Let’s time-travel back to the ’50s, in the “Halloween Capital of the World”!

Then & Now
Halloween Division

Then, Booklady: “With Halloween celebrations severely curtailed this year, I retreated to my memories of growing up in the ‘Halloween Capital of the World,’ Anoka.

“It was a good time to be a kid in the ’50s, and Halloween was pretty well scripted. Trick-or-Treating was discouraged because the whole town was involved in celebrations.

“The three grade schools and the handful of country schools all participated in the afternoon costumed parade through town. I was always a walker, going home for lunch, so my siblings and I were able to change into our costumes at home and walk back in time for the bus ride to Franklin School to start the parade. Because we could count on the weather being fickle, our costumes always incorporated room for extra layers. Depending on the year, we marched in sunshine or rain or snow. We were kids. We didn’t mind.

“There weren’t store-bought costumes in those days. My mom usually made our costumes or adapted some available clothing for the purpose. I was a nurse, a princess, the Good Fairy (who turned my brother into a lion), among other things. One of Mom’s memorable efforts was the octopus costume she created for my brother Tom, made from old dyed sheets and featuring stuffed tentacles and spots.

“By the time I reached junior high, I was in the band, so a uniform replaced a costume. The parade was still the highlight of the holiday, but at that point I added the evening parade to the mix. To me that was a rite of passage. Evening excursions weren’t a usual part of my life, and a parade full of floats and bands and lights and spectators was exhilarating! The festivities ended at Goodrich Field, where The Pumpkin Bowl football game ended the day.

“An Anoka Halloween in those days included princesses from each school and a special performance at the high school (there was only one back then), followed by a bag of candy. The program and candy were sponsored by major employer Federal Cartridge, thanks to owner Charles Horn, who was so supportive of the community. The only program I remember specifically featured an over-the-hill cowboy ‘star’ who had a very erratic performance. I was about 9 or 10 at the time and had no experience with the actions of someone under the influence.

“Trick-or-Treating had crept into the celebration by the time I was in high school. My dad created some special effects one year, which terrorized the little kids. Oops. He also had a very special treat for the son of one of his hunting buddies. Dad put a much larger treat in Lee’s bag and waited, chuckling evilly, to see the boy stop at the curb to check. Then we heard the delighted yell: ‘Hey, you guys! I got a DUCK!’

“I miss the simpler times, when we were content with less. The parades, the band’s ‘snake dance’ through town, home-made costumes and family time. Good memories.”

And now, Mounds View Swede: “I took a look at the places that had elaborate Halloween displays last year to see what they are doing this year.
It looked like they had added a lot of new ideas.

“The graveyard scene was similar, but the animal skeletons on the tombstones were new to me . . .

“. . . and included a bunny along with the many heads.

“Disembodied hands were new, too. I wonder if they light up at night.

“A glow-in-the-dark skeleton was new. . .

“. . . and the witches ‘hanging around’ were new, too.

“That house has a second three-car garage way in back of the house, so there are places to store all this stuff.

“The second house that caught my attention last year had a more elaborate display still going up. The stronger wind was blowing some things over.

“This skeleton doesn’t seem friendly in spite of its big grin.

“And it looks like the garage is set up to disperse the candy through a chute.

“This lady seemed pretty upset; probably a loved one’s grave.

“I asked the owner who Pete was, but it was just a name.

“I passed this house that I hadn’t noticed before for Halloween decorations and saw a mixture of fun and grim scenes. Lots of smiling pumpkin faces here . . .

“. . . and the witches looked like they were having a good time with the sweets.

“The ghosts were more menacing.

“And this body rising out of its coffin had a big mouth.

“An insect like this would be scary anytime.

“Fortunately, this guy didn’t stand very tall and didn’t seem so scary. Had really big feet, though.

“I liked the happy ghost . . .

“. . . but this skeleton coming out of the dead leaves, not so much.

“Some of these scenes would be best done in the dark, but I had to be home to answer the door, so passed on it this year.”

War & Peace
Including: In memoriam

John in Highland writes: “On Veterans Day I remember my late father-in-law, Walter Lewis, and one of his friends.

“Walt was 20 years old when the U.S. entered World War II. He wanted to join the military, but was rejected by the Army because he was color-blind. Determined to do what he felt was his sacred duty, he memorized the color charts and was accepted into the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC).

“Walt was trained as a meteorologist, and his unit was involved in ‘island-hopping’ across the South Pacific. While stationed on Green Island, he developed a friendship with another meteorologist named Russell Hill. Both were involved in flights over Japanese-occupied territories to assess weather conditions.

“Walt had only a small black-and-white photo of his fiancee back home, Phyllis Garr, from Wadena, Minnesota. Russ was an amateur painter, and he offered to paint a larger, color version of Walt’s photo.

“On an ensuing information flight, Russ’s plane was shot down and he never returned. Walt wrote a letter to Russ’s fiancee telling her of his friendship with Russ and his bravery in flying dangerous missions.

“Walt’s unit made it all the way to Okinawa and the end of the war in the Pacific. He came home, married his sweetheart and had a family of his own. Russell Hill never made it back.”

The highfalutin amusements
And: Gee, our old La Salle ran great! (responsorial)

Semi-Legend: “Subject: THE GOOD OLE DAYS.

Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake’s MEMORIES OF THE GOOD OLE DAYS and MEMORIES from a friend, including Blackjack chewing gum, wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water, and candy cigarettes, reminded me of this song”:

Our theater of seasons

Doris Day: “Subject: Fall photography.

“My cousin Herman, an avid duck hunter for 54 years, enjoys the experience. Here are some recent photos from the Trempealeau (Wisconsin) River bottoms.”

Our theater of seasons (responsorial)

LindaGrandmaSue of St. Cloud: “Subject: Droplets pictures.

“I loved the pictures of leaves in the most recent post.

“A Facebook group I joined had a similar post. Here’s what they came up with.”

Could be verse!

Life as we know it (Coming of Age Division [encore])
Or: In memoriam

The death of Sean Connery reminded MAR of this piece of his, first published here (and in the Pioneer Press) in February 2017. We have enjoyed it again, and invite you to do so, as well: “It all happened at my friend Peter’s 13th-birthday party.

“Peter, his mom, his older brother, David, and perhaps 10 of us close friends all headed out to the Basil Theater one Saturday afternoon in late December 1965. We were going to see Sean Connery in ‘Thunderball.’ At that point, on the verge of adolescence (kids stayed young longer back then), we were all confirmed Sean Connery fans, having already sat mesmerized, slack-jawed, through ‘Dr. No,’ ‘From Russia With Love,’ and of course ‘Goldfinger.’

“‘Thunderball’ did not have a scantily clad Shirley Eaton gilded in gold paint, or a rock-hard bodyguard with a steel-brimmed hat as a weapon; nor did it have Ursula Andress in a ripped toga scampering across a rocky shoreline. But it did have our man Sean, all six-pack abs and bulging triceps, bending over a scantily clad Claudine Auger and biting a stingray quill out of her bare heel, as well as a nifty behind-the-back spear-gun shot and some really cool motorized underwater sleds. Hey, give us some popcorn and sugary carbonated drinks, and we were as close to Heaven as a bunch of 12- and 13-year-old boys could be in the Midwest in 1965, short of sneaking peeks at our dads’ ‘hidden’ Playboys.

“Then it happened. After the movie, we all filed out, stunned by the climax of the film and riding our sugar highs. Someone — I don’t remember who — went into the men’s room at the theater to relieve the soft-drink pressure that had mounted up. He came back out seconds later, wide-eyed, and silently motioned to a few of us to follow him back in. We did, as coolly as we could,so as not to upset Peter’s patiently waiting mother. Then we totally lost that coolness. Gone. Once in the men’s room (really, for these purposes, it should be more properly termed a boys’ room), we stood around in a semi-circle and silently stared at it. There it was, resting in the middle of the boys’-room floor: a woman’s black bra, cups up, straps flung out to the side. We gaped; we squinted; we moved our heads slightly left and right to see if we could get the darn object in focus, see if we were indeed processing this correctly.

“Yep. It was a bra, all right. No doubt about that. And it was black and sitting up there proudly, in the middle of the floor, dutifully awaiting the intense scrutiny of 10 adolescent boys. How it got there, who brought it, who left it, who it belonged to, how it GOT there (!) — these questions went unanswered at the time. After a few minutes, or moments — time was lost to us — we filed back out of the boys’ room. We did not look at each other. We did not mention the occurrence to Peter’s mom, or to the attendants at the theater. We only walked out of the theater in a hush, without talking about our discovery, even amongst ourselves, as we soon enough lost that blindingly intense sense of wonder in the fuzziness of birthday cake and presents and general birthday tomfoolery.

“That was more than 50 years ago. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I’ve thought about that day many, many times with a full range of emotions and possible formative conclusions. But I’ve never figured out how that bra made it into that theater that day, amazing a bunch of boys who were already too far gone on James Bond to BE more amazed.”

“So that is the story of the lost bra. I will never be that young again. Alas.”

Life as we know it
Pandemic Division

The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield: “Hope you’re safe and well. We’re . . . . fine. Well, nobody is really fine, right? I’m trying to have some grace with myself and realize that pain is pain. We’re all in pain. Nobody is going to get a brighter gold star after all this is over for enduring more pain than someone else. So if we just realize that everyone is hurting, we’ll all endure this a little bit better.

“I’ve got a goal list for the coming long winter, and I’ve got daily checklists to make sure I take care of myself (and my family), but I’m really going to try harder to have gratitude, and also to do something nice for someone (both inside & outside my family) every day — I heard an interview with Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos, who teaches a class on happiness, and she said that changing your situation (winning the lottery, achieving the promotion, etc.) doesn’t really improve your happiness, but doing something (no matter how small) for other people, or having a meaningful exchange with a stranger, does.

“Anyway, here’s what made me happy today: ‘Nature’s Witness: National Wildlife’s 2020 Photo Contest Winners.

“Stay safe.”

Life (and death) as we know it
Pandemic Division

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Coping With Now.

“My church has a tradition in November. Near the altar, we set pictures of those we have lost; we take the pictures home before Thanksgiving. We also normally have a small ceremony for grievers in November; I attended it in the years when I lost my parents. It is a way of recognizing losses before the (Happy!) Holidays.

“This year my church has lost, to old age, three of our oldest wise women. There will be empty seats in our church when we (hopefully!) return for services — though meanwhile we are lucky enough to be able to have live-streamed services on Sunday mornings, and at least one live-streamed funeral Mass in the church that could be viewed from afar. Mourners in another state were especially grateful that they could ‘attend’ it. I figure some version of this may continue after the shutdowns, for those who can’t get into our church.

“This year I learned something from protest marchers who chanted names of deceased people. I felt the power of saying names of those who’ve been lost — much as this year, I recite the names of people whom I already miss, along with celebrating the beautiful babies being born.

“My dad died in early November. Our family visited him in his last days, though he appeared not to react. On October 31 I told him that I was leaving because it was Halloween, and I needed to help the kids celebrate. He was gone when I got back.

“This year’s holidays were and will be different from the past for most of us. But in this (hopefully one) year out of time, I think folks are figuring out alternative traditions, and ways to help kids with issues like Santa deprivation anxiety.

“Many children will notice differences, and some people will be alone for the first time. Though some are not sorry about missing their families. I figure some impact of 2020 will live on, if only in horror stories to impress younger folks.

“There will be many stories to tell about what we faced and how we handled Our Now — which might give future generations clues to how to handle crises. I have never understood how people lived through the Great Depression, so I am watching the different ways people are coping.

“Meanwhile, I want to share my favorite quote and personal mantra by John Henry Newman, which really fits this year: To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.

“Maybe we’re all supposed to be perfect?”

Ask a silly question . . .
Plus: The great comebacks (Pandemic Division)

Rusty of St. Paul: (1) “During one of my regular Zoom meetings with my mates, the three of us did not have a good answer for the question of a fourth: ‘Can a short person be a Longshoreman?’

“As I typed this, I had a question — from Rusty to Rusty: ‘Is a woman who unloads ships called a “Longshorewoman”?’ According to several sites on the Internet: No. She is called a ‘Woman Longshoreman.'”

(2) “My brother and his wife are taking a vacation from retirement. They are hiding out and relaxing in northern Wisconsin.

“My sister-in-law texted me around Happy Hour that she was drinking red wine and took a COVID test.

“I am a very concrete person. Thus gullible. If you tell me something, I take it at face value.

“I was wondering why on earth would she be taking a COVID test at this time of day, in a home, and many miles from where she lives. She is a retired nurse, so I thought maybe she knew something I didn’t or had some connections to testing up there.

“I was curious, so had to text: ‘Why a COVID test?’

“Her answer: ‘You pour a glass of wine, smell it and taste it. If you can still smell and still taste the wine, you don’t have COVID. I have tested twice tonight just to be sure.'”

Now & Then (responsorial)

The Farm Boy of St. Paul: “Grandma Pat‘s contribution of ‘Rules for Teachers’ in 1915 — which may or may not be genuine — led off with this admonition: ‘You will not marry during the term of your contract.’

“That reminded me of a first-person account related by a long-passed family member. During her time teaching in St. Paul, it was permissible for teachers to be married. However, if the teacher found herself contributing to future enrollment increases, there was a stipulation. ‘If we were having a baby, we had to take off an entire year,’ she explained. ‘So we showed them. We tried to have a second one before we went back to work.’

“I know what you’re thinking. But no, that’s the German side of the family.”

Then & Now
Or: The Permanent Family Record

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Memories from the photo album:

“The little blondie is 18 now, so she and her sister are both old enough to vote in this year’s election. I took this photo of the three of them skipping across the green grass back in the olden days, when hand-holding was allowed and Grampa could still skip.”

This ’n’ that

From Al B of Hartland: (1) “Back when I could still spit in the palm of my hand before an official handshake, a cafe owner told me there were two things he never washed. One was his grill. I didn’t ask what the other was. His hamburgers were the best I’ve ever eaten anywhere, and my favorite grease-delivery system. He told me his secret was the grill. When I ate a burger there, I was eating the history of burgers.”

(2) “The weather turned cold, and the starlings moved in like Cousin Eddie’s family in the ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ film series. They were numerous, loud and argumentative creatures with prodigious appetites.”

Our pets, ourselves

Doris Day reported: “Boris Day is performing the manual clock-changing ritual on those that aren’t smart enough. We have hit a snag, though. Boomer the cat insists that it’s time for his pill and treat. Neither of us can find the button to reset him!”

“Purr/Licks Paw. =^••^=”

And now The Astronomer of Nininger: “Harper, our good-natured Weimaraner, eats her evening meal on schedule. Every day at 5 o’clock, she comes to find me and let me know it is time to eat. If I am at my desk, she will come in, sit erect by my right side, stick her nose under my arm (which usually is attached to a computer mouse), and lifts it upwards. Then she will grab my arm with her paw and sort of pull me away from the desk.

“Now that Daylight Saving Time has caused time to be set back an hour, she wants to eat at 4 o’clock. Oh My!”

Could be verse!

An October 31st “timerick” from Tim Torkildson: “I will brave the winter snows / or if a tornado blows / still my ballot I shall cast / even though I am harassed / I will exercise my right / even if it seems so slight / I want Washington to hear / my small voice both loud and clear!”

And another: “I’m growing old so gracefully / I’m like a stately oak / my acorns have all fallen / and my branches are quite broke / my bark is wrinkled from the years / my sap is rather thin / there’s beetles boring into me / I’m rotten from within /O Axeman, when you get to me / be gentle and be quick / don’t turn me into toothpick / hanging from some lowlife’s lip!”

If you don’t laugh, you might cry! (responsorial)

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Bierce is back!

“Reading Zoo Lou‘s quotations about politics reminded me that I hadn’t checked out my favorite misanthrope, Ambrose Bierce, in a long time. He didn’t disappoint:

“‘Politician, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.’

“‘Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.’”

The great comebacks

Email from Donald: “Subject: Barbershop wisdom.

“As I settled into the chair after a prolonged absence from the barbershop, I commented that my wife had said that if I didn’t get my hair cut soon, she’d take me to a dog groomer.

“As he adjusted the chair, Tony, with his razor-sharp wit, quipped: ‘Tell her that would be much more expensive.'”

Band Name of the Day: The Lost Bras

Website of the Day: “The Devil’s Dictionary” (online)