Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Legend of the Light Lives On

I stand corrected again on the status of that red light on the Gildner-Johnson building. Here is a report from Richard Holstad:

"I’m told that the red light wasn’t placed until after photo posted on the blog site was taken. That is hard to believe because that photo was taken in the early to mid fifties.

Larry Patterson says that he spun a series of doughnuts in the fresh snow, on main street, after dark on Christmas Eve one year …… that red light came on while he was “doing the deed”. Larry is going to research it and let us know where exactly the light was mounted --- you were looking in the west-facing wall --- I suspect it was on a bracket protruding more on the corner so it would be visible in many directions. An electric line ran from the light over to the telephone office where the operator could control it …. Northwood’s early form of 911 service.

The problem researching this subject is that you and I were law abiding, good guys, not wanting to get our names in the paper and possibly be thrown off the football team. To get the facts this time we’ll need to rely on the experience of the “offenders”. Larry P is pretty emphatic that he can iron this one out for us."

I am proud to say that Richard has listed me as one of the "law-abiding good guys" and will defend that title in spite of any evidence to the contrary.

First Grade

I vaguely remember first grade. It was on the ground floor-west of the old primary building. Our teacher was Miss Stover, a memory that hangs with me because on the first day of school my mother asked me the name of my teacher when I got home.

I couldn't really recall but since we were standing in the kitchen by the stove where Mom was fixing supper I said, "I don't know, Miss Stove or something like that." I only remember it because Mom thought it was so cute and told the story repeatedly over the years. Like only a mother would.

What brings it to mind at this point is the attached photo that comes courtesy of Richard Holstad, who has quite the photo archive, apparently, including some like this one by Dr Forland as well as those he has gotten from the Northwood Anchor.

Doc Forland took a lot of photos way back when, developing them in his own dark room, and you can tell from the quality of this photo that his camera was a superior model. Richard's comment on the shot is "This is the class of 1963 . . . the teacher is posing with LaVonne . . . The class is using the Dick and Jane textbook . . . Larry Patterson is sharpening his pencil up by the window . . . one of the Thone girls is easy to recognize . . . Patty Reeder is just behind the teacher . . ."

And you will notice without even trying that the direction of the shot is west and on the ground floor since that would have been the only classroom in the building that would qualify for this orientation. What you may or may not notice in the picture or recall is that Miss Stover did not have any fingers on her right hand, a disability that probably caught our attention right away but was forgotten as we got to know her.

(BLOG-MASTER'S NOTE: if you click on the photos they will open enlarged in a new window and you will notice the high quality of the photo and be able to identify the people Richard mentions.)

You remember the very well worn wooden floors all around including in the hallway, the "old building" smell, the staircase that was not handicap-accessible, and restrooms in the basement. You will certainly also recall that there was no way you could sneak around the building because the wooden floors creaked like crazy. My recollection is that we didn't sneak much, we just kind of ran around. And created lots of childhood memories.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Today's Main Street

How times have changed. Gildner-Johnson is gone and now the Northwood Anchor resides in their building. (Click on the picture and a larger view will open in a new window, showing the Anchor name.) The turret on top was apparently on the original building, removed for safety reasons, then rebuilt sometime in recent years.

Note the change in parking away from the parallel concept to allow for a wider highway but fewer cars able to park. But it doesn't make much difference when there's only one car parked within a thousand feet of the corner.

More about Mel Horgan

We always thought the stories about the red light were apocryphal, but Richard Holstad swears it is a true event that did happen. If someone had a problem requiring the attention of Constable Horgan a call was placed to the local operator, who then switched on the red light to tell Mr. Horgan they needed him to call in.

Apparently this was prior to the days of "Car 54" and short wave police radios so Mr. Horgan would spot the red light during his cruising periods, stop to call in, then head off to quell the riots or whatever was going on.

In these photos taken recently you will notice some modifications to the brick wall. We apologize for the blurry photo and will get an improved version sometime in the near future.

The windows of the photo are the second and third windows from the left on the more distant shot.

Thanks to current technology the system is now out of use, and thinking of it only reminds me of the "Stop" and "Go" signs Mrs. Opheim hung on
the door of our 5th/6th Grade Combination classroom at First Lutheran Church, meant to control bathroom traffic.

That didn't work so well either, but it's another story.

The Highway Number, NOT the Speed Limit!

For the record, here is the current Highway Posting on 105 - and it's pretty clearly not the speed limit.

And a view that the friends of Janis Hendrickson might have seen while trying to break the land speed record back in the '60s.

If you look closely it says "55" not too far down the road. The speed limit, that is, not the highway number.

Is it just me, or did this highway seem to be a lot wider when it was first built?

Stay Off the Water Tower!

We finally made it to town on a mission of capturing old memories in the modern setting. First off, we took photos of the Holstad-Lien Water Tower so memorably reported by Richard in a previous blog.

There's not much to be said here except it's a long ways up, and that perception is reality where the climber is concerned.

But reality from the ground will tell you that the final several feet go straight
up even though your personal gyroscope probably tells you that you're being cantilevered away from the tower. OR, maybe the memory is enhanced? Like we say, perception is reality.

Check out both of these photos, the first to show it's a long way above terra firma, and the second a clear indicator that the last third of the climb is straight up, whether it feels that way or not. And either photo will confirm this is the town of Northwood and not some imposter.

Perhaps this tower is not in use any longer since we did notice a newer version on the northeast side of town.

A last word on this - regardless of the view you see here, the story Richard told is precious! (But not to be repeated by today's thrill-seeker, please.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Mel Horgan Memorial Red Light

In an earlier post, Richard Holstad mentioned the red light on the wall of the Gildner building, theoretically placed to alert Mel Horgan of misdoings in town. Here is a picture Richard has passed along of what it looked like 60 years ago, and we soon hope to have an updated current picture to show what the building looks like today.

At last passing there was no light there but there was what appeared to be a patch in the brick wall where wiring may have been in place at one time. Look for the 2011 version of the building to appear in this posting - soon.

Richard Gets His Letter - Congrats!

We got an email from an excited Richard Holstad the other day including a couple of photos of himself modeling his new(est) letter jacket. You will recall that his friend Larry Patterson went to the NKHS AD to solicit a letter to replace the one lost years ago, and then Richard stopped at Decker's in Mason City when he was in town for the Buddy Holly Reunion.

This is the man himself, at ease on his living room co
uch, all pleased with the coat. "It looks and smells just like the original," he says, "and yes, the sleeves are leather and they have a leathery smell.

He also included this photo of himself taken at home by the movie screen that was set up for the 9-11-11 reunion in Northwood. "The picture on the screen is downtown Northwood in the 50's. It was hard to get a good picture of the screen and me in the darkened room." And here it is nonetheless.

We have told Richard you can take the boy out of Northwood but you can't take Northwood out of the boy. To which he says, "Amen!"

The scene at left is duplicated elsewhere in this blog. We mentioned earlier that there was a red light on the wall at Gildner's, at the right of this picture, that was the "alarm" for Mel Horgan that something mischievous was happening in town. We're not sure that the light didn't go up after the class of '62 left town.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Medical Memories

Walking through Mercy Hospital last week makes me marvel at the changes in medicine since we were in school years ago.

Then: all nurses wore white with starched caps
Now: what looks like pajamas

Then: noisy tile floors
Now: carpeting

Then: paper charts filed at the end of the bed or on the door
Now: computers everywhere

Technology is sweeping through Mercy. Data-gathering in the room comes from a computerized checklist, and every employee in the hallway has his/her nose glued to a monitor practically all day. Laptops are clicked into and out of docking stations to access the hospital server. And in spite of all this, it seemed every new nurse or doctor failed to check the data before asking things like, "what drugs are you taking?" Didn't we already answer that?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trouble With a Capital "T"

This is an article published in the Albert Lea paper in May, 1967.

TROUBLE WITH A CAPITAL "T" Northwood - If you think you have troubles, consider the Elmer Weidler family, southeast of Northwood. Their home was damaged and they lost the other buildings and some livestock and machinery in the tornado last Sunday, April 30th. Their only son, Gerald, and his wife, married only a year, lost their home, furnishings and clothing in the tornado. Their wedding presents are gone. The couple's only daughter, Mrs. Marilyn Ulve of Lake Mills, is ill, having lost a newborn baby about a week ago. Last Tuesday, Mrs. Elmer Weidler fell and broke her hip. According to reports, a dog ran in front of her and she tripped over it. She is in a Mason City hosppital, where she had surgery on her hip.    This is only part of the story. Since this story hit the press, my brother was killed in a tractor accident on May 13th. He suffered a seizure and was run over by a field digger. And, that same summer, I can't remember the date, my dad broke his hip also. Needless to say, that was a very bad year. When I woke up in the morning, I wondered what would happen next. Attached is a picture of our farm after the tornado.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Women Athletics - Then and Now

Ladies, you were born 10 years too early if you really wanted to compete athletically. Title IX was a powerful enabler when it arrived in 1970 or so, although it didn't do much for our era.

I was reminded of this recently. LaVonne Forland Welch described girls gym class as a game of volleyball with 15 on a side when the weather was bad, or softball when the weather was good. Even though Iowa's 6-girl basketball was pretty popular in those days and later, at NKHS the girls who were athletes might try out for one of the 5 cheerleading positions and that was about it.

As a teacher/administrator, a young lady by the name of Kim Gottman was the best female athlete I saw during those years. And she put on one of those "holy cow" moves as a sophomore in '79 or '80 (post-Title IX) that made me realize the male chauvinist pig that I am had been blind to what was going on all around us over the years. Or maybe "not going on" is a better description of the suppression in place.

Our local team was on defense at the time I am referencing. With nimble hands and a good eye, Kim stole the ball and took off downcourt on a fast break. An opponent tried to head her off after she crossed the timeline, but Kim never broke stride, dribbled behind her back to avoid the defender, and went in for a layup.

I had no idea girls had that skill level. And how pathetic is that? Ladies, I guess we expected you all to be pretty scientists. Or homemakers. Our heroine: June Cleaver. The reality: you never had a chance. If only Title IX had come 20 years earlier.