“Grandma Ecker sure was a beautiful girl, wasn’t she?”

The Permanent Grandmotherly Record

Grandma Paula remembers: “Subject: The twinkle in Grandma’s eye.

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“This picture hung on a wall in Grandma Ecker’s house for years. When her grandchildren would ask ‘Who is that, Grandma?’ she would smile and say: ‘It is me when I was younger.’

“After Grandma died, one of her daughters, Deloris, took the picture to her house and hung it up on her wall. Deloris was my mother-in-law. One day, I commented on the picture: ‘Grandma Ecker sure was a beautiful girl, wasn’t she?’ Deloris started laughing. ‘That wasn’t a picture of my mother,’ she said. ‘I don’t know who it is, but my mother really liked that picture, and she was only kidding when she told the grandkids it was her.’

“I now have that picture in my possession. You see, a friend of mine is active at a small suburban historical museum, northeast of St. Paul, where the picture was stashed away in a storeroom. Deloris had donated the picture to the museum a long time ago to help set the tone of the displays. It represented the ‘old days,’ because the beautiful girl looked like a ‘Gibson Girl,’ and was used for a time until it ended up in the storeroom. The museum volunteers cleaned out the storeroom some months ago and were going to trash the picture when my friend noticed that the photo was donated by my mother-in-law. She decided to see if I wanted it. Of course I did! The memory of the twinkle in Grandma Ecker’s eyes when she was fooling her grandchildren was something to see.

“And for those of you who have no idea what a Gibson Girl was, Google it!”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Or click on today’s Websites of the Day.

The highfalutin amusements

KH of White Bear Lake: “Subject: Surprise!

“Occasionally, our daughter will take her recently adopted kitty (Franklin) with her to work. This morning, when our daughter’s co-worker was away, Franklin hopped up on the vacant desk and Facetimed the co-worker’s sister. The recipient of the call was surprised to see a kitty at the other end (but reportedly not disappointed).

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“I’m told that Franklin was then called in to the boss’s office to receive a lecture regarding personal calls on office time and equipment.”

Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede reports: “As much as I like the greenery trees provide, I really enjoy when trees seem to go all out with leaf color changes. One of the neighborhood trees is below.

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“For the Special Olympics softball tournament in Woodbury, trees there were providing some added color, too.

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“And a flock of geese flew over, reminding everyone it was time to get moving.

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“Another pair flew by later.

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“I seldom get to see geese flying in Mounds View, but it has happened two years in a row now in Woodbury.”

Frontiers of Endurance Sports (epilogue)

MoonGlo: “On Saturday morning, September 28th, 340 fun people from all over the Twin Cities came to run the Shortest (and the Slowest) Marathon in White Bear Lake. They ate their sliders for a carb. load, had a bottle of water halfway down the block (so no one got dehydrated), and IF they made it to the end of the block, they were rewarded with ice bars, coffee and doughnut holes. They also received a T-shirt that read ‘I FINISHED THE FOOD SHELF MARATHON,’ with no mention it was one block long. It was a fun time and raised $11,400 for the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf. Some ran, some walked, and some shuffled to get to their goal, but all had a blast. They arrived at 10:30 and were home by noon.

“Thanks to all who participated, supported and worked on this annual event. Now start training for next year!”

God (not to mention the Devil) is in the details!

Snackmeisterin of Altoona, Wisconsin: “Subject: Truth in advertising?

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“This information is on the back of a variety bag of M&Ms. With a quick glance, you would think you would be better off eating the peanut or peanut butter M&Ms. However, taking a closer look, you would discover that one little package of each of those varieties is considered a serving, whereas a serving of plain M&Ms is two packages.

“Snackers, beware!”

Mixed messages

Friendly Bob of Fridley: “Subject: Not exactly what (if anything) they had in mind.

“On a local TV station, a plug aired for their outstanding meteorology
department.

“Weather Person No. 1: ‘Be sure to tune in and get the latest forecast, so
that you will be prepared for your day by knowing what to wear, what
activities to plan . . . ” — blah blah blah.

“Weather Person No. 2: ‘Minnesota weather is unpredictable.'”

Hmmmmmmmm
Including: The Annals of Political Incorrectness

John in Highland: “How long has Minnesota picked on Illinois as its opponent for homecoming? At least since the year of its last national championship, as evidenced by this button.

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“Gopher fans remember that the Illini shared this honor most often with other perennial doormats Indiana and Northwestern through the years. (The Gophers won in 1960, by a score of 21-10).”

Then & Now

Two slices of Americana, dished up by Al B of Hartland: (1) “Life wasn’t all cows and plows. We used to swing from a long rope hanging down from the peak of the roof inside the barn’s giant haymow. The word ‘haymow’ remains a memory generator. We’d grab the rope and jump from a stack of hay bales. We’d yell like Tarzan swinging on a vine and let go when it was safe to drop into a welcoming pile of loose hay.

“A city cousin, who had recently become a Tarzan in training, asked a reasonable question: ‘When do you replace this rope?’

“‘Whenever it breaks,’ I answered thoughtfully.”

(2) “Subject: At the ballyard.

“The young baseball player wanted a hamburger with copious amounts of catsup.
His grandfather’s feet had wings. A burger was procured posthaste. The boy ate it between innings of the game in which he was playing.

“‘Do you want a napkin?’ asked the grandpa.

“The youngster tried to reply, but his mouth was filled with hamburger. He shook his head in the negative.

“He’s in the fifth grade. He’s young enough to wear food stains with pride.”

The Permanent Sistersly Record

M.A. from Kasson reports: “It was time for the annual sisters reunion to the Williams cabin.

“The cabin was upgraded this year to have a satellite telephone, but we still have to use an outhouse and haul our drinking water. It is a 45-minute drive to Grand Marais on logging roads, so we really get to enjoy the forest.

“After connecting with nature and several cocktails, the question the sisters asked: ‘Are we going to have a theme?’ Of course we are. It’s tradition!

“It was amazing that all five of us agreed on ‘The Little Mermaid.’ In the 1837 Hans Christian Andersen story, the little mermaid fell in love with a sailor and wished for legs and feet to look human. The 2019 Minnesota mermaids wished for legs and tools to fight off the forest monsters.

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“In order to get their legs, the girls had to wear plaid and keep their long red hair.

“And they all lived happily ever after.”

In memoriam
And: Our community of strangers (responsorial)

Jimbo of Inver Grove Heights: “Subject: Sad again.

Peachy of Cottage Grove, you made me cry again.”

The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill: “Dear Peachy,

“I have read your stories about Nina for decades now. I cannot believe she would have turned 40 this year. I want you to know how much your stories have meant to all of us through the years. They often seemed to come on a day when I very much needed to read them. Thank you for that. I saved many of your missives, including the one you wrote in 2010 on the 15th anniversary of her death. Perhaps Bulletin Board will run it again. It was published on May 11, 2010. Holding you in the light.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Here is that note, from May 11, 2010:

“This year, on May 11th, our beloved Kristina — better known as our ‘Nina’ — will have been gone for 15 years. She was 15 years old when she was tragically killed — on my birthday — on a busy freeway outside of Disney World, the victim of a drunk driver.

“What makes this day an unwelcome milestone is that she has now been gone (from our arms, but never from our hearts) for as many full years as she was here on Earth.

“Though our grief feels ‘gentler’ with time, a big piece of the family puzzle is always missing. She is spiritually here with us, but that doesn’t replace the Nina we remember and love: the little girl who lit up our lives with her energy, affection, and ever-present smile; who had quirky little habits like cutting grapes into pieces with a knife before she ate them; who, at 10 years old, planned a surprise wedding reception (and pulled it off) for Greg and me because she felt bad that we’d never had one; who loved to go shopping, or anywhere I was going, just because she liked to be with her ‘mommy,’ even when she was a teenager. In the eulogy that our wonderful neighbor (a much-loved, now-retired teacher at Park Senior High) gave for Nina, he said: ‘You would see Nina and her mom drive by my house in the Suzuki, and they looked so happy to be together that even if they were going for a root canal, you wished you could go, too.’

“We are fortunate to have 15 years’ worth of stories to tell, and we are thankful, of course, for those years; many of my bereaved-parent friends, sadly, did not get that many years. But like others who have lost a loved one, we always wish for more — and what we had was never enough.

“So much has happened in 15 years. The sisters Nina admired so very much are married and have graduated from college; her brother, who looked up to her, has grown into a young man she would be proud of. She has two nieces and two nephews she would have loved and enjoyed beyond words. Many of her friends from school, and the ‘cousins by the dozens’ she adored, are out in the world doing marvelous things. The world has changed drastically — and oftentimes, unhappily, spun crazily out of control. But I know that Nina already knows these things. As many Bulletin Board devotees may recall from my Nina stories over the years, I know she is here with me — still very much present. An excerpt from one of my favorite pieces, written by Canon Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918), says it so well: ‘Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well.’ Nina, until we meet again just around that corner, Mommy loves you with all her heart.”

Out of the mouths of babes

The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: Clarity in language.

“Miss Marley, daughter of the son of The Astronomer and The Good Wife, asked her father if he had a scale.

“Somewhat bewildered at the request, he asked her why.

“Just 8 years old at the time, she responded: ‘Mom says my hair is getting lighter. I thought we should see just how much lighter it gets.'”

Our times

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “As I’ve mentioned before, the Watergate hearings scared my elderly grandmother. She thought our country was falling apart.

“Since impeachment is again being discussed, I figure we are in Miller Time. As in Roger Miller. The recent Ken Burns documentary ‘Country Music’ reminded me of his wacky and wonderful music.

“I propose his songs for various situations.

“If we feel we are in chaos, I recommend ‘You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd’ ‘(. . . but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to).”

“For venting, we can visualize the person(s) we most dislike singing ‘Dang Me’ (‘dang me, they oughtta take a rope and hang me’).

“Those concerned about Brexit can sing ‘England Swings’ (‘like a pendulum do’).

“You get the idea.

“But I want to add one I don’t remember from ‘back then.’ It is ‘Dad Blame Anything a Man Can’t Quit’ — because this wonderful soul died in 1992, at age 56, of throat and lung cancer.

“Dang it!”

Clowning around

Tim Torkildson: “Subject: Remembering Elmo Gibb.

“In 1997, I went back to work for Ringling Brothers on their Blue Unit as a clown. I had just returned from my proselytizing mission in Thailand and had tried going to the University of Minnesota to get a degree in Theater. Their theater department was world-famous, with Frank Whiting running the Show Boat on the Mississippi River each summer — featuring old-fashioned melodramas and vaudeville olios that I thought would be just perfect for my hammy buffoon abilities. Alas, I was — as usual.

“Even though Dr. Whiting was a member of my church, and, in fact, I was his Home Teacher, he cut me no slack during my audition for a part in Moliere’s ‘The Imaginary Invalid.’ Halfway through my reading, I sneezed violently because of all the dust in the fore cabin of the Centennial Show Boat; Dr. Whiting immediately ended my audition with a kindly thank you and a gentle nod towards the door to speed me on my way.

“Thinking perhaps I could increase my theatrical skill set by working as a stage manager at one of the little theaters scattered throughout the Minneapolis campus, I took on the task for an experimental piece where the actors sat on black wooden cubes and talked dirty to the audience. It got great reviews in the student newspaper, The Minnesota Daily, but the University administration shut it down after just one performance. Not because of the filthy language, they said, but because the actors smoked onstage during the performance, which violated thousands of Fire Department regulations.

“My classes bored me; my books cost a fortune; and my parents, initially so encouraging when I began my college career, started to drop unsubtle hints about paying a little something for my room and board. (Admittedly, I ate more than the two of them put together.) For all these reasons, I decided that college life was not for me and rang up Irvin Feld at the circus home office in Washington, D.C., to ask for a clown job. He was only too happy to put me back on the Blue Unit, where the clowns were in a state of muted mutiny against the Performance Director, because he had started demanding kickbacks for not reporting tardiness and other minor offenses to the home office. Also: Their new boss clown was going through a marital crisis and became so distracted and melancholy that he stopped caring about laughter — always a fatal mistake with a boss clown.

“So when I arrived at clown alley in the middle of the season, I found it to be in a sad state. And I’m glad to say that, after my arrival, I did my best to make things even more chaotic.

“I immediately started sparks flying with the inimitable Elmo Gibbs. An Ivy League grad with a puckish sense of humor, Elmo thought my whiteface clown makeup was a Kabuki mask and began analyzing it in excruciating detail — using terminology I had never heard before, and which I suspect was completely made up. When I told him to please shut up about directing me in a modern version of ‘The Forty-Seven Ronin,’ he took it amiss and began needling me about my religion. His idea of a Socratic dialogue about my faith usually went something like this:

“‘So, Tork, you really think the Book of Mormon is not a Barnumesque imposture stemming from the frontier dialectic?’ (He really talked like that, honest to Betsy!)

“‘Will you let me eat my corn dog in peace, for the cat’s sake?’

“‘Ah, I see you want to construct a straw man so that you can avoid a direct challenge to your weltschmerz concerning the untenable practice of polygamy — am I right?’

“‘You, sir, are an ale-soused apple john.’ (I could sling the occasional double-decker phrase around myself!) ‘I have no intention of debating you on the merits of historical Mormonism. When we play Salt Lake, I’ll be glad to take you to Temple Square, where you can ask the guides all the questions you want. Right now I just wanna eat my lunch before the matinee.’

“‘That’s the trouble with all you Mormons: You brainwash so easily. Will you just answer me this: Why was Joseph Smith a Freemason, but Brigham Young forbade members to have anything to do with Freemasonry?’

Swoosh. (That’s the sound of me leaving clown alley to eat my now-cold corn dog up in the bleachers.)

“As a clown, Elmo had a very stiff body. It didn’t bend very easily or ever look at ease — as if he had a . . . well, come to think of it, Prince Paul said he DID have a, um, something stuck up his . . . ah, somewhere or other. Anyway, he waddled like a duck. It was a peculiar walk, but not particularly funny. He liked to think that if he got in your face with the audience, that was funny, too. But it scared a number of small children — him grinning like a madman two inches away from a terrified 2-year-old. Elmo was cursed by his Ivy League sheepskin; it kept him from ever asking for help from the veteran clowns, who knew more about building a laugh than Noah knew about building an ark.

“By the end of the season, he and I were not on speaking terms, and when I left the show (for good, it turned out) I shed no tears over Elmo Gibbs. I thought he would quickly fade away to become just another has-been.

“But he surprised me by becoming one of the best advance clowns the circus ever had. Not with Ringling, but with smaller shows like Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers. They hired him to do publicity as a clown for the show, and by golly he got more ink and airtime than any other clown in circus publicity history, I think. That’s because he amped up his confrontational skills, which he had honed on me, until he simply had to show up at a school or a newspaper and immediately something controversial would happen, which garnered the front page of the local paper and the lead story on the six o’clock TV news. He insulted mayors, scorned cute little kids, and blustered so much when being interviewed that in a few years time, he was nicknamed ‘Hurricane Elmo’ by the press. He became a welcome rara avis for the hungry media — guaranteed good copy. An erudite Don Rickles in baggy pants.

“I don’t know if he ever really got belly-laugh funny. I doubt it — but I have to hand it to him: He kept the concept of the caustic buffoon alive much longer than I ever could, or did.”

Band Name of the Day: Cows and Plows

Websites of the Day: Gibson Girl and The Gibson Girl’s America: Drawings by Charles Dana Gibson

 

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