Remembering an era when caution wasn’t quite so abundant . . .

Then & Now

Waldo Windmill writes: “Growing up in rural Wisconsin meant that I attended one-room country schools. Such schools dotted the landscape until the middle of the 20th century, when school-district consolidation brought about massive closings of these iconic temples of learning.

“I attended one-room schools in both Wood County and Sheboygan County from 1936 to 1944, then moved upward to a very small high school. Given our recent experience with K-12 instruction during the pandemic, I’m reminded of how much value was placed on regular attendance in the elementary and secondary schools of my day. This likely resulted in our attending school some days when an abundance of caution (in the language of today) would have recommended our staying home to avoid transmitting illnesses.

“There were no school buses in my community, so everybody was responsible for getting to school on their own. And although we didn’t actually walk to school and home again uphill and against the wind both ways (as I remarked to my children many times), many of us did have a couple of miles to traverse each way every day.

“And I do mean ‘every day.’ I don’t recall the schools’ ever closing, for example, because of inclement weather. Country-school teachers often lived close to their schools or made arrangement to stay overnight at a student’s house when bad weather was looming. Moreover, students usually managed to get to school even if it required their fathers’ hooking up a horse or team of horses to transport their children when walking was too difficult.

“I also don’t recall rural schools’ ever closing because of community medical issues such as the polio epidemic in the mid-20th century. Schools and teachers in turn showed their appreciation for such dedication by honoring their loyal and persistent students. Perfect and near-perfect attendance were highly treasured and rewarded at end-of-year celebrations attended by the local community.

“Regular attendance was likewise highly valued at the time in rural high schools. I recently came across a news story from the May 31, 1948, edition of the Sheboygan Press reporting on my high school’s commencement ceremonies. The recipients being recognized for perfect attendance were named immediately after the Senior Class Valedictorian and Salutatorian were honored and before other academic and athletic awards were presented. Clearly their dedication to classroom learning was greatly appreciated.

“But wait! My wife’s attendance record in another Wisconsin county went a step further. She graduated in 1952 from a small high school in northern Wisconsin and was presented at her high-school commencement ceremony with a hand-drawn certificate verifying that she ‘had neither been absent NOR TARDY (emphasis mine) during her four years of high school.’ [Bulletin Board interjects: Of course, it should have said “. . . had been neither absent nor tardy.” Snort!]

“I can’t help but wonder on how many of those days an ‘abundance of caution’ would have suggested that she remain at home. Oh, well, as a wise woman once said, ‘things change over time.'”

The Permanent Family Record

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: No place like home.

“Thomas Wolfe said ‘You can’t go home again,’ and he was partially right: A house is just a house without the people who make it a home. That fact hasn’t stopped any of Grampa Jake and Grandma Bessie’s kids, 21 grandkids and dozens of great-grandkids from making regular pilgrimages to drive by, stop, take photos and reminisce about the great memories contained within the walls of one particular house. When my son and daughter-in-law invited us to take a Sunday drive out to Lake Minnetonka recently, we did the usual drive-by past Maxwell Bay to see the place where our cottage had stood and then continued on a mile and a half to pay homage to The House That Jake Built. Whoa! There was a ‘For Sale’ sign in front of it! I hopped out, cane in hand, and posed for a photo to send out to all the relatives living from coast to coast and across the Pacific.

“The owner came out, and when I explained that I had lived in that house, my dad had built it, etc., he looked a little weary and said: ‘I know. I have people stopping all the time to take pictures. A couple of years ago, a whole parade of cars stopped. Said they were in town for a family reunion.’ Since the house was for sale, I asked whether I could take a look inside. With a glance at my cane, he warned me that he didn’t use the front door anymore, so I would have to climb up some steep stairs from the tuck-under garage. I told him I was not worried; if they were still the steps that Jake built, they were sturdy and safe. You bet they were — still the same perfect ratio of tread to riser with a roomy landing midway and bannisters on each side.

“The rooms were amazingly unchanged. All of Dad’s beloved scalloped crown moldings are still intact. (Dad always talked fast and boasted about his ‘bee-yootiful scalps.’) They had installed new French doors and French windows in the sunken living room, but since Dad had rescued the original ones from a job site and had just never gotten around to replacing them during the ensuing 36 years, I don’t consider that an alteration. All of the nine walk-in-closets with the additional shelves attached to the doors were being put to use, just as my dad did, crammed full of miscellaneous items. Even the phone booth was unchanged, still in the same unfinished state as he left it. I really did feel as though I were home again. Echoes of Bessie and Jake were still lingering in the air. It was a wonderful time in memory lane and not just for me. I overheard my (almost) 67-year-old son tell the owner about hiding in the front bedroom
and listening to Santa as he jingled his bells each Christmas Eve and how ‘all the grandkids would run down this hall and rush down the steps into the living room to see what Santa had brought them.’ From the look of amusement on the owner’s face, it didn’t take a mind-reader to bet that he must have heard that same story from other nostalgic relatives over the years.

“The house was sold in 1983, and the only real change that I noticed was in the kitchen. They had covered the beautiful knotty cedar with white paint. Why would they do that? I looked in my old photo album to compare, and I think I have guessed the reason: There must have been too many nail holes to repair; far easier to just paint over the wood. My folks never could bear to throw out an old calendar. Dad simply took a ten-penny nail and pounded the new one in alongside the old.”

Joy of Juxtaposition

Semi-Legend reports: “Subject: Phenomenal JofJ.

“A Twitter user (and music fan) reported: ‘Today I learned (or perhaps re-learned) that anytime anyone says the word “phenomenon” around her, my daughter does the “doo-doo-doo-doo-doo” part of this song, and now I will as well.’

“The song in question is a fun ‘Sesame Street’ number, ‘Mahna Mahna.’ Here’s one version:

“Someone responded: ‘perhaps the two of you could visit Menominee [sic] sometime.’

“I wondered if Menomonie was where Emenee Organs are made

“I’m reading Alice Echols’s 1999 bio of Janis Joplin, ‘Scars of Sweet Paradise.’ After seeing that Twitter exchange, I learned, on page 200, that after Joplin debuted in New York 2/17/68 with Big Brother and the Holding Company, journalists declared her ‘a social phenomenon,’ a phrase Janis quickly satirized into ‘social phenomonemone,’ pronounced fe-nom-o-nem-o-nee.

“(Another Joplin/Menomonie link: Author Ann Angel, who hails from there, also wrote a Joplin bio, ‘Rise Up Singing.’)

Everyone’s a (book) critic!
Local Division

OTD from NSP: “A book set in the Twin Cities: ‘Girl 11’ by Amy Suiter Clarke. Unexpected plot twists. Enjoyable, easy read.

“Could be a popular category: books set in Twin Cities/Minnesota/surrounding area by local authors.

“Stay safe and well, be fully vaccinated, and wear your mask for your health and mine.”

Gaining something in non-translation

LeoJEOSP writes: “I am watching the 1969 movie ‘The Battle of Britain.’ The movie is on YouTube, and it has Spanish subtitles. I am OK when the British are speaking. When the Nazis are on screen, they talk in German. I Habla poco español & ein bisschen deutsch, but it is an interesting way to watch a movie!”

Metaphorically speaking

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Enough with this metaphor!

“Once again I’m reading that some disgusting behavior or thing is a ‘CANCER’ on this or that. I resent the otherwise ‘woke and politically correct’ individuals who use cancer as a metaphor to emphasize situations they deem particularly horrific. That used to be the case, but detection and treatment have evolved. You need to evolve as well and find different comparisons. It’s as stupid and thoughtless as the expression ‘drug deal (or robbery) gone bad’!”

The Permanent Daughterly Record
Or: The highfalutin amusements

Vertically Challenged reports: “Our daughter Garden Girl sent me this text: ‘Omgosh, you know you have been on your phone for too much when you are reading the label on a bottle and try to swipe to continue reading the next page. 🤦‍♀️😂 my brain was a little confused why it wouldn’t change.'”

Keeping your eyes (and mind) open

Merlyn of St. Paul writes: “Subject: VA fitness plan.

The other day, I rounded the corner by the VA hospital and caught (in the corner of my eye) a guy doing push-ups outside the fence. I thought: ‘Wow, that’s a dedication to fitness — doing exercises on your break!’ Then, as I got closer, I realized that he was crab walking under a locked gate, after his smoke break🙄.

“This moment of judgment brought to you by a woman, driving in an air-conditioned car, munching on Cheetos . . .”

Where’ve you gone, Mrs. Malaprop?

Rusty of St. Paul: “My brother-in-law Tom was relating a recent medical issue of his brother’s: ‘Jim went to a chiropractor with back pain. The chiropractor saw a suspicious skin lesion on his back and told him to go see a medical doctor. He saw that doctor, who sent him for an autopsy. That result came back cancer.’

“Luckily it was a biopsy and not an autopsy, and a doctor was able to successfully excise Jim’s basal-cell carcinoma, thus avoiding an actual autopsy for Jim.

“I don’t know how his back pain is doing.”

This ’n’ that
Al B Division

Both from Al B of Hartland: (1) “I was late getting home and didn’t take in the hummingbird feeder before a raccoon had taken it down for me. The raccoon removed all six of the tiny, plastic, yellow flowers from their cavities and slurped down the sweet water. The tiny, plastic, yellow flowers weren’t damaged.”

(2) “I wanted to surprise my wife with a gift she wouldn’t expect, so I shelled out moola I’d been saving for that purpose and gave her a ticket to ride a city bus.

“The Beatles sang of the moment: ‘She’s got a ticket to ride. She’s got a ticket to ride. She’s got a ticket to ride. But she don’t care.’

“It wasn’t a deluxe motor coach; it was public transportation. It stopped everywhere there was room for a bus to stop. It was a poor woman’s (one married to me) city tour. A stop near an area littered with bars brought on three passengers, fellows who’d been overserved at a dispensary of adult beverages. They staggered on and found seats. Two fell asleep immediately, if not sooner. One sat near me. The two Rip Van Winkles awoke as if they’d been nudged by a linebacker, pulled the cord to signal a stop, got off and stumbled down a sidewalk on their way to what I’d hoped were greener pastures. After several more stops, the third of those men looked at me and asked something that had been gnawing at him: ‘Are we there yet?’

“Good question.”

Band Name of the Day: Abundance of Caution

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