Wednesday, November 30, 2011

News from 50 Years Ago

I didn't know he was a hunter, but Bob Wilder once bagged a couple of Canadians for Thanksgiving Day.  Here's what the Anchor reports in their Early Files of November 23, 1961:

Bob Wilder in Class
Robert Wilder, N-K industrial arts teacher, bagged a pair of Canadian Honkers Saturday near Silver Lake.  The geese weighed eight and ten pounds with the larger bird having a 67-inch wingspan.  It was two geese with two shots for Wilder after sneaking up on the small flock.

And he would have been using lead shot, for sure.  Two for two with steel shot would have been difficult at best, though we give him credit for his expertise in this shooting and I'm sure the birds were delicious.

Wilder was also a JV basketball coach for at least a couple of years, including our freshman year, the only time I think I ever played organized basketball, but I dropped out due to my inability to shoot or handle the ball.  Or play defense.  The one basketball memory that I can report is that Wilder reneged on a promise made to me in practice one night.  When I found myself in a jump ball situation with the much taller John Roberts Wilder declared, "If you outjump him, you start at center tomorrow night against Glenville."

I won the tip but Wilder took back his words, and I started on the bench, where I belonged.

JV Practice was held in the new elementary gym when it became available, the latest in a line of gyms we used.  You will recall from an earlier posting that the arched gym we used was 25 years old in our senior year.  Prior to its construction the gymnasium had been located in the lower level of the original building, later to became the home of Wilder's industrial arts classes, Ag, and Band.  That same gymnasium doubled as our lunchroom until the new elementary was built in 1953 or 54.  I have a memory of standing on a walkway next to a railing, overlooking the lunch tables of the basement gym below, and smelling the school lunch.  When the new gym/lunchroom was built, the memory is of the footrace to be first in line for lunch.  The lunch smell probably did not change, and to this day has probably not changed.

All these memories because the Anchor reported Bob Wilder shot two geese.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Music in the Air

We are preparing for our first ever trip to Decorah for the annual "Christmas at Luther".  Click that link to find out more about the history of this event, now in its 30th year.  Like I say, it's our "first ever" time to attend, driven by our grandson Bryan's membership in at least one of the performing choirs.  For the past four years we drove the 40 miles to his hometown to watch him perform in a number of musical events, and we're looking forward to this "upgrade," said with no disrespect to his high school choir.

Bryan's paternal grandfather was a Lutheran minister and a gifted singer in his own right.  At Reverend Waznik's funeral a dozen years ago, I was awestruck by the sound of 40 attending Lutheran ministers, primarily, I suspect, from small congregations in Western Wisconsin, as they sang along with the congregation on a number of hymns, reminding me of the Norwegian Lutheran heritage of rural northern Iowa.

Lowell Gangsted, a Luther alum, carried much of the Luther music with him, and our choirs sang a number of religious Christmas songs annually, including several from Handel's Messiah, though the programs distributed to the audience never included the important disclosure that was always posted in the programs at Bryan's high school: "We believe in the importance of a variety of musical exposure, which may/will include songs generally felt to be religious in nature."  Whether you regard that disclosure as important or not, times have changed and we change with them.  Or prior to them, perhaps.

I always appreciated Gangsted's commitment to the Messiah.  He had a goal to add a new song from that collection every year until the entire collection would be included in a program.  I don't recall how far we made it on that commitment during our time, but since we sang those songs every year, I can tell you that I still know the words and music for many of them, and probably could sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" in harmony without referencing the sheet music.  You may be able to do the same thing, although we would all need to admit that the job is made easier by virtue of the word "Hallelujah" being sung repeatedly.  Still, the Christmas music of our youth rings a memory bell as loudly as the music of Elvis Presley and others.  All a part of the heritage.

If you're in Decorah this weekend, we may see you there!  And be sure to say, "Hei hvordan har du?"

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Penny Postcards

The Penny Postcard is before our time if you count pre-1952 as "before our time."  And when Marilyn Weidler forwarded a link to a Penny Postcards website, I couldn't resist adding it to the blog.

Go to that website for at least a little history on the penny postcard, and view some classic old pictures like those below.  Choose your state and county and you can see what has been submitted by historians and buffs.  Those below are the only four that have been submitted for Worth County, IA.

I also found a website providing the History of Postage Rates in America.  It confirms that the postcards, first authorized by Congress in 1898, remained a "standard" (with a couple years of exception) rate of one cent for the card.  The Penny Postcards site lists the evolution of the card, as you will see.

Arnold Lien was normally our mail carrier.  When we had a letter to mail but no stamps, we would put 3 cents in the mailbox on top of the letter and he would stamp and forward the letter for us.  At some point in time that neighborly practice was discontinued, unfortunately.  Nonetheless, enjoy these old old views of Northwood.

Old Baptist Church

Central Avenue Looking West - One Block East of Hwy 65 Turn

City Park - later Swensrud Park - 1941

Russell's Cabins on Hwy 65 North
All the postcards were scanned and donated for use on the website.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

From the Anchor 50 to 75 Years Ago

This Week's Anchor had a report announcing Edsel Schweizer, Luther College Football Coach, as guest speaker for the 40 members of the football team at its annual banquet the coming Monday.  Howard Vorland, who was once a Junior High Principal and I believe Health teacher, was Lions Club Program Chair.  In another year, Stan Sheriff, then coach at Iowa State Teachers College, brought along Mace Reyerson, the oustanding athlete who graduated about 1957 or 58 when he spoke.

Both Schweizer and Sheriff were very successful at the college level, and Sheriff eventually left ISTC to become AD at the University of Hawaii, though I never figured out how he finessed that plum.  Not to say he wasn't a quality fit - but go from Cedar Falls to Hawaii?  Only in my dreams!

But the bigger news, to me, was in the 75 Years Ago category, where the Anchor had announced on November 26, 1936, the opening of the new high school gymnasium:

More than 500 people took part in the opening event held at the new high school gymnasium Tuesday evening when six Worth County basketball teams played three exhibition games beginning at 7 PM with music by the Northwood High School band between the games.  The new auditorium seats 1,100 and the building meets public expectations in every way.

Six county teams - let me guess:  Northwood, Kensett, Manly, Carpenter, Grafton, Joice, Hanlontown or Fertile?  I'm not sure when/how all the school consolidations rolled out but I do know Carpenter had its own school until we graduated, and Joice became a part of Lake Mills somewhere along the way.  If you have knowledge, pass it along.

Meets public expectations?  Not to be uppity, but I don't think the public ever spent much time in those locker rooms...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Space Age Trees

Life clearly changes in retirement.  Decorating for Christmas used to take two hours and now it takes two days.  In days gone by we'd go buy a tree a couple weeks before Christmas.  Then it became a tradition to drive to the St Croix Valley Tree Farm near Somerset for a Frazer Fir on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  When we finally bought the pre-wired tree from Gerten's a couple years ago we shifted to the weekend before Thanksgiving to put it up, model train, Snow Village and all, to a large degree because the grandkids don't come by as often as they used to, and we know they will be here for Thanksgiving.  So it's much more than decorating time that has changed.

During the process of setup this year I started recalling some of the trees we've seen over the years, including the one that Miss Butler, the vocal music teacher from our junior high years, would put up in the music room, 100% DRAPED with icicles.  The application must have taken hours to complete, and most of us would have destroyed the process by throwing the icicles onto the tree, an absolute "no-no" at our house.  If you get caught.

The Space Age Tree, probably an invention of Reynolds Aluminum, even showed up at the home of my paternal grandparents, which is kind of amazing for her, but very logical for him.  I mean, who wants to mess around with this Christmas stuff?  They even had the rotating colored lights that were popular, and visible in the YouTube below.

Since this blog is All Things 60s, you really need to check out the website from which these photos were "borrowed."  Just click that link to see more, and in the meantime, take a gander at this video from YouTube. Tell me if you were able to watch it without chuckling.  Be sure to click the "enlarge" icon, lower right.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Joe Frazier - Part Deux

This really isn't about Joe Frazier.  It's about the world we lived in, and how little it resembled a cultural world that most of us probably still do not know or understand.

Primarily Norwegian Lutherans, we had little interaction in particular with the black world that Joe Frazier may have symbolized, sharecroppers trying to stay alive after the slavery of their ancestors.  What we saw was - entertainers like Nat King Cole, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and of course the sports figures like Frazier, although in the 50s, the southern athletic teams were white white white - with an occasional black, who was normally the fastest guy on the team and their running back.

When Martin Luther King became the voice of the oppressed who were seeking more opportunity, a common theme was that the blacks were "unappreciative" although we had little or no understanding of what they'd gone through.  And an uncle who came to visit opined that all the racial problems in Memphis were caused by Communists trying to create dissension.  Surely they must have been behind it.  J Edgar Hoover would have been leading that line of thinking.

I suspect that if any of us had brought home a black boyfriend or girlfriend, there would have been great apprehension and even hostility at home, though doing so probably had one in a trillion odds of happening  because of the church basement lifestyle instilled in us.  In Our Town we knew nothing of the culture.

When several classmates (Norwegian Lutherans, for sure) went to the Miami Luther League convention they routed through Washington, DC, staying in a hotel in a lesser section of town.  All were cautioned not to go out alone, or after dark, into the primarily black neighborhood.  Truth be told, whether it was actually dangerous or not, none of the conventioneers could have known.  But imagine you traveled away from the hotel, say to do your laundry, and you were the only white in the laundromat . . . might you feel uncomfortable?

Kathryn Stockett wrote The Help, later to become a popular movie, that underscores the plight of the black in America, especially in the south.  The low expectations, the "management" of a class of people, the limited mobility, are all something foreign to our own lives.  Hers is a story of blacks hired as "the help" in white homes on the other side of the tracks.  Talk back, you lose your job.  Do it twice and you're blackballed, and perhaps your family as well.  And no public complaining.  Unfathomable conditions for those of us from a small Iowa town.

The attitudes run deep, probably unnoticeable for a farmboy from Iowa.  But the discrimination is there, though subtle, and is sometimes felt even if not intended.  Attending grad school in Missouri, I experienced it when walking through the education building with two classmates, both black.  Having had one of them in several classes, I knew him quite well.  He was tall, smart, a handsome fellow, and charismatic.  He went by "Dude" and it was appropriate.

A professor of education, Dr. Bell, was approaching us, peeking into classrooms as he walked, as if he were looking for someone, and when he came up to us he greeted us with "How are you boys doing?"  The temperature dropped 50 degrees.  The Dude turned to his friend and said, "I don't see any boys, do you?"  And his friend said, "No, I don't see any boys."  Ouch.

At one point I worked for a company based in Atlanta, GA, and discovered that it, too, was lily-white, but these folks didn't know about "Uffda" or "Yah, sure, you betcha".  You had to listen twice to the deep southern accent of some of them in order to understand them, and while I enjoyed that, you could sense the quiet racial attitude.  The company finally hired a black rep in Chicago.  Carl once attended a regional meeting in St Louis with us, where our regional manager special-ordered a slice of watermelon to be placed on his plate.  Lonnie thought that was really funny, and several of us laughed, unfortunately.  Carl didn't make it in this career although this incident wasn't the cause.  Nor did he object to the watermelon, though I suspect The Dude would have, with little restraint.

Somehow you extract lessons by watching others, and though I have had black friends from time to time, my upbringing didn't do much to prepare or instruct me for the racism they experience, and the black friends were normally operating within my white world anyway.  I only know that in reading what folks like Joe Frazier grew away from - their home - my own home, while isolated, didn't create any baggage for me.  And the racism I have seen as a spectator, like those situations above, haven't broadened my scope very much.  It's still a life I can't really imagine.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Musical Memories for a Reunion

We of the jukebox era may enjoy this Music Time Machine available at, dedicated to music lovers - decades of songs to listen to.  The Everly Brothers.  The Marvelettes.  Dion.  Ray Charles.  Roy Orbison.  All of 'em.  You could stay up late (9:30, maybe 10 PM) listening to them.

You may find yourself smiling when you notice their homepage has ads for Medicare Plans, Humana, United Health Care, and Anthem.  Guess they know their audience, whaddyathink?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On the Death of Joe Frazier

Smokin' Joe Frazier
Joe Frazier, the Heavyweight Boxing Champ, is one of many black men who were champion boxers, so his recent death prompts a review of all those greats - and some thoughts about the world we were raised in.  As lily white Norwegian Lutherans.  And we'll get to that in the next posting.

But first, some thoughts about some of the greats we have known in our lifetime.  Boxing was, to me, a spectator sport.  I couldn't see any reason to take the beating that some of them faced, like Benny "Kid" Paret, who was killed in the ring by Emile Griffith in March of 1962.  The cover of Sports Illustrated the following week showed Paret being beaten to his death; in First Hour Study Hall, Maynard Midtgaard pointed at the photo and said, "These guys are the best-conditioned athletes in the world."  True - but it didn't keep Paret alive.

On the other hand, boxing was a way out, of sorts, for a number of blacks dating perhaps first to Jack Johnson, who became the first African-American Heavyweight Champ in the early 1900's.  Over time, more and more blacks got into the ring, although my earliest recollection was of a fellow named Bobo Olson, a white guy who was at least moderately successful.  By the mid 50's Floyd Patterson took the title, leading to bouts with the Swede Ingemar Johansson, and I was hooked as a boxing fan.  Old 'tunder and lightning was a one-punch marvel but if it landed, he would win.  I listened to 2 or 3 of their fights over the static-filled AM radio stations, losing the call from time to time as the signal faded away.

Sonny Liston - "The Bear"
And then the sport turned brutal as Sonny Liston, "The Bear" became the Champ by defeating Floyd Patterson, holding the title until he met Cassius Clay, later to become Muhammad Ali, The Greatest.  Leading up to the defense of his title against Clay, one magazine photo had Liston resting on his forearms, his chin propped up by his fists, sporting the glare that was his trademark.  He looked unbeatable, but wasn't.  Clay was magnificent.

Over time, Clay was castigated for his conversion to the Nation of Islam and refusal to serve when called.  His decision to accept a prison sentence might have been the greatest statement of principle by anyone in our younger days, and gained fans for a lifetime.  His boxing skills were unbelievable, his mouth even more unbelievable, and he led the way for foes like Frazier, Ken  Norton, George Foreman, Mike Tyson, and even Leon Spinks, a real surprise winner in 1978, and the beginning of the end of the superiority of Ali in the ring.

Frazier vs Ali, date unknown
Ali and Frazier fought "The Thrilla in Manilla" in 1975, their final bout, and the boxing world never seemed the same again as these icons gave it their all.  Although it was not in this fight that we heard the memorable call, "DOWN goes Fray-zhuh!  DOWN goes Fray-zhuh!" (that was Frazier vs Foreman), Howard Cosell himself became an integral part of the boxing story, with his numerous interviews of Ali, sparring conversations that became promotional for all parties including Ali, Cosell, and the sport of boxing.

At the welterweight level we later saw Sugar Ray Robinson, Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns, Roberto Duran, and Marvelous Marvin Hagler battling each other in the 80's, and to my mind that was the beginning of the end of boxing as a sport of renown.  By 1993 when Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield were fighting, the biggest event of the night was the ultralight plane that crashed into the ring.  And that was the last boxing match I believe I watched on the tube.

So many of the boxers, black for sure and probably the white ones, too, came from poor backgrounds.  Sonny Liston was reputedly one of 25 children fathered by one man.  Frazier was one of twelve.  The family background was typically that of sharecropper, and for many who indeed made it to the Bigtime and a share of boxing wealth, the stories eventually came back of the wealth being frittered away through unscrupulous handlers, fast living, or ignorance, and the boxers ignominiously becoming Vegas "greeters" to support themselves.  But for many black men, there was little other choice.  More on that in Part Deux.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reunion Time

Cousin or Classmate?
Yesterday in Northwood we held our annual Holstad Reunion.  As our parents have dwindled away it has become a Cousins Reunion, and yesterday 25 of us including Larry Holstad were on hand to reminisce.

Aging is an interesting process.  Fifty years ago I seemed to have little in common with these, primarily older, cousins, and anymore it is a joyful and heartfelt gathering.  These folks are salt of the earth and I take pride in being one of them.

I probably haven't had a chance to sit down and really talk with Larry for 25 years, so this became our time to remember growing up together, riding calves, getting ringworm, grabbing the cow's tail as she headed out the barn door, hunting, sledding, laughing at our fathers and their friends as a single pheasant flew the gauntlet, so to speak, from one end of their line to the other without getting shot.

The days of our youth were a precious time, and Larry and I agree that today's youth probably won't have an experience like it.  Then again, we didn't go through the experience of winter transportation that included heated rocks under our feet, so no doubt some events that we experienced are events that today's youth could do without.

Larry recalled getting reacquainted with Mike Lien after growing apart after graduation, like we might be doing through this blog.  It's more than just the fun of it - it's a matter of recalling the bedrock from which we came.  Sadly, we also learned yesterday of the sudden death of Harvey Hanson, Gwen Hillman's husband, on Saturday, and last week I heard from Vicky Perkins that Dennis Boettcher had died in October.

Such news sobers the day.  Still, dying is a part of living, and living is made better by exploring all the options including a full review on occasion.  Which leads me to these suggestions:

1.  A full turnout at the Reunion next summer would be terrific.  In spending three or four hours with Larry yesterday we were both reminded of the need to get out of our circles and routine, expanding our horizons and lives.  Past practice has been to schedule events around the Fourth of July, so keep that part of your calendar open.

2.  You have stories to share, and this blog was created for them.  My personal well is running dry, if you will, so consider this a call to action on your part.  If you prefer not adding your story directly to the blog, that's no problem, because you can email it to and we'll get it on for you.  Don't worry about punctuation, grammar, or any Wilma Helgeland niceties; if they add to the story, they stay in, and if not, I have an editor's pen available.

And that old guy in the clip at the top?  Class of '61!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Salute to Veterans

Marines on Patrol in Viet Nam

Several years ago in Terre Haute, IN, during the course of a business lunch with 3 or 4 others, one of them, Dave, silently left the table.  Across the room there was a sudden commotion of sorts, and there we saw Dave standing at a booth, motioning to a fellow who had kind of a blank look on his face, to get up, and the man scrambled to do so.

Dave slipped behind him, performed the Heimlich, and a piece of meat popped out of the man’s mouth.  Without saying a word, and before the man could thank him,  Dave returned to our table to finish our lunch and conversation with little or no reference to what had just happened.

It should have been no surprise that he would do that.  A former owner of a steak house, he likely had encountered the situation on more than this occasion, and he sought no accolades for essentially saving a person’s life.  After all, he had done it before.

Later, while Dave was doing some paperwork in his office, I was studying a photo on the wall, of a patrol in Viet Nam, 6 or 8 soldiers in chest-deep water, rifles held over their heads to keep them dry.  “I am the second guy in the line,” he said from his desk.  “The two right behind me never came home.”

His comment was sobering, perhaps moreso today.  Maybe he didn’t stand directly in the line of fire protecting us, but he was there to serve, so in truth he really had “done it before” the incident at lunch, putting his own life at risk in the process.

Heroes seem to serve quietly, and today being Veterans Day we pause to thank the Dave’s of our world, who leave to serve, and continue to serve when they return.  From the class of ‘62, in particular, we pay our gratitude to Stanton Arendts, Arlyn Morse, Ron Van Steenburg, David Skellenger, Robert Smith, Mike Lien, and any others who served.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Reunion Plans are Underway

We've just heard from Larry Holstad that the reunion plans are underway.  The committee has selected Yacht Island as the location.  This awesome facility is now being transported from the Caribbean to the mainland by way of the Gulf of Mexico.  By next March it will be heading up the Mississippi, fighting the chilly waters of dethawing ice.  Once it reaches the mouth of the Cedar River it will progress on up to the Shell Rock, arriving in Northwood by mid-June.

Utilizing its Blue Class Color, the Class of '62 has plans to turn the muddy Shell Rock into a beautiful Aqua, and paint beautiful clouds in the sky with its other Class Color, White.  Given the Class Motto, "With Courageous Hearts, Nothing Is Impossible", the Reunion Committee has determined the mission will be a slam dunk, to honor Mike Lien.  No word on whether the Island Yacht will be seen in the 4th of July Parade.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Angry Women - Twelve of 'em - Plus 3

Back: D Brunsvold, C Boutelle, J Gullickson, S Thoen, S Carlson, S Thoen and S Grundmeier; Middle: N Zimmer, J Dybvad, L Forland; Seated: L Brunsvold, J Tue, P Mueller, E Conner, M Hanson

The Northwood Anchor commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Junior Class Play in their Early Files (November 2, 1961) this week.  We salute the underclassmen (yeah, I know, they're all women) who were a part of the play.

I could be wrong, but I believe Carol Boutelle Johnson was the level-headed Juror #8 (no names, all numbers) who slowly led the group to the conclusion that the fellow in this "slam dunk" trial was indeed not guilty, including an argument had something to do with whether a witness really could have gone to bed with his glasses on.

The explosive final minutes of the play centered around the jury member who didn't like to be proven wrong.  There was some screaming going on and I'll leave well enough alone by not recalling who that actor was.  This may have been the reason the jurors had such difficulty:

Two Reasons Why It's So Hard to Solve a Redneck Murder:

1.  The DNA all matches.
2.  There are no dental records.

OK, it wasn't a redneck story.  The original stageplay was also made into a movie in 1957, you may recall, starring Henry Fonda in Carol's role.  Carol, you will need to correct that assumption if it is incorrect.  Good play, well done by the juniors!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Two Blondes and Niagara

By accident tonight I happened upon Turner Classic Movies, and the movie of the hour was "Niagara" starring Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotton, and Jean Peters.  Talk about bad dialogue.  Once again, the movies we always thought were outstanding seem to be lacking when replayed against today's movies.

Since it was filmed near Niagara Falls, I imagined seeing Merrilee and Jim Reid heading out on the Maid of the Mist, the tour boat used for the filming, and as you look at the attached photo and see how wet they are, you know they were indeed at Niagara Falls for this photo.  Jim and Merrilee were on a tour including a stayover at Marsha Gaarder Hasseler's home.

Merrilee and Jim - Misted Over!
Presumably their conversation was a higher level than what I heard in the movie, and I can't imagine that Merrilee would be told what to do like Jean Peters is instructed in the movie:  "Shake it off, honey, you know you were dreaming!"  Makes me think of the posting of a few days ago when we talked about expectations, especially of our women - they only come along for the ride, not for any significant contribution.  At least that used to be the theory.

Here's a YouTube from the movie.  Marilyn is singing "Kiss" and you're reminded why it was that JFK was all agog over her.  As usual, if you are getting this in an email, you will need to go to the blog to see the whole thing.

Jean Peters is the other young lady in the clip, and though I recognized the feIlow on the right, I did not know his name was Casey Adams.  His oft-repeated line uttered when he saw her in the dress in this clip was "Get out the fire hose!"  If you Google "Marilyn Monroe and Niagara" you will get numerous other clips to view, including the first 10 minutes of the movie, which I could have put in here but it has an annoying ad that pops up in the middle of the screen every 5 seconds.

For background on the movie, click this link.  You'll find out more about the role she played - a seductive adulteress and murder conspirator.   All in good taste, of course.

In any regard, it's all a fun memory of old movies - and how much they have improved.  Merrilee, hope your hair got dried out!  And now you have been featured in a story with Marilyn Monroe.  Happens a lot, I suppose?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Boogie Woogie

I've watched this several times and get tired doing so, but enjoy it all the same.  Perhaps sometime in your life you've had dance lessons and at one point you were able to perform like this.  If so, you have remained trim, for sure.

If you're getting this post emailed to you it probably won't show up in the email, so go online to the blog to view it.

The dance was popular in the 30's and 40's, thus the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy performed by the Andrews Sisters, and was not more than an image I kind of knew about during our decade.  Wikipedia has an interesting article on it, wherein it describes the "twelve-bar" blues format.

To watch the above, you really need to click the full-screen icon, play it on a 23-inch monitor, and use good speakers.  It's just fun.  I swear the dancers never break a sweat.