time of the murders or when other bad things he was associated with took place. This makes more sense to me as you will learn this guy had an alibi for everything. But he hated the nickname and rejected all the stories saying in a 1976 interview. “90% of what is written about me is bullshit” which was the original name for this podcast…

Heather

Yes it was.

Amy

…until we got banned from Instagram and had to change it. 

He actually preferred to be called Fergie, which may or may not have been short for Doctor Ferguson. 

There's a theory that he chose Ferguson because it sounds like the German “vergessen”. He liked it when people forgot or pretended they had never seen him, except when he told them to remember seeing him. 

I was able to confirm from a source that he was always called Fergie, but this person only knew him in the 60s and I'm not sure if he used it when he was young too. So for the sake of ease in this podcast, I'm going to refer to him as Izzy. I can't imagine he would like that any better than Kid Cann. Izzy kept Blumenfeld, actually it was Blumenfield, he kept being called Blumenfeld and I think he just sort of went with it even though his name was officially Blumenfield. And it says on his grave…spoiler alert he's dead now….

Heather

Ohh! {laughter]

Amy

on his grave it does say Blumenfield. Yet his brothers are Bloom,  B-L-O-O-M. 

I'm going to preface all of this by saying all this shit happened 100 plus years ago. Obviously, I was not there, nor was anyone still alive today, so I've been getting all my info from newspapers and books. And here's the problem: books tend to have an agenda. The writer has their story to tell, and newspapers….

Well, they just flat out lie and make up shit. They have papers to sell, so they print what will sell. 

And I also have realized that they spell things wrong all the time, so that newspapers are really not a super reliable source. But I don't have a lot else right now which is why I've been begging the public to come to me with any stories that they might have from their parents, their grandparents, anything that they have as a personal story, because I think that would help flesh this stuff out a bit. Because there are a lot of holes to these stories. 

I do believe there were some major cover ups in this era, as it was known that there was a high level of corruption going on at the government and police level. So I'm just piecing it all together as best I can. 

This is why I'm reaching out to you, dear listener, in the hopes that you have some info that may be valuable to our story. Contact us via the email and phone number in the show notes or at any of our socials. 

May 22nd, 1920 is where our story really begins. His life of crime started out slow with his first arrest for ‘being in a disorderly house’, he was nineteen. His typed up criminal record that was sent to me by a source says “sentence 5.- 5 paid” and according to an article by Paul Maccabee, it means he paid a $5 fine. 

Heather

So Amy, I'm really curious, what is a disorderly house? 

Amy

Disorderly House is … 

Heather

It sounds like fun. 

Amy

…It does, and it may be. One article I read just said it sounded like they were, it was probably that he as partying too loud, but I looked it up, and according to the Free Legal dictionary, it means “a place where individuals reside or where they frequent for purposes that pose a threat to public health, morals, convenience, or safety, and that may create a public nuisance. A disorderly House is an all-inclusive term that may be used to describe such places as a house of prostitution and illegal gambling casino, or a site where drugs are constantly bought and sold. It is any place where unlawful practices are habitually carried on by the public.”

Heather

Hmmm, that does sound like fun

Amy

It's got everything! I think that should be a nightclub. The newest nightclub is the Disorderly House. [laughter] It has everything…

OK and then just a month later on June 11th, 1920 he was arrested for “working crowds at a Norwegian church gathering at the Armory” from what I gather working crowds is just a cute way of saying pickpocketing. He was held for one night. 

It appears these small petty crimes didn't earn him enough to keep his family afloat, especially since his father died in 1923, and being the eldest child of six, he had to step it up. 

In the timeline, Prohibition had started. From an article written by Paul Maccabee “within months, Prohibition transformed Kid Cann from a small time pickpocket into a rum running venture capitalist.” 

Jewish kids didn't have a lot of choices. They weren't allowed the jobs that non Jewish kids were, but we're going to concentrate on his bootlegging and liquor stuff in the next segment. 

So in 1923 the Pain Ave bank in Saint Paul was robbed. The reason this is in here at all is that he was arrested in connection with this robbery, and as I read more and more about it, I realized that his name sort of dropped off of the list of suspects. They talked about him being arrested. They talked about holding him in connection with this and then you read the next day's newspaper and they're naming three other guys. And completely stopped talking about the names of those guys that originally were arrested.

So I just kept digging more about this and whether or not this had a whole lot to do with him. 

I find this whole bank robbery and the stuff that happened afterwards quite interesting. And I think it kind of explains a little bit about what was going on in the city and with the officials and how things…

Heather

Covered up? 

Amy

Yep, Yep. And not that I'm saying that that you know…Well, maybe I am. We'll see. 

Anyway, we decided to stop here today and save the details of the bank robbery for next time. 

The reason being, after I got all the info and rescheduled the recording a few times because I wasn't ready. We finally recorded the bank robbery portion. After editing it, I realized it was quite long, so I think it deserves its own episode. If you're on pins and needles, you can Google it. Just kidding, you can't. Well you can, but you won't find much. 

So please subscribe. And then when we drop the next episode, you'll get it as soon as it's released. 

Until then, thank you for listening and I hope you join us next time on Volsteadland. 

Heather

Excellent I can't wait. 

[outro theme song]

Amy

Volsteadland is produced by me, Amy and as part of the Collected Sounds Podcast network. The theme music is by Paolo for Lee and the background music is by Cannelle Elanian.

Okey doke.