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#924 – Dick Bernard: A wedding: possibly catching a missing piece of history.

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

Since 1980 I’ve become the family historian of both my mother’s and dad’s families. Once hooked, mysteries and secrets are much more interesting than the simple obvious facts.

So, in the history of Mom’s family, her older sister Lucina’s marriage is recorded, but no date. Lucina, always an elegant woman in my memory, never did get around to writing down what must have been abundant memories so, for instance, no wedding date is listed, though I always had heard it was 1939. She would have been 32 then. Their first child was born in 1941.

Lately I’ve been working with musty and dusty materials from the ancestral farm in North Dakota, and today I happened to look at an envelope of photo proofs sent Lucina’s husband Duane on August 11, 1939. Being proofs, the images are near invisible, but oh, what the story.

Here are three photos: one of the envelope and two of its six contents. Click to enlarge.

The wedding party, 1939

The wedding party, 1939

The kiss, 1939

The kiss, 1939

The envelope which held the photo proofs.

The envelope which held the photo proofs.

The proofs, imperfect as they are, since they weren’t intended to last for 75 years, tell their own stories. The best man and maid of honor are faces unknown to me. The bride and groom were, to my knowledge, both teachers in the tiny school in Berlin ND. They likely married in the church almost adjacent to the school, St. John’s of Berlin, and doings afterwards were probably at the Busch farm home less than five miles away.

Pretty obviously, from the envelope, they were married in early August, 1939.

Weddings in those days were generally not high-priced doings. This wedding was during the Great Depression after all.

A few photos likely was about all the couple could afford.

My Mom and Dad – Mom was two years younger than her older sister Lucina – married in the same church two Augusts before Lucina and Duane. Theirs was the first wedding in Ferd and Rosa Busch’s constellation.

Very few photos exist to document their wedding. They were “poor as church mice” then. It was hard times on the prairie.

Till he died, Dad always wondered what happened to the “ricing” photo someone took after the ceremony. I’ve now gone through hundreds of photos from the farm, many from those days, and haven’t found such a picture. Maybe some day….

Lucina and Duane’s marriage lasted over 52 years. They had two children. Duane died first, in 1992, and Lucina lived four years beyond.

Mom and Dad’s marriage lasted 44 years, ended by Mom’s death in 1981. Dad lived to 1997. They had five children.

Time passes on, and what is left is memories, and if we’re lucky some visual representations of happy times past.

#918 – Dick Bernard: The Night of the Big Wind, July 28, 1949

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Directly related post from July 25, here.

For some reason lost to history, on July 28, 1949, we Bernards took a midweek 100 mile trip from Sykeston ND to Grandma and Grandpa Busch’s farm near Berlin ND. While there seems no particular reason for the trip, mid-summer would have been a logical time to visit Mom’s parents, and brother Vince and sister Edithe at the farm. Dad was school superintendent in Sykeston, and at the farm, crops were not yet ready to harvest.

We stayed overnight, a fateful decision we all lived to tell about. (Such trips, to my recollection, were never more than one night. One overnight was complicated enough with five little kids.)

(click on all photos to enlarge them)

F. W. Busch farmstead, 1916.

F. W. Busch farmstead, 1916.

Fitting into the Busch’s small prairie house was no small task. By 1949, a two room addition had been added to the west (left) side of the house shown above.

As bedtime came that evening, best I can piece together, the 9 year old, me, slept with Uncle Vince, 24, in his tiny upstairs room; across the wall to the south, the window visible in the picture, was Edith’s room. Mary Ann, 6, and Florence, 5, slept with her.

Grandma and Grandpa were downstairs, and Mom and Dad, with Frank, 3, and John, who had turned 1 May 25, shared the other downstairs bedroom.

No one has ever recalled anything unusual about the day we were there. It was simply a summer visit.

Crops were maturing, but not yet ready for harvest. As usual, the dozen or so cows had been milked, back out to pasture. Horses would have been in the barn.

Sometime about midnight, best can be figured, a horrific wind seemed to come out of the south. My sister, Flo, described what happened next: “Oh, how I remember that storm! The thunder and lightning was impressive – scary! Then the window blew out and we tried to keep it covered with a blanket.”

We were all terrified, and to my knowledge none of the six adults did the common sense things you’re warned to do today, starting with taking everyone down into the cellar. Of course, back then, weather reports were basically what you saw in real time; no sirens or such. Storms were expected to happen now and again. But, as Uncle Vincent just recalled days ago, ordinary storms usually came in late afternoon, and this one came up suddenly, very late at night, and was a ‘hum-dinger’. Even at 9 years old, I recall sheets of water (it seemed) coming under the window and over the windowsill.

Being a strong Catholic family, there were plenty of “Hail Mary’s”.

The storm passed, no injuries, probably not even livestock, and Mary Ann recalls: “I remember going out at first light and seeing the [barn] roof missing.” That barn was less than a football field length from the house. We’d all had a very close call. Sometimes there’s talk that we experienced a tornado, but I don’t think so. It was just a horrific wind, and life changed for everyone, for a time.

I have found four photos taken of the barn shortly after the storm: Each are worth clicking on, to enlarge.

Busch barn 1949003

Busch barn 1949001

Busch Barn Jul 1949002

Busch Barn Jul 1949003

In the first photo, at left, you can see the damage. What appears to be the barn roof, misplaced, is actually a smaller barn-like structure that survived the storm. In the third, Grandpa Busch contemplates the next steps; in the fourth, the photographer, my Dad, is revealed by the unusually long legs in the shadow. (Click twice on this photo and you’ll see two horses who survived the storm.)

All around the area, there was devastation. The LaMoure Chronicle talked a lot more about the storm and the damage just in the LaMoure County vicinity: Berlin storm Jul 28 49001. The F. W. Busch damage is mentioned in the last column.

This being a working farm, with cows to be milked, there wasn’t time to be depressed. But rebuilding was daunting; there was lots of damage, most everywhere, on surrounding farms.

The adults worked like…farmers…and in fairly short order the task was looking manageable.

Busch barn 1949004

Grandpa was 69 when the storm hit; Vince, his son, was 24; my Dad was 41. The age references are important.

Grandpa knew of a farm on Hwy 13 just east of LaMoure whose barn roof design looked replicable. He built a form on the hayloft floor where the three men nailed four 1x4s together to make every new roof beam. Dad stayed at the farm for some time to help out, and Vince always says that without him, they couldn’t have done the project.

The roof beams were raised, and the local Priest, himself an expert carpenter, saw them, and said they wouldn’t last….

Vincent did the backbreaking work of shingling the barn. It must have been terribly hard, even at age 24, and frightening as well, but you do what you gotta do.

Shortly after the project was completed, within a few months, somebody took the below photo of the newly raised barn roof.

Unfortunately, either they or someone else had forgotten to advance the film, so what you see is a double exposure including other visitors to the farm. Both photos seem to be from the same day.

Front and center is Uncle Vince, in about 1949. (He’s also at left in the same picture. Click on this picture a second time for more enlargement.) The others in the photo are his sister Florence, and her husband Bernard Wieland, and their then young son Tom, all from Dazey ND. Tom is sitting on Busch’s then-new 1948 Plymouth.

Ironically, Tom Wieland died recently. Vincent and I went to his funeral in Valley City. Time passes by.

Busch barn 1949005

Last week, I took a photo of some of the roof beams in the still standing barn. Dad, Vince and Grandpa did damned good work back in 1949!


Lord willing, I’ll be back in that barn today, July 28, 2014, on the 65th anniversary of the big windstorm of 1949. There’ll be a bit of nostalgia, no doubt.

The old barn, July 23, 2014

The old barn, July 23, 2014

A firm base for each beam has helped the roof survive 65 years.  Photo July 28, 2014

A firm base for each beam has helped the roof survive 65 years. Photo July 28, 2014

Henry Bernard with his roof beams in the Busch barn, June 1991.  RIP Nov. 7, 1997

Henry Bernard with his roof beams in the Busch barn, June 1991. RIP Nov. 7, 1997

#916 – Dick Bernard: Some Things. A Bit of Odd Synchronicity; An Opportunity to Reflect.

Friday, July 25th, 2014

(Click all photos to enlarge)

Byerly's Woodbury, formerly known as Rainbow....

Byerly’s Woodbury, formerly known as Rainbow….

A couple of weeks ago I went to our nearby supermarket, Rainbow Foods, to pick up my daily staple: bananas.

This particular day, the store sported a new temporary sign, “Byerly’s”, indicating its new owner. We all knew this was coming: Byerly’s had bought Rainbow and change was coming to our supermarket. It was nothing rocket science: there is another Byerly’s a few miles away. But, still, it was a change. The average shopper might say Byerly’s is better. To me, they’re both generic “stores”.

Walking in, I asked a woman coming from the new Byerly’s: “do they still have bananas?”

She smiled.

Since that day, July 16, I’ve been rather intensely involved with preparing the farm home in North Dakota for potential new occupants.

It’s a very nostalgic time: the home place has been continuously occupied by my Mom’s family since 1905 (she was born there in 1909). Her brother, my Uncle, last in the line, the farmer who kept the place, and never married, is now in the local nursing home.

The re-purposing task has fallen to me, and with lots of help from family and neighbors the long vacant and now near empty farm house has yielded its trash and treasures.

Bananas are a relatively recent fixture on the family table in the U.S.; that rural farmhouse rarely saw them until very recent years.

But there was a big garden, and canned goods.

My sister started cleaning out the shelves of ancient home-canned this-or-that in the basement, and I hauled boxes of them out on Monday.

A jar of something canned by Aunt Edith with the old Pressure Cooker in 1997 (“97″ on the lid) wouldn’t pass muster today, regardless of how well sealed. But that jar stayed in the shelves. Expiration dates had less meaning then.

Pressure Cooker? Here’s one, from the farm scrap pile…probably a perfectly good device, of no use, anymore.

Pressure cookers at the farm (the back one sans lid.

Pressure cookers at the farm (the back one sans lid.

To my knowledge nobody on the farm ever died or got severely ill from food poisoning, folk wisdom, perhaps luck. An iron constitution helped, too.

Back at Byerly’s, today, I was discovering the new store: the only distinction I can discern is that they moved the bananas, and other things. They are reorganizing the placement of the stuff I buy. I’m not sure where anything is. Whole aisles are empty; waiting for redesign. The same stuff I’ve always seen, just in a different place. Change.

At the farm, everything is there, somewhere, but never to be the same again. Change as well.

Down in the basement, Wednesday, sat a forlorn cardboard box with some stuff in it.

I’ve learned in such encounters that just tossing the box and contents is not necessarily wise. You never know what you might be throwing out.

Hidden in the box was the device pictured below (with coins added to give a sense of scale).


If you haven’t guessed, what’s pictured is an old official stamp made of heavy cast iron, built to last.

Being curious, I found an old brown paper bag to see if the stamp still worked and it did.

Stamp 001

You are forgiven if you can’t read the writing. It says “Corporate Seal of the Lakeview Farmers Telephone Company Berlin N Dak”: the telephone company my Grandpa had a great deal to do with for many years in the really olden times of crank dials (“two longs and a short”) and party lines, where “rubber necking” was expected: there were no private conversations. In fact, Uncle Vince just the previous night had been remembering how hard it was to maintain those simple rural telephone lines.

Grandpa had probably used this stamp hundreds of times. Family history.

There were endless other bits of family history, now relegated to trash, or to treasure (the distinction only in the eyes of the beholder; you won’t see the stuff on Antiques Road Show or American Pickers).

Then home to Woodbury to recover.

Today I went back to Byerly’s (aka Rainbow), and once again got my bananas.

What I take for granted in that store was in days of old beyond my ancestors comprehension.

I wonder if, someday, what I take for granted will be an unspeakable luxury for generations yet to follow.

We do take things for granted.

It’s cause for reflection.

F. W. Busch farmstead, 1916.

F. W. Busch farmstead, 1916.

I go back to this old farm on Monday. Before I leave, I’ll publish a recollection from that old farmhouse, of the Big Storm of July 28, 1949.

#912 – Dick Bernard: All-Star Baseball Game Day in Minneapolis

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

UPDATE July 16: Here’s how the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on All Star Day in Minneapolis.

(click to enlarge)

Champs (see note at end)

Champs (see note at end)

Tonight we experience the All-Star Game in the Twin Cities. About the only advantage we have, here, is that there is more “news” on the local media. A privileged few from all over the country will actually get into Target Field to actually see the game (it is an excellent venue, a short walk to downtown Minneapolis). I would suspect the game will be televised. It is hard to predict whether the game will be good or not…it’s a pickup game for ‘stars’.

No knot-hole gang type need look for reduced price admission today. There are no cheap seats.

Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune had a good commentary on Baseball All-Star games here, past and present. You can read it here.

There have been three All Star games in the Twin Cities since Major League Baseball came to town in 1961: 1965, 1985 and 2014. (History here).

If our record is any indication, in recent history, an All-Star game follows by a few short years the construction of a new Stadium. So we have a long time to wait before the next extravaganza here. (The football Vikings get the Super Bowl in 2018, a reward for building a brand new Stadium now under construction, or so it would seem….) The “reward” for common people is mostly inconvenience.

I have always liked baseball, though I rarely go to games. Baseball is (in my opinion) a very civilized team sport where the reward goes to the team more so than to the star player.

A friend at the coffee shop, an avid golfer, said this morning that baseball is “boring”. To each his (or her) own, then.

Tonight I might watch part of the All Star spectacle, mostly commercials interrupted by occasional action on the field. In the advertising sense, the All-Star game is a minor league Super Bowl. The sport is secondary.

As for me, I’ll take the part of the baseball game I watched yesterday in Woodbury.

Grandkid Ryan, about to turn 15, is in a summer league of high school age kids who’ve not made the varsity cut, but are still interested in playing baseball.

Yesterday I managed to see a good part of their final game of the season, turned out to be for the league championship, and they won, 5-4.

In the group photo, below, Ryan is kneeling at right.

(click to enlarge)

The League Champs, July 14, 2014

The League Champs, July 14, 2014

Except for Ryan, I don’t know the bios of the players. One of the kids, afterwards, was saying he’s beginning at the University of Minnesota in September. I know another kid, Ryan’s friend, was absent from this game due to illness. They all seemed to be decent, motivated, team-oriented kids.

This bunch started the season as average and ordinary (among their peers), but won their last five, then four straight in the playoffs, earning their trophies.

After the game, one of those old time sayings rattled around in my brain: “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”.

It seemed to fit what I had just witnessed.

I decided to seek the quotation out on the internet. Best as I can determine the author was the famous sports-writer Grantland Rice, who had borrowed it from some ancient similar quotation, and first used it about 1927.

These days in our society, everything seems to be about winning. Period.

It’s nice to see some kids just playing the game.

POSTNOTE: There’s some proud parents going with the kids in the photo at the beginning of this post. These 12 year olds from KMS (Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg MN) won a tourney at Chanhassen in late spring. They are a good working group, I’m told.

Teamwork is the essence of positive competition.

#905 – Dick Bernard: Cloud Watching and Some Beautiful Flowers

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Late yesterday afternoon was beautiful weather for driving, east bound from North Dakota to the Twin Cities.

A brilliant sun was at our back, and all around us were those wonderful puffy cumulus clouds, and farther ahead magnificent “mountain ranges” of white clouds atop rainy weather somewhere to the east. The vista began about Freeport MN, “Lake Wobegon” country, and lasted till we bore south at St. Cloud. I tried to catch the moments in photos, but you know how that is: the best pictures are in the minds-eye, and the scenery, when it comes to clouds, changes by the second. But I did stop once, and below is what I caught in a snapshot – no prize winner, but at least evidence.

(click to enlarge all photos)

Along I-94 after 6 p.m.  in the "Lake Wobegon" neighborhood, June 24, 2013.

Along I-94 after 6 p.m. in the “Lake Wobegon” neighborhood, June 24, 2013.

As I drove, it reminded me of long ago days as a kid in North Dakota, on occasion lying on the grass looking at clouds floating by. Maybe you could imagine something a cloud represented; you got at least a sense of speed and direction and even elevation of the clouds. Of course, this was all abstract to a kid, but nice clouds in combination with a nice day were times and memories to be cherished, if only for a few minutes (till some bug, or another thought or interest, interfered!)

Perhaps the sense of those clouds was heightened by the two days prior when four of us were engaged with doing the necessary things which come with drastic change of life for a relative in a nursing home. Things like attending to beginning to prepare the farm home for hoped for new inhabitants; making arrangements for scrap metal to be hauled, etc.

It wasn’t a neutral activity for me, having spent a lot of time at this farm place over the years, and now the guy in charge of the most major change in the history of this 110 year old farm, owned and occupied continuously by the same family, and now being prepared for new residents, a new life.

This sense of change, more than the work at the farm, contributed to a personal sense of feeling emotionally and physically exhausted this particular day. We had planned to stay one more day at the farm; it would not have been productive for me.

The puffy clouds within my eyesight, coming home, were an occasion of reverie for me, remembering.

I had taken one last photo when I left the farmyard four hours earlier. It is below. At right is the original grain bin built in 1905; in background is the house we had been working on for the last day.

At the farm, June 24, 2014

At the farm, June 24, 2014

Before leaving the property, I noted two voluntary clumps of peonies, festive in bloom beside the house. They were as if in memory of Aunt Edithe, who planted and nurtured them in past years, and who died just months ago. Through them, she lives on.

June 24, 2014

June 24, 2014

At the corner of Highway 13 and the farm road to the ancestral farm I stopped to take my annual photos of the Wild Roses that abound there each summer. The road grader crew needs to know of their existence, and allows them to live on, a vibrant colony.

The wild rose remains the state flower of North Dakota, and here is the one I found most attractive this day.

Wild Rose June 24, 2014

Wild Rose June 24, 2014

The clouds and the flowers: a good reminder to us all. Take time to enjoy the simple things of life. After awhile, it’s all that’s left.


As noted, the sole survivor of the rural North Dakota home now lives in a nursing home. He has always been, and remains, very spiritual.

Recently I came across three family photos that are pertinent to his and the family story. They are below.

The first is of the old Catholic Church and Public High School in the County Seat in which he lives. The current Catholic Church, in the same location as the old, is directly across the street from the old High School, which was replaced by, and for 42 years has been, the Nursing Home, and is now my Uncle’s residence. Most recently Uncle was pushed across the street by myself on Tuesday morning.

early Church and High School in LaMoure ND

early Church and High School in LaMoure ND

From 1915-68 the family Church was about 10 miles west, in tiny Berlin ND. Here are two recently discovered photographs of life in that Church.

A n undated photo from the choir loft of St. Johns in Berlin ND.

A n undated photo from the choir loft of St. Johns in Berlin ND.

Apparently a summer religious education time at St. Johns' during the time when there were lots of kids in the rural area.  The photo is undated.

Apparently a summer religious education time at St. Johns’ during the time when there were lots of kids in the rural area. The photo is undated.

School and church: two of many symbols of community.

#904 – Dick Bernard: Living in Hell.

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

A few hours ago we were a pizza party for a friend who just turned 50. It was the usual kind of casual gettogether. Small talk. Catching up with people you haven’t seen for awhile. A cake with two candles: “5” and “0”, singing “Happy Birthday to you….” Each of us at or beyond that age can fill in the blanks of our own similar experience.

It was probably that party that generated the dream that woke me up the middle of this night. The strange dream whose details you can’t remember exactly, but had more than a hint of desperation within it, and caused me, this night, to break out in a sweat right before I woke up, just now.

It was a dream about being unemployed, with less and less hope. A reality about to begin for me 32 years ago this Fall; a reality in which the “50” man has been living for the last 2-3 years, with no active prospects. One day he was working; the next day it was over.

We stood around the birthday cake last evening, sang Happy Birthday and all, but everyone in the room, of adult age, probably were thinking, as I was: where will this hell end for our friend, our relative.

No one really knows.

For me, perhaps for most of us there in that room, there was a sense of hopelessness. I’m 14 years retired and my “linked in” profile is of little use to this 50 year old: even if I had contacts, they are in sectors for which the birthday guy has no qualifications whatever.

It is not quite so simple as “just go get a job”.

By the time you’re in your 40s, in our society, your life course has been pretty well set. You were trained for something, and you did it, and then it ended for one of an endless number of reasons, and there you were, stuck, getting older, unqualified for the available alternatives. So, as with this 50 year old, you need to retrain to do something you haven’t done before, and then begin life again, at 50, in competition with younger people who have better skills (and are cheaper, etc., and can be shaped and molded easier than someone with a particular mindset.)

More than most, in that room last night, I could relate to this guy seeking to start over.

Yesterday, in this space, I wrote of a trip to Quebec with my Dad at age 42 in June, 1982. At that moment in history I was at the end of a sabbatical leave from my career, and I had, literally, “burned out”, ten years into a high stress job. And there were assorted other dynamics intruding on an outwardly successful appearing life.

I was doing well, outside, but not doing so well at all inside. I needed to regroup.

Three months or so later I resigned the job (in the midst of a bad recession), and embarked on 12 months which I have always described, since, as both the best and worst year of my entire life. (I had better years, and I actually had worse, but not occurring at the same time.)

Because I had resigned, there was no unemployment insurance.

I started out pretty optimistic. My Christmas letter for 1982 was not hopeless. It is here, see the last paragraph:Vietnam Mem DC 1982001

Twelve months later, in early September, 1983, I was near desperate. I had been on the Corporate Board for Catholic Charities when my mis-adventure began, watching over programs for the down and out. Here I was, a year later, near down and out, too proud to reach out for welfare or the such.

It was probably old memories of that time that triggered the unpleasant dream just now.

At the end of September, 1983, I was reemployed, back to work in mid-October, and the hell began to end, and life has been very good since.

But I’m not prone to judge what’s going on in the mind of the person down-on-his (or her) -luck for whatever reason. Unemployment is not a soundbite. It is a cruel reality.

I’ve been there, done that.

I wish the new 50 year old my own resurrection, which began in Hibbing MN, mid-October, 1983….

Then, perhaps, it can be a “Happy Birthday”.

#903 – Dick Bernard: St-Jean Baptiste Day June 24. Adding to a conversation about heritage and culture.

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

In Minneapolis, this Tuesday, June 24, the Canada Consul-General is hosting a celebration of St-Jean Baptiste, sponsored by Alliance Francaise de Minneapolis. The flier is here: La St-Jean Baptiste la Fete Nationale du Quebec. All are welcome, at a very moderate cost. Unfortunately, I’ll be out of state at the time of Fete de la St-Jean Baptiste. Otherwise, no question I’d be there. It will be a festive event.

My father, Henry Bernard, is 100% French-Canadian, thus qualifying me…and since 1980 I’ve been actively involved in family history matters relating to Dads Quebec (to Dad, always, refered to as “Lower Canada”).*

In 1982, Dad and I and four others traveled to rural Quebec, including Quebec City and Montreal, to make a first visit to the land of our ancestors (QC, Ile d’Orleans, St. Henri, St. Lambert et al). I had, then, only the most basic notions of the family history and traditions of my French-Canadian heritage. Dad was 74, then, which happens to be my current age….

After soupe aux pois (pea soup) at a festive weekend event of La Societe Canadienne-Francaise du Minnesota, some days later we all arrived in Quebec City on the evening of St-Jean Baptiste Day (StJB), Thursday, June 24, 1982. StJB is a major festive event in Quebec, a holiday, always June 24**.

I know Dad pretty well: arriving on the Lower Canada home soil from which his father had come in 1894, (and his grandparents on Grandmas side, 40 and 30 years earlier) was, for him, like arriving in Heaven.

Being a novice in the matter of ancestry at the time, the experience was less intense for me, but no less profound. Three times since I’ve been back, and later immersed myself in family history and the hobby of editing a little newsletter called Chez Nous.

(click on photos to enlarge them)

St. Jean-Baptiste side altar at Cathedral of St. Paul, June 23, 2013

St. Jean-Baptiste side altar at Cathedral of St. Paul, June 23, 2013

In Quebec, this year as all years, June 24 is a major day of celebration. The official notice is here, in French. The document can be translated into English, here. But, no question, they consider this a French-Canadian day***.

So far, I describe a Quebec holiday, primarily French-Canadian, celebrated this year at the home of the Canadian-Consul General in Minneapolis, sponsored by a French-related organization, Alliance Francaise de Minneapolis. We French-Canadians frequently have held smaller celebrations here, most recently June 24, 2013. I wrote about aspects of last year here.

For those with intense feelings about matters French, French-Canada, Canada, and England, (and “Americans”, and “Yankees”, etc) the preceding words can excite some interesting conversation.

An alternative welcoming French word “rapprochement” comes to mind….

Enjoy June 24 and St-Jean Baptiste!

As it happens, I became involved a bit in the “drama” of French and Canadian on St. Jean-Baptiste Day a year ago, after the event of the brand new French-American Heritage Foundation, on whose Board I have served since its founding in 2013.

A year ago, I stopped by the Cathedral of St. Paul to take the above photo of St. John the Baptist, one of the six side altars devoted to national groups, primarily Catholic, who settled in the Minnesota of Archbishop John Ireland’s day.


I had long known of the altars existence but this day was different: for the first time, then, I really noted the signage identifying the altar:


It came time to correct, I felt, an error in the sign, and on July 1, 2013, I wrote a letter to the Rector of the Cathedral, Rev. John Ubel, in part, as follows:

As you know, Archbishop Ireland, whose project it was to build the Cathedral in the early 1900s, had a great affection for both France and the French-Canadians who migrated here in the tens if not hundreds of thousands in the early days of the then-immense Diocese.

It is true that St-Jean Baptiste was a French patron, and it was through the French settlement of Quebec, that this same Saint became patron of the French-Canadians. So, the French part of the sign is correct.

The problem comes with the “Canadian” portion of the sign. It is misleading. Recently I was reviewing the 1940 United States Census form, where census takers were instructed as follows: in the column heading “Place of Birth”: “Distinguish Canada-French from Canada-English, and Irish Free State (Eire) from Northern Ireland“.

In the classic book, Maria Chapdelaine, (Louis Hemon, 1913), there appears this phrase on p. 89 of my English version: “When the French Canadian speaks of himself it is invariably and simply as a “Canadian”; whereas for all other races that followed in his footsteps, and people the country across to the Pacific, he keeps the name of origin: English, Irish, Polish, Russian; never admitting for a moment that the children of these, albeit born in the country, have an equal title to be called “Canadians.” Quite naturally, and without thought of offending, he appropriates the name won in the heroic days of his forefathers.

I understand that this may not rise to the top of your list of priorities, and perhaps more evidence is reasonably required, but at minimum I would hope you review this matter.”

In the manner of such things, I had no expectation of a response from Rev. Ubel, but he did respond quite quickly and said my argument made sense, and they’d be looking into the matter.

Months passed by. Then, in the mail May 2, 2014, was a handwritten note from Rev. Ubel: “I do wish to write to share with you that we have completed the work to change the signage at the St. John the Baptist Shrine Altar. You were correct and we made the correction.

Many thanks for your patience. We decided to go with French-Canadians, though I certainly understand other arguments. French and Canadians is clearly wrong. We looked at our own historical records of the Chapel.

I went back to the Cathedral, to see what had been done with the signage:

May 4, 2014

May 4, 2014

I look at this story as not a battle won in any national war; rather an effort to revisit a long history of too-often fractured relationships.

And this year I’ll really appreciate a great deal the efforts of Canada, through Consul General Jamshed Merchant, and Alliance Francaise de Minneapolis, and hope to see continuing and increasing efforts at rapprochement (what a wonderful word!)

* Mom was 100% German ancestry; her ancestors coming to Wisconsin between 1840s and 1860s from what was then Westphalia and Hanover states.
** A week later comes Canada Day, celebrated each year across Canada on July 1. I’d imagine this is a pretty big vacation week in Canada, not just Quebec.
*** St. Jean-Baptiste was early on a favored patron of France, from which my and others French-Canadian ancestors migrated beginning in the early 1600s. One story of that relationship is here.

#900 – Dick Bernard: A Ride on the St. Paul-Minneapolis Green Line

Monday, June 16th, 2014

NOTE: There is plenty of “regular” news about the inauguration of the Minneapolis to St. Paul Green Line train Saturday and Sunday. Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Twin Cities Daily Planet are three of, doubtless, many.

At the St. Paul Union Station terminus June 15, 2014

At the St. Paul Union Station terminus June 15, 2014

Some personal observations: a ride on the railroad

My spouse, Cathy, takes events like Father’s Day seriously. So, as Sunday loomed, she asked what I wanted to do for the day. I had only a single request: to join the throng that would doubtless pack the Green Line train on the opening, free, weekend. I even entertained the notion of trying to be on the first free ride early Saturday morning. That was a bit nuts, so we ended up going mid-afternoon on Sunday.

It wasn’t that I’ve never been on a train.

Occasionally we ride the Blue Line from Mall of America to Target Field via the Airport for a Minnesota Twins game. We begin the journey with plenty of seating; the return, after the game, begins with everyone packed like sardines.

The earliest train ride I remember was sometime in the late 1940s, 14 miles between Sykeston and Carrington ND, and back, in the single passenger car of the spur line which went from Carrington west to Turtle Lake in the morning, turned around and came back in the afternoon. Sykeston was the second stop. For some specific reason, on this particular day the route was reversed so that townspeople of Sykeston could “ride the rails” to small-but-larger Carrington and back, without staying overnight. There had to be some specific arrangement.

For a little kid, it was fun, including the occasional soot from the stack of the coal fired steam engine a few cars forward.

Once in awhile, rarely, there have been other train rides: as a college student from Valley City to Minneapolis about 1960 for a student union conference. That was an overnight ride, where the train seemed to stop in the middle of nowhere, frequently. Now and then there have been AMTRAK journeys, as St. Louis to Rochester NY; Washington D.C. to North Carolina; St. Paul to Hartford Ct via Rochester NY; Minneapolis to Chicago with my young son in the 1960s.

What are your memories of trains?

So, came Sunday afternoon, beginning at St. Paul’s Union Station. Initially the plan – my plan, as for a moment I “ruled the roost” – was to go the entire 11 miles and 20 stops from newly reopened Union Station to Target Field. I changed my mind. We went as far as the University of Minnesota stop, turned around and came back. The other stations we’ve seen before.

All of the route was familiar territory. It was just nice to see it from a train or, rather, experience it in a train. Westbound we were seated, and could see little; coming back we were standing, and could see little. It was a free day, after all, and train was full of people, including many friendly and polite families with young kids. This was an outing, not a trip to work!

Here’s two photos I took, one while seated; the second while standing. You can tell which is which!

View from the seated position

View from the seated position

...and from the standing position.

…and from the standing position.

Of course, there were a few grousers demonstrating. “STUPID” said one sign on Saturday; “Nobody will ride it” said another demonstrator. Waste of tax money….

Of course, it isn’t like the Green Line is something novel. Trains and subways and the like are ubiquitous, though not as ubiquitous as I’d like them to be.

As one nice person said while we waited at University Station for the ride back: “we drew preliminary plans for this route 25 years ago”. A news comment suggests that the idea was first surfaced 30 years before 2014. Long before that were streetcars.

It took so long because the “auto” interests prevailed. The monopolist who brought buses (big autos) to this area burned the streetcars so they wouldn’t be competition ever again. Later, I seem to recall, he went to prison for something or other.

But the Green Line was fun on Sunday, and when the hubbub settles down, it will be a busy line and enhance everyones quality of life. The grousers will grouse about something else.

Take it for a ride, sometime. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Green & Blue Line001

#899 – Dick Bernard: Happy Father’s Day

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Happy Father’s Day to everyone.

My favorite postcard, from 1910, to my Grandma Busch on the farm in North Dakota, from one of her sisters in Wisconsin, is this one:

(click to enlarge photos)
BUSCH Postcards early 1900s - 92 - Sep 1 1910097

At the time, Grandma had two kids, three and one (my mother, the one year old), and Women’s Suffrage was 10 years away.

The card was a little reminder, I suppose, even back in the “good old days” (as perceived by some, perhaps even still).

This Sunday morning I was ushering at Basilica of St. Mary, as usual, and one of the male members of the fabulous Basilica Choir was leading the congregation in the Alleluia before the Gospel reading.

A lady came back about that time, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, proudly, “that’s my son, singing up there!” A minute or two later, enroute back from wherever she’d been, she added a footnote: “he’s an identical twin; his brother is also in the choir!”

Her pride was merited.

I thought to myself that in this picture was a biological Dad. And any number of male and females that had been in advisory capacities, along with Mom, as these twins with marvelous singing voices grew up. Being Father (and Mother) is a team activity, from birth to death.

In our own constellation, there are five biological Dad’s, each their own unique person.

Everyone of them, and this Grandpa, have their own styles and are examples to others. Note, I didn’t say “good examples”. It seems to me that each one of us, regardless of gender or role teach not only by our positive qualities but by our mistakes, which are (at least for me) plenty numerous. Every now and then I run across parents who are trying to insulate their kids from the evils of the world. I feel badly for them, since it never quite works out according to plan. Maybe we can minimize the problems, but as each one of us can attest we sometimes bumble along, remembering stuff we wish we hadn’t done; regretting things we wish we had, but didn’t.

My favorite Father’s Day picture is one I only recently found, from 1949, out there on Grandma and Grandpa’s farm:

Mother's Day, 1949, at the Busch farm.  Standing at rear, from left, Lucina Pinkney, Edith Busch, Henry with John Bernard.  Middle Row: Esther and Mary Ann Bernard; Grandma Busch.  Front row from left: Richard and Frank Bernard, Ron Pinkney, Florence Bernard, Jim Pinkney.

Mother’s Day, 1949, at the Busch farm. Standing at rear, from left, Lucina Pinkney, Edith Busch, Henry with John Bernard. Middle Row: Esther and Mary Ann Bernard; Grandma Busch. Front row from left: Richard and Frank Bernard, Ron Pinkney, Florence Bernard, Jim Pinkney.

This is a Mother’s Day picture, but to me it contributes to the universality of the word “father”.

Dad is there, of course, and it is May, 1949. Not in the photo are Duane Pinkney, the father of the two boys are lower right (most likely he was taking the picture); nor are Grandpa Busch and his son, my Uncle Vincent.

We went home after that day on the farm, and as was quite common, came back late in July of 1949. This time we stayed overnight, and a vicious wind blew the roof off the barn, a scant 200 feet or so from where we had been sleeping.

Uncle Vince takes up the story: they now had a big problem on their hands. No barn roof. Dad was a school teacher and it was summertime, so he stayed around while the three men set about hand building a new roof for the barn. Dad was invaluable, Vince says. Me? I was nine. I remember bits and pieces: the form for the roof, the big people nailing boards…. Sixty-five years later the barn still stands, though it is not doing well, as they’d say at a clinic for barns.

The Barn, Sep 20, 2013.  Built 1915, roof replaced 1949.  Unused for years.

The Barn, Sep 20, 2013. Built 1915, roof replaced 1949. Unused for years.

Look at that barn. Imagine it without a roof, in August, 1949, after the storm. Notice a young boy up there, 9 years old; his Dad, 41, his Grandpa, 69, and his Uncle Vince, 24. The nine year old was me, then, watching the others pound the nails, etc. Probably I could pound one or two….

Dad died in 1997. For some years prior to his death I would quite often be his driver when he came north to visit places like the farm. About that time, I began to spend perhaps a week most summers at the farm, just helping out. Vince, who is now in the twilight of his years, became in a real sense something of a new Dad, and a good one, though most of our times were basically quiet times. His sister, Edith, helped out in that role too.

We are all family, whether biologically connected or not.

At the end of Mass today, the Priest asked all the men to stand for a Blessing. Years ago this used to be for biological fathers only.

It’s a good change.

Happy Father’s Day.

Uncle Vince, at the funeral of his sister, my Aunt Edith, February 15, 2014

Uncle Vince, at the funeral of his sister, my Aunt Edith, February 15, 2014

#896 – Dick Bernard: Magnifique!* An evening with Mozart’s last three symphonies

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

For subscribers (and all): here’s the May 3 “For Pete’s Sake” concert in honor of Pete Seeger. The originating post is here.

My sister Mary Ann’s continuing posts from Vanuatu can be seen here. Scroll to the June 7, 2014 addition at the very end of the post.


While by no means an expert, I like orchestral music, and a favorite composer is Mozart. So when we dug out our tickets for last night, and they said “Mozart: The Three Final Symphonies”, I was pleased. It would be a great evening at Orchestra Hall.

And it was.

The program: Symphonies 39, 40 and 41, all composed in 1788, when Mozart was 32 years old; all first performed in 1791, the year he died at age 35, less than half my age.

What a life he lived. And what a legacy he left behind. Larger than life in many ways. A prodigy.

I can’t sit still with his music in my ears.

(* – Mozart was Austrian, and thus German language. But the French “Magnifique” as a descriptor works just fine for moi!)

It happened, last night, that a young man took the seat next to me, and was very friendly, striking up a conversation before the concert began. He’d been the Orchestra “years before” he said at the invitation of a teacher at the college he was attended. This concert was “pretty pricey” he said. We chatted, briefly, about this and that.

No question, that he was engaged and enthusiastic about the performance he was witnessing.

I got to thinking about a recent Facebook post I’d received from my daughter, about Grandson Ted, who was 14 yesterday, and whose birthday we’ll celebrate in an hour or two.

The Facebook post included grandson Teddy Flatley’s arrangement of Spanish Flea, June 3, 2014, South St. Paul MN. His Mom, my daughter, Lauri: “Ok… so I have to admit it. I’m pretty proud of this kid. Not that I have ever NOT been proud of him. Today was just a flat out reminder of how extraordinary he is to me. Way to go T Flat. I can hardly wait to see where the road takes you next!”

Happy Birthday, Ted!

Shortly before that, daughter Joni had e-mailed files with music programs of her kids, Spencer and Parker, 14 and 12. I’d attach those audio files too, but don’t have the expertise….

Ted is mathematical, a good aptitude for a musician, and he seems to have settled in with music as a specialty. Spencer and Parker like band, but Trap Shooting and Baseball respectively seem to be their activities of choice.

For all of us, our own way in our own time….

Looking through the program I noticed an upcoming program: Pixar, June 26-28, 2014: Pixar001

This afternoon I’ll ask the three kids if they want to go to this concert.

It will be interesting to see their response.

Great music from the proverbial “old dead musicians” isn’t all there is, but it surely is very important to all of us, especially the young, and I hope the boys stay interested.

There are variations that reach across generations. As previously noted in the blog about the Bugs Bunny at the Symphony concert, fine music and ‘toons go hand in hand.

Could be much worse….

Fine music has to be accessible to and encouraged for young people. This includes pricing and accessibility. Fine music isn’t for only those who can “afford” it.