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#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.

#843 – Dick Bernard: Valentine’s Day 2014

Friday, February 14th, 2014

(click to enlarge. Stella and Verena were on neighboring farms, perhaps first grade age, when this card was made and delivered about 1920 or so.)

Homemade Valentine from Stella to Verena Busch about 1920, ND.

Homemade Valentine from Stella to Verena Busch about 1920, ND.

Today is Valentine’s Day. I wish you a good day today. For us, life has other plans, and the dinner we’d planned to have at a local restaurant is replaced by an unplanned trip to LaMoure ND for the funeral, on Saturday, of my Aunt Edith Busch, who died at 93 early Wednesday morning.

Such is how life often goes, unplanned. Hard as we try to control things, things happen. Usually we dust ourselves off, and some semblance of normal reappears. For Edith, life’s troubles are behind. At the funeral, those of us in attendance will try to put ourselves in the shoes of Edith and her brother, Vincent, who occupied the same space with her for all of his 89 years, most of those years on the Pioneer Farm where their parents broke the first ground in 1905 (at top left of the below photo you can see a portion of Grandma and Grandpas wedding certificate, which still hangs on the farm house wall 99 years later.

Grandma Rosa and Uncle Fred married in rural Wisconsin near Dubuque IA, Feb 28, 1905, and within a month took the train out to their undeveloped piece of land in North Dakota. They were 25 and 21 respectively, so the hard work was an adventure of youth. Together they raised nine kids, all but one surviving to old age.

Daughter Verena died in 1927 at age 15 from a burst appendix. Edith was 7 and Vincent 2 at the time. This was a hugely traumatic life event for the Busch’s. When I was checking on burial plots in the country cemetery in nearby Berlin, I found that Grandma and Grandpa had purchased ten adjoining plots then, the first for Verena, later for the two of them, and the rest of their other children living at the time.

Edith, and sometime in the future Vince, will be the 4th and 5th occupants of the space at St. John’s Cemetery. All the other siblings are buried elsewhere.

Here’s the photo I’ve picked for this Valentine’s Day.

(click to enlarge photos)

Edith and Vincent Busch, December, 1996

Edith and Vincent Busch, December, 1996

(The photo is as photos were in the pre-digital age, when you didn’t waste film and didn’t know what you got till it was developed, and that included expressions. The photo was taken in December 1996. I picked this photo specifically because of the heart on Edith’s Christmas sweater. You can click to enlarge it. You’ll see it has an American Gothic kind of theme, appropriate to Edith and for this occasion.)

Their town, LaMoure, is a town of about 1000, like all small towns so familiar to me on the midwest prairie. Those of we nephews and nieces who can make it to the funeral will have dinner at the local restaurant, Centerfield, which is, true to it’s name, just beyond the center field fence of the local Baseball diamond. It is a nice restaurant, and it will probably be packed. Probably Uncle Vincent will join us, then we’ll go back to the Nursing Home with him to just sit and reminisce, and have some dessert, brought ‘potluck’ by the guests.

Then, the next morning we go across the street, literally, to Holy Rosary Catholic Church for the funeral; the Church Altar Society will have lunch and there will be more visiting, and back in the car for the 315 mile trip back – that is always the constant.

None of Vince’s close relatives live in the town, and he’s now the last sibling, and only one sibling spouse survives. His “children” are we nieces and nephews, far flung as we are from the area he’s lived his entire life.

Sometimes we don’t think about that. The St. Rose Nursing Home staff and the local LaMoure caring infrastructure now become Vince’s family for his difficult emotional times ahead. I’m grateful that Vince and Edith lived there, and previously at Rosewood Court Assisted Living next door.

Valentine’s Day is today. I can’t say that it is a “Happy” Valentine’s Day for us, but then it is a day for friends and family to gather and remember.

Farewell, Edith.

All best wishes, Vince, as a new time in your life begins.

#842 – Dick Bernard: An Evening with the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall; and watching a family wind down….

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

The “filing cabinet” on the Minnesota Orchestra Lockout is here.

Thursday, February 11, 2014
We attended the first post-Lock Out Concert at Orchestra Hall on February 8, 2014. This was an evening of immense emotional energy, with the Orchestra led by the father of Orchestra Hall, Maestro-Emeritus Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. The entire program, eight pages, is here:MN Orch Feb 7-8 2014002 This concert, and the one to follow this weekend (we attend on Feb. 15) seem to be “bridge” concerts between the 488 day Lock Out and a to-be determined future of this “family”, which is the Orchestra Management (MOA), the Orchestra itself (including the Conductor), and we in the Audience.

The Minnesota Orchestra is the essence of the perfection of a team sport: excellent players, outstanding conductor and an engaged audience make the team. The team was cooking on Saturday night.

On Feb. 8 all was in resonance.

I hope the good feelings continue, but….

I didn’t write immediately after the concert as the last three days have been devoted to family matters in ND. My Aunt is, as I write, near death in a fine nursing home. She is 93. In the next room is her 89 year old brother. Neither ever married. They are the last living members of Grandma and Grandpa’s family of 9.

There’s was a musical family, as country families often were. Their Dad was a school-trained fiddler and had a small band for local dances. To this day, Vincent is an excellent singer. Many of the kids and descendants of my grandparents are musical.

For their entire lives until 2006 Vince and Edith lived and worked together on the pioneer farm built by their parents, and when heart problems ended the farm career for my Uncle in 2006, they moved into Assisted Living, and then into the Nursing Home in nearby LaMoure ND. [Note 9:20 a.m. Feb 12: Aunt Edith passed away at 1:05 a.m. The funeral is Saturday. We’ll have to miss the Saturday concert, 5th row center. Anyone interested in the tickets at cost? Inquiries welcome. dick_bernardATmeDOTcom.]

My Uncle and Aunt are very familiar people to me. Often I would spend a week or more at the farm in the summer, helping out with whatever.

They were like all families: connected, yet disconnected. They had different personalities and different skills and different interests. They had their resonances and dissonances.

In other words, they were like the rest of us, regardless of what relationship we might have with some significant other.

With all the magnificence of the evening inside the hall on Saturday night, my thoughts following the concert have more focused on what recovery from the long lockout will ultimately look like for the big “family” that is the Minnesota Orchestra community.

Most of us with any seniority in living a life in any “community”, be it marriage, employment, brother and sister (like Vince and Edith) etc., etc., have at one time or another experienced peaks and valleys. I don’t need to be specific. Think of some instance where you, personally, experienced some huge hurt, followed at some point, and for some reason, by reconciliation.

The reconciliation is its own temporary “high”.

But it is a very temporary high; and to maintain and rebuild and improve requires a huge amount of work and compromise by all parties to have any sense of permanence at all.

So it is going to be with the three-legged stool that is the Minnesota Orchestra: the musicians/conductor, the management, the audience.

If last weekend, and the coming one, are considered to be the end of the past, everyone is sadly mistaken. They are only the beginning of the beginning of a new era with the Orchestra, and everyone will be on edge as this progresses…or not.

There can be no “business as usual” if this enterprise is to succeed long term.

In Saturdays program booklet, I was most interested in the words on the “Welcome” page (page two), pretty obviously written by committee consensus, and I read with even more interest page seven, about Beethoven’s Eroica. Whoever chose Eroica to highlight the first concert back in Orchestra Hall probably chose this work intentionally. Read especially the second paragraph of the descriptor, and the last.

The power of the Minnesota Orchestra to come is going to depend on a true spirit of working together by all three legs of the stool: orchestra, management, audience.

We’ll see how it goes.

And Peace and Best Wishes to Aunt Edith, and to Uncle Vince, in this time of transition for them both.

(click to enlarge)

Uncle Vince "fiddles" with his Dad's farmhouse fiddle, Oct 1992.  Grandpa had a country band and learned violin by use of sheet music.

Uncle Vince “fiddles” with his Dad’s farmhouse fiddle, Oct 1992. Grandpa had a country band and learned violin by use of sheet music.

Aunt Edith's flowers August 1994

Aunt Edith’s flowers August 1994

The Busch family 1927 "PIE-ann-o" (Vincents pronunctiation) August 1998

The Busch family 1927 “PIE-ann-o” (Vincents pronunctiation) August 1998

Aunt Edith August 4, 1989, in the old farm house.  She is at peace: July 20, 1920 - February 12, 2014.

Aunt Edith August 4, 1989, in the old farm house. She is at peace: July 20, 1920 – February 12, 2014.

#745 – Dick Bernard: A quick visit to Valley City, Sykeston and rural LaMoure, North Dakota

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

I just spent four days and nearly 900 miles revisiting places of my roots in North Dakota. It seemed like a long trip, and it was, but then, last night, I watched the first part of the Ken Burns program on the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803-05.

Piece of cake.

This trip happened when I learned that tiny Sykeston High School, where I graduated in 1958, and where my Dad taught for ten years, and my mother for four, was having its Centennial, I decided I wanted to be there. I wrote a blog post about Sykeston on my birthday, May 4, and this morphed into six others, and now this one, eighth in the series.

Tom Richter, grad ca 1960, gets his photo by the iconic 1913 at Sykes High School July 6, 2013

Tom Richter, grad ca 1960, gets his photo by the iconic 1913 at Sykes High School July 6, 2013

Associated, was another history centered blog post about Valley City State Teachers College, which I attended, and graduated from, in 1961. This led to another blog post on January 2, 2013, which has itself had many followup posts.

Old Main - McFarland Hall at Valley City (ND) State University July 5, 2013

Old Main – McFarland Hall at Valley City (ND) State University July 5, 2013

So, there’s little reason to write more. Mostly, this post consists of photographs with captions I took at Valley City on July 5, and at Sykeston on July 6, 2013.
2013 Sykeston here *. (See note at end of this post.)
Valley City here.

There is an additional Facebook album from another larger Sykeston reunion in the summer of 2008, here.

And readers familiar with either place can add to with additional photos or comments at their leisure.

Sykeston is 400 miles one way from home in suburban St. Paul; in between, some 310 miles from home, is Valley City. So it was not “out of the way” to stop at one enroute to the other. Between Sykeston and Valley City is Jamestown – always “Jimtown” to my Grandpa.

When I began college in 1958, the first ten-mile section of Interstate 94 was being constructed in North Dakota, between Valley City and Jamestown. It was probably one of the first true pieces of Interstate in the United States. I remember it was said to cost “a million dollars a mile”. So it makes sense, with this piece of history, to note that endless ribbon of concrete called I-94 in North Dakota:

I-94 between Valley City and Jamestown ND July 6, 2013

I-94 between Valley City and Jamestown ND July 6, 2013

This trip I drove 550 miles on I-94, lickedy-split. Kids today cannot imagine what it was like in the years before the Freeways, even on U.S. highways, all of which went through the middle of every town, large and small. It was not the good old days: no air-conditioning in the car, no cruise control, no seat belts….

At Jamestown, in 1959, along I-94 was built what has become something of an iconic tourist attraction, “The World’s Largest Buffalo”. That buffalo was constructed during the time I was in college, and I decided I needed to stop there after leaving Sykeston on July 6. The buffalo is, the plaque says, 46 feet long, 26 feet high, 14 feet wide and it weighs 60 tons. More about the buffalo here.

It’s not going anywhere. It has aged well.

The World's largest buffalo at Jamestown ND July 6, 2013

The World’s largest buffalo at Jamestown ND July 6, 2013

We had been at that very spot in 1960, and here’s photo “evidence” (I wasn’t in this particular photo, and probably wasn’t photographer either, but all of my siblings and my Mom are in this photo):

Bernards Worlds Largest Buffalo Jamestown ND ca 1960001

Yes, it is just your basic tourist attraction, but impressive nonetheless.

Completing the trip, on July 7, my Uncle and I were driving out to the family “Century Farm” 10 miles from LaMoure and I asked him to stop at the corner of Highway 13 and their county road. There, as they have been for years, was a nest of wild prairies roses that somehow or other have escaped being plowed under for all these years.

The wild prairie rose is North Dakota’s state flower.

A photo of this flower is an appropriate way to end this post.

Wild Prairie Roses between LaMoure and Berlin ND July 7, 2013

Wild Prairie Roses between LaMoure and Berlin ND July 7, 2013

* – This is a letter to those who attended Sykeston High School – an idea for future consideration: Sykes High Future001

#573 – Dick Bernard: Three Memories on Memorial Day 2012. Frank Peter Bernard, Henry Bernard and Patricia Krom

Monday, May 28th, 2012


I’m at the age where death is an increasingly regular visitor to my circles. This Memorial Day three deaths come to mind.

The first came when I was 1 1/2 years old, when my Uncle Frank Peter Bernard went down on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor HI. He was 26 years old, and I had “met” him in Long Beach CA five months earlier, at the end of June, 1941.

(click on photos to enlarge them)

Henry Sr, Josephine, Josie, Frank Peter, Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard, Long Beach CA late June, 1941

I’m the family historian, and I recall no talk, ever, about any kind of funeral or memorial service for Frank.

He was from Grafton, ND. On Dec. 7, 1941, his brother, my Dad, was a teacher in the rural ND country school called Rutland Consolidated; his sister lived in Los Angeles; and his parents were wintering in Long Beach CA. Indeed, according to my Dad, they were not sure, for some time, whether or not Frank was dead. His good boyhood and Navy friend, John Grabanske, was reported to have died, though later was found to be very much alive (and lived on, well into his 80s). Here’s my Dad’s recollection, as recounted by myself 50 years after Pearl Harbor: Bernard H Pearl Harbor001

The closest I have to a “memory card” about a formal remembering of Uncle Frank is a long article in the February 17, 1942 Grand Forks (ND) Herald, reporting on a large ND picnic somewhere in the Los Angeles area on about February 12, 1942. Such picnics were common in those days – a gathering of winterers and transplants.

There is a poignant passage which I quote here in part: “A touching incident occurred during the program. [The counsel for the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles] read a press report telling of the death of a young man of Polish descent at Pearl Harbor, the young man being a native of the Grafton area. When he had finished reading a man and his wife arose in the audience, the man asking if he might interrupt for just a moment…the man [my grandfather] said the report of the boy’s death later was found to be in error, but that the man actually killed at Pearl Harbor was the pal of the boy mentioned in the first press report. “The boy killed,” said the man, “was our son!”…The entire audience arose and stood in silence for a moment in honor of the dead hero and the parents who made the sacrifice.”

Uncle Frank’s grave, on the USS Arizona, is probably among the most visited cemeteries in the world. I know his sister, my Aunt Josie, visited there in 1969, but my Dad and his parents never had that opportunity.

The next funeral I remember is for that same Grandfather of mine, who died May 23, 1957 at age 85. I was 17.

His funeral was in Grafton, on May 25, 1957, and many people came to his funeral.

Grandpa was a Spanish-American War Veteran, Philippines, 1898-99. We still have the flag in recognition of his service.

It has 48 stars. Alaska and Hawaii had not yet been admitted as states. It is the flag we raised on a flagpole the family purchased at Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL, after Dad died in 1997. We raised the flag on Memorial Day, 1998, dedicating it to Grandpa’s sons, my Dad and Uncle Frank. (Here’s an interesting piece of research about percent of Americans who actually serve in the Military)

Dedication of flagpole with Grandpa Bernards 48 star flag, Memorial Day, 1998, Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL

Plaque for the Our Lady of the Snows flagpole, 1998

Time passes on, many more deaths and remembrances of all assorted kinds.

The most recent came on May 19, 2012, in Langdon ND, a memorial service for my cousin Patricia (Brehmer) Krom. Pat actually passed away in Las Vegas on January 25, and there was a memorial service there at that time, but the Langdon area was her home, and my Uncle Vince and I went up for the Memorial Service.

All funerals are alike; all funerals are very different. Pat’s was no exception.

I doubt I will ever forget the eulogy at Pat’s Memorial, given by her husband of 42 years, Kent.

He retraced two lives together in a truly memorable way, one which any one in any relationship for any length of time could immediately relate to; from the first awkward dance at Langdon High School, to her death at only 62 years of age.

Pat Brehmer Krom's life, May 19, 2012

The details are unimportant, except for one which I will always remember. As I recall it, regardless of how their day might have gone, it was a frequent occurrence for exchange of a simple expression of affection: “I love you Kent Krom”; “I love you Pat Brehmer”.

Can’t get better than that.

Arriving back in LaMoure, before I left for home, I picked up a new flag for the flagpole at Vince and Edith’s residence, Rosewood Care Center.

Friday, May 25, at 10:30, they dedicated the new flag to the memory of Patricia Brehmer Krom.

Happy Memorial Day.

Spring at Redeemer Cemetery near Dresden ND May 19, 2012 near the grave of Mary and Allen Brehmer


Memorial Day, which began as Decoration Day in post-Civil War times, has a long history. Ironically, it was born of what was likely America’s deadliest war ever (in terms of casualties related to the entire population). Americans slaughtered other Americans.

Here are some impressions of today received from individuals. Possibly because the day has an over 140 year history, and because the means of war has changed so much in recent years, making war almost impersonal (see the Pew Research above), there are differing interpretations of what Memorial Day means: is it an event to be solemnly remembered, enjoyed, celebrated, etc.?

How we look differently at the meaning of Memorial Day is good reason for increased conversation among people with differing points of view.

From Susan Lucas: Dick, at the end of your blog you say, “Happy Memorial Day.” I’m afraid I don’t find this day a happy one. The three flags represent our three sons. I’m just so sorry that so many in our society regard Memorial Day as the first day of summer and a three-day weekend to go to the cabin. Anyone who visits Fort Snelling or any other national cemetery can truly appreciate why we have a Memorial Day. While Tom did not die while actually in the service, as the original “Decoration Day” was meant to be, the day should honor all who have been in military service. It’s a day to honor their memory. I question whether it should still be a national holiday when, as Pew Research suggests, so few families are actually impacted by military service anymore.

May 27, 2012, at Ft. Snelling Cemetery from Susan Lucas

From Carol Turnbull: Beautiful!

Scouts observing Memorial Day at a Cemetery in South St. Paul MN, doing upkeep of graves, and placing flags at the stones of veterans.

Scouts at So St Paul cemetery May 28, 2012

Daughter Heather and granddaughter Kelly at grave of Mom and Grandma Diane in So. St. Paul May 28, 2012

The annual commemoration by the MN Veterans for Peace at the State Capitol Grounds, St. Paul MN. Many Vets for Peace, but no means all, are Vietnam Veterans. I have been part of Veterans for Peace for over 10 years.

Veterans for Peace near MN Vietnam Vets Memorial on the MN Capitol Grounds May 28, 2012

Local VFP President Larry Johnson at the MN Capitol area observance May 28

Gita Ghei, whose father was caught in the conflict in western India (a civil war of sorts) at the time the British transferred authority to Indians.

Vet Jerry Rau performs a composition on May 28

Commentary here from Digby related to a Veterans for Peace event in southern California.

Other commentaries on the label “hero” as a topic of contemporary political warfare are here and here.

Of course, such a term is a moving target. In the 2004 Presidential Election, candidate John Kerry, whose military service and heroism in Vietnam was ridiculed by “Swift Boating” negative ads, was made to seem the opposite of what he was: a serviceman who had done his job above and beyond the call of duty. I agree with the assessment that the word “hero” is often misapplied in todays political conversation. Personally, I’m a lucky Vietnam era veteran. I served during the first Vietnam War years 50 years ago, and can prove it. I did everything I was asked to do, and I never left the United States. Indeed, we were preparing a reactivated infantry division for later combat in Vietnam, but in our frame of the time, we had no idea that such a war was developing. We simply did our jobs. If that is heroism, so be it.

But, then, John Kerry was far more a hero than I every thought of being, and he was viciously ridiculed for his service….

President Obama spoke at the Vietnam Memorial on Monday. I had the lucky privilege of having been at that Memorial the very weekend it was dedicated in the Fall of 1982. Vietnam Mem DC 1982001

A little photo album of my service time as a “hero” at Ft. Carson CO can be found on the internet, here. Note my name in the first paragraph, click on the link to the album, and open the link to a few of my “Photographs of 1/61….” in 1962-63.