MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Deep within WCCO’s film archives lie hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities to travel through time. And on a reel, a treasure was hidden, untouched, for 52 years.
The date was April 1970. Minneapolis public school educators went on strike.
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WCCO restored the film to provide context for the educators’ strike that occurred in the same district last month.
When WCCO production manager Matt Liddy learned that 13 minutes of video had been restored from a film in 1970, he decided to take a look.
“I grew up in Minneapolis, so all I cared about was looking at the cool old buildings where I grew up. Did I recognize my old school? cue?” Liddy said.
His curiosity turned into discovery when he saw a journalist interviewing children while teachers were picketing in the background next to the school. And there was one young boy in particular who answered a question that left Liddy speechless.
“I immediately went to the newsroom and started showing people and saying, ‘I’m not going to tell you who I think it is, but who do you think it is? And every person [said] “Prince,” Liddy said.
We didn’t have the right equipment to hear the film. A specialist helped us extract the audio. We then heard the boy speak after being asked about the teachers’ strike. With a smile as his friends surrounded him, the boy who looked about 10 years old said, “I think they should have a better education too because, uh, and I think they should have more money because they’re working, they’re working overtime for us and all that.
It sounded like a childish version of Prince Nelson, the kid from Minneapolis who would become an international music icon. But there was a problem. The reporter never asked the child’s name.
“We didn’t make him say ‘I’m Prince Nelson,'” Liddy said.
This triggered our investigation. Just before the boy who appeared to be Prince was interviewed, another young boy spoke up. He said his name with charisma without even being asked. His name was Ronnie Kitchen.
We spent a day looking up phone numbers and addresses, trying to find a Ronnie Kitchen that was at least 60 years old. He looked like a teenager in the video from 52 years ago. But the phone numbers and addresses we found were dead ends.
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How about a picture? A yearbook photo showing Prince in fifth grade has surfaced online. There were similarities in facial structure, but Prince would have been a sixth grader in the interview we found. We needed an expert, which led us to Kristen Zschomler. She is a professional historian and archaeologist who researches properties and landmarks around the Twin Cities. She’s also a devoted Prince fan who wanted to make sure other fans had reliable knowledge of where he grew up in Minneapolis, where he went to school, basically his life before he became a superstar.
“They called him Skipper,” she said, showing us a family photo of Prince as a toddler. “I wrote a big document kind of describing his historic journey from the north side of Minneapolis to Paisley Park and the world.”
Zschomler said videos of Prince as a preteen are almost non-existent in the public eye.
“As for the video, I don’t know of any. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but I don’t know of any,” she said.
Shortly after our interview, we showed her the video of the 1970 strike. She gasped as the boy who looked like Prince entered the frame, then a smile formed, followed by her difficulty composing a sentence at the end. of the video clip.
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“I think it’s him, definitely. Oh my God. Yeah, I think it’s definitely Prince,” she said.
Another element of the video caught his eye in the background.
“It definitely looks like Lincoln Junior High School where he would have attended school in April 1970,” she said.
Zschomler then showed us what is believed to be a photo of sixth grade Prince from the same school year of the strike. We compared it to the strike video. The hairstyle was on point.
“There’s so much to his mannerisms and his eyes and everything about him,” she said.
Despite the evidence, we still needed someone who knew Prince when he was a kid. Zschomler put us in touch with Terrance Jackson.
“We go back to kindergarten at John Hay Elementary in north Minneapolis,” Jackson said.
He is a childhood friend and former neighbor who was also part of Prince’s first band, Grand Central, when they were teenagers.
“Oh my God, it’s Kitchen,” Jackson exclaimed at the start of the video, immediately recognizing Ronnie Kitchen as a teenager. “It’s Prince! Standing right there with the hat, right? It’s Skipper! Oh my God!”
He was giddy with laughter. Then Prince started talking. Jackson fell silent, only saying “wow” softly a few times. At the end of the video, he was wiping the tears from his eyes and laughing again.
“I’m like blown away. I am totally blown away,” he said, as memories of their childhood flooded in.
“He was already playing guitar and keyboards by then, phenomenally,” Jackson said. “Music has become our sport. Because he was athletic, I was athletic, but we wanted to compete musically.
Jackson’s wife, Rhoda, grew up alongside them. She too couldn’t contain her laughter when she saw Prince and then heard him talking like an 11-year-old boy.
“It’s just amazing to see him, so small, so young, and hear his voice,” Rhoda said.
Our mystery surrounding one of music’s most mysterious men has been solved. Just a young city dweller, years before putting his city and its sound on the map.
“It’s Prince, aka Skipper from the Northside,” Jackson said.
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“I think just seeing Prince as a young kid in his neighborhood school, you know, it really helps ground him in that Minneapolis connection,” Zschomler said. “Even though this is a momentary glimpse of what Minneapolis meant to him, what he stood for when he lived in Minneapolis, it just helps to understand that symbiotic connection he had with his hometown. .”