Lucy’s in the back row, far right, with the Tuba
In this letter, Lucy recalls high school as being a happy time for her. Both Judy and I have fond memories of high school, too. There’s something special about not having any real responsibilities to keep you awake at night. The most vexing part of school might be the boyfriend / girlfriend issues. In Lucy’s case, it was Hubert. For me there were a couple of good friends who happened to be girls, and one very special girlfriend. Those were happy days.
We enjoyed our high school days, but there’s something even better. Your own children in high school. There’s a certain vicarious pleasure in hosting the various parties and dinners for the kids. Judy and I were able to blend in with the wallpaper as the kids partied, laughed, and had their nervous conversations with their dates. They were so full of energy and eagerness.
Now we are waiting for the grand children to start the high school days. It’s only ten more years or so.
In high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors were all in one room. I guess my high school years were about the happiest time of my young years.
Each year we would go to Casselton and have relay races, basketball throw, potato races, (potatoes would be spread and you picked them up one at a time and take them to home base), high jump was my best, because of my long legs I guess.
Oblivious. I must have been totally unaware of the insides of the Gladstone Hotel in Jamestown, ND. I don’t remember a thing about it. There were other stores and businesses on the same block. One was a little drug store that I went into once to buy some cold medicine. They weren’t the best drug store, and nowhere near the best in town. I’d rank them third out of three. My ignorance didn’t help much. I asked for “Contact” when I was looking for the brand “Contac.” Somehow they couldn’t make the connection.
My favorite place on that block was the Grand Theater. This was the big, fancy theater in town. Compared to the Star, the grimy little theater in our old neighborhood, it was several steps up. Prices were higher, too. Popcorn was a dime for a box instead of a nickel at the Star. Cathy and I would go to at least one movie a weekend at the Grand.
The Gladstone Hotel was just across the street from the railroad passenger depot, and right on Main Street. Given my interest in the depot, the railroad, and that the hotel was only three or four blocks from my house, it’s a little odd that I don’t remember anything about the hotel except the façade.
It was a large and beautiful building. The inside must have been old and stately like a big town hotel. I don’t know. Maybe there was no reason to ever darken their doorstep.
Gladstone Fire – 1968 – Jamestown
Word spread through the high school on a March morning. There was a fire. At the Gladstone Hotel. This was a big deal. For our lunch break we walked the couple of blocks from the school to the railroad tracks, that’s as close as we could get. There were fire trucks, police cars and other emergency vehicles everywhere. Police barricades kept us away, and so did all the fire hoses crisscrossing the parking lots and streets.
Dorothy in the back yard
Judy and I have always been cat people, so what Louie tells is in this letter feels good. This story isn’t as dramatic as the last couple, but it shows how Louie could take the simplest of life’s stories and make you smile. I still love smiling when reading his stories, and I miss hearing him tell those stories.
When Dorothy and I were still in grade school, our Mother had a live-in alarm clock for us. This alarm was called “Tommy.” He was an angora cat and to me, at that age, he was as large as a tiger.
After WWII Jim spent a couple of hitches in the Navy as he tried to figure out what to do with his life. For one of those enlistments he toured the Mediterranean Sea. He never shared much about this tour, nor any of his Navy experiences. What little he told about the war in the Pacific led me to believe those were tough times. He also spent time in the US South doing ordnance disposal, that was dull and dreary. His time touring the Mediterranean was different!
There were no specific stories, just a few hints here and there. This was the tour of a lifetime. These days college age people take a year off to “find themselves” in Europe or Asia. Jim found himself and adventure in Southern Europe. He seemed most proud of a Longines watch he purchased somewhere in France. I still wear that watch. It’s beautiful, but it’s quite fragile and doesn’t keep very good time.
Jim sent many postcards to a friend in South Dakota from most of the ports he visited, including a brief synopsis of his shore time adventures with banalities about the weather and inquiries about what was happening back in the states.
Even better than the post cards were the entries from his diaries of his tours of the Mediterranean Sea. I’ve included his notes from the 1952 liberty he describes in this letter. (Note that Jim’s letter says 1953 … that’s an error.)
From Jim’s 1950’s photo album.
This picture from Jim’s album reminds me of the one he mentions in his story. The picture he mentions is missing.
The “Vesparis” was a truly beautiful yacht, a sleek, mahogany hulled 72 foot ketch rigged sailing yacht! She was moored at one of the quays in Golfe Juan harbor, France, on the Mediterranean Sea. …
Camping near Flin Flon
There had been signs for years. My buddies always thought I was hungry, as my stomach growled so often and so loudly. On camping trips the guys in the next tent would comment on the noises coming from my tent. Then there was that mysterious illness that kept me out of school for a couple of weeks when I was about thirteen. The small town doc in Jamestown, North Dakota in the early sixties wasn’t able to give us a good diagnosis.
My first ten years at my new job in Rochester were medically normal. Then minor trouble, diarrhea the morning after an evening meal of popcorn. That was a problem, as I was playing a lot of league racquetball in those days, which often meant missing the regular dinner. A huge bowl of popcorn was a perfect substitute for a balanced diet. It was just the morning after that was an issue.
Other foods began causing trouble, too. Then one night we had ribs for dinner. Wonderful, greasy ribs. They were great! Until the next morning. Oh, my, maybe it wasn’t the popcorn, it was all the butter I put on the popcorn? It must have been a big deal, because this thirty-something man went to the doctor to talk about a pooping problem.
He sent me to several humbling tests and eliminated a lot of easily treated problems. He finally got to the point where he suspected Crohn’s disease. I had no idea. Confirmation of the diagnosis would come from a barium follow through X-ray. This is where I discovered the serendipitous benefit of living in Rochester, Minnesota with the Mayo Clinic.
The house in Steele where Grace boarded.
The one thing that jumps out from this letter is the comment about going to school twenty-three miles from the farm. That was so far away Grace rented a room to stay in town during the week. In today’s world, in fact in my world of high school, 23 miles was not a big deal. How many of us think nothing of going out for dinner or to a concert that far away, and drive home in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter? Many of you commute farther than that every day. Transportation has improved a lot since 1936.
My first two years of high school I went in Steele. We lived about 23 miles from there, so I stayed there during the week. In my freshman year I roomed with Ruth Marston and shared a room with a girl from Dawson who was a year older than me.
Even today I love visiting people, especially those who have a different life style than I. That seems to be the case with Lucy visiting her friend Dorothy when she was twelve. At that age I would get on the train (lovingly called the Galloping Goose) and go to Pettibone to visit my Aunt Elaine and Uncle Henry. Pettibone was a tiny town, Henry had a huge and wonderful shop, and a yard full of worn out construction equipment. The smell of grease and engine oil always take me back to that shop.
In this letter Lucy reminds us that memories of visits like these make a lasting impression. Let’s go back to that time now.
When I was twelve I was head and shoulders taller than any of the girls in our class. I sang with Dorothy Waterfall, the shortest girl in our room.
Going to Waterfalls was such fun. In summer they had a real tent (not a blanket over a clothes line) and also had real food in their cupboards. They had cots in the tent and would sleep out there.
I went to the dentist last week, and it reminded me of the time when I was in college and went to the dentist.
Money was short, so I didn’t go to the dentist often, and my dental hygiene habits weren’t as good as they are today.
As I settled into the reclining chair the dentist did a few quick probes around my teeth and asked the fateful question. “Would you like a free cleaning and checkup?” I didn’t need to know anything else. What could go wrong? This was toward the end of the school year and the dental hygiene students were getting ready for their state board exams. Part of the process was demonstrating skill at cleaning teeth. I was to be the subject of that examination process.
They asked me to return the next week for the cleaning appointment, which was an easy thing for me. Once again I settled into the reclining chair for what would be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. A cute young hygienist put the little blue bib around my neck and started working. Continue reading
Louie had a knack for taking a mundane activity and moving it to adventure status. When my friend Mark and I went sledding at “Cardboard Hill,” we often got our blue jeans so wet that they froze solid by the time we got home. I can remember many Saturday afternoons thawing out at Mark’s house, with our jeans standing next to us on the furnace floor grate. As usual, Louie takes the wet blue jeans thing one step further. Perhaps memory fails me, but I don’t remember doing anything this dangerous at that age.
In the 1930’s we had some good amounts of snow that fell to the earth and along with the wind, it created some huge snowbanks.
Jim and Lon in 1977
Jim covers about twenty years of history in this one letter. It’s a letter I could have written about Grandma, but he beat me to the punch. Those two made quite the pair. She was an unsmiling old farm woman, and he was a happy-go-lucky bachelor. I was lucky to have the two of them raise me.
These two photos illustrate the differences. Taken the same day, in the same room, holding the same grand child, you can see the personality differences clearly.
Jim looks elated to be holding Lon, but he’s a little uncomfortable with a child. Being single he hasn’t had much chance to interact with infants. Fanny, on the other hand, looks like an old hand at holding a child in her lap. She knows it’s almost impossible to damage the child in this situation. Just for fun, compare the position of Jim’s left hand and Fanny’s left hand. He’s ready to catch the boy immediately. She’s ready, but has no need to telegraph the readiness. She can intuit what Lon will do.
The other comparison is the smile. Jim is clearly in his prime here! What joy he displays. Fanny is happy. There might not be another picture around showing her as happy as she was on this occasion.
Fanny and Lon in 1977
Their friendship was just one more of those unfathomable things in life. I miss these people. I miss their stories.
More than once Guy has mentioned what a treasure we would have had if we could have recorded all of the stories that Grandma Luehr had related to us over the years. What a history of her family enriched with the many experiences and hardships she endured. …