21 Apr 19
The Permanent Family Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “On Easter afternoon in 1970, we took a posed photo of our two youngest kids looking like sweet little cherubs …
“. . . but my favorite photo was the candid as our 3-year-old son seriously and meticulously counted out the morning’s loot.
“Bulletin Board may not be a competition, but with our six kids, everything was a competition, all year long. On Easter, it was always the race to be the first kid to find their own Easter basket, and then they competed to see who could find the most Easter eggs. After all were found and counted, they took turns carefully choosing which ones each wanted to use in the Egg Crack Contest. The victor had no modesty; he or she flaunted that tough egg and saved it for days before reluctantly peeling it to eat.
“Not until the Egg Crack Contest was over could I proceed to chop ‘the shell-smashed losers’ up for our traditional EASTER DINNER POTATO SALAD. (Note: All caps are required for my mother-in-law’s mouth-watering recipe.)”
Gee, our old La Salle ran great!
LeoJEOSP writes: “I wasn’t too excited about my new robot until Dad showed me it could yodel!”
Then & Now
Homeless of Woodbury: “Subject: Easter Memories.
“I grew up in Fosston, a smallish town in northwestern Minnesota, in the Fifties. Our activities were mainly centered around school and church. We knew nothing about the big city and were mostly content with our lives.
“We were blessed to have good music teachers. Many holidays were celebrated with musicals and plays.
“One year, we celebrated spring with a variety show. A group of girls were chosen to dance to ‘Easter Parade.’ We wore big boxes decorated with crepe paper made to look like gigantic Easter hats. We must have made quite the impression: five sixth-grade girls with our toothpick legs sticking out.
“The dance wasn’t very complicated; there was only one step, actually. Keeping the hats on straight was a little tricky, and they sometimes slipped to a jaunty angle. Because we really couldn’t see, there were a few minor collisions but no serious injuries.
“Ah . . . the joy of simpler times.”
The Permanent Brothers-in-Armsly Record
Including: Not exactly what (if anything) he had in mind
The Astronomer of Nininger: “My friend Dave and I shared many activities together. We bonded through our love of flying and our adventurous spirits, frequently hunting and fishing together.
“I was fortunate enough to be married to the Good Wife, while Dave had a different relationship with his spouse. Once, when we had to go on Temporary Duty (TDY) to upgrade to higher-performance airplanes, the Good Wife and even our canine companion, Rusty, accompanied us from Alabama to Texas. Dave, on the other hand, told his spouse that wives were not allowed. I’m not sure how he explained that the Good Wife came with me. He actually had a square-stern canoe on a trailer which he loaded up with his Fisher stereo, Ampex tape deck, some fishing equipment and other miscellaneous items that today we would call Man Cave décor. He moved into the Bachelor Officer Quarters (BOQ) along with all of the paraphernalia, which was heaped higher than the gunwales of that canoe.
“The Good Wife and I took the opportunity to explore the Pedernales River, New Braunfels and other parts of the Texas scene.
“Dave must have gotten tired of paddling that canoe. After all, it had a square stern and could have been propelled by an outboard. I had a small, 2-horsepower outboard that I used on that slender boat many times, and Dave was certainly welcome to use it any time he wanted. But he thought that if my 2-horsepower motor made that canoe move nearly on plane, a bigger motor would really make it go fast. He found one advertised in the local San Antonio paper and thought he’d try it out. It was 25-horsepower.
“Conveniently, there was a drainage ditch behind the apartments where the Good Wife and I were staying. I suspect you might call this a cesspool. Dave fastened the motor to the stern, and the mere weight of the motor on the lightweight boat was enough to make it float with the bow already bobbing above the surface of the polluted waters.
“Now, since the Good Wife and I were not present and there were no other observers to record the details, I have to admit that separating fact from fiction would be difficult. But I describe to you what Dave shared with me over a couple of beers: He had the motor firmly fastened and tried to start it. To no avail. It would not start, again and again. So he turned the throttle up a good bit and gave the starter cord one last yank. As he did, the fuel ignited and the motor started. Not at idle, but close enough for government work to being wide open. He said that the motor running at essentially full throttle, with the bow already elevated, caused the canoe to assume a near-vertical position. At least it seemed that way to him. He was almost ejected. Dave swore to me that he thought he was going to die right then and there. He didn’t even have time to say a Hail Mary!
“Then, as quickly and with as much surprise as he’d experienced when the motor suddenly started, it died. The bow came crashing down with a deafening ‘splash.’ Inertial forces caused him to be slammed to the floor of the canoe, which was swamped with sewer water. He was totally soaked, but he did live to talk about it.
“He meekly described the happenings of that Saturday morning. He did not use that canoe anymore while we were in Texas that summer, other than to haul his goods back to Alabama. He never bought an outboard for it, but he certainly gained some respect for water safety.”
Not exactly what she had in mind
Bloomington Bird Lady writes: “Subject: Ah, Spring — and Time for Maple Syrup?
“Something one doesn’t see too often anymore: maple trees being tapped for their sap, right here in the city. I was walking on a fairly busy street, and very close to the sidewalk were two large maples, each with a large pail attached by what looked like an IV hookup. Someone was going to make maple syrup. It brought back a memory from when our kids were babies.
“In the dark ages, before disposable diapers, we had to soak the nice cloth ones we used over and over; bleached them, washed them, hung them out to dry, then folded them to put away . . . and repeated that ritual many times before the babies were potty-trained. We had large pails standing out in the garage area, where the washing machine (not automatic) was hooked up. I may even have wrung out the ready-to-wash diapers by hand! See how easy you young gals have it today?
“One spring, Birdman and his teaching buddy decided to find some sugar maples out in the nearby woods, tap the now-flowing sap and make their own syrup. They used some large pails and had collected several gallons of sap, brought the pails home, and planned how to fit into their busy schedules the long cooking it would require.
“In the meantime, washday arrived. I found my diaper-soaking pail still full, and wondered why I had not dumped out the water. Guess who took the wrong pail, dumped out the gallons of newly collected sap and not realized the two pails looked very much alike? Yep!
“I wished they’d said something about leaving the sap pail right there. Guys often don’t say enough, it seems.
“Never heard the last of that mistake, and now it’s come back to haunt me!”
Gee, our old La Salle ran (and still runs) great!
Deuce of Eagan writes: “Subject: Good Old PTC-33.
“PTC-33 must be another World War II torpedo boat, similar to the famous PT-109 — right? Lieutenant John F. Kennedy, war hero, commanded that boat and saved the crew after its sinking.
“Well, that sounds correct, but the PTC-33 bears no resemblance whatsoever to the PT-109. In fact, it’s never been even near a large body of water, unless you count Lake Como in St. Paul as such.
“Without using any military specifications, it was hand-built in 1914 by a company located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, a manufacturer which never did produce a toboggan. Back then, the term was used for a roller-coaster, which was the company’s original product. Their product line soon evolved (not revolved) to the manufacture of carousels, sometimes referred to as merry-go-rounds. One of their masterpieces is PTC-33, which used to be referred to as the ‘Minnesota State Fair Carousel.’ It revolved during every Fair for 75 years. It was the 33rd machine produced by the PTC.
“In 1987 or so, the Fair deemed that the building housing the carousel had deteriorated to the point where it needed to be razed. The grand old machine was doomed, and its owner (it was never owned by the Fair) shipped it to an auction house in New York in December of 1988. The horses were going to be sold individually.
“Enter a quickly formed nonprofit organization, Our Fair Carousel! They obtained a document, endorsed by the City of St. Paul, guaranteeing a bank loan of over a million dollars by OFC. At least for the time being, it was rescued and trucked back to Minnesota. A very close call!
“Soon after, a ‘mystery donor’ (as the Pioneer Press called him) entered the picture. Restoration was begun following a generous six-figure donation by this donor. About 1990, the fresh carousel was installed in a downtown indoor park: St. Paul Town Square Park. A dedication gala celebration followed, attended by the mayor and a long list of dignitaries. The mystery donor was unveiled: Gerard L. Cafesjian, a corporate executive at a downtown St. Paul business. From then on, PTC-33 was to be known as Cafesjian’s Carousel.
“This is where I came in. Some of Mr. Cafesjian’s business associates asked me to create a gift photo album for Mr. Cafesjian. ‘Mr. C’ was known as one with expensive tastes. I was given carte blanche to accomplish this. The result was rewarding and generated a lot of ‘oohs & aahs’: imported leather cover, linen pages imprinted with intricate designs and gold embossing. I included about 80 photos. A complementary piece was a walnut base and clear thick Lexan case, etched with the carousel logo, and ‘torched’ edges to appear clear as a fine diamond. Whenever the photo album was removed from its case for perusal, a Swiss music device (concealed within) would play ‘band-organ’ music, similar to that of the PTC-33 band-organ. It was a total surprise to him when he was presented the gift one evening at the Minnesota Club. He was obviously very pleased and referred to it often as extraordinary.
“Not long after, I decided to create a stained-glass window with an image of a carousel horse using vibrant colored glass. I was pleased with the window upon finishing with the (demanding) project. This would be a personal gift from me. Mr. C was elated.
“Thank goodness for Gerard L. Cafesjian, who did a wonderful thing by contributing the major share of the money needed to rescue this Minnesota treasure, to have it restored, and to build its pavilion for its final location at Como Park in St. Paul. Families will be enjoying PTC-33 for generations to come.”
Then & Now
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Birches . . . we don’t need no stinking birches.
“Growing up in the small Southwestern Minnesota town of Windom, I remember taking the shortcut across the frozen Des Moines River to the Plum Bay ‘wilderness.’ There was some risk in the journey, and the threat of punishment if Mom found out.
“It was a hilly, unfarmable place with a forested ravine and a little spring-fed creek about 3 feet wide that in the summer wiggled down to hundreds of yards of muddy river bank. It had vines an inch thick that ascended to the upper branches of tall trees, and their rated capacity was 100 pounds of swinging adolescent boy.
“We are so blessed to have recollections. To conjure up a particularly exciting day out of 25,000 and float in joyous solitude just short of fear.”
The great comebacks
Rusty of St. Paul reports: “I was reading in Money magazine about ’10 Must-Have Apps for Seniors.’ Several of them caught my attention, but the one I liked best was the one that tells you where you last parked your car.
“I was discussing this app at the dining table when we hosted brunch for my cousins. My wife was sitting next to me and perfectly set herself up: ‘Hmmm . . . I wonder how it works,’ she said.
“I told the group: ‘You leave the wife at your car, and when you come out of the big-box store, she waves and says: “YOO HOO! OVER HERE!”‘”
Band Name of the Day: Toothpick Legs