Life as we know it
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Does anyone remember listening to the radio broadcast of ‘Your Hit Parade’? Each Saturday night, when ‘Your Hit Parade’ came on the air, my teenage siblings and my mother would settle down by the radio with tablets and pencils in hand to capture each word of the newest hit song.
“We always sang in the car; well, actually, everybody but Mother, who could barely hum. She would nod (not in time, but with enthusiasm), and since she knew all the lyrics, she would help us out when we floundered.
“Dad was OK with the new songs as long as they had a decent melody, but if we tried to sing ‘The Hut Sut Song’ . . .
“. . . or ‘Three Little Fishies’ . . .
“. . . he would overpower us and begin belting out his all-time favorite, ‘Down by the Old Mill Stream.’
“Yes, we all sang lustily except Mom. I took after my mom with my lack of vocal skills, but it didn’t seem to bother my family; they just sang louder and drowned me out.
“All that leniency came to a halt when I was in the seventh grade in Bloomington. Music class consisted of our teacher banging forcefully on the piano while we sang along from the song book. The highlight of the year was the annual junior-high spring choir performance. Our teacher had chosen the operetta ‘In Grand Old Switzerland,’ and we had been learning the lyrics to all the songs while she happily pounded on the piano keys. Our mothers had been sewing costumes, and we were waiting to hear who would be chosen for each part. The day finally came when the teacher had each of us stand up to do a solo, and she would grade us for our report card and tell us our roles. When it was my turn, the teacher’s face turned red and she ordered me to take my seat. I think she thought I was trying to be funny.
“She gave me the first and only D of my life. I was crushed. My mom came to the conferences and pleaded my case, explaining that I had taken after her and I actually could not sing. The teacher said: ‘Nonsense. Anyone can sing. I will give her lessons.’ After a couple of lessons, she capitulated and told me that I could wear my costume and perform in the chorus as long as I just PRETENDED to sing. She upgraded me to a C for effort, and she forever after gave me a sympathetic look when I walked into her classroom.
“That was my first singing lesson. Twenty years ago, my granddaughter Anna gave me a singing lesson . . . but that is another story.”
Live and learn
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Truer words etc., etc.
“I think that the greatest commencement speech ever would be:
“‘All that crap your parents have been telling you is the truth.'”
Could be verse (5/7/5 Division)
And: The vision thing
Words (and picture) by Tim Torkildson: “Subject: Haiku.
“the singing blossoms
“wordlessly carol the joy
“of their fulfillment”
Gee, our old La Salle ran great! (responsorial)@@
Mom in Boyland writes: “Like Tim Torkildson, I have fond memories of the Red Owl grocery store. I grew up at the tail end of the store’s days in Rosemount. Ours didn’t have Green Stamps, but I, too, was caught stealing treats near the checkout line. I didn’t really have a reason, since my mom was open to sugary suggestions, especially while passing by the bakery. My theft was a small pack of gum, which my mom turned it into a momentous lesson. I was mortified as she made me apologize to the store’s owner, a man I knew who lived on the next block. I never shook the image of his scowl as he loomed over me. I also remember the boys who would bag your groceries and wheel out your bags to your car. My mom would talk at length to them, which eventually embarrassed me when I grew old enough for them to be my classmates. Today I do the same to my children when I befriend random cashiers.
“The Red Owl (always prefaced with THE, as in THE Dairy Queen) was next to an Ace hardware store which kept color samples of all the rooms my mom had painted in our house. No computer records back then.
“The Red Owl was soon replaced in town by a Cub, which wasn’t nearly as fun to visit as the Red Owl, stern owner aside.”
Another close encounter of the natural kind, reported by Snackmeisterin of Altoona, Wisconsin: “I thought these pictures of a spider web over our front porch were pretty cool!”
The highfalutin annoyances
Norton’s mom of Eau Claire, Wisconsin: “Subject: I just don’t knooooow! I need more tiiiiiime.
“Norton’s dad and I stopped at a fast-food place for lunch today after we finished delivering Meals on Wheels.
“The place we ate at had one of those new soft-drink machines with screens on which you first select the type of beverage (full sugar, zero sugar, etc.) and then go on to the other screens until you have completed your selection. I was on about screen number three, trying to decide which flavor of lemonade I’d like out of the four choices. It was taking me awhile to decide, and suddenly on the large screen in large type, the words ‘ARE YOU STILL THERE?’ (or something like that; I was kind of startled and amused) appeared.
“Just what I need: a pop (we call it pop in Eau Claire) machine nagging me to hurry.”
Everyone’s a copy editor!
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: History was made at Target Field on Thursday!
“The top of the front page of Friday’s Pioneer Press carried a picture of Jose Berrios celebrating his victory over the White Sox on Thursday. This appeared next to the photo:
“‘Berrios is brilliant’
“‘Twins get a six-hit, complete-game afternoon shutout to split a four-game series with
the White Sox.’
“I found that rather intriguing, because I had watched the game on TV, and Chicago had scored two runs. I turned to the front page of the Sports section, to see this at the top, next to the Twins’ logo:
“‘TWINS 7/ WHITE SOX 2 > 5B’
“That two-run shutout must be one for the record books.”
Or: Everyone’s a copy editor
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: Building a fire under Tiger?
“A headline on Page C9 of the Sports section in Sunday’s STrib: ‘Woods five stokes back at Memorial.’”
Including: Then & Now
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “Subject: Apostrophe redistribution? Or: Everyone’s a copy editor?
“While sorting through some postcards in my collection, I came across this one, postmarked in 1908, which proves that people have been having problems with apostrophes for a very long time.
“The postcard features ‘St. Paul,’ who shows up on other postcards and promotional items of the day, surrounded by St. Paul landmarks. Some of the landmarks are long gone; others still exist; and one, Minnehaha Falls, has moved to Minneapolis.
“The text on the card is very simple: ‘ST. PAUL, EXCEL’S.’ There obviously shouldn’t be an apostrophe in EXCELS, and I am very suspicious of the comma after ST. PAUL. Other than that, it is very nice souvenir postcard for tourists who visited our fine city.
“This one was simply addressed to someone on Sterrett Place in Crafton, Pa., with a message that he would be home tomorrow.”
BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: And he expected that the post card would beat him there!
Vanity, thy name is . . .
Including: Know thyself!
Stinky Bananalips of Empire, Minnesota: “This is how my brain usually works:
“1. I see something cool I want to tell Bulletin Board about.
“2. A couple, three weeks later, I think to myself: ‘What the heck was I going to tell Bulletin Board?’
“Today it’s different! Today I remember what it was I saw a couple, three weeks ago, and I’m going to tell you.
“While parking at my local grocery store, I noticed a robin’s-egg-blue car. I had to detour my walk into the store to see what kind of car it was, thinking it would be some kind of classic car — but no, it was a brand-new Nissan Leaf. And the license plates said ‘KIKTGAS.’
“I do love a clever license plate.”
Vanity, thy name is . . .
Plus: The bumper crop
Donald: “The Altima in the parking lot of the Rosetown American Legion carried this personalized Minnesota plate: ‘WARPED.’
“FYI: It also carried this bumper sticker:
“‘I’M HUNG LIKE EINSTEIN
“‘AND I’M AS SMART AS A HORSE.'”
What is wrong with people?:
Vertically Challenged: “I am still livid right now and have to write this!
“We just came back from our grandson’s graduation ceremony. First of all, we did have good seats. So there shouldn’t have been any problem with getting some pictures, and we try to do it without getting in other people’s way. Our daughter was going to take a little video clip with her phone when her son was walking in. He was on the other side of seating, so was facing us as he was walking in. Just at the time she started to take it, the lady in front of us decided to stand up to see her family member, and so all she got on video was her back as she did so! She completely missed that opportunity! But that wasn’t all — later as they were up in line to walk across the stage and get their diploma, both of us were going to video that on our phone and iPod. We don’t stand up to do that and get in others’ way. Just at that exact time he was to walk across stage, the guy (who was previously in the same row as we were and had moved down to the first row) decided to stand up, as well as his party who was with him and were sitting next to our daughter in the same row. They all decided to stand up and start screaming! And none of them were small people! AT THE EXACT MOMENT we started to tape, and therefore completely missed both hearing his name and seeing him get his diploma, let alone take any pics of it! Now that was a double whammy! And with all the people sitting behind us, I know that we were not the only ones who were prevented from seeing and hearing! Now, I can even understand a short ‘WOOOO’ in between names [Bulletin Board interjects: That infernal WOOOO, so common in this century, is, in our opinion, very high on the list of the most horrible sounds known to man (or, of course, woman)], but that excessive screaming was ridiculous! And their family member wasn’t even up there yet! How can some people be so oblivious and disrespectful of others who also have waited all those years to watch their family members experience this big milestone at this point in their lives! Unbelievable!”
Twitty of Como: “I opened the blind and startled a pileated from my suet. The feeder swung violently in his wake. He flew to a nearby tree. I opened the patio door, and he flew back to the suet. Like a Navy pilot landing on a carrier, he was undeterred by its wicked motion. There was something there he liked. His head pumped, and tidbits flew. Small birds and squirrels gathered below, gleaning leftovers. It was a feast for all.
I opened the garage door and startled a drake mallard. He left his mate in the street and flew to the peak of my neighbor’s house. She looked up at him, confused. He looked around, a bit abashed. It looked funny, and I grinned. I never saw a mallard on a roof before.
“I walked down to the lake. A young raven croaked continuously in a tree. His mom flew out and away, down along the shore, to look for scraps to feed him. He croaked on, hoarsely. His croaking accompanied my steps. Mom came back, and dinner was served. Still he croaked. Kids these days: you just can’t please some of them.
“It’s raining. I walked out to the truck. An angleworm slithered across the gravel, all stretched out and looking for respite. Where’s a hungry robin when you need one?
“I think the no-see-ums are migrating south. Got bit this morning by one so small I could barely see-um. He didn’t make it far, once I saw-um.”
One for the books (Our Community of Strangers Division)
Including: Our theater of seasons
Kathy S. of St. Paul writes: “The Archivist (Sister Margery Smith [R.I.P.]) was my English teacher at St. Catherine’s in 1968-9. I think it was her first year back from another location.
“She was my teacher for both Dante’s ‘Inferno’ (‘The Divine Comedy’) and Intro to Poetry. But what I remember is her stories.
“In earlier years, she used to haul an Italian (groundskeeper?) into her classes to read Dante to students in the original tongue. But he didn’t escape her ire, because he would always pull ivy vines off the school’s brick walls just when they were blooming. Her pleas for a brief reprieve so people could enjoy the flowers fell on deaf ears. Ivy vines may damage old bricks, and that was that. I gather that this was a multi-year struggle, full of pathos.
“My other big memory was her statement that Minnesota’s seasons are summer, fall and winter — but not spring, because (as was true this year) we go pretty much straight from snowstorms into summer’s heat. She worked on her dissertation for a year or so in England, and rhapsodized about the waves of flowers, like daffodils, that rose up to bloom and then gave way to the following wave, such as tulips. If I remember correctly, she said the bulbs were planted in her English college’s grass — rather than limited to flowerbeds. And they might have been mowed down with the grass.
“It is funny what you remember about a teacher. Margery was just one of the bright and dedicated women who taught me at St. Kate’s — back in the days when some women became nuns because they received a higher education and better careers by getting themselves to nunneries.”
You had to be there?
IGHGrampa: “Our local lake has some of those floating fountains on it. Today as I drove past it, I had a brilliant thought.
“When I got home, I informed everyone: ‘It’s so dry out there, they even had to turn on the sprinklers on the lake.’
“Instead of roaring laughter, all I got were blank looks.
“It seemed like a good joke to me.”
This ‘n’ that (responsorial) (responsorial)
Mounds View Swede: “One of the recent contributors [Bloomington Bird Lady] mentioned a red-headed woodpecker, corrected to red-bellied woodpecker [Bulletin Board clarifies: We wondered if BBL had meant red-bellied … but she assured us, in a follow-up email, that she indeed had seen a red-headed woodpecker], and I just happened to have a couple of photos of one to share.
“I heard a thump on a window one morning and went to look. I saw the tell-tale feather remains on the glass . . . and when I looked down, I saw this bird. I also saw it blink its eye, so I knew it was still alive. I said a prayer for the bird, since I had been praying when this happened.
“I looked again a couple of minutes later and saw it sitting up.
“And a moment or two later, it was gone. A nice answer to my ‘request.’
“I didn’t know what kind of bird it was, so I sent the photos to a friend of mine who is a “Birder.” He and his wife both agreed this was a male red-bellied woodpecker. When I asked why it was named that when the belly looked white, I was told there is a faint red color on the belly sometimes. He added that they seem to have problems with woodpecker names: the downy woodpecker isn’t downy; the hairy woodpecker isn’t hairy. Perhaps Al B could add some insights on this.”
Our birds, ourselves
Al B of Hartland: “I spent an entire day walking trails at a fish hatchery located near Bayfield, Wisconsin. Winter wrens called most of the time. Winter wrens, like house wrens, are little birds with big voices. A wren is 90 percent song.”
Our pets, ourselves (responsorial)
Gregory of the North: “Mary Marchetti’s story brought my mind back to when I was 23 and newly married to my bride of 22. We lived in a rented house that had what was euphemistically called an ‘unfinished basement.’ In reality it was a place that would give young children nightmares. It was dark; only a single light bulb hung from the ceiling with a long string one pulled to turn it on or off. It was a dry space, but filled with shadows and, we suspected, many mice, despite the landlord’s assurances that he had the place treated for pests annually (whatever that meant).
“We didn’t have a lot of possessions then, but we did have a Maine Coon Cat. We had quibbled over what to name her so long, calling her ‘Cat’ in the interim, that eventually Cat became her name. As we both worked, Cat had the rule of house for many hours during the day.
“After a while, we began to notice that the light was on in the basement when we got home from work. At first, we assumed it was the landlord, perhaps doing his annual pest-control visit. But then it became a daily occurrence. The basement would be dark when we left for work, and be lighted, with the basement door open, when we got home.
“We puzzled over this, even entertaining the possibility of a poltergeist. But we could come up with no explanation that we considered plausible. And the phenomenon went on for months, but never when either us was home with Cat.
“The mystery was solved when we decided to take a trip to Michigan to visit my wife’s parents. We left a good friend, Nancy, behind to house-sit and care for Cat. For their part, Cat and Nancy were fairly aloof from each other, rarely even acknowledging each other’s presence. Cat never approached Nancy to be petted, for example, as Cat always did with both my wife and me when we were home.
“When we returned, Nancy told us that Cat was quite the athlete. Cat had learned how to open the door to the basement by jumping up on the lever-style doorknob, until the door swung a bit open. The she went into the basement and played with the light string until the light came on. Nancy said sometimes Cat would stay in the basement for hours, perhaps on a great rodent hunt. Other times Cat seemed content having turned on the light, and came right back up after it was on.
“We thanked Nancy for staying and for solving the mystery. Still, it was a bit more creepy fun when we thought we might be haunted.
“Thank you, as always, for Bulletin Board Onward [BBonward.com]!”
Band Name of the Day: Kicking Gas
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