Now & Then
Or: Gee, our old La Salle ran great?
From Triple-the-Fun of Lakeville: “Last fall, my family took a stroll down memory lane when we went to visit my mom’s childhood home (which was a log cabin in the woods of northwestern Wisconsin). Mom has been gone for a few years, but her younger brother, my uncle, is alive and well, so he went along on our visit. He told us so many stories about growing up, many of which we’d heard before, but there were some unfamiliar ones, too. One in particular was rather stunning, so I thought it might be of interest to other BB’ers.
“This would have happened in about 1930, when my mom was starting first grade. Mom had to walk to the one-room schoolhouse alone. It was an exceptionally remote area, with just a few farms. Some of the land was cleared for farming, of course, but much of it was still wooded. It was a 2-mile walk to school if she followed the road (which was essentially two ruts), but it was shorter if she cut across some pastures and through some wooded areas. The problem was, there were wolves in the area. She was told the wolves weren’t really interested in people — they wanted deer — but she needed to be cautious, especially in the winter, when deer might be scarce and wolves more desperate. She was told that if she ever felt like she was being followed, it was probably wolves. She should just keep going and not look back.
“Even though she was told not to worry about wolves, there were still ‘escape’ trees (my term) in the area, just in case. The escape trees were trees that were particularly easy to climb, in case you needed to get away from a pack of wolves in an emergency. Pieces of metal were attached to the trunks of these trees so they could be spotted from a distance.
“While I don’t believe my mom ever needed to use one of the escape trees, she did have one rather close encounter with a wolf. One winter day, she walked to school, and when she got there, she found out the school was closed (perhaps the teacher was sick). So she turned around and walked straight back home. The snow was rather deep, so she walked in the same footprints she had made on her way to school. She hadn’t gone far when she realized on top of each of her footprints was a wolf’s paw print. In the short time between when she got to school and returned to walk home, a wolf had also walked in her steps — likely following fairly close behind her, although she never saw it.
“Things were really different back then, when you realize a 6- or 7-year-old had to be told how to avoid wolves before she started her first day of first grade! When I hear stories like this, sometimes I think maybe the good old days weren’t always so good.”
Fun facts to know and tell
Plus: Now & Then
John in Highland: (1) “Few Christmas toys from the 1950s have survived to the present day.
“Notable exceptions, however, are the metal toys made by Tootsietoy and Midgetoy. They were characterized by simple designs, especially for the cars. They were made with seven parts: a stamped metal body, two axles, and four hard rubber tires. We still have many surviving examples, and they are the favorites of the grandkids when they come over to visit.
“Midgetoy started as a defense-based precision tool-and-die business in Rockford, Illinois, during WWII. After the war, the focus shifted to toy making. By offering toys that were pennies cheaper than the competition, Midgetoys became a favorite in ‘five-and-dime’ stores. (Remember those? [Bulletin Board says: Alas, yes.]) The company ceased operations in the early 1980s.
“Tootsietoy had its beginnings as Dowst die-casting company in Chicago in the 1890s. It made miniature cars in the form of charms, pins, and cufflinks. Tootsietoy was registered as a trademark in 1924. The name came from one of the owners’ granddaughters, whose name was ‘Toots.’ The company also made metal pieces for Cracker Jack boxes and cast pieces for Monopoly games. Tootsietoy is still based in Chicago and produces 40 million cars per year.”
(2) “The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for certain segments of our economy. The movie industry has seen decreased attendance, resulting in closures of theaters and layoffs of employees, including projectionists.
“I once had a job as a part-time projectionist while stationed at the U.S. Army 33rd Field Hospital in Würzburg, Germany. The building that housed the hospital was huge, with a large auditorium/theater on the top floor. Current movies were shown every evening. The job of projectionist required a bit of training and skill, as each movie was on several large reels of film. Timing was necessary in tending the torches that provided the light for each of the two projectors, and in switching from one projector to the other at the end of each reel.
“In civilian life, our group of friends included one guy whom we regarded as our amateur movie critic. Raymond had a knack for picking out movies that were not box-office successes, but would become cult classics. If it weren’t for Ray, I probably would never have seen ‘A Thousand Clowns,’ starring Jason Robards.
“In the early 1970s, Ray alerted us to a new movie that we should see. I was immediately interested because the title was ‘The Projectionist.’ The title carried a double meaning, as the protagonist worked as a projectionist, and he also projected himself into the characters of movie stars, such as Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and James Stewart.
“The movie was the first for comedian Rodney Dangerfield. He played the disagreeable theater manager. You can tell that this was early in his career because he wore a dark suit and white shirt, but accompanied it with a black bowtie, not the red tie that would become a part of his signature outfit.
“Rodney was particularly nasty toward the workers whom he managed. The guy who ran the refreshment counter was from Czechoslovakia and had escaped the Nazis in WWII. Rodney tells him to keep the counter neat, or ‘I’ll send you back to the Old Country. And put more salt on the popcorn. You’ll sell more soda!'”
Not exactly what they had in mind?
Elvis: “COVID protocol list at a hotel where Elvis is staying: ‘Each employee will be administered a non-evasive digital temperature reading upon arriving to work each day.'”
Perchance, to dream . . .
Rusty of St. Paul reports: “I have some health stuff that puts me at high risk for COVID. If I catch it, I stand not to do well.
“During the pandemic, I have used ‘food as drug’ and have put on a lot of weight. Which has made my snoring worse — to the point where my wife has bailed for the downstairs bedroom.
“I wake myself up sometimes. In the morning, the bed has moved three feet from its starting position. There are new cracks in the plaster ceiling.
“This past night, I dreamt that I was hanging out somewhere, and every five seconds I heard the name ‘Jack!’ being said. ‘Jack! . . . Jack! . . . Jack!’ For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I was hearing President Kennedy’s name.
“Then I woke myself up.”
Keeping your eyes open
LeoJEOSP writes: “I have lived in Woodbury since 1999. There is a large retention pond behind the house. The pond adjoins five houses. I had never seen anyone using the pond for winter activities.
“I was surprised to see a young mom and one of her children shoveling the snow off the pond. A few minutes later, Dad appeared with a snowblower. Accompanying the three people was a very large black Lab.
“I could not help but smile.”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede has been out and about this new year: “Subject: A Sparkling Beginning to 2021.
“2021 got off to a sparkling beginning, with the bright sunshine on the new Christmas snow creating many points of light to catch my eye.
“I hope it is a sign of good things to come!
“The snow on the deck railing was topped with countless little ‘stars’ . . .
“. . . which were also scattered around on the deck.
“And here and there I could spot a different color as the droplet acted like a prism.
“Happy New Year, readers, and may your year be one of good health, too!”
Later: “After driving past the frosty or icy trees everywhere, I came with my camera the next time to see what was going on. I have not seen so many
interesting things like this to see and photograph for some time.
“Apparently these ice crystals continue to grow once begun and the foggy nights continue.
“And to find every little twig, branch, fruit and leaf decorated with this icing made it so interesting.
“These trees caught my eye and really stood out the first time I saw them. Snow wouldn’t work quite the same way where each branch is so well defined all around, not just one side.
“The red oak leaves really look special outlined in vivid white.
“And every little twig and stem had its share, too. Fun to see!”
Still later: “After another foggy night and below-zero temps, I decided to check out Arden Park ponds for the great variety of icy growth to see.
“These longer icy branches made an interesting pattern.
“And this reminded me of the flocked Christmas trees we had when I was young. They really can look this way in nature!
“The longer pine needles were interesting, too.
“As were some of the weed ends.
“I don’t know how flocking is done, but to have each needle so uniformly covered in ice would be difficult to duplicate, I would think.
“Jack Frost — or perhaps Jack Ice — has been really busy. Fun to see, and brightens up the environment on these cloudy days.”
CAUTION! Words at Play!
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: A heavenly query.
“A question regarding the afterlife: If a female member of a religious society dies and goes to heaven, does she become a ‘nun of the above’?”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: That’s the convent…ional view.
Or: Everyone’s a copy editor!
Email from Donald: “Subject: The over and under.
“From the ‘LOCAL’ section on Page 2A of last Monday’s Pioneer Press:
“‘IRS: Prince estate overvalued by 50%’
“‘The ongoing controversy over the money left behind by Prince when he died without a will is heating up again after Internal Revenue Service calculations showed that executors of the rock star’s estate undervalued it by 50 percent, or about $80 million.’”
BULLETIN BOARD CLARIFIES: The story is accurate; the headline is not.
Dept. of Neat Stuff
Drinking Birds Division (responsorial)
D. Ziner: “Subject: More on Drinking Birds.
“I don’t remember how old I was when the first Drinking Bird came to our house — likely too young to have been allowed to actually touch it. But that’s the beauty of that deceptively simple device: no need to touch it; just be willing to watch and wonder.
“Many decades and many Drinking Birds later, I’m still fascinated. And even though I got good grades in thermodynamics, I still feel the need to watch the tutorials on the technical aspects of the bird’s operation.
“I kept one on the shelf at work for many years and considered him a part of the team. He made people smile and aroused curiosity — both important ingredients for the creativity required to develop new products.
“After one of my ex-co-workers read Bulletin Board in Sunday’s paper with the submission by Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff about the Drinking Bird, I got an email with an update of that corporate bird’s successful move from one location to another. I suspect now that neither of us is still employed there, that Drinking Bird became an endangered species.
“I bought several Drinking Birds as gifts later on when I thought they would stimulate the STEM cells of my grandkids. But their attention spans were too short, and birds were no match for modern-day gizmos. After a few minutes, I was the only one marveling at the seemingly perpetual motion.
“The email got me to thinking that I still had a brand-new bird somewhere in the basement. This one is labeled as the Drinking Happy Bird, and he appears to be of a sub-species whose members are more finicky in their drinking habits. (His nose is shorter than some birds seen on the Internet, which could be the reason.) Whether he’s happier or not, I don’t know. He wants his water glass just so, and even when everything appears to be adjusted to his liking, he still wants to give the container a belly bump. He also doesn’t like to be on the living-room shelf and prefers the kitchen counter. When I steep my coffee near him, he pauses to watch and resumes drinking only after I move on.
“We are not exactly birds of a feather, but there are similarities. When it gets late and the house cools down, we both sometimes slow to a standstill, and a splash of water on our faces gets us both going in the morning. He may be fussy, but he does make a good companion during these somewhat lonely times, and I think I’ll keep him supplied with liquids at least until we are considered post-pandemic.”
Up, up and away!
The Astronomer of Nininger: “It was not until the summer of 1960, more than 60 years ago, that I experienced my first flight in a real airplane. It was a Boeing 707, with swept wings and four massive engines that propelled it faster than most other passenger airplanes of the day. Until then, my only connections to flying had come from what I dreamt about as I carefully crafted model airplanes and what I had read about aviators.
“Back in the ’40s and ’50s, we only had balsa-wood models, which I sanded carefully and sealed their surfaces to make them as smooth as glass before applying paint. Needless to say, I was not always successful. Aviators were somewhat special, heroic individuals who seemed daring, dashing and so darn cool. I think my favorite writer on aviation was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who made the magic of flight come alive for me. Likely it was not just because he was there, as a pilot himself, but as a poet who could make the images come to life and take me with him as he experienced different aspects of flying. I felt as if I was a co-pilot with him, sharing the controls, sharing the joys and the fears he described.
“Now, four years later, I drove my shiny blue Oldsmobile convertible to Vance Air Force Base at the edge of Enid, Oklahoma, where I would train to become a U. S. Air Force pilot! Within a couple of weeks of training, I was ready to solo. That initial solo is something special, and no pilot ever forgets it. It is not the flight itself. Most initial solos don’t involve anything more than three flights ‘around the flagpole’; i.e., three traffic patterns around the airfield with takeoffs and landings.
“I was fortunate to be the first in my class to solo. It happened so quickly that the small pool to throw the successful aviator into was not yet filled, so I was not doused at all. But that is not what it is all about. Adding full power and rolling down the runway, accelerating my eager craft, going faster and faster and faster yet, until the controls become effective. Easing back on the stick, and suddenly the nose lifts gently into the air and we (myself and the airplane, too) are flying! But the exhilaration of doing this was already back in my log of experiences. I had done this and felt that before. And, in a way, one feels that experience with every flight. What was really special is what it did to me.
“Here I was, a young man who had never even flown as a passenger four years before and now was actually flying, totally in control. It adds confidence, and building self-confidence builds leaders. If you think about it, similar exercises, like when your dad let go of the training wheels on your bike and then took them off completely, or when he gave you the keys to the car and let you drive solo, or even as a baby takes his or her first steps, all of these are just steps that build confidence. Knowing you CAN do something makes it possible to actually do it.
“Someday we will do things we’ve never done before. We will go to Mars, and we will explore the vastness of the solar system. And when we do, we will only be just beginning.”
Band Name of the Day: More Salt on the Popcorn
Website of the Day, recommended by Semi-Legend: “The Nextdoor website had a post from a Hiawatha neighbor,: ‘1940’s Minneapolis Newspapers. I am gutting a room in my house and there are loads of old newspapers from the 1940’s. Here are some pics I took from some of them. Hope you all enjoy a blast from the past :)’
“The pictures show mostly pages from March 1941. One picture showed a photo of Franklin P. Adams, a humor columnist of the New York Post, with news that he’d be the guest of Fred Allen on the ‘Texaco Star Theater’ program over WCCO at 8 p.m. that evening.
“Allen, a superb radio comedian, is mostly forgotten today. According to the Library of Congress: ‘Most famously he initiated a long-standing “feud” with fellow comic Jack Benny where the two traded barbs via their respective shows, and sometimes face to face. The fighting proved popular and long-lasting; it endured well into the late 1940s.’
“Here’s a sample of his humor, a run-in with Benny on stage”: