Then & Now
BOOKLADY: “With Halloween celebrations severely curtailed this year, I retreated to my memories of growing up in the ‘Halloween Capital of the World,’ Anoka.
“It was a good time to be a kid in the ’50s, and Halloween was pretty well scripted. Trick-or-Treating was discouraged because the whole town was involved in celebrations.
“The three grade schools and the handful of country schools all participated in the afternoon costumed parade through town. I was always a walker, going home for lunch, so my siblings and I were able to change into our costumes at home and walk back in time for the bus ride to Franklin School to start the parade. Because we could count on the weather being fickle, our costumes always incorporated room for extra layers. Depending on the year, we marched in sunshine or rain or snow. We were kids. We didn’t mind.
“There weren’t store-bought costumes in those days. My mom usually made our costumes or adapted some available clothing for the purpose. I was a nurse, a princess, the Good Fairy (who turned my brother into a lion), among other things. One of Mom’s memorable efforts was the octopus costume she created for my brother Tom, made from old dyed sheets and featuring stuffed tentacles and spots.
“By the time I reached junior high, I was in the band, so a uniform replaced a costume. The parade was still the highlight of the holiday, but at that point I added the evening parade to the mix. To me that was a rite of passage. Evening excursions weren’t a usual part of my life, and a parade full of floats and bands and lights and spectators was exhilarating! The festivities ended at Goodrich Field, where The Pumpkin Bowl football game ended the day.
“An Anoka Halloween in those days included princesses from each school and a special performance at the high school (there was only one back then), followed by a bag of candy. The program and candy were sponsored by major employer Federal Cartridge, thanks to owner Charles Horn, who was so supportive of the community. The only program I remember specifically featured an over-the-hill cowboy ‘star’ who had a very erratic performance. I was about 9 or 10 at the time and had no experience with the actions of someone under the influence.
“Trick-or-Treating had crept into the celebration by the time I was in high school. My dad created some special effects one year, which terrorized the little kids. Oops. He also had a very special treat for the son of one of his hunting buddies. Dad put a much larger treat in Lee’s bag and waited, chuckling evilly, to see the boy stop at the curb to check. Then we heard the delighted yell: ‘Hey, you guys! I got a DUCK!’
“I miss the simpler times, when we were content with less. The parades, the band’s ‘snake dance’ through town, home-made costumes and family time. Good memories.”
War & Peace
Including: In memoriam
JOHN IN HIGHLAND writes: “On Veterans Day I remember my late father-in-law, Walter Lewis, and one of his friends.
“Walt was 20 years old when the U.S. entered World War II. He wanted to join the military, but was rejected by the Army because he was color-blind. Determined to do what he felt was his sacred duty, he memorized the color charts and was accepted into the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC).
“Walt was trained as a meteorologist, and his unit was involved in ‘island-hopping’ across the South Pacific. While stationed on Green Island, he developed a friendship with another meteorologist named Russell Hill. Both were involved in flights over Japanese-occupied territories to assess weather conditions.
“Walt had only a small black-and-white photo of his fiancee back home, Phyllis Garr, from Wadena, Minnesota. Russ was an amateur painter, and he offered to paint a larger, color version of Walt’s photo.
“On an ensuing information flight, Russ’s plane was shot down and he never returned. Walt wrote a letter to Russ’s fiancee telling her of his friendship with Russ and his bravery in flying dangerous missions.
“Walt’s unit made it all the way to Okinawa and the end of the war in the Pacific. He came home, married his sweetheart and had a family of his own. Russell Hill never made it back.”
Now & Then
GRANDMA PAT, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “Teachers are dealing with huge challenges in this time of COVID. This was also true in past times, as evidenced in these ‘Rules for Teachers’ in Sacramento, California, in 1915.” [Bulletin Board interjects: Well, they might or might not be genuine, and they might or might not have come from Sacramento. It’s hard to know for sure.]
“You will not marry during the term of your contract.
“You are not to keep company with men. You must be home between the hours of 8 pm and 6 am unless attending a school function.
“You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
“You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the Chairman of the Board.
“You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
“You may not smoke cigarettes.
“You may not dress in bright colors.
“You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
“You must wear at least two petticoats.
“Your dresses must not be any shorter than 2 inches above the ankle.
“To keep the school room neat and clean you must sweep the floor at least once daily, scrub the floor at least once a week with hot soapy water, clean the blackboards at least once a day, and start the fire at 7 am so the room will be warm by 8 am.”
The Farm Boy of THE FARM BOY of St. Paul: “GRANDMA PAT’s contribution of ‘Rules for Teachers’ in 1915 — which may or may not be genuine — led off with this admonition: ‘You will not marry during the term of your contract.’
“That reminded me of a first-person account related by a long-passed family member. During her time teaching in St. Paul, it was permissible for teachers to be married. However, if the teacher found herself contributing to future enrollment increases, there was a stipulation. ‘If we were having a baby, we had to take off an entire year,’ she explained. ‘So we showed them. We tried to have a second one before we went back to work.’
“I know what you’re thinking. But no, that’s the German side of the family.”
This ’n’ that
From AL B of Hartland: (1) “Back when I could still spit in the palm of my hand before an official handshake, a cafe owner told me there were two things he never washed. One was his grill. I didn’t ask what the other was. His hamburgers were the best I’ve ever eaten anywhere, and my favorite grease-delivery system. He told me his secret was the grill. When I ate a burger there, I was eating the history of burgers.”
(2) “The weather turned cold, and the starlings moved in like Cousin Eddie’s family in the ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ film series. They were numerous, loud and argumentative creatures with prodigious appetites.”
There’s nothin’ like a simile!@@
THE WORDSMITH: “My favorite source of similes, Car & Driver magazine, strikes again. In the November issue, they review a new model from Land Rover. They say that the vehicle’s roof rack produces ‘more wind noise than a gas station burrito.’”
The bright side
THE DORYMAN of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Every mask has a silver lining.
“My face will be warmer outside this winter.”
Life as we know it
JENI OF B’VILLE: “With COVID and ice inhibiting my outside activities, I have a new endeavor that is very rewarding.
“Five grandkids and one great-grandchild have names that have appeared in my family in past generations. I am composing biographies of these ancestors. Discussion questions are directed to the three children under age 12, ready for them when they reach sixth grade. The names of my relatives are Oliver, Logan, James, Lily, Lourine and Adalyn Eizabeth. My task is time-consuming but very welcome to the recipients and a joy to me.
“I encourage others to celebrate in this way the names in their family that have been passed on to the next generation.”
Life as we know it (Coming of Age Division [encore])
Or: In memoriam
The death of Sean Connery reminded MAR of this piece of his, first published here in February 2017. We have enjoyed it again, and invite you to do so, as well: “It all happened at my friend Peter’s 13th-birthday party.
“Peter, his mom, his older brother, David, and perhaps 10 of us close friends all headed out to the Basil Theater one Saturday afternoon in late December 1965. We were going to see Sean Connery in ‘Thunderball.’ At that point, on the verge of adolescence (kids stayed young longer back then), we were all confirmed Sean Connery fans, having already sat mesmerized, slack-jawed, through ‘Dr. No,’ ‘From Russia With Love,’ and of course ‘Goldfinger.’
“‘Thunderball’ did not have a scantily clad Shirley Eaton gilded in gold paint, or a rock-hard bodyguard with a steel-brimmed hat as a weapon; nor did it have Ursula Andress in a ripped toga scampering across a rocky shoreline. But it did have our man Sean, all six-pack abs and bulging triceps, bending over a scantily clad Claudine Auger and biting a stingray quill out of her bare heel, as well as a nifty behind-the-back spear-gun shot and some really cool motorized underwater sleds. Hey, give us some popcorn and sugary carbonated drinks, and we were as close to Heaven as a bunch of 12- and 13-year-old boys could be in the Midwest in 1965, short of sneaking peeks at our dads’ ‘hidden’ Playboys.
“Then it happened. After the movie, we all filed out, stunned by the climax of the film and riding our sugar highs. Someone — I don’t remember who — went into the men’s room at the theater to relieve the soft-drink pressure that had mounted up. He came back out seconds later, wide-eyed, and silently motioned to a few of us to follow him back in. We did, as coolly as we could, so as not to upset Peter’s patiently waiting mother. Then we totally lost that coolness. Gone. Once in the men’s room (really, for these purposes, it should be more properly termed a boys’ room), we stood around in a semi-circle and silently stared at it. There it was, resting in the middle of the boys’-room floor: a woman’s black bra, cups up, straps flung out to the side. We gaped; we squinted; we moved our heads slightly left and right to see if we could get the darn object in focus, see if we were indeed processing this correctly.
“Yep. It was a bra, all right. No doubt about that. And it was black and sitting up there proudly, in the middle of the floor, dutifully awaiting the intense scrutiny of 10 adolescent boys. How it got there, who brought it, who left it, who it belonged to, how it GOT there (!) — these questions went unanswered at the time. After a few minutes, or moments — time was lost to us — we filed back out of the boys’ room. We did not look at each other. We did not mention the occurrence to Peter’s mom, or to the attendants at the theater. We only walked out of the theater in a hush, without talking about our discovery, even amongst ourselves, as we soon enough lost that blindingly intense sense of wonder in the fuzziness of birthday cake and presents and general birthday tomfoolery.
“That was more than 50 years ago. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I’ve thought about that day many, many times with a full range of emotions and possible formative conclusions. But I’ve never figured out how that bra made it into that theater that day, amazing a bunch of boys who were already too far gone on James Bond to BE more amazed.”
“So that is the story of the lost bra. I will never be that young again. Alas.”
Our pets, ourselves
DORIS DAY reported: “Boris Day is performing the manual clock-changing ritual on those that aren’t smart enough. We have hit a snag, though. Boomer the cat insists that it’s time for his pill and treat. Neither of us can find the button to reset him!”
“Purr/Licks Paw. =^••^=”
And now THE ASTRONOMER of Nininger: “Harper, our good-natured Weimaraner, eats her evening meal on schedule. Every day at 5 o’clock, she comes to find me and let me know it is time to eat. If I am at my desk, she will come in, sit erect by my right side, stick her nose under my arm (which usually is attached to a computer mouse), and lifts it upwards. Then she will grab my arm with her paw and sort of pull me away from the desk.
“Now that Daylight Saving Time has caused time to be set back an hour, she wants to eat at 4 o’clock. Oh My!”
The great comebacks (Pandemic Division)
RUSTY of St. Paul: “My brother and his wife are taking a vacation from retirement. They are hiding out and relaxing in northern Wisconsin.
“My sister-in-law texted me around Happy Hour that she was drinking red wine and took a COVID test.
“I am a very concrete person. Thus gullible. If you tell me something, I take it at face value.
“I was wondering why on earth would she be taking a COVID test at this time of day, in a home, and many miles from where she lives. She is a retired nurse, so I thought maybe she knew something I didn’t or had some connections to testing up there.
“I was curious, so had to text: ‘Why a COVID test?’
“Her answer: ‘You pour a glass of wine, smell it and taste it. If you can still smell and still taste the wine, you don’t have COVID. I have tested twice tonight just to be sure.’”
Band Name of the Day: The Lost Bras