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?