Then & Now . . . and: The Permanent Family Record
After a considerable absence, we welcome back JIM FITZSIMONS of St. Paul: “Subject: Uncle Ralph Then & Now.
“A couple/few years ago, the Pioneer Press ran a special section in their Sunday paper. It was a retrospective featuring several photographs that had appeared in the paper over the decades.
“One photo was taken in June of 1942. It shows a group of very excited second-graders getting out of school to start their summer. My dad showed me the photo and asked if I recognized any of the kids in the picture.
“In the center of the photo, there’s a boy with what looks like a note pinned to his overalls, for his parents. (They did that then.) That boy is my dad’s older brother Ralph. He was about 8 years old.
“Ever since I saw it, I’ve wanted to get a picture of my Uncle Ralph, who is still alive, holding the photo.
“Last month, my younger brother got married, and all sorts of family members gathered to witness the grand event. My Uncle Ralph was among the people who attended the wedding. That meant I had the perfect opportunity to get the picture I wanted.
“And here I have to thank my cousin Jeannie, Uncle Ralph‘s daughter, because she had the brilliant idea of actually going to the school and taking the picture. I didn’t think of it. I wasn’t sure the school still existed.
“So, there he is as an excited 8-year-old set free from school for a whole summer. And then, at the ripe old age of 89, retracing those 81-year-old steps!
“Thank you, Jeannie, for the great idea!
“And thanks, BB, for letting me share!”
Our theater of seasons
WAYNE NELSON of Forest Lake reports: “The ground in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin, was covered in a carpet of beautiful fall colors.”
Dept. of Neat Stuff . . . Grandpa’s Statuary Division (Piggy Bank Subdivision)
GREGORY J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “Here is more of my Grandfather Leonello’s statuary. It is over 70 years old.
“These three particular statues are what is now known as carnival chalkware. It is a form of plaster statue that is hollow, usually brightly painted and was given away as prizes at carnivals and fairs in the olden days.
“Because carnival chalkware was hollow, it was often turned into a bank with the addition of a slot for coins. There was usually no way to get the coins out except to break the bank, so to speak. They were inexpensive, and none of them were exactly works of art, so smashing them to get the money out was no great loss and probably a lot of fun.
“Here are three variations on the piggy-bank theme. The first is a classic piggy bank with a whimsical face, colorful paint job and a coin slot on the top.
“Next up is a pig family, with Dad wearing a bow tie and all the pigs having long eyelashes. The coin slot is in the back.
“Finally we have a clown riding a pig. Maybe that is something clowns used to do. At least he appears to be a friendly clown who doesn’t mind having a coin slot cut into his back.
“I’m just guessing here, but I suspect the classic piggy bank could be my grandfather’s original design, but the other two must have been created from commercial molds — because identical versions of these, but with different paint schemes, can still be found today.”
The Permanent Fatherly/Daughterly Record . . . or: Fellow travelers
THE MIDDLE DAUGHTERLY: “In 1987, I graduated from college, and my father and I decided to take a trip through the American Southwest. It would be a chance for me to practice my driving and a chance for him to see Billy the Kid country. He’d been interested in the Old West since he was a child growing up in the North Country.
“We had a little blue Ford Fiesta and a couple of cassette tapes. We both liked country music, so I brought along the Judds. They were a mother/daughter singing team, so it seemed appropriate.
“We mostly listened to the radio, changing stations as a signal faded out. We were traveling south, and every mile made it easier to find country music on the dial. A song called ‘The House of Blue Lights’ was popular at the time. Whenever it came on the radio, Dad got excited. He would wait for the chorus to come around and then sing: ‘At the house, the house, the house of blue lights!’
“I laughed because I’d seen Bill Cosby do exactly the same thing on ‘The Cosby Show.’ My father used to refer to all sitcoms as ‘Father Gets Ripped Off.’ He felt they made a general practice of ridiculing fathers. I had to occasionally remind him that everything Bill Cosby did to embarrass his kids was something I’d seen him do.
“Our best innovation on the trip was ‘Change of topic.’ At 21, I was a little on the opinionated side. We would start arguing over some small thing, but our rule was that if the other person said ‘Change of topic,’ the first person had to drop the argument — not another word allowed. It worked like a charm. We drove from Minnesota to New Mexico and back without a harsh word.
“As a brand-new driver, I was OK on the wide and lonely roads but nervous in traffic. One terrible morning, we were driving out of a large city. Kansas City, I think. It seemed like there were eight lanes of traffic. I had a concrete barrier on my left and endless pickups and cattle trucks whizzing past on my right. I was terrified, but my father kept saying: ‘You’re doing great. Really great! No problems. Don’t worry.’ He told me it would take four years to get comfortable driving, and that proved to be exactly right.
“I got to balance the scales when we hit Raton Pass on the New Mexico/Colorado border. As we drove down through the Sangre de Cristo mountains, he kept crossing the centerline.
“‘Dad,’ I squealed. ‘Watch out!’
“My father steered back into our lane. ‘It’s the strangest thing,’ he said. ‘I can’t seem to keep it on the road.’
“’That’s because we’re driving down a mountain!’ I said. ‘You have to use your brakes!’
“’Oh, thank you,’ he said, and managed to keep it in the lane from then on.
“I was delighted to have something to twit him about, because he’s a very good driver. He is living the good life at a senior care facility now, but he kept his license all the way to age 92.”
Older Than Dirt
THE DORYMAN of Prescott, Wis.: “Subject: Bittersweet notice.
“You know you’re Older Than Dirt if your colonoscopy results state that because of your age, further procedures are not recommended.”
Accidents of mirth . . . Including: Know thyself!
RUSTY of St. Paul reports: “I had issues with my blouse one day this summer.
“This is one of those lightweight shirts that I use for camping and sun protection. It has a mesh ‘window’ across the back for ventilation, with a flap of material over it.
“One of the sleeves had been fed through the back window, either when I took it off last or from the washing machine. Even though I have a graduate degree in . . . science (!), it took me a minute to figure out why I was feeling like the Hunchback when I tried several times to feed my left arm/shoulder through the sleeve.
“Later I was eating oil-cured Moroccan olives (from Morelli’s; really good). I wanted to spit the pit out into my compost bin and whiffed on my spit, so the pit went down the front of my shirt. These olives are really oily, so as the pit rolled it left an oil stain (four of them) every time it contacted the shirt.
“The trifecta for the day: I was trimming a fairly tall hedge. It was very hot out, so I had the top two buttons open. I kept feeling something scratching my chest and tummy, and my shirt was billowing outward. I’m a big person, but not that big. As I reached up and leaned forward to trim, the trimmed branches were entering my shirt instead of falling to the ground!
“As I type this, I’m wearing a T-shirt: ‘Fool me once . . . .’”
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “I want to thank the gentleman in the Roseville Perkins who graciously allowed me to read his shirt:
“’NATIONAL SARCASTIC SOCIETY
“‘As if we need your Support’”
Then & Now . . . Peace & War Division
KATHY S. of St. Paul: “Subject: May Peace Prevail.
“One of the joys of my retirement is the time I can spend watching educational programs, and news programs filmed in other countries. If I live at least 50 more years, I might actually learn enough Japanese to understand the snippets of Japanese I hear on NHK News. Or not.
“Today NHK News had a wonderful story about letters exchanged between Harold J. Bray, the last American survivor of the doomed U.S.S. Indianapolis, and Kunshiro Kiyozumi, the last survivor of the Japanese submarine that sank it. They were both read at a Memorial to the U.S.S. Indianapolis, whose sinking is a horror story suppressed by the U.S. Navy for many years. Its last mission was to carry parts for what became the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it is pure dumb luck that any of the American sailors on board survived to be rescued after four days in a sea full of sharks.
“Neither of these men expressed animosity toward the other. Mr. Bray said, in part: ‘There are no winners in a war. . . . Let us look forward to working together to build a better, safer world.’
“Mr. Kiyozumi answered, in part: ‘I am moved that . . . we can talk to each other as friends. I will continue making efforts to work for a peaceful world.’
“Among members of my generation, which went to war in Vietnam, are a number of veterans who have reached out to those we fought. I honor them, and other former combatants who now work to spread peace.
“Gosh knows we all need it!”
BAND NAME OF THE DAY: Break the Bank