Then & Now
Including: Joy of Juxtaposition
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “I’ve always felt that when looking up a word in a dictionary, the journey is more important than the destination (with apologies to whoever first made that comment when referring to life). I eventually get to the word I’m looking for, but usually take a number of side trips. That rarely happens when using online dictionaries, which is one reason I still own a number of print dictionaries.
“Years ago, I bought one at a used-book sale for 50 cents. It was the ‘Winston Simplified Dictionary — Encyclopedic Edition.’ According to the title page, that means it includes ‘3,000 Illustrations and An Atlas of the World.’
“Because it was published in 1931, the atlas portion is somewhat out of date. The United States is short a couple of states, and you wouldn’t want to refer to the maps of Asia, Africa and the Middle East before taking a modern geography test. There is also a periodic table of the elements, but it shows only the 92 naturally occurring elements known back then. Elements 85 and 87 were included only as place keepers, because they theoretically existed but had not yet been discovered.
“The recent discussion regarding the Winston Science Fiction Series and the book ‘The Secret of the Ninth Planet’ reminded me of something I saw in the dictionary when I first purchased it. Included in the definition of ‘solar’ is the term ‘solar system’ and a schematic drawing of our solar system. It contained only eight planets. That was unfortunate, because as we were all taught in grade school, our solar system had nine planets.
“Even back then, Pluto got no respect. Although it was discovered in 1930, apparently there wasn’t enough time for it to be included in the 1931 edition of the dictionary. I’m sure the omission was corrected in later editions. But wait! Pluto has since been downgraded to a dwarf planet, which means the 1931 edition of the dictionary was probably the last one to show the proper number of planets as we now define them. That drawing is once again correct.
“And just to make things interesting, there is a Joy of Juxtaposition involved. The ‘Winston Simplified Dictionary’ was so named because it was published by the John C. Winston Company, which years later published the Winston Science Fiction books.”
The Permanent Paternal Record
Sleepless from St. Paul (in Minneapolis) writes: “Some of these work photos of my dad certainly would have been at home in ‘Strange Days, Dangerous Nights: Photos from the Speed Graphic Era” book.
“Unfortunately, I do not know the stories behind the photos. I would estimate they were taken in the late ’50s or early ’60s. All I know for certain is that they were taken by Pioneer Press/Dispatch photographers.”
The Permanent Motherly/Daughterly Record
Or: Life as we know it
Norton’s mom of Eau Claire, Wisconsin: “Subject: I did ‘wanna grow up.’
“When I was a very young girl, I used to accompany my mom when she went downtown to pay utility bills or to shop. When it was time to go home, probably via the bus, we would first stop at Woolworth’s, where I was allowed to choose one kind of bulk candy. I believe I’d get a dime’s worth, which was a few pieces in a small bag. There were days when I couldn’t make up my mind which kind I wanted.
“At least once, Mom lost her patience with me, and when I couldn’t decide on one kind of candy — after several walks around the candy counter, with its clear glass bins of various chocolates and other sugary treats — she declared that I’d had enough chances to select and we were going home. I cried all the way home. Apparently Mom had to keep explaining to people why her darling little girl was crying/screaming.
“I remember thinking that when I grew up, it would be great because I could choose as many kinds and as much candy as I wanted. And eat it all!
“Yesterday I drove to the ‘save big money at’ store to pick up some window-cleaning supplies. As I walked through the store, I passed by the candy aisle, where I spotted bags of chocolate stars — my favorite. But then I saw the salted-caramel chocolates. Now, it is my firm belief that the person responsible for inventing salted caramel should be awarded a prize. (Perhaps they could create a candy category for the Nobel Prize.) That’s how much I love salted caramel — especially when it is coated with chocolate. I had picked up the bag of chocolate stars, but I put them back and picked up the salted-caramel chocolates. But the chocolate stars called back to me, so I put the salted caramels back and picked up the stars. Suddenly I had both bags of candy in my hands, and I was headed toward the checkout counter.
“I was driving home, two or three of the salted-caramel chocolates in my mouth, interfering with my ability to sing along with whatever was playing on the radio, when I realized that I had accomplished one of my goals from way back when. I’d bought two different kinds of candy and was on my way to eating all of it (I didn’t quite do that, but the intent was there), and I was officially a grownup!
“Now on to my other goals from my childhood: being an elevator operator (the kind where the operator had to ‘drive’ the elevator with a large lever and stop it in perfect alignment with the floor at each stop) and a grocery-store meat packager who wrapped the trays of meat with some sort of clear plastic and then ran them over a heated plate to seal them — fascinating to watch as a child. Well, at least this child.”
Another close encounter of the natural kind, reported (secondhand) by The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Message from my daughter in Australia: ‘The locals (my fan base) were out in force when I went for my run this afternoon.’”
Keeping your eyes open
Al B of Hartland reports: “I waited in my car in the parking lot as my wife did some needed shopping.
“A pickup truck was parked facing me. House sparrows flew into the grill of the truck and came out with insects in their bills.
“It was a cookout.
“The birds loved food from the grill.”
Could be verse!
Tim Torkildson: “Hard work has never hurt a soul
“But maybe we should take a poll
“To find how many people die
“While in a business suit and tie.”
Gregory of the North writes: “Three years ago today, an almost-93-year-old man took up residence in a nursing home. His physician had told him he had to go there, because living at home no longer was safe for him. He’d had several falls, one of which had resulted in significant loss of blood. He’d also just had to have one eye removed, due to an unexpected necrosis and subsequent infection of the eye and orbit — the removal preventing the infection from traveling to the brain. So the physician had said that, with no depth perception and being on blood-thinning medication, he really had no choice but to go to a nursing home.
“He worked as best he could during the Great Depression. At the age of 11, he peddled vegetables door-to-door. At 13, he worked in a butcher shop. He basically did any job that would give him a few cents, which he would then contribute to the family kitty. At 16, he was allowed to start keeping some of the money for himself.
“This man met his future wife when she was 15 and he was 17. He withstood the family storm of a ‘mixed marriage’ — he was a German Catholic, she a Swedish Lutheran — and went off to fight a war against the tyranny that had taken over the land of his ancestral origins. Less than 24 hours after his wedding, he’d been on a troop train. His convoy across the Atlantic lost one ship and an unknown number of men who couldn’t be saved because the other ships dared not stop where an unseen U-boat was lurking.
“In the war, he survived a sniper’s bullet. He had eye contact with an enemy soldier when his own bullet entered the man’s forehead. He saw displaced persons, donned in once-elegant clothing, searching garbage piles for edible morsels. He witnessed the destruction of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of men and women and children. He believed he was seeing the death of civilization itself.
“When he returned, there was a code of silence among returning veterans. Many men, himself included, endured in silence what we now call PTSD. They plunged headlong into re-creating the country, and a time of unprecedented prosperity and opportunity.
“He lived a full life. He fathered three children, losing the first one in the earliest hours of its life. He worked never fewer than two jobs, out of a lingering fear of vulnerability. He brought to his home more luxuries (a TV set, a private telephone line, a washer AND a dryer) than he’d ever imagined. He provided for his family with the earnings of his paychecks, and the skills of his avocations. He hunted pheasants, and ducks, and whitetails. When that became too crowded and costly for his liking, he hunted (his word usage) walleyes, and bass, and bluegills. He had a passion for baseball, politics, and all sorts of literature, always having books at his table and nightstand.
“When he retired, he and his wife traveled around the country, eventually visiting every state in the lower 48, and finally getting a winter home in Arizona. He and his wife became ‘snowbirds’ and developed a rich social life in the Southwest desert as well as in the Land of Lakes. When his wife died suddenly from a faulty heart, his own broken heart would not allow him to stay in the house he’d shared with her, and he took up residence in a condominium. There he met a widow and started a new life, one that again brought him to the far reaches of the continent.
“After his second wife died, he returned to St. Paul and bought a condominium built on the same land that had been a ‘lovers’ lane’ for him in high school. He discovered Facebook and reconnected with people he’d not seen since the war — even one in Australia whom he’d always promised to visit, but never did. He volunteered countless hours at the VA hospital, and made new friends there. But he also saw his own generation passing away before him.
“He began telling his son details of his life, memories of the war and the Depression, family tidbits. The storytelling became more intense, almost urgent, as time went on, as though he needed to be sure his own story would not be lost.
“Then one day, three years ago, he found himself in a nursing home. ‘After almost 93 years, and this is how it ends? All of life for this?’ he said to his son.
“Two weeks after that, his son and daughter and their spouses sat next to him in his bed at the same VA to which he had given so many hours. He was silent, somewhere between consciousness and oblivion. It was the middle of the night, and the nurse came in and told the son and daughter to leave and get some sleep. They did so, and within 20 minutes, he rejoined his first wife, the true love of his life. The nurse and physician each would tell his son that he could not bear to die in the presence of his children, so he had asked them to ensure that his children left when the time came.
“So did the experience of the nursing home kill him? Did the realization that he was at the end become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Did he become weary of missing his wife and decide to join her at last? I’ll never know, of course, but I’m betting on the last. Rest in peace, Mom and Dad.”
Life as we know it
Or: One man’s meat . . . (Graph Paper Division)
OTD from NSP: “I appreciate the items about graph paper and knowing others share my positive views of it.
“When I still could knit and crochet (hands/wrist no long appreciate the motions, and I don’t want third surgery for repetitive-motion problems), I did a lot of knitting and some crocheting.
“My specialty was sweaters. I had developed a pattern for what was my ‘signature’ sweater that ranged from infant to large adult (having a husband who was 6-foot-4 and 230-250 pounds — and long-waisted — made a standard pattern hard to fit). This started my redoing a stock pattern into my sweater. This stock pattern came in infant, child, woman and man sizes, so most of my work was done for me. I disliked seams, so sleeves were done in a round or on double-point needles. Body was all one piece, and the buttonholes and placket were incorporated into the body. Only seams were sewing sleeves to sweater.
“I used graph paper to lay out patterns for what I wanted in the sweater. Once I figured out what was needed, it just took time. I taped (using removable tape) together sheets and laid them out on a Ping-Pong table top. One square equaled on stitch. One row was one row knitted, etc. Took time to lay out, but once in a rhythm, it was easy and actually enjoyable. Plus, no one bothered me when I was working on them, as I gave them a nasty look for interrupting my thought pattern. Once done with a size pattern, I made a master sheet (a knitting pattern like in a book), numbered the pages, removed the tape and could make copies as needed to make changes.
“This also made it easy to design custom patterns (a flower on a child’s sweater, bunnies on infants’), to custom-fit a person (most common adjustments were body and arm length) or to change a detail that was asked for (adding pockets was frequently requested and easy to do).
“I still use graph paper, even though I no longer knit. Once in the habit, it becomes something easy and familiar to work with. Another advantage: Even if what you are doing is very easy, it looks complicated to others, so you seem smarter.”
The verbing of America
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “An article on Page 4A in Wednesday’s Pioneer Press had this headline: ‘Target adds curbside pickup at 50 local stores.’
“This is from one of the paragraphs: ‘This isn’t the first time Target has offered curbside pickup. In 2014, Target partnered with Curbside, a tech company in California, that middle-manned the program. . . .'”
What’s in a number
Ten Commandments Division
The Hoot Owl of St. Paul: “Twice over the past few decades, we have noted a discrepancy in how the numbering of the 10 Commandments can cause confusion depending on where you worship.
“Many years ago, a Lutheran young lady at a nearby Catholic college was concerned and brought a complaint about a French prof’s listing in a handout of the Jerusalem Bible in French of Exodus 20:1-17. She was so upset that she complained to the Department Chair. He was a German prof, and she a German major. Until that moment, we finally discovered, none of us had known that Protestants and Jewish folk list numbers 5, 6, 7 differently from the way Catholics and Lutherans do.
“Just this month, a former Lutheran, now a member of a local Methodist church, pointed out that Commandment No. 6 was NOT what he thought from his upbringing. In the children’s sermon that day, the pastor had asked the congregation ‘What is the 6th commandment,’ and everyone (most, that is) said: ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ The Lutheran thought it was ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ and was perplexed as to why it would be mentioned in a children’s sermon.
“In the October 4, 2017 ‘Baby Blues’ comic, we are suspecting that the two cartoonists are neither Lutheran nor Roman Catholic.
“For comparison, see:
“Lessons learned: Be careful when you cite the 5th and 6th Commandments — and be aware of your target audience!”
Band Name of the Day: The Nobel Prize for Candy
Website of the Day: “Strange Days, Dangerous Nights: Photos from the Speed Graphic Era”