Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land


Stranger in a Strange Land

As a boy, I spent untold hours at the library looking for books. My mother let me go to the library alone as early as age ten. Within a couple of years I’d bring home three or four books at a time, read them in the evening, and head back the next day to get a couple more. Over a summer I could read stacks of them. In between books, I’d have a dozen or so magazines at home to read, too. The magazines included everything from MAD to Science News, a weekly digest of the latest in science. I started reading that one in Junior High. The reading habit I picked up as a child has served me well ever since.

Through high school, I read mostly science fiction. Early on, the Danny Dunn series was my favorite, but there were several others. The books kept me busy for months, but there was a minor problem with the limited scope of my interests and the brisk pace of my reading. I ran out of books to read! I’d finished all the Danny Dunn and science fiction books in the children’s section. There were no other books for me to read. I had no idea what to do. Finally, I recognized that I had a problem and should go talk to the librarian. She probably knew me quite well because I was there almost every day and the room wasn’t that big. The librarian had a wonderful, simple suggestion for me, one that changed my life. Continue reading

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

Pennies from Dad

Some of Louie's pennies

Some of Louie’s pennies

Louie loved coin collecting. I’ve always found it mildly interesting, but rarely to the degree that others have enjoyed. Since I love people energized by something, there have been two situations where coin collecting became a focused activity.

In college my roommate was a hard-core penny collector. Collectors like him are why you never see wheat back pennies these days. His idea for a great weekend was to pick up dozens of rolls of pennies from the bank and spend a Saturday sorting through them, looking for any older than 1958. When we were in college, there were still plenty of them. By plenty I mean one penny in every other roll of fifty coins. Continue reading

What’s your favorite song?

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.

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.

Grandpa Guy Havelick