A pair of harmonious stories from Waldo Windmill: (1) “In 1968, my barbershop quartet received a joint invitation from the Barbershop Harmony Society and the USO to take a 17-day tour of the Pacific Hospital Circuit. The tour entailed visiting and entertaining wounded veterans of the Vietnam conflict in military hospitals in Japan, Okinawa, Guam, the Philippines and Hawaii.
“As you can imagine, given the itinerary, we spent a lot of time in military aircraft. The first leg of our trip, for example, from Travis Air Force Base in California to Tokyo, Japan, with intermediate stops in Honolulu and Wake Island, consumed approximately 18 hours. The plane was jam-packed, but fortunately we were given a civil-service rating of GS-15 while we were on tour. In essence, we traveled with the same status as would an Army colonel, which meant we waited for planes in distinguished-visitors’ lounges, boarded planes first, received preferred seating, and had someone else take responsibility for our luggage.
“Our schedule at each destination was quite similar. We visited military hospitals where we went from ward to ward entertaining and interacting with wounded veterans. We then performed in a lounge or auditorium for hospital staff and more-mobile patients. During our tour, we visited eight hospitals and a number of service clubs in Japan, Okinawa, and the Philippines. A typhoon prevented our traveling to Guam. Much of our spare time was spent shopping for guitars and electronics in Japan, monkey-pod trays and bowls in the Philippines, and World War II souvenirs in Okinawa.
“Two summers later, the quartet was asked to take the same tour again. A few special memories of our experiences stand out these many years later. I’ll never forget, for example, the reaction of Tokyo cabbies as we tried flagging them down as we stood on the street with our guitar and standup bass fiddle. The four of us plus the instruments created quite a challenge for Japan’s taxis. I also recall the wonderful Japanese vocalists who worked so hard to sing American songs in English to entertain American service personnel and tourists. Our 1970 visit to Japan coincided with the tremendous popularity of the hit record by Creedence Clearwater Revival entitled ‘Proud Mary.’ Given the difficulty native speakers of Japanese have differentiating the /r/ and /l/ phonemes, Japanese vocalists struggled mightily trying to enunciate the hit song’s lyrics, which include the repetitive phrase ‘Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river.’
“I also recall vividly being awakened by an earthquake while at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines and the discomfort I felt seeing exhibits in Okinawa museums of Japanese and American weapons used in the crucial 1945 World War II battle. On a more pleasant note, I’ll never forget the heroes we visited day after day in hospitals, nor their dedicated caregivers. And I’ll always be grateful for the wonderful contacts at our tour destinations who helped make our visits so enjoyable and so satisfying.
“Nevertheless, in both 1968 and 1970 we were overjoyed to return home and reunite with family and friends. On both occasions, however, we were disappointed to learn that at some point on the return flight between Travis Air Force Base in California and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, we lost our GS-15 civil-service rating. In effect, we were demoted from Colonel to Buck Private and upon landing had to retrieve our own luggage. What a bummer!”
(2) “I have sung in barbershop quartets most of my adult life, so I’ve experienced many unusual on-stage incidents, but one stands out above all the rest.
“In 1968, my quartet was hired to provide entertainment for a Friday-evening dinner party of a large group of Honeywell employees. The party was to be held in the second-floor meeting room of Jax Cafe, already a well-known Minneapolis restaurant. We were instructed to arrive at 8 p.m. ready to perform.
“Upon our arrival, we were met by the party organizer, who told us we would be singing for about 200 people who were attending a masquerade party. Shortly thereafter, he escorted us to the second-floor party room where people were seated, all of whom held self-made paper-plate masks in front of their faces.
“Our host introduced us. We approached the microphone and began our first number. It was an odd experience, not being able to read people’s faces to determine how our music was being received. We finished the number and were greeted with an entertainer’s worst nightmare: DEAD SILENCE! No applause whatsoever!
“Our quartet spokesman was literally speechless as he stepped forward, intending to make a few introductory remarks. Just then, as if on cue, everybody pulled down their mask. We knew immediately that we had been had! We saw a sea of familiar faces belonging to our fellow barbershop-chapter members, members of the greater Barbershop Harmony Society, their wives and friends. Our quartet baritone’s reaction was immediate: ‘Uh-oh, it looks like we don’t get paid tonight.’ He was right!
“We then learned that our barbershop buddies had planned this surprise party in our honor while we were in the Far East on a USO-sponsored tour of military hospitals, entertaining wounded veterans of the Vietnam conflict. Surprisingly, we had heard nothing about these plans. No one had ‘spilled the beans’ nor ‘let the cat out of the bag.’
“Even though we didn’t get paid, we had a wonderful evening spent with wonderful friends. And we didn’t even have to pay for dinner.”
Not exactly what he had in mind
Or: The vision thing (Juvenile Division)
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: Questions to ponder.
“Memorial Day always brings the photographers to Fort Snelling National Cemetery, outdoing themselves with artistic photographs of the tombstones adorned with American flags. I always attempt to read the inscription, wondering if by chance the photographer might have stopped by the burial spot of one of my relatives. I have a lot of them resting there, from World War I (twin uncles and an aunt) and the veterans from World War II (a brother, three brothers-in-law and a sister), but I have to admit that the one memory that always comes back has nothing to do with patriotism or sadness.
“It is a memory of my 78-year-old nephew when he was 3 years old. He was always fascinated by Fort Snelling. Every time they drove by there, he would press his face against the car window, straining to see those tombstones. One day, my sister found out why he had such an obsession about them when he said: ‘I just can’t figure out how they manage to fit all those BIG soldiers into those skinny stones.'”
Not exactly what he had in mind
Leading to: The Great Comebacks
Big Eek of Southeast Minneapolis: “Years ago, I was traveling east by bus to visit some family. When I got on the bus, a fellow in the seat in front of me was coming east from Los Angeles. He was wearing a Dodgers baseball cap.
“We fell into conversation. Crossing Indiana, he didn’t think much of South Bend, but he thought Elkhart was prospering. We discovered that we were both fans of the short stories of Sherwood Anderson.
“We discussed this one and that. My favorite was on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t remember its name. He couldn’t think of it, either.
“Later, as the passengers dimmed their seat-lights, it came to me. It was ‘I’m a Fool,’ a story told by a teenage harness-racing groom. He puts on airs and claims to come from a wealthy family, thereby losing his chance with the beautiful daughter of a family he meets at the racetrack.
“In the semi-darkness, I leaned forward and poked my friend in the shoulder and in a hoarse whisper said: ‘”I’m a Fool.”‘
“The Dodger guy replied: ‘You may very well be, but there’s no point in announcing it to the world.’
“I’m (was) a fool.”
Life as we know it
The Astronomer of Nininger: “For certain college students, even some students still in high school, getting a fake I.D. is akin to earning a highly sought after, yet elusive Merit Badge for a Boy Scout. I doubt that much is thought about the fact that it would be a serious criminal act to use the I.D. to purchase alcohol at a younger than legal age to do so. Yet, some seem almost obsessively compulsive to get one.
“It was not such a big thing when I was growing up in Chicago. The law there, back then, was that women could purchase alcohol at age 18 and men at 21. It was intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that women would make the purchase for their boy friends. Duh! I think that changed in the later ’60s. When I moved to Colorado, the law permitted 18-year-olds to drink 3.2 beer, but it was 21 for higher-alcoholic-content beverages.
“When our son was a freshman at one of the local universities in the Twin Cities, he and a good buddy, Matt, connived to get false I.D.’s. Oh, the ‘tangled web’ they wove. The Good Wife and I were out of town for a week or so, and Sister John Deere, a dear friend of ours, stayed at our home and watched our dog and horses. She was called Sister John Deere because she grew up on a farm and still drove a John Deere lawn mower.
“A letter from the Minnesota DMV came in our mail, sent to Matt at our address. It contained a driver’s license with a birth date indicating that his age exceeded 21. Sister John Deere immediately noted the discrepancy, marked it as ‘No such person at this address’ and returned it to the DMV. That time, Matt did not get his driver’s license with an incorrect age. That was 30 years ago. We never told Matt’s parents, but we still chuckle about it today — how clever and how far some people will go to prove they can do it. I think it is the challenge that drives the act.
“People should understand that possessing and/or using an illegal I.D. is a serious crime. While not always enforced to the limit, it can entail monetary fines, probation, even jail time in some cases. Colleges may add their own penalties. In the case above, Matt lost only the costs to procure his fake I.D. and was not prosecuted. Some people lose their driving privileges for limited periods of time. Today Matt is an attorney and certainly would not advise any client to purchase or use a false I.D. It seems harmless, but the potential problems are significant.”
This ’n’ that ’n’ the other
Al B of Hartland Division
Al B of Hartland reports: (1) “A grackle enjoyed the peanuts in the shell I put out for the blue jays and red-bellied woodpeckers. He grabbed one, flew to the ground and pecked the shell open to find the prize inside.
“How did the grackle repay me? It did a drive-by dropping of droppings that hit the tip of my sandal, missing my toe by the width of a pencil stroke. That’s what happens when you put your best foot forward. [Bulletin Board muses: Good, better, best — how many feet is one supposed to have?] Then the bird went off to chase a squirrel.”
(2) “My wife and I were grocery shopping. My job when shopping with my bride is to stay by the shopping cart. I’m good at that. Occasionally, I gave the cart a light push and said: ‘Vroom! Vroom!’ I loitered in the health-food aisle in case I should tip over after a long and courageous battle with a nasty hangnail. That would make me look good. ‘He was concerned about his health until the very end,’ a mourner might say.
“Multi-colored Asian lady beetles had filled our garage. They weren’t quite everywhere. They missed one spot. It was impossible to get in or out of my car without inviting beetles in.
“There I was in the health-food section, staying near the cart. I was content. Right about then, I felt something crawling where things shouldn’t be crawling. It was on my south end. When my wife returned from some mysterious aisle where I’d never been, I told her I needed to visit the little boys’ room. Once there, I did what I could to find the cause of the crawling sensation. It was a multi-colored Asian lady beetle. I was happy to see it and to see it go. It fell to the floor and crawled away to find another rear end to torment. I didn’t step on it because I figured it had suffered enough. I rejoined my wife. I smiled and hoped she thought that the only reason was that I was happy to see her again.”
(3) “You’re getting older if:
“That which doesn’t kill you only makes your knees hurt.
“Your idea of exercising is putting on your socks.
“The funny noises your car makes drown out the funny noises you make.”
Band Name of the Day: The Barbershop Buddies — or: The Funny Noises
Website of the Day: Winners of the 2021 BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition