Sports Fan

I always felt like a disappointment to my dad. He was a sports fan. I wasn’t. This letter nails it.

1946 Jamestown Blue Jays: Louie is # 84. Ernie Gates to the left. Photo by King Studio, Jamestown ND

1946 Jamestown Blue Jays: Louie is # 84. Ernie Gates to the left. Photo by King Studio, Jamestown ND. Click to see the large version.

Louie’s football coach in high school was Ernie Gates. As luck would have it Ernie was still the Phy Ed teacher and football coach when I came through high school. Ernie had high hopes for me. Then we tried push-ups and the rope climb. Louie describes both below. My record for the rope climb was I maybe made it to the top once. Maybe not. For push-ups, let’s just say that I didn’t make it to double digits. I probably still can’t, but I no longer try.

Ernie was disappointed. So was I. I didn’t tell Louie.

The one bright spot in my high school Phy Ed career was volleyball. One year we played volleyball every gym class for weeks. Somehow Ernie assigned me to a team that was incredibly good. Just being around the guys who could play made me better. Ernie even made up new rules to make it tougher for us to beat the other teams. I’ve loved volleyball ever since. We played church league, IBM leagues, and we’ve been to professional volleyball games and watched several matches at the Montreal Olympics.

The low point in Louie’s thoughts about me and football may have been when I was in college. NDSU had a good team for a couple of years. I went to a game or two. Louie was serving in Korea then, and the Bison made the news over there. He told his army buddies that I played on the team. Oh, well, everyone’s a disappointment to someone. I made up for it in other ways, but I don’t watch or play competitive sports.

Louie immediately to the right of front post, partially obscured. Louis to the left of the post, second in dark suit. 1946 Football banquet. Photo by King Studio, Jamestown ND

Louie immediately to the right of front post, partially obscured. Louis to the left of the post, second in dark suit. 1946 Football banquet. Click for larger version.

Louie writes:

This old man (fella) is a real sports fan – it goes way back to my high school days. I loved listening to football games on the radio and wishing that I was one of those stars.

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Incidents 1962-1965

This letter is unlike any of Jim’s previous letters. He spent hours thinking about what he wanted to say, crafting the story long before putting paper in the typewriter. It’s infrequent to see a sentence fragment. Today’s letter is full of fragments. Most importantly, it’s full of thought fragments, any one of which could make a whole story. As I read through the letter it reminded me of so many fun activities and events. My mind immediately went to the photo albums which have pictures for almost every sentence fragment below. One of the first memories he recalls is of the analyst magazine that Mike B and I published for several months. There’s already a lengthy story about that one available.

Cal's Office Supplu Delivery van

Cal’s Office Supply Delivery van

The first phrase that really triggers the memories is about Cal’s Office Supply. There were two office supply stores in town, and one of them didn’t get my business. (There was a story about those pennies a couple of months ago.) I met Jim at Cal’s when I was looking for paper for the analyst. Jim was usually on the road for Cal, delivering and picking up office machines from all over the area. The typewriters, adding and accounting machines fascinated me! Better than that, he got to drive a Ford Econoline van. What a piece of work that was.

On a side note, the Buffalo City Grille now occupies the space where Cal’s was in the late sixties. It’s our favorite restaurant in Jamestown.

Gene at Jim's apartment

Gene at Jim’s apartment

Gene Kurtz ran the repair shop. He could fix any of those mechanical monstrosities. He loved fun, drinking, fast cars, and practical jokes. He could tell you more stories than either Jim or I could, including ones about bullheads and his 1958 Ford Thunderbird. His obituary on the web even mentions both Cal’s Office Supply and practical jokes. One of his most irritating practical jokes involved snapshots. In the sixties it took at least a week, sometimes months to use up a roll of film and have it processed at the local drug store (White’s) or photography studio (King’s). By the time you got the pictures, you realized that in just about every picture of Gene he had managed to sneak in a quick finger.

Guy with the 1952 Cadillac in 1965. Probably at Lake Metigoshe.

Guy with the 1952 Cadillac in 1965. Probably at Lake Metigoshe.

Jim loved to camp. In style. No tents for him, he wanted a camper. He was an Airstream fan, but without the cash to buy a real one. He had a tiny, two-wheeled outfit that barely fit two people with gear. The back side had a hatchback that opened into a galley that would have been big on a boat or airplane. Given his history of Navy and Air Force, that was appropriate. We had a lot of fun in that little camper, even if it did rain just about every weekend we were out. It towed nicely behind his 1952 Cadillac coupé.

The second half of the letter describes his experience with the Air Force Reserve.

Jim writes:

Incidents 1962-1965

Between the above dates occurred events that I will always remember: Leaving Sears employment … a do nothing summer off … the Air Force Reserve … joining the staff of Cal’s office Supply as a salesman … my friendship with Gene Kurtz and Cal’s repairman … and in the latter days of 1963 meeting Guy William Havelick, founder and co-editor of the “Analyst” … a prestigious publication of scientific and intellectual depth! Purchasing the black 1952 Cadillac coupe DeVille from Lake Motors in Devils Lake … (traded in 1960 Opel Rekord 2 door sedan) … friendship with Guy was growing … during the year of 1964 we shared many activities … Guy was learning to drive and many Saturday and Sundays were spent driving to Valley City, Binford, Kathryn, Spiritwood, and the surrounding areas … Sundays … making breakfast for us at 406 1st Ave north then Guy off to church … evenings listening to “Herman’s Hermits” and eating popcorn!

This was also the year that we made many camping trips in the little, leaky, two wheel trailer … the winter we cut, measured the custom built canopy for the trailer and used once at Lake Meticoshe during one of the frequent rain squalls we endured … “the clouds were always breaking up” or so we hoped! Continue reading

My first “real” job

IBM Model B Executive Typewriter

IBM Model B Executive Typewriter

A couple of years after my not terribly successful attempts at selling newspapers and other goodies, I was ready for my “real” first job. At the time it wasn’t obvious to me how to get a job. Apparently you had to know someone. My job came about because my buddy Don N had just gotten a new job and needed someone to take his old one.

This was one of those jobs that convinced me to apply myself at school, go to college, and get a professional job. Mine was a janitorial job at a local dress shop. Three times a week I’d come by the store for an hour or two, sweep the floors, and assemble dress boxes. Apparently they didn’t sell too many dresses, as I could put together a dozen or so cardboard boxes and they’d be good through tomorrow.

Working at the dress shop didn’t last terribly long, as my friend Jim (if you read this blog you’ve seen his letters) worked at the North Dakota Credit Union League. He recognized my frustration and their need for someone in the mail room. This was the job for me.

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Spelunking with Joel

Spelunking with Joel

Eric writes:

I was interested in caving for many years of my life. My favorite cave in Colorado was Fulford Cave near Eagle, Colorado. One of the best visits was when Joel was about eight years old. He was in Cub Scouts and was going to go caving with me for the first time. This was a public access cave that a person/group could spend from four to eight hours to see. We drove up to Fulford campground the day before and camped with friends that were going caving with us the following day.

Joel - Then and now

Joel – 1995 and 2007

The hike up to the cave entrance was about a mile up the mountain. Joel and I were getting more excited with each step. When we got to the entrance we all sat for a pre-caving photo. It was a busy cave that day. Some other group was climbing up the ladder, as we were ready to climb down. The entrance consists of a metal culvert dug into the ground at about a 50-degree angle with a metal ladder welded to the inside for climbing down into the cave. When it was our turn, Joel started down in front of me. As we went down the ladder, Joel started to have second thoughts and a little claustrophobia.

He said he wanted to go back up and not do the cave. I kept encouraging him to go on down to the bottom of the ladder because there were people above me on the way down. We had to go to the bottom before he could go back up. When we got to the bottom, I told Joel that he should let me show him around a little before he went back to the surface. We walked around in a couple large chambers for a few minutes as I explained about the rock formations. When I asked Joel if he still wanted to go back without doing the cave, he said he would like to continue for a while. The farther we went into the cave, the more fun we had. We spent the day in the cave. This was a wonderful bonding experience for Joel and me.

I will never forget sharing this wonderful time with him.

— Eric H

Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear

20080Ear worms. They are the most irritating thing that goes on in my little brain. From this letter, it’s clear that my grandmother hated them, too. When my mother’s friend planted this ear worm it caused a fuss. What makes me chuckle at this story is that Grandma could plant ear worms with the best of them. Every now and then she’d break into song for a moment. The one that hangs with me so many years after she left us is a familiar novelty tune.

Mairzy doats and dozy doats 
and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, Wooden shoe!"

I wasn’t known for musical talent, so had some trouble figuring out what she was singing about. Years later I’d learn the English words to the song. With luck neither of these irritating songs will stick to your brain after reading this post.

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Grace writes:


When Esther was going to school in Fargo at the business college she stayed with Gladys Johnson who had a daughter Joan about my age.

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Starting Over

Rochester MN 1925 City Directory

Rochester MN 1925 City Directory

Two things in this letter resonate with me. The first is Lucy’s description of the City Directory. My children may have heard of them, but their kids certainly have never seen such a thing. When I was a kid the City Directory was the first class version of the Telephone Book. The City Directory had much more information, things like who lived in the household and what they did for a living. In a sense, it was a corporate census of the town. I didn’t get to see one very often, as they cost a lot of money, but every business man needed one. They may have been a source to determine credit-worthiness. They disappeared in the nineteen eighties, after a hundred year run. Nowadays they’re a good resource for ancestry hobbyists. They hired unskilled people to make the rounds of homes to gather information; a good entry job for Lucy as she tried to get into the labor market.

The second thing that brought back memories was Lucy’s mention of Main Avenue. When I moved to Fargo in the fall of 1968 to attend North Dakota State University one of the things the guys in the next room taught me quickly was where not to go in Fargo. Main Avenue was one of them. There were some interesting bars down there, not the least of which was the Pink Pussycat. For several blocks along Main there were nothing but bars, the Salvation Army and the Bus Depot. They were not the place for a naïve teenage boy to hang around. The flop house era was just ending in those days, and single old men wandered about, drunk most of the time, waiting for their big break.

For Ken to help those guys out was incredibly charitable. For Lucy to go door to door down there would have been a real challenge.

These last couple of letters from Lucy have been difficult for me to read, and even more difficult to comment on. She came through a challenging time in her life, to come out the other side as a successful and joyful person. She mothered a wonderful girl who became the most wonderful grandmother any child could have. Lucy’s next several letters will lift you up even more than the last couple have dragged you through the nadir of her life.

Lucy writes:

Being left with a daughter and mother to care for was only the beginning of my concerns. I married out of high school and had never had a real job that paid a living wage.

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NewspapersThere was a time in my life when every boy in the class had a job delivering newspapers. It was an easy way for kids to make money and there were plenty of papers being printed.

My first job was selling papers on the street. I shake my head today thinking about this job. One of my grade school friends must have talked me into this. We’d pick up a stack of papers at the bus station, probably Fargo Forums or Minneapolis Tribunes. There’s even the possibility that my papers were Grit. Then it’s out to the street to sell them to people walking by.

I’ve read stories about kids in big cities selling papers. It was a tough job. It must have been too tough for me, because I didn’t last more than one or two days. My visual memories include dark streets and men rushing by in dark top coats. Then there was the bus station. Are there any nice bus stations in this country? Not in Jamestown,ND in the fifties.

Sales has never been my forte. I keep trying, but there are far more failures than successes. After that failure, I moved on to delivering papers to houses in the neighborhood. Maybe I was a little lazy, but the prospect of delivering papers every single evening didn’t seem like a good thing to me. Instead of the daily Jamestown Sun, I picked the Minneapolis Tribune, a Sunday only route.

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