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#992 – Dick Bernard: Valentine’s Day, today and yesterday.

Saturday, February 14th, 2015
Early 1900s Valentine from the Busch farm.

Early 1900s Valentine from the Busch farm.

Thursday our 15-year old grandson (aka “the kid” and “hi guy” to me) was over for pizza. Grandma took him home (he lives nearby) and after returning she related a brief story.

He wanted her to go the gas station and the reason came out, after a little prying, about why: he wanted to pick up some candy for a girl for Valentine’s Day. “Don’t tell”, he instructed, specifically referring to his parents.

I haven’t heard how this all went on Friday. I think Grandma was a little jealous; some other girl had entered the kids life.

So is how it goes. We’ve all been there, done that, and there are doubtless sweet or funny stories about that first awkward move towards the first venture towards a possible relationship.

Of course, just a few days after Uncle Vincent’s funeral, I remain in a nostalgic mode, relating to the North Dakota farm, following the recent death of my uncle.

That place has been a treasure trove of artifacts from the past.

Some years ago, I borrowed the tin container chock full of old postcards, and brought them home to classify and scan them for posterity. The article I wrote about them is here*. There were Valentine’s back in the early 1900s. One of them is at the beginning of this post. Here’s another:

To Verena from Stella, early 1900s.

To Verena from Stella, early 1900s.

But the focus for me, this day, is another old piece of paper I found just days ago; another item lurking amongst the items in the old desk Vince and Grandpa used. You can read it here: Busch 62nd Anniv 1967002001

It is not known who wrote this draft of (perhaps) an announcement for the local paper in LaMoure, but it is most likely that it was submitted before March 17, 1967, less than two weeks after the anniversary, when Grandpa Busch died suddenly at home, the story being that he was coming up from the basement with some eggs for breakfast. Vincent at the time was 42 years old; his sister Edithe was 47; and Grandma would live five more years, dying in 1972.

I don’t know if there were “sparks” (or Valentines) in Grandma and Grandpas history, which led to their marriage, at ages 24 and 21, Feb. 28, 1905. Their families lived on adjoining farms in rural Wisconsin near Dubuque, and it was not uncommon in those days for the parents to have some say in who or when someone married someone else.

Whatever the case, as the story tells, they came to strange and uncrowded country far from their home in Wisconsin, raised 9 children, and lived a very long life together.

“The kid”, apparently, has started to notice girls, and is starting down the road that adolescence brings to us all.

I wish him well.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

#991 – Dick Bernard: A fine goodbye to Uncle Vince

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Related post here.

(click photos to enlarge)

At the Busch farm, probably 1949.  At left is Vincent, then 24.  Four of the Bernard kids on horseback.  Other two are likely cousins Ron and Jim Pinkney.  The man at right is unknown.

At the Busch farm, probably 1949. At left is Vincent, then 24. Four of the Bernard kids on horseback. Other two are likely cousins Ron and Jim Pinkney. The man at right is unknown.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015, showed little promise in Lamoure ND. Overnight a light coating of new snow was being covered by freezing drizzle, and our funeral procession with Uncle Vincent was to go down gravel country roads for near 10 miles for a look at the farm where he lived most of his 90 years, thence down those same roads to Berlin ND, to St. John’s Cemetery.

It didn’t look very promising.

But all went well: a very nice funeral Mass. The funeral procession went off without a hitch; a good farewell at the cemetery; thence back to the Church hall for the traditional lunch.

I thought to myself, what would Vince have to say about this weather. Well, probably he’d say, “we need the moisture”. His life, after all, was farming, and so far this winter it’s been fairly dry out there on the prairie.

Back to town and maybe 25 of us had lunch, followed by reminiscences.

Who was this man, Vincent?

One needs to have been in the room to really catch the sense of the gathering as we remembered Vincent in story after story. I got lucky, and got one photo that, for me at least, sums up the sharing time:

At the post-funeral lunch for Vincent, Feb. 10, 2015

At the post-funeral lunch for Vincent, Feb. 10, 2015

One of us reminded Pat (at right) of a story.

Pat, a neighbor farmer, related that he’d been helping Vince with something one day, and at some point Vincent appeared with a little lunch: a sandwich. Pat accepted the gift readily, and took a large bite.

The inside of the sandwich was sliced raw onions and nothing else.

Vincent was proud of his onions.

A surprised Pat simply ate the sandwich.

The room erupted in laughter.

Edithe and Vince August 1998

Edithe and Vince August 1998

As is true in such settings, one story begat another, and the essence of our relative, friend and neighbor began to flesh itself out.

Vincent was as he was; as we all are, unvarnished representatives of humanity.

There were a number of short eulogies in that hall on Tuesday.

One person, not there, sort of caught Vincent for me in an e-mail received a week earlier: Vincent “represented a generation of strong willed hard working people that collectively built this country….”

I read this to the group, and there were nods of acknowledgement.

Vincent represented every one of us in one way or another.

My sense was that we could have gone on with stories for a much longer period of time, but all good things must end, and we went our separate ways.

One story I wanted to relate was also sent to me some time before the funeral, indeed, before Vincent passed away.

Cousin Jerry related he “had a great memory of visiting the farm and sharing a room with Vincent” when Jerry was perhaps five, and Vincent about 30 years of age.

“[Uncle Vincent’s] night-time prayers on his knees by the bedside really impressed”.

For me, that little phrase sort of sums up how Vince impacted others: Uncle Vince never married, but to all of us cousins (and others, I’m sure), in one way or another, he conveyed little lessons that impacted on each of our lives.

There were 28 of we nephews and nieces who on occasion visited that farm, and we were probably more nuisances than useful, but in their own ways Uncle Vincent, Aunt Edithe and Grandma and Grandpa taught us in one way or another.

Each of us do the same, often not knowing our impact on others.

I’m certain Lamoure County is the better for Vincent Busch having been part of it for 90 years.

As one person said in a condolence note, Vincent is probably now organizing whist games in heaven…and I wouldn’t doubt that a bit! And his sister, Edithe, is right there at the table.

Uncle Vincent, St. John's Cemetery, Berlin ND Feb 10, 2015

Uncle Vincent, St. John’s Cemetery, Berlin ND Feb 10, 2015

Vincent and Edithe, October 25, 2013.

Vincent and Edithe, October 25, 2013.

#990 – Dick Bernard: A Reflective Time

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

(click to enlarge)

Feb. 5, 2015, Room 111 at St. Rose

Feb. 5, 2015, Room 111 at St. Rose

Uncle Vincent died Monday evening February 2. I wrote briefly about his death here. His funeral is on Tuesday in Lamoure. Details are here. The photo used there is one I took of him almost exactly a year ago at his sister, Edithe’s, funeral on Feb. 15, 2014. The one that people will see in the folder at the funeral Mass on Tuesday is of he and Edithe Oct. 25, 2013, couple of weeks before he joined her in the Nursing Home; and 3 1/2 months before she died. (That photo is at the end of this post.)

They lived together on the home farm for all but the last few years of their entire life. Nine children were born and raised there, and Vincent is the end of the line for “the Busch place” of Berlin ND. So is how it goes. There are lots of nephews and nieces, but we live all over creation.

There will be stories of course, some told on Tuesday. Others in other conversations.

My sister Mary and I went to clean out Vincent’s room last Thursday, reducing all of the possessions to a large box and some garbage bags. St. Rose provided a handcart to remove the possessions and as I was making my second and final trip a couple of staff opened the door for me: “Isn’t this as it always is: an entire life reduced to a few garbage bags….”

They see this trip quite often, of course. In one way or another, for all of us, it is the same. What we struggled for in this temporal life suddenly becomes irrelevant to us.

One of the possessions in the room was Vincent’s desk (pictured above), which I kept “off limits” till he died. It was important to him. It yielded an immense amount of stuff, which I have now been going through, piece by piece, to be sure that something of importance is not in hiding there. There are the usual questions, of course: “Why in the world did he keep THAT?” “Why is that pliers in here?” “Should I keep that 1987 fishing license?” And on and on.

Then there’s other stuff: an official document of a report on a U.S. Patent received by my grandfather Ferdinand Busch in 1925 for a “fuel economizer”. I knew Grandpa had a couple of Patents, in the 1950s, but had never heard of this one. It’s Number 1,541,684 if you’re interested. It expired in 1942, and already in 1925 many similar devices were being invented, so don’t presume you’ll get rich on it!

That this treasure appeared was not too much of a surprise. This desk had been Grandpa’s before, and had a very long history, perhaps going back to he and Rosa’s arrival on the ND prairie in 1905.

A folded and brittle piece of paper appeared in the pile of flotsam from the desk. It was from 1915 – 100 years ago – and was a detailed report on fundraising for the new St. John’s Church in Berlin (which closed in 1968). It was a single page listing of who contributed what to the construction of the church, and it appears from the pattern of contributions that the church was paid for in cash, $3,419.85. You can see the sheet here: Berlin St. Johns 1915001. It’s an important part of local history, perhaps inadvertently saved, but saved nonetheless.

Before we took down the pictures on Vince’s walls, I took photos (of the desk, and the other walls). Now, those things on Vince’s wall deserve the attention. What you see there is what was important to him….

On the way out of town, we stopped at the gas station and Mary Ann overheard an older guy (probably my age) talking to some of his buddies in a booth. They had seen the on-line obit, and he said: “I didn’t think Vince was that old.”

Maybe they’ll be at the funeral on Tuesday.

Vincent and Edithe and all of the family from rural Berlin are at peace.

For the rest of us, live well, but don’t forget the garbage bags who somebody will use when it’s your turn!

Feb 5, 2015 Rm 111 St Rose

Feb 5, 2015 Rm 111 St Rose

Feb 5, 2015, Rm 111 St Rose

Feb 5, 2015, Rm 111 St Rose

Vincent and Edithe, October 25, 2013.

Vincent and Edithe, October 25, 2013.

from Annelee, Feb 8:
I just read “MY Uncle Vince”you revealed much of the love you had for him — it touched me deeply.

The photos also gave me a glimpse of what kind of man Uncle Vince was. Warm and honoring the past, but living in the present.

When you wrote about the garbage bag — being part of the end of one’s life —that is only part of what happens.

I will always remember (until I die) what my papa said to me as we hugged for the final time before he left.

As he turned away and left I called out, “Papa, Papa, please don’t leave me just yet!”

I still can remember him standing there, he looked at me with so much love and he said, “Anneliese, I will never leave you.”

“But Papa”, —-

“Anneliese” he broke in, “ you will remember what I said and you will do things like I taught you. You see, I will be with you more than you know.”

He kicked a solitary tree trunk and walked away without looking back.

He was mot even 41, he is gone for more than seven decades. But I still remember these words, —

I taught much to my children of what he taught me. I told them about Papa —what I remembered.

So you see, Papa and all he owned is gone —but he is still with me in memories — and he will be with Roy [my son] because I tried to instill
the values my Papa taught me—in him.

Love and blessings Annelee

response from Dick: Annelee is our dear friend who I’ve known since 2003 when I learned of her book, War Child. Growing Up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

Her Dad and Mom refused to be part of the Nazis and as a result, he was drafted into the military engineers, and after the last visit home she describes above, her Dad went with the Germans into Russia and was never heard from again. They believe he died somewhere in Russia, but are not sure.

She will be speaking several times in the Twin Cities this spring, the next on March 8 at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis.

#970 – Dick Bernard: Reflecting on My 1977 Christmas Letter

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

All best wishes to you and yours at this season, however you recognize it – and that can get confusing. I just came from the post office, which annually offers a large variety of Christmas and holiday themed stamps, hopefully to treat respectfully the largest number of people in this wonderfully diverse country of ours.

It occurred to me yesterday that this year is exactly half a life-time since I sent my first “home-made” Christmas card (in 1977, below). It had three panels: very simple. The sentiments I expressed then, fit today as well.

(click to enlarge)

1977 Christmas Card

1977 Christmas Card

The year was 1977, 37 years ago. Son Tom, then 13, drew the Christmas tree (we didn’t have a “real” or even artificial one that winter).

Of course, the only means of transmission then were in person, or by U.S. mail.

The “tradition” came for me to identify one particular significant event each year, and to write something about it.

The first time I went primarily to electronic transmission was well after the year 2000.

Fast forward to today.

This greeting can go anywhere/everywhere. But likely fewer people actually read it, than read that handmade card 37 years ago. Many of my own age range have never warmed to even e-mail; many more, like myself, are slow on the uptake with the already old-fashioned Facebook, and more recent Twitter, and the other shorthand ways of “touching base”.

We’re still in a canyon of non-communication*. In the midst of infinite means of communicating, everywhere, any time, instantly, something like this won’t reach people who don’t do internet; many on internet don’t do e-mail, or are so glutted with “communication” that a survival skill is the delete key…and sometimes worthy communication is missed. It’s a trying time, in so many ways.

I’ll be long gone when the next 37 year mark is reached. I wonder how people will be communicating then, if there are even people left to communicate with (a scary thought, but worth contemplating – we are the difference between having a future, or not).

For now, though, have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

And if you wish, here are recent blog posts that might speak to you in some way or other: “St. Nicholas“; “The Wallet“; “The Retreat“; “The Dinner Party”

* – This came home to me in a handwritten note with a Christmas card from long-time friend Joanne, received Dec 15: “I was going to e-mail you this Christmas letter as I know you prefer that but no e-mail address for you! Please send it and I’ll make sure it gets on my computer.”

She forgot to include her e-mail address….

Yes, it is difficult to communicate these days of mass communication!

POSTNOTE: Dec 22: Saturday morning I was at my usual “station”, Caribou Coffee in Woodbury, writing Christmas letters (in this case, to people for whom I had no e-mail address, advising them of this blog post). After all, everyone knows someone with computer, even if they don’t know how to use it! I’ve also learned that printed out versions of blogs don’t look as good as on the screen – tiny type font and all. Another problem in transitioning to a new way.

An older guy, who I know as another regular, came up to note that I was probably doing Christmas cards. Yes I was, I said. He said, he doesn’t do Christmas cards any more. We didn’t explore the topic in any depth; we really didn’t have to.

1977 is long gone, but it was good while it lasted….

#967 – Dick Bernard: The Wallet, Pearl Harbor Day, 2014

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

PRE-NOTE: I have written often, here, about the death of my Uncle Frank, my Dad’s kid brother, on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, and how there was an unexpected family reunion – one I attended, as a one year old – in Long Beach CA less than five months before he died. Here and here are two related posts about this. This afternoon, at Landmark Center in St. Paul, 1-2 p.m. I’ll be one to share a small part of my own family story at a commemoration of December 7, 1941. A summary of what I plan to say is at the end of this post.

The Wallet.

A month ago a mystery envelope appeared in our mailbox – the small packet from Scottville MI was postmarked Nov. 6, 2014.

It was from a cousin of mine, and when I opened the envelope the content was an old leather wallet (photo below, click to enlarge all photos).

The Wallet, 2014

The Wallet, 2014

It was very fragile, this billfold (another name for wallet). I was curious.

There was no money, but plenty of paper, all of which I removed. The Identification card said the wallet belonged to Vincent Busch, Berlin, N. Dak. Vincent is my Uncle, who I’ve spent a lot of time with especially this past year. Here are the entire contents of the Wallet.

Busch Vince Wallet003

Busch Vince Wallet002

Busch Vince Wallet005

Finally, the rest of the contents spilled out. Here they are, speaking powerfully for themselves (look for and note, especially, the name Francis Long): Busch Vince Wallet004

I surmise that this wallet was a Christmas gift to Uncle Vince in 1940, probably from his parents (he would have been 15, then). The assorted photos and cards are classmates including his 12 year old brother, Art, a couple of nearby cousins, Anita and Melvin Berning, and other classmates from the Berlin High School. There were also some Gas Ration cards from WWII. There are two photos of Art, lower left of the four visible photos above, and at the top of the first pdf page.

Vince and Art shared a tiny little room in the farmhouse until Art graduated from high school in 1945. The winter heat source was the furnace chimney which came through their room. Bedrooms were for sleeping, period.

If I’m right, that the wallet was new in 1940, it was probably in Vincents pocket when the below picture was taken on Mother’s Day, 1941, at the farm.

Busch Bernard may 1941001

Vincent and Art and Anita and Melvin are the kids towards the right of the photo. Are left are Vince’s parents, my grandparents, Rosa and Ferd Busch; and interspersed are by parents Esther and Henry Bernard and my other Grandparents Josephine and Henry Bernard, down from their home in Grafton ND.

This was a peace-time photo, at least in the United States.

Seven months after this picture, December 7, 1941, the Bernards youngest son, and my Dad’s brother, Frank, went down with the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. We last saw him in late June in Long Beach, apparently a surprise visit as the Arizona was in port at nearby San Pedro. Every American instantly became a part of America and the World’s most deadly war, till now.

In the wallet, there’s the card for Francis Long, a neighbor and school mate of Vincent.

On Thanksgiving I showed Vince the wallet and its contents, and I also showed him parts of some of the many albums his family kept over the years.

In the collection was this photo:

Francis Long, probably spring or summer 1944.  He was apparently killed in action shortly after going on active duty.

Francis Long, probably spring or summer 1944. He was apparently killed in action shortly after going on active duty.

“Who’s that?” “Francis Long”, he said.

Francis went off to WWII. Apparently shortly after he went to the Pacific theatre, things went wrong. August 20, 1944, Grandma wrote a letter to another son, George Busch, a naval officer on a Destroyer in the Pacific Theatre, and said this: “Fri we had a memorial Mass for Francis Long killed July 2 on Saipan in action….” (This photo was developed by Brown Photo, Minneapols, Oct 5, 1944. In those years, few pictures were taken, and it often took a long while to finish off an 8 or 12 exposure roll.)

War is never a solution, but for some reason we persist in our insanity that it is possible to kill off our enemies, and thus achieve piece. We are all “enemies” to somebody, somewhere. Let’s change the conversation.

Pearl Harbor, the family reunion

The family members in the story are, at right: Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard.  From left, Henry and Josephine Bernard, Josie Whitaker, and Frank Bernard, Henry's parents and siblings, in Long Beach.

The family members in the story are, at right: Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard. From left, Henry and Josephine Bernard, Josie Whitaker, and Frank Bernard, Henry’s parents and siblings, in Long Beach.

Summary of remarks made at Landmark Center, Dec 7, 2015

I am one of very few Americans today who can honestly say they actually physically met one of those killed aboard the USS Arizona, Dec. 7, 1941. My last meeting with my Uncle Frank Bernard was at the end of June, 1941, five months before he died. I was one year old. I have the photo to prove it (above)!

The constellation of each and every victim that fateful Sunday, carry their own stories, in various ways.

Here’s some fragments of mine.

Frank served on the Arizona for six years. He was a shipfitter. Getting in the Navy was an accomplishment during the Depression. He seemed headed for a career in the Navy, but then there’s that letter he typed aboard the Arizona on “Nov 7 1941″ (a Friday) where he asks his brothers advice: “I think I will get hitch to that little girl up in Washington she is a honey…what do you think of that…?

I don’t know when that letter arrived back in ND. Neither do I know where the letter was written. From 27-31 October 1941 the Arizona was dry-docked at Pearl Harbor, and subsequent records went down with the ship.

Then, there’s a family picture I have, taken in late June, 1941, at Long Beach CA, of the entire family – there were 7 at the time. On the back of the photo Grandmother later wrote “the first time we had our family together for seven years and also the last.” It says it all. (The reunion was a surprise. No one expected the Arizona to pay a call at San Pedro, just down the coast from Long Beach.)

Forty years later, in 1981, Dad wrote a long and comprehensive history of his life and gave it to me. Ten years later, I was preparing a book of memories to give him on the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and found in that history which he had written, not a single word about Pearl Harbor. This is how repressed memory works (or doesn’t work).

On the other hand, my parents next male child, born in Nov. 1945, was named Frank Peter, doubtless in memory of Dad’s brother.

I asked Dad about the missing memories. My folks had a battery operated radio but Dad recalled that on December 7 they were not listening to the radio. The first word of the bombing at Pearl Harbor was received when [a colleague teacher] returned …late in the afternoon.

“During the week following the attack it was first announced that John Grabinski, a sailor from Grafton and Frank’s friend, had been killed. It was only later in the week that it was learned that John Grabinski was safe, but that Frank Bernard had been killed aboard the Arizona.” (Mr. Grabinski lived into his mid-80s, much of his later years in Arizona.)

Of course, the early chaos brought no news of who had died. A high school student in Dad’s class recalled years later that “I don’t remember us ever talking about [Dad’s brother] losing his life from the Japanese attack.

The family did not get together, and to my knowledge there was no memorial service, or funeral. My grandparents, of Grafton ND, were in Long Beach; their daughter was in Los Angeles, and my parents were in rural North Dakota.

There was nothing much that could be done.

Many years later, a relative of mine found a very long article in the Grand Forks Herald of February 17, 1942, and sent it to me. It was about a North Dakota picnic in Los Angeles (in those days, state picnics were major events, attended, sometimes, by thousands). Reference was made to a talk by the Polish Consul in Los Angeles, in which he remembered “a young man of Polish descent at Pearl Harbor, the young man being a native of the Grafton area.

The article continued: “When he had finished reading a man and his wife arose in the audience, the man asking if he might interrupt for just a moment…the man said the report of that boy’s death later was found to be in error, but that the man actually killed at Pearl Harbor was the pal of the boy mentioned in the first report. “The boy killed,” said the man, “was our son!” The couple standing were Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bernard, long time residents of Grafton. The entire audience arose and stood in silence for a moment in honor of the dead hero and the parents who made the sacrifice.

There are no winners in war. Let us not forget.

Frank Bernard, Honolulu, some time before Dec. 7, 1941

Frank Bernard, Honolulu, some time before Dec. 7, 1941

#964 – Dick Bernard: Thanksgiving? The implications of Ferguson MO

Monday, December 1st, 2014

This will be one of a series which all begin “Thanksgiving?”

Thanksgiving for me was at a nursing home in North Dakota, with my last remaining relative from my Mom or Dad’s generation – her brother. His health is such that he’s confined to a wheelchair and is on oxygen, and while he is very sharp mentally, in relative terms, he’s in the Peace Garden Suite – the place where people with Alzheimers and the like live. He has no short term memory to speak of.

Lately, joining him in his unit have been an attorney with a long history and strong positive reputation in the town; and another man, an excellent musician, who until recent months was living in the Assisted Living portion of the Nursing Home complex.

Such is life for all of us. Here today, then gone. We can pretend that we’ll beat death, but however we beat the odds, some day it certainly will catch up to us, as it has, already, with one-fourth of my cousins.

But that isn’t what has me up at 4 in the morning on this day.

More, I’m thinking about the national insanity facing us: the aftermath of Ferguson MO.

Ferguson MO is todays Selma, Alabama, 1965, and I wonder what we’ll do about it, as a society.

None of us are expert on this case, certainly not I.

But enroute home from North Dakota last Friday I kept thinking of the “Un-indicted Co-conspirators” in the case. There were three of them, to my way of thinking: Michael Brown, teenager, unarmed, who’ll never be able to speak for himself, dead on a Ferguson street in August; and Darren Wilson, police officer, who killed the teenager, also un-indicted, with the opportunity to prepare a perfect case before a Grand Jury. He could tell his story to the world.

Michael Brown can’t.

Just before Thanksgiving, in my Nov. 25 post, I described what possibly was going on with Michael Brown that day in August, 2014: “stupid kid action”.

This wasn’t about what happened in the street – we’ll never know for sure about that; rather about the snip of convenience store video and the cigarillos. There are only conflicting witness accounts of what happened in the street. Wilson had plenty of opportunity to defend himself, but Brown never had that chance, dead with six bullets striking him.

I’ve known plenty of “stupid kid” situations in my life. Any of us who are honest would admit to our own “stupid kid” actions in our own pasts. Somehow we lived past them; stuff we didn’t tell our parents about…that, likely, they don’t want to know.

Overnight I thought of one scenario similar to the street scene in Ferguson MO. It involved one Byron Smith in Little Falls MN, who shot and killed two local teenagers who were up to no-good in his home; in fact, they had a history. All of the actors in the Little Falls scenario were white, and Smith was indicted, tried and convicted, and is now serving a life sentence.

Above, I mention three un-indicted co-conspirators.

The third: the sacred Gun*, most always the accessory to the crime of killing someone in our society.

I struggle with how to personally stay engaged with both of the issues Ferguson again identifies: active racism in our society; and insane reverence for the Gun.

Without the Gun placed in action by Officer Wilson, no one would have been dead, and “Ferguson” would not now be a household name.

This is far beyond a simple Second Amendment issue (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”)

We have embraced violence by weapons in this country. We are the lesser for this.

* POSTNOTE: This is no anti-gun rant. If somebody likes to hunt, the gun has its place. The Uncle referred to above still has six common weapons, safely stored. They were valued by him – very much a part of his life on the farm, always for hunting.

I brought along several albums Vince had kept over the years, and he became particularly animate about three photos like the following:

(click to enlarge)

Vincent and Art with the catch of Jackrabbits sometime in 1941-42.  At the time, jackrabbits were numerous and a nuisance.  He had similar photos with skunk, and ducks, etc.

Vincent and Art with the catch of Jackrabbits sometime in 1941-42. At the time, jackrabbits were numerous and a nuisance. He had similar photos with skunk, and ducks, etc.

Guns had their place in the rural areas. Not like today, when the right to kill another human in supposed self-defense is viewed as almost a sacred right by some.

#963 – Dick Bernard: The First Sunday of Advent, 2014

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Today, at least for Roman Catholics, is the First Sunday of Advent. It will be noticed today at my Church, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis.

As with most everything in our diverse society, there are many definitions of the meaning of this liturgical season, the four Sundays between now and Christmas Day, December 25. Here’s “Advent” as found in google entries.

I happen to be Catholic, actually quite active, I’d say. This would make me a subset of a subset of the American population.

In all ways, the U.S. is a diverse country. The Statistical Abstract of the United States, published by the Census Bureau, says about 80% of adult Americans describe themselves as “Christian”; 25% of this same population says they’re “Catholic”. (The data is here.)

Of course, if you’re a “boots on the ground” person, as I am, raw data like the above pretty quickly devolves. As the most appropriate mantra at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis (my church) is stated every Sunday: “welcome, wherever you are on your faith journey….” The people in the pews know the truth of this phrase, and know that on every given Sunday, two-thirds of them are not even in the pews.

Regardless of specific belief, the vast majority of us, everywhere, are good people*.

I’m drawn to this topic a bit more than usual this weekend since I just returned from a visit to my last surviving Uncle, Vince, winding down his long life in a wonderful nursing home in a small North Dakota town.

Thanksgiving Day I decided to bring to him, for hanging in his room, the below holy family** (which had not yet been hung, and appears sideways, as it appeared in his room, prior to hanging.)

(click to enlarge)

Nov. 27, 2014

Nov. 27, 2014

For many years this image hung in the family farm home, and Vince seemed glad to see it come to visit. I asked him how old it was, and he said it was his mothers (my grandmothers) favorite, and it was probably older than he, in other words pre-dating 1925.

When next I visit, I hope to see it hanging on the wall he faces each day, and as such things go, it will likely bring back memories, and perhaps other emotions as well. Images tend to do this.

Of course, even in the religious milieu, an event like Advent is complicated. It is observed (including not being observed at all) in various ways even by people within the Catholic Church. A constructive observance, in my opinion, is to attempt to use the next 25 days to daily reflect on something or other in my own life. A nominally Catholic but mostly inspirational book of Daily Reflections given to me years ago by my friend Les Corey comes immediately to mind**; and very likely I can “tie in” Uncle Vince through letters this month. (It helps me to make a public declaration of intention on these things – a little more likely that I’ll follow through!)

Of course, there is, always, lots of side-chatter in this country at this season: “Black Friday” rolled out two days ago. We are a financial “bottom line” nation, I guess. Profits trump most anything else.

But, be that as it may, perhaps my essential message is that the next few weeks can be helpful simply for quieting ones-self and reflecting on a more simple way of being, such as greeted that icon when it was first hung in that simple North Dakota farm home perhaps even more than 100 years ago.

Have a good Advent.

* – A few hours ago, we experienced a good positive start to Advent. After a party for three of our grandkids who have November birthdays, we all went to a Minnesota based project called Feed My Starving Children where, along with 115 others adults and children, we filled food packets whose ultimate destination is Liberia. It was our first time participating with this activity, and it was a very positive activity. Hard work, but a great family activity. Check it, or something similar, out. Special thanks to one of the birthday kids, 8-year old Lucy, who apparently suggested the activity.

Nov. 29, 2014, Addy, Lucy, Kelly

Nov. 29, 2014, Addy, Lucy, Kelly

** – Of course, I don’t know the exact origin of the print which so captured Grandma. Almost certainly the real holy family of Bible days was not European white, as I am, and she was; rather, most likely, middle eastern in ethnicity and appearance.

*** – The book I’ve dusted off for the next weeks: All Saints, Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for our Time by Robert Ellsberg.

#958 – Dick Bernard: An unexpected look at a trip through California , 1941.

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Numerous times this past year I’ve written about the ancestral farm in North Dakota. The business of sifting and sorting through over 100 years of pictures and written records takes place here at home, as I go through documents piece-by-piece.

Often there have been surprises.

Last night two postcards floated to the top of the pile, post-marked San Rafael and Eureka CA on July 22 and 23, 1941.

Here’s the first:

(click to enlarge)
Bernard California 1941001

The text was sparse, as one might expect. The writer was my mother: “Dear Pa and all. We left Long Beach this morning and are staying at a cabin in Greenfield CA. It is 323 miles today but we got a late start. The old man who owns these cabins worked around Lamoure [south central ND, Mom’s home area] in [18]88*. He came here from Montana. Don’t sound as tho we will get much sleep as we are on the main highway. Richard [me, one year old] is fine, sleeping already. Esther, Henry and Rich” Mom was 31 at the time; Dad was 32.

I long knew about this western trip, in fact I wrote about it a year ago here.

But this fragment – two penny post cards – helped to fill out the story from a contemporary perspective, rather than from someones recollections years later.

I looked up Greenfield. I already knew San Rafael, just on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge; and Eureka is up the coast a ways from San Rafael. Mapquest shows todays routes Long Beach-Greenfield-San Rafael-Eureka here, here and here. 1941 was pre-freeways of course. It would appear that most of their route ran more or less along what was then Highway 101 crossing the then-new Golden Gate Bridge and continuing north on Hwy 101 to Eureka.

They continued to Portland OR, where they visited folks who’d moved west from near Mom’s ND home, thence to Bremerton WA, thence east back to North Dakota.

The big surprise from the Postcard was that we apparently spent more time in California than my Dad had remembered. He had us leaving Long Beach on July 5. The San Rafael postcard was postmarked July 22 meaning, likely, that they were in Greenfield on July 20 and probably spent two more weeks in Long Beach than he had recalled.

The second postcard, with the Golden Gate Bridge (opened 1937), postmarked Eureka CA Jul 23, 1941, was to my Uncle Art, then 13 years old. It takes considerable patience to decipher it – long ago pencil on glossy paper with ages of wear doesn’t make for an easy task. Luckily, there aren’t many words. Here’s what I’ve divined so far: “Tuesday [July 22, 1941]. We went over this [the Bridge] yesterday morning but it was so foggy couldn’t see…the Redwoods…We are fine….”. The postcard itself was labeled “No 60 in UNION OIL COMPANY’S Natural Color Scenes of the West. Golden Gate Bridge on Highway 101. This engineering wonder links San Francisco with the great California Redwood Empire. Unique in bridging the mouth of a major harbor, it has the longest single clear span in the world – 4200 feet.”

The front of the postcard written at Greenfield is entertaining, and I’ll let it speak for itself.

Bernard California 1941002

You’ll never know what you’ll find hidden in what you thought was “junk”….

The travelers, at right in the photo: Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard, with Henry’s parents and brother, Frank, at Long Beach, July, 1941. (Click to enlarge)

The travelers in the story are at right: Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard.  From left, Henry, Josephine, Josie Whitaker, and Frank Bernard, Henry's parents and siblings, in Long Beach.

The travelers in the story are at right: Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard. From left, Henry, Josephine, Josie Whitaker, and Frank Bernard, Henry’s parents and siblings, in Long Beach.

* Lamoure was founded in 1882; North Dakota became a state in 1889.

from Shirley:
Dick – thanks for the views of old post cards – 1941 – oh my. When I was growing up California seemed to me to be a “magical” place. I would hear conversations about
visits there – the long drive to get there – the Pacific Ocean – the orange groves – etc. Surely this was a place of excitement and mystery. My first trip there was in the late 50’s. I drove my VW to Long Beach – to be shipped to Hawaii where I was moving. A friend accompanied me – we drove across Montana into Washington and then down the road to Long Beach. My bubble burst – and California became a crowded place without color as it was so dry with very little greenery. LA was a vast “pleasure-land” and we did have fun there after shipping the car off on its journey. The Hollywood Bowl, tours of the homes of stars, Disneyland… yes – a lot of fun – but not the picture book in my mind. Thanks for sharing.

#953 – Wayne: A bit of nostalgia remembering the early 1940s.

Monday, November 10th, 2014

This summer my friend, Kathy Garvey, gave me a photo and fascinating accompanying story, both of which speak for themselves and follow, below. I have purposely not edited Wayne’s words, as they are written spontaneously, and more interesting. “Dad” is Kathy’s Grandpa, and the other players are his wife and kids. Wayne writes extemporaneously the recollections about the family in the early 1940s. Shakopee is a southwest suburb of Minneapolis MN, on the Minnesota River. The other places mentioned are south suburban Minneapolis and St. Paul.

(click to enlarge)

1942, Shakopee MN

1942, Shakopee MN

“Thank you for the picture of Dad at our filling station at 139 Dakota Street in Shakopee in 1942 at the age of 68. I had never seen this picture. The pumps were not electrified. The customer stated how many gallons wanted and you used the hand pump to reach that level in the glass bowl, then gravity hosed it to the car. Plastic had not been invented and no metal quart cans of oil as aluminum was needed for building planes and tanks. You filled quart bottles from a drum as needed. At age 11 I waited on customers as well. Station was closed about a year later as it was a poor location and gas being rationed the average the average person only had stamps for three gallons per week. Margaret was at the Cargill shipyard and received extra stamps due to her vital work [nursing]. Cars of the day were difficult to start in cold weather so she had an extra battery installed under the hood of her 1939 Pontiac coupe.

In 1939 Dad’s legs were bothering after years of following a team of horses and a plow thru the fields so it was decided that Elmer and Irene would take over the farm at the time of their marriage and we would move to Shakopee to a house acquired thru a tax sale. Rita and I thought we were in heaven being only two blocks from St. Mary’s school, one block from the bakery and two blocks from downtown. There was no central plumbing or heat so Dad partitioned off part of the very large kitchen for a bathroom including a tub. After years of an outdoor toilet and Saturday night baths in a washtub behind the kitchen stove this was a real luxury. A furnace was ordered from Montgomery Ward in St. Paul and an installer came by train to put in and stayed with us for two days as he did not have a car. I should add that we were only two blocks from the first indoor movie that we had ever seen.

Farmers could not join the social security program in those days so we had no real source of income. We fixed up and painted a house acquired thru tax sale and rent from this helped. A few summers Dad worked for the State of Minnesota planting trees but he could not stand the hot weather. During the winter he liked to attend court trials and was always hopeful they would need a juror for the five dollars per day pay which could probably equate to eighty dollars today.

In 1941 he acquired a large stucco home in rundown condition which needed to be razed thru tax sale for twenty-five dollars. Rita and I spent many hours there stripping plaster and nails from the wall laths so they could be used in the new house on 139 Dakota Street. With the help of a retired carpenter for framing Dad did most of the building by himself. On the afternoon of December 7, 1941, he and I were working there when Rita hurried to tell us of the attack on Pearl Harbor. We moved to that house in 1942. Later he would build two other houses on speculation, one on East first street and another near the women’s reformatory.

During the war mother and other ladies would gather at the reformatory to cut sterile bed sheet into thin strips and roll them to be used treating the wounded soldiers in Europe. Also since we lived near the railroad tracks hoboes riding the trains would often come to the door asking to work for food. She gave them sandwiches and sent them on their way.

In the early days the Milwaukee railroad had a daily freight train with a passenger car on the end between Farmington, Lakeview, Prior Lake, Shakopee and Chaska, returning that afternoon. There was a siding in Credit River about one mile from our church. This would not happen today but at the time trucks to carry goods to the Twin Cities were not very reliable so farmers could use this siding to ship crops to market. Every fall Dad would contract to sell a load of grain, and each winter a load of cordwood. On the appointed day Mary, Margaret and Helen would go to the siding and flag the train down and instruct the trainmen as to placing an empty boxcar. Elmer would stand on the hill behind our house and listen for the whistle of the steam engine approaching the grade crossing. Then if he heard the engine starting up several minutes later he and Dad would hitch teams of horses to the already loaded wagons. The girls would wait at the siding and help load the boxcars which are huge in size and required many wagon loads to fill. Two days later they would again flag down the train to transport the car. Dad, Elmer and at times a hired hand would spend much of the winter cutting wood as there was no fieldwork at that time of the year.

Helen related that every second day mother would bake 13 loaves of bread and two tins of muffins. When a hog was butchered she would cook and can the meat in mason jars. The pork was put in huge crocks with a layer of salt between each.

I once asked Margaret to write some family history. She replied in part “we were so lucky to have such good, hardworking parents who did not smoke, drink, curse or gamble”. How true.”

Wayne, July 9, 2014

#948 – Dick Bernard: North Dakota’s 125th Birthday; remembering a farm as part of that history

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Today, November 2, 2014, is the 125th anniversary of the admission of the State of North Dakota to the United States of America.

I previously wrote about the history of this event, and the relation of my Grandparents Busch farm to that history on October 1. You can read that here, with numerous links.

The genesis for todays post came early Friday morning, in the hall between the North Dakota Nursing Home where my Uncle lives; and the Assisted Living facility where he lived until a year ago. I was walking down this hall and saw this photograph on the wall. I had seen it before, but this time it spoke to me in a new and deeper way. It was my Uncles farm, and he is the last of nine members of the family who called it home. I “borrowed” the photo and brought it home so I could scan it for posterity. The photo was taken, I learned, in the winter of 1992, hung in the hallway by someone I don’t know. Below is a marked version of it.

(click to enlarge)

The Busch farm, Henrietta Township ND, winter of 1992.

The Busch farm, Henrietta Township ND, winter of 1992.

Every one of us have our own stories about places familiar to us. Recently I had occasion to revisit Eric Sevaried’s 1956 classic story in Colliers magazine: “You can go home again”, about the always real and imaginary relationship between place, our past and the present.

For Eric Sevaried, the place of his childhood was Velva ND. We lived in Karlsruhe, not far from Velva, in 1951-53, just three years before he came home again.


Then there’s the Busch farm, above pictured:

Grandma and Grandpa Busch, Rosa Berning and Ferdinand Busch, ages 21 and 25, came to the little knoll, the farmstead for their little piece of heaven, as winter ended in 1905. North Dakota was bustling, not yet a teenager, 15 years old. Like a teen, it was growing fast, full of dreams and dilemmas, perhaps like todays western ND oil patch. The future was not yet known, the good times or the very bad, like the death of a child on the farm; or the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Theirs was virgin land, and the new house they soon built overlooked their surrounding acres. There was nary a tree in sight, in any direction.

To the northeast (upper right on the photo), about four miles distance down the hill in the James River Valley lay the older town of Grand Rapids. Within eyeshot, less than five miles to the southwest, was what would soon officially be the town of Berlin.

Grandpa’s Dad, my great-grandfather Wilhelm Busch, had purchased the farm for his son from the owner of the property, the father of later U.S. Senator Milton R. Young. Most likely they were steered to this land by Grandpa’s uncle, B. H. Busch of Dubuque, a budding successful land entrepreneur. They would be followed by other Buschs and Bernings, as Leonard, Lena, Christina, August. August and Christina Berning took up the neighboring farm to the SE about a year later, and farmed there for many years. Leonard and his wife came to Adrian for a few years; Lena married Art Parker, and before they returned to Dubuque, they were early caretakers at the Grand Rapids Park, the first residents of what we all know as the caretakers house.

The Busch house (marked “A” on the photo), initially was simply the standard two story prairie box. The kitchen was initially detached from the house on the west side; later added to the east side of the house; later an addition was built on the west side. In this house were born nine children; all but one lived to adulthood there. Rural telephone service came to this house in 1912, about the time Verena, the third child, was born in 1912. Ferdinand was right in the thick of things with Lakeview rural telephone from the beginning; Vincent did lots of work on rural telephone issues. Verena died of illness at 15, in 1927.

The Buschs, along with many others in the area, founded St. Johns Catholic Church in Berlin in 1915.

Vincent and Edith, brother and sister, never married, born 1925 and 1920 respectively, both lived on the farm until health issues led to a move to town in 2006.

Grandpa died in the old farm house, in 1967. Grandma was said to be the first person to die in what is now St. Rose Care Center in August, 1972. The torch was passed.

Another original building, which still survives at the farmstead, barely, is the granary labeled as “C” on the photo. The first barn was approximately at the letter “D”; another building, which I knew as the chicken coop, was later replaced by the metal shed labeled “G”. A new barn was built at “E” in 1916 for some unrecounted reason. In 1949, the roof blew off this barn and was replaced by the new hand-made roof, which the local Catholic Priest, Fr. Duda, himself an expert carpenter, declared wouldn’t last. That roof is what presently keeps the barn below it from collapsing. Early on, my Dad participated in the reconstruction; Uncle Vince did a huge amount of the work, including the shingling.

In 1957, Grandpa bought the old depot in Berlin and moved the freight house and the depot agents portion of the depot to the farm. They are F1 and F2 on the photo. F2 collapsed about 2006. F1 is at the end of its life.

In 1992, Vincent bought a new house, “B”, which they planted on what all of us descendants knew as the front lawn, a few feet from the old house, which remained there until we took it down in 2000. Most every gathering at the farm ended with a group picture on the same portion of lawn which is now occupied by the new house, presently being renovated.

There has been, now, 109 years of life on this farmstead, though at the moment no one lives on the property (soon to change). The farm is no more or less typical than any farm or town neighborhood anywhere. It is a place full of tradition and memory, especially for this grandson of the place.

There are endless memories in these few acres, as there are in every farmstead; in every block, in every town and city, everywhere.

There was Grandpa’s hired man, way back, who likely slept in the granary. One year, he didn’t come back, killed in WWI. George Busch was a naval officer in WWII; youngest brother Art, went in the Army at the end of the War; Vince stayed home to do the necessary farming. Music was a constant in the house, and probably elsewhere, all “homemade” music, sung and played by the inhabitants….

Busch farm harvest time 1907,.  Rosa Busch holds her daughter Lucina, Others in photo include Ferd, behind the grain shock; Rosa's sister, Lena, and Ferds father Wilhelm, and young brother William Busch.  It is unknown who was unloading the grain in background.  Possibly, it was Ferds brother, Leonard, who also farmed for a time in ND.

Busch farm harvest time 1907,. Rosa Busch holds her daughter Lucina, Others in photo include Ferd, behind the grain shock; Rosa’s sister, Lena, and Ferds father Wilhelm, and young brother William Busch. It is unknown who was unloading the grain in background. Possibly, it was Ferds brother, Leonard, who also farmed for a time in ND.

What are your memories, about your places?

Happy Birthday, North Dakota.

More about the Busch farm here.