The Permanent Sisterly Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: The Bell Ringer’s Blue Light Special
“My middle sister, Edith, was the rambunctious kid in our family. Oh, she was kind and she was generous and she was full of ideas about how to have a good time, but she tested the patience of all of us on a daily basis.
“She was basically a healthy kid, except for being prone to a lot of ear infections when she was a teenager. I remember one long siege when the doctor suggested Edith be isolated to her bed. She wasn’t quarantined; he just wanted her to get complete rest, and he figured that this was the only way this boundless bottle of energy was going to get better.
“To say she was a demanding invalid would be an understatement. She was a pain in the neck — milking sympathy and attention to the utmost extreme. My blustering father, however, became a tearful sympathizer to anyone in pain. Daddy gave her a bell so that if the ‘poor little kid’ needed anything, she could just ring the bell and one of us would come running.
“It seemed as though that danged bell was ringing constantly, but she was always the neediest at dinnertime. Somebody had to jump up from the dinner table and run upstairs every few minutes to see what the bell ringer wanted this time: Her pillow needed fluffing; she dropped her movie magazine; her cocoa needed warming.
“She drove us nuts, and Daddy was getting mighty darn sick of having his dinnertime stories interrupted, so he found a better, quieter solution. He rigged up a blue light bulb to an extension cord, ran it all the way downstairs from her bedside and hooked it to the chandelier over our dining-room table. He took the bell away from her and told Edith to just pull on the string and we would see the light. He was very pleased with himself, and the first time that blue light came on, Daddy himself ran up to find out what ‘the little darling’ needed. He came back down and maybe managed two bites when the light came on again. He motioned to one of my siblings to do the running while Daddy continued eating and telling us his stories.
“Daddy was the master of all the dialects of the immigrant laborers who worked on the construction jobs with him. He was in the middle of a funny story about one of his Scandinavian pals as Edith’s flashing became more insistent. We all pretended we didn’t see it, but it was no use. It was like eating dinner by strobe light.
“Daddy could take no more. He yelled ‘Yumpin Yeezuz!’ We thought it was part of his story until Daddy jumped up on his chair and with one foot on the dinner table to balance himself, he reached up and unscrewed that blankety-blank blue light bulb. Dad had the air blue enough.”
The Permanent Sonly Record
JamesTheGreater writes: “Subject: One more song . . .
“Many Sundays, I am a church-choir widower as MyBetterHalf sings either with the choir or as a cantor. Sometimes, my older son, YoungMasterLuke, is up on the altar keeping the servers in step and the incense flowing. So that leaves me singing solo with my youngest, 6-year-old son, JamesTheLesser, who enjoys trying to sing also. Although he can sight-read some words, he mostly lip-syncs and hums along for now.
“As the service proceeds, he never fails to whisper deep theological comments to me, such as how long his yawns are during church, or to be amazed when he hears his mom singing solo.
“Yet his primary focus is always how many songs are left to sing before church is over. I usually count them up and add a couple more to the total, as the choir always has a couple extra Latin songs for good measure. Those Latin songs often have me lip-syncing and humming along . . .
“As we sing song after song, JamesTheLesser holds up fingers to denote the countdown to the end of service and so begin his freedom to roam outside the pew.
“Recently, as the congregation awaited the final blessing in silence and after a long countdown of songs, he excitedly raised his middle finger, waved it in my face and said loudly: ‘One more song, Dad?’
“I quickly switched his middle finger to the pointer finger and told him that yes, indeed, it was one song to the end of church and the beginning of donut Sunday.
“I’ll continue praying for an increase in his dexterity (dexteritas in Latin).”
Including: Fun (and Otherwise) Facts to Know and Tell (Cracker Jack Division)
Deuce of Eagan writes: “Subject: Cracker Jack, one of the most popular snacks in American history.
“What is the name of the young man pictured on the Cracker Jack box? Can you name his dog? Finally, a point of confusion is that the name on the box is Cracker Jack — NOT Cracker Jacks . . . so what do YOU call them?
“I wonder if any of the Bulletin Boarders still have some of the prizes (toys) that came one in each box? The 1940s through 1960s prizes are considered collectibles. There were plastic airplanes; locomotives; blimps; cars; dogs; space men; whistles; and even metal Monopoly movers.
“The young-boy mascot, whose actual name was Robert, was chosen to be on the box in 1916 by his grandfather, an owner of the company, and was branded as ‘Sailor Jack.’ The sailor connection was early advertising for the product; they touted the snack as a U.S. Navy enlistee’s favorite. Sadly, the young grandson died soon after his image appeared on the snack food’s packaging — a sudden and tragic death caused by pneumonia.
One of the partners in the company adopted a stray dog about 15 years later and arranged to have his dog’s image added to the packaging. Although he named the stray Russell, the name ‘Bingo’ was chosen for the packaging image. If any of you is thinking that Bingo is the same dog in the well-known children’s song whose lyrics include ‘There was a farmer who had a dog, and Bingo was his name-o . . .,’ it isn`t. That Scottish song is found on sheet music dated back to the late 1700s, so the song long precedes the molasses popcorn snack Cracker Jack.
“One of the reasons Cracker Jack and, by extension, Sailor Jack and his trusty dog Bingo are so famous is a short lyric in one of the most American songs ever written, ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame.’ The song written, by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tizer, was played [Bulletin Board says: is still played!] in baseball stadiums for years, celebrating the American pastime: ‘Take me out to the ballgame / Take me out with the crowd / Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack(s) / I don`t care if I ever get back / Well it’s root, root for the home team / If they don’t win it’s a shame / For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out / At the old ballgame.'”
Art imitates art
Semi-Legend reports: “Subject: Whatayatalk? Whatayatalk? Whatayatalk?
“Kevin Baker’s column ‘Losing My Religion’ in the March 2020 issue of Harper’s quoted from Carl Sandburg’s ‘The People, Yes:’
“‘Yes to the paradoxes of democracy,
“‘Yes to the hopes of government
“‘Of the people by the people for the people,
“‘No to the debauchery of the public mind,
“‘No to personal malice nursed and fed.’
“As I mentally recited it, I seemed to feel the same rhythms as Meredith Willson’s patter song ‘Rock Island’ that opens ‘The Music Man’:
“‘Cash for the merchandise, cash for the button hooks
“‘Cash for the cotton goods, cash for the hard goods
“‘Cash for the fancy goods, cash for the soft goods
“‘Cash for the noggins and the piggins and the frikins
“Cash for the hogshead, cask and demijohn.
“Cash for the crackers and the pickles and the flypaper.
. . .
“‘Gone with the hogshead cask and demijohn,
“‘Gone with the sugar barrel pickle barrel, milk pan,
“‘Gone with the tub and the pail and the tierce’
“A fun revisit.”
Life imitates art (responsorial)
Tracy M. Tolzmann: “Zoo Lou‘s recent musings on the excellent Laurel & Hardy bio-pic ‘Stan & Ollie’ and his recollections of watching the real thing with his young nieces is a testament to the true genius and artistry of the filmmakers at the Hal Roach Studios.
“This newspaper’s late Hollywood/movie columnist Bill Diehl founded the Twin Cities Laurel & Hardy club, the Block-Heads, with the help of a fellow SPPP staffer, editorial cartoonist Jerry Fearing, in March of 1966. The club is still going strong, with monthly dinners followed by two hours of the classic comedy of Laurel & Hardy and their contemporaries!
“The nonprofit and non-sense organization welcomes new members, and anyone interested is invited to contact me for information by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The world needs a laugh these days, and current comedy just doesn’t hold a candle to the gentle, sweet, and sometimes raucous comedy of the two best comedy actors who every lived, Stan Laurel and Oliver ‘Babe’ Hardy!
“I’m the Grand Sheik (president) of the Block-Heads, the third-oldest chapter in the international Sons of the Desert, the official L&H society.”
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “I recently received a call from Jim, a high-school classmate. The news was not good: Mike, from Roseville, another classmate, had died. It was hard to believe. I had talked with Mike just a week before, when he called to ask why I had missed the last two monthly meetings of our class. (Mike was our unofficial class secretary, and sent reminders of our gatherings.) I explained that I’d had family commitments, but I’d see him at the next one, on the third Monday of the month. I could never have imagined that would be our last conversation.
“Mike was soft-spoken, but people listened when he talked. He had a quick wit, and always brightened our gatherings with his humorous remarks.
“One of the things I’ll miss the most is the bantering back and forth when Jim and I, a couple of ‘Rice Streeters,’ would tease Mike about his grade school.
“He ran the ‘Great Minnesota Get-Together’ for many years. I always got a kick out of his license plate: ‘1BGTENT.’
“R.I.P., my friend.”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede has been out taking pictures again: “Like most folks, I think, I was happy to see the snow starting to melt. I was gratified to see the first green leaves of my pachysandra plants emerging from the snow, amazed as usual that they remain green while under the snow, ready to start using the sunlight as soon as they emerge.
“The early-morning hours of March 4 must have had some very large, delicate snowflakes fall. I wish I could have seen them.
“Why the snow starts to look like this as the temperatures start to warm remains a mystery.
“I enjoy just seeing such things and wondering about them.
Soon: “As the snow melted on our deck, I noticed the spots of light become larger and larger as the sun shone on them. I have always been in awe of the Northern Lights, but seldom see them. Now I can be in awe of the mini-points of light just outside my deck door.
“Sunday’s warm temps were doing quite a number on the deck snow. But why all the holes?
“At the end of the afternoon, there was just one spot of snow left. Why just this one? And how did all the other snow melt but not this bit, complete with its hole?
“More mysteries! And I am enjoying these oddities, never having paid much attention to this before.”
The little treasures (Volume 9) (responsorial) (responsorial)
The most recent Bulletin Board included this:
“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.”
We presently heard from David Sandels (continuing a 30-year tradition of almost never having an automotive identification go unchallenged!): “The ‘1910’ Ford Model T is really of a bit later manufacture, as the black radiator shell first made its appearance around 1916. The 1910 version would have been a square-shouldered brass affair. The headlights shown are really electric, but the lenses and bulbs have disappeared.”
There & Here, Then & Now
Deep South Division (cont.)
Papageno writes: “Subject: Growing up in the South.
“I thought I’d share one of my stories about growing up in the South.
“My father was Pastor of a a rather liberal congregation in Gainesville, Florida, in the mid-’60s. This is a University town, but at the time was caught up in the Civil Rights turmoil that was engulfing much of the country. My father was struggling to open the church to the concept of allowing ‘Negroes’ to join as members. It was puzzling to him that not only did he have to negotiate between the University crowd who were generally in favor and the townsfolk who were hard to convince, but he had a hard time finding black people who even wanted to join. The black community had their own churches and felt no need to flock to a white church, however welcoming it was.
“I was 12 years old. We had an older member, Mr E. Quite a kindly gentleman, he used to let my family come over and swim in his back-yard pool. One day after church, he approached me and said: ‘I have some errands to run, son. Ask your father if you can come help out.’ Bemused, I did so, and Dad said OK, so Mr E. and I set out. We spent the afternoon driving out into parts of Gainesville I never knew existed. Places without street signs, laced with dirt roads, sprinkled with scattered rundown shacks, outhouses, broken-down cars. At every stop we made, we were met with smiling black faces, and Mr. E. would haul a box of old clothing or canned goods from the trunk of his car. Everyone we met would say: ‘Oh, Massa E., you so good to us! Thank you, Massa E.!’
“I was deeply impressed. I reported to my father later how much Mr. E. obviously cared for the black people of Alachua County. My father replied: ‘Well, here’s the thing. Mr. E. wanted to send me a message. He wants me to know that he cares for black people as long as he is in a position of benefactor. He just doesn’t want to treat them as equals, and he doesn’t want them to be members of our church.’
“I learned a number of important things that day.”
Donald: “Subject: Get him a mask and a rabies shot!
“It may not be the worst TV commercial ever, but it’s certainly in the running.
“It’s the one with the guy licking Tina Fey’s face while she’s driving a car.
“Not only is that disgusting enough, but with the spread of the coronavirus, it’s (fill in the blank).”
Plus: Know thyself!
Tim Torkildson reports: (1) “Tried making chocolate brownie muffins, from my own improvised recipe. This is the result . . .”
(2) “Subject: The Art of the Siesta.
“Young people don’t realize how much hard work and preparation go into a good solid nap.
“First you have to empty your bladder.
“Then wash your hands for 10 minutes.
“Then put your phone on Silent.
“Shut your laptop and put it in another room.
“Check your pillow for death-threat notes. (Or is that just me?)
“Look under the bed for zombies.
“Drink a small glass of cold milk with a cookie.
“Wash your hands again.
“Shake head back and forth vigorously to remove any dried ear wax.
“Make sure there are no children within a 50-yard radius.
“Empty your bladder again.
“Use up some more of that precious precious hand sanitizer that the stores are now out of.
“But don’t let that worry you as you sink blissfully onto your bed — and start counting sheep . . . or reasons why the world now owes you a living.”
Life as we know it
Horntoad of White Bear Lake: “Subject: Lots of Lists.
“I write lists. I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember, and that’s quite a long time. I must have the organization/list-writing gene.
“There are tasks that need to be done, things that need to be bought, phone calls and messages that need to be made, appointments, fun things to do. A list is needed. I’d be lost without a list.
“I just rewrote the prior list I made. After scratch-outs, additions and re-prioritizing, that thing was a mess. Seems a do-over is needed about once a week. And yet there’s still about the same amount of items on it.
“I’ll always have a list. A little smaller sometimes, a little bigger other times. But that’s OK; I like to keep busy. And now I can scratch off my BB story reminder.”
What’s in a (band) name?
Helena Handbasket: “Subject: Band Name?
“The Lunging Vegans. (Thanks, Joe Biden.)”
BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: We think you ought to be thanking Jill Biden!
Everyone’s a copy editor
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: A three-team game?
“From the Sports section of the Thursday edition of the Minneapolis paper:
“‘Class 2A quarterfinals Thursday’
“‘#5 Hill-Murray vs
“‘#4 Mahtomedi ____________8 p.m.’
“‘ON THE AIR THURSDAY’
“‘2A boys: Hill-Murray vs. Moorhead 8 p.m.’
“That makes Hill-Murray’s State Tournament title all the more impressive.”
Life as we know it (responsorial)
A couple of Bulletin Boards ago, we brought you this missive from foreign correspondent Twitty of Como: “Greetings from across the seas!
“I haven’t posted much since my son died, a year and a half ago. I guess my heart wasn’t ‘in it’ for much of anything these past long months. A long time. I’m guilty — I’ve been getting up in the morning and just sort of going through the motions. But my wife had this trip planned . . .
“I didn’t want to go. I hemmed and hawed. I balked. I complained. Some of my issues were valid: It’s a 19-hour flight; it’s too hot and humid in the tropics; it would be expensive; I might be bored. All this I’ve done — and gotten sick each time! I’m too old now to enjoy getting sick again. Then there was this new coronavirus, not to mention a volcanic eruption to consider . . .
“But through it all, my wife held fast: She wanted me with her. I went.
“Well, the flight was smooth and effortless. We breezed through Customs and all the checkpoints, and her brother picked us up and took us to our pre-arranged lodging. It was after midnight by then. The next morning, the whole family came by, deliriously happy to see her and everyone trying to talk over each other. They woke me up with their laughter and talk. I dressed and came down the stairs. Everyone jumped up to greet me, smiling and laughing and patting me on the back, all talking at once. I confess, I got emotional.
“It had been 15 years since I’d seen the adults. There were three in-laws I’d never met, and, likewise, many new-to-me nieces and nephews. I was blown away. I caught myself smiling and laughing, picking up shards of conversation in a language I’m not fluent in and enjoying the sheer joy of being in their company.
“English is a seldom-used second language to them, but all were game to struggle through. We laughed at our mutual difficulties and were bonded by them. I’m a grandfather back home. I love playing games with my grandkids. So I happily played Uno with the nieces and nephews here. I had a ball. I think they had a ball. Their smiles and laughter are genuine and beautiful — and their wit, brilliant. Each day I find myself looking forward to seeing them again, and I know I will be deeply saddened when it comes time for us to return home. I will miss them dearly.
“If there be a lesson in this narrative, may I suggest this: Allow yourself to be open to challenges. Time passes, and things change — faster than we imagine sometimes. Now that I’m here, I already know I want to return before too much more change has transpired. I need to see these people again. This has been an unforgettable experience, and I owe it all to the persistence of my lovely wife in getting me here and to the kindness and acceptance of her extended family in going out of their way to anticipate and provide for our needs.
“Someone wiser than I once said: ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.’ It’s true. But sometimes the weight of those battles can be eased with a kind smile, a hug, and a caring demeanor. They gave me that, and I hope I gave that back to them.”
And in the meantime, we have heard from Grandma Dee of Moorhead: “Subject: Twitty of Como.
“I think the last time I submitted to BB was the last time Twitty of Como wrote about the death of his son. Something about what he writes touches my heart, so I am writing again.
“I am so glad that Twitty has people in his life who have brought him through the loss and that he was able to find some joy in the interactions with others across the seas. Kudos to Twitty’s wife for persevering and pulling him through to the other side. It is not time that heals, but those we interact with as time passes, that make all the difference. Still wishing you well, Twitty of Como.”
The Permanent Neighborly Record
Leading to: CAUTION! Words at Play!
Al B of Hartland: “I had a neighbor named Claude Bias. Claudie, as most called him, was one of those people who not only didn’t try to keep up with the Joneses, he was most comfortable lagging far behind them.
“Claudie didn’t have electricity on his farm. He had countless canines instead. He had so many dogs, I feared Claudie would succumb to a Roverdose. He didn’t.”
Band Name of the Day: The Demanding Invalids
Website of the Day: A classic story from the Silver Age of “CBS Sunday Morning”: