This sewing machine was “Free” when it was born — and it was free when it was . . . reborn(e)!

Gee, our old La Salle ran great!

Bloomington Bird Lady: “Subject: A piece of my history just left.

“The City of Bloomington has an annual ‘curbside pickup’ every spring — and with a long list of what can and cannot be put out on one’s curb, piles start to grow. Feels good to get rid of unwanted and unused ‘stuff,’ and some piles contain really good and usable items. What we call ‘pickers,’ in their trucks and vans, start searching for goodies several days  ahead of the Saturday pickup. Fun to watch and see all the traffic on our quiet street.

“One year, our daughter was active in the theater at Normandale Community College, and I suggested the kids in the theater classes go around and find ‘props’ for plays. It worked well, as the school was new then and they had no props at all yet.

“This was the year we decided to finally get rid of an old sewing machine — one of those old cabinet models from over 100 years ago. No one uses that kind anymore, so it  stood, bulky and heavy, out in our garage for years, picking up spider webs and dirt. This was the machine I learned to sew on in seventh-grade home ec. If you’ve ever tried a treadle machine, you’ll remember that the hands moving the material and the needle must coordinate with the foot or feet on the treadle below. Not easy at all for a while. That necessary coordination reminds me now of learning to drive a stick-shift car with the clutch and gas pedal. Same feeling of being stupid and unable to do at first what looks so easy!

“I had to clean up the old ‘Free’ machine. It came from Rockford, Illinois, with my grandma and her sister so long ago, as they moved to Minnesota. ‘Free’ was the brand name. As I opened it up and wiped off 10 spider egg sacs from the cover, I marveled at how pretty the machine part was. Painted black, it had floral designs in gold paint covering much of the ‘works.’ Down on one door were covered containers for the metal box of attachments, a small but empty oil can, and a very complete instruction book. Missing was the year it was made; could not see that anywhere.

“Birdman came home from work and rolled the now much cleaner and also polished, closed cabinet with a cord now wrapped around its heavy girth. Didn’t want anyone picking it up to have it suddenly fall open by mistake as they put it in their van.

“Well . . . I did not get to see who wanted this old relic from so long ago. Birdman looked out and said ‘It’s gone!’ within a half-hour! I’d been leery that we’d find ourselves rolling it back up the driveway. I doubt that the official trucks would have bothered with this heavy of a machine, and we’d be like many who never read the list of what not to put out and end up with toilet or something on their lawn (which would stay there for a looong time, as who wants to take a toilet back into the house?).”

The little treasures
And: Ask Bulletin Board


Mary Gresser-Burns writes: “This baseball team played in St. Paul, Minnesota. The team wore jerseys with P.E.L. on them; not sure what it stands for; wondered if it could be Pigs Eye League. [Bulletin Board muses: P-something Electric Light?]

“The photo was taken in the early 1900s. A man named Louis Lafavor is in the photo — and possibly one or more of his brothers are in it, too. Louis was born in 1889 in Minnesota. Louis’s daughter is 91 years old and lives in the Twin Cities area. She would love to learn more about this baseball team and who its members were.”

The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division

Our Official Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reported news that is happily now out of date: “Subject: You gotta believe!

“A recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview:

“‘We’re doing Spring by Faith

“‘& not by sight this year!’”

Their theaters of seasons

Mounds View Swede writes: “While we are barely started here with spring, my cousin in southern Sweden just sent me these photos to show how things are going there. They have had a snowier-than-usual winter for them, but this time of year their days are longer than ours. Most of southern Sweden is milder than Minnesota, moderated by the warm Gulf Stream waters circling past their country. And when the sun returns and stays longer and longer, the plants really go to town.



“An interesting mixture of blossoms.


“And on Earth Day in Oregon, my daughter-in-law got a photo of these trillium blossoms in the woods where they took a hike with my grandchildren.


“May all our flowers soon do as well.”

Our theater of seasons (responsorial)

Vertically Challenged: “In today’s post of pics, Mounds View Swede said ‘the maple buds are doing something.’

“They sure are! They are very thoroughly carpeting the driveway!


“This was just overnight, since Gpanottakr cleared it in the eve before! They are thicker every year.


“This second pic is the top of a little rain barrel — reminds me of one of those Google maps😋”

The vision thing
Headline Division — leading to: Muse, amuse

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: I hope they don’t lock horns over any issues.

“The Sports section of the Minneapolis paper recently carried this headline in ‘MINNESOTA SCENE’:

‘Deer plan meetings.’

“Talk about evolution! Oops . . . the context of the article says it’s a DNR meeting ‘for hunters and others interested in reviewing and asking questions about the recently released draft deer management plan.’

“That answers the question about the meeting, but poses another question: For what purpose are the deer being drafted?

“Back to the Comics page.”


Email from the Sunshine State: “Since my move from Bogus Brook (Milaca) to Florida, I’ve seen a great deal of wildlife. The obvious, of course: venomous snakes, otters, a bear, some mean gators.

“I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Chupacabra or Sasquatch!


“Well, I’ve been visited by 12 deer in the last week! They’re jumping a fairly high fence. (The horse wouldn’t jump it.) Twelve deer. What in the world is making them congregate on this nondescript 2.87-acre estate? There’s no standing corn. And there is only a remnant of a hay bale that’s nearly 2 years old.

“I hypothesize that something is scaring them onto the property. Not gators, not in this area; we’re not close enough to the water. That leaves wildcat, bear, or other
unidentified threat (such as Chupacabra; a neighbor insists he’s seen Sasquatch not far from here, in Hog Valley). [Bulletin Board notes: Next time he sees it, make sure he takes a very blurry picture of it.]

“Whatever is bringing the deer in, it is a surprise to see more in a week than I saw in 50 years in Minnesota.

“Hmm. Maybe it’s those pelicans from which I’ve been hiding?

“— Transplanted (wondering when Bigfoot is going to stop in to rock-n-roll)”

The Permanent Family Record

Tim Torkildson: “Subject: Leonard.

“My half-brother Leonard Carl Lundeen was born in Minneapolis on December 5th, 1934. Growing up, I saw him only when he was on holiday leave from the Army — flying in from Korea, Germany, or Vietnam, where he served mostly in the Military Police. The story I got from my older brother Billy is that Leonard dropped out of high school and lied about his age to get into the military when he was 16.

“My dad, who was not his biological father, tolerated Leonard, at the most — but then my dad pretty much just tolerated everyone; he was about as affectionate as a wasp. Dad refused to pick Leonard up at the Greyhound bus terminal in downtown Minneapolis when he came on leave, so my memory is of him loping up the sidewalk from the city bus stop on Como Avenue and ringing the doorbell.

“He was a tall drink of water, standing about 6-foot-11 in his undarned stocking feet. We had a chintzy ceiling lamp in the dining room, an angular pinchbeck affair that shed about as much light as a white paper bag; Leonard continually rammed his head into it whenever he came for dinner. And he came as often as he could, because he loved to eat. I have seen him devour half a turkey in one sitting, with, on the side, several helpings of mashed potatoes, stuffing, whipped sweet potatoes, half a dozen dinner rolls, and a large slice of apple pie topped with a wedge of cheddar cheese, on the side. And he could drink coffee until it seemed to pour out his ears.

“He was always a gentle and kind man around me. He brought me presents every time he came to visit: a cuckoo clock from Germany; a black silk windbreaker from Vietnam, with a dragon hand-embroidered on the back; and my first transistor radio, from Korea. This last item was one of my most cherished possessions as a teenager. It tuned in to KDWB just perfectly, so I could listen to the Beach Boys and Rolling Stones in angst-driven bliss. It even had a separate bandwidth indicator for international broadcasts, with little dots helpfully labeled ‘London,’ ‘Paris,’ and ‘Tokyo.’ I could never raise anything with them except static.

“Leonard retired from the military around 1985 and bought a house in Nordeast Minneapolis. It had one bedroom downstairs and two dormered bedrooms upstairs. The house was very modest, but then most houses in Nordeast were pretty modest. People in that neighborhood who had any money invested it in kabanosy sausage, not in fixing up their domiciles.

“He was unlucky in love. His first wife was a Vietnamese girl. When he tried to bring her over to introduce to Mom and Dad, they literally shut the door in his face, and hers, and refused to speak to him until she fled to her relatives in California. His next wife was an obstreperous drunk, with flaming red hair that she piled up on her head into a beehive. She could drink my dad under the table, which took considerable talent. Alas, she got the D.T.’s one day and smashed most of the furniture in their house. Leonard had her arrested; then she divorced him. His last marriage was to an LDS woman who had a son from a previous marriage. I met her only once, and even though we were co-religionists, she seemed to have a chip on her shoulder the size of a 2-by-4. I was not much surprised when she took him to the cleaners with the help of a slick divorce lawyer.

“In his later years, before liver cancer took him suddenly in 2002, once he was free of female distractions, he collected a large variety of handguns. He spent many happy hours polishing them and keeping them oiled. He doted on cable television, never missing a war movie — especially any with John Wayne or Robert Mitchum. He never learned to drive, so when I was available after my own divorce, he would pay me to drive over to Totino’s on East Hennepin to get him a large meat pizza with toasted fennel seeds. After he was diagnosed with liver cancer, I also drove him to numerous medical appointments. I never heard him once complain about his ‘Big Casino,’ as he called it.

“Like most wounded bachelors (including me), his surroundings eventually became permanently blended into a trashy wasteland. He kept stray, feral cats, which spurned the use of a litter box. And, like most bachelors, he was under the illusion that he was keeping the house spick and span by mopping the kitchen floor once a month and vacuuming the living room with a Hoover that lacked a bag.

“There was an old varnished panel screwed into the wall of the downstairs bedroom, behind which Leonard was convinced there was an illicit treasure trove of some kind. The original owners of the house were apparently notorious bootleggers, and when the Feds finally dragged them off to the hoosegow, their ill-gotten gains were never discovered and confiscated. When Leonard would gloat to me about the incipient windfall behind the panel, I’d ask him why he didn’t open it right away. ‘It’s my rainy-day fund, Timmy,’ he’d tell me. ‘When the meat wagon is coming for me, then I’ll open it!’

“Well, the meat wagon finally came for poor Leonard, as it will for all of us, but by then he was so exhausted and emaciated that he didn’t care about his fabulous hidey hole anymore. So he never opened it. But I got to thinking about it after his funeral, and since I had the keys to his house, I decided to go open it up — to honor his memory, of course, nothing else. When I got there, I found that my older brother Billy had preceded me, jimmying the lock to the front door to get in. He was industriously collecting all of Leonard’s gun collection. ‘For safekeeping,’ he told me. (He’s still safeguarding it in his own home today, as far as I know.) I told him about Leonard’s fantasy about the panel, and, being as, um, curious as I was, he got a couple of Phillips screwdrivers out of his car and we went to work on the panel. It had sustained a lot of water damage over the years, and was swollen and warped, so it didn’t want to come out in one piece. Finally Billy just grabbed an edge and heaved with all his might, and a corner of the panel tore off in his hands. We then yanked the rest of the rotten wood off to reveal . . .

“Old newspapers and a shattered brown whiskey bottle amid a pile of plaster rubble. And a stoppered Y connection for the sewer pipe. Nothing else.

“I locked up the house after Billy had gotten the last of Leonard’s guns. Since Leonard died intestate, without a will, his house was eventually sold for back taxes. He lies in Section 16, Site 84, at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota.”

Life as we know it
Or: An American boyhood (responsorial)

Dr. Chrysanthemum: “Subject: The Swamp, Minneapolis’ Highest Waterfall, and the Not-Burlington Northern Trucks (Only a ______ Would Notice).

“Bulletin Board is on hiatus for a few days, so naturally, I feel an urge to send a note.

Tim Torkildson’s ‘An American boyhood’ provided an interesting glimpse into the not-too-distant past (1961), and it reminded me of one of our diminished but surviving local ‘beauty spots.’

“I was momentarily confused by Tim’s reference to Fairmount Avenue, until I realized that he meant the one in Southeast Minneapolis, not the one in St. Paul, and that the swamp he referred to must have been the wetland complex adjacent to the upper reach of Bridal Veil Creek.

“Some of this complex had been filled for railroad yards, flour mills, factories, warehouses, and hazardous-waste dumps long before 1961, and the remaining wetlands and creek were already heavily polluted.

“Only a few small wet spots survive today, including the reworked Bridal Veil Pond/Open Space north of Kasota Avenue and a couple of other small ponds/wetlands along Minnesota 280. Most of the creek is piped now, except for short ditched sections.

“But Bridal Veil Falls survives. Few people know about it, even though many of us drive or walk by it, and even though it is about twice the height of Minnehaha Falls. The piped creek discharges into the Mississippi River Gorge just upstream of the Franklin Avenue Bridge. Unfortunately, the falls are sometimes just a dribble rather than a 100-foot-tall cataract. When it is flowing near peak capacity, it can still be impressive. Check it out after a heavy rain or snowmelt.”

Band Name of the Day: The Wounded Bachelors

Website of the Day — or: Joy of Juxtaposition (responsorial), from Jim Fitzsimons of St. Paul: “Subject: Want more about the brilliance of Buster Keaton?

“As long as we’re talking about Buster Keaton, here’s an excellent examination of how he worked.”







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