All he wanted for Christmas was a little red trike, a little red trike, a little red trike . . .

‘Tis the season!
And: The kindness of strangers

Deuce of Eagan writes: “Subject: ‘A Holiday Memory of Kindness,’ or ‘No Trike for the Tyke.’

“For many of us, this time of year provides nostalgic thoughts. They are reflected in the holiday songs, illustrated on the greeting cards, and retold at family gatherings. It is not unusual to hear the sentiment ‘It seems just like yesterday’ near the end of those stories.

“My mother enjoyed telling the following story each year (it must have really touched her heart):

“The year was 1943. I was 3 years old. My mother, who did not drive (not unusual for women back then), took me downtown on the streetcar a couple of weeks prior to Christmas. It was my first such ride, as well as my first trip downtown.

“Mom was 22 years old at the time — pretty, quick with a smile, and fun to be with. Our goal on this day was to talk with Santa at the Golden Rule department store. We waited in a long line, and finally it was my turn. I had only one request: I asked this jolly old gentleman for a red tricycle. My mother winced upon hearing my request. It was during World War II, and production had stopped on anything requiring steel or rubber; that all went to the war effort. Mom told of my excitedly talking about the tricycle all the way home. I had no inkling how worried over this she was.

“Although aware of the shortages, she began calling all over the Twin Cities in hopes someone would have one remaining. Ward’s, Sears, Cardozo’s, Ace bicycle shop and others. My young mom cried after each disappointing call. She had only about 10 days to locate one.

“On one of her calls, someone suggested she call the Macalester bike shop in St. Paul. The person who took the call was the owner, and he listened patiently to her dilemma. She was given the same answer: He sympathized with Mom, but had no tricycles in stock. He offered to search through his used parts and see if he had enough to build one. He called her back and told her he could have one constructed by Christmas Eve. On the 24th, he called her back and told her of a delay. He had to find a welding shop willing to repair the damaged frame he was using . . . and on Christmas Eve.

“Mom was broken-hearted. She felt there was no way this nice man could possibly get this done.

“Well, he had it welded, took it back to his shop and painted it. He called Mom and told her the good news. As the paint needed to dry, he would deliver it Christmas morning.

“As promised, he placed it under the tree by 7:30 a.m. I know Mom was just as thrilled as I was: a shiny red tricycle with a bell mounted on the handlebar! To this day, I savor the memory of my loving mom and the wonderful, understanding stranger with such a big heart.”

Supermarket sweet

Dennis from Eagan: “Subject: Desserts is just Stressed in reverse.

“Thanksgiving is over, but I loved Cub bakery’s version of a turkey dinner. [Bulletin Board says: That’s the wildest Cubcake we’ve ever seen!]

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“I probably would’ve unknowingly bought this as the main course during my bachelor days. Thank God for my wife helping me out during the holidays.”

The Permanent Family Record (cont.)

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: Epilogue to Thanksgiving 2001.

“It was January of 2002. The holidays were over, and I was about to learn the true meaning of the word ‘adorable.’

“My daughter was back in the classroom, teaching science, so I had the fun of watching 4-year-old Mattie, who was still basking in the glory of her successful run as a turkey on Thanksgiving, when she fooled all of the aunts and uncles and cousins and they all said how adorable she was. She told me she was planning to be a spider next Halloween. She was hoping that her spider costume would be as great a disguise as her turkey costume was on Thanksgiving, and everyone would once again be wondering where she is. She said: ‘Grandma, you will think I am so adorable.’

“Later in the afternoon, she was impatiently waiting for her mom to pick her up, and she started worrying out loud: ‘I wonder why my mom isn’t here yet. She is usually here at this time. She is just so adorable!’ That sounded pretty off the wall, so I asked her: ‘What did you just say, Mattie?’ She answered: ‘Mom is just so adorable.’ Then she paused, and, seeing my still-confused look, she continued with her explanation: ‘Grandma, adorable is another way to say “I wonder where she is.”‘”

Our times

The Missus of Mendota Heights: “Subject: Thanks-Giving.

“I just returned from a wonderful visit to my family in Louisiana. I’ve been reading recently about how our current political divisiveness has caused major discord in families. I’m here to tell you what I learned: that it doesn’t have to be that way! We had some great, albeit heated, discussions from our respective political points of view, and we still love each other. At times the loud talk may have made some of the younger family members a bit nervous, but we all discovered that it’s OK to disagree and to have strong opinions. We probably all learned something in the process. After all was said and done, we laughed about it, did a high-five and teased each other about being in the ‘other’ party. At the end of the day, we know that nothing trumps our love for each other. No pun intended. Just a figure of speech. (Chuckle, chuckle.)

“If only we could get beyond our positions and realize that we ALL love our country and want the same things in life for ourselves. We need to talk to each other and not be fearful.

“I hope ‘y’all’ had a wonderful Thanksgiving!”

Where’ve you gone, Mrs. Malaprop?

Rusty of St. Paul: “One way to more evenly cook a bird is to ‘spatchcock’ it — removing the spine, then cracking through the breast bone so it lies down flat.

“At our Thanksgiving table, my sister-in-law reported on the turkey from a meal a different wing of the family held. [Bulletin Board interjects: Pun intended?] She said: ‘Marcus spackle rocked it.’

“She freely admits that she is happy to pay for a meal’s ingredients as long as she doesn’t have to cook them.”

Live and learn!

Wednesday, November 27 email from Bloomington Bird Lady: “Subject: You Never Foresee These Episodes.

“Every time it’s my turn at ‘doing Thanksgiving,’ a few weird stories come back vividly. It takes a lot of thought to make everything turn out ready to be served, and concentration is important. The last task is usually making the gravy, with so much distraction from those who want to help and those who just keep asking ‘What can I do?’ At that point, there’s not much time left before sitting down to eat.

“Blithely stirring the drippings and adding the packet of gravy mix into the mixture, hoping for no lumps, I was startled to feel something land on my shoulder. Turned my head to see, and there was our daughter’s Great Dane, dripping tongue hanging, head resting on my shoulder as she pleaded for just a taste. Those dogs are so tall, and I am short, so she was just taking advantage of a good deal. Disconcerting to see that large head, right next to mine. I don’t think she got any tastes — that I know of, anyway.

“They always tell you now: ‘Don’t wash your poultry, as it may splash e coli germs farther than you know.’ An accident can happen even before you take the thawed turkey out of the fridge. We’d allowed the hard-as-a-rock turkey to thaw in the refrigerator as recommended. The right thing to do? Not if you don’t notice that the supposedly leak-proof plastic wrapper is NOT leak-proof. You’d think nothing could escape that wrapper; it’s hard to even open up. Well . . . not so. To my dismay, leakage had happened, and there was pink turkey juice in many places under the bird. We had to take the refrigerator apart — drawers, food and all — and clean the germy drips with soap and water.

“Cleaning the fridge right before Thanksgiving dinner? A lesson learned that I will never forget.

“This year we’ll remember the snowfall: beautiful, but an unexpected headache to shovel and plow. Schools are closed, but Thanksgiving will happen, and you just know that Black Friday will happen no matter what.”

Then & Now
Commerce Division

The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: Maxwell Street.

“I grew up in Chicago. Unlike a lot of kids growing up there, my brother and I bypassed some of the typical city life. Instead we spent a lot of time chasing rabbits across open prairies or just exploring vacant fields within the city, along railroad ditches and even on the banks of the Chicago River. We could walk to the railroad and down to the river from our home. These were interesting places in their own right, and oh so many stories could be told by these abandoned and overgrown fields left over from the industry that took place nearby. We always were exploring, finding something new in our surroundings.

“Our home was not found in the best part of the city. Then again, we didn’t know any difference. It was located a couple of miles south of Madison Avenue (the dividing line between north and south) and was part of the near west side. It wasn’t too far from the stockyards, as the aromas which on occasion caught your attention could attest to. But it was a nice neighborhood to grow up in. We had friends; we played ball on the corner. I thought our neighborhood school, to which we walked, was pretty good. We just took our own individual responsibility to grow up, and we did.

“My brother and I recently discussed growing up there. One phenomenon that sticks out in both our minds is our visits to Maxwell Street. Now, anyone who lived in Chicago during the first half of the past century knows what I am talking about. Maxwell Street was a business district, not that far from downtown skyscrapers, possibly a mile in length, started in the mid-1800s by immigrants. Most of them were Jewish people who opened their wares for sale on Sunday mornings. They were joined by others: Polish, German, blacks, whatever. This mile-long ‘flea market’ opened early every Sunday. Our father took us there once or twice a month. We didn’t know how to walk there, and we didn’t have much money anyway. I can recall seeing the card tables along the street or just a blanket spread out on the street next to the curb, with literally anything for sale. There was a man who had an older car, probably a late 1940s Plymouth; he would wax and polish one of the hopeless-looking fenders, aiming to sell that car polish to bystanders. Boy, he made that fender shine like a mirror! He had a microphone to get your attention. A little ways farther, there were some gospel singers. They really had a beat I can still bop to. There were some vendors selling fishing gear. I still have a muskie rod I made from a bamboo blank I bought there about 1950. It didn’t have silk guide windings; I just used mom’s sewing thread. One man was selling pillows. But the fondest memories of the Maxwell Street experience was the true Chicago dog. Dad would break down and buy one — we’d share it amongst the three of us. Absolutely, without a doubt, it was the surprise hot pepper that we remember best. Who would be lucky enough to get it in their first bite?

“Maxwell Street is in many ways like the original flea market. It is gone now, a victim of urban redevelopment. But as I relaxed this past weekend, reading the Pioneer Press, I saw that the Black Friday experience was like this. In many ways, it was not whether you purchased a particular item, but it was the experience, the exploration, the fun, the excitement and maybe even a little hot pepper in a Chicago dog. It is arguable as to the merit or worth of getting up early for a bargain, but it is not the bargain; it is the good times with your family and friends that matter. What is that worth? I suggest it is priceless.”

The verbing of America

The REF in White Bear Lake: “Subject: The awful verbing of America.

“Just heard on the Good Neighbor: an ad for a computer-security product that includes this tagline: ‘Thanks to LifeLock, you don’t have to let cyber-criminals unhappy your holidays.'”

Our times (II)

OTD from NSP:I now understand why people go to Urgent Care/ER instead of their regular clinic.

“I have what I think is a bad cold. Missed Thanksgiving because I felt so bad. Slept in a recliner for three full nights and part of the last two. Trouble breathing; coughing. Just toughing it out with over-the-counter cold-and-cough stuff.

“Went to SilverSneakers exercise class today and almost passed out, so I thought maybe I should see my regular doctor.

“I could get in to see the person I would normally go to on December 18 — 2-1/2 weeks wait. In that time, I will either be well, dead, or have gone to the ER.”

The vision thing

Gregory of the North reports: “Subject: Odd picture.

“I was trying to take a photo of the snowfall we got over the weekend, and I got these artificial colors that I assume are the result of shooting through a screen.

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“It makes the snow look like a genuine ‘blanket’ of snow!”

Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede: “Subject: Six winter-is-here photos.

“When winter arrived, it wasted no time in getting into it. I appreciated the two stages of snowfall, which allowed me to more easily clear the driveway and the city snowplows to do the roads more easily, too.

“I have no idea how this leaf ended up like this. I imagine it twirling down and jabbing into the snow.

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“I assume there was a strong wind hitting the wall and bouncing back that made several of these forming icicles to bend away from the house. Another new sight for me.

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“When the sun came out Monday morning, it made everything look better. All the trees with their dark branches now are highlighted with white. It makes the dark at night not quite so dark to have the lines of white showing up.

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“Some of the icicles have their own curiosities. There are several dark spots on these icicles, along with the long dark line on one and a wavy dark line on the icicle next to it. The mystery is how and why such things form.

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“The sun shining through the icicles helps make them really stand out against the darker trees and even the blue sky.

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“And the mish-mash of branches overlapping every which-way looks better to me with their coatings of white.

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“The change from all dark branches to these lines of white to catch the light really brightens up the area. The contrast, though not unusual, is still striking at first.”

Where the wild things are
Suburban Division

The Mystery Lady of Woodbury: “Friday, Nov. 29 (approximately 11 p.m.), we had two deer in our back yard. Maybe they felt welcomed by the light-up deer?”

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What’s in a (Bulletin Board) name? (responsorial)

The most recent Bulletin Board included this note from Otis from Inver Grove: “I am always curious about people’s names. Whenever I come across a person with a unique name, I always inquire about the story behind it. And most are delighted to share it.

“I have always enjoyed the names of our Bulletin Board contributors. Some are self-explanatory. For example, Al B of Hartland. Today I read a posting from Stinky Bananalips. OK, I just have to ask: What is the story behind this name???

“Would enjoy hearing the story behind other Bulletin Board handles as well.”

We presently heard from Stinky Bananalips herself: “Well, I used to be Ann from Castle Rock, but years ago, we moved. I thought it would be a good time for a name change. My daughter liked the ‘Captain Underpants’ books, and there was a story line in one of them about changing your name into something you get teased for, I think. It seemed more fun and imaginative than ‘Ann from Empire,’ so I went with it.

“The same kind of lists go around the Internet all the time — like this time of year, it’s ‘What’s Your Elf Name?’ For the ‘Captain Underpants’ one, there were three lists of words from A to Z. In column one, if your first name began with A, your new first name was Stinky. Then, if the first letter of your last name was M + the last letter of your last name was I, you’d combine Banana + Lips for a new last name.

“Back in the day, when Bulletin Board was only in newsprint, my father-in-law called to talk to my husband about something. But when I answered, I think it threw him off (I avoid answering phones, so rarely do it), and all he could do was blurt out ‘I really don’t like your name in the paper!’ Which made me laugh, because normally there would be small talk first.”

It just don’t add up!

The Farm Boy of St. Paul: “About a month ago, Red’s Offspring commented about the Pioneer Press running an old photo of the 1948 University of Minnesota versus University of Michigan football game, in which the caption noted that the ‘Spartans’ beat the Gophers 27-14 and took the Little Brown Jug back to Michigan with them. This was quite a feat, Red’s Offspring pointed out, as the game was between the Wolverines and the Gophers — no Michigan State Spartans welcome.

“Well, what with pumpkin season and all, I’ve been a bit behind on my newspapers. But I picked up that October 13 paper recently, saw the photo, read the caption, and noticed something else. The caption tells us that the contest ‘attracted 50 million viewers on television.’ Really? In 1948? I thought that didn’t add up. So I went to the Google, and one source claims that in 1948, there were 1 million television sets in use in the United States (which sounds high; and other sources say only a fraction of that). Was each set on, tuned to the U of M vs. U of M game, and surrounded by 50 sets of eyeballs? I doubt it. And with a total population of 148 million, were 1 out of 3 Americans really watching this game? Again, I doubt it.

“Something’s not right. By comparison, four-plus years later, in January 1953, the much-celebrated ‘I Love Lucy’ episode featuring the birth of ‘Little Ricky’ hit the airwaves. But ‘only’ 44 million were said to be watching, on maybe 15 million TV sets. Fifty million people watching a college football game on TV in 1948? It don’t add up.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: No, it sure don’t. You are right about that.

Here was the paper’s mistake (and ours, too, in redistributing it): That 50-million figure accounted for both TV viewers and radio listeners.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Bulletin Board.

Everyone’s a copy editor!
Both Local Sports Sections Division

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: A university so nice, they named it twice!

“From the ‘ROUNDUP’ section of the ‘COLLEGE HOCKEY’ page (C6) in Saturday’s STrib:

“‘Mavs top Bulldogs in Duluth

“’No.1 Minnesota State Minnesota scored three goals . . .'”

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Talk about a two-way player!

“The main story on the front page of the Sports section in Thursday’s Pioneer Press featured a picture of Jalen Suggs (‘SMB’S Captain Clutch’), the ‘East Metro football player of the year.’

“Beneath the picture was this headline: ‘When Red Knights need a big play, Suggs is there to deliver.’

“No doubt these are well-earned tributes to Suggs, but there is a slight problem. He does not play for the Red Knights (Benilde-St. Margaret’s). Suggs plays for the SMB (St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy and Blake) Wolfpack.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: SPA, Minnehaha and Blake, huh? Kid must be a lock for East and West Metro Player of the Year!

This ‘n’ that ‘n’ the other ‘n’ the other ‘n’ the other

Al B of Hartland: (1) “I was in a bookstore in Juneau, Alaska, when a little boy walked up to me and announced at full volume that he’d just wet his pants. His mother was mortified. What am I supposed to do in a situation like that? Do I give him a high-five, say ‘Way to go,’ or tell him that I just did, too?”

(2) “Weather kept me in an airport. ‘How have you been since your last flight was canceled?’ became a greeting between those with familiar faces.

“‘How are you?’ I asked one.

“‘Worse’ was his reply, effectively ending the conversation.”

(3) “The wind howled. Trees fell. The power went off. I woke my wife. It wasn’t easy to wake her, but I had to. She can’t sleep during storms.”

(4) “I walked down a trail in Sitka where a brown bear had been sighted earlier in the day. A fellow from California walked with me and expressed his concern about being in bruin territory. I told him not to worry too much about the bears. A red squirrel could take either of us in a best-of-three-falls match. He whistled loudly and off-key in the hopes the bear would hold paws over its ears until we reached our destination.”

(5) “I ate at a cafe. I have a decent appetite. I grew up when hard work led to good food. The young man seated next to me ordered a country-fried steak with gravy. For his two sides, he chose French fries and mashed potatoes. He licked the plate clean. Then he had pie and ice cream. Maybe he had been fasting before he began feasting, but I’m betting there are six words that teenager has never heard: ‘Are you going to finish that?'”

Our times (III)

Kathy S. of St Paul: “Subject: A prayer for the week.

“I pray that politicians lose an article of clothing each time they lie. And that they don’t run out of clothes.”

Older Than Dirt
Could Be Verse! Division

Tim Torkildson: “‘Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed.’ Psalm 6:2.

“Getting up is hard to do;

“not like in days of youth.

“Back then each day would start with strength

“and buoyancy, in truth.

“But now my bones are vexed each morn,

“and only pills prevent

“my staying in bed all day

“like tons of dried cement.

“I’m weak and ask for healing

“in my daily prayers amain;

“but accept that life, sometimes,

“is best viewed thru some pain.

“O Lord, there’s healing in thy wings —

“but whether ill or well,

“I thank thee for the time I’ve spent

“with this frail mortal shell!”

Band Name of the Day: The Germy Drips

Website of the Day, recommended by Semi-Legend: “I am fascinated by the website Spartacus Educational. It seems to be a one-man Wikipedia, based in the U.K.”