The Permanent Family Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “On Easter afternoon in 1970, we took a posed photo of our two youngest kids looking like sweet little cherubs . . .
“. . . but my favorite photo was the candid as our 3-year-old son seriously and meticulously counted out the morning’s loot.
“Bulletin Board may not be a competition, but with our six kids, everything was a competition, all year long. On Easter, it was always the race to be the first kid to find their own Easter basket, and then they competed to see who could find the most Easter eggs. After all were found and counted, they took turns carefully choosing which ones each wanted to use in the Egg Crack Contest. The victor had no modesty; he or she flaunted that tough egg and saved it for days before reluctantly peeling it to eat.
“Not until the Egg Crack Contest was over could I proceed to chop ‘the shell-smashed losers’ up for our traditional EASTER DINNER POTATO SALAD. (Note: All caps are required for my mother-in-law’s mouth-watering recipe.)”
And now Homeless of Woodbury: “Subject: Easter Memories.
“I grew up in Fosston, a smallish town in northwestern Minnesota, in the Fifties. Our activities were mainly centered around school and church. We knew nothing about the big city and were mostly content with our lives.
“We were blessed to have good music teachers. Many holidays were celebrated with musicals and plays.
“One year, we celebrated spring with a variety show. A group of girls were chosen to dance to ‘Easter Parade.’ We wore big boxes decorated with crepe paper made to look like gigantic Easter hats. We must have made quite the impression: five sixth-grade girls with our toothpick legs sticking out.
“The dance wasn’t very complicated; there was only one step, actually. Keeping the hats on straight was a little tricky, and they sometimes slipped to a jaunty angle. Because we really couldn’t see, there were a few minor collisions but no serious injuries.
“Ah . . . the joy of simpler times.”
Gee, our old La Salle ran great!
LeoJEOSP writes: “I wasn’t too excited about my new robot until Dad showed me it could yodel!”
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: About that brake problem . . .
“A five-paragraph article on Page 2A of Sunday’s Pioneer Press has this headline: ‘Group wants probe of Nissan braking.’
“The entire article is focused on severe weather that struck Texas on Saturday.”
The Permanent Brothers-in-Armsly Record
Including: Not exactly what (if anything) he had in mind
The Astronomer of Nininger: “My friend Dave and I shared many activities together. We bonded through our love of flying and our adventurous spirits, frequently hunting and fishing together.
“I was fortunate enough to be married to the Good Wife, while Dave had a different relationship with his spouse. Once, when we had to go on Temporary Duty (TDY) to upgrade to higher-performance airplanes, the Good Wife and even our canine companion, Rusty, accompanied us from Alabama to Texas. Dave, on the other hand, told his spouse that wives were not allowed. I’m not sure how he explained that the Good Wife came with me. He actually had a square-stern canoe on a trailer which he loaded up with his Fisher stereo, Ampex tape deck, some fishing equipment and other miscellaneous items that today we would call Man Cave décor. He moved into the Bachelor Officer Quarters (BOQ) along with all of the paraphernalia, which was heaped higher than the gunwales of that canoe.
“The Good Wife and I took the opportunity to explore the Pedernales River, New Braunfels and other parts of the Texas scene.
“Dave must have gotten tired of paddling that canoe. After all, it had a square stern and could have been propelled by an outboard. I had a small, 2-horsepower outboard that I used on that slender boat many times, and Dave was certainly welcome to use it any time he wanted. But he thought that if my 2-horsepower motor made that canoe move nearly on plane, a bigger motor would really make it go fast. He found one advertised in the local San Antonio paper and thought he’d try it out. It was 25-horsepower.
“Conveniently, there was a drainage ditch behind the apartments where the Good Wife and I were staying. I suspect you might call this a cesspool. Dave fastened the motor to the stern, and the mere weight of the motor on the lightweight boat was enough to make it float with the bow already bobbing above the surface of the polluted waters.
“Now, since the Good Wife and I were not present and there were no other observers to record the details, I have to admit that separating fact from fiction would be difficult. But I describe to you what Dave shared with me over a couple of beers: He had the motor firmly fastened and tried to start it. To no avail. It would not start, again and again. So he turned the throttle up a good bit and gave the starter cord one last yank. As he did, the fuel ignited and the motor started. Not at idle, but close enough for government work to being wide open. He said that the motor running at essentially full throttle, with the bow already elevated, caused the canoe to assume a near-vertical position. At least it seemed that way to him. He was almost ejected. Dave swore to me that he thought he was going to die right then and there. He didn’t even have time to say a Hail Mary!
“Then, as quickly and with as much surprise as he’d experienced when the motor suddenly started, it died. The bow came crashing down with a deafening ‘splash.’ Inertial forces caused him to be slammed to the floor of the canoe, which was swamped with sewer water. He was totally soaked, but he did live to talk about it.
“He meekly described the happenings of that Saturday morning. He did not use that canoe anymore while we were in Texas that summer, other than to haul his goods back to Alabama. He never bought an outboard for it, but he certainly gained some respect for water safety.”
Our theater of seasons
April 12 email from Grandma Paula: “With all the hype about Winter coming (think ‘Game of Thrones’), to that I say: Summer is coming! These are a few photos from a summer road trip to Munsinger Gardens in St. Cloud.
“Located along the banks of the Mississippi River, the gardens are free and open to the public. I guess I’ll go outside and shovel now. Sigh 😒”
And now, Mounds View Swede reports: “Before our latest snow, I started noting the signs of spring developing in my yard. The maple buds were brightening up.
“Some back-yard leaf buds were beginning to open.
“Rhubarb stalks were starting to emerge.
“Just before the snow, some maple buds were starting to crack open.
“Thursday morning, after a night of wet snow, the purple coneflower seed heads were wearing their latest snow hats.
“And I enjoyed seeing that even the vertical branches had snow on their sides.
“By Thursday afternoon, when the stronger winds came, all the snow was off the branches and most of the purple coneflowers had been blown over.
“Sunday after the snow melted, the rhubarb stalks looked like they had made some progress, and a few were starting to leaf out.
“And the maple buds where beginning to open.
“The snow didn’t seem to stop anything. Spring continues anyway!”
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 — reports: “Subject: Seeing is not always believing.
“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:
“‘We’re doing Spring by Faith
“‘& not by sight this year!’”
Where we lived
Deuce of Eagan writes: “Subject: One Haunted House Plus Two Feathers.
“My family lived in the morning shadow of the Cathedral of Saint Paul from the early 1940s until 1960. Our neighborhood had its share of notable historical structures and characters within a two-block radius: the Cathedral church (1914), architect Emmanuel Louis Masquery; the Swedenborgian church (1886), architect Cass Gilbert; the Aberdeen (luxury) Hotel (circa 1900), razed 1943; the Angus Hotel (circa 1887), renamed the Blair House; St. Joseph’s Academy (young ladies’ high school, 1863-1971), sold; Selby Streetcar Tunnel, upper end (1907-1954), buried; the family of George M. Shepard, chief engineer of Shepard Road (named for him), mansion razed; and a haunted house (built about 1895), razed, located on the northeast corner of Selby Avenue and Virginia Street — and that is where this totally factual but slightly suspect story begins.
“All of the kids in the neighborhood just knew this large old building was haunted. Just its appearance and condition were a dead giveaway.
“We never saw who actually lived there back then, but now and then we saw a shadow of a man near the doorway. The mailman was the only daytime visitor we noticed. We figured the owner did not want to be seen, for some reason.
“A lot of tall tales were spun among my grade-school friends about the supposed resident. He was described as a possible killer — some claimed he was a gangster hiding from the Feds. The theories were many. The fact is: We did not even know if it was actually a ‘he.’ Many of our parents went along with our stories — further endorsement of our beliefs.
“A sharp-eyed reader might have picked up on the phrase ‘the only daytime visitors we noticed.’ Yup, there was an infrequent night visitor who could be counted on to make a mysterious appearance over the years — a legend for many years prior, as I understood. Hold on to that thought; more about that soon.
“The large grassy lot behind the house extended to the next street, and this was where softball and football were played by younger neighborhood kids (up to the age of about 10). Nothing organized; merely pick-up games. Some well-hit balls rolled and were stopped by the house. We had a well-used tire swing tied to an old oak tree about 60 feet behind the haunted house. We had no fear of being somewhat close during the daytime hours. In all the years we used the empty lot, no one was ever seen in the windows. We figured the resident must have peeked at us through the drapes.
“It was many years later that I discovered the truth of what went on within those walls, and I was astonished. A quotation from a 1950s Pioneer Press article: ‘. . . that old building is surely haunted by memories of men who have done more than any others to tell the story of Yellowstone park to the world.’ I’ll explain the Yellowstone connection. This was the St. Paul studio of the world-famous photographers Frank Jay Haynes (1853-1921) and his son J.E. Haynes (1884-1962). They perfected the process of hand-coloring Yellowstone Park photos they took prior to the advent of color photography. It was named the Haynes Photo Studio and was the largest and most fully equipped photographic studio in the Northwest. They were the official photographers of Yellowstone National Park. They produced untold millions of postcards there. Eventually most of the business moved to Bozeman, Montana. The ‘shadow of a man’ mentioned above turned out to be E.W. Hunter, one of the country’s finest photographers, known internationally for his dramatic photos of bears and scenery. He stayed with the building till the age of 80. A great history of what was thought to be only a haunted house!
“Now, more about that mysterious night visitor mentioned earlier: He was known as ‘Two Feathers.’ He appeared as an American Indian — Sioux, we thought — sporting a headband with two feathers appearing slightly off-center, long decorated braids, and several strings of beads hanging from his neck. There was something regal about him. He was a neighborhood legend. Two Feathers was reported as being seen now and then, slowly strolling, eyes to the ground, in the back yard of the haunted house. He seemed not to pay any attention to his surroundings and always had a serious expression (maybe worried) on his weathered, handsome face. He was visible for only a minute or so, and then — poof — he disappeared. I personally saw him twice, when I was 7 years old (1948) and then about a year after that. At the second sighting, I had a buddy with me, and he claimed to see the same vision. The imaginations of kids are really remarkable, aren’t they!”
How shy is “just shy”?
Donald: “Subject: I beg to differ.
“The caption beneath a picture of dejected New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom on Page C5 in the Sports section of last Wednesday’s STrib reads: ‘Jacob deGrom’s streak of 27 scoreless innings fell just shy of the Mets’ record of 32 2/3 by R.A. Dickey.’
“‘Just shy?’ I’d consider anything of 31 or more innings ‘just shy,’ but 27 is barely in the ballpark!”
Everyone’s a copy editor!
Dennis from Eagan reports: “I love this still frame of ESPN’s coverage of the Frozen Four (Final Four of college hockey) on April 11.
“No. 2 on the University of Massachusetts team is supposedly a complimentary player (like offering vocal accolades to the media about his teammates), rather than physically assisting on goals as a ‘complementary player’ would do.
“I imagine that they really meant the latter.”
Our birds, ourselves
Wicki-Yah: “Migrations make birdwatching fun these days. We have seen a platoon of pelicans hanging around the marinas on the St. Croix at Bayport and Hudson. An asylum of loons on several ponds in Lake Elmo. We have a charm of cheerful goldfinches at our feeders. A flock of about 50 robins were kicking through the oak leaves in our back yard yesterday. A descent of woodpeckers on the gigantic, ancient maple drilling out its sweet sticky sap. Ratatatatatat!
“On our back-yard pond, a raft of ducks. (We have a group of five unaccompanied males who make their home on the pond all season, and a mother mallard who lays her eggs inside the nearby church courtyard and . . . well, you just have to see it here:
“It will be our job to feed her brood when they return to the pond. There is the usual gaggle of geese (noisy and messy things that they are, I am never as fond of them as the other birds). And this year again, a small convocation of eagles circling overhead. Now that the ice is out, occasionally one of them will drop in for dinner: a fine fat toad; a small fish.
“Not all is cheerful in migration land, however.
“Did a yoga/stretch class at the a nearby nature preserve yesterday in a room overlooking the woods. There were several interruptions to our conscious breathing.
“‘Eyes closed, breathe in, raising your arms, and slowly exhale, dropping your arms . . .’
“‘It’s OK; the cardinal is up and moving her head around.
“‘On your back, as you are comfortable, inhale as you raise your arms like you are making a snow angel, and . . .’
“THUMP! (And the whole group inhales together, ‘gasp.’)
“‘Don’t worry. I am sure the bird will be fine. [A long pause.] Um, well. OK, exhale as you lower your arms.’
“They assured us as we were leaving that the migration is to blame and most birds survive. [Bulletin Board interjects: That is not what we have heard.] Only a couple more weeks, and then the birds will settle down in their nesting locations, they say.
“I hear a murder of crows in the parking lot, ‘laughing’ at a poor junco, lying on its belly on the walkway outside the building, its breathing labored. We are told to leave it, that it likely will be OK. So they say.
“During migration, nature preserve is a loose term in my book.”
Another close encounter of the natural kind, reported by Juliet Avenue Mom: “Subject: Dinner at the fence 😳.
“Here are some pictures from the back yard of our lovely home in the heart of Macalester-Groveland. This hawk/falcon??? [Bulletin Board interjects: I.D., Al B? ] ate his dinner on our fence the other evening. Dinner was a junco, I believe.
“It was a sad and amazing sight at the same time.”
This ‘n’ that ‘n’ the other
From our Official Ornithologist, Al B of Hartland: (1) “I’d driven by many red-tailed hawks, ever-vigilant and perched on posts, and an old farm place where a wooden corn crib still stood. The slatted walls encouraged the drying of ears of corn. Those gaps made such a crib a giant bird feeder. On the farm I grew up on, red-headed woodpeckers found those corn cribs to their liking.”
(2) “A woman told me about wearing bread wrappers over her shoes. I didn’t do that often, but I do recall slipping Wonder Bread wrappers over my stocking feet before putting on boots. They kept my socks dry and helped my feet slide into boots I was trying to outgrow.
“I thought about that as I looked at the bread displayed at a Costco. I’d taken my wife there as a surprise. It was our anniversary. I’d gotten a couple of one-day passes. We could look, but we couldn’t buy. I was OK with that.”
(3) “I was in an airport lounge trying to enjoy an overpriced sandwich. It was passable pabulum. I’d eat it all because my mother believed that cleaning my plate would somehow fill the stomachs of the starving children in China.
“My flight was delayed, and there was gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe.
“Flying has become as easy as stacking marbles.
“There was a game on most of the establishment’s TVs. Other patrons were screaming at the big screens because of an official’s call. One man grumbled about the delay, because the play was being reviewed. A couple of other fans agreed. If they truly dislike breaks in the action, they should boo the beer commercials.”
(4) “I heard on the radio a few years ago that the average American eats 1,996 pounds of food each year. Nearly a ton of food. Using math skills that earned me such kudos as ‘He’s not that good at math,’ I figured that’s just short of 5.5 pounds of food daily. I didn’t figure in the Leap Day we get every four years.
“Inspired by that recalled information and having had a breakfast of tea and a banana, I decided to find food. I need to eat regularly to keep from feeling like yesterday’s hash browns. When nearing empty, I walk to my favorite hunting grounds: the refrigerator. I hoped there would be some of the waffles that fit perfectly into a toaster. I believe there is great value in waffles. I’d planned to make a smiley face of syrup on each waffle. Sadly, I found a great emptiness where the waffles would have been if we’d have had waffles. I’m an easy bruise, but a quick heal. ‘OK, then,’ I said much too loudly to myself, and I moved on to other victuals.
“I built a sandwich. Wheat bread and cheese. I smelled a couple kinds of cheese I’d found in the refrigerator. I tried to snifferentiate the two, but I could not. I put both in my sandwich.”
The little treasures
Tim Borgan writes: “Lafayette Elementary School. West Side Flats. School Year 1958-59. First Grade. I can remember a few people: Jimmy C or K., Valerie, Sandra. Me top left.”
Joy of Juxtaposition
Vertically Challenged reports: “I just had a Joy of Juxtaposition! Tonight is April 13th, and I just turned on my audio book to listen to the second in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. ‘Clair’ is talking about their traveling north and describes the weather as ‘bad all the way.’ And it was wet. ‘It was April 13th.’”
The great comebacks
Rusty of St. Paul reports: “I was reading in Money magazine about ’10 Must-Have Apps for Seniors.’ Several of them caught my attention, but the one I liked best was the one that tells you where you last parked your car.
“I was discussing this app at the dining table when we hosted brunch for my cousins. My wife was sitting next to me and perfectly set herself up: ‘Hmmm . . . I wonder how it work,’ she said.
“I told the group: ‘You leave the wife at your car, and when you come out of the big-box store, she waves and says: “YOO HOO! OVER HERE!”‘”
Band Name of the Day: Toothpick Legs — or: Yesterday’s Hash Browns
Website of the Day: Before the Easy-Bake Oven, Toy Stoves Were Beautiful and Deadly