Then & Now
Semi-Legend: “Subject: Curses.
“The Columbia Journalism Review’s Fall 2019 issue is devoted to disinformation.
“One article, ‘The Rise and Fall of Facts,’ talks about the start of the Associated Press around 1854 and its devotion to ‘material facts.’
“Colin Dickey writes: ‘This was a double-edged sword, since it led to an increased fear of “honest inaccuracies,” as Ralph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, explained in an address at Columbia University in 1912.’
“I paused. Ralph? I knew that Joseph Pulitzer was the publisher of the New York World. Was this a factual error, in an article subtitled ‘Is checking the accuracy of a story more trouble than it’s worth?’? Better yet, was it an intentionally introduced error, cleverly designed to test the reader and its thesis? Oh, the irony.
“I decided to fact-check. Alas, Ralph Pulitzer was the eldest son of Joseph Pulitzer, and took over as publisher of the World in 1911.
“Apparently he was less illustrious than his father. One source, with a fun account of his attempts to ride herd on his stable of ornery writers, quotes a writer who called him ‘an amiable playboy.’
“It includes Heywood Broun’s lament when the New York World was sold and folded into the Telegram:
“‘I wouldn’t weep about a shoe factory or a branch line railroad shutting down.
“‘But newspapers are different. I am a newspaperman.
“‘. . . I hope, at least, that this may be the end of mergers. The economic pressure for consolidation still continues. A newspaper is, among other things, a business. And, even so, it must be more than that.'”
This ‘n’ that
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: (1) “Subject: Revisionist rules of life.
“I just read that you should stop washing your Thanksgiving turkey, because it spreads germs. I fully expect to hear, any day now, that flossing speeds gum disease and tooth loss.”
(2) “Subject: A Thanksgiving Story (or let’s grab some dinner).
“‘WKRP in Cincinnati’ had the infamous ‘Turkey Drop’ with Les Nessman, but 17 years earlier, in November of 1961, Windom, Minnesota, had the KDOM ‘Turkey Chase.’
“Windom’s Courthouse Square is the business district’s centerpiece and has a beautiful, expansive lawn. On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, a large number of turkeys were released — to be chased around the fenced-in block and kept by their lucky captors. Oh, how I remember that day! I even got time off from my high-school job and was successful in bringing home a big white gobbler.
“Unlike the WKRP episode, it seemed that everything went off as planned with our event.
“It wasn’t until the following Wednesday evening that a hidden flaw surfaced. The plucking of my prize revealed a sickening sight. It was like removing feathered stockings from badly sprained ankles. There were consequences to a combination of dozens of scurrying free-for-the-taking turkeys outnumbered by hundreds of turkey-tackling townspeople. My trophy had undoubtedly escaped at least one tug-of-war before I laid hands on him. Mom kept the good parts, but I’ve since tried to forget the look of that less-than-Norman-Rockwell Thanksgiving.
“It was a different time back then (PETA was 19 years away), and I’m not that person anymore. To paraphrase Mr. Carlson: As God as my witness, I wish those turkeys could have flown.
The Permanent Family Record
The Daughter of the Gram with a Thousand Rules: “Subject: Turkey of a Costume.
“Although my kids and their cousins all knew that Grandpa and Gram’s house was the place where there were a thousand rules to be followed, they still loved to go there for all of the holidays. The house would be full of family, good food, and fun times.
“Thanksgiving 2001 was a special one, because our country was still reeling from 9/11, and time together became very precious indeed. All of mom and dad’s six kids — and their spouses and progeny (I think we numbered in the 20s for grandkids that year) — were able to be together for Thanksgiving in the beautiful three-bedroom rambler where we grew up.
“My older daughter, who was the ripe old age of 7, loved when the grandkids would dress up as Pilgrims and sit around the kids’ table(s) together playing games and then eating. Yes, ‘tables’ needs to be plural. There were often tables set up in several rooms around the house, sorted by ages, for the youngest kids, the teenage grandkids, young adults, and then the actual adult table. Little babies in high-chairs were the only exception at the adult table.
“My oldest decided that her 4-year-old sister would wear a turkey costume that she lovingly concocted out of construction paper and then conned her little sister into wearing. Note the fact that she herself, as the elder and wiser 7-year-old, did not wear any costume; she was merely the marvelous designer. The picture shows the ‘turkey of a costume’ after several times of its being put on and then off again in a giggling rush while running about the house (thus coming dangerously close to breaking one or maybe even two of Gram’s rules). My little monkey Mattie would appear in the kitchen (where Gram and the Aunties would be preparing the food) and make turkey noises, thinking NO ONE possibly knew who she was. Of course my mom (Gram) would play it up and ask ‘where Mattie has gone to.’ This was repeated multiple times as the construction-paper feathers began to wilt from the frequent costume changes. It was all fun and games until Mattie became afraid maybe they really all thought she was a turkey and decided she had better stay clear of the kitchen just in case.
“Ironically, this was the first year I thought I might actually be seated at the adult table, but instead I found myself mostly at the kids’ table helping my own three little ones. Mattie never did eat any turkey that year, either — or any year since. Ha!
“Aloha and Happy Thanksgiving from the 50th state, and Mahalo for sharing our stories in BB!”
Asked . . . and answered (eventually)!
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: BREAKING NEWS.
“I guess it is not surprising that I would end up working at a radio station when I grew up, because I had a lifetime’s experience with radio programming throughout my childhood. Our radio was the focus of our entertainment. Mother had it on all day, starting with ‘Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club.’ Every quarter-hour, Mr. McNeill would issue a call to breakfast, and I would dutifully get up and march around the table. Mom listened to ‘Ma Perkins,’ ‘One Man’s Family’ and the ‘Kate Smith Hour’ every weekday. We all loved ‘Fibber McGee and Molly,’ but Dad’s favorites were prizefights, ‘Jack Benny’ and political shows. He would even resort to listening to ‘The New York Philharmonic Hour’ on Sundays if there was nothing else on. I would sit with my back against the wall and peer into the guts of the radio watching the tubes light up, hoping I could get a glimpse of those tiny musicians.
“I vividly remember all of us sitting down to listen to King Edward VIII’s abdication speech in December of 1936, and when President Roosevelt gave his fireside chats, Daddy would yell at all of us to ‘quiet down’ so he could watch the radio, but when I read in the paper that the last survivor of the Hindenburg explosion has died at the age of 90, I realized that was the first ‘BREAKING NEWS’ story I can actually remember hearing with my own ears. My entire family stopped what they were doing that day in May of 1937 and looked at the radio when the news broke. (Incidentally, why did we always feel compelled to look at the radio, anyway?) I had no concept what it all meant, but I knew it was important.
“The next day, my sister Nora sat on the front steps waiting for the evening edition of the paper. Nora was only a 10-and-a-half-year-old fifth-grader, but she was my only sibling who was interested in more than the comics or the movie pages in the newspaper. When the paperboy tossed the paper to her, and I saw that enormous headline, I asked her what it said, and she smugly told me I was ‘much too young to understand, but it means war.’ Now, I wasn’t quite 5 yet, but I knew how to read enough words to know that war didn’t have that many letters. It didn’t spell Nazi or Hitler, so how could it mean war? Nora was stubborn and refused to read it to me.
“I always wondered just what that mystery headline had said. In 1975, we went to the movie ‘The Hindenburg,’ and when I saw the shot of the newspaper headline ‘HINDENBURG EXPLODES, SUSPECT SABOTAGE,’ I was transported back to that afternoon with Nora on the front step, and I nudged my husband and said: ‘So that must be what all those letters spelled!’”
Asked . . . and answered (eventually)!
Or: In memoriam
Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake: “Subject: UNANSWERED HISTORY QUESTIONS FINALLY ANSWERED.
“Several years ago, I posted this story in partial form on the BB. Now, I would like to complete the story about a few pictures that my father took in Sicily during World War II.
“My father passed away in 1977, and I was left some of his items — mostly some military papers and a few letters that he wrote back home from WW II. One item was an envelope containing three pictures that he took while in Sicily.
“I remember my father showing me these pictures when I was just a little boy, but I don’t remember the story he told me about them. After I received these three pictures, I always wondered what the story actually was and if anyone who would know could still be alive. I was very doubtful that anyone alive might have been there at that moment. I wouldn’t even know how and where to look, so I didn’t pursue it any further and just put the items away.
“One night, my wife was out sitting on the porch looking through a Reminisce magazine when she hollered for me to come out there to look at something. What she showed me was a single picture in an article by a soldier named Ralph Thomas (who took the pictures in the magazine). She thought that one of the pictures looked very similar to one of my father’s pictures. I thought: There actually is someone still alive who might have been there when my father took his pictures. I dug them out and had to compare them with the picture in the magazine. What a surprise! The pictures were all taken from the same time and place. I had to contact this person, Ralph Thomas, to find out all that he could remember. My father’s pictures were taken just when the Jeeps first arrived, and Ralph’s pictures were taken shortly after. I had so many questions to ask him: Maybe he knew my father; if not, maybe they could have looked at each other at this event; hopefully he could tell me everything that I wanted to know and didn’t?
“I sent the magazine an email and explained to them that I had some pictures taken at the same time as the ones posted by Ralph Thomas in their publication dated November/December 1997. I asked if they could give me his contact information so I could talk with him.
“Several weeks later, I received an email reply from Ralph Thomas himself. I told him of my situation with the pictures and that I knew nothing about them, and hopefully he might have known or remembered seeing my father. I emailed Ralph the pictures that I had, so he could compare. The picture in question is the one on the lower right corner on the first page, right under the standing soldier, Ralph Thomas.
“I was blown away how much he could still remember about that day, like it was last week! He could even remember what type of cameras he had around his neck.
“In one of my father’s pictures (top right picture), standing at the rear of the Jeep in the background is General Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold. In a different picture (lower left), also standing at the rear of a Jeep in the background is a tall skinny soldier, General Mark Clark. The others in the Jeeps need no introduction!
“I believe that Ralph Thomas has since passed away. I am so grateful and blessed to have had this experience — to have communicated with this amazing man (soldier) and to have him answer my questions about these pictures that had haunted me all those years. I always wanted to go to Canton, Ohio, to meet this man, but I never made it out there and I still regret it. He must still have had many stories and pictures that he took while in the war. Just think of all of the famous people that he got to see and meet while in the war — what an experience of a lifetime!”
Where the wild things are
Reports Richard Anderson of St. Paul: “Yesterday afternoon in my neighbor’s yard — Chippewa Avenue, directly across from Cherokee Park: the magnificent red fox.”
This ‘n’ that (responsorial)
Plus: Joy of Juxtaposition (Public Radio/Public Library Division)
The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield: “Subject: Notes from Northfield.
“It has been a long while since a dispatch; we have had a lot going on, but I finally got to catch up on a month’s worth of BBs. Some responses (I apologize being so late to the conversation!), and a new note:
“(1) There is a gas station in town with a sign that functions much like the church sign in Shoreview — that is, as entertainment. My favorite one from September a couple of years back: ‘Pumpkin Spice Car Wash’ — which made me laugh every single time I went by. Now I think of it every fall when I’m in the coffee shop.
“(2) LeoJEOSP wondered about movies that you always watch when they’re on TV, even though you own them. I realized I have a whole list, and I was trying to figure out the common thread. I don’t even have to start at the beginning of the film — I’ll just join in whenever. In no particular order: ‘Field of Dreams,’ ‘A Few Good Men,’ ‘The Fugitive,’ ‘Apollo 13,’ ‘Bull Durham,’ ‘Notting Hill,’ ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral,’ ‘Spinal Tap,’ ‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘Sense & Sensibility’ (the Emma Thompson & Kate Winslet one), ‘Emma’ (the Gwyneth Paltrow one), ‘Love Actually,’ anything with Jeremy Northam, ‘Love, Santa’ (the Hallmark movie filmed in Northfield!), and any of the ‘Thin Man’ movies. I think there are more; I just can’t remember them right now.
“(3) I had a classic library moment today that gave me hope that neither libraries nor bookstores will ever go away. I had a long solo road trip last weekend, and I found the perfect book on CD for me: ‘Dear Mrs. Bird,’ by AJ Pearce, a debut novel about life in World War II Britain. It was a great listen, with a reader who was perfect. I’ve got another long trip coming up, and so I looked at the library’s ‘suggestions’ tab for this book on their website. The algorithm thought I’d also enjoy ‘Lilac Girls’ — and as a bonus, the 14-CD set (!) was on the shelf in Northfield, and I wouldn’t even have to request it. So when I stopped in this afternoon, I checked the ‘books on CD’ shelves for Martha Hall Kelly, the author. I noticed that next to ‘Lilac Girls’ was ‘The Light Over London,’ by Julia Kelly. Hmmm, London, I thought, and two women in ’40s clothing pictured on the front. I read the summary on the back of the case, and decided it sounded good, too. But knowing how I usually operate, I decided to walk over to the fiction section to see if they also had the hard copy for it, since I could continue reading even if I wasn’t near a CD player. And yes! ‘The Light Over London’ was on the bookshelf, so I put that in my bag. And next to that book was ‘The Bullet,’ by Mary Louise Kelly (whom I had just been listening to on NPR before walking into the library) and who, by the looks of it, wrote a cracking-good thriller. The bottom line is that I left the library with three titles, all by women with the last name Kelly. Yes, the library’s algorithm pointed me on this path. But I don’t think I would have ever found the other two titles without actually looking at what was next to them on the shelf.
“More soon, I hope.”
Now & Then
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “The James J. Hill Center/Library seems to be up for sale. It shares a downtown building with the headquarters of the St. Paul Public Library. The Center’s ambience is great, and it was a wonderful venue for a relative’s wedding. I hope it is saved, and that the vintage library-ness of it is preserved.
“During our 1970 Christmas break from college, some local library-school students and I were hired for a temp job in the J. J. Hill Library. We were to alphabetize 3×5 catalog cards from local academic libraries to create a ‘union’ card catalog of the holdings.
“Those who hired us didn’t think things through, though. As future librarians, including one Phi Beta Kappa awardee, we mastered the job immediately and were bored. So we talked, and our laughter echoed through the marble halls of the library. Our breaks and lunches were especially noisy.
“Our favorite group joke was about Florence Nightingale. Reportedly, Florence was far more personally involved with some of her male patients than her public image indicates. And someone apparently published a poster urging nurses to ‘give their all, like Florence Nightingale.’ Back then, this was pretty risqué humor.
“When we went back to school, the bosses hired temporary clerical workers to finish the sorting.
“Nowadays, library catalogs are digital. Much as I prefer digital searches, I miss those old 3×5 cards.”
And: Simple displeasures
Gma Tom: “Subject: pull-tab can openers.
“Kudos to the manufacturers of soup (or other commodities) cans that can be turned over and opened with a can opener.
“There must be a special place in hell for the inventor of those god-awful pull-tab openers. OK, so perhaps there is a place for the pull-tabs, like if you are marooned on a desert island with no hope of finding a can opener, maybe. But shouldn’t they give us a choice at the grocery store?”
What this country has been needing?
Deuce of Eagan writes: “Subject: Spirited Enterprises.
“BB readers certainly don’t need any reminders of the upcoming poor winter-driving conditions. Nothing much we can do about it — but in the early 1970s, a number of local high-school students came up with an idea that offered an assist to motorists who needed a bit of momentum to get moving.
“This story is about 34 energetic teens, ages 15 to 17, who did not recognize their potential initially, but soon realized they could experience success collectively. The after-school program they had joined was Junior Achievement. Volunteers from local business assumed the role of advisors to mentor the teens in forming companies, selling stock, and producing useful products to sell. Meetings were scheduled for once a week at the JA Center in downtown St. Paul. Everyone had to provide their own rides. Well worth noting are some JA alumni: Subway founder Fred DeLuca, journalist Dan Rather, and Dallas Mavericks owner/TV ‘Shark Tank’ notable Mark Cuban.
“The turnout was then divided into groups of their choice. Logistically, this facility could accommodate only eight groups in as many rooms. The average per room: 15, plus two advisors. My co-worker and I decided to accept more than double that, owing to the students’ requests; plus, our assigned room was the largest. Now was time to get to business . . . literally; next they were to form their own company. We assured them we were merely mentors and would offer them guidance on how to form and operate their own company. Success or failure was up to them collectively.
“They were so full of energy! It was up to us as advisors to channel that enthusiasm to help ensure their success in small business. Elections were held, and a spirited young lady was now their president. Next they brainstormed for a company name. They arrived at a perfect choice: ‘Spirited Enterprises.’ They came up with an excellent product idea — consisting of a sturdy cardboard tube, filled with a mixture of sand and kitty litter, which they named ‘Traction Mix.’ Their marketing slogan was: ‘In A Fix, Use Traction Mix.’ As advisors, we had a good feeling they were really on to something.
“They carried hundreds of pounds of ingredients up to the second floor each Monday night, in addition to large boxes full of tubes and printed labels. Several production lines were formed, and the employees produced hundreds per meeting. They were eager for sales.
“Sales mushroomed, and it was necessary to add production nights to keep up with demand. As it got closer to the holidays, they were hearing from their customers that they intended to use Traction Mix as gifts. The company then began adding a bow on top of each tube.
“They sold them at their schools; consigned a dozen at businesses such as gas stations, groceries, and drug stores; and visited their parents’ job locations to sell during their lunch hours. During school break, some of them set up tables in our company lunch room and sold hundreds. Customers were quick to see the value in having a tube or two in their automobiles. The price was $3 each.
“This was youth at their best! They exemplified the entrepreneurial spirit that we had hoped to see. They were each pleasantly surprised to receive a nice-sized check, thanks to their excellent company performance.
“How could this have ended any better? Well, IT DID. They were voted JA Company of the Year!”
Fun facts to know and tell
St. Luke’s Division
In the wake of recent entries from John in Highland and Kathy S. of St. Paul, here’s Nick Paduano of Woodbury with “St. Luke’s Schools (additional information):
“St. Luke’s opened on October 18, 1904, at Victoria & Portland with 200 pupils. The second building was opened in 1931 (same location) with 600 pupils. The present building was built in 1951 at Summit & Lexington for 910 pupils. The cost was $1 million, and we had an elevator!
“In 1953 there were 1,007 students, in 1954 there were 1,076 students, and in 1955 the total climbed to 1,128 students.
“The two principals of the 1940s & 1950s were Sister Mary Michael Leary from 1943 to 1952 and Sister Francella Bergeron from 1952 to 1958. Tuition was estimated at $10 per year.
“Monsignor John J. Cullinan (a WWI Vet) was the no-nonsense Pastor. Some of the other priests were Fathers Fee, Kennedy, Dynes, Slattery and Cooney. Some of the teaching nuns were Sister Norbert, Sister Agnes Cecilia and Sister Alfred Marie.
“In the class of 1955, there were 110 students — 65 boys and 45 girls. There were two full 8th-grade classes and one split 7th-&-8th-grade class, with each nun averaging 45 students per class. This was typical for all the other classes.
“Was there a problem with discipline? The sisters of the St. Joseph order ‘provided’ a perfect environment for learning.”
The vision thing
KH of White Bear Lake: “Subject: Layers.
“When the outside temperature is between 0 and -40 degrees, I layer for my walk with three zippered, wind-resistant jackets of varying R-value. Then, depending on temperature, wind, and level of exertion, I can raise or lower any of the jacket zippers to avoid becoming overheated or chilled.
“As I looked out the window this morning at my neighbor’s birch tree, I realized it employs a similar strategy.”
CAUTION! Words at Play!
And: Faint praise
Donald: “Subject: A pun from the past.
“Recently, as I reached into the cabinet to get a box of raisins, I remembered the remark Dennis, a member of our foursome, made two or three summers ago, as he handed me a similar box: ‘Now you’ll have a raisin for playing.’”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Welcome to Corn Dog Corner!
Not exactly what he had in mind
Gregory of the North: “Subject: Emily Litella Department.
“While reading the Pioneer Press, I noticed that Minnesota’s Attorney General was working to ban incomplete clauses, although for some reason he was calling them ‘noncomplete clauses.’ Bravo, I say, for no one wants incomplete clauses, especially in official publications. It certainly is a laudable pursuit, which I suppose makes Minnesota the only state having real, genuine grammar police.
“Wait, nonCOMPETE clauses?
“Oh, well, never mind.”
Band Name of the Day: The Turkey-Tackling Townspeople
Website of the Day, recommended by The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield: “I can’t wait to see the new movie with Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Because it’s not a biopic, but based on an Esquire article from 21 years ago, I decided to read it before seeing the movie …and there was Joybubbles! What a treat for a loyal BB reader. Happy Thanksgiving!”