The original social medium sounded like this: Three shorts and one long.

Gee, our old La Salle ran great!
Or: Then & Now

Happy Medium: “Growing up in rural Wisconsin, we had ONE telephone in the entire house, not one in each room or in someone’s pocket.

“This ON THE WALL telephone was NOT carried from room to room, let alone out of the house. It was a rectangular box with a long nose extending from the base, a hand-held receiver hanging on one side and a crank for ringing the number on the other.

“Every owner had a number. Ours was three shorts and one long. This number was not a private number. It was on what we called a party line, including 12 or 13 neighbors on the same line. If the phone rang our number, we weren’t the only ones picking up the receiver to talk and listen. There were several clicks, and the party line was in action with neighbors receiving ‘important’ news. This behavior was called ‘rubbernecking,’ and everyone took advantage of the opportunity to stay up-to-date on happenings in the community.

“I like to think our phone system allowed ‘rubbernecking’ just as Facebook, Twitter and e-mail do today. In all cases: privacy flowing into the great white cloud in the sky, for eternity.”

This ‘n’ that

Cheesehead By Proxy, “back in Northern Minnesota”: “Flower Identification: I believe the flower that Mounds View Swede said looked like Queen Anne’s lace is yarrow.

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“And about rosettes: Years ago, when I was a young mother, a friend of mine mentioned at Christmastime that she was going to make rosettes. I love the delicate sugary cookies. My mother never made them, but I’d had them as a child at the home of a playmate down the block.

“I asked my friend if she would be willing to show me how to make rosettes, since she had the rosette iron and experience making them. I offered to bring supplies such as oil for frying, flour, sugar and so on, and brought the supplies to her house on rosette-making day.

“We spent the afternoon making dozens of rosettes, and then it was time for me to head home.

“‘Well, thanks for helping me make rosettes!’ my friend said as I got ready to leave. However, she did not offer to send any of the rosettes home with me. I was just sort of stupefied . . . and wasn’t assertive enough to ask for any. I just remember going home empty-handed and puzzling over how weird it was.

“I always think of this when I eat a rosette, and yet this took place about 40 years ago!”

Joy of Juxtaposition
Plus: Gee, our old La Salle ran great! (responsorial)

Semi-Legend: (1) “Subject: Crunchy JoJ.

“My wife and her friend like to bake. Their last joint venture, just before Christmas, was cookies, including one I’d never had before: rosettes. Deep-fried, crunchy, delicious. An old Swedish favorite, I was told.

“(My wife has introduced me to many such regional favorites, including wild-rice sausage and what she and others around here call goulash.)

“Most of the cookies were earmarked for other relatives, but I was allowed two. Like the kid with the marshmallows, I had one and left the second one out to enjoy later. Our cat is clearly a marshmallow-now sort. I went to retrieve the second cherished cookie and found a mass of sugared crumbs.

“Later that evening, I curled up with Agni, a little magazine that publishes fiction. In one story, which takes place somewhere in the former Yugoslavia, the narrator recalls a cookie-baking neighbor: ‘she stood in a house dress holding a bowl full of delectable stars, rectangles, horses, rosettes, all still hot.’

“I envied the kid in the story. He got more than one rosette.”

(2) 190115bbcut-radiofurniture

LeoJEOSP‘s ‘Subject: When radios were furniture,’ showed a 1942 ad for a Philco floor-model radio — the kind I found during college in the ’60s in a roadside antiques shop south of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. I turned it on . . . and Glenn Miller music came out. Sold! (The music came from a Poughkeepsie radio station.)

“We put the radio (awkwardly) in my roommate’s 1963 Mini Cooper convertible, and I later had fun listening to AM and (especially) shortwave reports from places like Kenya, as well as Armed Forces Radio, which rebroadcast many network newscasts, without commercials.

“When I graduated, I left the baby for the next lucky occupant of my off-campus housing. I still have the memories, though.”

Gee, our old La Salle (and he might very well have one!) ran great!

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: I still miss him.

“As I was looking for something in a dresser drawer on Wednesday, January 16, I came across a ticket stub from ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.’ Amazingly, the date on the stub was January 15, 1999. Twenty years and one day ago, my wife and I had traveled to Burbank for the second time (the first was in August of 1997) to see Jay in person.

“Fond memories of great times.”

Our times
Or: What is wrong with people?

Donald: “Subject: No comment.

“From ‘SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE’ in Sports Illustrated: ‘The crotch of a life-sized statue of Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal has been burnished by fans rubbing the front of his shorts.'”

Our theater of seasons

Al B of Hartland: “Snow fell. It was lovely, as if I were in a snow globe. I don’t appreciate each individual snowflake as much as I should.

“Birds wallpapered my stroll. There was a dazzling array of winter birds. The sounds they and the squirrels made were calls of the wild.

“I watched downy woodpeckers forage. Males and females divide feeding territories in winter. Males tend to feed on small branches and weed stems, while females feed on larger branches and trunks. Males discourage females from foraging in better spots. Downies eat foods that larger woodpeckers cannot reach.”

Our theater of seasons 5/7/5 Division (Self-Illustrated)
And: Could be verse! (Our Times Division)

A haiku from Tim Torkildson:

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And a “Timerick” by Mr. Torkildson: “From the Los Angeles Times: ‘The tenets of “Marie Kondo-ing” your home are simple: Hold every item you own. If it sparks joy, keep it. If not, get rid of it.’

“I’ve always thought Americans were good at showing gumption

“when it comes to hoarding and conspicuous consumption.

“Even as a toddler I had some strong obsessions

“with collecting bric-a-brac as valuable possessions.

“I kept a box of gewgaws in my bedroom as a boy;

“baseball cards and rusty keys that gave me scads of joy.

“Nickels from Ontario; a mainspring from a clock;

“a piece of yellow sulfur; and a broken Stanley lock.

“In MY mind it was treasure, worth the ransom of a king.

“With passionate delusion to this trash I had to cling.

“And when my mother got fed up and threw it all away,

“I started leaking brine and felt to moan: ‘Alack-a-day!’

“After that I vowed that whatsoever came to me

“should never be subjected to hygienic scrutiny.

“Whatever I had bought, or found, or gotten as a gift,

“was guarded with a zealous eye that did not ever drift.

“And so I came to manhood, with a closet full of dreck

“that grew and grew like Topsy, without hinder, without let.

“Croquet sets and lawn darts, with a smattering of tools;

“lava lamps and Christmas lights; a pair of leather mules.

“A road atlas of Texas; Coleman lanterns and some rope;

“a Swiffer without handle and a bar of laundry soap;

“Hires root-beer extract and a Shriner’s soft red fez;

“a Michael Jordan poster and a dozen empty PEZ.

“To inventory all of it would take a hundred years,

“and still you would not get to the remotes and rabbit ears.

“The printers and cassette tapes and the cables color-coded;

“the battery rechargers and the bath-oil beads (exploded).

“Now my garage is filling up with trinkets and cheap trifles,

“including self-help books and half a dozen BB rifles.

“I have to park the car out on the curb come rain or glare;

“and where to put the StairMaster is causing me despair.

“Even Marie Kondo could not break up my logjam.

“It’s part of me just like the shell is part of any clam.

“I think I’ll shave my head and join a Buddhist monastery;

“all my worldly chattels, they can take to sell or bury . . .”

Fellow travelers

D. Ziner: “When the fall nights start to get too nippy in the North Woods for me to sleep in my minimally insulated camper, I sometimes book a room at a local motel. I get some warmth at a decent rate — and for no extra charge, there’s usually something that prompts me to go get my camera.

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“I don’t usually travel with my own fan, so the sign is not all that relevant for me. But it does suggest there might be travelers who carry even more in their ditty bag than I do. Mine includes black tapes to cover bothersome little LEDs, filament tape to secure the curtain when it’s located on the wrong side of the HVAC blower, Command® hooks to hang things, inflatable hangers to dry shirts, and lots more.

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“I found the bottle cap/cork remover interesting because I am usually inclined to embrace things that take the opposite approach or turn a paradigm on its head. But in this case, I just doubt I would get used to pulling the bottle from the cork. And this particular device is mounted not far above a counter, which almost would guarantee some spillage because the bottle would be nearly horizontal. I searched for online instructions — or where I could buy one for further testing -— but this particular model is not offered in the current line. I do travel with my own standard corkscrew, but just in case, it’s going to be screw-top wines when I stay there again.”

This ‘n’ that

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: (1) “Subject: Head scratcher.

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“This display caught my eye today. I’m adding it to my growing list of things that, as a kid, I never dreamt would ever sell for anything (e.g., bottled water, ripped-up jeans, etc.).

“As a kid who lived on a hill, there was always an ‘Orange Crate Racer’ built from grocery-store giveaways like these.”

(2) “Subject: Hard to see, due to poor light and uncooperative wildlife posing for this iPhone snapshot, but there are a record (for us) of five eagles in our tree at Eagles Point Condominiums. No need to drive all the way to Wabasha; come to Prescott on the Wisconsin Riviera.”

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Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede: “The light snow, then warmer days to melt it, followed by below-freezing temps in early January created ice ponds in my yard. I have never had these before.

“One afternoon on a rare clear day, the sun was lighting up the biggest of my ponds in the front yard, so I got my camera out to record how the light played on the ice.

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“As it got lower in the sky, it had a small window of opportunity to light it up before going behind the trees to the southwest.

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“Another small pond in the front yard surrounded a younger oak tree.

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“There were also several small ice areas in the back yard, and on one rare, clear day, the rising sun was lighting it up, too . . .

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“. . . and making paths of light across the snow. None of the tracks in the snow are from people, so some creature had used the yard, too.

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“I also like how the sun backlit a few remaining leaves and made them glow against the darker background of dark trunks.

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“Now that we are having an actual cold spell, I have been hoping for a fresh crop of frost patterns to show up on my front door. No luck so far.”

Our theater of seasons
Leading to: Our daughters, ourselves

KH of White Bear Lake: “Subject: Down in Front, Please.

“Our daughter visited us during the recent Christmas break. On her last morning here, I dragged her and her mom out to White Bear Lake to see if we could snag some sunrise photos. I was’t fully prepared, and it didn’t take long before my viewfinder posted the message ‘Battery Exhausted.’ So I set the silly thing down on the ice and hunted for a good spot to watch the main event. Evidently I was blocking the view, because when I got home, my daughter sent me this photo.”

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Our theater of seasons
Online Division

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Looking for Spring.

“I enjoy the daily videos on Nature 365. But it isn’t as fun in the depths of  winter: pretty trees, and wolves feeding on carcasses; ice formations; and today, bald eagles feeding on carcasses.

“Spring is coming, this I know . . .”

Everyone’s a copy editor!
Or: Only a ___________ would notice

Snackmeisterin of Altoona, Wisconsin: “Subject: Time flies.

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“Section A of this newspaper was dated Saturday, January 19, 2019. Not sure where the next 23 months went, but Sections B and C contain news from Thursday, December 10, 2020. Looks like we’ll be in for another dry winter.”

CAUTION! Words at Play!

Helena Handbasket reports: “Subject: In case you missed it.

“Q: What do you call it when someone keeps telling you it’s a hotdish, not a casserole?

“A: MNsplaining.”

Where we live
Including: The Permanent Maternal Record

Bloomington Bird Lady: “Subject: Our wreath is still green!

“Going by other years’ criteria for taking down Christmas stuff, I’d say there are a few more weeks left of our front wreath. Don’t you cringe when they turn brown and are still hanging? Sometimes the grass is even turning green while brown needles fall on the front step.

“This is the time of year we really feel like hardy Minnesotans. At least we should brag a bit; after all, our friends have the $$$ to be ‘snowbirds’ flying off to Arizona or Florida, or even a lovely cruise. So who goes to the church’s annual meeting? Who sings in the choir with fewer voices until maybe Easter? Who feels SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and has to use a special light to retain sanity and be able to function? Who probably forgot to get their flu shot?

“I think the key to being able to function well with wind-chills and iced-up roads is first to be careful, as you never know what some other idiot driver will do — most likely slide through the intersection they have been cruising through all the rest of the year without observing that red stop sign on the corner. Second, wear more clothes! I see people in the grocery parking lot with no jacket, no gloves, no boots, and they are making me feel cold as I watch them stash their groceries in the trunk. (I’ll bet their mom would really turn over if she could see them.)

“So, Mom (mine’s been gone since 1964), I did do what you said. I am still being careful, standing up straight, making my bed, wearing proper clothing in cold weather, and not getting a cold or flu, either. Is it luck? Maybe, but I still hear her voice telling me to be an adult and do the right thing.”

Know thyself!

DeAnne of Woodbury: “Subject: 80, WOW!

“On the night before my 80th birthday, I kept looking at the clock and thinking about how much time was left in my 70s.

“On Friday, January 11th, my 80th birthday, I went out to breakfast with my daughter, and then I went to my volunteer job at the Minnesota History Center. [Bulletin Board muses: On that day, as it happens, you were almost exactly half as old as the State of Minnesota, which entered the Union on May 11, 1858 — 80 years and seven months before you were born.] In the evening, I had a glass of champagne and watched the old movie ‘Grease.’

“Saturday morning, I found myself feeling sorry about my age. For a long time, I was no longer my positive self. I was looking at life in a negative manner. However, in the evening I was happy that I was going on an outing with my children. I thought that we were going to the Gangster Caves in St. Paul. Instead I walked into a room with family and friends who shouted ‘Surprise!’ and ‘Happy Birthday!’ There was a DJ there, and I danced to Frank Sinatra, to rock-and-roll, and the Twist. I simply danced the night away. What a night — to be able to talk to many family members and friends.

“It was a wonderful night that I will always remember.

“On Sunday, I did need to rest a little. I started to read the book ‘Ageless
Women, Timeless Wisdom: Witty, Wicked, and Wise Reflections on Well-Lived Lives,’ by Dr. Lois P. Frankel. All of a sudden, my positive attitude came back.

“I remembered graduating from high school and being told that I needed to get a job. I wanted to go to college. But at 3M, with a good working attitude, I went from file clerk to a desk job with several promotions.

“Then, as a mother, I became a full-time homemaker. It was a job that I truly loved and embraced. I cooked homemade meals, watched Mister Rogers with my kids, took them to their first day of school, was treasurer of the PTA and a hockey mom, to name just a few things.

“In my 40s, I finally took my first night college class. Now I could embrace the education that I had wanted for so long. My boys helped me with my math at the kitchen table. I attended Lakewood Community College; next the University of Minnesota; and I graduated in my 50s.

“I was hired as Director of Student Life at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. At age 66, I retired because I wanted to take care of my grandson two days a week.

“A few months later, my son hired me to work at his computer warehouse three days a week. This was a new environment that I did enjoy, and I became a second mom to some of the young guys. I retired at 78, only because of the rush-hour traffic on 94.

“At 79, I started volunteering at the History Center one day a week, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. No rush-hour traffic at that time.

“Now I am looking at my next decade of life. I will not be watching TV all day long. I hope to do some writing — maybe a book about the East Side of St. Paul. I will spend some time with my two grandchildren. In August, my grandson and I are going on a baseball road trip to watch major-league ballgames in New York, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, and Philadelphia. I am also planning on taking my granddaughter on a trip sometime soon.

“I hope that in this next decade of my life, I will be creative and embrace the moments in time. Maybe there will be something new, and maybe it will be challenging and amazing. I am looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone. It would be great if I would turn out to be one of those ageless women.”

Till death us do part

An entry in the Permanent Spousal Record maintained by Wild Bill of River Falls: “We are always running out of work gloves, so recently bought a 16-pack of bright yellow, serviceable but inexpensive gloves.

“My wife, Trout Fish, put them into two piles on a garage shelf. When I next went to work out in our woodland, I grabbed one pile to take with me. When I got to the woods, I found I had eight left-handed gloves and no righties. That’s the point when you realize you and your spouse have totally different concepts on how to sort things out.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: How would you divide them, Wild Bill? Trout Fish’s way seems perfectly logical to us: Grab one from each pile, and you’re good to go!

Our pets, ourselves
Plus: Then & Now

The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: Six-Toed Cats and Banned Books.

“The Good Wife and I escaped for a brief sojourn to Key West, the most southerly point in the United States and home to the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. About 50 cats with the polydactyl gene reside there. All of these felines have names of famous people, such as Frank Sinatra or Marilyn Monroe. The museum staff ensure their well-being, and they seemed as comfortable as cats can ever be. I petted them and counted their toes. Some actually had six on their front paws.

“I not only found the cats to be superb hosts as we were guests in their home, but I also enjoyed seeing Hemingway’s office and the many pictures of him with fish and big-game animals from Africa. I suppose that, like him, I have boated a marlin and hunted Kudu and other African game. I just felt a little closer to him. He obviously lived life with gusto, and his writings share not only that with us, but also what things are most important in life. Santiago (‘The Old Man and the Sea’) is so likable because he demands respect and is so confident in his battle with the huge fish and life in general. There are so many great lines in that book.

“Hemingway was born and schooled in Oak Park, Illinois. The Good Wife also grew up in Oak Park, and she talks about Hemingway’s birth home, still there on Oak Park Avenue. Today, it, too, is a museum, a stately Victorian with a massive turret so characteristic of homes built before 1900. The Good Wife’s mother went to school with his sister. But when the Good Wife was still in high school, Hemingway’s books were not permitted in the school library. Oh my! And today, we ask ourselves: Just what were we protected from?”

Ah, the smell of it!

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: What would OSHA think?

“We are tea drinkers, and this Christmas we received an expensive tin of Holiday Tea; black tea with holiday spices, it was called. I would never have imagined that just a sniff and a sip of tea could transport me back 75 years to the interior of a silo. The aroma was overpowering, and I felt as though I were right back in the neighbor’s silo at harvest time.

“My brother worked for the farmer across the road, and I was thrilled to be asked to come help the farmer’s little boys tromp down the silage. His boys were 9 and 7, I was 11, and a 12-year-old neighbor girl also wanted in on the action. We were to be paid 25 cents a day and the privilege of eating lunch at the menfolk’s table — after they were finished. (Mighty slim pickings left for us, but gee, the honor of it all!)

“If you have ever spent three days walking around in circles in a steamy silo as it is being filled, you will know what a lingering nightmare the experience is. [Bulletin Board says: We can only imagine . . . but are happy to do so!] I remember trying to avoid the chute, because you sure didn’t want that stuff getting down the neck of your shirt, and I remember desperately having to go potty, but there was no way out until the level reached an opening so that you could jump out and slide down the haystack next to the silo. Some of the details are hazy, but the penetrating, suffocating smell will never be forgotten, and my garbage can is going to smell like a recently filled silo until the next pickup day.”

BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: The moral of the story: Don’t  lift a gift tea into the mouth.

Vanity, thy name is . . . 

Gregory of the North: “I have a couple of license plates to report:

“Minnesota plate, on Jeep: ‘TIE OFF.’ I thought maybe this is an Emergency Room physician or nurse — or, alternatively, maybe a seaman?

“Unknown state plate on Corvette: ‘ISABTME.’ That one seems pretty obvious:  It’s about me!

“That’s all for now.”

Band Name of the Day: Playmates Down the Block

Website of the Day: Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

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