St. Olaf is a town located in northern Minnesota, the often-referred to hometown of Rose Nylund from the 1985-1992 sitcom The Golden Girls. The town is often thought to be of fictional origin, but this town does, in fact, exist in Minnesota. In the first season, Rose once referred to it as "Little Falls", which is a town quite far away from St. Olaf Township.
The name was taken from the real-life St. Olaf Township in southern Minnesota established in 1869 and named after Olaf II of Norway, home to just 332 in 2000 Census, formerly Oxford, located in Otter Tail County, MN. On the series, St. Olaf was neighbors with St. Gustaf, and there was also a town called "Beaver Falls" nearby. There is also a real life Beaver Falls Township in Minnesota. The towns of St. Olaf and St. Gustaf had two Minnesota colleges, St. Olaf College and Gustavus Adolphus College. St. Olaf College is located in Northfield, MN, and Gustavus Adolphus College is located in St. Peter, MN. The two colleges are both in the MIAC conference and share a friendly rivalry.
According to Rose, St. Olaf is a Norwegian farming settlement in northern Minnesota, known on local license plates as "Big Statue Country". The town can be reached by train from Minneapolis to Tyler's Landing, changing at St. Gustav (St. Olaf's sister city and dubbed "The City that Never Naps") with the final leg completed by toboggan.
You may also fly to St. Gustav and transfer to a train and then donkey cart service that takes 2-3 days. Additionally, a "Yokel Service" is available for those who wish to be entertained by a family of first cousins playing banjos.
A Norwegian farming settlement in Minnesota, it was according to Rose, "founded by the man who came up with the idea of canning tuna in its own juices" named Heinrich von Andredunen who was celebrated every year with a parade of townsfolk dressed as cans of tuna and jars of mayonnaise. Its population, she related, could all be traced back to the same brother and sister, and are required by law to sign a pledge at the age of 15 to promise they will not do anything "wild, crazy and impetuous," principally to prevent people painting their houses strange colors.
Presence in The Golden Girls
During the show's seven-year run, St. Olaf was only seen twice in flashbacks and once when the girls visited during an episode in which Rose was nominated for St Olaf's Woman of the Year award, ultimately winning a gold trophy, or rather, a milk chocolate trophy wrapped in gold colored foil.
The town was nevertheless referred to in almost every episode through Rose's protracted and comic (yet almost entirely irrelevant) anecdotes about its eccentric inhabitants, bizarre customs, and peculiar history. The town appears to be quite traditional, with Rose being visited once by her cousin Sven who was due to be married in an arranged marriage to a St Olaf woman he never met before.
One of St. Olaf's chief attractions is a giant black hole, which the townspeople enjoyed standing around and looking at - which prompted Dorothy to refer to St. Olaf sarcastically as the real "entertainment capital of the world." St. Olafians also celebrate various oddly themed festivals, including; "Hay Day" (the day everyone in town celebrates hay),"The Crowning of the Princess Pig", "The Day of the Wheat" (where everyone goes to town dressed like sandwiches), "The Festival of the Dancing Sturgeons" (a festival where the townsfolk watch sturgeons flopping around on the dock), a "Butter Queen" competition (in which Rose almost won, however her churn jammed causing her to believe it had been tampered with), and a milk diving competition (Rose ranked in the "low fat" division), as well as many other events.
The local high school was taken over by the Nazi Party during World War II in order to teach Nazi propaganda to the youth at the school as an experiment, in preparation for an invasion of the United States; both Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun served as teachers at the school: Hitler, alias "Fritz Stickelmeyer," taught history, and Eva Braun taught physical education.
The townspeople built a statue dedicated to Blanche after she returned to them a large surplus of war bonds she found in a box of junk she bought from Rose.
St. Olaf appears to be a bilingual town with a significant amount of unique vocabulary (that may be specific to the area and not appearing in standard Norwegian). Rose uses these phrases quite often, to the exasperation of her roommates. Examples include Gerkanenaken (when dog feces turn white), Tutenbobels (buttocks), Ugel and Flugel (a Hide and seek game for adults) and Vanskapkaka (a special "friendship" cake; this word, however, is based on the Swedish word "vänskapskaka", which holds the same meaning). German, Swedish and Norwegian is the basis of the
- Genügenflürgen cake, a type of cake with an ancient Scandinavian recipe that Rose Americanized.
- Vertugenflürgen, a word used by Rose that is the St. Olaf equivalent of "I'm not one to blow my own horn.", with 'vertugenflürgen' replacing 'horn'. Sophia claimed she couldn't even reach hers, which may imply a more explicit meaning - or Sophia being her usual sarcastic self.
- Guggenspritzer, a St. Olaf version of Monopoly. There is no money due to the bank, built by a bad contractor, sinking into a swamp leaving nothing but safety deposit slips and a pen on a chain. Also, you can buy the library or the phone booth, yet 'people use the phone booth'. Rose managed to win the entire game by buying one street - the only street in St Olaf.
- Ugel and Flugel, an adult version of the children's game 'tag'.
- Langenhølden, a Viking hat with horns
- Kaflügenachen, Scandinavian pejorative term for someone who docks his boat in the handicap slip without a handicap permit.
St. Olaf's cuisine is heavily influenced by Viking tradition and often includes herring.
- Sperhüven Krispies, a foul-smelling Scandinavian midnight snack. They are eaten with one hand closing the nostrils and one hand popping a Krispy into the mouth. Even though they smell horrible, they taste like cheesecake, fresh strawberries, and chocolate ice cream.
- Maple Syrup Honey Brown Sugar Molasses Rice Krispies log. A favorite of Rose and her family that, as the name implies, is incredibly sugary. Dorothy tried it and couldn't believe the sheer sweetness of the log. Later, when Rose's daughter Kirsten visited and gave a log to Blanche and Dorothy, Dorothy told Blanche: "It's a log, I'm going to burn it!"
- Eggs Geflufen, an appetizer
- Herring Balls
Legacy and comic
St. Olaf is still occasionally mentioned by Garrison Keillor as the neighboring town to Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, in his weekly public radio show, A Prairie Home Companion. And there was a comic book there. The comic book was Sonya kilngenhoffer and it features 16 panels and in the first panel it's says Sonya kilngenhoffer in big letters.
Holidays & Traditions
- When St. Olafians turn 15, they are forced to sign a pledge not to do wild things. It keeps people from painting their house in silly colors.
- Hay Day: the celebration of hay
- The Crowning of the Princess Pig
- The Day of the Wheat: everyone in town dresses like sandwiches
- The Festival of the Dancing Sturgeons: the townsfolk watch sturgeons flopping around on the dock
- St. Sigmund's Day: a celebration where a headless boy is a central figure
A list of St. Olafians and St. Olaf things
- The Swinson Brothers: Two brothers who were almost neutered by a doctor/vet who started to drink hot liniment.
- Alice: Rose's family cow who was involved in a nasty plowing accident. The punishment for the kids on the farm if they have done something bad is to milk Alice, since she had to sit on a stool.
- Toby: Rose's family cow before Alice. He was too old, gotten a fever and gone deaf. Not to be confused with a horse, also named Toby.
- Larry: Rose's one-eyed pig.
- Lars: A man with a prosthetic leg, who came in last in the Four Country Toboggan Race.
- Lenny Linderflot: sat in front of Rose in many classes in school. She was later asked to speak at his funeral, where she remarked that she loved the back of his head and, upon finally seeing his face, that he wasn't bad looking either.
- Little Yimminy: A boy raised (and put through medical school) by a wild moose.
- Lucky Gunther: A man who lost his arm in a thresher accident and had it replaced with a forceps.He was in charge of delivering babies and handing out corn at picnics. At one such picnic Rose went into labor with her daughter Kirsten, and Lucky helped deliver her since he already had boiled water for corn at the time, even buttering and salting the baby after she was born.
- Uncle Ben: Rose's uncle who lost Lars' prosthetic leg. To make it up to Lars, he decided to become his Viedenfrugen (personal servant). It turns out he used it to beat off the wolves when he was setting up the bleachers.
- Gordon: Rose's chicken as a child.
- Gretchen Lillehammer: winner of the 1987 St. Olaf Woman of the Year for saving all three books from a fire at the public library.
- Old Toby: A horse that got too sick, and the Lindstrom family ended up shooting it. Not to be confused with the earlier-mentioned cow of the same name.
- Mean Old Lady Hickenlooper: An old lady who legally changed her name to Mean Old Lady Hickenlooper (because that's what everyone called her) and was born without any smiling muscles.
- Hans Christian Lukerhüven: St. Olaf's greatest author. He wrote the fable "Tudor the Tiger" and "Hansel and Hansel", which Rose thought her parents had made up.
- Henrik Felderstühl, St. Olaf's half-man, half-grasshopper. When he rubbed his legs together you'd swear you were on a camping trip.
- Emma Immerhoffer: ran a soup kitchen and took in orphans, leading her to win the 1988 St. Olaf Woman of the Year award. However, her award was later rescinded and given to Rose when it was discovered that Emma had murdered her husband and hid his skeleton in a closet.
- Len, Sven, and Ben, also known as the Toppelkopper Triplets. Even though they are not identical in appearance, nobody in St. Olaf can tell them apart. They traveled to Miami to clarify and declare to Rose that she was St. Olaf's Woman of the Year.
- Rose once stated she attempted for St Olaf to have its own missile silo. Her reasoning was making the town a first strike target would really put the town on the map.
- On a similar note, Rose claimed the town developed a secret weapon that could end WWII - 'Attack Cows'. However, despite being trained to kill, they were unable to pull the ripcord of a parachute. However, as she noted, the cows would create quite a mess when they “landed” and because ‘Germans hate a mess’, they were at least partially effective.
- Ingrid, Rose's tree house friend. When the girls were in St. Olaf for Rose to accept her St. Olaf's Woman of the Year, Rose recalled how she and Ingrid would spend time at the treehouse; when Blanche suggested to Rose to give Ingrid a call, Rose did so - by calling out via cupping her hands. Much to the other girls' astonishment, Ingrid answered back.
- Ingmar Von Bergman, St. Olaf's meanest ventriloquist.
- The Amazing Shapiro, St. Olaf's Obstetrician-Magician.
- The St. Olaf Courier-Dispatch, the local newspaper known for its investigative reporting.
- The St. Olaf Time, another newspaper from St. Olaf that once gave advice on attracting UFOs with a flashlight and a pie pan.