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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.

#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.

#910 – Dick Bernard: Prairie Home Companion at 40 – Chapter 2

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

I wrote yesterday about my personal “history” with Prairie Home Companion; then I spent four hours at Macalester, and added a few photos of the event to the post. You can see it all here.

There is a temptation to go back today…and tomorrow as well. But there’ll be plenty of other folks there, and I’ve spread the word about the richness of the day to my small circle, and hopefully there’ll be throngs this afternoon and tomorrow at the event.

The relevant photos from yesterday are in yesterdays post. I did note Garrison’s long-time “trademark” (a little worn, a lady next to me said), and an older couple, obviously fans, who are “copy cats”. The two photos are below, and need no further explanation for those who are fans. (Hats off to Garrison on his shoes, from one who believes “old” and “comfortable” are synonyms.)

(click to enlarge)

Garrison Keillor July 4, 2014

Garrison Keillor July 4, 2014

Keillor fans July 4, 2014

Keillor fans July 4, 2014

I’ll listen to PHC on the radio tonight – first time I’ve done that in a long time.

But I lived the show at Macalester, yesterday. It is odd how things come together: seeing assorted folks I didn’t even know were Keillor fans; seeing others who knew people I did. A little chatting goes a long way, some time.

One lady and I got to the Chapel 45 minutes before Keillor and Company were to perform, both of us intent on front row seats (which we secured). She said they had gone to see PHC at some town along I-94, but she didn’t remember the town. Some hours later I ran into long-time friends from Anoka who’d been at the same place as I, and they said they’d gone out to see Garrison perform at Avon MN (on I-94). Aha, Brenda, if you’re reading. That is the place!

Some guy from Lanesboro asked a question about an almost cancelled outdoor performance there, and Garrison answered immediately. Later, buying the commemorative t-shirt and cap, the guy in the booth said they very nearly had to cancel a recent outdoor event at Ravinia OH for the same reason: threatening weather.

I’ve come to be around Garrison a number of times over the years. He is a contradiction: he is remote, but get him started on a story, and off he goes. They don’t invest a lot of time in formal rehearsals, I gathered. He observed that many of his musicians were really good actors as well, until they had to rehearse their lines, and the spontaneity went down the tube.

Yesterday, I dug out my modest Garrison Keillor file, and today I looked through it. It yielded some interesting morsels, most significant of which is a publication few but Garrison Keillor himself know exist.

Back in the late 1980s I had reason to spend some time in the musty “tombs” of the Walter Library on the main campus of the UofMinnesota. I was researching something very specific that required me to go into old archival boxes in the bowels of that historical library.

By then I was a real fan of Keillor, and I had read that he was, about 1965, the editor of the campus literary magazine, the Ivory Tower.

So, on a side trip, I discovered down there, in another place, two articles, both about Hockey at the UofM, from February 1 and April 5, 1965, issues of Ivory Tower. I photocopied them, and here they are, with acknowledgement: Keillor Ivory Tower 1965001 WARNING: If the words “Hockey”, “Doug Woog”, “John Mariucci”, and “UofM versus University of North Dakota at Grand Forks” ring your chimes, be prepared to read the 14 pages behind the link….

The little file was a brief story of the life of a relationship – Keillor with his show and his town, St. Paul. The June 1987 Minnesota Monthly devoted 124 pages as a Collectors Edition “Farewell to A Prairie Home Companion”. This was only 13 years into the run, but that was Garrison’s mid-life crisis.

The January 2000 Northwest Airlines World Traveler cover story on some air trip I took was “Garrison Keillor, America’s Storyteller”.

In February, 2001, our friend in London sent a long Review, “In search of Wobegon”, in The Sunday Telegraph. The June 28 and August 7, 2005, Minneapolis Star Tribunes had long articles about the upcoming Prairie Home movie directed by Robert Altman.

June 27 and July 4, 1999, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minneapolis Star Tribune had long articles on the 25th anniversaries of Prairie Home Companion.

I just re-looked at the articles, and the thought came to mind that I had in that old file folder was something of a history of a relationship that could fit most anyone, not just Garrison Keillor.

Spats, separations, celebrations, misinterpretations, and everything that goes along with couples everywhere.

Even the 40th anniversary is significant. By 40 years, there is some quiet acknowledgement that 50 years is quite a long ways off, and things have a way of happening, so why not find an excuse for a party!?

Garrison acknowledged as much in that rich hour we spent with him yesterday. I can only paraphrase, but in talking about the future he said he wasn’t much looking at ten years ahead. He’d seen politicians who stayed in office long past their time, and it wasn’t pretty….

Garrison, I’m glad to be in your neighborhood.

And Monday, when once again we drive west on I-94, and pass St. Cloud, St. Johns, Freeport, and Avon and all the rest of the places that helped give birth to Lake Wobegon (not to mention Anoka!), I’ll have occasion to smile.

Thanks for the memories.

#909 – Dick Bernard: Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion at 40.

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

UPDATE July 5, here.

There are big doings at Macalester College in St. Paul this weekend, celebrating 40 years of Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion (PHC).

The St. Paul Pioneer Press (last Sunday) and Minneapolis Star Tribune (yesterday) had long articles about the anniversary. You can read them here and here.

Thanks to my friends, Laura and Don, I learned about and first attended Prairie Home Companion in the fall of 1977, probably at Macalester, though I’m not positive of that. That program and all others had a standard formula in those early years. Those were the years when you could walk in off the street and find plenty of good enough seating. Nothing fancy, but plenty good enough.

A year or two later our teacher’s association in Anoka-Hennepin School District hired the Powder Milk Biscuit Band, more or less the house band for PHC, to do a dance in Anoka. I wish I had photos.

It was a very fun evening.

In late April, 1979, I had gone to St. John’s University for the then-annual Swayed Pines Festival (ditto, thanks to Laura and Don). By then I knew what Garrison Keillor looked like, and a la Paparazzi, I got a candid photo of this long, lanky, bearded fellow walking quickly across the street.

(click to enlarge)

Garrison Keillor, late April, 1979, at St. John's University, Collegeville MN, Swayed Pines Festival.

Garrison Keillor, late April, 1979, at St. John’s University, Collegeville MN, Swayed Pines Festival.

There was nothing particularly impressive about this tall drink of water with too short pants. But Garrison Keillor was in the process of making his mark, and I’m proud I could witness some parts of it, going quite frequently to PHC until national exposure made it difficult to impossible to get tickets.

My Keillor file has lot of paper in it, including two wonderful articles he wrote about hockey when he edited the literary magazine at the University of Minnesota in 1965. Some of his books are in my shelves. For me, Garrison Keillor has been an easy guy to like. I’m glad I “met” him through his show.

In April, 1986, I was in the audience when country music legend Chet Atkins was guest at the then dowdy World Theatre. It was a thrilling evening. I saw two or three of the annual Joke shows, and on one memorable occasion the assigned seat was on the stage, behind the performing cast.

Yes, we knew the formula, but every appearance was a surprise. Sometime in 1982-83, I heard that Garrison would be at the University of Minnesota Law School. He had all of us mesmerized with his story about some otherwise mundane event in the lives of the people of Lake Wobegon. The memories go on and on….

I think the events at Macalester this weekend will be awesome and memorable. Hopefully I can witness some of the free ones; PHC itself, always Saturday night, has long been sold out. Listen in on your local National Public Radio station. Wander over yourself, if you happen to be in the area, but take the bus – there are free tickets (see link at beginning of this post.)

I note that I did another column about Garrison in 2011. Here it is.

Here’s my most recent photo of Garrison Keillor.

Garrison Keillor and friends, July 16, 2012, Lake Elmo MN

Garrison Keillor and friends, July 16, 2012, Lake Elmo MN

COMMENTS: (see also response to this post)
from Norm N:
Thanks for the Garrison piece. One of my favorites that I just had to search out and have the words was
his Class Warfare song.

from Mary M: I recently met a lawyer from New Zealand who was a real fan of Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home companion – always impressed with these small world scenarios.

from Laura S: Oh, thank you, Dick! Such fond memories…and I still listen to Garrison’s radio program!

Some photos after three hours at the Macalester Festival, Friday morning/early afternoon at Macalester. These were three of the nine available sessions I could have attended.

(click to enlarge photos)

from left: Fred Newman (sound effects man); Tim Russell. voice impersonator; Sue Scott, and Garrison Keillor did a full hour show featuring characters from Prairie Home Companion.

from left: Fred Newman (sound effects man); Tim Russell. voice impersonator; Sue Scott, and Garrison Keillor did a full hour show featuring characters from Prairie Home Companion.

in background, at right, Dan Chouinard expertly provided the stage music (or whatever the background music for performers is called!)

in background, at right, Dan Chouinard expertly provided the stage music (or whatever the background music for performers is called!)

Young girl was one of many youngsters entranced by Fred Newmans ability to make odd sounds, and make them sound real.

Young girl was one of many youngsters entranced by Fred Newmans ability to make odd sounds, and make them sound real.

Dan Chouinard and Prudence Johnson gave a great program.  Dan was also the background music for Keillor and the Royal Academy of Radio Actors (above).

Dan Chouinard and Prudence Johnson gave a great program. Dan was also the background music for Keillor and the Royal Academy of Radio Actors (above).

Maria Jette and Dan Chouinard, like the others, gave a fabulous program

Maria Jette and Dan Chouinard, like the others, gave a fabulous program

#907 – Dick Bernard: The Tool Shed

Monday, June 30th, 2014

My friend, Bruce, and I were in one of our occasional jousting modes earlier today. I had sent along a post including a commentary by a self-described member of the .01%ers – the super wealthy. Basically, Mr. Hanauer, reminded his fellow super-wealthy folks that starving the middle class was not productive for the wealthy. The middle class was, after all, the market for the goods that drive prosperity.

There were a couple of parries and thrusts back and forth (see end of this post for the entire thread) and in his last comment Bruce said this about our future when we run out of the resources we have squandered: “I think community will be more important than it is today. Neighborhood resources will be important to sustain lifestyle.”

It happened that just 20 minutes before the above comment I had received an e-mail with the following subject line, and brief contents: “Project Update #6: Aurora/St. Anthony Peace Garden Shed + Tool Lending Library by Garden Volunteer, Kristine Miller. Project Update #6: We Made It!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you beautiful people!!!! More information soon! With love from your friends at the Aurora/St. Anthony Peace Garden”.

Kristine, who I had met just days ago, and community activist Melvin Giles, who I’ve known for years, and others, unnamed, had pulled off a major accomplishment, raising some funds for a simple tool shed in their neighborhood. The story is in a less than three minute video accompanying the final report of the fundraising success.

(Melvin is the “star” of the video. Listen for his “strawberry” story.) This isn’t a million dollar deal, but for the folks around 855 Aurora Avenue (just a block or two south of University Avenue, and a few blocks west of the Minnesota State Capitol) it surely is the very essence of “community” as described by Bruce. It is, also, a “kickstart” to encourage folks to make small and large differences in their circles.

The video shows the shed being replaced; I was privileged to see the new shed, still under construction, a few weeks ago. The photo is below. The shed was built as a project by students from the University of Minnesota School of Landscape Architecture.

(click to enlarge)

The still-under-construction tool shed at 855 Aurora Avenue St. Paul.  June 11, 2014

The still-under-construction tool shed at 855 Aurora Avenue St. Paul. June 11, 2014

Ehtasham Anwar interviews Melvin Giles in the garden June 11, 2014.  Filmed by Suhail Ahmed.  Ehtasham and Suhail, both from Pakistan, were at the end of their year in the U.S. as Humphrey/Fulbright Fellows at the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota Law School.  Interviewing Melvin was part of Ehtasham's year-end archival project about peace-making in the Twin Cities.

Ehtasham Anwar interviews Melvin Giles in the garden June 11, 2014. Filmed by Suhail Ahmed. Ehtasham and Suhail, both from Pakistan, were at the end of their year in the U.S. as Humphrey/Fulbright Fellows at the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota Law School. Interviewing Melvin was part of Ehtasham’s year-end archival project about peace-making in the Twin Cities.

It is the small stories such as this one which will save our planet.

As Margaret Mead so notably said many years ago: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.

FOR ANYONE INTERESTED, here’s Bruce and my on-line conversation “thread” which helped lead to this post. I think such ad hoc discussions (arguments) on-line can be useful to both parties, if they begin and end with respect, as I think Bruce and I have for each other, over a number of years now.

Dick, June 30, 5:29 a.m. to my usual list: If nothing else, read up on Nick Hanauer, at about the middle, about the Middle Class: [link here]

Here’s a brief bio about Hanauer.

In the end analysis, its people like ourselves, not the politicians, who’ll have to change the direction. The nature of politics is to read the wind of public opinion and get and stay elected. It’s a nasty reality in our electoral system. You are useless if you can’t stay elected, and being a representative requires you to follow more than lead.

Nobody, especially idealists, likes to hear that.

So…what do you plan to do about it, these remaining few months before the 2014 election? It’s about four months away.

Bruce, 9:27 a.m.: “…thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it.”

What has American prosperity done to the environment? That question looms large in the presents of human influenced climate change & global warming. Our economy is predicated on infinite expansion, while our planets resources are finite. Because of dwindling quality of natural resources( the high quality stuff that built the middle class is gone), the economic expansion that the rebuilding of the middle class depends on becomes far more expensive than what it took to create the golden years of the middle class from 1946 to 1980. And, the degradation to the environment becomes more severe.

I think this model that the Sunset guy [the blog referred to above] is trying to get back to is a broken romantic dream like the return to the Garden of Eden.

Dick, 9:38 a.m.: So, I challenge you, what is the alternative…a viable solution in our country, when even folks on welfare decline to accept certain kinds of used furniture because they’re not good enough….

I’m a bit more sensitive than usual about this as I’m beginning the process of closing out the history of a 110 year farm, as my 89 year Uncle, the last survivor, never married, is in the nursing home in the nearby town.

In some of the old farm photos, recently, I found two iconic images of the good old days (before prosperity). One is of a two bottom, four horse, cultivator, tended by the hired man, who probably slept in a grain bin during his summers there. The other is “Edithe’s favorite milk cow” (my aunt Edithe died in February). This from the day when she and Grandma, basically, milked the cows by hand, and had a hand run cream separator.

This was the “pitchfork” era, as you know. We’re heading back to it [“pitchforks”, literally] quickly, but the solution is not to go the utopian route. Its a bit like being addicted to something: initially, the cure is worse than the disease, and most people can’t take the transition (poverty) between wealth and reason….

Bruce, 11:31 a.m.: I’m not sure what alternatives we have. But, what I am sure of is that we aren’t given the truth of what the consumerism & materialism has done to our home. The high quality natural resources that were taken out of the earth to build the society was used to manufacture, buy, and sell things for profit. These precious natural resources that are real wealth are expressed in the stuff called junk thrown in landfills & dissolved into the atmosphere, land, and water.

The articles like the Sunset guy wrote perpetuates the destructive dream of a new middle class where labor is equal to capital so that the ever expanding economy can march timelessly on into the sunset. It can’t.

The next twenty years will be different from the past twenty years. Cheap oil is gone & the alternative fossil fuels are very expensive and don’t provide the net energy gain that the quality stuff did. The alternatives to fossil fuels will not support or sustain the consumer life style that built the middle class as we remember it. We will have to drastically change life style and the ultra-rich are the ones who will suffer the most relatively to what they are accustomed to. That is why some like Hanauer advocate for higher taxes on the rich, better wages for labor, and stronger safety net for the needy. It’s to grow the middle class. They are liberal market place capitalists that want to generally perpetuate the status quo.

The solution is to understand what the consumerism of the middle class did to the planet. Then we can move forward with solutions. People hate change, but they get use to it and it becomes normal. But, time is dwindling.

Dick, 1:04 p.m.: The Sunset Guy just reflects on stuff, as you know. [ED. NOTE: In my opinion Just Above Sunset is a very useful (and free) daily musing on matters national and international]

What would happen if we were forced into the horse and milk cow stage again? My relatives knew that era. I witnessed it in action when I was young.

The grandkids generation (mine are from about 8-27 years of age) are going to be the first generation to fully bear the brunt of our wastrel ways.
It is complicated, beyond that.

Bruce, 3:55 p.m., June 30, 2014:
I think community will be more important than it is today. Neighborhood resources will be important to sustain lifestyle.

What is a better indication of a vibrant middle class: a high quality education system, transport system and health care system or individual material wealth? Values will change.

The rich of the 50s through 70s thought that the planet’s natural resources were infinite and understood the way to wealth & perpetual growth was to grow the middle class affluence so they could consume material goods, which would keep the economy expanding making the wealthy wealthier. They for the most part thought like Hanauer. But today the wealthy understand the finite nature of the high quality natural resources of years gone by. Their answer to grow there wealth is to hoard and strangle the middle class because there isn’t enough to go around. Their answer is short sighted. The middle class is shrinking & will not return to the position it once maintained. But, the wealth of the wealthy will collapse too, because their money depends on the health of the primary natural resources( the planet) and the resources that manufacture & create things. From what I’ve read, the Thomas Pikkety book, CAPITAL IN THE 21st CENTURY gets at this point. The wealthy would rather invest in the investment markets than grow the economy. The potential to make higher rate of return is better. That is a big disconnect.

Politically, this argument is being made by fringe parties & candidates for office. I don’t see any one running for office of any kind from the two major parties making this argument. Jean Massey’s IRV [Instant Runoff Voting] voting system is the best way to effect the political changes we need. It will allow the marginal candidate with the best ideas a good chance to be elected.

Dick, to everyone who’s read this far: So, what is your opinion?

#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.

#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.