The Permanent Sisterly Record
Writes DebK of Rosemount: “As one of her retirement projects, Texas Sis has taken up painting.
“Frankly, I viewed this undertaking with some skepticism, based on my extensive acquaintance with her early artistic efforts: many-fingered stick figures that populated the blank spaces of Mom’s cookbooks. Back then, Sis showed little artistic promise and an unfortunate inclination to Cubism (or worse). Based on the available evidence, I figured that she would do better to follow in Mounds View Swede’s footsteps by cultivating her demonstrated talent for horticultural photography.
“I was wrong. It turns out that Sis is well on the way to becoming one of my favorite painters of botanical subjects. The summer has been punctuated by emailed proof of Sis’s blossoming talent, including most recently this appealingly rendered (and pleasingly Representational) Hydrangea macrophylla.
“A better person would rejoice in the fruitfulness of a much-loved sibling. Alas, Sis’s hydrangea painting came to my Inbox just as I was facing up to my own unproductivity. While Sis was preparing a home for sale, caring for a passel of grandkids, heading committees, cultivating lush gardens — and painting lovely pictures — I passed the summer mopping up puppy pee-pees.
“Noting my uncharacteristic funk, Taxman attempted to buoy my spirits by reminding me that I have recently upped my game, canning an enormous quantity of wild grape jam in the last week. Maybe he’s got a point. I’ve just labeled the 57 jars and arranged them fetchingly on the mudroom shelves. It’s not a hydrangea painting, but it’s something.”
A trio of emails from the aforementioned Mounds View Swede: (1) Subject: Raindrops on roses.
“While visiting my son and family in Portland, there was a brief, light rain shower one afternoon, which is rare in the summer there. I went out with my camera when it had passed and found these gems waiting for me.
“It isn’t often a quick shower is followed by clear skies and sun here, so it was a treat to catch these brief moments.”
(2) “As our stay in Oregon was coming to an end, my wife and I stopped at the Milwaukie rose garden to see what was blooming. The garden showed signs of care and watering, and the flowers were healthy and beautiful. The Portland area is rainy in the fall and spring, but very dry during the summer.
“Some roses had signs labeling them, which for me is very helpful since I know so little about the varieties.
“This first one is called ‘Love and Peace.’ I thought the color combination of yellow and red was very satisfying, as was the title.
“The second blossom, with its shades of pink and simpler petal arrangement, I found very satisfying, too.
“I think this third rose is titled ‘Touch of Class.’ I do like yellow roses, too. They don’t seem quite as common, so they always catch my attention by being different.
“This one might be called ‘Grand Amore.’
“And this last one I think is called ‘Sweetness.’ With its simpler petal arrangement, it made me think of a teenager just coming into full bloom, and the title seemed to fit that, too.
“I am glad we took the time to stop at these gardens. I need to go to the Lake Harriet rose garden, too. Hopefully it will show the same level of care. The variety of blossoms is always intriguing to me.”
(3) “Now that I am back home, I brought my camera with to the compost site to see how the flowers are doing.
“The morning glories are slower this year, planted from seeds instead of sprouted plants. There were buds, though, showing promise.
“The hollyhocks continue to do well, with lots of fresh blossoms and buds yet to open.
“I noticed several that seem to have a glow coming from the center area, as though they had their own light source there.
“Perhaps that helps get the bumblebees’ attention.
“I find the variety of color and complexity of details intriguing and wonder about the genetic advantages that may provide.”
Gee, our old La Salle ran great!
And: In memoriam
Zoo Lou of St. Paul remembers: “When I was growing up in the ’50s, Raasch’s general store was what you might call our East Side Social Club. The small brick building on White Bear Avenue, near East Third Street, was a popular venue for spirited discussions among members of the DiSanto, Truhler, Chickett, O’Keefe, Jones and other families about Elvis, Mickey Mantle, monster movies, and our favorite episodes of ‘Superman’ and ‘The Lone Ranger.’
“But for most of us, Raasch’s will be fondly remembered as the place to buy candy and soda. From Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy, Chuckles, and little wax bottles with juice, to Tootsie Pops, RC Cola, and those multi-colored buttons on a thin strip of paper, we couldn’t get enough sweet treats, much to the chagrin of our folks, especially when it was time for dental checkups.
“So I was saddened to learn that Mrs. Raasch (Florence), who ran the store with her husband, Leonard, passed away Aug. 21 at the remarkable age of 104. I suddenly had this vision of Mrs. Raasch, queen of her diminutive domain, ringing up sales of milk, bread and bologna, the essential food group of that era, on a museum-worthy cash register.
“In contrast to the mild-mannered, always-smiling Mr. Raasch, Mrs. Raasch was more stern and authoritative. I guess she had to be, especially when dealing with rambunctious, runny-nosed youngsters tapping their pennies on the glass counter and taking forever to decide between suckers and candy cigarettes.
“During the summer of 1958, my brother Tom and I needed 50 Bazooka Bubble Gum comics and 50 cents for what was advertised as a set of genuine walkie-talkies. And did we make pests of ourselves, scouring around the store and in the trash barrels, and mooching off other kids in a relentless quest for those precious comics. I can still picture Mrs. Raasch glaring at us through her wire-rimmed glasses.
“Unfortunately, after all our work and great expectations, the genuine walkie-talkies turned out to be two tin cans connected by a short string. While Tom and I were devastated over getting cheated, we were surprised and gratified that Mrs. Raasch was very sympathetic, calling us ‘you poor, dear boys’ and urging us to demand a refund. I just knew she had a gentler side, and I never forgot her kind gesture.
“So I toast Mrs. Raasch and one amazing life with a glass of RC Cola and a piece of gum (but not Bazooka). And when I think of her, that small brick store, and all my friends, I realize those were some of the best years of our lives.”
The best State Fair in our state (II)
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “Here are more of my dad’s State Fair slides, from 1966/67. He had upgraded to 35-mm film by then.
“This 24-foot-tall statue of Fairchild, the State Fair mascot, made his first appearance at the Fair in 1966 and never left. If I remember correctly, Fairchild would talk to Fairgoers thanks to a speaker built into the base. He now stands on top of an information booth.
“This picture of the Skyride, the Agriculture-Horticulture Building, the Space Tower (in the background), a Rainbow Cone stand, and lots of people could have been taken anytime in the past 50 years. A time traveler from 1966 visiting today’s State Fair or vice versa would feel right at home.
“My dad worked at the Toni Company, which is the reason for this photo. I believe this display was in a window of the building that once existed under the Grandstand ramp where the St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press was located for many years. The title reads ‘Toni — A Growing Minnesota Industry’ above an artist’s rendition of Toni’s new Distribution Center, which would open the next year, in 1967. The sign in the lower right says ‘Another Success Story in Dynamic Saint Paul.’ All sorts of Toni products manufactured in St. Paul — including various home permanents, Dippity-Do Hair Setting Gel, White Rain Shampoo, Tame Creme Rinse, and Adorn Hair Spray — are also on display in the window.
“That year’s jet was a F-101 Viper, with the Space Tower in the background and my mom, brother and me in the lower right.
“In 1967, TV cameras were heavy-duty pieces of equipment which required a truck for transportation and support. There was no zipping around the fairgrounds in a golf cart with a hand-held video camera back then for local TV stations. Here is KMSP’s state-of-the-art mobile remote unit.”
Dolly Dimples: “Oh, to be young again.
“In my young years, we kids pretty much were free to go anywhere in our neighborhood and play until lunch or supper time. I lived on Arona Street, two blocks east of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. One of the events I and my friends looked forward to was attending the State Fair, just before school started. We went every day. It must have been free admission for young kids, because I know my mother would have never given me money to go there every day. By Labor Day, we would have visited almost every building and attraction that interested us. We usually went for a ride at Ye Olde Mill at least once in the week, as well as riding a carousel horse. We checked on the sculptor who was sculpting in butter the likeness of the current Princess Kay. The day’s excursion would not be perfect if I missed out on treating myself to cotton candy and/or black walnut toffee. In one building, our interest was drawn to a display where a rope held people back from touching an item on a table. The item on the table looked like a black-and-white photo, but its flickering image was of a man talking. He said the invention we were seeing and hearing was going to change the world: television! Little did he know . . .
“Each day, we collected anything that was free, such as yardsticks, paper visors, stickers and pamphlets advertising everything under the sun. When we got home, we proudly showed off our loot. Our mothers dumped most of the stuff in the trash can when we weren’t looking (no recycling in those days). I recall one day when we came home almost empty-handed. We had visited the Midway (the area where the rides and ‘freak’ shows were located). We liked to ride on the Caterpillar, a ride that never left the ground (my kind of ride). After sitting down, a canvas top was lowered over us and the caterpillar went round and round, and up and down (like a caterpillar does) on a track. A blast of cold air was blown at us every few feet. On this day, we placed our treasured pamphlets loosely on the seat beside us. The first air gust that hit us turned our little covered area into a snowglobe; papers flew everywhere. When the ride was over, we attempted to retrieve our precious pamphlets, but weren’t able to make a successful rescue because other riders were coming on board and we had to make way for them.
“Living so close to the Fairgrounds had its perks and its drawbacks during Fair week. One downside was the noise from traffic and the Fair. There was the never-ending lineup of cars trying to get in or out of the Fairgrounds and clogging Snelling Avenue, the wail of emergency sirens, the roar of race cars rounding the curves of the racetrack in front of the Grandstand. The acrid smell of burning tires also wafted in our direction at times. Our quiet little neighborhood was overrun with drivers looking for places to park their cars. Many ended up parking in front of our houses. My dad, as others did, parked cars in our yard for a nominal fee. The downside of that was he had to wait until they returned before he could go to bed, as he removed the keys from the vehicles parked on our property.
“My mom had her own little money-making scheme. She rented out a bedroom to a gentleman who was displaying at the Fair his version of a Ferris wheel. He had rented a space and set it up near Machinery Hill. It featured enclosed seats which looked like and made you feel like you were in a cage. I can see some merit in that idea for people like me who are terrified of the traditional Ferris wheel. I don’t know how successful his idea was, as that kind of business did not interest me.
“The best part of being so close to the Fair was watching the fireworks at night from our front lawn. As the beautiful showers of firework ‘stars’ exploded in the sky, they seemed to be coming directly toward us, and if we tried, we could reach out and touch them. Watching the colorful display every night was never boring or tiring. Before the 4-H building was built, we could also get a glimpse of some of the ground displays (the waterfalls, pinwheels, flag, etc.). I still oooh! and awwww! at a fireworks display.
“Time passes. Our church had a stand near the Grandstand, and my husband flipped hamburgers and I cashiered. In time, the stand served its last customer and it was sold. I no longer go to the Fair, but I still have a warm spot for it in my heart. And I have all these wonderful memories.”
Auction Girl: “Subject: Stories told on board a bus (to the first day of the Fair).
“Is there anything better than the very first morning of the Minnesota State Fair? Anyone local would tell you that’s a hard thing to beat. Waiting in line for the SW Transit bus from Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, the crowd’s anticipation hangs overhead like fragrant French-fry grease in the limpid air.
“Thursday, a man in a light yellow golf shirt and khaki shorts who was just shy of 90 sat next to me and started to tell stories. He was with family, and they would be going to the State Fair five times this year.
“‘Yes, but not in a row. I did do that once, though,’ he said.
“What brought you to the Fair for five days? Were you showing livestock or something?
“‘No. Me and a friend just decided to go to the Fair together. The folks had a farm at Grantsburg. The two of us kids were in the sixth grade together. We figured we were grown up enough to make a trip, and we caught a ride to St. Paul with a cattle truck. Then we stayed with someone in town and took the streetcars to and from the Fairgrounds — until we could find someone heading back to Wisconsin and ride back with them.’
“Streetcars. Now he had my attention. When was that?
“‘Oh, it was during the War — 1942. I graduated from high school in 1949.’
“‘No, St. Croix Falls. We moved there. The farm was in Grantsburg. It was about 60 miles from St. Paul.
“‘When we planned to go to the Fair, we didn’t think we’d have to wait around five days to find someone heading back to Grantsburg, but we did. That first day at the Fair, though, we found a hole in the fence near the gates, so we figured we’d just go back and keep on enjoying the action. When Monday came, and we finally met a couple in town for a show who could take us back home, we went to collect our suitcases, but the people we stayed with were not at home and the door was locked. We noticed the upstairs window was open, so one of us climbed up there, squeezed in and retrieved the luggage in time to catch our ride home.’
“I’m not sure if he got into trouble for making a 60-mile, five-day trip as a 12-year-old kid or not. Things were different.
“‘You know,’ he said, ‘I used to work in sales, and my first job was in 1949 — with the Excelsior Bakery, at 22nd & Franklin. I drove a bread-delivery truck to the individual customers at home. Bread delivered was 19 cents for a 1-pound loaf.
“‘What do you do?’ he asked me.
“‘Auction, eh? In 1959, my sister lived in Philadelphia and she was sick, so I went there to make sure she was cared for — and to make money, I sold wooden things at an auction near there. It went every other day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. First it was cattle, then furniture, then vegetables and produce. I got to work a lot with the locals and the Amish there.
“‘Later,’ he said, ‘I went into the gift-sales business and was one of the first in the area to own a fax machine. I just took it in to that old radio museum in St. Louis Park [Pavek Museum], and they accepted it as a piece of historical equipment. They tried to value it, and I think someone had sold one on eBay or something, so they took it and gave me a write-off for the donation.’
“What did you sell?
“‘I used to sell cassettes of those old radio programs like “Amos ‘n’ Andy, “The Lone Ranger,” that kind of thing. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, people bought them. They were manufactured locally by a company near the Cities, and we sold them. I still have a bunch of old inventory — do ya think anyone still buys cassettes?’ (I’m more of a Stan Freberg person. Auction Girl loved the one about the giant Sundae in Lake Michigan…look it up on line.)
“‘Well, you have to have a player,’ I said, ‘and they seem to be getting harder and harder to find. Kind of like old typewriters. Also, there aren’t many folks around now who know how to fix them up when they go bad.’
“‘The wife and I are going to have a garage sale soon for all the junk we used to have at the house. We lived in Plymouth from 1960, when we built a house there, until 1990, and then we moved to a place in Eden Prairie just up hill from the Wooddale Church. When there’s no leaves on the trees, you can see the tower from our window.
“‘Every year our family goes to the Fair for five days. Usually the first day, then sometime between Wednesday and Labor Day for the other four. Maybe this year we’ll go for an extra day and make it six.’
“The bus crept slowly off the old TCRT State Fair right-of-way Bus Road 45 minutes after beginning the trip. As it rolled to a stop in front of a lime-green canopy by a phalanx of porta-potties in the shadow of the old streetcar arch, we filed off the bus. My seatmate was lost to time and the crowds. And just for a moment, I thought I caught a glimpse of two farm kids passing through a ragged spot in the fence on their way to one more adventure at the Fair.”
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “A trifecta of shirts spotted at the State Fair by The Retired Pedagogue, Middle Daughter, and Youngest Daughter/Child:
“NORM GREEN STILL SUCKS
Keeping your ears open
Semi-Legend reports: “Subject: Wedding Ring Confidential.
“As I was leaving Minnehaha Park to walk home this evening, I heard one woman walking behind me say to another: ‘I’m your best friend, and you won’t let me try on your wedding ring?’
“I thought: Wow, best-friendship has elements I hadn’t expected.
“After a few more steps, I looked behind me and I saw a woman admiring a ring on her finger — I assume she was the asker.
“Once home, I asked my wife about this. She said: ‘In the park? No. Maybe under controlled circumstances, so the ring couldn’t, say, disappear in the grass.’ She suggested that this was not your usual best-friend request.
“Live and learn.”
Could be verse!
Picture and haiku by Tim Torkildson:
Could be verse!
Our Times Division
Again from Tim Torkildson: “I don’t know what I’m getting when I open up a drink;
“it may be filtered water with some shrimp to make it pink.
“Or maybe it is fizzy, with a touch of caffeine zing —
“or enough fermented hooch to let my eardrums ring.
“I have to spend an hour reading labels just to find
“something wet that don’t contain ripe pecorino rind.
“With ginseng and majoram, it is all an herbal brew
“that doesn’t quench my thirst at all but almost makes me spew!
“I just want Coke to be a Coke, and lemonade to be
“pure and simple — not defiled with crushed sweet cicely.
“Give me back my fountain drink, corn syrupy and mild,
“and stick your darn kombucha where the sun has never smiled!”
Everyone’s a copy editor
Donald: “Subject: Is that what they really says?
“This headline appeared on Page 2A of the Pioneer Press: ‘Minnesota officials says revised diversion plan looks better.’
“I hope the plan looks better than the headline.”
Carp Lips of Wyoming: “Subject: Not Exactly What They Had in Mind.
“My high-school Journalism teacher told us to try and pique the reader’s interest in the opening sentence of an article. The St. Paul Saints sure did that.
“Their website reported the following after a Friday-night win: ‘The St. Paul Saints believe they are piquing at just the right time.’
“Hmm . . . peeking at that word makes me wonder if I should be piqued the team isn’t playing at its best yet. Maybe they can reach their peak before the season ends.”
The darnedest things
WARNING! Cute kid story ahead, from Grandma J. of Grant: “Warning: cute grandchild story.
“Our Minnesota granddaughter, ‘the 8 -year-old philosopher,’ told Grandpa the other night: ‘I just couldn’t get to sleep last night. I laid my head on my pillow and told myself, “Now I’m going to go to sleep” . . . and then I started thinking, “What is the meaning of life?”‘
Band Name of the Day: The Alcatraz Swim Team
Website of the Day: Pavek Museum