Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Traditions

Our Christmas eve service is being held at 6 pm again this year. With this time being smack dab in the middle of our Christmas celebration, I was reminded of the way it used to be: the way my family celebrated and the way our children were used to celebrating.
As a child, my parents would take me and my siblings to an early (4 pm) candlelight service. I would like to digress a minute if I might, to tell one of my favorite stories about my father.
My Dad prided himself as a good dresser. His job required that he dress well and he did. Expensive suits and , dare I say, clip on ties. They were the rage at that time. This particular Christmas, he had his best suit on and we were all sitting in the pew towards the front of the church. He must have been chastising me for the condition of my shoes. (We needed them polished regularly) Shortly after, attention was drawn to his shoes. Imagine his horror when he saw that he still had on the shoes he had on earlier in the day when he was painting. He had on this old brown, scuffed, white paint spotted shoes on to go with his expensive black wool suit. He panicked. We sort of did too because we could not stop laughing, silently of course. Silent night and all. Our shoulders were all shaking and people behind us must have wondered what we were all so joyful about.You all know what it is like when you aren't supposed to laugh and something occurs that is hilarious. After the service, he had his family literally surround him as we made our way out of the pews so no other church attenders would see his shoes. Being faithful, we all did as he asked.
After the service, we would drive around Rice Lake and look at the Christmas light decorations. They did so much more with lights in those days. We had a Christmas eve dinner and then opened presents from aunts, uncles, grandparents etc. because Santa would bring presents at night. This led automatically to the worst nights sleep of the year. Santa was coming, Santa was coming. Of course, waking up waaaayyyy before any one else, was a given.
The Christmas I most remember was the year I hardly got any presents. I was so low, moping at all the presents my siblings were opening. We took turns opening so I had to be skipped time after time. Finally, a note was found in the tree addressed to me. It led me on a "treasure hunt" and the tradition began. It had me go all around the house, only to find a note to where to look next. Finally! I said; FINALLY I was in the basement and there wrapped up was the most beautiful pair of skis. they were so much nicer than anything I thought I might get. They had steel edges, ebonite (plastic) bottoms, ski free bindings, ( so I wouldn't break my leg)
Mother would always fix a wonderful roast for dinner and then we would play with our new toys, or put together puzzles of car models.
The traditions that my wife and I started with our own children mimicked what I had been brought up with. Her catholic family would open presents at night and then go to mid-night mass. I knew that would not work with our kids so we adopted the same sort of tradition: church, lights, meal, followed by presents being opened. Christmas Day found us traveling to Rice Lake and have our Christmas with Nana.
A Christmas with my children that sticks out is reminiscent of my "skis Christmas". Mom and I planned on giving Don and Brian Nintendo for Christmas. This was an expensive gift for us, so not much else was planned on for the boys. Don did not handle it too bad but our sensitive Brian was just devastated. No presents, except maybe some under wear and socks. Finally, FINALLY, there was this note in the tree that led the boys on a treasure hunt with the Nintendo at the "end of the rainbow." Talk about elation, talk about extreme low to high of emotions, skyrocketing like a firework on July 4th.
Now, with most of our children married, we must share them with the in-laws and that is just the way it must be. So, we trade off holidays. If we get them for Thanksgiving, the in-laws get them for Christmas and visa versa.
So, the excitement still builds for me. I still have trouble sleeping right before Christmas but the cause is different now. My excitement now is the result of my anticipation of our children coming and I know laughter and fun will soon follow.
Lastly,the older I get, the more I try with some success to realize that Jesus, is indeed, the reason for the season. Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving of a Life

During my prayer time this a.m., I was thanking the Father for my blessings that He hears from me about every day; Salvation, family, health, etc. My mind went back to the previous hour when I was reading the paper and saw a picture of a young girl sticking her head out the door of a hut. She obviously lived in deplorable conditions. Then I thought of my life and how much more I have had and failed to give thanks for. It brought to mind the saying, "There but for the Grace of God, go I".
The country that I was born in. The richest country in the world and one of the freest. The mother and father that God gave to me. A young couple that truly loved each other and were not afraid to demonstrate that to their kids. We never said, "get a room!" A standard of living that provided myself and my siblings with all our needs and some of our wants. We always had the best health care. Mother was a RN nurse. She even gave me shots of penicillin when I would get sick and "mothered" me to healing. A work ethic; My mother "forced" me to go down town and find a job when I turned 16. A college education was provided for me. A trip of Europe with the college choir was paid for by my parents. After the USCG service, my widowed mother bought our first home and provided the financing for it while I finished up my education degree. When we moved to Amery, she again was my mortgage holder and we paid her what we could afford. As a result, the mother of my children could stay home and raise them. We were blessed with 5 healthy, normal children and two others we will meet someday in Heaven. My Father led me to Amery where I could work, and provide for my family for 28 years. Now these children are on their own and continue to enjoy God's ever-present blessings.
So, rather than the usual "thank yous",during my prayer time, I have come to realize I need to go back much farther than the present. I have been blessed every single moment of my life.
What did I do to benefit ALL these blessings? Not a dang thing. I could have been born in the Sudan, the Congo or so many other places where life is so hard. But I wasn't. Do I have anything to complain about? Not a dang thing.
And yet, I look forward to so many more blessings but let me never ever, ever, forget the origin of them all.
When thanksgiving is given, there must be a recipient of that thanks. For me and really for you too, it should be to the origin of all good things. God the Father.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


A month ago I was at the cemetery in Illinois where several of my relatives are buried. The occasion was the internment of my Mother's youngest sister, Jean. Aunt Jeanie's children placed flowers not only on their mother's grave but at several aunts and uncles that are buried there also. One set of headstones, prompts this entry and that was of my mother's parents. Jeremiah Porter Duell and Jennifer Halverson Duell
My Father's parents really were not in the picture of my childhood. I have pictures of them holding me as a baby but they did not come up to the resort to visit, maybe once? I have no recollection of them in my memory what so ever.
My Mom's parents, however, were quite involved. They would come up to the resort and pitch right in to help with projects. Grandpa, especially was handy. I think one had to be for one of his jobs was part owner and greens keeper of a golf course in Illinois. I remember him making steps up a hill to two of our cottages. He used boards and dirt to make steps. When it would rain, I used to like to watch the water come cascading down his steps. It was grandpa that got me interested in sports rather than my Dad. Grandpa would pitch this white,soft b-ball size, sponge rubber ball to me and I would hit it. I can' remember who would fetch it. He would have been in his early 60's, at this time I would guess.
A big event in my young summer life was where my parents would put me on a train and send me down to Grayslake for a week or two. (Out of their hair for a bit) This is where my grandparents lived and two sets of cousins all within one block of each other. Another family lived out of town on a farm and a fourth family in a nearby town. Oh, what great times we would have. I love to hear my cousins tell stories of my grandparents of which they has so many more than I do. They were around them all the time and for me, I only had a couple of times a year.
My grandparents had a shower stall. I had never saw a shower stall before. What an odd thing that was! What sort of games could you play in a shower? Grandma was a large woman and a shower was much easier for her to get in and out of compared to a tub. I would pick up things living with them those few weeks and then take these experiences back to my home. They were not always welcome back in my own domicile. Two things I remember specifically, that did not go over well with my mother at all: Grandpa used to mix his mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables all up and then eat them. He would say, "They all end up in the same place anyway." When I tried this new eating practice and quoted my grandfather, I was told that would not do that in this house. Jeepers! I mentioned that Grandma was a large lady so when she would shake rugs, she would take her foot and roll the rug up. Seemed to make sense to me. I did not have to bend my little fat body over so much or for as long. However, when I tried this new found technique at home, I was promptly told that I would not roll up rugs that way even if Grandma had done it that way. So much for learning from senior citizens.
Grandma gave me my first Bible. It was a King James. Of course! She once told me, and I have not idea why, that I would make a good pastor someday. I remember thinking, No way! I would have to give up golf and my love of sports. Pastors don't have any fun. I think she put in some spiritual seeds in me but I can't think of anything specific except the suggestion of being a pastor. I know her favorite Psalm was 71 but I don't know how I know that either except it was recorded in an old Bible of mine. I really got no spiritual input from my folks like I have stated in my testimony entry.
If our family would happen to be there on Christmas eve, I could hear Santa's reindeer bells ringing outside. And were supposed to sleep that night with presents opened in the a.m.? No kids seemed to notice that Grandpa was missing during the time we heard the bells. Oh, we wanted to believe sooo bad.
My cousins tell me that Grandma ruled the roost. I don't recall observing that but then again, they were around them so much more. I do remember them both being kind, especially grandpa. He died the spring I finished my first year in college and I was there for the funeral. Grandma would write me when I was in the coast guard and she died when I was still enlisted. I did not come to her funeral. My Mom buried my Dad and her own mother in the same year, I remember.
Just looking through old pictures reminds me of a different era, a slower pace, for sure, a greater degree of innocence. Sigh!
(A word about the pictures: The 40th anniversary sure does look like a sad couple. Mom and I are coming up on our 40th. I'm glad we don't look that old. The second pix taken in 1957 looks more like I remember them. They were not a grumpy couple as I remember)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Don Bruckner, my friend

I need to give some background before telling you about Don. I have been giving him rides from his apartment, that he shares with his bride of 63 years, to a location 1 mile away where he needs to go three times a week for dialysis. I enjoy his company so much that I wish the trip was longer. He is funny, bright, has good hearing and good memory and visiting with him is like visiting with a live history book. (Actually, that is why I like visiting with the elderly- They have first hand knowledge/experience of what the "old days were like")He fell a month back and has a deep bruise so they moved him into Golden Age Manor, a nursing home connected to his assisted care facility. Last week I was visiting him in the nursing home and the subject of his military came up. When asked, he told me that he was stationed in France and Germany during WWII. I asked him if he was part of the Battle of the Bulge. He said yes. I was intrigued because I had seen the HBO series called THE BAND OF BROTHER. It was about a group of men who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. So I started asking him questions. I needed to leave so I said that I would see him next week to visit more.
Yesterday, I tracked him down at the dialysis location and spent over an hour with him. Here is his story.
He was born 3-27-1925 in LA, Cal. He went to high school in Fairfax, CA, graduating in 1942. Right out of high school he worked in a machine shop but the war had started so the following year he joined the service. He said that his Dad had him enlist instead of being drafted to avoid being in the infantry. Don is only 5' 6". He said with a smile that he got volunteered for everything while in the army. He was shipped over to France and served three years. His job was to take target locations from reconnaissance and then phone in directions to operators of the big artillery guns. His job was "relatively safe". At night they would stay in billets. I asked what they were and he said they were homes. They would take over the home for the time they needed to be there. His guys always treated the homes with respect but others would steal from the homes. When they moved on to their next location, the home owners would return. A good thing to come out of being over there was to see places like France, Belgium and Germany that he had never seen before.I asked if he had ever gone back. He said he had not. I asked if he had wanted to and he answered yes.
One other good experience of being over there was the relationship he had with 10 other men he was close to. He told me that he was the last of them to be alive and he wondered why. We hear that all the time when there are survivors of a bad accident and they wonder the same. The worst thing was to see the death of the men that would be brought in.
After discharge in 1946 Don went to work for a telephone company back in his home area. After all, he was experienced in that field. I said you have seen the telephone come a long, long way in your time. He smiled and said "back then they were basically tin cans connected by a wire". ( I took his picture with my cell phone camera)
While at the phone company, he noticed a gorgeous (his term)girl that he would ask to go on a hay ride with him. He was drawn to Catherine's openness and friendliness. He could be himself around her. They had a 6 mos. courtship, (no use wasting time) and were married. They lived in the gambling town of Gardenia, CA and Don worked for the phone company for 37 years,retiring in 1980.
They had one son, Tim,and in 1985 they followed him to Wisconsin. Tim had married a "Badger" girl and they have settled just south of Little Falls. Tim is a sculpturer who specializes in making small clay figures that companies use for models for one purpose of another. I have not met Tim yet but he and his wife had two children that went through the Amery school system but I did not know them.
I asked Don what he and Catherine did for fun in their early years. He said they would have couples over and play games like Scrabble, Monopoly and a few card games. He also liked to bowl and play beach volleyball. I think of beach volleyball as a recently invented game. Guess not.
He says often how much he hates it in the nursing home because of the others there. Unlike himself, many are in advanced stages of dementia and he just does not picture himself belonging there. The big thing, however, is not being with his Katherine. She is very hard of hearing but he says, they don't have to talk but just being close to each other is what he painfully misses. She can walk over each afternoon to visit him but to him, that is just no enough. Plus, it is quite an effort for her; for she arrives out of breathe. Perhaps that is why the Bible states that "the two shall become one".
I don't know how much longer we will have Don. His kidneys are not good. Plus, he is a "bleeder" and they cannot let him out of the dialysis clinic until he stops bleeding. That is not always a quick process to take place. I do relish and so much enjoy the time I do have with him.
So, now Don Bruckner has been introduced to you!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cloud shine 09

We maintain it is NOT our age. Sonshine has changed and not necessarily for the good of the festival. Opinion? Of course.
Too much plain ice cream is not a good thing. Different toppings to that ice cream can greatly improve the experience. So it might be with the festival.
It was not so long ago that there was a great variety of bands, playing music that entertains and edifies the Lord, the over all purpose of the festival. Celtic, latino, SKA, swing, jazz, spoof groups etc. Now, we have three: HM, Hip Hop, Rock. To borrow a phrase from my Mom, lots of "Bangety bang". It just seems that so many groups try to be like each other. Where is the creativity? small Cities and DDCW have more creativity. Why can't they invite blue grass, country gospel, Jewish style and like what was mentioned above? Now that would be a MUSIC festival.
I get such a kick out of these guitarists that a gyrating all over the place like they are putting out extreme effort to play their chords. When you look at their hands, they are playing the same chord or just a few, yet you think by looking at them that they were really putting out. You get these old guys that are playing in "old" groups, (Newsboys) and they are just playing and playing very well without all the theatrics.
There was a booth in the center selling old CD's and tapes. I bought an Undercover CD and Bash and the Code. What waves of nostalgia washed over me. Mylon Lafavre and Broken Heart, DeGarmo and Key, Petra, Geoff Moore,etc. What fun that was to look at all those groups. I still have many in record from and there will be days during the winter that I will get out several and let them go throughout the house. Can anyone say: Imperials!!??
I wonder what Keith Green would think of the Sonshine Festival? I think he would be most disappointed. So many of these groups appear to be glorifying themselves instead of the ONE whom the festival is named. If they at least mention God's name, it is like: there, we have done our duty, our responsibility to qualify as a Christian band. There is not one that comes close to Keith's style of performing and his dedication to the Lord, at least from what is presented from the stage.
Lastly, Mom and I cannot go to Sonshine without reminiscing about when we came with all 5 our cherubs in the pick up camper. When we see a young family, we tend to look at each other and sigh. Ah yes. We think we have been going for 24 years. The festival is 28 years old. Will we go next year? We will have to see. We would have to end a very long tradition for us.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Scary Movies

It is rainy out and I can't do what I would like to do and it has been a long time since I left a blog entry.
So, the slip I pulled out of the jar said what were some special fears or fantasies I had as a child.
My folks hardly ever got to go anywhere in the summer at the resort. One or the other had to be always there for the customers. After several years, the regulars that came every year became dependable friends. Sometimes they would say, "Don, Chucky, why don't you go in to Chetek and take in a movie and we'll watch the place. The night I will always remember was the night they took me in and the movie was "Abott and Costello and the Mummy".
You talk about terrified! Every time the mummy would come out, all wrapped up in strips of cloth, walking stiff legged, Gary would head for the floor. Pleading, I would ask, "Is he gone yet?". I would come up only long enough until the mummy's next entrance.
No matter how many times my parents would tell me it was only make believe, I was not consoled. What are they talking about? I can see him with my own eyes, don't tell me it is only make believe. He was headed out of the screen, walking down the aisle, picking me up and taking me away to do all kinds of terrible things a little kid can imagine. There was this swinging door deep inside the tombs that would pivot and one of the main actors would disappear and out would come the mummy and then down I would go. Yep, down under the seat.
I have seen the movie since on TV. THIS TIME, I was calm, cool and collected. never hit the floor, not even once. However, I could see how it might be really frighting to a seven year old. In watching it as an adult, I never had the thought that I was such a stupid kid to act like I did in 1955.
I really had a hard time separating real from the screen images. I was just sick when "Ole Yeller" died. All those cowboy movies where guys were getting killed right and left. It was so real, again, I had see it with my own eyes; seeing is believing, right?
The rest of my life, scary movies never had the appeal to me that they do to many. Friday the 13th movies? Ah, nope! Chainsaw massacre movies? As much as I like my chain saw, nope! How about those that have the demon or monster come through the TV? They're baaaaack! Nope! Night of the living dead? Nope! Zombies? Nope! Afred Hitchcock? Hey, I thought I was pretty tough watching some of his movies. I wasn't even nuts about the Twilight Zone on television. Yep, I'm a whimp! I would much rather laugh at a comedy or chick flick. Especially if I"m with my favorite chick! :-)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Workin for the City

I received a request on Facebook from a classmate the other day and it drummed up memories of my first job with the City of Rice Lake. I think it was between my freshman and sophomore years of college. My friend Bob and I were hired to clean the sewers of Rice Lake, people sewers, not storm sewers.
A word on Bob: I had known him since I was in 2nd grade. His family had gotten polio and it affected them all. His mother died, his father was a cripple and Bob had one leg shorter than the other so he walked with a noticeable limp. He also was about the fattest guy I knew. Heck of swimmer, though. He also loved to sing and we were on the choir tour in Europe together.
I remember the first day on the job coming home for lunch and my Mother making strip down to my whitey tidies before she would let me into the house. Something about some silly odor. What?? She also made me take salt tablets so I would not get dehydrated while working on the hot black top. What a gal!
Our equipment was top of the line; for 1930. We drove on old ladder truck we called King Henry the IV because it was so extravagant, not! One could shift it without using the clutch if you were good. I was good. We had 36" lengths of rods that we could connect into long line. At one end was a spiral saw for cutting through what ever was blocking the pipe far under ground. At the other end was a small motor on the street that could turn the rods, there fore turning the saw through what ever was causing the plug. We had special little tools designed to put together and take apart the rods. There was a pipe that was put down into the man hole through which the rods were fed into the sewer pipe. We had special names for all these special tools but I will not repeat them here. Keep in mind we were a couple of college boys and and we were working through man holes.... that said is enough. Bored yet?
What wasn't boring was what we would pull out of the pipes. After we would push enough rods down to go 1/2 a block, we would pull them back out with many objects that were attached to them through which we had cut. The most common were tampons. We called them mice because they were grey with this little tail at the end. They were a huge problem along with tree roots. Condoms were another common item. We could never figure out why there were so many when there were a zillion kids running around the neighborhood. Ah yes, we were a crowd attraction. I remember one morning there were some kids around when we pulled the rods out and wrapped around a section was a bath tub stopper with its chain intact. One of the kids said, "Hey, my little brother flushed that down this morning!" I asked him if he wanted it back but for some strange reason, he was not interested.
Everyonce and awhile, a tool would drop down into the man hole and we would take turns going down to get it. Not the most pleasant task to take part in. This particular morning, it was Bob's turn. Not only had polio struck Bob but so did obesity. The poor lad got stuck on his way out. He was cursing away at the situation and me because I was slow to help. I was laughing too hard.
When it was real hot, we would take turns riding on top of the ladder, going down the street letting evaporation do its thing. Breaks were long. Sometimes breakfast as eaten during or morning break. We worked hard when we worked which wasn't always often.
The worst thing that happened, occurred over a noon break. We had worked half a block and it was getting time for lunch so we flushed the hole with a fire hose and left. What happened, as we found out later, was there was a blockage at that half way point and the "bad" water had come upbehind it into a few resident's basements. Bad, bad boys! I think the city ended up paying for the clean up of that mess.
It was a great job. We started by 7 and were done at 3. Plenty of time to take advantage of the summer. I was in summer stock at the Red Barn Theater that year so it was a good gig. I also worked the next summer for the city. That year I worked with Leo Tini, a 70 year old man. We painted the city's light poles that summer and I got to drive a dump truck. It was with Leo, that I started drinking that growth stunting, evil, drink; coffee. But that is another story.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Drivers Ed. with Mr. Tone

OK, everyone, think back to your Drivers Ed. class you had in High school. You all probably have stories to tell.My story will not be so unique among my class mates because when we get together for class reunions, we all compare notes on our experiences with Mr. Tone.
Mr Tone was an icon in the city of Rice Lake. He was the varsity basketball coach who lead his team to the state basketball championship against Milwaukee Lincoln, only to lose in double overtime. This was before divisions or classes in the state tournament. By the way, we were screwed but that is another story. He was a very successful coach who also was a p.e. instructor. Riding with him in the drivers ed. car was another story.
I will always remember the first time behind the wheel with him in the drivers seat and two classmates in the back. He said, "All Right Osborn, put it in first and let's go". My vocal response came from a blood lacking amount of testosterone, cracking with the words, "where's first, sir?" "Pull the shift lever toward you and down", was his answer. As you all know, there is a little finesse' required here. One must slowly let out the clutch as you give it some gas. If this is not done properly, the car bucks terribly down the road. At the same time, Mr Tone is yelling "Yee Hah! Gidee- up, horse". This makes the clutch leg twitch even greater, causing even greater bucking. It is a terrible, terrible thing. Classmates in the back dare not giggle for they know they are next.
While I'm on the whole clutch thing, let's visit about the hill park. You all have done it. You park on a hill, turn the wheels so that you go into the curb instead of out into the road and put the emergency brake on. Simple, right? Add to this the equation of the clutch. Mr. Tone would set the stage by informing us that we are 1 inch from a 1000 foot cliff behind us. If we go backwards 2 inches, we will roll off the cliff. One must put the car in gear, slowly let out the clutch while giving the car gas and when the friction point is reached, release the emergency brake. Oh, your turn signal must be on too but that is the least of your worries. Invariably, the car rolls back at least 2" and we hear a scream from the passenger seat, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" starting out loudly and then diminishing in volume, simulating the fall over the cliff. Again, those in the back seat, there is not a sound; they know they could be next.
The intersection: what are we supposed to do? You look both ways as your cross through the intersection. In case you do not make that observation, Mr. Tone, with his arm out the open window, would slap the side the car causing one to suddenly constrict one's urinary sphincter so that one would not to soil oneself. I mean, really, a guy could have a heart attack at 16 years of age.
Sometimes, he would slam on the brake/clutch controls he had at his disposal and you had all you could do not bang your head on the steering wheel. We had seat belts by no shoulder harness as yet. People would see us come out of the driver's seat and wonder, "what is wrong with that boy, he is as pale as a ghost?" We had good reason to appear that way.
Casual conversation between riders? Talk about the game the other night? How were classes going? Would we live until tomorrow? None of those topics were covered in Mr. Tone's drivers ed. car. At least we have something to talk about at every class reunion from now until we all have dementia.

PS the car above is a blue 1959 Chev Belaire, just like the car my folks bought and I drove when I was 16. It was an automatic, of course. It was the only new car they bought when we were growing up.
PSS I got grounded the day I got my license. I asked my folks if I could drive around the block with Jeff. I took advantage if this new found freedom and was gone for 20 minutes, driving all around town. Last time I drove for two weeks. Yikes!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What is value of pursuing a vocation, hobby or activity that you love?

It would seem that this is a two part question with vocation being in a category itself. I liked teaching. I could not picture myself doing anything else. I liked the kids and the people I taught with. I liked seeing my students get turned on to science or really improve grade-wise when they put forth the effort. I was not like some educators who hated to see summer vacation come. They could hardly wait to get back to school in the fall. Not me. I enjoyed summer activities and the freedom too much. However,rarely was I in a hurry for summer vacation to come or the end of my career. I was content at what I was doing. The value of what I did? Theoretically to expand the students knowledge and appreciation of the world around them. Many times I would have a student tell me that they never really liked science until they had my class. You really never know what is going to interest you until you are exposed to it.
A hobby is entirely something else. The reason you do it is because you love it. If I might return to the last statement of first paragraph. One of my hobbies is bird watching. I never would have developed that interest if I had not taken an Ornithology course for my last bio elective before graduating. Up to that point, I had no interest in birds at all. Birdwatching was for twits! I had a most enthusiastic prof whose energy was inoculated into me. I became aware of the special creation of God called birds. Their whole adaptation to flight was incredible. To this day, I enjoy watching and identifying them. Value? A chance to see evidence of the Creator and the vast variety of what he made.
I love to bicycle. I remember the first year after I had bought my first good bike, I was about 5 miles out of Amery. I was thinking that all I had to get me back to town was this contraption made of two triangles, wheels, assorted parts and my body. I remember thinking that was pretty cool. I felt powerful, sort of. One can travel all over with a bicycle. What a great way to see anything; nature, old towns, even people. Value? You are taking care of the one body you have to carry yourself around in. If you are in the city, it is a money saving device, right, Don, Katie, Matt?
Photography has been an interest of mine for about as long as I can remember. The Famous Photographers School that I took a correspondence class in when I was in the USCG was a great help to me. I had my own darkroom and developed my own BW film and printed my own enlargements. I learned about filters, lenses and composition. I bought my first nice camera, lenses, flash etc. during my enlistment. Combining two of my passions, I have enjoyed taking pictures of birds. I also love taking pictures of God's handiwork that surrounds us. Value? Being a pest to my children at times when the old man is trying to get a pix of everyone. Seriously, since I have no artistic ability, it pleases me to take a well composed, exposed picture of nature. I can't improve on what He has done but I can record it for future enjoyment.
Don't know if this would qualify as a hobby, but I love to spend time with my bride. Being my best friend, and one who sort of understands me, it is most enjoyable to be with her. Value? Sure makes life a whole lot better, don't cha think?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Advantages - Disadvantages of being first born

This topic is from the jar.
Maybe it is a good thing that my two siblings don't frequent the Internet so that they might have access to this blog. They may have much more to add than me.
Being first born, you, of course, are the trial run for the parents. Everything is a "first time" for them. They might be over protective but at the same time, may have higher, unrealistic expectations. Realism may set in when number 2 comes along and both may diminish somewhat.
I was 4 when Jeff was born. I could be out and about playing when my folks were so busy with the resort. Jeff, on the other hand, was left in a play pen for hours on end. (So, I was told by him) I personally never felt I was favored over my brother or sister; they might have a different opinion. The child raising was left primarily up to our mother and she punished us all equally, I felt. I don't remember them being beat/spanked like I was but I assume our mother was an "equal opportunity mother".
One disadvantage might be that my father's free time was greater when I was out of the home so Jeff seemed to get more time with him than I did. Trips to Canada, trips to Isle Royal etc.
Since I got my driver's license first, I must have been the taxi for my siblings but that is not such a bad deal; you don't care where you drive at that age, as long as you get to.
When we were older, and Mom alone with Dad being gone, she took great pains to treat and give equally to each of us. She told me that many times for she did want us to feel that she was favoring one of us over the other.
A note on Rita. She was adopted when she was six years old. I was 14 at the time. Even when she came, the parents first daughter, I never felt we lacked for attention because of her. So, I really don't see any stark contrasts with being the first born.
I wonder how Don would answer this?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What are you, some sort of boy Scout?

Probably because my father was a boy scout and his older brother was a "big shot" in the boy scout organization, I was signed up in the BSA as a cub scout when we moved to Rice Lake. It wasn't that I was forced or anything, I liked it. I earned my badges and awards and we did activities. I got my first airplane ride through cub scouts. Was that Great! The pilot even let me take the controls and make the plane go up and down. The guys was either brave or an idiot. I saw my first artesian well up in the Blue Hills east of Rice Lake on a field trip. I was fascinated how water could come out of the ground all by itself. It was winter and there was snow all around but where the stream of water was, there was green vegetation. (What a memory; now why can't I remember what I did two days ago?)
When I got old enough, I joined the Boy Scouts and started earning merit badges. Several summers, I went to Camp Phillips which was just north of Rice Lake about 15 miles. That was a great experience. We learned all sorts of out skills. It wasn't really roughing it too much; we slept on cots, in sleeping bags that were in canvas topped wooden buildings. I think there were about 4 to a building. Out door "johns" and body cleansing were taken during swimming time. A few years ago when I was visiting my Mom at her house, I road my bike to Camp Phillips and then through the camp. Man, was that nostalgic.
One time we were camping outside in tents on a bluff near a stream. We all had campfires near our tents. I had gone down to the stream and someone came running and said my clothing was on fire. I must have had wet clothing that was near the fire to dry off and the fire spread to "extremely dry" Gary's cloths. My wardrobe was drastically reduced for the rest of the outing. That and the ridicule for my stupidity made that trip most memorable.
There was winter camp that I really liked. In another area of Camp Phillips, they had converted an old barn into a building that housed many bunk beds. We would go there for a weekend and do outside activities. It was there that Mr. Maloney showed me how to start fires using birch bark, specifically telling me NOT to strip the bark all around the tree because it would kill it. You only take what is loose and pull it straight off. One time we got pulled on a toboggan behind a tractor or something down a snow covered road. Snow was flying all over us and we loved it. David, Charissa and Katie got experience the thrill last winter, right, you three?
The high point of my Boy Scout career, was a trip to the National Jamboree that was held in Colorado Springs in 1960. that year was the 50 year celebration for the Boy Scouts. It was in the summer between 8th and 9th grade for me. I think there were about 50,000 boy scouts camped on a tree less prairie with Pikes Peak right in front of us. We rode out in a bus and I remember our bus driver being quite the character. I had very little bus riding experience so this was all new to me. We would ask him why he would stop and at railroad crossings and open his door. His answer, "to let the train go through". We thought that was hysterical. He would tell us to keep our heads in the bus because if a truck would come by and take off our heads, there would be blood all over his precious bus. We stopped at several famous places on the way out. That was my first stop at Mr. Rushmore. We stopped at Pipestone national park. The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD was another stop. There was a tour of the Air Force Academy that impressed me. The chapel was this beautiful, triangular, white building with a huge stain glass window at one end. Trips like this may have imprinted my great love to travel.
There were scouts from not only the USA but from all over the world. They actually had black top roads through this temporary city. President Eisenhower came in a procession and sat in a convertible and we all got to see him.
The biggest disappointment for me was my failure to purchase a bow. There was an archery range there and I liked shooting the bow. On the last day, they were selling them for really cheap. I took a bus to the range to buy one and I had not brought enough money. I hurried back to get some more but by the time I got back to the range they had sold them all. I cried.
Being the youngest in the group that went down from our area, I was picked on quite a bit. (Look at the picture above and you can see why my appearance just invited ridicule.) There were boys from Rice Lake, Barron and Cumberland that went down in the same bus. There was one leader from Cumberland area that I took to and was nice to me. His name was Art Yousten and I just looked, his name is still in the phone book.
All our tents were the same issue. Sort of a pyramid shape with two a tent. there were no floors to the tent and the ground was hard, dry with cactus that one had to be very careful about putting your air mattress on. We were told to look out for rattle snakes. They had combed the area before we arrived but we still needed to be on the alert. No playing with rattlers.
I believe the Jamborees were held a every 4 years so I never went to another. I'm not sure when I quit, maybe about sophomore year in high school when I got a job and went out for sports.
I do know that the Boy Scouts gave me a love for the outdoors and some skills to enjoy it. My folks never camped so I did not get it from them. I only made Star in rank. That is two below Eagle. My father made Life, one above me. I have the utmost respect for young men who achieve Eagle Scout ranking. I don't believe Scouting now is the big deal that it was when I was growing up. However, I still feel it is a very worthwhile activity. I never had my sons get involved because they were in AWANA and that had some similarity's and we did camp activities as a family. A soft spot remains when a scout, who lives in our neighborhood, comes around to sell wreathes at Christmas time. I remember doing that too.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My testimony

One thing that I wish I knew was the faith walk of my parents now matter how short it was. I asked my mother a few years before she died if her parents talked much about Jesus as she grew up and she said no. That surprised me because I remember my grandmother Duell telling me I would be a good preacher some day but I wrote that off in a hurry; heck, I'd have to give up golf. It is my opinion that many/most people that have a faith in their adult years their life go through three stages.
The first being the fact that they believe what Mommy and Daddy believe. They go to church, SS etc. because Mom and Dad go. The second has them in a transitional stage. This usually occurs during their teenage years as they struggle to find themselves. This stage many last 15 minute to 15 years and maybe longer. The last stage has them deciding for themselves their faith and then growing in that faith until their death.
As a child, I did not get much from Mom and Dad in the way of spiritual influence. I really can't remember anything from them but they must have said some things. I remember that during eating times it was "Come Lord Jesus, be our guest etc.". It became so redundant that at times, we could not remember if we said it or not. At night, there was the worst prayer in the world to teach a kid; Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should DIE BEFORE I WAKE, I pray the lord, my soul to take. DIE!! Man, I'm not going to sleep for nothing! No wonder, they had such a hard time to get me to nap/sleep. What a poor choice of a prayer for a little kid. My grandmother Duell was a big influence in what she said. I can't remember things specific, but I know she was religious. that is why I wurprised to hear what my Mom said about her upbringing
About 10 miles from the resort, there was this little concrete block church on hwy 40 that I would attend VBS. Mrs. Brainerd would pick me up and take me there. It is where I first heard John 3:16. We made David harps out of willow branches and string. We memorized verses to win prizes. My favorite was John 11:35- "Jesus wept". The shortest verse in the Bible! It was there that I learned to pray to Jesus. I would too. I was lonely at the resort, I used to pray to Jesus and my make-believe friend, George. If I would lose a toy, I would pray to find it and funny thing, I would. So, I had this little kid faith up into my teen years and then things changed.
Oh, I still believed but this belief did not control too much my actions or attitudes. If anything controlled my actions it was the wrath of my mother. I went to SS and church in Rice Lake but there was very little influence in my life. I was struggling with inferiority complex and things that many normal kids do in those years.
When college came, there was no mother watching over me and I became an idiot. I joined a fraternity to try and be the BMOC and that sort of worked a little but for the most part I was still just a little guy inside. I never went to church when I was in college. Only when I came home.
Up until this point, I thought real Christians were "square, L7," : zitty face, white socks, black shoes and pants and white shirt" where I got this, I have no idea. (See photo above) When I was a junior, there were some guys hanging around campus that were Christians and talking to students about a personal relationship with Christ. They were with Campus Crusade for Christ. These guys were cool looking. They dressed cool too. One sat down with me and went through the 4 spiritual Laws with me and I received Christ. Man, I was flying on cloud 9. I never knew that Jesus could live right inside of me; I just pictured Him in Heaven about a zillion miles from Earth. This new conversion was not reinforced by the fraternity brothers, nor my girlfriend at the time,(Diane Crotteau) or my parents. My little faith sprout was like the seeds parable, it flourished and then was choked out by worldly concerns.
I continued to live like hell, right through graduation. I signed up for Coast Guard and was sent boot camp. Good opportunity for prayer; nope. Sent to light house 1000 miles from home. Good opportunity for prayer; nope. got married; good opportunity for prayer; nope. My enlistment almost up; good opportunity for prayer; nope. Re-entered college for education degree; good opportunity for prayer; nope.
Into my life comes Dr. Don Birr. I had him for an ed. class. The first day of class, with a huge grin on his face he tells us that Jesus is his best friend. I could not get over how happy he was; all the time. I should be; I had a bride, two young healthy children but I had an emptiness inside. Only way I can explain it. One day after class I ask him if I can talk to him. I tell him about this emptiness and he gets this big grin on his face. I know now what he was thinking: "This guys is ripe fruit on the vine". I was. We sit down and he whips out his 4 Spiritual Laws and we go through them, just like I had done 7 years previous. I pray to ask Jesus to forgive my sins and ask Him to come into my life and guide me life.
I go home and I am soooo happy. My wife is not too excited about this at all. She has her own problems with two little guys to tend after, running the house and a husband that is gone all day. Next day in her exhaustion, she sees the 4 Spiritual Laws on the table and she goes through them and receives Christ too. Now we are not only husband and wife but brother and sister. Having the God the center of our lives has been the key to our marriage. We not only have placed God in the center of our marriage but also our family.
In Eau Claire, I taught in a Catholic school for a couple of years but found very little Jesus there. We attended a presbyterian church there and got involved in a small group. I remember the people in the group were not used to praying out loud a non-recitive prayer. Just a "thank you , God" was a big things for us all.
When we moved to Amery, we visited three churches but the Baptist church felt the most comfortable. Marion adams was the pastor and he was so down to earth that we were drawn to him. We got involved in children's ministry and have been now for 31 years.
To this day, I am still desiring to grow closer to God, His Son and His Spirit by loving, being grateful and respectful. All that I have is His and I pray that I do with what He wants with what He has given us. The older I get, the more I realize how much I need Him.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bear Lake School/ Rusk county

It is still there, that one room school, east of Chetek about 9 miles. Used for a township meeting hall now, I believe. 56 years ago it provided me with the beginning of my education. Do you remember your first day/days of school? Here is what I remember.
Being on the resort, I had not pre-school, kindergarten, small play group or anything where I might learn the expected behavior of young people in a group. That first day, I happened to be sitting behind a girl and she had long hair that was laying on my desk. What does a 6 year old do? You got give it a pull. She turned around and told me to stop it or she would tell. As if that would deter me. Hah! So, I gave it a yank again. This brought the young lass to raise her hand to inform the teacher of my inappropriate behavior. With the naked arm pit now to entice my evil, I immediately began to tickle her arm pit. (Yes, I know harassment) She, of course, brings her arm down and reports to me now she was going to tell on me for that. My response: "Try!" I was feeling quite smug with my situation. As soon as she would raise her hand, I would tickle and the teacher remained ignorant of my rebellious behavior. Can't remember how it turned out; just the occurrence.
The largest words I had ever seen were being written on the chalk board. They were names of ancient beasts that I had never heard of like Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus etc. It took me forever to write out those words. Can you say carpel tunnel? Speaking of words, the word that gave me so much trouble was the word "round". "The boy went round and round the tree." I had never used that word before but I had used the words around and around. I would always be corrected and I thought the teacher was just plain nuts using this word that I had never heard of.
Speaking of teachers: There were two I remember. One was Mrs. (Irene) Trowbridge. She was nice, old but nice. Probably about 26 or so. She was married to Charlie. Charlie was a cool guy. He could take his teeth out! He would show them to us and the guys would squeal with delight and the girls would run and hide. He was funny too. Charlie would come in with Mrs. Trowbridge in the morning and start up the large wood stove that would heat the one room. That stove would get plenty hot as I discovered.
It was a very cold morning and I immediately made for the stove when I got to the school. The stove was a large, cast iron burn box surround by a 1 ft. air space and then a pressed metal jacket going all around it except for a door opening by the door of the stove. On that, day the jacket door was open so it was there that I got as close to the stove as I could; too close. Someone said, "What's burning?" It was me! I had this new wool pea coat and I was so close to the door of the stove that it had branded the name of of the stove company on the back of my new coat. When I got home, there was another sort of branding to be handed out by some one's mother. Man, I was just sick and embarrassed because the kids really made fun of me. "Couldn't you even tell you were on fire?" Ah, nope!
The other teacher was the meanest teacher I ever had. If you mis-behaved, you had to carry a chair on your head and walk around the room. If you were really bad, you had to take two chairs. This looked pretty ridiculous as you can imagine. It also cut down that chairs available for sitting on which is what god had designed them to be used for. That keeps one from pulling hair and tickling underarms, for sure. At the end of the day, we all had to sit at our tables and put our hands on top of the desks. If someone would talk, she would come by and whack our little pinkies with a ruler. That is all I can remember about this woman and, that she was really, really old.
The teacher's "copy maching" was an interesting apparatus. It comprised of a jel-like roll that went from one spool across a one foot square metal surface to another take-up spool. A teacher would make a carbon copy of what she wanted to make copies of and press it down on this one foot square, jel surface and then peel it off. Then taking a clean piece of paper, she would press it down, smooth it out on the jel surface and peel it of and some of the carbon would adhere to the clean sheet giving her a copy. She could get about 8 copies this way. This jel surface was a great temptation for little boys to dig their fingers into it. Hummmmm! Of course, I did not do this: who wants to carry chairs on their head?
The physical necessities of attending a one room school were interesting. To get a drink of water, took two people. Outside there was a pump with a metal ladle hanging on it. One person would pump away, while the other would hold the ladle under the spout to get some water. positions would be switched to satisfy both. One ladle per school. Getting rid of this intake was another whole experience. When I was in the first grade, there were out houses; One for girls,(a mysterious building, never investigated by any boy I knew) and one for the boys. One holer for that was all the building could occupy at a time. Little boys and real old men sometimes have to go really, really bad and in their hurry, are lousy aims with their urinating apparatus. Result was pee, pee all over the place. Not so bad if one did not have to sit down. Really bad if it was winter and this yellow fluid was in frozen form around the hole that you had to sit on. I think it was when I was in second or third grade that they built on to the back of the school to provide two bathrooms with real running water. Just took all the adventure out of it.
My class was the largest-6 of us. Some of the names I remember were: Tucker (Eugene) Tubbs. Lauraline Rathburn, Linda Oliphant, (you can imagine how this girls name was made ridicule) Tucker was quite a character. During recess, he never played the games we played but striding around the playground in his striped coveralls, he would pretend that he was driving a bull dozer, sounds and all. I think his dad might have been a heavy equipment operator. No body made fun of him; he was just Tucker. First and third grade I attended with my classmates all through the year. Second, fourth and fifth, I started in the fall when the resort was still open but then we would move to Rice Lake where Dad would pick up a winter job and I would attend one of the city schools. A whole new experience for me.
As a side light, about 10 years ago, I attended a cousin's wedding and the officiating pastor's last name was Trowbridge and I asked him if he knew an Irene Trowbridge. He said that she was his aunt. I found out she was still alive. During the following summer I looked her up and went for a visit. She looked really good and she said remembered me. Her Charlie had passed on and she was living in their home on Mud Lake just north of Chetek. She said she had moved into Chetek and taught in the city schools the rest of her career. Her favorite time of teaching was in the Bear Lake country school. I asked her how she did it. Man, just trying to imagine teaching 8 grades, all subjects in one room just blew me away. I asked her if she got the older kids to work with the younger and she said no. She would group two grades together to teach subjects like history. I just looked up in the phone book today and her name is still there and in the same address that I visited her about 8 years ago. I'm glad. I would like to visit her again.
I'm trying to remember how I got to school. I think the Rhones who had a resort a few miles further from school would stop and pick me up at the end of my drive way. the drive way was about 1/3 mile long. The school was about 3-4 miles from the driveway. I never recall walking to school the "up hill both ways" deal.
There really was something to be said for that sort of education. First, the teachers, the good ones, anyway, were incredible. For most, it was their life. The school was the center of the rural community. We used to have lunch box socials at Halloween. Families would come with decorated boxes containing a lunch. They would exchange with other families and then share in fellowship. Sort of like our pot lucks we have now.
I have been looking for a picture of the school and have not found one yet. When and if I do, I will add one on.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

That First Kiss

Your first kiss! what memories does that conjure up?  We all have a story.  Maybe it was a "stolen kiss; a member of the opposite sex sneaks up on you and plants one before you even know what happens.  Maybe it just happened, like int he movies.  Maybe you planned and planned for it.  This last case scenario was most like mine.
      Her name was Carol Jean Derouseau.  We were freshmen in high school.  She was pretty, smiled all the time and smart.   I think she even liked me a little.  I asked her to a school dance, don't remember the theme, maybe homecoming.  She agreed to go with me.  All week, I planned how I was going to get my FIRST KISS.  The date went fine and then there was the walk up to her front door.  I was going to ask her if I could kiss her goodnight when we got to the door.  As soon as we got out of the car, she zoomed ahead of me and got behind the screen door and closed it.  She then told me how nice a time she had.  I was crushed!  Dreams shattered!  I would die an old bachelor, never marrying.
    Oh, I dated after that travesty.  I would sit with Barb down at the boat landing in Rice Lake, parked in the car talking; just talking.  I just did not have the courage to go the next step and get that FIRST KISS.
           Two years later, junior in high school.  My date was a little gal by the name of Diane Crotteau.  I started thinking  about that First Kiss again.  She lived out in the country and maybe, if I could get up enough courage, I would "park" like the experienced boys did.  Well, the drive through the country came off without the event taking place; lack of courage- again.  I pull into her drive way and she is just sitting next to me and we are talking.  I finally say, "well, I better be getting home, my folks will be waiting up for me."  She says, "Do you have to go already?"  I say, "yeah". (Notice I did not use one "like" in this conversation)  So, I walk her up to the door and say good night.
         I get in the car and start blasting myself for not getting that kiss.  She was asking for it, I told myself.  I also told myself that next weeks date was going to be different or I would become a monk.
         So, next week on the way home, I again drove through those quiet, dark, inviting country roads.  I would slow down to park, chicken out and speed up further down the road where the procedure would repeat itself.  Finally, I pulled into a drive way to turn around.  When one backs up, one must put his arm on the back of the seat.  Well, heck that was so close to her shoulders, I might as well slip it down around her.  So, what does she say to me?  (She denies this) "You're a tiger tonight".  Yeow!  I've been caught!  I blubber something like I can put my arm down and she says, "No, that's ok, you can leave it". Whew!  So, I leave it there until we pull into her drive way.  Small Talk, (good name for a rock group) again and then mustering up all the courage of a soldier on the front line, I say. "Would it be ok if I kiss you good night".  I don't remember exactly her answer.  I'm quite sure it was not, "I guess so"  or " I suppose so".  So, I planted those virgin lips onto those soft, warm lips of Miss Diane Crotteau and Zow-EEE! Was that great!  I think I'll try that again.  We did!!  I walk her up to her door for another FIRST KISS and I say, "I'll see you next week!!!".  I could not believe how wonderful a feeling that was.
       I walk into my house and I announce to my folks, "Well, I have done it!".  My dad knew where I had been and he very hesitantly says, "You've done what?"  I said, "I kissed my first girl".  He walks over to the calendar and states that this event should be marked on the calendar.  His first born fruit of his loins is now finally a man!
      Seven years later I asked this young lady, my first kiss, if she would like to be my last kiss.  She said, of course, yes.  I remember wondering, (don't tell her this) if I would ever get tired of kissing those warm, soft lips.  I have not.  (You can tell her that- I do)
    This is a true story.  The names of the people in this story have not been changed.  Well, except for Miss Diane Crotteau becoming Mrs. Diane Osborn.  I must have had something going for me for a class lady to actually agree to be married to me, don cha know?

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Valentine- My Sweet Pea

How many of you can say that the precious one you live with and are married to is the first and last girl you kissed? The old slides have prompted more memories to erupt into my conscience this week. When I was digging through old slides of mine, looking for the ones of Mrs. Beardon, my eyes were filled with images of the young filly I married almost 39 years ago. With the filling of the eyes, came the wandering of the mind back so many years ago when we first started dating, to times in college in Eau Claire and fraternity outings. This prologue leading to our life so far away, in distance and time, in Cape Vincent, NY.
I knew Diane Crotteau from high school biology class. Yes, yes, that same class where I learned about reproduction of the flower. She was nice. We were in English class together as juniors so we were acquainted, nothing more than that. One Friday evening, Mr popular was at the movies by himself. Also at the movie, can't remember its name, were Sandy Digiddio and Diane Crotteau. Sandy's boyfriend came to pick her up and Sandy was Diane's ride home after the movie. Mr. Popular offered to take Diane home, 5 miles south of Rice Lake. On the way home, we talked and got to know each other better than the casual relationship in the classroom. Mr Popular found her to be so nice and comfortable to be with. His little wheels started turning about a potential dating relationship.
We did start dating and she became my first kiss 45 years ago. (that story we will save for another time) The Pink Panther with Peter Sellers was a movie I can remember us going to and laughing so hard. ( I love to laugh with her) Seven years later, after an on again, off again relationship, we married and she followed me into the wilderness of NW New York state.
Our adventures camping in the Adirondacks, around Lake Ontario, card games with friends, parties were just so much fun with her. She is the most gentle, kind, supportive person I know and I am so blessed that the Father sent me to the movie theater45 years ago to take a little gal home. Who would've thunk that ride home would lead to 5 children and 2 grandkids. (so far) And, I think she still likes me. And, I'm more in love with her than ever. Isn't life grand? Thanks be to the Father.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mrs. B (The other woman)

       I'm still back in the Coast Guard in my mind and blog entries.  There have been three women I have lived with in my life; My Mother, of course, my bride and Mrs. Beardon.  I needed a place to stay when I got to Cape Vincent in the fall of 1969.  I stayed with a elderly couple for a couple of weeks at first until I found more permanent residence.  Here is where Mrs. B enters the picture.
        Mrs. B lived alone. In the summer,she ran a "Tea Room" in the dining room of her house.  It was very proper and fancy. Unfortunately unlike her hygiene. She was somewhere in her 70's in age. I think she charged me about $10 a week for room and board.  Her food was delicious.  The meal I most remember was a hot beef with a sweet cold slough on top.  I have yet to have something even close to that since.  It was so good and very filling.  I would get full fast because I had been cooking for myself for awhile.
       I had my own room in the second floor.  A small narrow stairway led to the it.  At night we would watch Gunsmoke, Hazel, (she loved Hazel the maid) Along Came Bronson with Michael Parks, Holly wood Squares and other programs that I can't remember at the momement.  
   I teased her and she loved it.  However, she could hand it back too.  She confided in my about her life and it had tragedy to it.  It seems that her marriage was an arranged one.  She was married at very young age (16?) to a man in his late 20's.  She told me that the honeymoon was torture.  She hated sex and would weep and beg him not to have it with her.  I felt bad for her; what she had missed out on; marrying for love and having a meaningful, pleasurable, intimate relationship.  I also felt for her husband to have a wife that just hated sex.  She had one child and one grandchild by the name of Candy.  She would go on and on how spoiled Candy was.  I rarely saw her daughter and granddaughter, just heard about them.
    She always had her music with her, humming constantly.  No tune, just humming.  I think it kept her company after being alone for so many years.
    She  babied me.  I remember one time I had gotten pretty sick with a cold and she ORDERED me to take off my shirt.  I was a little shy about this but thought I would go along.  She "Vicks" up a piece of wool cloth and pinned it to a pajama top just like my Mother used to do.  Must have been a era thing.
    I lived through the winter with her until May of 1970 when I found the apartment that I wrote about just previous.  When Dinah and I returned to the Cape after getting married and having a very short honeymoon, we found we were broke.  We had about $100 of wedding money but we wanted to put in savings as "seed." We were even out of milk and bread.  Mrs. B hired my bride as a waitress so that we could at least eat until my next check.  Tips were good because people that ate there had money.  It was the fanciest place in town.  Dinah worked there through the summer until school started.
       That same summer Mrs. B called me up one day and said there was an animal in the crawl space under her house and would I come over and it out.  When I got under the house, there was this orange newborn kitten.  Its eyes were all matted shut.  I rescued it and took it home.  Well, let me tell you, my new bride was ecstatic.  She always love cats and I always had no time for them.  I thought, well I could use it as a science experiment and see if I could keep it alive.  We had to use a doll baby bottle bought at a local variety store to feed it milk and we treated the eyes so that they would mat anymore.  Charlie cat became our first child and he made it all the way to Amery. He died at about the age of 17 one night as he slept next to the wood stove. That cat always liked to be warm.
      Sorry if the cat story was a digression but it had Mrs. B as a source.  I don't remember exactly when she died.  I think she was gone when we returned in 1985, 12 years after my discharge.  I have to say, she was a good companion for me to come home to each day and she did a nice job taking care of me, 1000 miles from home.  It is always interesting how God puts people in our lives to make us a more rounded individual.  Here was a woman, almost 50 years my senior that I first learned to relate to and appreciate.  What a gal!
      (A note about the picture: She did not want her picture taken so I told her that my new camera was actually a pair of binoculars.  She bought it.)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

First "Home" as a young married couple

In 1969 after graduating for college in August, I entered the Coast Guard. I took my boot camp in Alameda, California. Graduating from boot camp in Oct. was one of the most wonderful days of my life. That could be another story. The Coast Guard boot camp was known as second only to the Marines when it came to difficulty. The USCG sent me to a light house on the NE end of Lake Ontario. . The light house was known as Tibbetts Point and marked where the St. Lawrence River begins. I lived in a small, but very old village called Cape Vincent in the state of NY. Diane and I were married the following spring and I was able to rent an apartment for us to live in just prior to the wedding.
The picture above is of the "tinder box"is the apartment I speak of. My Mom was scared to death that she would lose us to a billow of smoke. The whole building was wood and it had two gas space heaters mounted on the wall. Even more reason to be concerned was the fact we lived on the top floor. There was an exit out the back enclosed stairway and one down the stairs of the porches.
We were tickled with it. the porch was great! Sitting out there was so nice in the summer. We would grill or just sit and read. We could see the main street from there. Inside, it was long and somewhat narrow. There were two bedrooms. One we slept in one of course and I later used the other as a darkroom. There was a kitchen and comfortable dining/living room area. It had wood floors and came furnished with some antique furniture. All comfortable for us. Rent; $80 smack - a roons per month.
Our land lord-ettes were two widow sisters that lived next to us. One took us under her wing. She became our "Grandma Molly". She was such a dear woman. She had lost her husband quite a few years ago and lost her only son when he flew his plane off a carrier deck right into the ocean. She continued to write us when we got out of the USCG until we got a letter a few years ago from a friend of hers informing us she had passed away. She lived to be almost 100.
We had a couple who became about our best friends that moved in next door to us, sharing our porch. We played double handed pinococle together many, many night; boys against the girls. Gaylor and I lost to Dinah and Bonnie for months in a row. The beer that Gaylor and I drank may have been a contributing factor to do with our losing streak. Clubs became spades and hearts became diamonds. "What was the bid, anyway?"As couples, we got close: I bought a Vega, they bought a Vega; I got into darkroom photography, so did Gaylor; We camped together; played on same softball and basketball teams.
Being far away from home and just starting out in our life together, having a comfortable love nest to start out in and local friends were a real blessings. Actually, for me to come home to my wife every day was a real blessing when you consider so many young men were fighting for their lives in Vietnam. I was protecting ya'll from Canada. I did a good job too, didn't I. We never got attacked once!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


There are tears of sadness, relief, happiness and emotion. (Hall mark Hall of Fame, It's a Wonderful Life) With laughter, there is just the release of great joy. I'm excluding snickers, sarcastic or mean chuckles. I'm talking about belly hurting, eyes closed, not being able to breathe laughter. Hiccups to follow.
Sometimes it is the place it occurs. Like, for instance places where laughing at a particular time would not be appropriate. Example:church. I have couple favorite stories about my Dad. One story is at his expense and the other about his laughter.
Christmas eve found Dad's family at church, sitting near front like we always did. During the service we noted our father, who was dressed in his best suit, had on an old pair of brown, scuffed, paint speckled shoes on. ( to go with his wonderful suit) He had worn them earlier in the day when he was painting. To his horror and to our entertainment, this discovery was made about half way through the service. His children and wife began to emit stifled laughter. Shoulders shaking in almost perfect harmony. As you all know this is very difficult to do. We wanted to just let go of belly laughs but knew we dare not. On the way out of the service, he had us surround him so no one would see his dressing gaff as we shuffled in a circle surrounding our very concerned father.
The other remembrance has his daughter arm wrestling his youngest son on the floor. (thankfully not me) As Rita pinned Jeff's arm to the floor, my Dad started to laugh so hard, he was crying. Well, as most of you know, one laughing individual may stimulate other beloveds near him to join in the chorus. This laughter went on for nearly 15 min. When it would start to die down, there would be a chortle and it would start all over. My father was somewhat reserved so to see him in this posture made the whole situation even more hysterical.
This topic arrived to my mind as I was reflecting on how my bride and I spent a Friday evening two weeks ago. We went to see the Mall Cop with Ken James. My precious one was laughing really hard in dark next to me. This wonderful laughter on top of James' antics just made things all the more entertainly funny to me. She has this tremendous cute laugh. I have to say that one of my favorite thing to do with the mother of my children is: you guessed it; laugh with her.
It is amazing how the two of us entertain each other. I KNOW our kids think was are super dorky, but that is in our job description. Last April, we were in our modern, all conveniences supplied trailer camper, minus heat from a non-functioning furnace. It was in the 40's. It was "breath seeing cold". We obviously are very cold. We were in bed with as much on as we could fit. Mom even has her down vest on. We were in bed for 10 min or so and she started rustling around. This went on for several minutes and I finally asked, "What are you doing?". She says, I'm trying to get my feet into the vest". I'm thinking, What!!?? I said, " this I gotta see". She starts laughing and I start laughing with this mental picture of her trying to move her feet up into her chest area under the vest. We laughed for several minutes; HARD. Then it might quiet down until a giggle would rise up and it would start all over again. This went on for 15 minutes, at least. Now do you think we could get to sleep now? Heck no! The endorphins were going through our systems searching out every cell to wake it up and take notice.
Laughter is stimulating. You all know it. You go on you tube and see video of people laughing and what do you do? You start laughing too. Sometimes all you need is a mental picture. Someone can tell you a story and you form this mental picture and you start giggling away. Laughter is a great thing. A great way to show our joy. Do animals laugh? That is besides the Hyena. You can tell if a dog is happy but I don't know if they actually laugh. Our laughter is a wonder gift given to us by our Creator. We need to do more of it, don't you think?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Watching 40 year old slides or,,. stepping into a time machine

I tend to be quite nostalgic.  I like reunions, old pictures/slides, visiting old haunts etc.  This week, I have not been 100%health-wise  so thought I would look at the boxes of my Mother's slides residing in the basement.  After setting up in the darkest room in the house, I began.  Starting back about 1968 with pictures of my Mom and Dad; seeing them young (45 years old) with their kids laughing, mugging, or tugged at the heart strings.  The parties they used to have with those neighbors I wrote about in the previous blog were quite the event.  There were costumes that my Katie would be envious of.  Cowboys and cowgirls, Hawaiian dresses and shirts.  These people would have their pictures taken, sitting on each others laps; that is husbands with other men's wives and vica versa.  Can't imagine that now.  Maybe I'm sheltered. All having just the greatest time.  All, at this point in time, gone.
 Seeing my precious bride in pictures when we first started dating; 40 years ago brings little lump in my throat.  Oh how much has happened since then. Yet, a big yet, she still has that young figure.  Remarkable after giving birth to 5 little cherubs.  How we began our first dating; so innocent.  She was my first kiss. I was her second.
Then more pictures of my parents with my two siblings, Jeff and Rita.  With my Dad dieing in 1972,  they actually got to do more things with him as he was older and at home more.  Especially Jeff.  there were several trips to Canada that Jeff went on.  I went on one.  Next time I visit with Jeff, I want him to tell my more about my Dad.  I just feel a little cheated out of getting to know him more as an adult.  I have a few regrets in my life and one is that I did not do more with  him.  He would ask me to go fishing and that just was not MY thing so I declined.  I wish I could do that one over again.  It was about me and not us.
Then there were pictures of my grandmother Duell, (Mom's mother) up in Rice Lake.  I didn't know she was up as much as she was after grandpa died.  I was Coast Guard or at college I guess.  Pictures of uncles, aunts and cousins that I don't ever remember seeing. I wonder, when were up to Rice lake that I missed out?  Could it be that I have just forgot? Naaaaaaah, couldn't be.  Seeing my cousin Susie, who was my age, alive.  We were quite close. She died in her 40's.  Don't remember just when for sure.  She was a neat kid, though. So many aunts and uncles who are not with us any more.
Do I wish I could step into the screen and mingle again?  Oh yes!  Does that mean that I am not happy were I am now?  Absolutely not.  I would just like to visit, if only for a couple of days. Then returning to the present, knowing that I might be able to return if I so desired.
It's OK  to miss them, to love them, to thank God for giving the time with them that I had.  That is part of what life is all about.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Games I played in our home and neighborhoods

Well, let's see. First let's go with home.  Canasta was a game my folks taught to me.  We had a special card table cover that had little pockets sown in along the edge that one could put your "books of cards" in.  Old Maid was another that we played.  I think my grandpa Duell may have taught me checkers.  I played a game where you used a square wooden board with pockets at each corner.  You had these little round wooden rings that you would try to shoot into the pockets with small wood cues.  Didn't really know how to play the right way.  
A couple of games we played at the country school were Pom Pom Pull away and Annie  Annie Over.  In the Pom Pom game, teams would face each other across a 60 foot opening. Each team would link arms with each other.  They would take turns send one from their team, running across the open area and try to break through the arms of the other team.  If they were successful, they could return and bring one of the opposing team members with them.  Of course, it was all so fair.  There was the 160 lb. 8th grader headed across to break the arms of two 1st graders.  Ah, what fun.  Annie Annie over had the two teams on each side of the school.  The ball would be attempted to be thrown over the roof of the school.  If one was unsuccessful, "Pig's Tail" would be yelled out.  The team catching the ball would run around the other side and try to touch member of the throwing team.  If you were tagged, you had to join that team.   In the Winter, my family would shot up the resort and move into Rice Lake.  I remember playing foot ball at recess with a little football.  We were in a 4th grade, I think.  One of the boys broke his leg and we had the ball taken from us. Too dangerous. That did not deter us, however.  Chunks of ice were used then and the tackle game continued to be played on the frozen snow/ice play ground.  
We played a similar game in our neighborhood.  I was so blessed to live in this neighborhood.  there were at least 10 boys within 2 years of age.  We played so many different games all year round.  Ice rink football was one we played.  the long, rectangular ice rink was the field.  It really did not make much difference how much bigger one guy was than another when it came to be tackled on the glare ice.  One size went down as easy as another.  If the runner made it to the side line, or along the snow bank, where there was a snowy edge, he would run really fast. However he could be pushed out of bounds with out much of a problem.
  Another outside winter activity was skiing.  There were almost half of us that skied.  On the Hardscrabble slopes we would build jumps and see how far we could go.  We also played tag on skis.  What we should have done was to make slalom courses.  That activity would make someone a better skier.  That is what my brother Jeff did with his friends.  We basically were goof offs. 
In the fall, we would play regular football games, where shoulder pads and helmets would be worn.  I felt so big and strong with my shoulder pads on.  Made my body shape a little more pleasing to match the larger tummy that I had at the time.  As a little rabbit trail, We had neighborhood teams in Rice Lake.  Two main ones:  Jake's team (Bob Jacobson) and Auggie's (Steve August) team.  I guess we would have been about 7th and 8th graders.  We would even hold practices for the big game that weekend. We would have high school age fella be our ref.  We would play our games with much intensity because much pride was at stake.  What great times they were.  I'll never forget one time I was on the line and I cross body blocked two guys at one time and took them down.  One, Donny Folstad, was so mad he sat on me and wouldn't let me up right away.  Funny, how something like that sticks with me but I can't remember what  I went down into the basement for. 
  Back to neighborhoods games.  These 10 guys played so many different games.  We not all played all games. For example, not all of us played golf or tennis.  Basket ball games would be played as soon it got warm enough for the ball to bounce, at least a little.  I remember my fingers would be cracked and bleeding from playing in the spring where the ball would get wet and so would the hands and then they would dry, only to get wet again.  Our favorite board was only 8 ft. high or so and the driveway was sloped away from the basket, mounted above the garage door.  We would play badminton and have tournaments.  Stratego was a board game that several of us got addicted to and played all them time.  Ping pong in our basements was another competition that a few us got into.  Baseball games all the time played in back yards, where the fielders had to dodge small and large trees to make a play on a hit ball. 
 I look back now and that was so much fun.  This type of neighborhood play time is a thing of the past, I think.  Now all these games are organized and run by adults.  Is this better?  I would say maybe no.  There were no expectations put on us by adults back then.  No schedules to meet.  No travel. We made our own creative fun, it was not done for us.  As is the case, when one has lived over a half of a century, we observe cultural changes.  I believe the sociology of neighborhoods, both with the kids and their parents is one of those unfortunate changes.  We just don't do the things together like was done in the past. As an example of adult games in our neighborhood; the guys were called "The Tom Cats" and they would play poker.  the gals were called "The Ally Cats"and they would play bridge.  All gone away with  the $.25 Hot fudge sunday? 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Worst advice ever/sex education

Sex education of the 50's and 60's was just a tad different from what it is today. I always felt the farm kids had a HUGE advantage over us city kids. They were surrounded by the act of intercourse by watching the farm animals. There was a lot of bad info out there and I was getting much of it. Babies out the navel? Hey, maybe! My first source of info would be my Mom who was an RN. She was so "RN" that I needed to use a particular vocabulary when addresing parts of my body and excretions. I didn't have a "little peter", it was a penus. I did not have to make poo poo, it was a BM. Which for years I thought was spelled beum and thought that was just its name. So, enter biology class as a 9th grader and then next chapter was reproduction. All Right! Finally, I was going to find out how all this works. What did the chapter cover? Things like stamens and pistil and a flower. big whoopee! So, to mom I go and I ask her how babies are born. Here is a quote that I never forgot; " Well, when two people love each other they get married and then other things happen too." Yeow! Now there was the clincher!Another time I remember her telling me that sex is what we are, not what we do.    Obviously, I continued to live in blissful ignorance until Eugene Stadola clued me in. "You see", he said, "the baby comes out between the lady's legs". I told him he was crazy, that there was not enough room there for that to happen. You mothers out there will probably attest to that. I really don't recall where I actually heard how intercourse took place. Dirty jokes? Wise aleck remarks? Just don't remember.
Worst advice ever? Probably from my father. I don't know how the subject came up but I think I was in college. He told me if I ever felt I needed to have sex, that I should have it with a prostitute. I think he was probably trying to protect the innocent mid west girls from my advances. I can't quite imagine giving my sons that sort of information. Which by the way, I tried to give them a Godly perspective on a loving, sexual relationship within marriage. I didn't want them to have to go through what I did. The girls were Mom's responsibility. Back to my Dad. The advice he gave me, I believe, was not from personal experience. In one of his letters to his older brother, Jack, he talks about getting propositioned by a prostitute when he was stationed in Alaska. He told Jack, he could never do that because he was saving himself for "his Chucky". (My Mom)
I suppose there was other advice out there that was bad: invest in mutual funds, but the sex education is what jumped into my little pea brain first.