Including: Thirty Nanoseconds of Fame
Zoo Lou of St. Paul: “Subject: Meeting Hank Aaron.
“Reading about the recent passing of baseball legend Hank Aaron took me back to May 30, 1974, and one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
“Aaron and the Atlanta Braves were in town for an exhibition game with the Twins that cool, damp evening at Met Stadium. I was there to take pictures for the Sun newspaper of a South St. Paul grandfather who would be presenting Aaron with an elaborate scrapbook that chronicled Hammerin’ Hank’s storied career from his earliest days in organized baseball.
“While I was sitting in the Atlanta dugout and having a spirited and funny conversation with two Braves players (they were real cards), longtime Twins publicity director Tom Mee waved me over. And the next thing you know, I was shaking hands with Hank Aaron himself, who had just broken (on April 8) Babe Ruth’s home-run record of 714, probably the most revered accomplishment in sports. I said it was a real privilege to meet him, and he smiled and said it was nice to meet me.
“As we got ready to take pictures, I remember the grandfather being very nervous. Hank put his hand on his shoulder, and they sat down and began paging through the book. Soon they were smiling and laughing like old friends. That warm gesture was a true measure of Hank’s character.
“Then came an unexpected thrill. Hank and Harmon Killebrew had a home-run contest. Tom Mee said it was all right for me to get close to the plate for pictures. From this unique perspective, I was witness to the power generated by these two incomparable sluggers: Hank with the effortless swing propelled by strong wrists, and Harmon whipping the bat with those blacksmith-like arms and hands.
“Suddenly, everything seemed surreal, like some incredible dream. Here I was, a few feet from Hank Aaron and Harmon Killebrew, as they launched ball after ball into the night air. Are you kidding me?
“I don’t remember who won the contest, and neither did Killebrew when I met him years later. But he did say it was a real honor to know an outstanding player and fine gentleman like Hank Aaron. [Bulletin Board interjects: We know who won that home-run derby. The winner was Zoo Lou of St. Paul!]
“Just before leaving, I spotted Hank and Harmon sitting with sportswriter and radio announcer Bob Utecht, who founded the ‘Let’s Play Hockey’ newspaper. As I focused on their faces, they all laughed at the same time. It was a beautiful picture, fully natural, and the perfect way to remember all three men.
“From my brief encounter with Hank Aaron, I not only saw a legendary athlete, but a friendly, down-to-earth man who endured unspeakable abuse and hatred to become a symbol of strength and dignity in sports and for all mankind.”
Where we live
Sports Fans Division
John in Highland: “”My friends Bob and Ray (not the comedy duo) and I drove all the way to Houston in ’74 to watch the Vikings lose their second Super Bowl, to Miami. Who could forget Oscar ‘I don’t fumble’ Reed fumbling away any chance of catching the Dolphins? As we fans all know, the Vikes went on to lose two more, setting the record for losses at four.
“Fans in Buffalo must be breathing a sigh of relief after their team lost and will not represent the AFC in this year’s Super Bowl. The Buffalo Bills have managed over the years to tie the Vikings with four Super Bowl losses. And with their ‘breakout season’ this year, they were once again in the playoffs and had a chance to set a new record of five losses. The Bills can join the Vikings in saying ‘There’s always next year!'”
BULLETIN BOARD NOTES: When John refers to Minnesota’s and Buffalo’s Super Bowl haplessness, he means that they share the record for losses without any wins. The New England Patriots, of all teams, hold the record for Super Bowl losses, with five — along with their six Super Bowl victories.
We were rooting for a Buffalo triumph on Sunday, in part because we were prepared to offer The Buffalo News a great headline for Super Bowl Sunday: “BILLS PAST DUE.”
Dept. of Neat Stuff
Bubble Light Division
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “The Noma Electric Corporation invented the bubble light in the 1940s. Its ‘bubble-lite’ hit the market for Christmas 1946 and was an immediate hit. In its basic form, a bubble light has a two-colored plastic base containing an incandescent light bulb that heats a candle-shaped vial containing a colored liquid. The heat from the bulb makes the liquid boil, producing bubbles.
“A Nostalgia Series of Noma bubble lights was released about 10 years ago. The box was a variation of Noma’s classic packaging : a little girl looking with amazement at a bubble light on a Christmas tree with the words ‘WATCH THEM BUBBLE.’ That says it all. No other hype or fancy marketing slogans have ever been necessary.
“The bubble light shown on the box is the type I grew up with. The base is about 2 inches tall and 2 inches in diameter. The top and bottom sections are combinations of red, green and yellow. The bubbly part is 2.5 inches tall with a 3/8-inch diameter. The liquid is usually red, yellow, green or blue. The liquid is the same as that found in Drinking Birds, methylene chloride, which has a low boiling point of 104 degrees F. This is why a small light bulb can make it boil. The most recent bubble lights I purchased came with a sheet detailing the many safety hazards associated with methylene chloride. No one ever said collecting Neat Stuff was without risk.
“Bubble lights hit their peak in popularity in the 1950s and ’60s, but almost disappeared as the large incandescent bulbs for Christmas trees were replaced by mini-lights and then LEDs. But as often happens, everything old is new again, and they have made a comeback in a variety of shapes and designs and for holidays other than Christmas. There is even a fake version that uses an LED for the light source and a solid plastic tube with built-in bubbles, but those could never be considered Neat Stuff.
“While bubble lights look OK as decorations in the daylight, it is when they are lit and bubbling that they really shine. I discovered a couple of things when I started taking pictures of my bubble light collection. First, it is very difficult to get a decent photo that captures the bubbles, and second, I have an awful lot of bubble lights, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Here are some bubble lights in action.
“It is hard to top the traditional bubble lights.
“Like many other Christmas decorations, bubble lights have been adapted for Halloween.
“Even Thanksgiving has gotten in on the act, with turkeys and houses (maybe grandmother’s house?).
“The Peanuts gang has their own take on the bubble light, with glitter replacing the bubbles. These were sold as nightlights by Walgreens.
“Someone came up with generic bubble lights that have a clear plastic base. These are so bright that they are annoying to look at and make the bubbles extremely difficult to see.
“Another variation is a large version of the traditional bubble light. It is 6.5 inches tall, with a base about 3 inches in diameter. They are too heavy for even an artificial tree and don’t always bubble. I’ve never found a good use for them.
“Sears (remember them?) sold a mini-version for a brief time in the 1980s. They looked like a gumball with a birthday-cake candle stuck in it. They weren’t fancy, but they worked and were heated by a 12-volt mini-light that could be replaced when it burned out. None of the original bubble lights had replaceable bulbs.
“For the past five years or so, Menards has been selling another mini-version of the bubble light. They also use replaceable 12-volt mini-bulbs but look like the original Noma ‘bubble-lites’ from the 1940s.
“It is surprising how many types of bubble lights are now available, both new and used from various online sources, usually at ridiculously high prices. I’ve gotten most of mine at Menards and Fleet Farm at very reasonable prices. You can’t beat stores that sell duct tape and WD-40 for all your Neat Stuff needs.”
Now & Then
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Watching my generation get arrested on C-SPAN3.
“C-SPAN3 has been playing lots of old news films, etc., under the title ‘Reel America.’ You can access them from the C-SPAN website, if you don’t subscribe to cable TV.
“Just now I saw a 1971 training film for policemen called ‘The Whole World Is Watching.’ It focuses on D.C. policemen arresting many, many antiwar protestors in April/May 1971. It might sound funny, but many of the protestors look so darn clean-cut now. Compared to later protests, they seem very law-abiding.
“Back in 1969-70, I had a major crush on a student from California. He had long hair (covering his ears) and wore a jacket that had fringe on it. I was impressed by his radical chic.
“And, BTW, I never heard of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) until I was in the May 1970 protest march down Summit Avenue. The group at the back of the parade was very loud. I was told they were the SDS, placed in the back by the organizers. A friend of a friend from Madison, Wisconsin, kept marveling at the peacefulness of our parade.
“Ironically, I was a student in Madison a few years later, hearing about their protests. And learning how to survive tear gas. I hope I’ll never need to use that advice.”
Then & Later
The Happy Medium: “Subject: When work was work.
“When we were growing up in rural Wisconsin, each Monday was wash day, no matter what.
“Mom made sure we were off to school before she started her day’s work. She would pile the dirty clothes, by color, on the kitchen floor. Early that morning, she heated water on the wood cook stove, then carried it to the Maytag wringer washing machine. Beside the Maytag was a square multi-gallon tub for rinse water.
“Mom started the wash day with the whites and progressed to washing the overalls and other dark items, replenishing the hot water as the morning/day progressed. Yes, sometimes that Maytag hummed at its job the entire day. Six children and two adults can dirty a lot of clothes in one week’s time.
“Once the clothes were washed and rinsed, they were hung on the clothesline, strung between two trees. Wooden clothes pins were used to secure the items to the rope. Mind you, this process of hanging the clothes on the lines took place all year long — spring, summer, fall and winter. The winter job of hanging the clothes on the line was hard on the hands, to say the least. Mittens or gloves couldn’t be used because the clothes couldn’t be gripped properly to secure them to the rope.
“During the winter months, after the clothes had been frozen on the line for some time, they were carefully, so they wouldn’t break, carried into the house and layered over the wooden clothes rack, which stood over the central heating vent. Quickly, these clothes dried, emitting that fresh winter aroma throughout the house. Febreze or any other air freshener wasn’t needed to make the house fresh as the fresh outdoors.
“When everything was dry, the items needing folding were folded, and those needing ironing were ironed. And there was a lot that needed ironing at that time: hankies and pillowcases as well as a variety of clothes. Yes, hankies and pillowcases were once ironed. Later, that practice was given up, and wash-and-wear clothing was purchased. The iron collected dust.
“It wasn’t until most of us younguns were on our own that Mom got a washer and clothes dryer. Gone was the Monday wash-day ritual. Now she could wash clothes any day of the week and dry them without ruining her hands, winter or summer. I don’t know if that was progress or not, but she smiled a lot when doing a wash load on a Saturday.”
Then & Now
Paul from Oakdale writes: “Subject: Do fires burn things up, or burn things down?
“This story was told to me by my grandmother about 50 years ago, when I was a young teenager.
“In 1917, my grandmother’s family lived in a very small town in southwestern Minnesota. They lived in a typical one-and-a-half-story house of that time. The upstairs had a couple of small bedrooms, with slanted ceilings due to the roof. A narrow, twisting stairway led from the first floor to the upstairs bedrooms.
“There was a summertime thunderstorm, and a bolt of lightning struck the top of the house. The lightning started the roof on fire. The small town did not have a fire department, and the fire spread quickly to the attic. It was quickly apparent that the entire house would soon burn down. The only positive note was that initially, the fire was all in the attic and on the roof, and smoke and flames had not yet reached the rooms of the house. The heat and flames were rapidly burning upwards, and not as rapidly moving downwards.
“My grandmother’s father made the quick decision that the only hope of saving any of their possessions was to rapidly haul, and throw, as many of their possessions as possible out the front and back doors, onto the lawn. Chairs and tables, and pots and pans, and many other things were quickly thrown and hauled out those doors.
“With the fire not yet reaching the upstairs bedrooms, a couple of the men went up the stairs and began to throw things down the stairs, for the people downstairs to throw out of the house. The nicest piece of furniture in the upstairs bedrooms was a fancy oak dresser, with a mirror mounted to the top of it. It was only 3 feet wide, but stood over 6 feet tall. The men grabbed it and started hauling it down the stairs. Halfway down, it got stuck. The men pushed and pulled, and lifted and grunted, and it was still stuck. They realized that the mirror had not been attached to the dresser when it had initially been taken up into the bedroom. The fire was spreading, and their time was running out. They found that there was no way that they were going to get the mirror off of it while it was stuck in the stairway. Quite a lot of time had passed, and they were now about out of time. With one last big shove, though, it moved, and they got it down the stairs. It was the last thing that came out of the upstairs area.
“The fire did spread downwards, and eventually burned the entire house, right down to the basement.
“Within a year, my grandmother’s father had built a new and bigger house on the same site. The house needed to be bigger, in part, to accommodate a bigger,wider, and straighter stairway to the upstairs area.
“So why did my grandmother tell me that story 50 years ago? Because the dresser which had just been moved into my bedroom was that dresser, and mirror, that had survived that fire of 1917! After a number of moves in the last 50 years, that dresser is again now in my current bedroom!”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede: “I remember hearing the admonition not to eat yellow snow — usually referring, I think, to dog urine.
“With the last wet snow storm, I noticed a lot of yellow snow in my — and no doggy tracks to account for it.
“And it was around the trunks of every bur oak tree I have.
“It turns out that the tannic acid found on the oak bark also produces yellow snow.
“And it’s still not good for you to eat!
“I do not remember ever having seen this before, and the latest, very light snow has hidden it all again.”
The verbing of America
Donald: “During a segment about Super Bowl ads on a network news show, the reporter stated that ‘advertisers are trying to bandwagon their spots.’”
Live and learn!
A pair from LeoJEOSP: (1) “Subject: 15 years of smoking cigarettes.
“A three-day period of very bad bronchitis sent me to my doctor. He started me on Nicorette gum, and my last cigarette was October of 1985. I could hardly breathe on my way to the doctor, but the first thing I did after getting in my car was to light up a Kool cigarette.
“That is so dumb that after 35 years, I still can’t believe I did that.”
(2) “It was June of 1969, and it was hot and humid. I had recently acquired an electric guitar and an amplifier. My guitar was kept in my bedroom.
“My folks’ house did not have central air. The one family TV was in the only room with a large window air conditioner. My sisters were watching TV in that room. I could not practice there.
“The unfinished basement had a dehumidifier, so I chose to head to the basement. I had cutoffs and a T-shirt on and was barefooted.
“I brought my equipment downstairs and plugged my amp in. I turned the amp on and plugged my guitar into my amp’s input. I adjusted my strap and then touched the strings. I took the Lord’s name in vain as my hand touched my strings. The electrical shock was so intense that I threw my guitar to the floor and yanked the power plug to my amp. The guitar landed on an old mattress, so at least that was OK.
“That one thing you only do once!”
This ’n’ that ’n’ the other ’n’ the other
All from Al B of Hartland: (1) “A pileated woodpecker spent time in my yard. It appeared massive at the suet feeder. I’ve been a member of the American Birding Association (ABA) for a goodly number of years. The ABA is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, dedicated to recreational birding, primarily in the continental United States, Hawaii and Canada. Each year, the ABA picks its Bird of the Year. This year it’s the pileated woodpecker. How do you pronounce that? It’s wu̇d-pe-kər.” [Bulletin Board says: Very funny, Al B! Not that it matters, but we vote for ˈpī-lē-ˌā-təd.]
(2) “A blue jay flew in to the feeder, selected a peanut in the shell and flew to a tree. It flew back to the feeder with the peanut still in its bill. It dropped the goober onto the feeder and took another peanut more to its liking. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bird return food before. I suppose the best-if-used-by date of the peanut had expired.”
(3) “My morning started out with a shower. I hoped to clear the cobwebs from my mind. The invigorating stream of water hadn’t been hitting me for long before I noticed I wasn’t alone in the shower. What does a spider think when it finds a man in its shower? I can only know what I think and did. I said: ‘Good morning, spider, I hope you’ll have a pleasant day.'”
(4) “I noticed my shirt was a bit askew. Why should it be normal? I had buttoned it wrong. By then, I was out where people could see me on a warm January day. I had dressed in the dark. That’s my lame excuse, and I’m sticking with it. I had to decide which was the thing I wanted to do the least: taking the time to rebutton, or to look like a dork. I’d look like a dork whether or not my buttons found the proper buttonholes, and I needed to impress no one, so I greeted the world with my shirt off-kilter. I’m no worse for the experience.”
The highfalutin bemusement (responsorial)
Jane Doe of Circle Pines: “The story by GramB of Nisswa about the day she met Alexa reminded me of a few summers ago when my sister was visiting and was out on the front porch taking her cigarette break. She heard the neighbor across the street very loudly yelling and reprimanding someone. She knew he had a 3-year-old daughter and was ready to call child protection, since she was concerned for the little girl. When she came inside, I had to explain that he had been yelling at his very large dog (which she couldn’t see), who also had a female-sounding name.”
Joy of Juxtaposition
Cee Cee of Mahtomedi: “Subject: New item on the menu.
“Maybe I should try one of these.”
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: A thought before falling asleep.
“Isn’t it wonderful how well opposable thumbs work together?
“There’s a lesson in that for all of us.”
Band Name of the Day: Radical Chic — or: The Opposable Thumbs
Websites of the Day: Dr. Language Person’s Guide to Bird Name Pronunciations, Yellow Snow Causes and Risks (And Other Snow Colors), and