Now & Then
Our Living (and/or Dying) Language Division (1943 Yearbook Subdivision)
Following up on a post in the November 29 Bulletin Board, here again is Snackmeisterin of Altoona, Wisconsin: “Here are some more interesting passages from the 1943 Eau Claire High School yearbook.
“In Mechanical Drawing class, it was noted that ‘There was a time when boys wishing to become an architect or engineer, a machinist, ship builder, or member of any other profession that required the rudiments of mechanical drawing enrolled in this class. Now, when most boys are destined for some branch of the service, mechanical drawing is not that restricted. The value of a well trained eye, the sense of accuracy or the feeling of balance and proportion can’t be over emphasized. Especially this is so in the Air Corps, Navy, and Engineer Corp. [This] class will probably become even more popular next year, as it should, as it offers fine training for every high school boy.’
“It was noted that in the Industrial Arts area: ‘In order that our high school could do its part to meet the demands for skilled labor, the machine shop courses were expanded to include classes for girls as well as boys.’ The photos seem to indicate that the girls and boys were indeed in separate classes. Love the Rosie the Riveter headscarves the young ladies were wearing!
“There was a similar theme in Mathematics: ‘Because a knowledge of mathematics is basic to so many current careers in industrial and military life, enrollment in the math department has taken a definite incline. In its membership there may be the potential navigator, radio man, or engineer whose high school struggles solving the unknown “x” may have ample reward in speeding our way to victory.’
“The Commerce section also revealed gender stereotypes that were typical of the times. Of 13 students pictured in a photo of the typing class, 12 were girls, as were 11 of the 15 students in the stenography class. One of the interesting tidbits in this section was that a course was offered ‘in Dictaphone operation in order to enable the future stenographers . . . to adjust to office routine where this machine is part of office equipment.’
“What I thought was even more interesting was that ‘The advanced bookkeeping group has assumed the complete responsibility of all school accounts from the issuance of receipts down to the final balancing of accounts.’ I wonder if that means clubs and such, or if it really means ALL of the school’s accounting duties?!
“An unfortunate stereotype of the times was the ‘annual presentation of the Minstrel Show by the Boys’ Glee Club,’ which drew a capacity crowd. Photos show students doing a tap routine and the Glee Club singing ‘melodies of the sunny South blended with service songs and popular lyrics . . . and negro (sic) spirituals.’
“The football players wore the high-tech gear of the day, and the golf team looked dapper!
“I often read historical novels, but paging through this yearbook gave me a new perspective with a glimpse at a small-town high school in 1943!”
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I remember when the rules changed for saluting the flag.
“December 22, 1942, was the day that was revised, because they said it looked too much like a Heil Hitler salute.
“I was 10 years old, and I had been extending my hand at the phrase ‘to the flag’ for half of my life. When we came back to school after Christmas break, our teacher informed us that we must put our hands over our heart and never, ever again do it the old way. Talk about torture. What had been a peaceful, pleasant way to start the day now became a traumatic event, because that darn arm had a life of its own and wanted to spring forward at the words ‘to the flag.’ It must have taken at least a year before we could get through our morning salute without someone in the class goofing, to be followed by a righteous classmate hissing ‘Traitor!’ or ‘Nazi!’”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Check out the history of the Bellamy Salute here.
‘Tis the season!
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “I’ve never had a Hallmark Channel Christmas, but they do look wonderful. If you are a sad and single mother, just move to a small town by the first of November (preferably one with ‘Falls’ in it’s name), and in a couple of months you’ll be a happy newlywed with an extended family and a cute dog (Yellow Lab with a scarf). There will be a heartbreaking development around the 15th of December, but you will miraculously survive it, and as the snow falls on the 24th, little Billy will wake from his coma and you’ll be wrapped in the arms of the handsome widower who owns the local hardware store.
“As the Runabout says: ‘Just shut up and pass the Kleenex!'”
‘Tis the season!
Leading to: Ask Bulletin Board
Peggy T. of Osceola, Wisconsin: “A friend and I were talking about the tradition of hiding the pickle on the Christmas tree.
“She told me that they had a tradition of making a spider to put on the Christmas tree.
“I was curious as to what the story was behind this tradition. One theory is that women did not want spider webs in their homes, so they put them on the tree. Another theory was that the webs resembled tinsel, so that why it was put on the tree. A third was that all creatures were welcome at Christmas time, even the spiders.
“My dad always said the spiders were good luck, and this seems to be the theory that prevails with this tradition.
“Does anyone know what country this tradition comes from and what it means?”
NEVER HAVING HEARD OF CHRISTMAS-TREE SPIDERS AND/OR SPIDER WEBS, BULLETIN BOARD LEANS ON WIKIPEDIA FOR AN ANSWER:
“The Legend of the Christmas Spider is an Eastern European folktale which explains the origin of tinsel on Christmas trees. It is most prevalent in Ukraine, where small ornaments in the shape of a spider are traditionally a part of the Christmas tree decorations. . . .
“A poor but hardworking widow once lived in a small hut with her children. One summer day, a pine cone fell on the earthen floor of the hut and took root. The widow’s children cared for the tree, excited at the prospect of having a Christmas tree by winter. The tree grew, but when Christmas Eve arrived, they could not afford to decorate it. The children sadly went to bed and fell asleep. Early the next morning, they woke up and saw the tree covered with cobwebs. When they opened the windows, the first rays of sunlight touched the webs and turned them into gold and silver. The widow and her children were overjoyed. From then on, they never lived in poverty again.
“Other versions replaces [sic] sunlight with a miracle from Father Christmas, Santa Claus, or the Child Jesus, and tells the story primarily from the perspective of the spiders who wished to see the Christmas tree.
“The origins of the folk tale are unknown, but it is believed to have come from either Germany or Ukraine. In Germany, Poland, and Ukraine, finding a spider or a spider’s web on a Christmas tree is considered good luck. Ukrainians also create small Christmas tree ornaments in the shape of a spider (known as pavuchky, literally ‘little spiders’), usually made of paper and wire. They also decorate Christmas trees with artificial spider webs. The tradition of using tinsel is also said to be because of this story.
“It may be based on an older European superstition about spiders bringing luck (though not black spiders in Germany), or conversely that it is bad luck to destroy a spider’s web before the spider is safely out of the way.”
Not exactly what they had in mind
Cheesehead By Proxy, “back in Northern Minnesota”: “Subject: Taking them at their word.
“I think they’re going to be sorry when that receptacle gets filled with bodily waste.”
Not exactly what he had in mind
Al B of Hartland: “A fellow I know had purchased hearing aids. They take getting used to. One evening, he put the hearing aids on a hassock. His dog ate the ear apparatuses. He could have tailed the canine and searched each of the mutt’s bowel movements for signs of the hearing aids, but he passed on that golden opportunity.
“He chose not to buy replacement hearing aids. He worried that all he’d hear with them would be how his dog had eaten his first pair.”
CAUTION! Words at Play!
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: Somewhat sad, but very punny.
“This was the first paragraph of a story on Page D4 of the Business section in the November 27 edition of the STrib: ‘The McDonald’s museum in Des Plaines, Ill., a replica of Ray Kroc’s first restaurant, is slated to be torn down next month, the world’s largest burger chain said last week.’
“The entire article was interesting, but what I enjoyed the most was the headline: ‘Old McDonald’s buys the farm: Museum will be torn down.’”
Ask a serious question . . .
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Counting the blessings.
“I recently had lunch with Bob, a former colleague. He lives in Braham, and we met at the Perkins in Cambridge.
“As I entered the restaurant, I spotted Bob seated in a booth. He looked great, and I mentioned that to him as I sat down.
“He responded: ‘Well, I’m still upright and taking nourishment.’”
Joy of Juxtaposition
The December 8th Bulletin Board included a note from The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Twice in a (Warren) Moon.
“I hadn’t heard a reference to Warren Moon in I don’t know how long, but his name rose twice in the Twin Cities dailies in the last two days. To wit:
“On the ‘REMEMBERING’ page of Wednesday’s Minneapolis paper was a lengthy obituary for Harold ‘Hal’ Fabriz: ‘Longtime FBI agent.’ After detailing his career in law enforcement, the piece included this:
“‘Fabriz finished his FBI career in Minnesota, retiring in 1987. He spent the last 16 years of his professional life doing drug testing for the National Football League, primarily working with the Vikings.
“‘”Our dad collected Warren Moon’s pee,” said Sharon (Fabriz’s daughter), referring to the former Vikings quarterback.’
“On Thursday, this headline appeared under ’NFL report,’ on Page 3B in the Sports section of the Pioneer Press: ‘Harassment lawsuit filed against (Warren) Moon.’
‘This was the last paragraph in the article: ‘Moon starred for the Houston Oilers from 1984 to 1993, and also played for the Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs before retiring in 2000 at age 44.’
“No clever remarks to follow.”
What did follow was a note from Barbara of Afton: “Warren Moon also appeared in a clue on ‘Jeopardy!’ this week. The category was Positions in Football, I think. Warren Moon and someone I don’t know were, of course, quarterbacks.”
Then & Now (responsorial)
Aggie Girl: “A note in today’s B.B. discussing a ‘Peanuts’ comic asked if there is an app for converting cursive writing to printed. I’m not sure about an app, but my Microsoft Surface does it — even with my lousy version of cursive.”
Kathy S. of St. Paul: A BBer [Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff] asked if there will be an app to read cursive writing, and I’m sure there will be. Humans seem to be losing their ability to read — in two ways: not reading cursive, and not wanting to read.
“As a genealogist, I deal with all kinds of cursive writing. I particularly hate calligraphy that puts beauty ahead of content. And I truly dislike one type that makes every letter into a circle. Give me sloppy but easily read handwriting, any day of the week.
“Another issue is social media. I think my writing is pretty understandable, but people seem to struggle to read it on paper. Maybe their ‘reading’ muscles are atrophying.
“Then there is the issue of how I ‘copy’ people on my writing. I write items on my computer and email them to BB. Then I forward the emails to friends, etc. And the fun begins.
“My neighbor Carol needs me to print out my stories and stick them on her door. For my friend Carole, I forward the email; then I have to phone her to explain that it comes through strangely on her phone because it is an email. She forwards all of her email to her phone. Hopefully one of her kids helps her read it. Then there is my friend in mid-Wisconsin, who needs me to print out my writing and mail it to her. She gets only some of my writing.
“Thomas L. Friedman says in his latest book that technology is changing twice as fast as people can adjust to it. [Bulletin Board says: We’d be surprised if he said it that straightforwardly.] I’m trying to keep up — and I’m exhausted.”
Tim Torkildson writes: “Bill Ballantine, the venerable Dean of the Ringling Clown College, was a writer and illustrator by trade. With a literary flourish, he nicknamed the Class of ‘72 ‘The Young Turks.’ His reason for doing so was based on the fact that we were feeling our oats, grew too big for our britches, and generally ignored the tried and true Biblical warning that ‘Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.’
“Several of us First of Mays on the Blue Unit of Ringling that first season felt that we could come up with much better gags than the ones that Mark Anthony, Swede Johnson, Prince Paul, Dougie Ashton, and Otto Griebling assigned us to perform. Levoi Hipps, the boss clown that season, finally threw up his hands in despair at our constant whining and carping about the antiquity and unfunniness of our current buffooneries.
“‘All right!’ he hollered at us one day after the matinee. ‘All right! If’n you think you can come up with a better ring gag than the ones you’re doing, I’ll put it in center ring — dagnabbit! Go ahead and show us jest how high-larious you all can be!’ And he stalked away to replace the worn baby shoes on his stilts with a new pair of white ones.
“I rubbed my hands in glee at his challenge. NOW we’d show ‘em! I already had a wonderful gag vaguely planned out in my mind, and began to explain it to Chico, the Little Guy, Roofus T. Goofus, Rubber Neck, and Anchorface — all of them as eager and anxious as I to show up the veteran clowns, who took so little notice of us that they didn’t even know our names. To them I was either ‘Smutch Finger’ or ‘Greaseball’ — as in ‘Hey, Smutch Finger, better get started on blowing up the balloons for come in’ or ‘Hey Greaseball, don’t powder so damn close to my trunk — take it outside the alley, will ya?’
“We’d get this oversized toilet, see, and pretend to be plumbers like the Three Stooges, and we’d fall into the darn thing, and then at the end it would explode and we’d all run out of the ring with toilet plungers stuck to the top of our heads!
“Sounded like a great gag to me. But strangely enough my compatriots had their doubts.
“‘What ya gonna build a giant toilet out of?’ asked Roofus T. Goofus. ‘Balsa wood or foam rubber or what? It’s gonna weigh a ton — the roustabouts won’t wanna carry it in and out of the ring.’
“’Kinda poor taste, dontcha think?’ queried the Little Guy. ‘I mean, couldn’t we make it a bathtub instead?
“Chico liked the idea, but he wanted to put in too much ‘spaghetti’: ‘Let’s have it shoot water at us, and then we’ll put in a toilet paper fight!’
“‘You can’t make fun of plumbers,’ said Anchorface, whose old man actually was a plumber. ‘They got a real powerful union — they could sue us!’
“’Bah!’ I retorted to one and all. ‘We can work out the kinks later. But first let’s build a prototype and get Levoi to let us put it in center ring for the next matinee!”’
“They all liked that word ‘prototype.’ It sounded scientific and encouraging. So we cobbled together something that looked like a cross between a Sherman tank and a bidet, using odds and ends of foam rubber and plywood, and held together with several miles of duct tape, and informed Mr. Hipps we were ready to make circus history. We didn’t really ever rehearse for it — we figured our brilliant improvisational skills would provide a risible storyline. And we each had a hardware store red rubber plunger ready to stick on top of our heads for the blow off.
“Giving us the stink eye, Levoi granted us permission to go into center ring after the rola bola act and try our luck. The veteran clowns merely shook their heads in tired silence. Damn fool kids — they’ll probably kill themselves out there . . .
“Bandmater Bill Prynne played us on with ‘Wedding of the Winds,’ as Roofus T. Goofus and I lugged our mammoth toilet out into center ring (the roustabouts would have nothing to do with it unless we paid them five bucks a show for the extra work).
“Then, to put it politely, everything went south. The turkey basters inside the toilet, designed to spritz us intermittently, sprang a leak, which not only caused the seams of foam-rubber pieces to come unglued, but also ruined the black-powder squibs so they didn’t explode at the end of the gag. The circus audience resolutely sat on their hands during our debacle, refusing to release a single titter. Finally, in extremis, we started pummeling each other with our toilet plungers and ran dispiritedly out of center ring backstage to a glowering Charlie Baumann, the Performance Director, who soundly berated us for bringing such deplorable infamy to the proud name of Ringling Brothers.
“And did I learn a lesson from this embarrassing fiasco? Actually . . . no. For the rest of my clown career, I kept tinkering with new ideas and trying to build original clown props to titillate the audience. Most of what I came up with was pure dreck — but once in a blue moon I’d hit upon a piece of whimsy that got a rise out of the fickle circus crowd, as well as my fellow jesters. And so clown alley old-timers today will tell you, if you give them half a chance, about the time old Tork built a pyramid of pop cans in center ring; or how he clipped a balloon on the back of Charlie Baumann’s tuxedo coat one day, and the fun that ensued.
“Then again, they’re just as likely to tell you about the time I split my pants during the elephant manage number . . .”
Band Name of the Day: The Heartbreaking Developments
Website of the Day: “A New Optical Illusion Was Just Discovered, And It’s Breaking Our Brains”