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

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(click to enlarge)

Nov. 27, 2014

Nov. 27, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good Advent.

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

Nov. 29, 2014, Addy, Lucy, Kelly

Nov. 29, 2014, Addy, Lucy, Kelly

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

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

Often there have been surprises.

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

Here’s the first:

(click to enlarge)
Bernard California 1941001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bernard California 1941002

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

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

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

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

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

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

#955 – Dick Bernard: The St. John’s Bible at the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis MN

Friday, November 14th, 2014

The “rack card” at the Basilica display of the St. John’s Bible can be seen here: St Johns Bible rack card001

The last two weeks I had noticed portions of the magnificent St. John’s Bible on display at my home Church, the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis MN.

A flier at the back of the Church attracted my attention to a Reception and Presentation Thursday evening Nov. 13. The flier: “The Saint John’s Bible is the first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Abbey in over 500 years. Its hand written lettering and stunning artworks truly present the Word of God in an engaging and inspirational way. Discover the beauty and splendor of the St. Johns’ Bible at a captivating and lively presentation which shares the story of this once in a millennium undertaking…”

Only a few of us came to the program last night. It was our gain to have almost a private program; all I can do is encourage your taking the time to view several portions of the Bible at the Basilica of St. Mary undercroft and Church proper during usual church hours through November 30.

Tim Ternes, Director of The St. John’s Bible at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University, presented a fascinating program. I asked permission to take snapshots, all related to the St. John’s Bible Project. The link to much information about the project, which went from 1995-2011, can be accessed here.

Below are a few of my snapshots from Nov. 13.

But make it a point to actually see the fascinating display at the Basilica before it ends November 30. Information here.

(click to enlarge all photos)

Tim Ternes (at left) Nov. 13, 2014

Tim Ternes (at left) Nov. 13, 2014

The creation story.  One of the many magnificent works of art within the St. John's Bible (which is, in itself, a magnificent work of the calligrapher's art.)

The creation story. One of the many magnificent works of art within the St. John’s Bible (which is, in itself, a magnificent work of the calligrapher’s art.)

In keeping with ancient tradition, the book is filled with art of local flora and fauna from, in this case, central Minnesota.

In keeping with ancient tradition, the book is filled with art of local flora and fauna from, in this case, central Minnesota.

Even calligraphers make mistakes.  Here is one of a few examples in the massive book where an entire line was missed.  Rather than redo the entire page, the calligrapher constructs a sometimes whimsical insertion, such as this one.

Even calligraphers make mistakes. Here is one of a few examples in the massive book where an entire line was missed. Rather than redo the entire page, the calligrapher constructs a sometimes whimsical insertion, such as this one.

I am not an expert in art. As I am fond of noting, in college I waited to the last minute to take the required class, Art Appreciation, and then got a “D” in it. I had a similar experience with Music Appreciation. But time changes things, and now I love both.

I came to “class” last night with only the vaguest understandings about calligraphy. I left with a great appreciation for the skill and even humor of calligraphers, and the awesome project that is the St. John’s Bible.

Do see the exhibit if you have the opportunity. It has been to many states, with more to come. The next exhibition is Madison Wisconsin beginning December 19, 2014.

According to Mr. Ternes, here are the scheduled talks in Madison:
January 19, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 401 S. Owen Drive, Madison, WI

Thursday, January 22, 5:30–8:30 p.m. “From Inspiration to Illumination: An Introduction to The Saint John’s Bible.” Tim Ternes, Director, The Saint John’s Bible. 5:30 p.m., illustrated presentation. 7 p.m., group discussion. 8 p.m., exhibition walk through with question-and-answer. Room L160, Elvehjem Building.

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

Monday, November 10th, 2014

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

(click to enlarge)

1942, Shakopee MN

1942, Shakopee MN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wayne, July 9, 2014

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

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

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

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

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

(click to enlarge)

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

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

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

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


Then there’s the Busch farm, above pictured:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your memories, about your places?

Happy Birthday, North Dakota.

More about the Busch farm here.

#942 – Dick Bernard: Another delightful night at the Minnesota Orchestra.

Monday, October 13th, 2014

We went to our subscription season opener on Saturday evening, and it was, as always, a delightful experience.

Andrew Litton conducted a program of Richard Strauss: Don Quixote: Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character; Salome’s Dance (Dance of the Seven Veils); Suite from Der Rosenkavalier.

It was a marvelous, fun program.

Through the program I kept thinking of a bookend someone gave me once, that sort of reminds me of Don Quixote, for some odd reason. Here it is (yes, it badly needs a dusting):


We’ve now been to several performances of the Minnesota Orchestra post-lockout (the lockout began two years ago, September 30, 2012, and ended in early February, 2014.) We’re glad to be back, and the people we see seem to be so as well.

Lurking not far in the background, reasonably, is the long impasse. But we’re moving on, it seems.

These days, I have begun to make sure I look at every page of the program booklet, just to make sure I don’t miss anything.

In Saturdays Showcase, for Sep-Nov, 2014, came a most interesting article, “a continuum of contributions”. You can read it here: MN Orchestra Oct 2014001. It speaks for itself.

Doubtless much effort and edit and review and revision went into the article. One can look for what is said, and what isn’t, and in what order of emphasis (which is as meaningfilled as the text itself)

I felt it a reasonable representation of the current reality.

One wonders, however, how the gap between the $10 million anonymous donor, and the equally anonymous $1 donor, will be bridged.

Money talks, the more money, the more the listening.

But the small folks are now, as before “the franchise” that is the Minnesota Orchestra. None of these folks are on anyone’s address book, but in the long run they will make all the difference.

As for us, we’re glad we’re back, and looking forward to a great season ahead. Yes, I’m a Guarantor (I think about $500 worth over my career). Nonetheless, we’re invited to a special performance led by Osmo Vanska next weekend. Quite likely we’ll go….

Nice touch.

#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.

#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.

#915 – Dick Bernard: Some very sad news: Journalist Andy Driscoll takes his final bow.

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

We had just returned from several days out of town and catching on what’s been happening, Cathy noted the death of a friend of mine, Andy Driscoll.

Indeed it was true, and this morning I woke up with a ever-longer Facebook entry with tributes to and about Andy. I looked at the home page of KFAI, the public station on which he has broadcast since 2007, and saw more about him at the KFAI website.

Andy made a big difference, quietly, for many years.

There are many Andy’s in the world: there just aren’t headlines written about them; and they aren’t in the national media. But at home they regularly make an impact on their communities, small and large, in many and diverse ways.

Beginning in mid-2007, Andy produced and broadcast a one hour program each week on KFAI which he called “Truth to Tell”. I haven’t counted, but at minimum it would appear that he had over 250 programs on air. There were probably near 1000 on-air guests in that time.

Quite an accomplishment, especially considering that one hour interview programs don’t just happen. They take great effort.

In the first sentence I call Andy a “friend”.

I use that word with hesitation, but my guess is that Andy would agree that yes, we were good friends, even if we saw each other rarely.

In fact, along with Syl Jones, Marie Braun of WAMM, and Dr. Joe Schwartzberg of Citizens for Global Solutions, I was one of the panelists on his inaugural show on air, July 4, 2007.

(There were a few earlier practice runs in 2007; and the initial experiment began, I recall, in the Fall of 2006, but July 4, 2007, was the official first program. Apparently that first show remains available on archive. At this moment I haven’t tried to access it.)

Ironically, Andy’s last on-air show, as yet not available on-line, was about the future of the Minnesota Orchestra.

He and I shared a passion for the Orchestra as well; in fact, the last time I saw Andy in person was right after the lockout began, October 18, 2012, at the first concert of the locked-out Minnesota Orchestra. He commented at the end of my post about that evening here.

The last comment I have from him was also about the Orchestra situation at September 6, 2013. Scroll down to it here.

There won’t be any flags at half-staff for Andy Driscoll around his city, state and nation. Just people like myself who take a moment to reminisce.

But Andy, and all who labor in their own neighborhoods and communities are the ones who truly make the difference that matters, unsung, and too often unappreciated.

Andy, I note that you and I are the same age.

We’re walking down the same path towards the same destination.

Good traveling with you over these past few years, Andy.

#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.