How many senior citizens does it take to change a battery in a smoke alarm?

Know thyselves!
Or: Older Than Dirt?

Christy of Menomonie, Wisconsin: “How many senior citizens does it take to change a battery in a smoke alarm? Evidently more than I thought. Plus a call to an electrician!

“After all these years of doing this at the end of Daylight Saving Time, you would think changing the batteries would be second nature by now. Nature has a cruel way of interfering with that logic. Unsteady balance, crippled fingers, fading eyesight, failing brain cells — all conspire to make this more difficult than it used to be.

“Together hubby and I planned to tackle two battery changes for their yearly update. As the more steady of the two, I climbed on the step-stool first. After a struggle with the cover, I dropped the old battery down the stairs, then put in the new one wrong . . .  and the whole house rang out in warning. Tried again with same result. After deciding I needed a taller ladder, flashlight, cheater glasses and a knife, I succeeded. But the second one just would not cooperate, and some damn orange metal tag would not allow me to close the cover. Hubby tried his best, too, while I held him by his belt for extra balance, with no luck. [Bulletin Board says: He survived, intact. That sounds like all of the luck you could hope for, all things considered!]

“Now what? Book an electrician to admit we were too stupid to change a battery? Pay $100 as a penance for doofusness? Hubby called an electrician, who laughed and told us the orange metal tag will prevent closure if the battery is placed incorrectly.

“Holy moley. Can’t wait for next year.”

Older Than Dirt?
No. Hell no!

John in Highland: “Someone gave me this coffee cup for my birthday several years ago.


“Each year I take it out of its box and ponder whether or not I want to give in and start using it.

“Not this year!”

Keeping your eyes open
Amateur Astronomy Division

Cee Cee of Mahtomedi: “I watched the supermoon last night as it made its ascent into the night sky. After she (I will hereafter refer to the moon in the feminine, as my given name is one of the names for the Greek goddess of the moon) briefly displayed her majesty through the trees, she hid behind the clouds until she reappeared in all her glory. The photo I took was from our deck, where I was watching her emerge through the distant trees.”


Tongue ‘n Cheek Division

Elvis: “After another Supermoon this week, is anyone else getting worried that the moon keeps getting closer to the earth?”

Our theater of seasons

Here, again, is Mounds View Swede: “All three of us photographers on our first photo trip to the U.P. (2007) became intrigued by the many unexplored possibilities of striking photos along the Presque Isle River, and so came back again the next day to do that exploring.

“One of the things I found intriguing were the rocks that had ripples in them from when they must have been the bottom of a shallow sea — a place that could make ripples. It’s one of those mysteries how this happened that I wonder about — the sequence of events that first caused this to happen and turn into rock, and then to get exposed again these millions of years later.


“I felt I had to do something with the many rock patterns and textures we were finding and so took this with a handy leaf.

“It’s almost a cliche in the photography world, I guess, but too tempting to pass up.”The Permanent Family Record
Street Photography Division

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I want to share some more treasured sidewalk photographer photos.”The first is a snap taken sometime in the summer of 1937 of my then-future brother-in-law walking by Dayton’s department store on Nicollet Avenue.

“The second snap was taken right across the street from Dayton’s, of my oldest sister and me in October of 1937.

“If I remember correctly, Burt’s shoes WAS directly across from Dayton’s in the same block with Woolworth’s — wasn’t it? Although maybe it was between Eighth and Ninth. Anybody know?”I was 5, and Ruth was 20, although from her attire she looks much older. We were downtown shopping, but I am guessing from the expressions on each of our faces that the photographer took this on a day when I had talked her into taking me to a Shirley Temple movie. My sister indulged me now and then, but she never enjoyed Shirley Temple movies like I did. Ruth was a tap dancer, and if it wasn’t a Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movie, she suffered (NOT silently, I might add) through it. Ruth and her husband had met as children when they were both performers on the Orpheum circuit, but didn’t meet again until 1940,when they became dance partners and later married.”I am so happy to have been able to celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary with them, and I treasure these photos taken of them on the same street, the same year.”

Then & Now
Golden Age of Department Stores (and Downtowns) Division


The Bitter and Disgruntled Guy from Andover: “When I was a young lad growing up in South Minneapolis, we used to take the bus everywhere. For a while, they let kids ride free — until the seniors complained that they should be the only ones riding free (at least that is my memory of it), so then they made us pay a dime. My friends and I were 10 or 12 and would take the 36 bus downtown, and then we would go explore.

“I liked the library and the planetarium, which were in one and the same building. We also loved wintertime and would go to Arby’s downtown, which always had a big side of beef marinating and cooking in the window, and during Christmastime they would have glasses with Christmas decorations that were ‘free’ when you bought a meal. The windows would always have condensation on them, and when you stepped through the doorway, the wonderful aroma of roast beef filled the air.

“After we ate our fill, we would wander over to Dayton’s and walk around looking at everything we could not afford. We always went to the eighth-floor Christmas-themed wonderland, and I think we even visited Santa on our own once, even though we were a bit older then.

“It was a great time to be a kid in the city.”


Kathy S. of St Paul: “Someone mentioned a child who wants to see and use a revolving door.

“With three brothers, I have a well-founded fear of self-propelled revolving doors. I remember entering one and having a brother dash into the next section and start pushing to make it move faster. Multiple times.

“I was terrified of falling inside one, and refused to enter a revolving door ahead of my brothers. Which was a pain in the neck for Mom and Dad.”

Our theater of seasons (II)

Grandma Nancy reports: “Blooming in our neighborhood on November 14.

161116bbcut-novemberroseOur neighbor died a year ago, and no one tended his roses over the summer, but this one put forth a spectacular effort to give us beauty this month.”

Everyone’s a copy editor!

Donald: “Subject: Taking a Flyer(s) on the Senators.

“I was momentarily confused by something in the Sports section of Monday’s Pioneer Press. Above the headline ‘Dumba, Kuemper pick Boudreau up,’ was this: ‘Wild 2 / Flyers 1 (OT)’

” ‘Didn’t they just lose to the Flyers?’ I wondered. The answer came in the first two paragraphs of the piece, datelined Ottawa: ‘Wild coach Bruce Boudreau was less than thrilled Saturday night following a 3-2 loss in Philadelphia. [Aha, I was right!]

” ‘Defenseman Matt Dumba took a sliding swing at a loose puck and knocked it past Craig Anderson at 3:57 of overtime as the Wild picked up an important 2-1 win over the Senators.’

“Confusing, but somewhat amusing.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Emphasis on “somewhat.”

Clowning around

Tim Torkildson writes (WARNING! Various Threats to Contented Dining Ahead!): “A young boy’s definition of ‘hygiene’ is rather flexible. At least mine was. I was constantly at loggerheads with my mother over her insistence that I change underwear every day. At the time, this seemed rather drastic to me. Who would ever see my underwear, or ever be offended if it began to reek a teeny weeny bit? Changing it once a week seemed the saner course for a young man busy with long sweaty bike rides in the summer and intense ice-skating sessions in the winter.

“The constant washing of face and hands that were demanded of me prior to each meal at home were also an onerous and certainly unnecessary burden imposed by a germaphobic parent. Her high-handed approach to cleanliness was not next to godliness; it was next to torture!

“But as I matured (or at least my body matured; there is still some debate in academic circles as to whether my mental abilities have ever extended beyond the capacity of an 8-year-old), I found that soap and water, and a good deodorant, were not the incredible imposition I had once thought; indeed, I realized if I was ever to snag a girlfriend, I would need to be as clean as a hound’s tooth, if not as sharp. So I brushed my teeth and combed my hair and lathered up once a day — and much good did it do me in the romance department. Girls not only wanted a sanitized boyfriend, but one with money and a car. Pfui!

“It was a bitter lesson, one that I took with me to the Ringling clown alley in the year 1971 — along with my by-now-entrenched habits of normal cleanliness.

“Maintaining hygienic standards in clown alley took some doing. First there was the daily application, and then removal, of the heavy greasepaint. We didn’t use any of that namby-pamby powdery stuff you see in stage productions, but good old Stein’s Clown White — a thick and oily white paste that stayed on despite sweat and strain — and that came off unwillingly only with industrial-strength mineral oil. And even then there’d still be streaks of it in odd corners of the face and around the ears when vigilance was lax.

“My costumes were constantly under siege from animal fluids — everything from tiger urine (they could direct a stream with unerring accuracy up to 10 feet away from their cage) to the watery feces of the elephants after they had raided a handy Dumpster. Not to mention the gallons of white goo that were flung around during the ring gags. It consisted mostly of shaving soap and glycerin, and it dried to a thin white crust that was as hard to dislodge as cement.

“We were all kept busy washing, scrubbing, and brushing. The hobo clowns, like Otto Griebling and Mark Anthony, were doubly zealous about their personal sanitation; they kept their fingers rigorously manicured and doused themselves with pints of Old Spice. Even then, audience members would sometimes wrinkle their noses at one of them and exclaim: ‘Pee-yoo, does that bum stink!’

“But there was one holdout in clown alley who did not follow accepted hygienic practises. I’ll call him ‘Kyle’ for the purposes of this narrative. He was a First of May, one of my fellow students from the Ringling Clown College in Venice, Florida.

“Kyle disdained the use of mineral oil for makeup removal. He used Pond’s cold cream, not very effectively. The outlines of his Auguste makeup were still clearly visible when he quit clown alley each night. He did not shower because, he claimed, he caught cold very easily. He shaved only intermittently. He rarely trimmed his nails, and the grime underneath them was as potent as night soil from any Third World country.

“In other words, he was as filthy and smelly as a goat. How he ever got a contract with the show is a mystery on par with what actually started the infamous Hartford Circus Fire back in 1944.

“And he kept his roomette on the circus train in the same squalid shape as himself. These roomettes had originally been the premier accommodations on the crack train lines between New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, back in the 1920s and ’30s. But by the time Ringling Brothers purchased the cars, they were practically slums on wheels. So we clowns had our work cut out for us just to keep our roomettes one step above a ghetto. They were dusty, drafty, and uncarpeted, but with a little elbow grease most of us managed to keep them somewhat civilized.

“Not Kyle. He never changed the sheets on his Murphy bed; loved to eat fried chicken in his room and scatter the bones around like a Norman baron feeding his mastiffs; and he used his fold-down sink as a urinal. The consequence was a new herd of cockroaches every few weeks, which would stampede out from his foul den to the surrounding roomettes — including mine!

“As spring swiveled to summer, Kyle’s personal hygiene grew worse — or at least the cumulative effects of his existing state of filth grew more offensive. There was talk of vigilante action.

“When the show reached Anaheim in July, Kyle was unceremoniously removed from his noisome roomette late one night for a complete hosing down. I was not part of this posse, but I heard that they were not very gentle with him. The group also cleaned and scrubbed out his roomette, smashing family photos and other keepsakes while in the grip of their Lysol mania.

“The next day, Kyle showed up in clown alley sullen and bruised, but very clean. For the rest of that season, Kyle kept his nose, and everything else, clean. If he began to slip, he was grimly reminded that another midnight ablution could be arranged.

“Today such brutal and direct action would certainly be condemned and probably prosecuted as a hate crime. I look back on that episode myself with lingering discomfort and guilt. But what else could have been done? We all asked him to please clean up his act prior to the outrage; our requests met with nothing but a grimy sneer. In the close-packed and volatile world of clown alley, Kyle was just asking for trouble.

‘He did not get invited back for a second season with the circus. Many years later, at a Clown College reunion, I saw him sitting by himself in the corner of the hotel Hospitality Suite, smoking a cigarette. He would not make eye contact with me, so I didn’t go over to say hello. He was wearing a light yellow polyester sports coat and white slacks and looked perfectly normal and clean to me. Somebody told me later he worked in Las Vegas as a lounge singer in some of the second-string casinos. I remembered then: He always had a pretty good baritone and used to sing cheerful Broadway show tunes a lot . . .  before the Night of the Hose.”

Band Name of the Day: Lysol Mania

Website of the Day from Double Bogey Mike: The world’s largest building, at





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