Christmas stories are welcome here, sought now. Kick it off, Aggie Girl!

‘Tis the season!

Aggie Girl: “Subject: Christmas Past. 

“Reading the Christmas-cookie stories in both Twin Cities papers this week, I realized I love Christmas stories. So, I thought I’d see if our BB community would share stories of their childhood Christmases; I, for one, would have fun learning about them. I’ll start . . .

“I grew up in South Texas, far away from our extended family in the Midwest. So most Christmases, it was just my mom, my dad, my younger brother and I (though a couple years we did road trips back to Ohio, stories of which I will save for another time).

“My wonderful mom went out of our way to ensure we’d have great holidays despite not having them with family, whom I know she dearly missed. So we had many, many fun activities leading up to Christmas. Yes, we had an Advent calendar. We also decorated cut-out cookies every year. And made marshmallow snowmen and ice-cream-cone trees. And decorated mesquite branches as ‘gumdrop trees’ with red and green gumdrops.

“Mom was a fantastic crafter and always had plentiful decoration — many made by her, though as I got older we enjoyed picking up finds at after-Christmas sales, too. I am pretty sure that early on, nearly everything we had, including the ornaments on the tree, she made herself.

“Forty miles away in the ‘big city,’ there was a ‘Christmas tree forest’ that we always visited — think 100 decorated trees all in one place. Often we took a friend. In one case, I think my friend and I took our pet hamster with us!

“Of course, there were the ‘usual’ kids’ activities, such as Christmas plays and concerts.

“Once school was out, we’d take one evening and drive around and look at Christmas lights — kids in our pajamas and hot chocolate in tow. (We thought it was chilly even if temperatures were probably in the 50s or 60s.) I still love doing this today, though the most memorable year was the one when the car ran out of gas while we were oohing and aahing at the lights; the gas gauge didn’t work on that car, and apparently my dad miscalculated the mileage.

“We had what I suspect were pretty common ‘rules’ for gift opening. Christmas Eve, we could open one gift — we very often chose the ones from an uncle who lived very near a toy store that got early ‘test’ toys. Christmas morning, we could open stockings at 7 a.m., but everything else had to wait until after breakfast. I can remember one year, probably when I was about 7, when my little brother (who could not tell time yet) came and asked me ‘Is it 7 yet?’ probably every 15 minutes. After we opened our gifts, it was outside to play with them; usually there was a bike, or skates, or skateboard, or basketball, or something to play with. This usually lasted until time to have our turkey dinner in the late afternoon.

“I could go into more, but I also want to share my grandmother’s childhood Christmas story from 100 years ago. Every Christmas, they would load up the sleigh (yes, really) and go from their farm to her grandparents’. Her dad and brothers would fill the sleigh with clean hay while her mom and the girls heated up bricks and wrapped them in cloth to put at their feet. Then they loaded up the presents, tossed on blankets and off they went. She told me about this one year when she gave me her mother’s wedding ring as a Christmas gift. Apparently this ring went missing in the hay on one of these trips, and her mom was devastated. The next summer, her brother was hired to cut the grass at a neighbor’s, and he saw something shiny —which turned out to be his mom’s ring! A true Christmas miracle in a backward kind of way. One day I will pass the ring, and the story, on to one of my nieces.

“Looking forward to hearing more stories.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Ask, and thou shalt receive! Sometimes with extraordinary speed. . .

‘Tis the season! (II)

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Christmas Eve may have been the most magical night of the year at our house, but Dutch Christmas came close because it was the Opening Act to the Big Show. Oh, the excitement!

“Daddy had taught us to put our ‘klompen’ outside our bedroom door on December 5th, just as he had done when he was little. He told us that St. Nick would leave us a tangerine and some walnuts if we had been good kids.

“This St. Nicholas fellow was a mystery to me. Was he one of Santa’s helper elves? Was he a big guy like Santa or was he a tiny little fairy-type creature that could fly? He had a lot of tangerines and walnuts to deliver just to the eight pairs of shoes in our house. Never could figure out how he managed it.

“Whatever size he was, I always figured this St. Nick fellow’s main job was as an advance scout for Santa Claus, checking to find out where we lived THIS year. We moved a lot when I was little.

“Our kids followed the tradition with just as much enthusiasm (and probably just as many unanswered questions), and all of us put our shoes outside our bedroom doors every St. Nick’s Eve.

171203bbcut-stnick

“This photo shows our youngest child looking thrilled right down to the tips of her toes as she checks out the walnuts in her shoe.”

‘Tis the season! (III)

Gregory of the North here, remembering, for some reason, the Christmas of 1970.

“The Vietnam War was beginning to have fewer troops, and my Army orders to that country had been changed to Germany. After bouncing around to a couple of replacement companies, I ended up arriving in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, on December 23. I didn’t know anyone, of course, and was excited about being in my ancestral land. I decided that I would go to Christmas church in Germany rather than on post. So I began to look for a Lutheran church.

“It took me awhile to learn that there are no Lutheran churches in Germany. They are called Evangalische churches there. The word means Evangelical, but it doesn’t have the same connotations there as the term does in the U.S. I didn’t have any dress clothes yet — my personal goods had not yet arrived — so I wore my Class A uniform (Army Green).

“The church I found was built 300 years before the U.S. became a nation. There was no heat, and no pews. People stood there and rocked to keep warm, and we sang a lot. Many hymns were familiar in tune, but of course had different words than I was used to. My German at the time was pretty limited. Although I had aced my three terms of German at the University of Minnesota, those studies were not super-helpful to church-based conversation. (I still remember the first sentence I ever learned, ‘Maria geht ins Theater,’ which means ‘Mary goes to the theater.’ I don’t think I’ve ever used that sentence since class.) Despite that handicap, I was able to figure out much of the sermon. It was about the hope and renewal that come with Christmastime. The Cold War was in effect at that time, and a possible war with the U.S.S.R. was not far from anyone’s consciousness. In some ways, such a war seemed to be inevitable, leaving many people with an attitude of fatalism. These were the ideas that the pastor addressed in his sermon. And he prayed that this time of Christian peace would lead into a peace throughout the world.

“At the end of the service, as everyone was filing out, someone shouted that I was an American pig, along with some other words I didn’t understand. That pastor scolded the one who had shouted, and immediately came over to me and put his arm around me. Speaking in broken English, he assured me that such attitudes were not common, that most Germans appreciated the fact that young American men crossed an ocean to live in a strange land and possibly be called upon to fight and die for people they did not know. He said most Germans loved Americans. I pointed to my tag bearing my very Germanic name and told him that I loved ‘das deutsches Volk’ (the German people). He smiled and told me to keep working on my language skills, and told me I always was welcome in his church.

“I walked back through the town, back to the post: the headquarters of the 8th Infantry Division. There were signs of Christmas everywhere, and it felt like I was living in a Christmas card. Something changed in me that night. I felt that there was hope in the world once again.

“Fröhliche Weihnachten! Merry Christmas (or a happy holiday of your choice) to all of my Bulletin Board friends.”

‘Tis the season! (IV)

Norton’s mom of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, reports: “Norton remembered to bring his list when he went to see Santa this year.

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“(Proceeds from the photos go to a local Humane Association — always a worthwhile cause.)”

Our times

Ramblin’ Rose: “Subject: Circular Reasoning or Illogical Logic.

“Who am I? What’s my name? I know, and am willing to swear to it. So is my husband, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Defense. Heck, the Social Security Administration, the I.R.S., various employers, and all my neighbors believe I am who I say, so why would there be any question? The State of Minnesota, however, seems to be going in circles.

“This realization started innocently enough. I decided to apply for an enhanced driver’s license. This is the type of license that the T.S.A. says all fliers need to get on a commercial airline. Minnesota is one of the last two states whose driver’s licenses don’t meet those standards; it recently got an extension to October 2018 for compliance, but implementation looks dicey, based on current D.M.V. issues. I wanted to avoid this whole mess and just get an enhanced license, which you can do voluntarily.

“I thought this would be pretty easy. The Math Nut had already done it, and anything he can do I can do better (or so the song goes). I looked online, found a page that told me in general what I needed, gathered up my documents, and made the half-hour drive to Hastings (you can get this license only at certain D.M.V. service centers). I filled out the form, waited in line, passed the eye test, and laid out my documents. Sorry, not good enough. What? I had a certified birth certificate, current Minnesota driver’s license, U.S. passport (expired, but still visibly me), and multiple other forms of I.D. Nope. I needed a copy of my marriage certificate to prove my name change from my birth name. Now, I already proved this to the state when I got married and changed the name on my driver’s license. They believed me then, so why wasn’t my current license acceptable proof of my name? It just wasn’t. So I drove home, pulled out our marriage certificate and a couple of extra forms of I.D. just in case, and again drove to Hastings. By now I’d spent an hour and a half on the road and a half-hour waiting in line, but I wanted that enhanced license. Triumphantly, I presented the marriage certificate. Nope. Why not? It has to be a certified copy of the marriage certificate; I had the original, which was not good enough for Minnesota.

“I know when I am beaten; no enhanced license for me that day.

“Knowing that I was going to take a trip out of the country, the next week I applied for a new passport. What is acceptable proof of my name? A valid Minnesota driver’s license. Are you still with me? The U.S. Department of State believes Minnesota has verified who I am, which it has, but Minnesota doesn’t believe its own records. ‘Round and ‘round we go.

“By the way, the Department of Defense has completed multiple background checks on both The Math Nut and me. DoD has checked the public records on us and our families, interviewed our neighbors, watched our home, interviewed each of us, and gone through our bank accounts. We passed every time. We were both granted security clearances, which means they trusted us to know things that the general public can’t.

“The federal government is pretty sure who we are.

“Now, if Minnesota could just apply a little logic . . .”

What’s in a (Bulletin Board) name?
Leading to: CAUTION! Words at Play!

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: A textbook case of humor.

“When I saw that the first item in the November 29th edition of Bulletin Board was submitted by Happy Medium, I was reminded of something I’d read not long ago.

“Two of my high-school grandchildren (Jack, a junior; Rose, a senior) are taking the same AP Psychology course. I was paging through their textbook when I came across a section devoted to fortune-telling. This appeared in a sidebar:

“‘What would the headline be if a petite fortune-teller escaped from incarceration?

“‘”Small Medium at Large.”‘”

Come again (responsorial)

The Puppysitter: “In reply to Red’s Offspring, who heard a TV commercial sayin ‘When your V-neck looks more like a eunuch.’

“I didn’t hear that when I saw that ad, but when I saw a commercial for a new exercise machine called the ‘Freeze-dried trainer,’ I was rather taken aback. Don’t the people who name things practice what they sound like in case of mis-hearings? I remember a spot from long ago for something (maybe aftershave) where Jackie Vernon says he’s a roguish fungi.

“Just in case: FreeStride trainer, roguish fun guy.”

Vanity, thy name is. . . 

Lola: “On a pest-control service’s truck: ‘NOBUGNU.'”

Month at a glance

Better late than never, our first-(or third)-of-the-monthly report from The Stillwater Scouter: “Polish novelist Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) was born in the Ukraine (as Josef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski) on December 3rd. Although he could speak no English at age 20, he went on to become an outstanding novelist, best known for his tales of seafaring life including ‘Heart of Darkness’ and ‘Lord Jim.’

“December 4, 1791: The Observer, now the oldest Sunday newspaper in the world, was first published in Britain.

“On December 8, 1765, cotton-gin inventor Eli Whitney was born in Westboro, Massachusetts. His invention used comb-like teeth to remove seeds from harvested cotton and had a tremendous impact on the economy of the South. By 1800, cotton production increased from about 3,000 bales a year to 73,000. He also developed the concept of mass production of interchangeable parts, and the assembly line. Whitney died in 1825.

“Poet Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her poetry became known only after her death (age 56) when her sister discovered nearly 2,000 poems locked in her bureau, written on the backs of envelopes and scraps of paper. They were published gradually over the next 50 years, beginning in 1890.

“On December 12, 1745, American statesman John Jay was born in New York City. He was a diplomat and the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He co-wrote (with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison) the Federalist Papers. He died in 1829.

“The Virginia Company expedition to America began on December 20, 1606, as three small ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, departed London under the command of Captain Christopher Newport. In May of 1607, the royally chartered company established the first permanent English settlement in America at Jamestown (Virginia).

“Soviet Russia leader Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (a.k.a. Josef Stalin) was born December 21, 1879, in the village of Gori in Georgia, Russia. He was not nice* and died in 1953.

“American patriot Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) was born on December 24 on a plantation in Byberry, Pennsylvania. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a doctor and humanitarian, whose writings on mental illness earned him the title ‘Father of Psychiatry.’ He also countered the prevailing notion that alcohol was generally good for people and was one of the first to describe alcoholism as a chronic disease.

“* The Stillwater Scouter disapproves of ‘leaders’ who display no empathy for other people.”

Ah, the smell of it!
Or: The Permanent Maternal Record

Hindsight: “Subject: Epiphany.

“My late mother was a spiritual person . . . and as it happens, she was blessed with a bah, humbug daughter.

“It’s breakfast time, and as I walk toward the toaster, I smell a whiff of flowers. A few feet away is the bread drawer. Over I go in search of muffin bread. The smell of flowers is gone. Back to the toaster, and the scent of flowers returns — lavender, I think. Step away; the scent vanishes.

“I received a phone call from my aunt a few days ago. My mother’s brother, 91, had passed away. Mother used to say sometimes she would smell flowers, and shortly after she would hear bad news.

“Spooked, I looked around. There on the counter was a clean new garbage bag. Grumpus put it there before he stepped outside to empty the trash. The garbage bag had a fresh clean lavender scent.

“Sure . . . OK . . . pushed the toaster button. Of course . . . bah, humbug.”

Gee, our old La Salle ran great!
Old-Time Radio Division 

Mounds View Swede: “I enjoyed reading about the old radio program called ‘Gang Busters,’ as it brought back memories for me, too.

“I first heard it on the radio while riding home at night from visiting my grandparents on Sunday. We would visit them about once a month. Somewhere in this time frame, I got my own radio in my bedroom and would go up there Sunday nights to listen to ‘Gang Busters.’

“As I remember it, the program began with the sound of many marching feet. I would line up my Army men on the floor in front of the radio, just waiting for the sound effects of those feet to make my little scene more realistic for a few seconds. Playing Army with my toys and also with my friends was one of the big pastimes for me in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I had model tanks and model planes and model ships — all World War II models — and once I got my own portable TV, I would watch the newsreel programs about the war with great interest.

“There was a series called ‘Ships at Sea,’ I think. And also one about the Air Force and the air war in Europe and Japan. I knew the names and abilities of all the different WW II aircraft. We lived about six miles south of the Glenview Naval Air Base in Illinois, and occasionally some of those planes would fly overhead. Once I got a two-wheel bike and became more adventuresome, I would ride to the base and park my bike in the weeds and stand outside the fence near the end of the runway just waiting for a plane to take off or land over my head.

“I am glad those days and that kind of play are well behind me now and that I have a much more peaceful nature as an older adult. But in the spring and early summer, many of those World War II-vintage aircraft are flying over my house heading to or from the Anoka County Airport. You can always identify them by how much louder they are than the civilian aircraft. And I can still identify what kind of plane they are, but have forgotten the details about their capabilities. When they do an air show in June, I have gone there several times to look at them up close and recall those childhood aspirations.”

Everyone’s a copy editor!

Donald: “Subject: Someone tell Richard Pitino!

“The front page of the Sports section in Thursday’s Pioneer Press featured this headline: ‘Case of exposure.’

“Above it was the final score of Wednesday night’s men’s basketball game: ‘Miami 86 / Gophers 81.’

“Beneath a picture of game action was this subhead: ‘No. 10 Miami takes advantage of No. 12 Gophers’ weakest links: bench play and 3-point defense.’

The front page portion of the article ended with: ‘Miami marched into Williams Arena and was the better team for long stretches . . . ”

“Clear. Informative. No problem. And then:

“‘GOPHERS WIN, 3B’

“On said Page 3B:

“‘CONTINUED FROM 1B’
“‘Gophers win’

“Talk about a turnaround.”

Not exactly what they had in mind

Jimmicks: “Today’s ‘Deal of the Day’ from TwinCities.com/Pioneer Press pictures a University of Minnesota doormat.

“Seems appropriate.”

Not exactly what he had in mind

Al B of Hartland: “I’m sure this has happened to many people.

“Well, maybe not many people, but it’s likely happened to a few.

“Perhaps not a few, but a couple must have had it happen to them.

“Now that I think about it, it might not have happened to anyone else.

“My sister-in-law, Glenda, was wielding an aerosol can of whipped cream as she added sweet insulation to the roof of a slice of pumpkin pie. The aerosol can had a mean streak, and it sprayed me. I was an innocent bystander, busily pondering the delights of pumpkin pie, when I was splattered with whipped cream. It didn’t hurt me any. I needed sweetening.

“Glenda has always been good at sharing.”

Band Name of the Day: Hot Dogs for Christmas

Website of the Day, from Double Bogey Mike:

 

 

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