Thursday, November 29, 2012

What's in a Name?

Thoughts from Richard Holstad on the subject of names, brought about by a short discussion on Bob Wilder:

I wish MY name was Wilder.
Wilder than what?
A person can have a lot of fun with that if his / her name was Wilder.
Honestly we had so much respect for Mr. Wilder, we always preceded his name with “Mr”.

But didn’t we get on the subject some time ago of the unusually creative names that can be found in the worth county neighborhood?
For instance:

Axel Boldt
Dick Chinery

I had a long list at one time of these real examples …. from a time when it seemed people were purposely creative when choosing family names.
I think I have lost track of that list by now ….. I challenge your blog readers to offer new examples.
Then there was the deal where -- what if so and so married so and so, the married name would be …..
A bad example, but the best I can do on short notice -- what if Bonnie Mack had married John Thnife, she would be Bonnie Mack Thknife.

That's an interesting start.  The Bonnie Mack example makes me recall a story in our school newspaper at one point when a creative Viking journalist pondered a number of "what if's" like one of the Groe girls marrying someone named Sideways, so her new name would become Mary Lou Groe Sideways.  

I'm struggling with that one because I don't recall the exact name of the Groe girl, nor do I recall any of the other invented names but perhaps you, Dear Reader, can flesh this out for us.  If you can, please send an email, and bring a little light to this matter, for me and for Young Richard.

Here's a late add-on from Bonnie Mack Wopperer:

More about names.......while I was working for a firm in Arcadia, CA (Engineering-Science), for a time they had some type of employee exchange program going on. One of the Chinese employees we had was a Dr. Shaw (Ph.D.) My friend Mary, who was also the very witty and interesting receptionist for the company, was trying to help Dr. Shaw choose an "Americanized" first name. Her suggestion was RICK...........what else? ?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Decorating for Christmas

Since Thanksgiving is the kick-off for the Christmas season, we've been decorating early the past few years, particularly since we don't have family around to enjoy the decorations during the time between the two holidays.  And it's much easier to put up the outdoor lights at 45 degrees than at 20 degrees.

My how things have changed since the 50s, when we put up a tree at our house a week or so before Christmas, and maybe an electric candle in a window here or there, and that was it.  Nor do I recall many other decorations around town, except for perhaps lights on the big evergreens at the courthouse, and I'm not so sure about that either.

The set-up has lost some lustre over the years, particularly with a back that complains of all the twisting and bending necessary to get the job done, and in an effort to make it easier and simpler, we invested in a pre-lit tree about 4 years ago.  The Frazier Firs we enjoyed the most were up at the $75 level, and sooner or later economy of scale predicts the pre-lit artificial tree will be reduced in price to something less than the inflation-driven Fraziers, due to the repeated use and one-time original payment.

What I should have done before buying it, however, was to ask "Exactly how much does this thing weigh?"  Even though it's in sections, it's a load to carry it from the basement up the stairs, with my aging back objecting the entire trip.  And I might also have asked about the life expectancy of the 900 bulbs or so that are on it, because once it is set up each year, there are oodles of lights that no longer burn.  So far this year I have replaced 45 lights, and I expect there will be more to be found.

Just thinking . . . one small tree with 3 cords of lights probably wasn't a bad idea.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thanksgiving for Francis

Sometimes you are thankful for people in your life, and for many NKHS grads, Francis was one of those people, so it's appropriate that today be another story about this unique character.  As mentioned previously, he was the topic of conversation at a recent lunch meeting, where Chuck Hendrickson told several stories of his relationship with him.

Janis volunteered to type up those memories for us, which is suitable since she took typing from Francis, and later typed up papers for him when he was in Grad School in Colorado.  The mission was clearly "old school" typing: onion skin original, no errors, with duplicate copies.  Word was yet to be invented.  Uffda.  Still, Janis says, "I must have passed his class if he thought I was capable of doing the typing for him."  Here's the story told by Chuck:

Francis Boggess was a character.  People either liked him, or they didn’t – pretty sure there was no middle ground.  He had a quirky personality and a funny, dry and sarcastic sense of humor.  I coached against him for a number of years while we both were head girls’ basketball coaches…he at Northwood and I at Lake Mills.  He knew the game well and I respected his coaching abilities.  

He was excitable and dramatic and showed his exasperation when a play didn't go as planned by kicking the back of the bleacher as hard as he could with the heel of his shoe.  After one particular game I noticed that he’d actually split the bleacher board and wondered how he got off the floor without limping. 

Francis always had a funny story to tell – usually with a straight face, but I knew the punch line was coming because his lips would begin curling up, as if trying to stifle a smile.  After he retired from education he returned to Estherville, his hometown.  

I ran into him years later and asked what he was up to.  He answered that he was working part time filling bags at a seed corn plant.  It was summer and Francis told me that during an exceptionally hot period his working conditions became unbearable.  To help him stay cooler, he stripped down to his skivvies and continued to scoop corn into bags.  As I recall, he was working for a relative…probably a good thing since working in one’s undies probably wouldn't be tolerated by just any employer!  As I said…Francis was a character.

I always enjoyed my interactions with Francis.  Others may not have the same opinion, but I know he made me laugh – that’s worth a lot!  Rest in peace, Francis!

Chuck Hendrickson

With a tip of an Irish hat to Francis, Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Monday, November 19, 2012

For whom the "bell" tolls . . .

Ann Johnson sent a follow-up regarding Francis Boggess after our recent Teluwut lunch, as told repeatedly by son-in-law Dave Brunsvold, '76, brother of Richard Brunsvold, '62.  It has to do with a bell that didn't really "toll" but that makes for a better headline.  She says:

I feel sort of out of the loop because I was never a student of Frances Boggess but, as a parent of his students, I thoroughly enjoyed and admired him and respected his views and opinions...he truly was one of a kind. Our girls have great memories of “Mr. Boggess times”.

I forgot to tell you one of David’s best stories about 7th grade typing class.

Mr. Boggess was at the front of the classroom talking to the class and there was a resounding “DING” from out of nowhere.

Stone silence!

Someone had touched a typewriter....worse yet, the telltale “Tab” key.

No one breathed.


Every student promptly clasped his/her hands together on top of the head and Mr. Boggess set out on his search and destroy patrol to find the guilty carriage that was teetering far on the left side of the typewriter. Dave, sitting in the very back of the room, found tremendous humor in the situation and was trying so hard not to laugh that his eyes were watering. Mr. Boggess noticed Dave’s reaction and did one of his “trying very hard not to crack a smile” faces.

Dave was laughing so hard as he was telling the story that I don’t believe he ever made it to the end and I don’t know what happened to the student who had to claim to errant carriage thereby admitting to touching the typewriter.

Did any of you ever have to do the hands on heads thing?

According to Ann, It’s much funnier when Dave tells (the story) because, being by far the tallest kid in the class, he was always seated in the back of the room....a great vantage point for keeping an eye on Mr. Boggess and seeing the reaction of all of the very scared and shaking little 7th grade girls.

Ann also reports her daughter Tanna apparently had a great personal relationship with Boggess, whom she called "Lucy" for reasons unreported, and even sang a duet with him:  "You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille!"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lunch at Teluwut in Lake Mills

It was one of those spontaneous things when Lonna and I met with the Hendrickson's and the Johnson's at the new Teluwut Restaurant in Lake Mills.  The food was good, in keeping with the original from Osage and the second in Cresco, so we recommend any of them.

Chuck was busy pointing out his former students there for their lunch.  At one point he was talking about a lady age 88, and I was going to ask if she was one of his students too, but got distracted.  Probably by one of Ann's stories.  The fellow who took this picture is Justin, and I believe he is one of Chuck's.  But much younger...

It was a lot of laughs, with stories like Ann's description of 8-man football: like watching Deer Creek freeze over!

The building is the old Farmer's and Merchants Bank in Lake Mills, and if I'm not mistaken the other two Teluwuts are also in old banks.  You'll notice the bar directly behind us, clearly carried in from a tavern somewhere else.  

Janis suggested I tour the vault behind the brick wall on our right.  Inside the vault there are more pictures like the one hanging on the wall here, and one of the old hotel where Chuck stayed when he first moved to Lake Mills and started teaching.  He shared his floor with strippers from one of the taverns.  Only one bathroom on the floor, he said, but I suppose they were probably sleeping in while he was getting ready.

Maybe one day we'll take a restaurant tour across North Iowa and see what else we can learn.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On Veterans Day, I might have shed a tear . . .

You may have seen the post-campaign speech by Obama to his campaign workers in which he shed a couple of tears while talking to the younger workers, addressing their hard work, loyalty, and commitment.  This post is not a political statement because presumably the tears shed will apply to most campaigns at this and down-ballot levels.

The passion and beliefs on which so many campaigns are founded can yield huge emotional results, whether in victory or defeat.  And it has led me to speak here of a number of events and observations that I have been mulling over for the past several weeks, events that have caused me to have my own "moments."  Emotion is personal to me, whether from success, joy, or sorrow.

Some time ago I watched a report on Paul Newman's "Hole in the Wall" Camp, founded for children with cancer and serious blood diseases.  Camp Counselors were creating an environment that few campers may have believed was within their reach until they were sitting in a circle, smiling and singing.  And by the end of the televised report, I felt a tear in the corner of my eye.

Wisconsin Lions have opened a similar camp in Rosholt, WI, for kids who didn't think they could go to camp because of their blindness.  Since the founding, the camp has expanded to kids with diabetes, and cognitive or physical disabilities.  Now many of the campers have themselves become counselors, bringing their experience full circle.

A DVD made available by the camp shows kids slogging through a mud pit, canoeing, walking a rope bridge, and enjoying all the activities that "normal" kids do at their own camps, activities they thought beyond their reach.  I've watched the video, during which a tear comes to the corner of my eyes.

Those examples perhaps illustrate a point. Most of the emotion-impact scenes I have witnessed seem to be tied to young people succeeding, perhaps beyond odds, or just because they put heart and soul into the effort and reap a reward.  Perhaps it's the opposite, where all the hard work and effort do NOT lead to success, but either way, it's the young people and their commitments that count.

As I have aged I have had more emotional reflection of America's finest going off to war, often never coming home.  When "Platoon" came out several years ago I can recall leaving the theater when the movie ended, with a very quiet crowd, few people including myself making eye contact with anyone, and indeed there were several cases of sniffling going on.

A few months ago I added "Platoon" to my Netflix Instant Queue, but have yet to watch it.  You know why.

So you can imagine that during the entire Project McNamara process late last spring my heart was full and my eyes were often wet.  On the day of the first meeting of the principals of the group we were tied by emotion, yet at this moment the engagement was not particularly deep.  Still, many tears were shed, and Marv Everhart said in a later email, "I had tears in my eyes all day."

There were two moments from Project McNamara that fully engulfed me, and both happened in Florida, where we drove for vacation immediately following that first event.  I took with me several photos gathered from Marv and others so I could scan them to include in later posts, but the primary need was to find the photo suitable for posting on the two websites, and

Once we arrived in Florida I spent a little time digging for information about Ray Calhoun, the fellow who lay on his back with Donald McNamara singing to the top of their voices.  And I found him.  We had gone back and forth without connecting until the day I went to a Walgreen's to scan all my photos.  As I was leaving the store, my phone rang, and it was Ray Calhoun.  I asked if he could confirm that he was the fellow who lay on his back singing "Up Up and Away" with Donald, and he did.

From that point on the conversation was difficult for me, as I did my best to listen and learn.  It was just a normal Project McNamara extraordinary moment of coincidence that as I finished scanning Donald's photos his fellow Marine Ray would call me. And I had more than one tear in my eye.

Back at our apartment I later made a choice on photos, uploaded them to the websites, and got a notice at completion that I would be notified when they were approved.  That took a few days, and when I checked my email several days later, one email from the Virtual Wall was a notice of approval, including a link to click to take me to his page.

When I clicked the link, the full-screen photo of Donald McNamara leaped out at me.  That was a difficult moment.  I expected to see the photo, but not the surreal full-screen version that was in front of me and I was lifted to a new peak.

I was proud to have played a part in providing recognition for this lost Marine, honored to have met his son along the way, but mostly grateful that the online photo makes it more difficult that he would ever be forgotten.  So yes, I might have shed a tear.

Today is Veteran's Day, and on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we honor all veterans, with a special salute to my unknown friend, Corporal Donald Woodward McNamara, United States Marine Corp.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

expansion on the "9 things"

By accident we discovered a symposium held at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls, only thirteen miles away, and today we attended the last of six sessions for the fall.  The series is called Morning with the Professor, and today's session was entitled Technology; Cognition, Commerce, and Culture.

It dovetailed nicely with the 9 Things last posted, since it began with an analysis of Artificial Intelligence (AI) including a video of a Wall Street Journal editorial writer who lives in Arizona, but was able to participate in an editorial board meeting in New York by way of a robot with a built-in webcam.  She not only was able to be a part of the session itself, but bumbled her way around the halls of the WSJ by way of the Segway-like robot.

Technically AI incorporates data from the past to predict the future by way of algorithms, the same mathematical formulations that allow political candidates to drill down into the electorate,  Google to observe your habits and offer you products similar to concepts or needs you've written about or researched recently, or Netflix to make suggestions of movies that you may be interested in, and predict how well you will like a movie you've not yet seen.

The Professor threw out recommended reading like Nicholas Carr's What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, or the New York Times series on "Your Brain on Computers."

He mentioned MusicXray, that he says "finds music that will be pleasing to the human ear." and listed that brought me right to the 9 Things when I read this on their websight:

We capture, analyze, and create insight from unstructured conversations, emails, employee desktop activity, and customer data.

Just when you thought it would be safe to come out of the woods.

(A great irony here - as I completed that last sentence Radio Paradise began playing Johnny Cash's "Ghost Riders in the Sky."  I'm back in the old days and I'm safe again!)