Friday, September 16, 2011

Memories - Many Lost Forever

Bulldog Art 1
The Lake Mills Bulldog
I keep thinking our cheerleaders will chime in with some exciting stories of the campaigns back in 61-62, but lacking their input, I turned to my better half, who was an LMHS Bulldog cheerleader at the other end of the ring.

"What great memories do you have?"  I asked.

"None," she said.

"You mean you don't even recall the upset in St. Ansgar?"

"Why?  Who did we play?  All I remember is that I always wanted to win - but I don't recall the details."  And she laughed at me.

Oh, Lordy.  Here I thought all that stuff was important.  Maybe she's just putting it in perspective for me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Northwood's "Music Man"

The September, 1940, NHS News made a couple of references to LT Dillon, the band director, leading cheers for one group or another.  I have very vague personal memories of discussions about him, and believe I recall seeing plaques and/or trophies associated with his name, either in the band room or in the trophy cases in the hallway outside the old gym.

But I don't actually know too much about the man and his place in the history of our school - but I should.  Because he apparently was, in today's terminology, "the man."

So once again I relied on Richard Holstad for some input, and here is what he sent along:

L. T. Dillon
L T Dillon was one of the very early businessmen in Northwood.

He loved music, and he loved the school kids. This combination was so strong that LT Dillon had a major - major impact on the town of Northwood ……. when in 1936 he had the audacity to take the NHS band to the national competition held in Cleveland Ohio …… AND THEY WON FIRST PLACE ….. IN NATIONAL COMPETITION!  This man IS Northwood’s own Music Man. 

There are several band members still living in Northwood from that time.  My mother was in that band.  I have spoken with and gotten to know some of these individuals and am able to "click into" some of the bonding these events created in Northwood in 1936 thru 1940 and beyond.    

Just looking at the photo you get the feeling that he's a natural-born leader with high expectations, the kind of guy you would expect to make believers of his troops - without resorting to 76 trombones.  If you know someone who can tell us more, please pass along their stories.  Sounds like this guy is some kind of legend.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Did Your Dentist Sing to You?

Recently I lost an inlay (precious metal valued at $14.10).  While reclining in the dentist chair and thinking of the Class of '62 blog, I couldn't help but think of Dr. H. F. Johnson, so I asked my dentist if he would sing to me like my dentist did 50 years ago.  But he demurred.

While in high school, a trip to see Doc Johnson was normally painful even if beneficial.  Seemed he was always coming up with gadgets to help avoid the pain, but never used Novocaine as a solution.  The very last gadget that I recall being used was a water hose affixed to the drill, and I was directed to squeeze a trigger of some type whenever I felt any pain.

"We're not hitting a nerve," he insisted.  "It's the high heat that the drill generates that causes the pain."  And thus the water was a cooling agent.  Theoretically at least.  It still hurt.

When the drilling ended he would direct me to lean over the spit bowl that had water spiraling downward, carrying away all the blood, tooth chips, and other crap that had been in my mouth during the event.

Then he shoved amalgam into the hole he had just created, and screwed down with a thumbscrew the forms used to hold it there.  And then I would heave a sigh of relief.  For the moment there was peace.  He often would leave the room to do paperwork or whatever, or perhaps he stayed right there, right foot up on the radiator while he pulled the blinds down to peak through them and into the street.

And then he would ask how good our football team would be that fall.  Or he would break into song.  It's a song I can repeat after all these years, because it didn't have many words, and was extraordinarily memorable.  It was a simple tune with simple words:  "Because LeRoy is the best guy in town!!"

They don't make dentists like that anymore.  Even though I taught him the words last week, my new dentist wouldn't sing it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

NHS News - 1940

Our "Colorado Conniver"
Richard Holstad must have a sideline business of Storage Facility ownership to accommodate all the souvenir stuff he has.  Even when he scans stuff electronically our guess is that he keeps the original somewhere.

Recently he passed along a copy of the NHS News from September 27, 1940, originally in the hands of the Larry Patterson family, but forwarded to him for review and electronic storage.

The editorial staff of the "News" was quite skilled, apparently sold ads to local businesses (candy bars 3 for 10 cents!), and published this compilation monthly.  The content is interesting reading for a variety of reasons.

Our Blog Provider won't allow the pages to be viewable within this posting, so click this link to go to a pdf copy of the actual document.

Any who started a career in education will recognize the mimeograph production, a far cry from today's computer.  A typo was not easily corrected, and full pages often were re-typed due to excessive errors or tearing of the sheet.  The original was messy to handle, then mounted on a cylindrical machine that was originally hand-cranked until the electric motor allowed automated production.  But back to the NHS News . . .

The publication offers editorials, gossip, club news, and all the stuff you'd expect from a school paper, PLUS the Normal Training news.  Many of our mothers might have taken the Normal Training in high school, then a summer of "advanced" training at Cedar Falls before becoming a rural school marm.  In the "Former Students" section a couple of alumni were reported to be visiting, on leave from the service just 14 months before Pearl Harbor, while two others were serving in Washington, D.C., in civil service positions.

This "News" being before our time, too few names are recognizable, though Harry Thompto was reported to have been elected President of the "Athletic N. Club" as well as president of the senior class.  L. T. Dillon, the band man (extraordinaire, apparently), was noted at least twice for leading yells with/for the cheerleaders.  And on the "Professionals" page, there are some very familiar names: Veenker, Olson, Osten, Allison, and Johnson.

Change the names, change the year - and nothing changes, except yesterday's paper is now yellow.  It's worth at least a few moments of your time to glance at this history.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Here is the 1960 Varsity Football Team.

Click Photo for Larger View

This posting is not about football, it's about the "morphing" process we have all gone through in the past 50 years.  At the time of this photo I suspect most of the subjects would not have believed they would ever weigh more than 10 or 20 pounds more than they did at that time.

Aging is surprising in many ways, isn't it?

But some things don't change: Buddy Mounts never smiled in any picture, and Lyle Bestul always had a smile on his "photo face."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Words of Wisdom

Click on Photo for Larger View
Though Bill Mansur was not pictured in our own yearbook, he did make a nice spread in the '61 Yearbook.  As we just reported, he left NKHS to head to Atkinson, NE, a small, very rural community about 200 miles northwest of Omaha.  And I've been there.  It's been hit by hard times more than our own hometown has, but it's surviving, too.

The letter he includes with his farewell speaks to many of the same issues we face today.  It's a very democratic call to "give everyone an opportunity to get an education, regardless of their status in life."  Jefferson couldn't have said it much better.

For all his faults, this pretty well underscores his commitment to do the best possible, make everyone better at what they are/do, and open the game to all.  After all, if he is so committed to the right thing that he's willing to back up a car a quarter mile to be able to say he came to a "full stop," how could you argue with him?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Old News

Really old news, that is, like from 50 years ago.

Just received the Anchor today with a report from 50 years ago when we were entering our final year of school. The tentative reported enrollment stood at 1,051 students, which is just about double the enrollment I saw a couple weeks ago.  Rural America is getting smaller.

The same issue reported that Bill Mansur, our principal the prior year, had accepted a position of Principal in the Atkinson, NE, public schools beginning September 5.  Bob Scheib, the former band man, became our principal. I most remember him for the speech he gave at Prom, something about world economics, as I recall.  It seemed a bit out of place but it might have been practice for him, who knows.

Janis Hendrickson probably also noted in this report " . . . one of the final touches in closing the Northwood Theatre: the wrecking of the lighted marquee at the entrance.  Workmen with a loader lowered it on a flatbed truck and it was (hauled away)."  Another part of our lives, memories, and passion that disappeared without our realizing it.  Progress.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Jon Swenson

Click on the Photo to Enlarge
Jon Swenson came to town in our freshman year, as teacher/coach, and became our Guidance Counselor in our junior year before moving on in life.  He was a Lake Mills boy who impressed the locals when he came home from college in the summer and worked out by, among other things, chinning himself on the football field goalposts.

He was a good guy with great intentions and a personal philosophy summed up in his response to the Class of '61 Dedication of their Yearbook to him.  Essentially, he said one should set goals, believe you will accomplish them, and set out to do so immediately.  And he is the one person with whom I have a clear memory of a conversation about my career before leaving high school.

Ultimately he earned a Doctorate in Educational Administration and became the Stillwater, MN, High School Principal.  I happened to bump into him there in the late 80s and he was the same guy that we knew at NKHS.

Just recently I had a conversation with a fellow who graduated from Stillwater in the mid-80s.  He was a bit down on his luck and had made some choices in life that were not helping him greatly, but he seemed to have a warm spot for Big Jon.  Apparently this fellow had once been "encouraged" to pull the fire alarm at school, did so, and was called on the carpet in front of Swenson.

Yearbook Dedication by the Class of '61
Now, he had pulled this alarm and was caught red-handed doing so by George Thole, a legendary Stillwater and Minnesota football coach.  And he even admitted having done so when standing in front of Swenson, who refused to believe that he had.  "Come on, 'Bob', who's behind this?  I know it's not you!" was Swenson's adamant position.  Sounds so like him, doesn't it?

When we were sophomores Swenson set up a basketball "league" in our PE class, with self-reporting of wins and losses, all of them recorded on a paper thumb-tacked to the bulletin board between the gym floor and steps to the locker room.  Somehow there was a difference of opinion as to who had won which games, and memories seemed to get a bit out of whack as to whether Team A or Team B had won and what the score was, so there he was standing at the bulletin board, trying to sort it all out, with numerous individuals trying to insert their own version of the truth.

It wasn't going so well, especially when John Roberts very correctly said, "This can't be right because the number of  all the wins when added up HAVE TO equal the number of losses!"  With that, Swenson ripped the page off the wall and marched into the coaches room, and the league was over.  We never heard another word about it again.

He was a good guy, even if his faith and optimism sometimes got undermined by reality.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Outhouse Tales

Once you get past a certain age nearly any topic is suitable for discussion, and the venerable Outhouse shot to the top of the list this week in an email from Richard Holstad.  Then it proceeded to seep in a number of directions until finally "Blade", AKA Stanton Arendts, topped the pile with this story.

My grandmother Arendts had one in Kensett.  They lived katty-corner from the school.  It was not used for the designated purposes when I was growing up, but rather as a storage site for storm windows and screens.  It was under a large cottonwood tree next to the garage.  It had a peaked roof that was topped by a metal ball with tin flashing on the four sides leading to the top.

The house is no longer there and hasn't been since lightning struck the tree one night.  The bolt traveled down the tree and hit the ball on top of the outhouse.  It continued to the ground via the tin strips.  The house was split into 4 equal sections.  The sides filleted open and fell to the ground in perfect symmetry.  Can you imagine the "shock" if it were in use at the time?

Morals of the story:

1.  Lightning does strike more than once in the same place.  That tree was struck 3 times during the time I lived in Kensett.

2.  Never take a crap in an outhouse during a thunderstorm.

Sometimes the stories that get passed around are kind of crappy, and I suppose that this one technically is, but our thanks to Blade nonetheless.  And apologies for all the scatological references.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Real Men Wear Leather Helmets

Click the Photo for Larger Version

Richard Holstad noticed my post the other day about the Leather Helmets we were fortunate not to wear, and I was pleasantly surprised when he emailed this program from a game Northwood played vs (you guessed it!) Lake Mills, in October, 1956.

Reading the names of the players on the roster indeed brings back memories.  As freshmen we were on the '58 squad, using the phrase loosely, with seniors like Holtan, Johnson, Fistler, and Mehaffey so we had a personalized respect for them, and older players like Jay Gullickson, Vic Edwards and others can make you smile just from the memories of the names.

Jay Gullickson brings a particular memory to mind - because of the helmets.  I don't know that these guys actually wore leather helmets and in fact I suspect they had those same plastic shells that we used later, but I do know, and you will recall from an earlier posting, that facemasks were not de rigeur at the time of this game in 1956.

So one Saturday morning in the fall of 1956, Jay came out to our place with his dad, Joe, sporting a beautiful shiner - a bruise about the size of an orange, planted directly around the eye.  Joe smiled his slow smile and said, "He blocked a kick last night."  Jay was a quarterback but I can well imagine that on defense he would fit very well as a linebacker, and when defending an extra point he would make every effort, as the tough guy that he was, to block a kick.  He succeeded - and paid a price.

Jon Swenson, an LMHS grad who played football at Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls (previously known as the Normal School and today the University of Northern Iowa) was a teacher/coach for us for a couple of years and knew what tough guys were about.  When practicing blocking technique, he said, it was important to get your head as close to the body of the defender as you possibly could, so you could avoid having him slip off your shoulder.

That was why, he said, "in the old days" you could tell the good blockers because their cheeks were always roughed up, caused by their "good technique," and he personally bemoaned the use of facemasks.  Well, Jay was a good blocker, too, of a sort, and we know what happened to him.

Personally, I'm glad we never had to wear the leather helmets.  My cheeks are plenty rosy as they are, thank you.