My love of Cadillacs goes back to those early years when I first knew Jim. He bought a black 1952 Coupe shortly after I met him. That was in about 1965, so the car was a little old, but still nicer than anything my family every drove. I learned to drive in that car and went on all the special dates (like Prom, Homecoming, Wedding) in the ’52.
1952 Cadillac on our wedding day
The trunk of the car was big enough for everything four guys took to college the first week. During college my friends and I did significant work on the car. We rebuilt the carburetor, replaced the drive shaft and repaired some rust. When I went off to college and met the special young lady who would become my wife, Jim sold the Cadillac to me for One Dollar. Unfortunately, being young ones with hotter ideas in mind, and facing more repairs than we thought we could afford, we decided to sell the Cadillac and buy a ’65 Mustang convertible. Jim was pretty sad that I sold the car, he loved that black beauty as much as I would now. The Mustang was a fun car, but let’s just say it was neither practical nor reliable.
Within a couple of months Jim showed up at our door with a blue 1953 Cadillac sedan. That was in 1972. Jim had that car for years and made several trips to visit us driving the stately old dowager. We called the car the “Blue Lady.” While Jim owned the car he made several trips to Wisconsin from Jamestown with his mother and his Aunt Sis. Jim’s Aunt Sis was a very proper woman with blue hair who loved lots of activity in her life. The ladies would ride in subdued elegance, talking and working on their handicraft projects. One of their projects was hand-made Christmas ornaments. Jim’s mother and Aunt Sis passed away many years ago, but we still have dozens of those beautiful ornaments. Continue reading
Listening to music has been one of my favorite activities ever since I discovered 45 RPM records in the early 1960s. The first record I ever bought (98 cents, plus 2 cents tax) was Nat King Cole singing Those Lazy Crazy-Hazy-Days Of Summer. Among the many record players over the years was the classic RCA changer. Scratchy sound. No bass. Prone to failure. Everything today’s digital music is not. That didn’t stop the music!
Some of the sixty-plus 45s we listen to in the car.
This summer I found my old stack of 45 RPM records in the attic and converted them all to MP3 so we could listen to them in the car and in the house. The old familiar scratch-scratch-scratch of music from the 45s brings back memories of John and me listening to those records in the basement of my house on fourth avenue in Jamestown, ND. How many of you old guys spent an hour trying to decipher the words to “Louie, Louie?”
Here’s a copy of Nat “King” Cole’s song. If you enjoy it, you might want to read about and listen to fifteen of the greatest songs of the Boomer Generation on the Next Avenue website.
Louie wrote this letter in 1991. Since then, I’ve become a grandfather several times over. That perspective changed how I viewed Louie’s story. When my kids were little, they wouldn’t have gotten out of my sight. Now that number five is toddling around, I tend to be a little more lenient.
The primary contributor to that change is an increase in patience. A friend of mine stopped by the other day and told a story about his granddaughter. He had biked with her the previous weekend. She wanted to ride through a big puddle on the bike trail. Before we retired, before there were several grandchildren, both Ron and I would have said, “No way!” The kid would have gotten dirty, muddy, and mamma would have raised a fuss. Now the granddaughter wants to ride through the puddle again. And again.
What did my buddy do? Rode through the puddle again and again, until she tired of the splashing. That would be a lot of splashing. In retirement, like Grandpa Frandsen, we don’t have to get home to fix a toilet, there isn’t a problem at work that needs attention, the pressures of life have somewhat dissipated.
I can imagine the glee that Grandpa Frandsen felt as he watched little Louie ride off on the trike. He didn’t have to deal with the consequences. Mamma could handle it.
Sometimes I’ve wondered about the truth behind Louie’s stories. Some of them are a little far-fetched. Then I found the newspaper clippings describing his trike episode. You can see it at the bottom of this post. I can imagine that Mamma was perturbed.
Maybe someone can help me remember just where Pittsburgh Avenue and Nupen’s elevator were in Jamestown?
This is the start of an autobiography of which I was instructed to complete or suffer some kind of horrible fate such as take away my coffee.
As per instructions, I start with my birth. It is said that I knew that this world I was about to enter was not going to be all sugar and spice – so – I came in breach. That is like telling the world to kiss my foot. I have arrived. Continue reading
Jim starts his life story in the middle. Can you point to one incident in your life that everything else turns around? For me, it was something as simple as getting off an elevator in Sevrinson Hall in 1970. There was before, and there was after. Jim had the same kind of experience, in the back seat of a 1953 Cadillac. Jim starts his letters with the story of life’s cusp.
USS Fremont – Bridge crew – September 1953
In the fall of 1953 Jim’s life was changing. He had spent more than ten years in the Navy, first during the war against the Japanese in the South Pacific, and then on more mundane duty stat-side and cruising the Mediterranean Sea. Soon, life would change from military to civilian, years after most WWII veterans had made the move. After being born in North Dakota, he moved East as a child. Now, in 1953 he was preparing to move back to Dakota for an adult life.
Growing up in Massachusetts and spending a decade in the Navy made an indelible imprint on Jim. He never lost the genteel nature that reminded me of Boston. He always used the slang of a Navy man. North Dakota blood flowed in his veins. The next fifty or so letters show all the traits that made him a fascinating character.
In this photo of the USS Fremont bridge crew, taken just before the events in the letter below, Jim is third from the right in the front row.
Originally published 2014-10-06
The USS Fremont (APA44) docked at NOB (Naval Operations Base) Norfolk, Va. after an 8 month cruise of the Mediterranean and its seaports. After the long months and confining spaces aboard ship I was more than anxious to get off, therefore I took 30 days annual leave. There were three modes of transportation available to me … Bus, Pane and train … but I decided, with some doubts and trepidation, to hitch-hike … from Norfolk to No. Dak!
Have you ever sat around some evening and wished there was something to do?
In 1981 IBM selected me to attend a ten-week school put on by IBM in New York City called Systems Research Institute (SRI). It was a lot like college, graduate school. We chose among dozens of classes in computer topics; programming, artificial intelligence, finance, architecture and much more. Then we dug into classes about four hours per day and at least that much time assigned in homework projects and reading.
That school gave us a chance to meet high level people from around the corporation and we quickly learned that IBM was much more than a little lab in the Minnesota corn fields. The breadth and diversity of the company became clear as soon as classes started. Back home I knew lots of engineers, some programmers, and I’d heard about marketing and sales, but I had never met people from those esoteric professions. The class had all of them, plus finance, operations, manufacturing, and people working on dozens of products I barely knew IBM sold. The instructors were excellent, too, with great industry and academic credentials. Plus, there’s nothing like living in midtown Manhattan to get a real education!
Classes started immediately on Monday morning with an orientation and the first real sessions of the course. With only ten weeks, they had to start first thing that morning to get everything covered before we went home. Being a dutiful worker and a little shy, I dove into the readings and projects. That worked fine until Friday morning. The others were talking about where they were going and what events they planned to take in over the weekend.
That’s when I realized I had made no plans, no real friends, and had not even discussed what to do with those who would become my new friends. I don’t recall exactly what I did that weekend, precisely who I did it with, or where I went, but I do recall the empty terror of having nothing on my plate, no idea of where to go, and only a tenuous grip on how to find out what was happening in the city. Continue reading
There’s something special about meeting someone nice for the first time. If that spark is in the air, you want to know everything about the other person. By the end of the evening you know all sorts of things about the new someone. Those stories become the foundation for a new, wonderful, relationship.
That sharing of stories didn’t happen between my mother and me until I was over forty years old. So many things seemed more important for those first forty years. I needed my allowance a day early, or it was time to get a driver’s license, or my own life filled my brain. Then I met Judy and stories about the past no longer mattered. Stories about Judy became my goal.
Since Grace died twenty years ago we’ve visited the Kunkel farm where she grew up a couple of times, and I’ve often visited the Fairview Cemetery where she’s buried. In the summer of 2015 the extended family gathered at the Luehr plots in Fairview to bury Grace’s older sister. The wind blew off our hats, and swept our words onto the wheat fields. Grace and her parents experienced that same wind, on those same hills in the first half of the twentieth century.
As much as the climate was similar, just about everything else was different.
To my four dear sons, their wives + children,
I want to start this story with some events that shaped my life before I was born
The story I’m enclosing was told to my sister-in-law Elaine. It’s about the farm where we lived in Buckeye township south of Lake Williams, North Dakota. Continue reading