Life as we know it
Including: Fifteen (Times X) Nanoseconds of Fame
Waldo Windmill writes: “I was born in rural Wisconsin, the sixth of 10 children. Had we lived south of the Mason-Dixon line, my father would have been known as a sharecropper, but in Wisconsin he was said to farm on shares. He lost the only farm he ever owned during the Great Depression. It’s safe to say that money was scarce in our family and that we literally worked from hand to mouth as we enjoyed the fruits (and vegetables) of our labor.
“My siblings and I attended one-room schools, my five older brothers in Wood County, Wisconsin. None of them went on to high school, but instead worked either at home on the farm or on a neighbor’s farm, as was the custom in that vicinity. At the age of 10, I moved with my family to Sheboygan County, where we continued to farm on shares. I became the first member of the family to attend high school, only because that was the custom in our new neighborhood. I’m proud to report that I ranked academically among the top 10 in my graduating class — as did the other nine seniors. Upon graduation, I worked for two years in the local canning factory before Uncle Sam came calling.
“So indeed it was a Rural Rube who was drafted into the Army on election day of 1952. I had been out of Wisconsin only a couple of times, to attend Chicago Cubs baseball games, and I thought that pizza pie was a dessert. Now I was sent to Fort Sheridan, Illinois, for a month of orientation, then to Fort Riley, Kansas, for basic training.
“One day in early March 1953, I noticed a sign on the base inviting anybody who liked to sing barbershop harmony to gather that evening at the recreation building. I knew a bit about the art form and liked to sing, so I gave it a shot. What transpired that evening and in the days to come was a real-life fairy tale!
“The soldier who organized the sing-along was a fellow recruit who had also just arrived at Fort Riley. He had already been assigned to Special Services, the entertainment branch of the military, and he had decided to organize a barbershop quartet to provide entertainment on the base. The sing-along was scheduled to announce his intentions and to invite those interested in becoming a member of his quartet to contact him for an informal audition.
“Despite my quartet experience having been limited to a couple of evenings harmonizing with friends from church, I summoned the courage to throw my hat in the ring. Soon thereafter, I was shocked to learn that I had been chosen to sing lead (or second tenor) in the foursome, with Minneapolis John, the Special Services organizer, singing bass; Beaver Dam Bob finessing the baritone; and Cleveland Herb caressing the high notes. Our leader named the quartet the Hut Four, in deference to military marching cadence, and our adventure began.
“Our first performance was about six weeks later in Longmont, Colorado, at the Rocky Mountain District Barbershop Convention. En route, we stopped in Boulder, Colorado, to refuel. We then decided to visit Boulder Dam while in the vicinity, so we asked the station attendant for directions. Without changing expression, he nodded toward an east-west street, pointed west, told us to drive 700 miles and turn left. Oops! We were obviously not the first travelers to be unaware of the location (and the new name) of Hoover Dam. Embarrassed by our collective ignorance, we beat a hasty retreat and drove on to Longmont.
“Six weeks later, the Hut Four was one of 24 acts to audition for a trip to New York City to appear on the Army/Navy recruiting show, ‘Talent Patrol,’ hosted by Arlene Francis on ABC television. We were one of four acts chosen to perform on the show, which aired on September 9, 1953, and were selected as winners of the talent competition by a popular ‘judge’ of the day, the Applause Meter. As winners, we were granted a few extra days to see the sights. Moreover, I was introduced to pizza! Wow! Less that a year after being drafted, this Rural Rube experienced his first plane ride (the flight to New York) and his first pizza, not to mention being victorious in a talent contest televised live on a major network.
“Good fortune continued during the remaining months of our service commitment. During that time, the Hut Four, in our role as Army recruiters, competed on and won Arthur Godfrey’s ‘Talent Scouts’ show, performed on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ sang on another Army/Navy show, ‘Soldier Parade,’ performed at the St. Paul Winter Carnival, and represented the Army at the 1954 Barbershop Harmony International Convention in Washington, D.C.
“Furthermore, quartet members continued to enjoy their new-found hobby for many years after being discharged. In fact, I’m beginning my 69th year of membership in the Barbershop Harmony Society, and Special Services John and I sang together in quartets for 37 wonderful years. I’m glad I went to that sing-along at Fort Riley oh so many years ago!”
The Permanent Sisterly Record
Big Eek of Southeast Minneapolis: “Subject: In old Heidelberg.
“Sis was 15 months older than I. She was a schoolteacher. For excitement, she signed up to teach English in a dependency school in Metz, France. On a lark, she and two other teachers took a weekend trip by bus to Heidelberg in Germany. You know, ‘The Student Prince’ city.
“Their last evening there, they went to an establishment where there was music, dancing and liquor. The girls were sitting together when a pleasant-looking young man wearing a sweater with the word ‘Chicago’ on it approached them and, pointing at Sis, asked her if she could dance. Sis said: ‘Yes.’ Sis was a great dancer in high school.
“When they got up to dance, the orchestra leader announced that there was to be a dance contest. Fifteen couples took to the floor, including Mr. Chicago and Sis. ‘Just follow my lead,’ he whispered. The couples danced for a while until the judges started eliminating couples one by one. ‘Hey, we can win this,’ Mr. Chicago said, breaking out some new moves.
“He was right. They were the last couple standing. The other customers and the other dancers applauded wildly. Mr. Chicago was there with two pals, and the six of them finished off their prize: a huge bottle of champagne. The Chicago ‘hoods’ escorted the girls to the depot to catch their bus back to Metz and school the next day.
“Now there’s a tale to tell your children.
“Sis never married.”
Asked & Answered
French Dressing Division
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “As previously noted in Bulletin Board, it may take awhile, sometimes a very long while and a very twisted path, but some of life’s great questions eventually do get answered. This one concerns the recipe for a very special French dressing. I could make this short, but that would take all the fun out of the story.
“Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a restaurant named The Crest existed in the Hillcrest Shopping Center on the East Side of Saint Paul. It was probably the first real restaurant to which my parents took my brother and me. It offered ‘Dollar Dinners’ that came with a salad. My favorite meal was the fried chicken, and salad with French dressing. I wasn’t a fan of salad back then, but I loved the Crest French dressing. And then suddenly the Crest was gone, and so was that marvelous French dressing.
“I did what I could, which wasn’t much, to find the Crest French-dressing recipe (which will hereafter be known as The Recipe). However, I did get close in the early 1970s. While in college, I worked summers at the Toni Co. cafeteria. One of the cooks had been a chef at the Crest and owned a copy of its recipe book. I asked him for The Recipe. He was always going to bring it in, but kept forgetting. Let’s just say he had a number of problems which contributed to his forgetfulness, and he was soon gone. Missed it by that much.
“Life went on. The personal computer was invented in the 1980s. The Internet was invented by Al Gore (just kidding), resulting in the coming of the World Wide Web and web browsers in the 1990s. I began my search once again for The Recipe, without success. Then finally, in the 21st century, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, which made Zuckerberg a zillionaire and in the process totally polluted cyberspace.
“However, there are a few good things about Facebook, such as various groups devoted to local history. I joined a number of them, and the topic of the Crest Restaurant surfaced from time to time, but no one had any knowledge of The Recipe.
“Recently I joined another Facebook group, OLD ST PAUL HISTORY. Someone asked: ‘Does anyone remember the Crest Restaurant on White Bear Ave.?’ I dutifully replied yes and posted a photo of a Crest Restaurant matchbook cover I bought on eBay. I also mentioned that I had loved their French dressing. It turned out other people did, too. And then something wondrous happened. Someone posted that he had a copy of The Recipe and would post it if/when he found it. Now the story gets really weird.
“The post-er with The Recipe (let’s call him Bob, because that is his name) was someone I knew. He also lives in Dayton’s Bluff and takes photos of eagles, deer and other creatures that inhabit Indian Mounds Park. He posted these photos on an East Side Facebook page. We eventually realized that both of us regularly went to Obb’s Sports Bar & Grill for Sunday-morning breakfast and had met in person years earlier.
“I told Bob that if he found and posted The Recipe, I would treat him and his wife to breakfast when things got back to normal. He did, normalcy is returning and I paid my debt.
“But wait! There’s more to the tale. Bob had gotten The Recipe from his mother, who had asked for and received it from the manager of The Crest before it closed, because she loved the French dressing. She would make it in large quantities, bottle it and distribute it. One place it went was to a local Methodist church as her contribution to its annual potluck dinner. And where was that church located, you ask? It was and still is located one block from where I’ve lived for my entire life. It had been so close, and yet so far all that time
“And now, without further ado, and with Bob’s permission, here is The Recipe:
“‘Crest Restaurant French Dressing
“‘2 & 1/2 #10 cans catsup
“‘1/2 #10 can chili sauce
“‘1/2 #10 can tomato puree
“‘1/2 gallon white vinegar (add 1 quart at a time)
“‘2 quarts finely chopped celery
“‘3 quarts finely diced onions
“‘2 tablespoons minced garlic (or to taste)
“‘1 pound granulated sugar
“‘1/2 gallon vegetable or olive oil (add oil last)
“‘Mix with electric mixer (heavy-duty type) in above order until completely blended.
“‘MAKES 5 GALLONS!’
“It should be noted that 5 gallons is a lot of salad dressing. At the moment, there is a crack team of expert cooks working to reduce The Recipe to a more reasonable amount for home use. The first batch should be ready for taste testing in the near future.”
Where’ve you gone, Mrs. Malaprop?
Raindancer of North Oaks: “Subject: A loosey goosey?
“I had to laugh at a new post on my local ‘NextDoor’ site. Somebody was looking for help for an injured goose, and one helpful reader suggested that she call the ‘Rapture Center.’
“I’m pretty sure she meant the popular ‘Raptor Center,’ which does great work for injured birds. But on the other hand, I suppose if the bird’s hours are limited, it’s nice if it can go out happy….”
BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: It might go out happy, but a goose won’t go out a raptor!
God is in the details (and so’s the devil)
Or: Everyone’s a critic!
Zoo Lou of St. Paul writes: “Subject: The Suspension of Disbelief.
“In the 1994 comedy/drama ‘Ed Wood,’ which is about one of the worst movie directors of all time, Wood (Johnny Depp) is showing a group of financial backers around the set of his new production, ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space.’ When one of the backers comments on how cheap and phony the props look, Wood snaps: ‘Haven’t you ever heard of the suspension of disbelief?’
“Wood goes on to urge these skeptical gentlemen to focus on the entire movie experience and the storyline, and not to obsess about little things like cheap props. After watching ‘Plan 9’ my first and only time, years ago, it was so god-awful that I went insane trying to suspend my disbelief.
“It would be interesting to speculate whether Ed Wood, who died in 1978 at age 54, ever watched the popular TV series ‘The Fugitive’ (1963-67), about Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen), falsely accused of murdering his wife and on the run after escaping from a train wreck on his way to prison. Wood’s idea of the suspension of disbelief certainly applies to ‘The Fugitive’ because during the show’s 120 episodes, Kimble survives numerous dire situations, some of which are highly improbable.
“Consider this: It seems that in every episode, Kimble has a new name and job. Can you imagine how hard it would be to keep applying for a driver’s license and Social Security number without raising suspicions? And employers are sure to ask for references and background checks.
“I will say that if the good doctor encountered the long lines I’ve seen at the DMV, he might have just given up and turned himself in!
“And then at the end of each show, Kimble often has to go on the run with just the clothes on his back and little or no money. He’s sure to be dirty, disheveled, and badly in need of a shower, especially after walking long distances through rugged terrain and lonely country roads. How does he eat and get new clothes?Where does he stay? How does he get a job, looking rather seedy?
“In the one episode that really stretches the bounds of credibility, Kimble is recognized while working in a hospital, is shot by police trying to escape, and is put in the hospital under heavy guard. Despite a badly wounded right shoulder, he slips out of the x-ray room and hops into the back of a laundry truck (very convenient), which drives past several cops (they don’t check the truck) and to the laundry factory. Walking to the street in just a hospital gown, penniless, and in terrible pain, Kimble disappears into the cold, damp night. I’d love to talk to the show’s writers about how they think the good doctor will get out of this jam. Of course, in the next episode, Kimble is fit as a fiddle with a new identity. Did I mention he was a fast healer?
“I have been following ‘The Fugitive’ religiously for months at 1 a.m. Sundays on MeTV. I know it’s late, but I really care about Richard Kimble and Janssen’s stoic, enigmatic and tortured portrayal of a man’s exhausting struggle to stay free and prove his innocence. That’s why I can look past the improbabilities and practice the fine art of the suspension of disbelief, especially seeing a man walking down the street in a hospital gown and his arm in a sling in the middle of the night. Ed Wood would be proud.
“It’s interesting to note that the final episode of the ‘The Fugitive,’ which aired August 29, 1967, is the third-most-watched TV show in U.S. history.”
Our theater of seasons
More from Mounds View Swede: “Subject: Four more Lake Owasso spring photos.
“I gladly brought my camera with me when visiting Lake Owasso again. The water was a much deeper blue, which I thought was cool.
“And the eagle I had hoped to get a photo of was posing on a branch near the nest. I assume it is the ‘mister.’
“The fruit trees in front of the building were budding, but still had last year’s fruit left there, too. The robins were much fewer this year and didn’t eat the fruit when they came north.
“And one of the blossoming trees had a butterfly on its blossoms — the first one I’ve seen this year!
“I just learned that May 1st is a big holiday in Sweden, one of two national holidays they celebrate. So I sent this photo to my Swedish cousins and wished them a happy May Day and added ‘spring is coming!’ (Våran kommer)”
“Subject: Five more spring photos.
“All the bedraggled seedy things on our maple tree are gone now, and real leaves are opening, as they seem to be everywhere now. A nice change from dark, bare branches.
“And some shrubby plants are doing leaves and blossoms at the same time.
“Our back-yard ferns are unwinding their stems and leafing out.
“When I visit the ponds in Ardan Park, the ducks are very elusive and quickly hide when a person shows up, making if very difficult to get a decent photo.
Today, two of them visited my back yard for a while, so I could get a decent photo of them. The male mallards are striking with their colors. Mom mallards need to blend in to the brown nest makings more easily and be more unnoticeable. I thought they were being very accommodating to my desire to get a decent photo of them by visiting my yard. No hard feelings?
“There was a brightly blossomed fruit tree in bloom as I was driving past it a few blocks from my home, so I stopped to get a photo or two. I was happy to see my first bee in the neighborhood busy getting pollen and nectar.
“Spring still seems amazing to me!”
Our theater of seasons (responsorial)
Including: Today’s helpful hint
Norton’s mom of Eau Claire, Wisconsin: “Subject: Always look at the dust jacket before opening the book.
“Mounds View Swede recently posted beautiful photos of spring flowers, which included what was identified as ‘wood anemone buds.’
“I need to correct the record on that one. Those are bloodroots, and this is why I am certain of that:
“At least 20 years ago, before my shoulder started giving me problems, I used to bike quite frequently and especially loved biking on our Chippewa River Trail, which is — well, was back then and hopefully still is — one of the most beautiful places to bike.
“Each spring I would see patches of simple small white flowers along the trail. They seemed to be one of the first signs of spring and bloomed for only a very short time, but when I’d spot them each year, I knew that there was hope that spring would keep coming.
“After a couple of years, I decided that I needed to know the name of this important little flower, so I went to our public library, checked out a book about wildflower identification that included photographs, and went through it page by page when I got home.
“I was really disappointed that after paging through the entire book, I had not found any reference to those white flowers.
“As I closed the cover of the book, my eyes landed on the dust jacket. Wow . . . the whole thing was a photo of patches of one kind of wildflower: my little white wildflower from the bike trail! How could I have missed that? I looked inside the book’s cover, and there it was. The name of the flower: bloodroot.
“Bloodroot is still my favorite spring wildflower, and luckily I can now see them decorating the land on the sides of the road out here in the country for just a few days every spring as I go for my daily walks.”
Pollyanna of Clifton, “formerly of Lakeland”: “Subject: Road tripping.
“One of my sisters, The Artist, had submitted some art to the Detroit Lakes Sailboat Regatta. She had four of her designs accepted, and invited me on a road trip.
“I mentioned it to another sister, Yiyo, who wanted to tag along. We were at a bon voyage party for a Naval family member and told our brother, Army Guy, about it. He and his significant other (Granny Siri) decided to drive up as well!
“It’s about 250 miles from my house. AG and GS drove themselves, and I picked up The Artist and Yiyo. I made certain Yiyo was prepared for a slow trip. The Artist and I are used to traveling an average of 20 mph, stopping often to explore tiny towns and take photos. Yiyo was looking forward to sloth-like behaviors.
“I have mentioned before the book I bought, ‘Little Minnesota: A Nostalgic Look at Minnesota’s Smallest Towns,’ by Jill A. Johnson. The copyright date is 2011, so some things have changed over the last ten years. The book tells a brief history of each town, along with what it was like when the book was written. I didn’t realize how many towns had fires that almost wiped them off the map! On our road trips, The Artist and I visit as many tiny towns as we can. We also look for fun things to see from RoadsideAmerica.com.
“We left St. Paul around 9:30 a.m. On the way up, we visited Hillman (pop. 38), Lastrup (pop. 104), Vining (pop. 78), Genola (pop. 75), and the booming metropolis of Pierz (pop. 1,697). The book recommended a restaurant called Red Rooster Bar and Grill. The Artist had to buy horseradish pickles from them; then we had to go to the grocery store to buy the Jack’s garlic and cheese spread that was on a sandwich. We arrived at the Kent Freeman Arena in Detroit Lakes just before 5. It took us 7.5 hours to travel 210 miles. Pretty good, I thought!
“When we met up with Army Guy and Granny Siri, GS asked us: ‘What route did you take?’ I said: ‘I have no idea.’
“We saw the exhibit (which was amazing!), then had dinner near our hotel. The Artist and I went for a walk. Then the women played Rummikub until after 11.
“Saturday morning, we met for breakfast and played a little more Rummikub. Yiyo rode home with AG and GS, and The Artist and I continued on our adventure. We went for a walk along the shore of Detroit Lake, and headed to the antique store in town. It was beautiful! And the occupants of the other car were there!
“Our road trip continued with stops in West Union (pop. 113), Westport (pop. 42), Sedan (pop. 47), Spring Hill (pop. 55), Lake Henry (pop. 52), St. Rosa (pop. 44), St. Anthony (pop. 86 — the one by Osakis, not by Minneapolis) and Regal (pop. 56). In looking at the map, I see we missed Sunberg (pop. 75). We had a very late lunch in Regal. The book recommended a restaurant called The Pilgrim Inn. We couldn’t find it — and the town isn’t that big. We were hungry, though, so went to the only place in town with food. It was called Just Down the Road. Delicious food that left us feeling ready to tackle the rest of the trip.
“We saw metal sculptures, including a life-sized elephant, and a pair of giant pliers holding a huge cockroach. They were in Nyberg Park in Vining. The artist, Ken Nyberg, is the father of astronaut Karen Nyberg. We saw eagles. There were several animals that were in or along the road playing chicken with my car (deer, pheasant, turkey, guinea fowl and a cat, as well as chickens!). And we saw a tree with 32 toasters hanging from it. One was a toaster oven. It appeared someone had built a nest in that one. We drove around to the back of the property. It was filled with old cars and trucks, a baby buggy, a hearse with a skull hood ornament and a skull peeking out a back window, and a Model T — a treasure trove! We took pictures of churches and wandered around a cemetery where six children were buried who had died in a 13-day span in 1918.
“We drove 667 miles over two days. As always, we had a great time. I wonder where we will go next! Only 74 towns to go . . .”
P.S. After I sent this, I found this link.”
Now & Then
Rusty of St. Paul: “A few weeks back, my brother heard a commotion going on outside of his St. Paul home. He went out to investigate. A large group of people, distanced as they could be on the sidewalk, were cheering on a neighbor of his. Turns out they were feting their colleague at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Mary Ann Grossmann, on the occasion of her 60th anniversary of writing for the paper! They had not seen her in person in a year’s time.
“This past week, I was reading a number of issues of The Mac Weekly, which is the student newspaper of Macalester College. I graduated from there, as did my son. My son had sent me a number of issues from 1958 that he had found online. I came across a theater review written by . . . Mary Ann Grossmann, who was the features editor for the Weekly when she went to Mac. (She was a student of my father’s, who was an English professor there.)
[BULLETIN BOARD INTERJECTS: We had to laugh when we saw that the masthead had misspelled Mary Ann’s surname. In more than 25 years at the Pioneer Press, we almost never saw a piece of mail that got “Grossmann” right!]
“She wrote as nicely then as she does now.
“Thank you, Mary Ann, for your dedicated work and wonderfully written columns on literature for all these years. You are a pleasure to read!”
Gaining something in translation
Elvis reports: “Elvis just bought a battery charger for a camera from the big river place. [Bulletin Board interjects: Took us five minutes to figure out Elvis meant Amazon — which we think of as the Big Woman Place!]
“Here are the instructions on the box:
“‘Put battery into the charger in right polarity.
“‘Contact the charger with the power supply.
“‘When indicator light turn into red, the charger are in working
“‘When indicator light turn green from red, battery are in fulling.
“‘(Note: designer or instruction change. We don’t keep use inform.)’
Band Name of the Day: Injured Geese
Websites of the Day: