Why do I do this?

1973 Masters Thesis

One of the treasures from the attic

Sometime earlier this year someone pulled up a page from my blog and read it. Not that unusual. A few of my friends and family members do look at the blog now and then. If I were into marketing and paying attention, it could have been a big day for me. On that special day WordPress served up the 10,000th page view for GrandPa Guy’s Stories.

On most days I’d brush off a number like that, saying it doesn’t matter. I don’t check the statistics all that often, so I was several hundred page views late in seeing the milestone pass. Several more days passed before I actually thought about what that meant. Last month a friend sent an email thanking me for a post that struck a chord with her. That morning I made a difference.

You don’t suppose that’s happened other days, too? Out of those 10,000 page views, maybe a few other of my musings have given a friend pause, let them think a thought out of their daily trance? One day in church a friend whom I hadn’t seen in about a year (We’re both C&Es at this church.) stopped me to thank me for my blog posts. I had no idea she was reading them, so was pleased to hear that they were good for her. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my two month break in writing would start within the week.

When I started writing the blog two years ago I wanted to make it easier for my family to remember some of the stories from our shared past. The real reason has become clear as I continue to write these old stories. Part of writing old stories involves digging around in the boxes from the attic. You know those boxes. They moved into your house years ago and you haven’t opened them since.

I opened them. Treasure! Continue reading

53 Bison Court

NDSU Bison Court after a major blizzard

NDSU Bison Court after a major blizzard

You may recall that we got married in June of 1971. Our first apartment was the upstairs of an old four-square house on the near North Side of Fargo. It was a nice old place, much like the house we live in today. When school started that fall we moved to the campus of North Dakota State University (NDSU) into a little place called Bison Court.

In 1971 Bison Court was the newer student housing. The previous year the university had torn down the old Quonset buildings that had housed veterans coming back from WWII. That neighborhood had a lot of mature trees and some landscaping, but the buildings were ancient by 1971. Metal Quonset buildings were not designed for longevity. Bison court was bleak by comparison. While we were living in Bison Court they built some modern (70’s modern) apartments further northeast of Bison Court.

We loved living at Bison Court for several reasons, mostly that it was within easy walking distance of the engineering department, so there was no need for a second car. There were reasons to not like the place, too. Cinder blocks. Lots of them. The walls were concrete block. All of the walls were block.

Continue reading

Campus Radio Station

KDSU Studio, Fargo ND

KDSU Studio

There were always connections helping me find a job. My friend Don gave me his job sweeping floors at the downtown dress shop. My mother got me a job at the cemetery. Jim got me the job at the Credit Union League, which taught me a lot. My first real job, found sort of on my own, was at the college radio station. Just like other jobs, it came to me through connections. This connection was my friend Cliff O, who lived in the room next door in the dorm.

KDSU was the college radio station, a public radio station before there was National Public Radio. The hours were limited, going on the air in late morning or early afternoon, signing off just after midnight. The fare was classical music in the afternoon, some news in the evening, more classical music, then jazz to close out the night. Most of the staff were nerds like me, more interested in radio technology than radio, and weren’t afraid to talk to a microphone.

Back in high school I had been part of the radio club. (My memory is dim here.) I had befriended one of the KEYJ announcers and put together some programs for high school news. That experience and my hobby of taking apart radios and televisions made me ideal for the job at KDSU. All I needed was a third class radiotelephone license. As I recall all I had to do was send in my name and address.

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

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

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

The Longest Dentist Visit – Ever

8047597258_c33b79f5dd_mI went to the dentist last week, and it reminded me of the time when I was in college and went to the dentist.

Money was short, so I didn’t go to the dentist often, and my dental hygiene habits weren’t as good as they are today.

As I settled into the reclining chair the dentist did a few quick probes around my teeth and asked the fateful question. “Would you like a free cleaning and checkup?” I didn’t need to know anything else. What could go wrong? This was toward the end of the school year and the dental hygiene students were getting ready for their state board exams. Part of the process was demonstrating skill at cleaning teeth. I was to be the subject of that examination process.

They asked me to return the next week for the cleaning appointment, which was an easy thing for me. Once again I settled into the reclining chair for what would be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. A cute young hygienist put the little blue bib around my neck and started working. Continue reading

The Draft Lottery – Sometimes you win

During the cold war, from the late forties through the eighties, the USA fought a number of proxy wars with the Soviet Union. The biggest by far was Vietnam. There are a number of movies about the war if you want to learn more about it. Apocalypse Now is the one that sticks in my mind. There were jungles, illicit drugs, killing, bugs, death, guns, humidity … all things that this North Dakota boy wanted nothing to do with. Needless to say I did not want to go.

The government needed cannon fodder and not enough young men volunteered to go to the killing fields. So they restarted the draft. To make it a little more fair, there was a lottery system. Each year they would draw numbers and assign that random number to a day of the year. The day to watch for was your birthday. That gave you your number. When you were eligible for the draft, your number went into the pool. First they took boys whose number was 1, then 2, then 3, and kept taking them until the infantry was full. You knew exactly where you stood.

The system wasn’t exactly fair, as there were a couple of ways to avoid the draft. My out was college. My number was 96. That was a relatively low number, but I had a deferment. Life was good. I went to school, got married, and generally enjoyed the student life while the other boys went to ‘Nam. That plan only worked for four years, then I went into the pool.  I graduated from college in 1972, so immediately lost the deferment.

There was a chance they wouldn’t take me, as they were drafting fewer people every year, so I didn’t do anything serious. Then I got the letter, sent to everybody with a number below 100, to have their pre-induction physical. The letter said to report to the courthouse in Jamestown for the screening physical. So I drove from Fargo, where we were living in married student housing, to the post office in Jamestown. It was a nice drive. From there they tried to herd us all onto the bus for a trip to the induction center. In Fargo!

It took a little fast talking, but I did manage to convince them to allow me to drive back to Fargo and meet them at the induction center. They probably thought I was trying to chicken out at the last-minute. It was an experience being lined up with all these strange farm boys in their underwear. They did all those things that you saw in the movies.

Walter Cronkite on the CBS evening news

Walter Cronkite on the CBS evening news

We were more than a little worried now, especially since I had just received an NSF scholarship for the upcoming school year. The scholarship would disappear if I wasn’t in school. We discussed options, including what the job market was like in Toronto. Draft dodging was big business in the seventies. My dad would have been unhappy, but I was ready to ignore that issue.

The draft was big news on the TV. Each month they’d announce how many were being drafted, and which numbers would be taken. I clearly remember being home (53 Bison Court) watching the little B&W 13″ TV set as Walter Cronkite announced that everyone with a number up to and including number 95 would be inducted into the service. Those over number 95 were free to go, thank you.

That was one of the happiest days of my life. How different life would have been had I been drafted and sent to war. Several of my friends were drafted and served in Germany, Washington, DC and other benign places, so there’s a chance I would have survived. Happily, I didn’t have to find out. This life turned out pretty good.Grandpa Guy Havelick