Of death and Fibber McGee: Mom loved the mystery shows . . . but Dad didn’t, and he ruled the radio!

The Permanent Family Record

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “My gentle mother enjoyed murder mysteries. The day after she died, my middle son came out of her bedroom ashen, hiding something behind his back. Reluctantly he showed me the book she was in the middle of reading. It was titled ‘Death in the Morning.’ I told him not to be concerned, to just check out her bookshelf. It was filled with similar titles: ‘Death in the Garden,’ ‘Death in the Afternoon,’ etc.

“The lady just enjoyed a good mystery.


“In the 1930s, there were an abundance of mystery radio shows to fill her appetite. However, she could listen to them only when our dad had an out-of-town job, because he ruled the radio selections in our house. He liked Jack Benny, ‘Fibber McGee & Molly,’ prize fights and political shows — the more argumentative, the better.

“My dad was working out of town the winter I was 6 and my sister Nora was 12, and every night Mother tuned in to another mystery. She didn’t seem to worry about any lasting effect these scary shows might have on her kids, and I doubt whether she was even aware of how much fun Nora had in scaring the wits out of me reenacting some of the scripts.

“The only show I actually remember hearing was all because of Nora. It was titled something like ‘The Man with the Glass Head.’ Even though I knew Nora didn’t REALLY have a glass head OR wear a wig, it was so deliciously frightening when she would threaten to yank the wig off and show me her glass head because then — the biggest fright of all — she said I would be able to see what she was thinking!”

Our birds, ourselves

From Jim Shumaker of New Richmond, Wisconsin: “Pileated woodpeckers at my suet feeder. First the male came in . . .





“. . . followed by the female.





“I’ve never seen them come in like that before. Huge, beautiful bird! Hope you enjoy the photos!”

Now & Then

Ramblin’ Rose: “Not to burst the bubble of those who think that after Halloween, the next big holidays are Thanksgiving and Christmas, but you are wrong. The next holiday is Veterans Day. Sure, it doesn’t have its own catchy songs, no ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Veterans Day,’ no tinsel and bright, shiny colors, no special foods, no requirement that the family gather for a meal or exchange of gifts. It does, though, have the imperative that we honor all the men and women who have served and sacrificed to protect the freedoms that allow us to live as we do today.

“My dad, his brother, and all their brothers-in-law served in the military. Depending on their age, they served either in WWII or Korea. They didn’t talk about it, but we knew. When I was growing up, almost every kid had a father or mother who had served. That’s just the way it was.

“My dad was drafted right after Pearl Harbor, and was a rifleman in the Army Infantry. He served in the Pacific Theater, where they moved from island to island fighting wherever they were needed. He has six campaign stars, including a bronze arrowhead designating an amphibious landing. His proudest decoration is the Combat Infantryman Badge, which designates that you were in ground combat. He still wears it on his cap. His brother-in-law, who was a corpsman, had the Combat Medical Badge.

“Sometime after he came back from the war, he made this drawing of the pillbox he lived in when they were in the Dutch East Indies. Pillbox 34 was home to five good soldiers, occupied 24/7, while they slept and kept watch in shifts. As he noted, it was fortified by heavy logs and sandbags, had a spotlight with a 200-degree arc, and 30-caliber traversing machine guns. I found this drawing among his records earlier this year and framed it for him for Father’s Day. He was stunned, and he choked up as he realized what it was. He’s 96 now, and his memory isn’t what it was, but you could almost see the wheels turning as he looked at his drawing. After several minutes, he told me he could remember how the vegetation smelled and how damp the earth was. For those minutes he was back in the war.


“I also found this photo of him and fellow soldier Sid Nemer standing behind the pillbox. Sid is carrying an M-1, and dad (on the right) appears to carry the M-3 submachine gun, nicknamed the Grease Gun, for its silhouette. I would guess that a weapon was literally always at hand.

“This clipping of soldiers in the Dutch East Indies appears to come from a STrib of that era, based on bits of information on the reverse side. Life looks pretty basic. Note the pillboxes up the slope.


“Of course, there was also the European Theater in WWII. We recently took a very moving trip to Normandy, site of the D-Day landings. Even more than 70 years later, the French and other nations maintain these sites as solemn and respectful tributes to those who liberated France and turned the momentum in Europe.

“This monument of a soldier saving his wounded comrade speaks volumes about their valor.


“The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-Sur-Mer is the resting place for 9,385 of America’s finest. Not all are known, and almost all are men. There are a few women, though, and even a journalist and a Red Cross worker.



“Hundreds of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and Merchant Marines from WWII and Korea are dying every day. It’s possible that the last WWII veteran will die in my lifetime. Many cities and towns will hold veterans’ events this weekend; please attend if you can, and acknowledge the veterans of all wars and those who also served in more peaceful times. Veterans, we salute you.”

And now Mattzdad of Rochester, Minnesota: “Gordon Deal had a short mention this morning of the YouTube videos of vets coming home to surprise their loved ones, especially the children. Kleenex is mandatory. Really tear-producing clips.

“It put me in mind of my own homecoming, in August 1971, from overseas duty in Newfoundland, Canada. I was released from duty to fly back to the States on August 19th. After processing, the usual delays in getting back pay, I headed for the New Jersey airport (McGuire Air Force Base) to fly home through Chicago’s O’Hare. I was wearing my USAF uniform that far. I had been warned by other homecoming vets that there could be folks in O’Hare with a less-than-welcoming gift for those in uniform: jars of animal blood that some vets had been targeted with.

“I came off the plane and found a men’s room, changed into citizen clothes — civvies. Of course, my hair was still G.I. and my shoes were G.I., but with jeans and plain button shirt, I came out and hurried to my next flight to Minneapolis. No one spotted me or confronted me. I was safely home in Minnesota soon.

“No one greeted me at the airport; there were no greeting committee, as they did not see me as ex-G.I. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that, when someone found out I was a Vietnam-era vet, they thanked me for my four years of service as a USAF medic.

“I was one of the lucky ones, as I did not have to serve in ‘Nam. Not sure of the numbers, but I think most of the guys I trained with in boot camp (August to November 1967), went on to fly over and/or slog through Vietnam.

“Several years after returning, we went to D.C. and I got to experience the WALL. Located a couple names of mates who did not come back. I strongly recommend that every American take the time to experience the WALL in D.C. (Kleenex are not optional but mandatory, as you see all the names of the men and women who did not get to have a homecoming.)

“I went from Minnesota farm ‘boy’ to Minnesota manhood in those four years. While I hated to give up those four years, it turned out to be one of the best experiences and helped me grow up to be the man, husband, father and grandfather that I am today. I still fondly recall all we did ‘off duty’ to keep ourselves healthy, wealthy and wise.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Thank you for your service, sir.

Fellow travelers

Retired Teacher from New Richmond, Wisconsin: “We always enjoy ships at Duluth and Two Harbors. This fall we went on to Sault Ste. Marie to watch ships pass on the St. Marys River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.


“They pass right by the city RV park.”

Keeping your eyes open

Grandma Paula writes: “I’m not much of an early riser, but I woke up at 7 this morning. I got out of bed and walked out to my kitchen. There was a warm red color filling the room, so I opened the drapes that covered the patio door, and WOWZER! What a sunrise. Grabbed my camera to record it.


“Nice way to start the day.”

Everyone’s a copy editor!

Writes Dennis from Eagan: “So, did the Woofies lose or win against the Warriors? Column heading and footing don’t match!”



BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: They lost — convincingly!

The verbing of America

Donald: “An article on Page C12 of the Sunday Sports section in the paper west of St. Paul, covered the University of Miami’s 28-10 win over Virginia Tech. An excerpt: ‘Virginia Tech (7-2, 5-2) got a touchdown run from quarterback Josh Jackson, who was 20-for-32 passing for 197 yards and two interceptions.

“‘”They schemed us up pretty good,” Jackson said.’”

Then & Now
Could Be Verse Division

Tim Torkildson: Subject: The Dollar Store.

“We used to call ’em dime stores when I was a grasping child;
“If you had a quarter, you could enter and go wild!

“Silly Putty and cold cream, Turkish Taffy too;
“Little Golden Books were on the shelf by Elmer’s Glue.

“Fifty cents bought goldfish, and a plastic bowl was cheap;
“Although they never lived too long, which caused me oft to weep.

“A plastic cornucopia; a wealth of trinkets mean —
“The place was overflowing with the scent of Mr. Clean.

“Now they call ‘em dollar stores — a dime sure wouldn’t buy
“A packet of dull needles or a Hostess Apple Pie.”

Know thyself!

Suds of Eagan (“formerly of Lilydale, Marquette and West St. Paul”): “Yesterday, I came to the realization that what I do all day is not unlike what a herding dog does.

“Keeping my projects moving in the right direction. Keeping a sharp eye out for things that are getting out of line. Circling back on emails and other communications. Giving a nudge where it’s needed.

“Hey! I’ve achieved my life goal. I am a full-on border collie!”

Life as we know it
And: Our theater of seasons

Al B of Hartland: “The weather is chilling. My grandmother was fond of saying that such weather chilled her to her bones. That’s chilling.

“I grew up in an old farmhouse with a hungry, but inept furnace. Jack Frost held elaborate art shows on my bedroom windows all winter.

“I learned that I could wish for warmer weather and my wish would come true as long as I wished long enough.”

The darnedest things

WARNING! Cute kid story ahead, from Peg Palen: “My almost-3-year-old grandson and his mom were in the car. Out of the blue, he asked: ‘Hey, Mom, when I grow up to be a monster, will I be able to shoot fire out of my mouth?'”

Band Name of the Day: The Glass Heads

Website of the Day: “Cleaning the Hall Closet”



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