The Jamestown Post Office

Post Office and Court House, Jamestown, ND

Post Office and Court House, Jamestown, ND

The Jamestown ND Post Office is a big and beautiful old building. When I was in school, the post office took the main floor, the court rooms were upstairs. I never got upstairs, but driving past the post office these days brings up some pleasant memories. Maybe not quite pleasant, because the ones I’m thinking of today are of some stressful times.

Do you remember my story about taking lessons from the National Radio Institute to learn television repair? That involved a few dealings with the mail man. Money must have been important to me then, because that story and the next few stories all involve schemes to make money. Those damned ads in the back of comic books drew me in. One involved selling advertising trinkets to local merchants. Reading the ad made the process look so easy. Every little business needs to advertise, and these little matchbooks would sell themselves. That and a nickel would buy a cup of coffee at White Drug in downtown Jamestown. Not that an eleven year old kid drank much coffee. What did I know?

Undeterred, I picked up the little package at the post office and started my career in advertising. The kit included several sample matchbook covers and a catalog of other things business owners could use to increase their business. The package didn’t include the more expensive items, like coffee cups or pencils. I decided to specialize in matchbook covers. Everyone smoked in those days, so that would be an easy sell, eh? Continue reading

Making Sausage

Eric writes:

Eric

Eric

My first real job when I was in High School was working at Temptee Brand Steak Company in Arvada, Colorado. My job was to mix spices for the meats, prepare whole beef livers for thin slicing and cleaning of the plant after the days’ operations. I did that for almost three years. It was a pretty good job. My school schedule was pretty free because I would take summer school classes to get ahead. So, my senior year, I only had classes until noon. Then I would go to work in the afternoon and get home by six in the evening. Those were the days. I had lots of money to spend and no responsibilities other than school.

When I was in High School, I would never get my school homework done in the evening. So I would wake up at 5:00 AM. My mom would give me a ride to school. I would get there at six o’clock just as the outside doors were being unlocked. I would go up to the library and turn on the lights. I would sit there and study until class started about 8:00 AM. Seems like a strange study habit, but it worked for me. I got almost straight A’s in high school.

— Eric H

The Race Horse and Piano

Grace with the schoolteaher's horse.

Grace with the schoolteacher’s horse.

I’m going to focus on the musical “talent” Grace focused on in this letter. The horse makes a good story, and her sister Esther has a wonderful story about another horse they owned on the farm by the name of Topsy.

One important difference between my life as a child and my life now as a parent and grand parent is the presence of music. As Grace writes in this letter, she wasn’t much of a singer. There wasn’t much music in the household. She passed that missing music trait down to me as a total and complete lack of musical ability. I like to tell people the only musical instrument I’ve mastered is a CD player.

In the seventh grade all the kids in our junior high school class had to take part in at least one music class. Mine was the “Glee Club,” which I loved. We had a lot of fun learning old favorites. Every now and then I catch myself singing the Caisson Song, or the Happy Wanderer. Try and get that ear worm out of your head now. I’ll wait.

To get into the Glee Club, each of us had to spend a few minutes with the director to figure out which part we could sing. I failed miserably. He played a scale and all I had to do was sing along. I thought he was going down the scale. I was wrong.

Not long after that I got the music bug and tried to learn, but the raw talent just wasn’t there. I’ve had to console myself with the ability to play a CD or Pandora. We have a beautiful old piano played by the grand kids, and Judy’s Irish band practices in the living room regularly. There’s almost always some sort of music happening here.

Grandpa Guy Havelick

 


 

Grace writes:

Dear ones,

The year I was in sixth grade two very exciting things happened. The lady who had been teaching our school needed a place to store her piano and board her horse. What kind of a deal Mama made with her I don’t know but we had the horse several years and then had her colt to keep. Continue reading

The Call from St Luke’s

Fargo Forum, April 1956

Fargo Forum, April 1956

Every now and then there’s a job that needs doing and you just don’t want to do it. You’ve had those. The bedroom needs paint, but there is a big crack in the wall to repair at the same time. If there’s new paint, then the carpet would look a little faded. You know the routine. Just look at the job, turn and walk quickly away. That would not be fun. Today’s letter from Lucy is one of those letters. I just don’t want to read it again, let alone comment on it.

Lucy and Ken were getting over the loss of their first-born daughter, life was getting back to normal. Lucy let herself think it was going to be good.

The events Lucy describes took place when Judy was almost four years old. The family was doing well. The newspaper article to the right describes an up and coming successful business man taking over a business. In an instant just weeks later everything changed.

It’s clear that writing this letter was difficult for Lucy, too. From the letter, it’s not at all obvious what happened to cause a phone call from St. Luke’s hospital in Fargo. It was a traffic accident, all too common in the fifties, caused by a drunk driver. That instant changed Lucy and Judy’s lives.

Cass County Implement, Fargo ND

Grand Opening of Cass County Implement. Ken and Lucy to the left.

An important change was for the two of them to value every minute of life and enjoy everything that came their way. Out of that disaster came two of the happiest people I’ve ever known. They taught me to live every day as if it was the last.

As I read that last sentence it just seems corny. Trite. Doesn’t everyone know that? Nope. Judy and I have tried to get the most out of every minute. If a disaster like the one Lucy describes below ever happens to one of us, there are no regrets. It’s been a good life. Ken’s was good, too. Just a little short.

I still don’t want to paint that bedroom, but I was able to write this post. One activity gives me energy, the other doesn’t.

Lucy writes:

I remember when Judy was four years old. I was at choir practice and Ken was at a board meeting at the church and I told Pastor Keller “I am so happy. Everything is perfect. Ken is starting in a business with Fred Eisenhard selling tractors. I have my daughter. My mom is happy in her little apartment. We are all healthy and my life is so great.” Pastor Keller said “Be happy. Some people live a whole life time and never find happiness.”

Continue reading

How I Learned to Love Scotch Whisky

There’s a lot to learn in college. One of the things I learned about was Whisky.

Maybe this was a typical college freshman experience? Maybe not? I had some alcohol in high school, not as much as some, and maybe more than some. It wasn’t until moving to the dorm that drinking became a destination. There were a couple of upperclassmen (sophomores, actually) in the room next door, engineering students like me. We started running around together, and they introduced me to the wonders of partying at college. One of the first parties was at an apartment in South Fargo. Here’s a fact … I don’t know exactly where the apartment complex is in Fargo, but we do drive by it when we’re in town visiting relatives. Every time we do the thought comes to mind: “That’s where someone stole my bottle of vodka.”

1971 Bachelor Party

About the same time I learned to love beer, but that’s another story.

There was a noticeable problem with underage drinking. How to procure the goods. Being in the top three-quarters of my class, I was good with ideas. “How about I go to a liquor store and buy something?” The other guys thought that was an excellent idea. I was none the wiser.

We piled into Doug’s car and headed downtown. There’s a bottle shop on North Broadway called Empire Liquor. It’s easy to find, as Broadway is the main drag in downtown Fargo. The store is just south of the Cathedral of St. Mary and the First Lutheran Church. Perhaps more important, the Great Northern Railway station was just across the street. The premier passenger train for the Great Northern Railway was the Empire Builder. The Empire was our destination, and I was in charge. Continue reading

The Girls at the Village Inn

JoAnn and Eric wedding

JoAnn and Eric’s wedding

Eric writes:

The Village Inn Restaurant was the local hang out for all my friends and me. My brother Linn and I were having coffee one night and our waitress was Wendy. Linn bet me five bucks that he could get a date with her and sure enough, he did.

They became friends. As it turned out Wendy and JoAnn were best friends. Wendy introduced me to JoAnn. Our first date May 16 was to go see the movie, “The Towering Inferno”. JoAnn was into theatre at the time and liked to pick a character in the movie and pretend to play her part. Unfortunately, she picked a cute young blonde that died a fiery death and fell from the 80th floor of the burning building.

She was so upset that she had to go sit in the theatre lobby while I watched the movie. It was a lousy first date, although we did become fast fiends and were together for twenty years. We were married for 14 of those years. JoAnn and I had two beautiful children. I still love her to this day, even though I would not want to be married to her again.

— Eric H

Juarez, Mexico

New Mexico License Plate

New Mexico License Plate

Louie opens this letter with a quote from the New Mexico license plate. I was in the fourth grade when we moved back to North Dakota. Most of the kids in my class had never been out of the state, but I had lived in New Mexico. For several years my doodles included the sun symbol that dominates the state flag and license plates. My time in the Land of Enchantment had been exciting. Apparently not as exciting as it was for Louie.

Louie  writes:

Back in 1961 I was stationed in New Mexico and Grace came down to see what it was like in “The Land of Enchantment.”

While there she wanted to go down into Mexico, and the closest port of entry was Juarez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

A friend of mine said he would furnish the transportation there and give us a guided tour of Juarez – seems he knew all the off beat places … Continue reading