Quietings

...now browsing by category

 

#1044 – Dick Bernard: The Women in the Yard. Looking for Clara.

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

Thursday I published a piece that included a family photo taken 72 years ago, in the summer of 1943, in rural North Dakota.

Everyone was in that picture, except for the Mom, and I observed that “[t]he entire family is in the photo, save their mother, Clara, who was probably taking the picture”.

The family was not kin of mine, so I didn’t know of them except by name, but they were near neighbors and fellow church members with my grandparents Rosa and Fred Busch.

I would have been three years old when that picture was taken at the nearby farm.

Overnight it occurred to me that in the same batch of photos I’ve been reviewing for a long while now, might be a photo which includes Clara Long*.

It is here:

(click to enlarge)

A gathering of women, labelled Berlin (ND) picnic September 7, 1952.

A gathering of women, labelled Berlin (ND) picnic September 7, 1952.

There seem to be 24 women in this picture, plus one youngun’. My Grandma Busch is directly behind the little kid. Aunt Edith, my Aunt and her daughter, is in the back row at far right, it appears. This picture was in the yard of the Busch farmhouse, where pictures were traditionally taken when people came to visit. The photo was unusual size, about 2×2″, so probably taken with someone other than Grandpa’s camera.

Most likely it is the women of St. John’ Catholic Church in Berlin, both social and service, as typical in churches then and still.

Such a photo truly speaks “a thousand words”…indeed many more.

Perhaps Chistina, the sister-in-law of Clara, who e-mailed to comment on the earlier photo, will remember Clara, and see other women of the town she recognizes.

It occurs to me, now many years later, that these women represented the life of that, and every, community in more ways than one.

Grandma, just as a single instance, birthed nine children in the house that you cannot see, just to the photographers left. By September, 1952, she and he husband Fred had been married 47 years, and their youngest child, Vincent, was 27.

Likely all those women are gone now, but what a legacy they no doubt left behind.

Here’s to the ordinary women and men who brought this world to life, one person at a time!

Thank you.

* – I was incorrect. According to a family member, Clara had died when the youngest was two years old. The photographer was likely the second wife.

#1041 – Dick Bernard: “God Bless America”

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

“God bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her,
Thru the night, with a light from above….”

Thus Irving Berlin wrote, in 1918, the song that has become an anthem of the United States.

“…From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home.
God bless America,
My home sweet home.”

Today is the 4th of July, the day of celebrating culminated by “bombs bursting in air”, as we will be reminded this evening by formal fireworks displays, and have already been reminded by early informal fireworks displays in neighborhoods.

“The Fourth” has a very long tradition. Here’s a photo of a baseball game from the 4th of July, 1924, at the Grand Rapids ND Veterans Memorial Park; one of the hundreds of photos found at the North Dakota farm I’ve so often written about in this space.

(click to enlarge)

Grand Rapids ND July 4, 1924

Grand Rapids ND July 4, 1924

I wasn’t around in 1924, but I’ve been to several July 4ths since 1940 at that very Grand Rapids park, and my memories are of similar rituals each time we went: the baseball game, fishing in the James River, adult games like horseshoes for the old guys (probably about in their 50s – time changes perceptions!), picnic lunches, lots of visiting…. A simple and nostalgic time, for sure. Elements of the old tradition remain, of course. But celebrating July 4 has changed in a great many ways as we’ve become a mobile and very prosperous society.

For me, the title of this blog comes from a particular use of the phrase “God Bless America” which I saw last Monday afternoon as I checked into a motel in Bismarck ND.

Bismarck ND June 30, 2015

Bismarck ND June 30, 2015

When I saw this truck last Monday, emblazoned also with “Support our Troops” on the back panel, I didn’t pick up gentle vibes.

There was less a “stand beside her and guide her” request, as there was a martial aspect to all of this, a demand: as it were, “God, bless us, as we command a subordinate world”. This ever more a dicey proposition; a fantasy. We still like to think we’re superior, among less than equals….

My perception on Monday was helped along by a large picture I’d seen two days earlier, of an American military man, one of those surreal “Transformer characters”, a less than human appearing being, a collection of technology and weaponry we see every time our contemporary GI’s are shown in a combat setting somewhere. Not really human appearing, as faced by a known enemy human in World War I or World War II, though similarly vulnerable.

Intimidating, but not.

We look tougher than we are.

But we like the omnipotence message conveyed by that truck in Bismarck earlier this week. The day before, a gigantic black Hummer vehicle passed me by, doubtless driven by some prosperous local citizen, perhaps even a lady. I remember when the Hummers became popular for those who could afford them, during the Iraq war. They’re seen less often now than they were then, there never were very many. But to me they always conveyed an in-your-face-message of omnipotence: “Look at me. Don’t mess with me….” A martial, war, message.

1924 was part of a rare interval between wars for the United States. We even tried to outlaw war with the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928. The time since WWII began for us in 1941 has seen only a single year without some war or another (see America at War001.

Our 4th will be a quiet one today, after a tiring week on the road. Tonights fireworks may wake me up, though usually they don’t.

But I’ll mostly think of that 4th of July I attended once in awhile at the Grand Rapids Memorial Park: catching a bullhead or two, probably some ice cream, some kid games….

A time of enjoyment and rest.

Have a great day.

God bless us all, everywhere.

An in-your-face "American" wears his patriotic jacket in rural Finland, June, 2003, weeks after the Iraq War began, and George W. Busch had just visited St. Petersburg.  Photograph by Dick Bernard

An in-your-face “American” wears his patriotic jacket in rural Finland, June, 2003, weeks after the Iraq War began, and George W. Busch had just visited St. Petersburg. Photograph by Dick Bernard

#1038 – Dick Bernard: The Barn Roof

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

PRE-NOTE: I’ve added to the beginning of yesterdays post material from Basilica of St. Mary today regarding the change in Bishops in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. I have also included a link to Pope Francis recent encyclical on “Care for Our Common Home” (the earth).

*

(click to enlarge photos)

The Bernard kids the morning after the barn went down, summer 1949.  Richard (Dick) is  the kid facing away from the camera.

The Bernard kids the morning after the barn went down, summer 1949. Richard (Dick) is the kid facing away from the camera.

This is the first year ever, in my memory, where I have mailed no Father’s Day best wishes.

I know lots of fathers, including myself. It’s nothing personal. This year, no cards.

My biological Dad died in November 7, 1997, at 89. He was a powerful and positive force in my life. In a real sense, my surrogate Dad, later, never married nor had any children of his own: this was my Uncle Vincent, who died at 90 on February 2, 2015. Vince and I spent a lot of time together, though as I said at the lunch after his funeral, neither one of us were much for talking, and my efforts to record the essence of his thoughts driving between LaMoure and the farm proved fruitless: it was minutes of dead air, with an occasional staccato comment on somebodies field, or a bird in the air. In a real sense he and I were peas in a pod. Now I’m dealing with the end of life issues for him. It is an honor.

Vince’s Dad, my Grandpa Ferd, was another crucial actor. He was 60 or so when I was born, so, while he lived until I was 27, he was always a somewhat ancient personage to me.

Dad and Vince and my life intersected directly and pretty dramatically at one point in my life, which comes to mind on this Father’s Day.

It was the end of July, 1949. I was 9, and we were at the farm, and had gone to bed, only to be awakened by a horrific south wind with very heavy rain. My particular memory was of water gushing in through the window sill. For the adults there was a whole lot of praying going on. Oddly, we stayed upstairs the entire time.

The next memory was the following morning, and when we went outside, the barn roof was no longer on the nearby barn, scattered to the north and east.

My memories are, of course, of a nine year old.

For the adults, it was a time of crisis.

There were cows to milk, and they could be milked, but the roof needed to be rebuilt.

Dad, 42 and a schoolteacher, was still on summer break and could stay and help. Vincent was 24 and, by then, basically the person who did the farming.

Grandpa, I learned years later, scouted the neighborhood and saw a barn with roof-beam pattern he liked, and made a form on the haymow floor, and the men hand-constructed each and every roof beam, then raised the roof, and construction proceeded.

The barn roof beams July 2014

The barn roof beams July 2014

My personal narrative does not include neighbors, etc., but I’m sure they were involved as well. But there was a great deal of damage in the surrounding area from the same storm, and I’m sure Uncle Vincent bore the brunt of the heavy-lifting later, including shingling the structure, which had to be a terrifying task.

These days, 66 years after that summer storm in 1949, the barn still stands, much the worse for wear.

I’ve often said that the barn roof is holding up the 1915 main floor, rather than the other way around, and each time I see that structure, however decrepit it has become, I see a joint effort of family and in particular of men in the summer of 1949.

Nobody’s talked about it much.

Nobody has to.

Happy Father’s Day, everyone.

An inadvertent double exposure, 1949, Uncle Vince appears twice, at left and in center, with his sister, Florence Wieland, her husband Bernard, and son Tom and duaghter Mary.  All in the photo, save Mary, are deceased.

An inadvertent double exposure, 1949, Uncle Vince appears twice, at left and in center, with his sister, Florence Wieland, her husband Bernard, and son Tom and duaghter Mary. All in the photo, save Mary, are deceased.

In the hay mow, May 23, 2015

In the hay mow, May 23, 2015

Henry Bernard in the hay mow June, 1991

Henry Bernard in the hay mow June, 1991

#1033 – Dick Bernard: The Great Olden Days of the 1950s

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

A couple of days ago a friend sent me this forward.

It is an intriguing piece of video, especially for someone like me who was 10 in 1950 and 20 in 1960. It only takes two minutes to view. Take a look and return.

There is, of course, lots to agree with, especially if you lived through childhood and adolescence then. (I’m fond of saying that the real proof that there is a God, is any kid who survives childhood. I can tell my stories; you can as well….)

At about the same time the video crossed my threshold, so did the below 2×2 well worn time-damaged photo labelled “Berlin [ND] Picnic Sept 7 1952”. The handwriting is unmistakably my grandmother Rosa Busch (who is at left in second row behind the little child and, likely, the childs mother.) I have scanned the photo at high resolution so as to make it possible to easily enlarge it. Most likely, given the nature of that day, this is the Ladies Aid (or Rosary Society?) of St. John’s Catholic Church in Berlin.

Take a look at those Moms, in my Grandmas yard, September 7, 1952. Their’s are the faces of the good old days.

Berlin Picnic Sept 7, 1952

Berlin Picnic Sept 7, 1952

I took a look at mortality statistics for our country – sort of the marker for how it was, and how it is. Here are a couple of items worth looking at:
(1) a chart about developed world life expectancy at birth from 1950-present is in the upper right hand corner, here. (click on the chart to enlarge it) NOTE: the projection to the end of this chart is to 2045; notice the point on the chart for 2010-15.
(2) 75 Years of Mortality in the United States 1935-2010 from the Centers for Disease Control.

It would seem to me that a 12 year increase in average life expectancy from about 66 to 78 years over 65 years of history (first chart) is pretty significant.

Maybe there were some down sides to the good old days?

But maybe we prefer looking at the up-side of some of those changes which the video narrates?

Start with the photo of those women. In 1952, the status of “women’s rights” was much different than it is today.

Change didn’t come easy, but it came.

As for surviving, I’m one of those who lucked out, who made it through the assorted risks of growing up. There were far more risks then, I know. No seat belts in cars; you took your chances with drinking water and home-canned food. Who of my age does not recall the lines to get the Salk Polio Vaccine back in those early 1950s?

And the bomb shelters which reminded us that we were in some bulls eye for one of those Soviet bombs aimed at us (and we aimed our own bombs at them, I guess).

I watched Sputnik blink across the night sky at exactly the same spot as the photographer in the same yard of my Grandmas in the Fall of 1957. In those days, Sputniks path across the night sky was printed in the newspaper (it would have been to the photographers right, to the southeast), and on a clear night, as the saying goes, you could see forever, especially on the pristine prairie “back in the day”.

Now, I’m at the age where nostalgia tends easily to trump reality: it is fun to look back in memory to how it used to be (I think).

But not so fast: I see Johnny, in my North Dakota town when I was 10. In today’s terms he’d be so-called severely retarded. He lived at home, and he was older than we kids who used to persecute him till he’d chase us down the street with a bat, or a stick, or whatever. I was not “happy days” for Johnny (who’s still alive, I hear.)

In many ways we’ve over-corrected, I admit, but by and large I’d rather be where I am, now, than back in those olden days.

COMMENTS:
from Joyce, June 3:
Whenever someone waxes nostalgic about the good old days, I think about the plight of those for whom the ’50s were a horror show, in particular, African Americans, but also intelligent women who had few outlets for their intelligence, Jews (universities openly had Jewish quotas in those days and HR departments displayed signs stating that Jews need not apply) and all the people whose careers were destroyed by the McCarthy witch hunts.

from Flo: Thanks for bringing some reality to the good old days! Some kids who were tortured by parents, siblings, or bullies are the angry ones now torturing all of us in retribution!

#1032 – Dick Bernard: Catching a Moment in Time. Saturday, March 18, 1905

Friday, May 29th, 2015
Visiting the graves of Ferd and Rosa Busch, and three of their children, Verena, Edithe and Vincent, Berlin ND St. John's Cemetery, May 24, 2015

Visiting the graves of Ferd and Rosa Busch, and three of their children, Verena, Edithe and Vincent, Berlin ND St. John’s Cemetery, May 24, 2015

Seventeen of us gathered at the old Ferd and Rosa Busch farm in Henrietta Township on May 24. It was the end of an era: for 110 years the farmstead has been owned, and for the vast majority of that time occupied, by Ferd and Rosa’s family. Now the old place is up for sale, and at some early point new occupants will take over the newly re-surveyed 10 acre farmstead, 10 miles northwest of LaMoure, 5 miles northeast from Berlin, about the same southwest from Grand Rapids ND.

Saturday a few of us were doing the last run through of the artifacts now stored in the metal machine shed.

One item remaining was the formidable wooden packing crate which brought the Busch possessions from southwest Wisconsin via Dubuque in March of 1905. For years the crate resided quietly in the attic in the old house; thence in Vincent’s bedroom in the new. It had been opened previously, but not examined in detail.

This day, we took out everything, including Grandma’s wedding dress, in near perfect condition after 110 years.

But there was something else I noticed in a box within the crate. There were a couple of old newspapers, used for packing back then. I took them out: one of them was a pretty well crumpled newspaper in German from November of 1904; the second was the Dubuque Morning Telegraph for Saturday, March 18, 1905. Grandma and Grandpa married on February 28, 1905, and I knew they hadn’t left immediately for North Dakota. I can now deduce from the newspaper date that they probably left for the prairie shortly after March 18.

That was only the first piece of “news” from that paper….

(click to enlarge)

Dubuque Morning  Telegraph, page one, Saturday, March 18, 1905

Dubuque Morning Telegraph, page one, Saturday, March 18, 1905

There were four pages from the newspaper, pages 1, 2, 7 & 8.

The main headline on p. 1 immediately caught my attention: “GENERAL KUROPATKIN IS DISMISSED IN DISGRACE”, followed by the sub-headlines so common in papers of that day: “Gen. Linevitch in Suspreme [sic] Command” “…withdrawing what is left of the great Army of 250,000, men hemmed in on all sides, confronts him.” “Czar shows no signs of yielding” “Preparation for carrying on the war on a greater scale are made by Russians-Oyama in Mukden”.

The front page news in Dubuque was about a war being waged between Russia and Japan in the far eastern reaches of Siberia.

Places like Harbin and Vladivostok were mentioned. Dispatches were included from London and Berlin sources. You could see the same kinds of headlines in today’s newspapers….

In this issue, the Russians were – the Czar was – being defeated.

This defeat was a harbinger of the Czars becoming a thing of the past; Communists were a part of the future. The German-Russians, Lawrence Welk’s kin, probably didn’t know it yet in 1905, but they were all being squeezed out of Russia to new homes, a great many of them migrating to North and South Dakota.

The other stories on the front page had a deja vu aspect to them. A law passed in Delaware to “Abolish Pillory” “inhuman” punishment; in Peoria IL an oil “pipe line across certain highways” hit a snag (“Strikes Snag in Illinois” read the headline); there was a “scheme” by powerful interests “to grab Niagara” Falls, threatening the tourist attraction with extinction.

It was announced by Secretary Taft of the Theodore Roosevelt administration that the U.S. “will retain the Philippine Islands” for perhaps at least a generation. And a fascinating headline prominent at the top of page one said “Castro is preparing to send an Army of 30,000 to take New Orleans to demand Indemnity.” This was not Fidel Castro, rather the then President of Venezuela.

There were no pictures on this front page: it was all news. Other headlines at the bottom of the page: “Sold Wife for $10” (the deal was legal, and okay with the wife, apparently); “Missouri legislature Passes Law Against Bookmaking”. A Baltimore Whiskey maker won a trademark lawsuit against a clever impostor in Brooklyn who had borrowed part of its name.

And so it was, on and on, in Dubuque, Iowa, and the world right after Grandma and Grandpa Busch were married, February 28, 1905.

It was like opening a time capsule….

Some of those at the small reunion at the Busch farm on May 24.  From left Pinkney's, Dick Bernard, Bill Jewett, Carter Hedeen.

Some of those at the small reunion at the Busch farm on May 24. From left Pinkney’s, Dick Bernard, Bill Jewett, Carter Hedeen.

#1031 – Dick Bernard: Taps. A Memorial Day to Remember in LaMoure

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

POSTNOTE, May 29, from Kathy G: A one-minute ad without a single word, for Memorial Day. “This is a one-minute commercial. Not a word spoken and none is needed. Food City is a Southern grocery store chain with headquarters in Bristol, Tennessee.”

May 25, 2015, American Legion, LaMoure ND

May 25, 2015, American Legion, LaMoure ND

Reunion over, and about to leave LaMoure ND, we and my brother John decided to attend the annual Memorial Day observance at the LaMoure American Legion post. It is always moving and inspiring – an honor to attend, as is the usual observance by the Veterans for Peace in St. Paul MN which I had to miss this year.

I had been to several observances with my Uncle and Aunt in LaMoure over the years, so I knew what to expect, but brother John, long retired from a 20-year career as an Air Force officer, and long-time Californian, was deeply impressed with the local observance, as was my wife, Cathy. Neither had been there before.

Monday was an iffy day, weather-wise, but the place was packed as usual, with music provided by local high-schoolers, with the reading of names of departed veterans, and a couple of very good speeches. (I can’t name names: my program departed the car enroute home during a windy and rainy stop to change drivers at Fergus Falls.)

At the end of the formal presentation indoors, we adjourned to the vacant lot beside the Legion where crosses were planted, poppies affixed, an honor guard with flags and rifles for the traditional salute, and then taps, expertly played by a young woman, probably high school age.

We had a mix of near sunshine, and light rain, almost perfect.

It was all deeply moving.

(click to enlarge all photos)

May 25, 2015, LaMoure ND

May 25, 2015, LaMoure ND

Inside, the narrator had earlier read the names of all local military veterans who have died.

Even in this small community, it was a very long list of names, particularly for World War II, and World War I as well. As I remember: departed veterans were named from the Civil War, and the “Indian War” during the same time period; the Spanish-American; Korean, Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

This observance emphasized the physically dead. Back home in the evening I noticed that the national observance on the Capitol mall now recognizes also those veterans permanently physically disabled by war. The Vets for Peace recognizes all of these, but also those mortally wounded psychologically: PTSD, mental illness, drugs and alcohol, homeless….

Saturday, I’d seen the reader of names at the fish dinner at the same Legion, and he said that every year somebody mentions somebody not named who should have been on the list.

Little did I know that I’d be writing him my own letter today. He read the names of my uncles, Shipfitter Frank Bernard (USS Arizona), and Lt. George W. Busch (USS Woodworth); but not those of Uncle Arthur Busch (U.S. Army 1945-46), nor Art and George’s cousin next farm over, Capt. August Berning, Marine in the Pacific Theatre WWII, both deceased.

So next year, the narrators list will be even longer, thanks to me, and to others who also add names, and, of course, more veterans who have died in the days to come.

*

The recitation of names by War caused me to think about categories of Wars in which the U.S. been engaged, and how people have engaged in those wars. (In a previous post I included an American Legion summary of these wars: America at War001)

Of course, the early wars, including the Revolutionary, came as our country grew to today’s boundaries of the lower 48 states. Wars brought us into being, over 150 years ago, against England, etc.

But by far our most deadly war was our own Civil War: the same war which birthed the very concept of Memorial Day. We were at War against ourselves, then. It is not an abstraction to think that perhaps the current “war” between Sunni and Shiite centered in Iraq and Syria might not be such a novel occurrence. There are far more similarities than differences to our own Civil War. In our own country, the Civil War was brother-against-brother; slavery or not was the main issue; plenty of Old Testament scriptural basis supported slavery.

Then there were the Teddy Roosevelt adventures: Spanish-American War, Cuba, the Philippines, etc. That was my Grandpa Bernard’s War: North Dakota’s were among the first volunteers to go to the Philippines in 1898, and Grandpa was on the boat with the others.

The deadliest wars so far, WWI and WWII, the U.S. entered long after they began, reluctantly. There was debate whether we should have entered earlier, or not at all. Wars are complicated things, after all. In WWI my Grandpa Busch’s hired man, whose name I do not know, was killed. Grandpa wanted to volunteer, but there was the matter of his being ethnic German, which complicated things a whole lot for Germans in this country.

Then there were the anti-Communist Wars, like Korea and Vietnam, and the near miss with Cuba and Russian Missiles in 1962 (I was in the Army, then). It’s been years since the Soviet Union became Russia and other countries, but the “Communist” card is still played by some, perhaps yearning for the good old days of the Cold War. Wars have an unfortunate way of living on, far past their reason.

And there have been wars just for the hell of it (it seems to me): Grenada comes to mind. Remember the Grenada War?

*

Through Korea, Wars were very personal things: if you were at war, you were at war against someone who could shoot you dead. The days of massive standing Armies and compulsory draft are long past, the times when (as in my own family) we three boys all served; or four of my five uncles (the fifth was needed on the farm). The notion of a citizen Army (males of a certain age) ended with the end of the Draft in 1975 and (in my opinion) will never be successfully marshaled again, even in times of major crisis.

Memorial Day remembers old wars….

Now war has become a video game, threatening every single one of us, if we can’t figure out how to deal with each other, including the top guys who have led and will lead people into these ever deadlier things called war.

“Evil” will never end (not always restricted just to the “bad guys”). Yes, we can be the bad guys, and have been.

And, there is much to be said for “duty, honor, country”.

But the reality of evil, and those honorable concepts can be and are misused by all “sides”, including our own.

There are lots of alternatives to war, and while peace can be very messy in itself, it far exceeds the never-ending problems with attempting to win the peace by war. That has never, and will never, work.

Thanks, LaMoure American Legion, for a most respectful and sombre Memorial Day 2015.

I will not forget.

LaMoure ND May 25, 2015

LaMoure ND May 25, 2015

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The Reader of the Names

The Reader of the Names

The Student Speaker

The Student Speaker

The main speaker

The main speaker

The traditional Salute

The traditional Salute

#1027 – Dick Bernard: Remembering 50 years; a Teacher Union Gathering.

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Today was the annual Recognition Dinner of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota, and as I’ve done since the first one, in 2001, I always attend. And when I get home, I’m always glad I made the trip to the north suburbs of Minneapolis, to some venue in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

It was a rainy late afternoon, early evening, this year, and a rush hour drive, but as always the general theme of food, fun, family prevailed, the family being 85 or so present and past leaders of the now over 2700 member teacher union.

This year I was especially glad to be there, though externally I probably looked and sounded a bit withdrawn.

It was an evening of reminiscence…a time of thinking back.

It was 50 years ago this coming summer, July 21, 1965, when I came to Anoka for the first time, and signed a contract to teach in the brand new Roosevelt Junior High School in the neighboring town of Blaine. I signed the contract in Superintendent Erling Johnson’s office in the old Anoka Senior High School, the school from which Garrison Keillor had graduated a few years earlier, in 1960.

I didn’t know it then, but three days later my critically ill wife, Barbara, would die at the University of Minnesota Hospital, leaving me in a strange city, a new arrival, with a year and a half son. Survival depended on community, in the broadest definition….

(click to enlarge all photos)

Dick and Tom Bernard about Halloween 1965 at Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis MN

Dick and Tom Bernard about Halloween 1965 at Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis MN

The early weeks remain a blur, and the first year was especially difficult, but somehow or other unplanned things tend to work out, and in this case they did.

Another unplanned event got me involved in the teacher’s union beginning towards the end of the 1960s.

I was teaching at Roosevelt, and a teacher colleague, Ron Swanson, became President of what was then called AHEA, the Anoka-Hennepin Education Association. Anoka-Hennepin was already a large district, and while there was not yet collective bargaining, representing about 1000 teachers was very hard work.

Ron was a local boy, and I was an outsider, but one day I remember Ron walking by with a large box of Association files, heading to a meeting, and complaining of a bad headache.

It was then and there that I decided that I needed to get involved and do something, though I had no idea what teachers unions did. That singular decision led to a 27 year career representing public school teachers – something I’d never even considered doing. So is how life goes.

AHEA Executive Board Meeting in October 1971

AHEA Executive Board Meeting in October 1971

You learn quickly, of course, when you jump in, and others who are active see that you have an interest.

For me, it began with becoming part of a Public Relations Committee which founded something we decided to call “Coins for the Community”. Tonight, at the dinner, it was mentioned that Coins for Community remains as a project of the Association 45 years later!

Old AHEA Newsletters I have reveal the origin and first results of “Coins for Community”: AHEA Coins for Community001. I can still see in minds eye the small committee meeting in an Anoka-Hennepin classroom deciding on the project. A teacher at Sorteberg Elementary School asked her son to design the Coins logo which was used for years.

Then came a year of editing the Teacher Association newsletter, thence dabbling in negotiations, thence diving into the totally uncharted waters of Executive Director of the local Union beginning in March, 1972.

American Education Week 1970.  These youngsters would now be in their late 50s!

American Education Week 1970. These youngsters would now be in their late 50s!

"Revolution" in the Fall of 1970

“Revolution” in the Fall of 1970

Growing Pains January 1971, at what was soon to become Anoka Senior High School

Growing Pains January 1971, at what was soon to become Anoka Senior High School

There were increasing numbers of we teachers who became active back then and, truth be told, we all basically slogged along, putting one foot in front of the other, learning as we went along. So did management adapt and adjust. They had no concept of sharing power with employees – it just was something that had never been done.

We all learned, making abundant mistakes in the process.

What heartened me tonight is that this Association survived and thrived long after we departed from the scene.

Sitting in that room tonight, among a number of we “old-timers” were a large crop of present day active members of the Association, the people who make any organization work: in a real sense, a family of people who work together towards a common cause, not always agreeing on what or how to do this or that, but nonetheless getting the job done…and being respected by the other side.

Sometime in the next months there will be a 50-year anniversary of the opening of Roosevelt Junior High School. When it happens, I’ll be there with the rest of us, all well on in years, now, but nonetheless all people who contributed in our own ways to the future.

Thanks AHEM Local 7007. It was great to be there.

LeMoyne Corgard, President of AHEM, presides over the recognition of teacher leaders May 14, 2015

LeMoyne Corgard, President of AHEM, presides over the recognition of teacher leaders May 14, 2015

#1024 – Dick Bernard: “A Boy Named Sue”, a song for Mother’s Day?

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Today we did what has come to be an annual trip, possibly four miles to the Ramsey County Correctional Facility (RCCF) to purchase Mother’s Day Flowers. (More here.)

The seasonal business is staffed by inmates at this place once called the Workhouse; 25% of the proceeds count as a donation. It is a pleasant task, buying flowers at a jail while helping some folks recover from the mistake(s) that got them confined there.

(click to enlarge)
RCCF Flowers001.

I’ve written about this program before. Every inmate there has a mother, and father, and ancestors…and some problem that got them time….

This year I was reminded of a session on “heritage” that I conducted on Monday evening, coincidentally my 75th birthday, in Minneapolis.

Heritage, I said on Monday, is everything about us, brought to us from our past. In Old French the word heritage essentially means “inheritance” from our ancestors.

We usually think of our ancestry, as people we know: our Mom, our Dad, maybe our Grandparents, but we are a sum of thousands of predecessors, parents, uncles and aunts, siblings, on and on and on. Each brings to us something empowering or disabling. Much is DNA; or observed and learned behaviors, and on and on.

Our “inheritance” is far more than money – or lack of same….

Thinking about how to approach Mondays topic, I decided to frame heritage as our collective “baggage” and “balloons”.

If we’re lucky, and determined, the balloons we’ve inherited have greater lift than the weight of the baggage. We can rise above much; sometimes like these inmates who were helping us today, we’re dragged down, but we can recover.

I kept thinking of Johnny Cash’s old tune, “A Boy Named Sue”, and found an unexpurgated and particularly entertaining version on YouTube. (Yes, this version has the cuss words, little kids doing fake violence and the like, but c’mon, every now and then you’ve thunk the same ’bout your own situation and who bears the blame for your state of being at some particular time!).

Somewhere out there on the internet, I’m sure, there’s analysis about what drew Johnny Cash to sing the verses of that song, and made that song so popular. Here’s one. We identify with imperfection, because we’re imperfect. Doubtless in the video that accompanies the song, those little kids who were the “actors” had fun with the rubber knife and the play gun.

I guess it’s part of the life we all experience from time to time, our private face..

But for all of us it started with a Mom and a Dad, and for them, the same, and back all through human history.

Happy Mother’s Day!

And if you’re in the area, and haven’t got your flowers as yet, try the RCCF sale this weekend, or through May 24.

A related post here.

And an interesting commentary, “Teach Your Children Well“.

#1017 – Dick Bernard: Reminiscing Along North Dakota’s I-94

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

For a few hours last Friday I reacquainted with about 130 miles of North Dakota’s I-94, between Mandan and Valley City ND. Thanks for the unexpected trip, and the opportunity to reminisce, go to my Uncle Vince.

Vincent, who died on February 2, was a long-time member of the Catholic Fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus, as was his Dad, my Grandpa. Grandpa joined about 1921, and Vincent in 1947.

As part of the annual North Dakota Knights of Columbus gathering, this year in Mandan ND on April 17, about 150 KCs who’d died in the past year were recognized by a reading of their names and procession of candles, one dedicated to each departed Knight.

I was invited as a member of Vincent’s family, and attending was the least I could do.

It was a very impressive event (portion of program here: KCs Mandan 4-17-15001. Listed (p. 4) and somewhere among the candles (below) was Vincent Busch. A retired and prominent Catholic Cardinal, Theodore McCarrick (p. 5), was celebrant.

Knowing Vincent as I do, he’d probably be embarrassed and said, “what did I ever do to deserve this?”

Well, of course, he deserved the recognition, and the others as well.

We all deserve to be remembered.

(click to enlarge all photos)

At Christ the King Church, Mandan, ND, April 17, 2015

At Christ the King Church, Mandan, ND, April 17, 2015

To get to and from Mandan I drove a portion of I-94 I have rarely driven in the past 50 years.

I-94 Bis-Vc001

Thursday, I started from LaMoure, where I’d had a very busy couple of days. Though only 60 miles to “Jimtown” (Jamestown, in Grandpa’s rendering), I arrived pretty well exhausted and “motelled” there. I wanted a beard trim, and learned from the clerk that the J.C. Penney store across from the motel had a walk-in Beauty Salon. Sure enough. A pleasant lady trimmed my beard.

“How much?”

“No charge”.

It was one of those unexpected kindnesses that you relish when they occur, and you don’t forget. It becomes an invitation to pay it forward, to someone else….

Next morning, enroute west, I stopped in at nearby Eldridge, my home from 1943-45. Elridge is a main-line railroad town on what used to be called the NP (Northern Pacific) Railroad. I photo’ed the first place we lived there (upper floor, north side); and the school in which my Dad was Principal, both still full of memories. I visited both with Dad back in the 1990s. Then, the school was occupied by a lady and her daughter. Today the place is empty, like most of those tiny town schools, mostly brick, which have managed to survive, though empty.

Eldridge ND April 17, 2015

Eldridge ND April 17, 2015

The Eldridge School April 17, 2015

The Eldridge School April 17, 2015

Enroute again, the map reacquainted me with places from my past, especially college days at Valley City State Teachers College. Many classmates I knew, then, were from places like Tappen, Napoleon, Streeter…. I graduated from high school in 1958 at Sykeston; another place we lived in 1942-43 was Pingree. These towns were tiny, but mostly much larger than they are now.

In Bismarck, of course, I visited the State Capitol. The “Prairie Skyscraper”, built to replace the old capitol which burned down Dec. 28, 1930, was always a place of pride for we NoDaks.

This was a bustling place this day: the state legislature was in session. I was there about lunch time, and Senators and Representatives were among those catching lunch. A group, DigitalHorizonsOnline, was testing our knowledge on North Dakota Trivia. Do visit their site.

On the Capitol Grounds is an immensively impressive and newly enlarged State History Museum and Interpretative Center. I highly recommend it. It matches any such facility I’ve seen anywhere.

ND State Capitol, April 17, 2015.  Foreground, the old ND State Library.

ND State Capitol, April 17, 2015. Foreground, the old ND State Library.

Of course, no trip to the Capitol is complete without a trip to the top, to take a picture (below). On the ground level are about 43 winners of the North Dakota Roughrider Award. There are perhaps 43 portraits now, among them my early childhood friend from Sykeston, Larry Woiwode, who is directly across from the portrait of the old Roughrider himself, President Teddy Roosevelt.

Missouri River from the State Capitol, Bismarck, April 17, 2015

Missouri River from the State Capitol, Bismarck, April 17, 2015

Larry Woiwode

Larry Woiwode

Enroute to the Mass I took a side trip over to the Ft. Abraham Lincoln a few miles south of Mandan. This is the place from which Gen. George Armstrong Custer took his ill-fated trip to the Little Big Horn in 1876. Of course, this is April, and nothing was open, but I could drive around, and walk to see the Slant Village and the Custer home. Earlier, a lady at the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department pointed out that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Parks Department, and each State Park will have their day. Fort Abraham Lincoln’s Day is Memorial Day, May 25, 2015.

George Armstrong Custer house at Fort Abraham Lincoln April 17, 2015

George Armstrong Custer house at Fort Abraham Lincoln April 17, 2015

Historic Slant Village at Ft. Abraham Lincoln State Park April 17, 2015

Historic Slant Village at Ft. Abraham Lincoln State Park April 17, 2015

Visit over in late afternoon, back on I-94 East, this time to Fargo.

Dominating the trip back was thinking about May, 1965, when my wife, Barbara, was released from Bismarck’s St. Alexius Hospital, and we began the long trip by car to Minneapolis where she was to be admitted for a kidney transplant at the University of Minnesota Hospital. It was her only remaining option to live beyond 22.

Near hidden facade of old St. Alexius Hospital, Bismarck ND April 17, 2015

Near hidden facade of old St. Alexius Hospital, Bismarck ND April 17, 2015

Back then, late May, 1965, someplace along 94, east of Bismarck, the radiator hose chose to burst. Luckily, we were close to one of the very few exits with a gas station. At Valley City, she and her mother and brother and our year old son Tom took the train the rest of the way to Minneapolis. I continued on by car. Barbara was admitted to the hospital, and died there July 24, 1965. 50 years ago, now. A major marker on my life path. We all have such….

I drove on, finding a motel in Moorhead MN about 9:30 pm.

In the morning, at the house breakfast, I saw a number of people wearing bright t-shirts, “Team Fred” on on one side; “Muscle Walk 2015” on the other. I asked a family of four, “what’s this about?” “A walk for ALS” the Dad said. Fred, I surmised, was someone they knew who has ALS, but I don’t know that.

I went out to the car, remembering the earlier kindness in Jamestown, the free beard trim, took out my checkbook, wrote out a check for $50 to Muscle Walk 2015, went back into the restaurant and left the check with the family: “have a great day”.

Probably the gift surprised them.

Pay it forward, thanks in part to the kind beauty salon person in Jamestown.

It was a great day….

POSTNOTE: Sunday evening came one of those calls from an Unknown Caller. It was Jim F, from Carrington ND. Turned out he was the “Fred” from Team Fred, and he was calling to thank me for the donation Saturday morning. It was a most pleasant surprise; we knew people in common, it turned out.

#1014 – Dick Bernard: Farewell to a Special Lady

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Yesterday my cousin Mary Kay and I traveled to Dubuque to the funeral of Marion Placke. It was a long day: the odometer read 550 miles traveled when I arrived home; and the clock showed 16 hours from the time between when I left and arrived home.

But it was an extraordinary day; a very, very rich day.

Marion was one of those folks who, unsung, bring richness to the lives of those around them.

In the casket, she was 98, by her own self-declaration a month or so ago, “an old lady”.

A solitary photo by her casket was from some long ago time:

(click on photos to enlarge)

Marion Placke

Marion Placke

She never married nor had children of her own. Most of her life her occupation was “housekeeper” at various places. Her obituary did not include a listing of this or that degree, or such.

The fall and broken hip that preceded her death by about a week occurred at her long-time home on the slope of Sinsinawa Mound in southwest Wisconsin, a few miles from Dubuque, only half a mile or so from the nearby house in which she was born August 1, 1916.

But these few words hardly do justice to Marion Placke.

Her nephew, Fr. Wayne Droessler, himself a retired Catholic Priest, gave a wonderful tribute to his Aunt Marion, as part of his homily at the Mass. At the end of the Mass, before dismissal, he kissed her casket in a fond expression of farewell. At the mausoleum, the casket was surrounded by young people who up until the most recent years had been “babysat” by Marion and her sister Lucina Stangl. I particularly noticed one young person near the coffin, who was obviously grief-stricken at the loss of the person she quite likely called “Grandma”.

Fr. Wayne Droessler April 10, 2015

Fr. Wayne Droessler April 10, 2015

Farewell, April 10, 2015

Farewell, April 10, 2015

For we travelers from the Twin Cities, who seldom actually saw Marion in person, much of our trip down and back was dominated by memories of this or that about Marion and Lucina(Lu) Stangl.

Marion was a superb story-teller and this, coupled with her love of family history, brought the Berning family (our common root) and the old days alive in a extraordinarily rich way.

The two sisters – Lu was 6 years Marion’s senior, and died in 2010 at 100 – were adventuresome.

Mary Kay related that some years back, when Lu was a spring chicken of 92 (Marion, 86), Lu and Marion went white-water rafting. At the end of the trip, they learned that Lu was the oldest person who’d ever done that trip!

Ten years ago, in July, 2005, the ladies and several family members made the trip up to a mini-reunion at the North Dakota farm.

While there, they expressed an interest in visiting Whitestone Hill Battlefield monument, perhaps 25 miles away.

Those of who’d been there know that there is a rather daunting climb up to the monument itself, so we expected that Lucina and Marion would stay at the parking lot, and we younger “kids” would do the walk up the hill.

Not these ladies: both of them climbed the hill, reached the top, and spent some time at the monument itself (photos below).

That trip up that hill helps define, for me, the example left by Marion Placke and her sister. I could give more examples, but that will suffice.

Others will have their own memories.

A fond farewell.

Marion Placke and Lucina Stangl, LaMoure ND  July, 2005,

Marion Placke and Lucina Stangl, LaMoure ND July, 2005,

Walking up Whitestone Hill, July, 2005.  Marion in white slacks; her sister Lucina, in blue slacks just behind her.  Lucina's son, David Stangl at rear.

Walking up Whitestone Hill, July, 2005. Marion in white slacks; her sister Lucina, in blue slacks just behind her. Lucina’s son, David Stangl at rear.

A small reunion at the Vincent and Edith Busch farm, Berlin, ND, July 2005.

A small reunion at the Vincent and Edith Busch farm, Berlin, ND, July 2005.

Marion Placke (2nd from right) at Memorial Park, Grand Rapids ND, July 1920.  Her mother had come up to assist her Aunt Rosa Busch, who gave birth to Edithe.  Others in the photo are Busch's and possibly other Placke's

Marion Placke (2nd from right) at Memorial Park, Grand Rapids ND, July 1920. Her mother had come up to assist her Aunt Rosa Busch, who gave birth to Edithe. Others in the photo are Busch’s and possibly other Placke’s