How big was the Saturn V rocket? Big enough for an entire page!

Yellowed journalism

Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “The American space program was big news in the 1960s and received a lot of press coverage. I saved almost everything printed about it in the St. Paul Dispatch, which was the evening newspaper and the only one we got at our house. I recently came across my stash of old yellowed newspaper clippings and started going through them.


“On Wednesday, July 29, 1964, the St. Paul Dispatch devoted an entire page to our plans to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. I didn’t remember this specific article, but I never forgot the photo that went with it. There on the page is a photo of a Saturn I rocket next to the First National Bank building. The caption reads: ‘A Saturn I rocket is superimposed on the First National bank to show the size of the Saturn V — the 360-foot-high launch vehicle which will boost man to the moon.’ The article noted the building is 402 feet tall without the sign on the top.

“Newspapers were doing strange things to photographs long before Photoshop existed, and apparently our hometown paper was no exception. The photo was a bit crude by today’s standards, but it got the point across. I know I was impressed.”

BULLETIN BOARD IS CONFUSED: Where is this “superimposed” Saturn I? Are our eyes deceiving us?

Fear and trembling . . .

Fudge Brownie: “My dad had an enormous garden. It was necessary to feed a family of 12. The vegetables he planted were your basic carrots, beans and corn, etc. No fancy cauliflower or broccoli.

“We kids were required to pick them when they were ripe. Now, this shouldn’t have been a problem for any of us. But it was, for me — BIG TIME.

“I had an aversion to spiders. That doesn’t really describe my absolute fear of them. I have a T-shirt that states: ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself . . . and spiders.’

“There were some veggies that I had no problem with. Corn, no sweat. But it was the green beans and tomatoes that gave me shudders. The tomatoes were easy to see on the vine, and I could avoid the ones with spiders on them. The green beans, however, were very leafy and required one to put your hand into the plant to pick them. My method was to lift a leaf, grab a few beans after inspecting them for spiders and then move on to the next plant, hoping one of my older brothers would make a final sweep and find them all.

“Strawberries were a problem for me, too, since the berries were hidden under the leaves. I thought my usual method worked just fine for those, too. Why should I fix something that didn’t need fixing?

“I decided at a young age that a farmer’s life was not for me. I am still terrified of spiders and am not embarrassed to admit it. I am just a scaredy cat!”

CAUTION! Words at Play!

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: It’s a punny game.

“Tom, one of our opponents in the senior golf league, finished the fifth hole with a bogey, which was quite remarkable, since he had ’tree trouble’ on two of his shots.

“As he walked off the green, he commented: ‘I hit two trees, and didn’t even use my tree wood.’

“And the fun continues.”

What this country has been needing?

Rusty of St. Paul (and Bayfield, Wisconsin) reports: “I spied this product in the health section of our local co-op here in northern Wisconsin.


“Now, as a guy, I don’t need this product (I suppose a woman could argue she doesn’t, either), but I was tempted to buy it to try it out and test the truth in advertising.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: “PIMP PAD,” huh. You think the Party In My Pants had that abbreviation in mind?

Clowning around

Tim Torkildson writes: “When I was 10 years old, the Como Avenue Merchants Association held a themed carnival at Van Cleve Park in Southeast Minneapolis. They called it ‘Hobo Days’ — and the idea was for all the kids in the area to dress up as vagabonds, complete with lampblack beards and sticks impaling bandana packages of faux bindlestiff swag. The merchants thought it would be good PR — plus, I think, they really wanted to get dressed up like Freddy the Freeloader themselves. Shopkeepers have an innate longing to dress as poor as they proclaim themselves to be, what with the %#@*%# taxes they have to pay.

“On the appointed day, my sisters and I, suitably accoutered in our patched shirts and ragged pants with rope belts, ambled over to the park to investigate the games and goodies available. First there was a parade, where we marched in front of some nameless adult dignitaries and were each awarded a prize for our costumes: splintered palm-frond Chinese finger traps, or an anemic plastic whistle that issued only a dispirited hiss. Somehow the Como Merchants had persuaded the current mayor, Art Naftalin, to volunteer his services at the dunking booth. Anyone who could hit the bullseye and send the mayor plunging into the tub got a Bit-O-Honey bar — one of the least popular confections of the era; parents apparently thought it was healthful because of the word ‘honey’ in the title and bought bags of the stuff, which then rotted away untouched in the back of innumerable kitchen cupboards.

“The whole affair had the feel of an underplanned company picnic. What kept me at the park, after my sisters had decided to troop back home for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wonder Bread, was the advertised ‘Big Clown Skit’ that the merchants themselves would perform under the direction of a real live professional circus clown. This I had to see.

“The performance took place on the patio of the warming shed, where in winter we battled chilblains when skating in the Minnesota subzero weather. Kids were raised hardier back then — or maybe parents just didn’t care as much; I dunno. Anyway, things got off to a promising start when ‘Hobo Joe’ sauntered out to do some warm-up schtick. First he removed his tattered white gloves — which entailed pulling about two yards of material out of each sleeve. Then he blew his nose on a piebald rag, which he nonchalantly threw to the ground and deftly caught when it bounced right back up to him. He ended with a devil-sticks routine that, in retrospect, was pretty basic — but at the time blew my 10-year-old mind. The restless sea of kids that had billowed around the patio on the verge of bored mischief were likewise enchanted by Hobo Joe’s deft comic skills.

“Things got dicey again real quick when the Como Merchants, dressed in their hobo rags, stumbled out at Joe’s direction to do the tried and true ‘Niagara Falls’ routine, ending it with a bucket of water thrown on the audience that actually contained nothing but confetti. They botched the entire gag from start to finish, forgetting their lines and asking Joe to prompt them — spilling water on each other at exactly the wrong moment, and throwing the confetti bucket out into the crowd in an exuberantly lethal manner, where it hit a girl smack dab in the eye and gave her a handsome ‘mouse.’

“After the debacle was over and the crowd and merchants had drifted away, I worked up the courage to approach Hobo Joe, who turned out to be a real nice guy — he didn’t mind talking to a diffident little kid like me at all. He real name was Gene Hammond, he said, and he made his living doing Shrine circuses and also renting himself out to coach amateur comedians at charity events and men’s smokers. When I innocently asked him what a men’s smoker was, he hastily changed the subject by asking me if I ever thought of running away to join the circus. Of course, he was just being a typical jocular and unthinking adult with that question. He had no way of knowing that that is exactly what I had been planning to do for the past several years. For a breathless moment, I thought that he was my ticket out of town to the bright lights and sawdust of the big top. I’d ask to be his apprentice! But then I saw he was packed up and impatient to leave, and had no thought of actually encouraging lot lice like me to tag along. He was no Pied Piper — just an itinerant entertainer looking for his next gig. Before he left for the bus stop (not much money in clown coaching, I guess) he gave me a little trinket to remember him: a miniature spyglass. It actually worked, too! I could see things up close with it, and it seemed to have some magical power that caused people to chuckle at me the rest of that afternoon whenever I would hold it up to my eye to take a gander around.

“When I finally went to the restroom later that day, I saw that I had acquired a large black circle around my eye. That was a cruel setback, I admit — but still, I finally managed to escape my dull Scandinavian neighborhood seven years later when I scarpered off to the Ringling Clown College in Florida. Without the help of Hobo Joe.

“(An interesting sidelight to this memoir is that the ‘real’ Hobo Joe was actually a mascot for a chain of coffee shops. At one time there were dozens of Hobo Joe Coffee Shops all over Arizona and adjoining states — with a life-size statue of Hobo Joe leaning nonchalantly near the cash register. I’m pretty sure that the Hobo Joe I met at Van Cleve Park had nothing whatsoever to do with the coffee shops. The chain went belly up in the 1980s, apparently as a consequence of the franchise owner’s embezzling ties with the Mafia. For more details, read Benjamin Leatherman’s fascinating article.)

Band Name of the Day: The Nameless Adult Dignitaries

Website of the Day: Launch of Apollo 4 first Saturn V as seen LIVE on CBS w/ Walter Cronkite

Note to readers: We’ll be back in a few days. Golf beckons, and we are powerless to resist!

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