The Permanent Family Record
Including: Not exactly what he had in mind
Two stories from The Gram With a Thousand Rules: (1) “My sister Raye eloped 80 years ago this month. My Crabby Grandma was quite offended that she wasn’t invited to the ceremony and demanded that Raye bring the young man over for her inspection. Raye bit the bullet, called Grandma, told her they were coming, and they hopped on the streetcar before they got cold feet.
“I don’t know who was more nervous, my sister or my handsome young brother-in-law. He had heard tales of Grandma’s opinionated nature about religion and politics, and he wanted to avoid incurring her wrath. Raye told him that Grandma always served her delicious sugar cookies for company, and that if he just kept praising them, he would be all right.
“They arrived. Grandma poured them each a cup of coffee and brought in a beautifully arranged tray of sugar cookies. My brother-in-law grabbed a cookie, took a bite and launched into effusive praise. Grandma couldn’t get a word in edgewise as that nervous guy kept biting and praising: ‘the best cookie I have ever eaten. No one has ever baked a cookie this delicious . . . etc.’ Raye looked at Grandma’s stern expression and realized these didn’t look like Grandma’s usual sugar cookies, so she started kicking her husband in the leg, hoping he would shut up. He thought she was encouraging him, so he upped the flattery, telling Grandma she ‘could market them, they are so delicious.’ Raye said that at that point, Grandma stood up and frigidly informed him that since they hadn’t been thoughtful enough to give her a decent amount of notice that they were coming, she had been forced to buy these cookies at the bakery. The cookies were sweet, but the visit ended on a sour note.”
(2) “My sister Nora was the gopher in our family. She prided herself on how fast she could run — and boy, everybody in the family took advantage of her. When we lived on Clinton Avenue, we were about two blocks from the grocery store, and it was always up to Nora to be the one to run to fetch the needed items. Mother would give Nora a list and some money, and Nora would say: ‘Time me.’ And off she would gallop. Mother would dutifully start: ‘1 . . . 2 . . .’ — and then when she heard Nora burst back in the door, Mom would be saying ’55 . . . 56.’ Amazing, no matter how long it might have seemed, she always finished in under a minute. After we moved to Harriet Avenue, we were so close to Berg’s Grocery Store that it was no longer a challenge . . . or maybe 13-year-old Nora had wised up by then.
“One day when Raye was about 19, she shouted to Mom in a panic: ‘Mother! We are all out of toilet paper!’ Mother calmly told her to ‘Just run next door and buy some.’ Raye whined: ‘I can’t do that! It would be too embarrassing.’ She turned to Nora and said: ‘You go!’ Nora gave Raye the look we all called the ‘Nora Look’: a combination of disbelief, disdain and disgust. Mom handed Nora a dime and told her to pick up two rolls. Raye stood anxiously by the window waiting for Nora to return. Instead of running back home, as she usually did, Nora was casually strolling along the sidewalk as she juggled the toilet paper rolls over her head. Raye flew at her in a fury — saying ‘Yee Gads . . . you are SO embarrassing! That is disgusting!’ Nora just shrugged and said: ‘Heaven forbid, we should let the neighbors see our toilet paper.’
“Sometimes revenge is sweet.”
The little treasures (Volume 9) (responsorial)
“The little treasures (Volume 9)” included this:
Contributor: Jean Larson of St. Paul
Date of picture: 1910
Date of contribution: Unknown
Caption: “New car of my husband’s aunt and uncle in Montana. They are so proud. Year 1910.
“We can’t figure out what kind of lights they had on car. Does anybody know?”
We presently heard from Cousin Gregg: “That 1910 car in Montana probably had Prest-O-Lites, using acetylene. See: Headlight History.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Thanks, Cousin Gregg.
And here’s the local angle on that story, supplied by the St. Louis Park Historical Society:
“The Prest-o-lite Company came to Minneapolis in 1912, headquartered in the Soo Line Building downtown, with the plant located at West Lake and Monitor Streets, south of Highway 7, inside the Industrial Circle. The company had been organized in 1904 by Graham Fisher and James A. Allison.
“The company introduced a new system of acetylene gas headlights. Ads urged customers to ‘Brighten the Way – Do not Blind Others.’ Tanks were mounted on running boards of cars to produce energy to run the headlights. The factory generated 1,200 tanks of acetylene gas per day. There were 27 other factories around the country.
“The Minneapolis Tribune reported reported a fire on December 22, 1913, at the ‘old plant of the Presto-O-Lite Company,’ with a loss estimated at $5,000. ‘The flames spread rapidly through the main building and out-buildings. A bucket brigade aided by an old band fire engine of the Monitor Drill company were ineffective. The building was occupied temporarily by the company following the destruction of the Midway plant a year ago. It was vacated late in November. The explosion of a drum of acetone, used to absorb gas from small tanks, scattered the amateur fire fighters when the blaze was at its height.’
“In 1914 the local manager was C.J. Pettit. After auto lights became electrified, the company specialized in other commercial uses of gas. In 1938, the company’s headquarters is listed as New York City. James A. Guy was the plant manager in 1945. The company merged with Linde Air Products in 1946.”
Dennis from Eagan: “Subject: Thankfully, not a virus.
“I saw a new ‘Corona’ health warning aimed at me personally when I shopped at a local liquor dealer on Monday. No other beer brand had a similar caution sign in the store.
“Be careful out there!”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Honest to goodness (?), we have heard chatter recently that Corona beer sales have been slipping — owing to fears of the coronavirus.
Thankfully, good ol’ Snopes.com has looked into the matter. (“Did Corona Beer Sales Drop Sharply Due to Fear About the Coronavirus? . . . A trope that suggests people are so dumb they think the beer and virus are related played out in some news reports.”)
Snopes declares the rumor “False.”
Or: What is right with people?
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Love thy neighbor.
“With the COVID virus spreading, I am preparing to be able to stay home to avoid the virus.
“But I have a plea for the good neighbors among us:
“Please look around to your neighborhood, and help poorer folks near you. Some folks live paycheck-to-paycheck. They may not be able to stockpile food they would need if we are all ordered to stay home. And I’m betting the food shelves are stressed right now.
“Hungry folks might go out to earn food, etc. — sick or not. Which is bad for all of us.
“If many people help out, it should be doable.
Blinded by the lyrics
The REF in White Bear Lake: “I clicked on some bait today to read 50 oft-misheard song lyrics. Some were fairly silly, and seemed to be included just to up the list to 50. But I did learn that such an auditory blunder has its own name:
“The word mondegreen is defined as a misheard word or phrase that makes sense in your head, but is, in fact, incorrect. The term was coined in a November 1954 Harper’s Bazaar piece, where the author, Sylvia Wright, recalled a childhood mishearing. According to the author, when she was young, her mother would read to her from a book called ‘Reliques of Ancient Verse.’ Her favorite poem from the 1765 book went like this: ‘Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands / Oh where have you been? / They have slain the Earl o’Moray / And laid him on the green.’ Wright, however, heard the last line as ‘And Lady Mondegreen.’
“A mondegreen actually takes place between auditory perception (the physical act of hearing) and meaning-making (when our brains imbue the noises with significance).
“With song lyrics, you can blame an overwhelming amount of auditory signals, like instruments and background singers, or the fact that some words and phrases just sound remarkably like others. Chances are you’ve had at least one instance in your life where you’ve misheard what the singer is saying — from ‘hold me closer, Tony Danza’ to ‘there’s a wino down the road.’
“Now I’m revved up like a deuce!”
Vanity, thy name is . . .
And: Two roads diverged (responsorial)
Another from The REF in White Bear Lake: “It took me a think or two to decipher a license plate ahead of me in traffic today (of course, without chasing the driver down, I can’t be sure I’m right): ‘B4IZZZ.’
“The owner, I suspect, is letting the world know he (or she) has ‘miles to go’ or perhaps is putting other traffic on alert that the driver may pull to the side to watch ‘woods fill up with snow.’
“At least for another month or two . . . .”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Another month, OK. We can live with that. But two? Watch for men in white coats (if you can see them as the snow swirls about them)!
Our theater of (waning, please) seasons
Two dispatches from Mounds View Swede: “One recent morning when I looked out the back deck door, I noticed a variety of seeds had gotten deposited on the snow. Almost all our trees are oak trees, and I don’t remember them having a seed stage like this. We’ve had some good winds lately, so these might have come from my neighbor’s forest.
“A recent, very cold morning made my neighbor’s heating system look like a low-lying cloud.
“Our recent warm weather has made the back-yard snow look old, with wrinkles forming in a lot of places — kind of like my skin.
“And my now-gone icicles made little puddles on the deck. They caught the light, too, and had their own unique quality.
“Today’s early-morning sun created interesting shadows on the snow. I’m sure this has happened before, though I don’t remember seeing this.
“A single cluster of old flower petals was there, too, with a lot of sparkles.
“The variety of snow presentations keeps me looking and wondering what other new sights are in store to see.”
(2) “Our warming and freezing-again weather continues to ‘age’ the snow in my back yard. The early-morning light really emphasizes the wrinkles forming there.
“The red oak tree in my back yard is dropping more and more leaves. The upside of that is a sign the spring is nearing.
“One of the icicles from my eave now rests on a bed of leaves on my deck.
“Another on the deck itself. I enjoyed them on the eaves for the way they would catch the light and patterns, but at least they are still here for a while.
“This ice formation reminds me of a dog’s head, complete with a couple of ears.
“I really enjoy finding out what nature has next for me to see.”
Keeping your eyes open
Norsky reports: “I was raising cain the other day and came upon this Elvis sighting.
“Hail the King!”
Joy of Juxtaposition
Lin Moilan: “Love reading all the ‘coincidences’ — especially when there are three.
This is not a tale of three, but is so odd I just had to write.
“I’m reading ‘The Widows of Malabar Hill,’ which takes place in India in 1921. Early on, the storyteller is given a ride in a Silver Ghost. She, of course, is enchanted and is told the emblem is called ‘Spirit of Ecstasy.’ I stop reading to watch ‘Penelope Keith’s Coastal Villages’ on Channel 2. One of her stops is a garage with a very worn workbench where Royce (yes, of the Rolls-Royce) fashioned his first cars. Apparently it’s quite well known and hosts many Rolls-Royce enthusiasts. And there is a closeup of the iconic emblem I just had been reading about!
“There must be a god somewhere who is laughing at putting all these very disparate pieces together.
“Always enjoy the BB tales.”
Games people play
Rusty of St. Paul: “When my wife turned 25, she noted that her father was 50: ‘Hey, Dad! Today you are twice my age!’ Her father was a mechanical engineer, a Master Bridge player, a whiz of a numbers cruncher and a quick wit. His reply? ‘That’s nothin’. I was once 25 times your age!’ [Bulletin Board notes: He was once thousands of times 25 times her age!]
“Today is our youngest son’s birthday. He is 31. I am 62. ‘Hey, Nick . . . !'”
The Permanent Maternal Record
Or: In memoriam
Pollyanna of Lakeland reports: “Subject: The passing.
“Alice in Oz has left us. Mom was 35,009 days old.
“She was born 4/23/24 on a farm 11 miles outside Agar, South Dakota, the sixth of 12 children. Now there are three.
“She and her siblings all worked on the farm, and all went to work for neighbors when they were young teens. It was the Depression, and it was expensive to feed that many children.
“On her 20th birthday, Mom left South Dakota for Minneapolis. The following day, she enlisted in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services). She had boot camp in New York City. Quite a change for a girl from a town that, in the 1940s, had a population around 140. In 2010, it was 76. Anyway, she was assigned to Naval Air Station Hutchinson, Kansas. She did office work there.
“She also met my dad there. They married in 1945. I have six siblings. We were born in five different places, eventually settling in the Twin Cities in 1958. In 1979, Dad retired and they moved to Olympia, Washington. Dad passed away in 2010. A year later, Mom came back to Minnesota.
“Mom made us bread and caramel rolls, quilts, clothes and rugs, and always Johnnycake for breakfast on Christmas. She instilled a love of reading and going for walks. She and Dad took a walk every day. We could go along if we could keep up! They looked for coins along their route and kept track every day of how much money they found. It averaged $50 per year! She made more than 100 rugs from old sheets and gave them all away — except for the ones in her own house. All of us have quilts she made us. They were made to be used. When parts wore out, she would replace them so the quilt could be loved a bit longer. One of her favorite sayings was: ‘Fix it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without.’
“We are thankful she came back to us. It was wonderful to spend the last nine years with her only a few miles away. She met nine of her 10 great-grandchildren. Thousands of Rummikub and Scrabble games were played.
“I’m sad that she’s gone, but my heart is a little lighter knowing she is no longer fighting cancers. She lived a long and interesting life with a positive attitude (though she always liked to have something to worry about!). She was ready, and we have to be, too. My life changed yesterday. I am an orphan now, but I will carry my parents in my heart forever.”
Then & Now, There & Here (responsorial)
Gma Tom writes: “The story by The Astronomer of Nininger re: Selma 1965 resonated with me, as I have many similar memories of a rude awakening experienced in 1955.
“Having grown up in a small farming community in the lily-white Midwest, driving down to Fort Rucker, Alabama, in 1955 as a new bride with my serviceman husband was a sudden, eye-opening jolt into the real world below the Mason-Dixon Line. We also chose to live in town rather on base; thus, rubbed elbows with the locals. We rented an upstairs apartment from an elderly widow, which was just blocks away from the ‘colored’ district of town — i.e., unpaved dirt streets, no indoor plumbing, etc.
“Like The Astronomer, we learned about segregation firsthand. Among many unexplainable culture clashes was that the races were allowed to mingle on base. Since most of our friends lived on base, we spent much leisure time there, also attending recreational events such as movies, dances and church services. However, off base, in town, everything was separate, but, of course, not equal.
“Also: In 1955, there was no freeway system that took traffic around large cities, and major highways took travelers right through the heart of black communities in cities such as Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama, making naive viewers such as I wonder if I was really still in the U.S.A.
“The poverty and deprivation I witnessed left an indelible impression on my soul.”
Today’s helpful hints (sought)
OTD from NSP: “Subject: De-Cluttering.
“Reaching out to the BB community for opinions. Based on demographics of
the community, I assume many have thought about or done this.
“Would like to know how you decided what to donate/give away/keep and if you regret
this or think it was the best thing you ever did.
“I am de-cluttering (or at least starting/trying to). We moved into this house 30 years ago and have boxes in the basement that were put on shelves and never opened. Some of this was my husband’s, and he died 20 years ago. Decided it was time to get rid of stuff.
“I have many items that have not been used or used very seldom for years. Am I going to regret giving away ‘Tupperware-type’ containers? Cake/bread pans I don’t remember the last time I used? A six-piece set of matching glass relish/serving plates/bowls that I know came from Dayton’s that friends gave me as a group present when I got married and I use one relish dish once a year? ‘Company’ etched-glass plates, glasses, etc.?
“Some criteria I have been trying to use: When was the last time I used — and if needed, how much to replace it? Do I need to replace or just go to a dollar store and get plastic bowl (or borrow a bowl), since it’s my granddaughter who requests the salad for her birthday)? Do I need all of something, or just keep a few? Do I have something else I know I am keeping that can be used instead?
“My kids/grandkids don’t want my stuff (as is the norm, per many articles I have read; Next Avenue has covered this many times).
“Any advice or suggestions are welcome.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: If you don’t really want it, and you don’t use it, and your kids and grandkids don’t want it or need it, donate it! This country has no shortage of people who don’t have everything they need, much less everything they want. You will never regret supplying those people with the means to live a bit more fully.
Oh, and if anyone else wants to weigh in on this, feel free to do so — but know this: The phrase “sparks joy” will henceforth be as forbidden here as [posterior breeze] was in Walker Lundy’s Pioneer Press.
Our living (and/or dying) language
Including: So . . . worse than, like, you know, sort of tons of iconic . . . literally whatever!
Writes Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “It’s so interesting to observe the ever-changing elements of language. For instance, we have always had an introductory word to use before launching into a full sentence. For some time it was well, followed by a thoughtful pause, and then the statement. Then it was the word so. Now I am noticing the use of the words I mean. [Bulletin Board observes: So outnumbers I mean by at least 10 to 1. So is almost as ubiquitous as like.]
“Another change is the frequent use of the word unpack, as in ‘let me unpack this for you.’ Listen for it.”
Band Name of the Day: The Crabby Grandmas
Website of the Day: John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive (background here)