Fishing in Flin Flon

The year in graduate school was one of the best years of my young life. Judy and I celebrated two years of marriage, I had a full ride scholarship, which meant I didn’t have to work at all, just go to classes. There weren’t even any teaching assistant duties. The guys I was going to school with were a lot of fun, too. One of the professors, Dan K, had an idea for us the week after school was out in June of 1973.

Ready to head north. Fred, Jerry, Keith.

Ready to head north. Fred, Jerry, Keith.

A dozen of us piled into two old vans along with several canoes, twelve pounds of coffee and several pints of whiskey. We headed north for seven hundred miles to Flin Flon, Manitoba. That’s the farthest north I’ve ever been. Then we continued north for more miles to get to the lake. It’s hard to remember now where we ended up, there aren’t a lot of roads there even today. After parking the vans we paddled for several hours and a couple of portages. This was wilderness. More wild, and more remote than the Boundary Waters. We set up camp on a point, high above the lake. The view was fantastic and there was room for all the tents and a large fire pit. Down by the lake there was a place to clean the fish and pull in the canoes. We settled in for a week of fishing, eating, telling stories and canoeing around the lake. Continue reading

War is Declared

FDR delivers the declaration of war request to congress.

FDR delivers the declaration of war request to congress.

World War in 1941 was not the same as the relatively little dust up in the Middle East in my lifetime.

In 1990 our president didn’t ask us for any sacrifices. In the forties everyone gave up something, often they gave up a lot. Lucy talks about some of the privations they endured. There was only one of them that I can really relate to.

In 1973, during the Vietnam war, I was called up for a draft physical. We stood around in the Fargo Army physical exam facility all day, just like Ken did in Lucy’s letter. Fortunately for me the outcome was a little different. I plan to write an entire story about that day in the near future. Let’s get back to the forties.

Lucy writes:

Being newly married, then have the threat of war was not easy to deal with. We would have to leave our little house – by the way – Ken was working on a car at the garage and a customer stepped on the starter and Ken lost the end of his finger. The insurance from that paid for our house – along with overhauling cars in the yard.

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Our First Home

Fargo ND

Guy & Judy’s first apartment, c. 1971

For most of us the first apartment or house after leaving home is a difficult transition. I’m having a little trouble getting my head around this story. Lucy talks about a terrible apartment, then goes on to describe a situation that none of us would accept as a place to live, even if we did own it.

When Judy and I moved into our first apartment we thought it was perfect for us. We rented the upstairs in a house built in the 1920’s. The rooms were large, with plenty of nice windows, and a full kitchen and bathroom.

Looking at the picture of the old house now, one thing strikes me right away. It’s a four-square, bearing an uncanny resemblance to our house in Rochester where we’ve lived for the last thirty-something years. There’s a lot of similarity to the house I lived in in Jamestown, too.

Enough about me. Let’s get back to Lucy and her home.

Lucy writes:

After living in Terrible apartments we decided it was a necessity to have a home. Continue reading

Dating and Dancing

Last month Lucy wrote about her first date and the dances she and her best friend Evy went to. One does not go to a dance alone, especially in the thirties.

Duke Ellington's band at the Crystal Ballroom in Fargo

Duke Ellington’s band at the Crystal Ballroom in Fargo

The dance Lucy describes in this letter was at the Crystal Ballroom in Fargo. The first time I read this letter that fact didn’t seem to mean much. There were little ballrooms in every town, but this one was in Fargo, and Lucy had to drive 24 miles from Gardner to get there. That fact alone means the Crystal Ballroom was something special. Over in Kidder County, Grace lived in a boarding house in Steele because the 23 miles from the farm was too great a distance to travel every day to get to school.

The Crystal Ballroom hosted some famous bands, demonstrated by an album recorded in 1940 by Duke Ellington and his band, live at the Crystal Ballroom. Such a high-class place as that certainly wouldn’t let in the likes of people who dressed like Lucy and her best friend.

Lucy writes:

Dancing was the big thing in high school. If you weren’t dating and dancing you were considered a “wall flower.” My brother Lewellyn (Lew) taught me how to dance by standing on his toes when I was small. Loving music added fun to it of course – some times. Evy Malen (my best friend) and I would have 5 + 6 dances ahead. Guess that is not done now.

Evy and I went to Fargo with two men and we went to the Crystal Ballroom to dance. While we danced a big fat lady with a badge on her shoulder said we had to leave the dance hall because we were wearing anklets. She was a deputy and we were the talk of the high school. We thought it was fun.

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New Car and the Dime Store

The tradition of the “Dime Store” is one that is firmly planted in my mind, too. The Woolworth store in Jamestown was an important part of my life for years. They sold everything, or so it seemed to this small town boy. They had clothes, gifts, a lunch counter, and even records. I have two distinct memories of the Jamestown Woolworth’s. One was the purchase of an LP, Freak Out, by the Mothers of Invention. Listening to their music now they seem quite tame, but compared to the Top 40 music that was playing on KSJB in those days, Frank Zappa was way out there.

Lucy writes:

When I was about 10 years old my Dad bought a Ford Turing car. It was black and had to be cranked to start. Many people suffered broken arms trying to start them.

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