Book Review: Hard Work and a Good Deal
Ray's Mediterranean Restaurant Welcomes "The Boy King"
American Association of Woodturners

Ray's Mediterranean Restaurant Welcomes "The Boy King" | 3.11 [IMAGE]

Photo: (right) Sal Elsayad views a model of the King Tut mummy. In this room, research about the mummy from a forty year period is reported.


Sal and Ina Elsayad had been away from Egypt for eight years when they were able to take a family trip there for a month last summer. Their two boys, Assem (8½) and Adam (4) had never known their extended families, grandparents, cousins. And when they got back to St. Paul they learned that the Science Museum of Minnesota was bringing the world-renown King Tutankhamun exhibit here in 2011.

Great events in Egypt during the last month have excited the Elsayads. Sal explained, “Since the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952, the Egyptian people have been ruled by three autocratic leaders: Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak. The stifling feelings of repression that ordinary Egyptians experienced can’t be imagined. Now, there’s such a feeling of freedom — it is freedom from that repression. Everyone knows how much work there is to do now.”

One’s connections to land of origin and culture are essential parts of oneself, and Sal and Ina’s pride in their homeland offers us the opportunity to experience Mediterranean foods of the highest quality. Ina is happy that in all of their dishes they use fresh, organic vegetables; all of their sauces are made from scratch; their falafel does not come from a mix; and Sal’s pizza and calzone dough is hand made. (Ray’s Mediterranean Restaurant, 1199 West Seventh, 651-224-3883.)

“Wait,” readers may be saying. “We didn’t know that pizza and calzone are Egyptian foods!” Indeed, on his journey to Minnesota Sal stopped for some time in new York City, worked in Italian restaurants, and learned the ways of the new York pizza — the world’s best, as any New Yorker (like this writer) can tell you.

[IMAGE]They actually got to Minnesota in 2000 at the urging of a friend who wanted to open a restaurant with them near the U of M. It was 2004 when Sal and Ina decided to come to the West End. They acquired Ray’s, and began to offer their distinctive menu of Mediterranean and Italian foods: falafel, hummus and baba ganoush from Egypt; pizza, pasta calzone from Italy by way of New York.

Photo: (right) John Mancini loves Ray's calzones.

But they are really most focused on people’s individual wants and they will prepare meals to order when their customers explain what they really want. Since everything is cooked on the spot, it’s easy to make a meal just as you want it. And they are often adding new items to the menu.

Sal and Ina are very happy in the West End. Assem is at Adams Spanish Immersion and Adam starts school in the fall.

The writer and Sal Elsayad previewed the Science Museum’s King Tutankhamun exhibit — Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs — in February.

With more than 100 authentic artifacts from the tomb of the celebrated pharaoh and other notable ancient sites, the exhibition is the largest in the Science Museum’s history and represents the first time King Tut’s treasures have visited Minnesota.

To celebrate the exhibit, a 10-ton, 26-foot tall statue of the Egyptian god Anubis [uh-NEW-bis] has been erected on Landmark Plaza in downtown St. Paul. Anubis’s role as protector of the deceased and their tombs makes it clear why he needs to be here, guarding the Science Museum and its funerary contents, and serving as Ambassador for the event. Photo: (left) Anubis.

An exhibit of this scale must be a collaboration among many organizations, and the caliber of the partners here is impressive. The exhibition was authorized by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and organized by the National Geographic Society; Arts and Exhibitions International; AEG, a leading sports and entertainment presenter; and AEG Live, AEG’s live entertainment division. Northern Trust is the major cultural partner, and American Airlines is the official airline of the tour.

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BOOK REVIEW: Hard Work and a Good Deal | 3.11 [IMAGE]

“Hard Work and a Good Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Minnesota” by Barbara W. Sommer.  Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2008.


An oral history project that ended up with more than 100 interviews and a wealth of photographs, artifacts and documents, provided the inspiration for Barbara W. Sommer to create “Hard Work and a Good Deal,” which was awarded the 2009 Minnesota Book Award in the Minnesota category. Sommer has been an oral historian for thirty years, and came to the West Seventh Community Center in February to talk about her book. Her passion and fascination with the subject were clear.

The creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps was one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s earliest acts as president. By the end of March 1933 the bill had passed and various government departments began working together to implement the program. The Army, for example, was placed in charge of running the camps — a situation that caused some internal objections among military leaders, but which in the end was invaluable for preparing the young men to serve in World War II.

FDR had tried a similar program when he was governor of New York State with some success. The program responded to one of the Depression’s most disheartening aspects — the inability of young men (18-25 years old), especially from poor families, to find work — coupled with a vast need for work on the country’s infrastructure.

The Corps accepted single men between the ages of 18 and 25 (although many managed to join younger). They and their families had to qualify for “relief” as welfare was known then. They would receive $1 a day, but were required to send $25 home each month to a “designated dependent,” retaining $5 for spending money; but they also received room and board, clothing and medical care, and worked a 40-hour week, leaving them with a lot of free time, much of which was spent in educational pursuits.

Conservation and environmentally related activities played a large role in the CCC’s work. In Minnesota, the two key state officials linked to the program were Grover Conze, Director of Forestry, and Harold Lathrop, Director of Parks. In planning Minnesota’s program, forestry and soil conservation were major activities. Camps were built in northern Minnesota, where road building, nursery development, tree-planting, forest management, lake management, construction of park buildings and ranger stations, scout and summer camps, were major activities. In all, 124 million trees were planted in the state. In southeastern Minnesota, soil conservation work included building erosion dams and controls, as well as bridge and road construction and repair. Even some archeological work was undertaken.

One of the great learning opportunities for Corps members involved the Local Experienced Men (LEM) who were recruited to teach various needed skills — blacksmiths, stonemasons, designers, log builders, cooks, carpenters and many others offered their knowledge and expertise, while incidentally earning some money for themselves. After 1937, unemployed teachers were brought in to offer formal educational programs, allowing core members to complete their high school diplomas.

In a few states, including Minnesota, an effort was made to integrate the camps with African-American youth. The Army, which ran the camps, was opposed to this idea, so it is no surprise that the experiment failed. American Indian participants were similarly segregated into their own camps.

Nevertheless, there seemed to be almost universal appreciation among the participants. “We learned what we needed to do,” they would say, and they emerged from the experience “rugged, tan, strong and healthy.” The discipline and work ethic, the restoration of health, were said by General George C. Marshall to have prepared these young men for service in the military that became necessary as the CCC itself was winding down.

Today there is an intact CCC camp, Camp Rabideau, designated as a National Historic Landmark, in the Chippewa National Forest in north central Minnesota.

Barbara Sommers has written a fascinating study of one of the significant restorative programs of the New Deal. The Community Reporter invites any readers who had CCC experience to consider writing about it. Contact Jerry Rothstein at 651-587-8859 or

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American Association of Woodturners
| 3.11  [IMAGE]
American Association of Woodturners Cindy Bowden, executive director; Greta Tacke, communications and marketing; Linda Tacke, former AAW interim director; Linda Ferber, program manager; Tib Shaw, curator, Gallery of Wood Art. The hollow vessels are by (l to r) Dale Nish (wormy ash), Mike Jackofsky (redwood burl) and David Ellsworth (figured ash) and are from the gallery’s permanent collection.

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