Kunsmiller Junior High

Eric writes:

I went to Kunsmiller Junior High School. That was before they started calling them Middle Schools. I was there from seventh through ninth grades. My favorite teacher was Jeff Guilford. He was my science teacher. I really loved science. I was a lab assistant for him in eighth and ninth grades in addition to my science classes. I also really enjoyed playing in the band. I was in the orchestra and the jazz band. I played the baritone and trumpet.

My worst experience at that school was on Martin Luther King Day. Back then the Denver Public School system was trying to integrate races at the schools. Since all the schools in Northeast Denver were Black and all the Southwest schools were white, there was a lot of bussing of students to try to equalize the numbers. I always thought it was a bunch of shit. I was lucky I never had to be bussed.

But one of my better fiends in school was bussed from across town. Anyway on MLK day, right after school there was a gang of black kids wandering the halls.

I had stayed after to help out in the science lab for a bit after class. As I was walking down the hall, I heard someone yell at me. When I turned around to see who it was, I saw about a dozen black kids running at me. So I took off running. I got to the third floor stairwell and started down. I made it to the second landing when they caught up with me.

I don’t think I was really hurt, but mostly shook up. I went to the Principal’s office to report the incident. He asked if I could identify any of the kids. Since my glasses were knocked off and broken with almost the first punch, I didn’t see who it was that hit me. So the Principal said nothing could be done about it and I should just go home.

It made me angry that I was beaten up in my school like that. It took me many years to get over the prejudice I learned that day.

— Eric H

Dandy the Cat and other animals

Grace and Dandy

Grace and Dandy

I’ve always been a cat person, and for most of her life Grace was, too. This story focuses on a cat that lived on the farm for a long time. Dandy was the animal that Grandma Luehr told us about many times. There are a lot more stories about Dandy that I just don’t remember. When I was a kid we had several cats that looked a lot like Dandy, but they weren’t quite as friendly as Dandy appears to be in this story. The pet’s name that comes to mind is Mr Jinx. Sadly, I don’t remember any stories about him.

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Grace writes:

Dear ones,

I remember one time when I was a little kid there was so many toads. There must have been thousands of them as they were everywhere. Most years we would see one or two in the garden but this time was something else. Continue reading

The Year Following Susan’s Death

Ken and Judy in 1956

Ken and Judy in 1956

In this letter Lucy moves from the greatest sadness of losing a daughter to several wonderful and exciting events. I knew Lucy for over thirty years and she was always the most optimistic person around. Even when things seemed to be headed south, she could see through the disaster and predict that goodness and light were just around the bend. The happiness she describes here shows the fulfillment of that optimism.

The two friends Lucy writes about, Verna N and Judy F, were always there for Lucy. The job at WDAY served her well until she retired at age 79.

Lucy writes:

The year following Susan’s death we just spent so much time having people in, going to movies and keeping busy. My Mother was there for us. She began baby sitting for Verna Newell. Didn’t know at that time that Verna would become a life time friend, singing in quartets and working at WDAY together.

We decided that we should shake the idea that having a baby entailed the possibility of losing another. We could not stand the idea so I went to the Dr, had a physical and immediately became pregnant. Continue reading

Moving to Denver

Eric writes:

My mother was a pretty woman and I remember a few men dating her.

The man that she wound up with was Norris Torkelson. I remember going out on his boat with Mom and my brother to pick chokecherries and go on picnics.

Eric, Norris, Chris, Grace, Linn on their wedding day 1966

Eric, Norris, Chris, Grace, Linn on their wedding day 1966

In December of the fourth grade, we moved to Denver, Colorado. Mom and Norrie were married the evening of December 30 so they could get the income tax deduction for the year with us kids.

My oldest brother, Guy, elected to finish out his last year of High School in Jamestown living with Grandma. Linn, Chris and I started a new life in Denver.

We moved into a three-bedroom apartment at 5104 West Kentucky Avenue in Denver. My Mom found a job working at the dry cleaners at the end of the alley. Chris and I started school at Belmont Elementary School. The neighborhood we lived in was pretty bad. Linn was going to Kepner Junior High and kept getting beat-up by Mexican gang kids. Eventually, he couldn’t take it any more and ran away from home. He wouldn’t come back unless he could go to a different school.

So we moved to 1699 South Winona Court in Denver. It was a nice four-bedroom house in a better neighborhood. I went to Force Elementary School at the other end of the block.

As we were moving into the house on S. Winona Ct, Bruce Scott came over. He lived in the house next door and was the some age as me. We were fast friends for many years. One year, he even went with us on a fishing trip to Canada. Bruce caught one of the biggest fish of the trip. Bruce’s Dad would take us fishing in the mountains for rainbow trout almost every weekend all summer long. This was when I became friends with Bruce’s younger brother Tom. I would stick up for him when Bruce and his friend, Jack, would pick on Tom. We don’t see each other often, but we still keep in touch to this day. In fact, as I am sitting here writing this I just got off the phone with Tom. He is a great friend.

— Eric H

Police Action in Korea

Louie (r) and friend in Korea

Louie (r) and friend in Korea

For twenty-some years, and even beyond, one of my favorite television shows was M*A*S*H. I still enjoy watching reruns. Some episodes moved me to tears, others have me giggling still. My favorite line is Col. Potter saying “Not enough O’s in ‘smooth’ to describe this” as he describes some Scotch whisky in episode Z-419. The series takes place in the Police Action in Korea that Louie describes in this letter.

One truth of war and the television series is the mixture of pathos and humor. Louie’s story reads like a M*A*S*H script. I laughed at the conclusion, until I realized what had really happened.

Louie writes:

Back in 1952 I had the honor of being with, or should I say, a member of the United Nations who were engaged in a “Police Action” against the Communist of North Korea. Continue reading

Willie Handy and His Model T

Ford Model T controls

Ford Model T controls – click to enlarge

For years Judy and I were members of the local chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America. Our car, the 1953 Cadillac, was one of the newer vehicles in the club. Several members owned Model T Fords, including Peter A. On one tour, while we were having lunch at the county historical center he allowed volunteer club members to drive his Model T.

What a hoot! Those of us unfamiliar with the vagaries of such an ancient vehicle had trouble believing that anyone could learn how to drive such a beast. Everything Jim mentions below is absolute truth. Steering was difficult at best. Perhaps Jim was too young to notice, but to me the foot pedals were the most confusing part of driving the car. They were nothing like a modern vehicle. Today’s cars have an accelerator and a brake pedal. Not the T.

From the left, pedals include the high/low clutch (push in to start, then let it out when you get to speed), the reverse pedal (press to go backwards), and the brake (note that it’s on the right, unlike the car you drive). Then there’s the emergency brake / clutch release lever. The whole thing reminds me of the class we took on how to Rumba. My feet are still dizzy.

Jim writes:

All the farm work was done with horses; plowing, planting, tilling, cutting hay, raking, stacking and hauling. The year before we sold the farm (1930) we had a hired hand. He went by the improbable name of Willie Handy. I can still see him now …

Continue reading

Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters, live and in person at the Minnesota State Fair, 1972.

Muddy Waters, live and in person at the Minnesota State Fair, 1972.

Muddy Waters! Live, in person, at the Minnesota State Fair. What an opportunity. My friend Mark had invited us to stay with him for the weekend, take in some sights around Minneapolis and spend an evening at the fair listening to Muddy Waters. Let’s go.

1972 had been a great summer. I completed my bachelor’s degree in engineering. The engineering department awarded me a full ride scholarship for graduate school. The summer job working with George taught me a lot. We even traded our old car for one a little more fitting for a young married couple. Maybe it was a better fit for a twenty-one year old male with raging hormones? A 1964 Mustang, complete with the big engine, a Hurst four speed shifter, cherry bomb mufflers, and a rag top. We loved that car, with some reservations. (More on that in another story.)

The Interstate highway system construction was almost done. From Fargo to Minneapolis was mostly easy four lane freeway, with just a couple of jaunts on the old two-lane highways. As we got closer to Minneapolis, we ran out of freeway, just west of where the 494/694/94 flyover bridges are today. We got dumped onto a two lane road that had more traffic than I liked. The Mustang didn’t like driving slowly, in a straight line, driving nose to butt in heavy traffic, so we took a little detour south, away from the traffic. We wanted to get to the city faster.

How quickly can I get lost? It only takes one wrong turn, and we were driving around somewhere near Lake Minnetonka. It’s beautiful country, but it was getting late, we were tired and had no idea how to get back to the main roads. Fortunately we had stopped at a rest area to pick up a free map of Minnesota. The state updated maps every year, and with the road construction on Interstates moving along so quickly it was important to keep up to date with the maps. They were still out of date.

There was a long straight stretch, so Judy showed me the map, and we tried to figure out where we were. It’s not that easy to find yourself in strange territory. There are so many roads, and they all have straight sections and sharp curves. Both of us were now reading the map trying to find out where we really were. Continue reading