Ad Est Virum

Chrsitmas TreeIt’s all about who you know. My friend’s mother Adeline knew the people at White Drug, and she knew that I desperately needed money for college. I don’t remember who she talked to, but they gave me jobs during all the breaks throughout my freshman year of college. Some of the skills I learned ended up being useful, others not as much. One week I worked in the pharmacy. They had only one job for me. Count pills. Hundreds. Thousands of pills. Put them into jars of 100 each. Using a little tray, I’d count by fives. Five … ten … fifteen … all the way to a hundred. Put a lid on the jar. Repeat until lunch. Once again, I learned that my choice of an engineering career matched my personality.

Another week I worked in the general merchandise part of the store. Right after Christmas Day it was time to clear the holiday aisle for the new things. White’s sold a myriad of types of Christmas light bulbs. Tiny ones. Small ones for tree decorations. Larger ones to use along the roof. Red ones. Blue bulbs. Green. Every color, every size. These were the days before plastic bubble packs; all the bulbs were loose. Just pick out the few that met your needs and pay the lady. Thank you.

My job was to collect all the light bulbs into one large box and move them to storage. It was a huge box. Maybe a cubic yard? Three feet on a side, but light bulbs are light, so it wasn’t a big deal. Except for the little stumble I took going down the stairs. I dropped the box.

What a magical sound; hundreds of glass bulbs shattering. Continue reading

Police Action in Korea – Again

Louie was kind of absent from our lives in 1968 when the events of this letter took place. Keeping in touch wasn’t easy for a number of reasons. The mail took quite a while to go back and forth from North Dakota to Korea. Visits were rare, as travel was expensive. Telephone conversations were almost impossible. I’ve discussed how much work it was to try calling Korea in a prior post.

I never played cards with Louie, he played Pinochle in the sixties and Cribbage in his sixties. I never learned cribbage (too much arithmetic for me) but his walrus tusk cribbage board is among my most prized possessions. Pinochle was the game of choice in my early college years, possibly at the same time Louie was playing cards with the girls in Japan.

Louie's cribbage board

Louie’s cribbage board

Our games never entailed the hi-jinx Louie’s did, but my memories of the game are exceptionally pleasant. The guys I hung with weren’t big into homework, and frequently went home for the weekends. On Sundays we’d try to get back to Fargo early for an evening of Pinochle. My roommate Dean K and I would face off against the likes of Doug, Cliff, and Rick. After more than forty years I’ve almost completely forgotten the rules of play, but I do remember that bidding depended on the content of my hand and my partner Dean’s cards. We played so often and were so well matched that at the start of bidding we’d look each other in the eyes and somehow know what to bid.

Our card games were in the dorm at college. Louie’s game was in a Geisha house in Japan. We had fun, but his evening ended in hilarity, at least in retrospect.

Louie writes:

In 1968 I had the honor of performing my military duties in the Republic of Korea once more.

The whole country was rebuilt considerably but still had that stink of human waste throughout. They used that stuff to fertilize their fields to raise their crops.

Back during the war they had what they called “R&R” for the troops, giving them a little break from the war. Those R&R breaks were usually taken in Japan and consisted of 5 days.

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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

Starting College

High School Graduation - Cathy and Guy

High School Graduation – Cathy and Guy

Several events in the last couple of months brought the summer of 1968 to mind. This summer we’ve been to high school graduation parties and friends told us about their kids trips to various colleges. There are stories on the radio about what’s happening with tuition rates. For some time there’s been a story in the news about for profit colleges and student loans. I remember 1968 being a lot simpler time. Or maybe quite complicated, the more I think about it.

I had already decided to become an electrical engineer. Not that I had any idea what that meant. I had never met anyone with an engineering degree, for all I know there may not have been any engineers in Jamestown, except maybe one or two mechanical engineers at the plant that manufactured some sort of agricultural implements. My decision was the right one, but based on serendipity, not knowledge.

Three colleges fit the bill for my engineering education, at least that’s how many I applied to. In 1968 the automobile industry was still on a high. General Motors was the epitome of corporate perfection. They were so big they sponsored their own university to train engineers to design cars. Attending General Motors Institute would meet a couple of goals, engineering and cars. I sent an application. No answer. Continue reading

Fire at the Gladstone Hotel

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.

Apologies for the blur!

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.

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