Know thy classmates! Know thyself!
Culminating in: The great comebacks
DebK of Rosemount reports: “These days, I’m hardly ever the youngest one in a crowd. But at Sunday’s gathering of Taxman’s high-school classmates, I was the (comparative) spring chicken.
“I enjoyed that status — and my role, which was to prepare the evening meal for the reunees (which isn’t a word, but should be) while Taxman and his co-host, St. Roger the Farmhand, kept folks hydrated.
“Having extensively observed attendees through my kitchen window, I am able to report that members of the Class of ’62 are holding up well. Oh, there have been changes since the last reunion: hair color, certainly, and a reported increase in familiarity with the medical establishment. But their essential qualities are unchanged. Which is a very good thing.
“Taxman’s graduating class was always a small one, owing to its coming into the world during the final years of WWII, when many young men of procreative inclinations were otherwise occupied. The hardships of those war years, or the Polish and Czech immigrant tenacity, or the lessons learned from living close to the land — perhaps a combination of all those factors — produced first-rate human beings whose behavior in one area is utterly predictable.
“They bring food.
“Mom did the same thing, though her habits were shaped more by the Depression than by the War. We Dunns were known to be people who stayed ‘to home,’ but even we would occasionally go visiting — by which we meant dropping in unannounced on a close relative. These visits generally occurred after a heavy rain, when field work and gardening were impossible. It was inconceivable — and therefore unexpected — that one would fritter away good money on the cost of a long-distance phone call to alert Aunt Florene or Auntie Phyllis that we would arrive on her doorstep in a half-hour or so. In recognition of the surprise factor involved in such visits, farm-folk decorum required that those paying the visit would come bearing gifts of an edible nature. Mom brought cake — baked from scratch, of course: usually Peanut Cake with Brown Sugar ‘Fudge’ Frosting or Maraschino Cherry Cake (with nuts) topped with flamingo-pink powdered-sugar icing. (For the record, neither Mom nor any other drop-in visitor ever brought food — except perhaps a jar of freshly skimmed cream — to Grandma Bobzien’s, where incomparable desserts appeared in the loaves-and-fishes manner.)
“Taxman’s classmates seem to favor salads and bar cookies and bean-based casseroles as their famine-relief strategies. Given that I had known for weeks that the reunees were coming, and given that I had signed on to prepare dinner for the assembly, I was surprised by the arrival of so much food, which precipitated a Refrigerator Space Crisis. We have three ‘fridges at St. Isidore Farm, but one is dedicated to egg storage, and another is reserved for the cooling of beer (and an assortment of non-intoxicating fluids— but mostly beer). The food ‘fridge — the one in the kitchen, that is — was already groaning, stuffed as it was with items I had prepared. Ice-filled coolers were pressed into service, so all was well — until after dinner, when we were confronted with the problem of leftovers. There was some discussion of flagging down passersby to assist in disposing of our excess. Alas, our gravel road is lightly traveled. So we were left to the usual strategy: filling every available plastic container (cottage cheese, yogurt, Schwan’s ice cream) with food and foisting them off on the (mostly) willing.
“As is so often the case, some of the salads ended the day rather worse for wear, which posed another difficulty. As we debated the fate of a very nice taco salad, one of the ladies of the Class of ’62 suggested that it be given as a treat to the retired hens. Reflexively, I objected: ‘No! It’s too good for chickens.’ Without skipping a beat, the woman set to packing the salad in a large Tupperware bowl. ‘OK, then,’ she said, as she finished. ‘Now, you just tuck this in the refrigerator, and by Thursday, it’ll be just right for those chickens.’”
Then & Now
Phonograph Records Division
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “While going through phonograph records I inherited from my parents, I came across a particularly intriguing one. It was an old (is there any other kind?) 78 of ‘Look Sharp, Be Sharp’. It was recorded in 1954 by the Boston Pops Orchestra with conductor Arthur Fielder.
“The song (or, more correctly, march) was the theme music for ‘The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports.’ I remember watching this show on Friday nights with my father and brother back in the 1950s, but I don’t recall any sport other than boxing.
“The record label includes several interesting facts. Besides ‘SPEED 78 R.P.M.’ is the statement ‘START OUTSIDE,’ because apparently some 78s were played from the inside to the outside, unlike the 33s and 45s which eventually replaced them. But even better was the statement: ‘This record has been specially prepared for the employees and friends of The Gillette Company.’ This explains why we had this record. My dad was a chemist at the Toni Co., which by the 1950s was a division of Gillette. I assume employees were given copies or were able to purchase them for a minimal price.
“Another oddity is that this record is one-sided. But rather than the back side being blank, it has an interesting pattern pressed into it, on top of which is ‘RCA Victor’ and the old RCA logo of Nipper the dog listening to ‘His Master’s Voice’ coming from a gramophone.
“One doesn’t see this kind of attention to detail today.”
Then & Now
StreetRodder writes: “Subject: What goes around, comes around.
“In 1955, I played little league in St. Paul for the CUBS. In 2018, my great-grandson is playing tee ball for the CUBS in Cottage Grove. I find it to be a really cool coincidence.
“He looks at my picture and can’t imagine it’s me. It’ll be awhile before my little man will grasp how old I am, compared to him.”
Not exactly what she had in mind
Norton’s mom of Eau Claire, Wis.: “The perfect gift for a centenarian? Perhaps not a magazine full of dead people.
“Norton’s dad and I have delivered Meals on Wheels almost every Wednesday since we retired in 2003. It’s been such a great experience . . . well, except that one time when a younger, mentally challenged recipient startled me by roaring (like a bear) at me from across the room — but that was an exception. I have gotten to know people that I would never have had the chance to meet in my daily life. They gave me a sense of what it would be like to live to perhaps my 90s or even 100s — a little window into what the future could be like. They live each day with a sense of humor no matter what life has thrown at them, an appreciation for the ‘now’ and the possibilities of the future. I try to give little extras back to them when I can, and that’s what this item is about.
“Our basement got a decent amount of water in it from the recent rainy spell that Mother Nature decided to send our way. As I was sorting out and moving the storage boxes (plastic; one of my better decisions), I came across some movie magazines from 1959 and 1960. I checked to see if they were worth anything on Ebay, and was then going to throw them in recycling, when I thought: ‘Why don’t I see if any of the Meals on Wheels recipients would like to look at these? They might really enjoy them.’
“I decided to offer one of the magazines to our 100-year-old Meals recipient, a very with-it, lovely lady who smiles and laughs a lot during our conversations each week. As she looked at the cover photo of Debbie Reynolds, she asked: ‘She’s still alive, isn’t she?’ No, she died. She flipped through some of the pages: ‘Shirley Temple . . . she’s alive yet?’ No, she died awhile ago. ‘How about Elizabeth Taylor? She’s living yet, isn’t she?’ The lady’s in-home care person was also there, and she started helping me with these answers, our voices getting a little more solemn as we kept saying: No, he/she died.
“After going though six or seven more celebrity names, all of them deceased, I decided that maybe a magazine from the past featuring now-deceased people wasn’t the best thing to give to an even-older-than-me person, but as I left she was happily paging through the magazine, so perhaps it wasn’t too bad. Maybe just a little ‘Oops.’”
The match game (self-responsorial)
Booie of Cottage Grove writes: “On October 22, 2002, you printed a submittal of mine for the category ‘The match game,’ on how you met your spouse.
“June 15th was our 50th wedding anniversary.
“While I am sure it is true in every marriage that some days are not diamonds, I still do not regret one second of the 3-1/2 hours I waited for my drop-dead beauty.
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Happy Anniversary!
Here’s Booie’s original note, which ran under the headline “How long would you wait for a drop-dead beauty?”:
“I got discharged from the Army in 1967. I’d had two good friends before I went into the Army — John and Jerry — and when I got out of the Army, Jerry was in the Army, and John was married, and his wife was pregnant, so I didn’t have much in the way of people I could play with . . . and use up some of my accumulated testosterone from my time in the Army.
“I think John’s wife soon got tired of me dragging him out of there and hanging around their house, so she started to fix me up with her girlfriends. The first couple I met were, you know, nice people, very attractive — but there wasn’t anything in the life-partner category that clicked for me. I went out with them a couple times and then stopped.
“John’s wife then told me there was one more girl she wanted me to meet — her best friend in high school, and her Maid of Honor — and said I should come over to their apartment on a . . . Saturday or Sunday, I don’t remember which. I did — and I walked into their apartment and into their living room . . . and I lost my breath. There was a very attractive girl sitting on the couch — but she was extremely pregnant. I honestly didn’t know what to say. Probably ‘Hi,’ or something like that.
“And then John’s wife said: ‘This is my friend’s sister, and she’s here because my friend doesn’t drive.’ I hope the sister didn’t hear the sigh of relief that I probably let out.
“And then John’s wife’s friend came into the living room — and, my God, she was drop-dead beautiful! Whatever breath I’d gained from seeing her pregnant sister, I immediately lost.
“I am not a very good conversationalist, and we probably got to the ‘Hi. How are ya? Where do you work? What do you like to do?’ kind of stuff. We made arrangements for a date on the following Monday. She worked at a financial institution downtown St. Paul, and I told her I’d pick her up after she got off work, and we’d go to a movie, and I’d take her home — or something like that.
“I am compulsively punctual — punctual to the point where I get to places early. I will take this to my grave: She told me she would get done at 4:30 — so I was probably outside her office at 4 o’clock, waiting for her, because there was nothing I was going to do that was going to screw up any opportunity I had to get close to this girl. I mean, she was absolutely beautiful!
“So, 4:30 came and went, and I figured: ‘Well, she’s late, and there’s people still going out of the place.’
“”Five o’clock came and went . . . 5:30 . . . 6 . . . 6:30 . . . 7 . . . 7:30 — and I’m not going to give up! I’m gonna wait for her till this place closes! There’s people still going in and out.
“Finally, a little after 7:30, she walked out, and we said hi, and she said: ‘Been here long?’ I don’t know if I told her then, at the time, what time I’d actually gotten there, but I’d been waiting about 3-1/2 hours.
“We went to the movie. I took her home. And things . . . transpired after that: We got married in June of ’68 — and we will have been married 34 years this month.
“During the time that she was my fiancee, and subsequently, I had a Super 8 movie camera, and I took lots of movies of her and my family — pictures of our wedding and our family parties and our children as they grew up. I had all of that converted onto a DVD recently — and when I looked at it for the first time, I thought: My God! How could this beautiful, wonderful woman have selected me to be her husband?
“To this day, I have never, ever regretted, for one second, the 3-1/2 hours I waited for her, or the following 34 years of marriage.
“That’s my story.”
Band Name of the Day: The Spring Chickens
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