History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Will UW-Stevens Point example be harbinger for UMM?

("eduseek" image)
Remember how close Tom Emmer came to being elected governor? The so-called "conservative" wave seemed so strong. I say "so-called" because these ideological terms don't mean the same thing to everybody. "Tribalism" can take over and we get more concerned with projecting a certain image than with confronting public policy issues. Who doesn't want health care to be addressed seriously? Are the Republicans who emotionally decry "Obamacare" seriously working on that matter now?
Wisconsin gives a template for what would be happening in Minnesota had we elected Emmer. Some of you might like that scenario. However, that would be hovering like a dark cloud over our University of Minnesota-Morris. This isn't even opinion, it's fact.
Let's look to University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. We heard recently of the proposal there to cut 13 majors in the humanities and social sciences. Under the ax would be English, philosophy, history, sociology and Spanish. This would pave the way for programs with "clear career pathways," according to a March 22 report. The purpose is to address declining enrollment and a multi-million-dollar deficit.
We've been over this before: whether those wondrous liberal arts disciplines may be approaching obsolescence in a new chapter of human development. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is the epitome of the contemporary aggressive GOP view of things, where total practicality rules. In addition to the weakened liberal arts commitment, the proposals are seen as a way to lay off faculty under new rules that weakened tenure. You can count on the likes of Gov. Walker to promote such things. Has his philosophy run its course in Wisconsin? How would our UMM have adjusted if GOPers got the same kind of lock on power here?
Gov. Mark Dayton has been plugging the dike. He has even had the courage to not be 100 percent sympathetic to law enforcement after controversial police shootings. In an earlier time, we'd expect his attitude to be common. Beginning with the tea party wave, a new normal has established itself, where it's fine to decry "Obamacare" in an almost possessed way. The public will wake up because our health care needs are so pressing. The public will then realize belatedly the standard template for what Republicans believe: we ought not appreciate government.
A sit-in was planned at the UW-Stevens Point administration building. The theme was "save our majors." This school is one of eleven comprehensive campuses in the University of Wisconsin system. Walker has had his sleeves rolled up for a long time on such matters. He is a true believer in such things, but his presidential bid turned into a dud pretty quickly. Wasn't that because he proposed a border wall between the U.S. and Canada? Or because he demurred on a simple question on whether he believed in evolution? Now he doesn't even want special elections to be held in Wisconsin. That's because he fears the signs of the "blue wave" foreseen by so many. So, let's just torpedo democracy, Gov. Walker appears to be saying. The courts have had to straighten him out on this.
Aren't Republicans famous for promoting a strict, literal interpretation of the law? That law would have made it a no-brainer to call the elections. Walker showed chutzpah and tried gumming up the works. Thank God for the judges. Now let's allow the "blue wave" to proceed.
Tweaking education for sake of politics
There is a clear ideological backdrop to the conservatives' push to minimize liberal arts and promote "workplace skills." Conservatives see many four-year colleges as politically correct institutions that graduate too many students without practical job skills but with liberal political views. What is "liberal" about a health care program that serves all? Can't Republicans ever adjust their fundamental principles and realize that government has its role? They could adjust or compromise a little, allowing a proper set of health care policies to unfold, and that would give them the opportunity to take credit for it. In this new "Breitbart" world that sucks in so many of the conservative stripe, don't bet on it.
And gradually we will see this "blue wave" grow. We can overcome the Russians, heh heh. Republicans are on their high horse with the Wisconsin legislation, still. The legislature weakened tenure in 2015, removing it from state law. In a somewhat below the radar manner, the legislature also changed the traditional power-sharing arrangement at public universities that had given students, faculty and staff an important role in governance.
The administration can now roll up their sleeves more, along with the regents who are of course appointed by the governor. The regents are eyeing policies that make it easier to lay off tenured faculty.
No one can deny that higher education everywhere is facing a state of flux, but certainly we must be vigilant against throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We saw that op-ed in the Star Tribune recently advising strongly on how our State University system in Minnesota - I guess it's called "Minnesota State" now, like in the sitcom with Jerry Van Dyke - needs to address its "overbuilt" situation. Too many physical campuses, fully staffed, following a model that may have seemed practical back when I was in college.
Electronic communications has been a force re-shaping our whole world. Kids grow up self-motivated to learn and to type, in ways my generation could not have imagined. We got our knowledge from "books" that were padded by the publishers for business reasons. It was tedious and a chore to obtain much information. In our new age of Wikipedia and countless other sources, we get information in nice, bite-size pieces. We don't need professors assigning us to read an ungodly pile of books. Simple YouTube clips can give you background in anything. Go online and almost all of this knowledge is free. We take it for granted today.
My generation existed in a much different world, a world where we'd get packed into "dormitories" in an impersonal way. Today's young generation doesn't relate to all of that. Today's young generation wants some joy and practicality associated with learning. But this does not mean throwing out the baby with the bathwater and discarding the liberal arts.
A proposal for change in MN
I have suggested that, regarding our overbuilt "Minnesota State" system, the legislature establish something like what has been done with military bases. Because such matters become such obvious political hot potatoes, lawmakers assign the difficult decisions to a specially established commission. This is the "base closing commission" approach. Maybe an institution like Winona State has to close its doors, especially since Governor Tim Pawlenty ventured out and established a new U of M campus in Rochester. At least I think there's a new campus there? Has it broken out of its eggshell? In hindsight, Pawlenty should have just shut up and not tossed a political sop to that part of the state. But what's done is done.
Now the "Minnesota State" system has to confront some hard realities and make hard decisions. The state will rue the day it ever allowed St. Cloud State to become a punch line with its "party" image. We used to laugh at that. UMM used it for recruiting here. But it was a travesty. SCSU has desperately sought to right its ship from that. But I dare say, that "big" SCSU campus has become rather a millstone around the state's neck. One big funding package has been described as a "bailout" for St. Cloud State. I guess it was symbolic that Earl Potter III had alcohol in his system when he experienced that tragic fatal car crash.
What side our bread is buttered on
Now, getting back to our beloved UMM: we can certainly be thankful that it was Mark Dayton and not Tom Emmer who became governor. Mike Hatch would have been elected instead of Pawlenty, in all likelihood, if Judi Dutcher had known what E-85 was. Remember that? I think Minnesota was really disposed to electing a Democratic governor at that time.
I think the state will take care of our UMM campus, maybe even with Republican leadership. But let's not assume that state of affairs. We have Republicans representing our area who answer a question about gun control by saying that pornography demeans women.
Addendum: Re. Jerry Van Dyke, did you know he was the first candidate for the role of "Gilligan" on "Gilligan's Island?" He ended up choosing "My Mother the Car." And did you know that the Star Tribune, in its coverage of a long-ago Democratic national convention, referred to "wolf whistles" from the crowd when Judi Dutcher went up on stage? We don't judge women by such criteria any more, and I really thought Judi was pretty ordinary-looking anyway. Thinking of Judi brings to mind her father Jim the U basketball coach, and that in turn brings to mind Mitch Lee, he of the champagne glass image shaved into the side of his head. But surely that's a topic for a separate blog post. Remember Gopher Mark Hall and his mess with making long-distance phone calls? How quaint.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The woods of North Central Minnesota: transfixing

Statue of "Lucette" ("travelingtwosome" image)
I find no evidence today of the existence of the Oshawa Store. It was a humble convenience store and lounge in a remote place. It was in one of my favorite places: the "north woods." More accurately it was the woods of North Central Minnesota where the wind gushes through the trees to produce a sound you cannot hear in West Central Minnesota.
The Oshawa Store had a jukebox where you might hear Lorne Greene's "Ringo." This was the 1960s. A layer of sadness hung over that decade: daily we'd hear reports on the Vietnam war.
A rustic, personable couple ran the Oshawa store. My father had rapport with them. We'd show up on our annual hunting visit and they'd cheerily call Dad "Professor." I remember they actively promoted the campaign of George Wallace for president in 1968. "Stand up for America," the flyers read. I sensed no racism on the part of these people - I think their enthusiasm sprang from a tea party-ish type of place, to use a more contemporary term.
Wallace had his independent campaign that really drew substantial support. As a naive junior high kid I couldn't see the whole picture with Wallace, as I couldn't fully understand the cultural factors that produced in him real racism. He'd call it "state's rights." He was the Donald Trump of his day as he could really reach out as a populist from a lectern. I had flashbacks to Wallace as Trump gained momentum in his campaign.
Our family had strong connections to North Central Minnesota. My mother is from there, from Brainerd, and my father taught at Brainerd High School before joining the Navy for World War II. We had a nice lake place on Gull Lake near Nisswa for a time. As a young man my father had a small racing boat. I heard the story about how he raced a float plane as it was accelerating to take off. Can you picture him doing that? He was quite into boating in general. This he did on the "Gull Lake chain." We have home movie footage taken by friend of the family Ruth Schiel-Closson. Wow, I have to wonder how much that lake place would be worth today! I imagine we split our time between Nisswa and St. Paul because my father taught at the U of M St. Paul School of Agriculture which, as a school of ag, had a half-year calendar. My father had income as a choral music composer - I never asked him how much that was.
Dad liked renewing his familiarity with the "north woods" for hunting season. Skip Sherstad always wondered why we couldn't just go "slug hunting" for deer around here in the Morris MN area. We had these nice "corn fed" deer. But the north woods with its roar of the wind in the trees had intangibles. Being out in the woods seemed to separate you from the gritty real world on the outside. There I was with my 30/06 bolt action rifle. I never got a deer in my Minnesota hunting. I did get a couple when Dad and I went to Wyoming, the Sundance area, a couple years. I developed a feeling of futility looking for deer around my Minnesota deer stand. But I greatly enjoyed just being in that environment. I remember we parked our car by a lookout tower which became a hub for the red or orange-clad deer hunting crowd.
North woods symbol: the raven
I have fond memories of the small towns in the area like Hackensack, named for the New Jersey city. And, Backus, Pine River, Nevis and Park Rapids. In the Park Rapids area we hunted with Ted Long, once of the old West Central School of Agriculture in Morris. When thinking of that Park Rapids venture I remember the raven birds. I was transfixed by those very large birds, like a very large crow, that seemed to rule along the endless treetops of that land. The fascinating raven inhabits the roughly one-third northeast section of Minnesota. It has a shaggy beard of feathers on the chin and throat. Look for a large wedge-shaped tail. It is a non-migrator to partial migrator. It is large enough to consume small animals. I remember well its call: a low, raspy sound. The raven is rather like the royalty of the north woods. Perhaps it exudes charm because we can sense it is among the smartest of birds. It performs aerial acrobatics and makes long swooping dives. It scavenges with crows and gulls. These birds are known to follow wolf packs around to pick up scraps and pick at bones of a kill. Another source of charm: it mates for life and uses the same nest site for many years.
You can sense I'm more of a nature lover than a hunter. Eventually my father "converted" and decided he wanted to "live and let live."
We made more than one trip north to hunt partridge. You'd walk along and then hear the booming sound of a partridge taking off. But deer? I found them to be elusive. Skip was right: the odds for our success would have been greater around here in Morris. But I wouldn't trade the entrancing effect of the north woods for anything.
There was a guy named Bartell who lived down the road from the Oshawa Store. He lived most humbly in one of those tar paper shacks. My father looked forward to talking with him each year.
State Highway 371 takes you into Hackensack. Wasn't there a "PDQ Bach" tune called "O Little Town of Hackensack?" This rustic town is on the eastern shore of Birch Lake. Pleasant Lake and Ten Mile Lake are also in the area. The Paul Bunyan State Trail passes through the town on the east shore of Birch Lake. I was there long before an iconic statue got erected, not of Paul Bunyan but of his significant other! "Lucette Diana Kensack" has watched over the town since 1991. She faces town on the shores of Birch Lake. A little quirk of the statue - perhaps charming, perhaps not - is that it looks like Lucette is hiding something under her dress! The locals of Hackensack came up with her name in a contest. Streetlight banners declare her as Paul Bunyan's sweetheart.
Oh, but there has been controversy due to the decision to have a "Paul Jr." next to her! Controversy because, were Paul and Lucette married? How quaint to chew over this. How quaint to chew over whether the couple was "living in sin." Mercy! Someone at the Hackensack Chamber of Commerce eventually "found" a marriage license. A story developed that the two got married in 1838! A tourist could buy a copy of the marriage license for $2. Ah, those ingenious tourist town people.
Dad and I were in the hunter class of tourists. The air would be so cleaned out in the fall. You could walk through the woods and appreciate the grandeur of it all without being overrun by bugs and weeds. Today Hackensack is fairly close to Northern Lights Casino. Gambling was totally morally taboo in Minnesota when I was a kid. We gradually got over that, getting our toe in the water with "raffles" and "poker runs." The camel's nose was in the tent, and before long the camel went amok. No moral conflictedness now.
The Lucette statue stands 17 feet tall. The original "Paul Jr." may have been removed, to cater to the puritanical types, but it was replaced by a chainsaw sculpture near the mom. I had a good college friend from Pine River, Janice.
My home was in the magnificent prairie of West Central Minnesota. But I relished the trips that Dad and I took to the entrancing "north woods" of Minnesota. The hunting was an afterthought for me. My hunting days are over. As the raven would say, "nevermore."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, April 13, 2018

Clontarf MN: we pass by but need to appreciate

(lakesnwoods image)
I wonder why Benson became a more vital town than Clontarf. Clontarf is one of those places on the map that we really don't associate with anything. Some might toss out the term "wide place in the road." In an earlier time, "whistle stop" might describe (a town where a train wouldn't actually stop, it would "blow its whistle").
Those of us who travel between Morris and Willmar, or Hancock and Benson, are well familiar with the town name. It's just a point of reference, a sign you're between Hancock and Benson.
Approaching Benson, we know we're getting close to a convenient Dairy Queen!
Benson seems a comparable town to Morris. Benson and Morris were prime sports rivals in my youth. I no longer believe in investing emotions in sports at any level. We leave a wreckage behind us of dashed dreams. Does winning really make us happier? It's illusory. When I was a kid, I heard out and about that Benson had a disproportionately high percentage of "druggies." Truth or mere urban legend? I don't know. I do know that Morris was hardly free of that problem. Talk about leaving emotional wreckage behind you.
As the years passed, I got the impression that Benson was one of those towns beset with petty political conflicts and controversies. The funeral home and radio station were at each other's throats there once. A script from Andy Griffith to be sure. And then we head east toward Willmar, the "big town."
Benson and Morris have had a partnership in hockey. It never made sense to me: there is no natural sense of affinity between the towns, the distance in between is rather great (about 26 miles), and the program's name of "MBA" is sterile and doesn't immediately convey where on the map it is, similar to BOLD and MACCRAY. All these programs should be named after a specific town - the other towns can be content being along for the ride. Get over it.
I won the Benson Kid Day 10-kilometer footrace in 1985. I hope the historical annals there have this preserved. It was the best race I ever ran.
Benson is where I saw my orthodontist in the 1960s: Dr. Albani, an agreeable and light-hearted person. He made sure I got a "retainer" after the braces were taken off. I went through all that in my junior high years. A photo of me from then is a perfect candidate for the "Get Mortified" website where people share stories and photos from those clumsy adolescent years. "Your hair is a mess," Randy Thraen said to me. I capitulated to adolescence. I should have started combing my hair straight back at a younger age. So much hindsight now that I'm in my 60s.
The last motorcoach tour taken by my mom was with Riley's which is located on the same highway en route to Willmar. Dad and I picked her up and she started telling us about all the excitement, and included in all this was a reference to one of her trip-mates: "Dr. Albani." She didn't know our old connection. That Alaska trip ended just weeks before the 9-11 attacks. Part of her trip included air travel. Based on all the stuff that transpired with terrorists, it seemed a good time to bring my mother's travels to a close. She had been to many places with both Riley's and Utopia Tours.
Clontarf has a far more interesting history than you'd suspect upon passing through. There was a time way back when, when families arrived daily to settle around Clontarf, brought there by James J. Hill's trains. The Clontarf "colony" had the Catholic Church as its pulse. The first priest was Father Anatole Oster. He named the parish "St. Malachy" for an Irish saint. Let's review how Clontarf itself got its name: early arrivals coined this based on the site of the 11th Century victory of Irish King Brian Boru over Viking invaders. I'm happy to see a "Brian" do well but I'm chagrined about the Vikings being vanquished, since I have Norwegian lineage.
Clontarf quickly grew into a vibrant village. There was an influx of Irish immigrants. The colony grew so much, Clontarf Township split. The settlers faced challenges and adversity. Grasshoppers might invade! The lighter soil lent itself to hay and grasses. Feed and bedding were needed for animals in the horse-powered society of the time. Clontarf hay was used by the Chicago Fire Department!
The industrial school of Clontarf was a significant chapter. Established with quite fine ideals, it couldn't get going. Then there was the experiment with educating Indian children just like here in Morris - an uphill challenge. Intentions were good but obstacles great. Many of the Indians stayed at the school only one term. Few showed any interest in learning the industrial arts.
Back in the early '80s I heard that a Morris school faculty member was planning his wedding anniversary celebration at the Clontarf Club. I had always seen a road sign or billboard identifying that establishment. Intrigued, I showed up for the party and photographed Dave Holman, his wife Darlene and family for a photo that appeared in the Morris paper. Neat! I began a personal trend of attending the Holmans' anniversary gatherings. Sadly, Darlene Holman has left us. Dave can be seen at McDonald's on many mornings.
The passage of time waits for no one. History has its ups and downs with drama. How fine if I could re-create the "glory" of winning the Benson Kid Day 10K! Many towns have scaled back and now only have a 5K. I haven't kept track of Benson. For many years I covered the Benson-Hancock American Legion baseball team for the Hancock Record. Today there is no Hancock Record. I hope my contributions to this area's history are noted and appreciated.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Tommy "Fatty" Wood, the silent film actor from Brainerd

Tommy "Fatty" Wood
Silent movies have a surreal quality about them. It's as if we're stepping into a mysterious world. But it's just a case of cinema being in its infancy. Minnesota had a connection to those early heady days of cinema. My mother told me about "Fatty" Wood when I was a child. "Fatty" was born in Eau Claire WI but he was for all practical purposes a native of Brainerd.
My mom Martha H. Williams, now age 93, was a 1942 graduate of Brainerd High School. She is most proud of her roots, her connections to that old railroad town. I recently put up a post (on my "I Love Morris" blog site) about Brainerd for which I did some cursory research about actor Wood. It was hard finding a whole lot of information at the start. Since then I dug and was able to do better. I'm intrigued buy this long-ago actor from Central Minnesota who appeared with the likes of Charlie Chaplin.
Those were the days before "synchronized sound" in the movies. But those movies were surely not "silent." They were accompanied by music performed right in the theater. I think we have all wondered how the public could really have been entertained by what seems to be such a crude product. Read cinema history and you'll see that the artistic community took this genre of entertainment seriously.
Chaplin is iconic in movie history annals. Right here I'll give you a chance to see Fatty with Charlie in an old movie - it's "Sunnyside." Just look for the very rotund gentleman - it's "Fatty." You may click on this YouTube link:
Fatty was born on May 6 of 1894 and died too young at age 38 on December 27, 1932. I'm assuming that his tremendous weight left him vulnerable to illness and death. He got a cold and died of pneumonia. He's buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Brainerd, same cemetery as my grandparents on my mother's side.
Brainerd celebrated its Centennial in 1971. My family was there and enjoyed it all, including the showing of a Fatty Wood film that was made in and around Brainerd. I heard this was a rare showing, rare because the film was old and delicate. Today of course such stuff would be digitized ASAP. I'm assuming that task has been done. However I could not find any of the Brainerd-centered material on YouTube. I'm going to contact the Crow Wing County Historical Society about this.
The full name of the actor we're featuring here is Tommy "Fatty" Wood. Old press accounts sometimes made the mistake of having his name appear as "Woods." He was featured in the role of "Farmer Corntassel" in footage that highlights Brainerd and Crow Wing County. The story is a comedy, described as "side-splitting" in a 1915 Brainerd Daily Dispatch account.
The movie begins with Farmer Corntassel meeting several well-known state officials at the Brainerd train depot. Fatty then goes to First National Bank where he meets a stranger who turns out to be a pickpocket! He gets past that encounter and then gets taken for an automobile ride around Brainerd. He visits various merchants until we again see the pickpocket. At first the thief appears to succeed in lifting Fatty's "roll," as the newspaper reports, but justice prevails as the thief ends up in the city jail.
There is considerable humor through the course of this. We get scenes of the mines at Crosby and Ironton. We see the hydraulic work at the Hillcrest mine. "Beautiful Bay Lake" enters the picture. The movie ends with "Farmer Corntassel" visiting the Echo Dairy Farm. It's truly a cinema gem as we are treated to the sight of students leaving the high school. Prominent buildings and business streets enter the picture.
My family went to a Brainerd movie theater to watch some of the old stuff in 1971 for the Centennial. (I remember that admission was with a button!) I have just a vague memory of the content so I'm not sure if we actually saw the Farmer Corntassel piece or some other work.
My mother concluded high school as WWII began raging. She was most attuned to what was going on with the Brainerd National Guard unit for WWII. That unit was tragically captured by the Japanese in the Philippines. The Guardsmen were forced on the Bataan Death March. Only half of those young men made it back home after the war. My mom played in the band for ceremonies both at the time of departure and the somber return.
Brainerd was a company town and my grandfather worked for the railroad. His first Social Security check at the very start of that program was en route to him when he died of a stroke. Imagine life without Social Security!
Fatty Wood helped make Brainerd a pioneer in harnessing the fledgling medium of movies. All the locally produced work was seen as an economic asset for the beautiful lakes area. Fatty reported in February of 1916 that his weight had reached 470 pounds and was still going up. In January of 1917, Wood and "A. Anderson" led the Brainerd marching team at the St. Paul Winter Carnival. We read that "the tailor had to splice two measuring tapes together for Wood." April of 1917 saw the actor's weight bulge up to 600 pounds! Oh my. He went to Chicago for a tryout with the Mutual Film Company.
"Fatty" with Charlie Chaplin in "Sunnyside"
We're not surprised that the rotund fellow was turned down for military service. At one point he had to be weighed on a freight scale. "They don't make uniforms his size," the newspaper joked. Rotund, yes, but his " 'mile of smiles' is to be seen on the screen," the Brainerd Dispatch reported.
Wood was hailed as "first Minnesota man in movies." He ended his association with Chaplin in 1919. It was reported that he intended to start his own company. He was multi-talented with music and the ukulele standing out.
Fatty was in Los Angeles when Chaplin's brother Syd contacted him to give him the cinema break. "I made up my mind to be a motion picture actor," Fatty is quoted saying. Charlie invited Fatty to his house to enjoy cocktails, cake and tea. It was there that the Chaplins arranged for Fatty to be in "Sunnyside." The next day saw Fatty on the filming lot, there to rub shoulders with some of Hollywood's biggest names like Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Fatty appeared to have a powerful presence. Too much so?
"Dim suspicion seized us," a newspaper account read, "that Tommy Wood of Brainerd MN and of Hollywood CA believed that Chaplin was a little piqued at the comedy powers of his heavyweight co-star." Tommy commented: "Those stars are all alike. They want to have the whole picture. Look at Edna Purviance, how long she has been with Charlie, and see how little she gets to do. Look at Bill Hart. He has a new leading woman in every picture. People in Los Angeles told me that was the way with stars and I found out that it's true." Thus we might better understand Wood's departure from Chaplin.
The Brained Daily Dispatch proclaimed in 1919 that "Tommy Wood is our biggest living advertisement of the Minnesota climate." Fatty's last reported cinema appearance was uncredited where he played a prospector in the classic "The Gold Rush" with Chaplin, a 1925 film.
The Brainerd newspaper reported the news of Fatty's death from pneumonia in December of 1932. His death came in Minneapolis. "The deceased weighed nearly 600 pounds at one time and gained considerable popularity throughout the country for his stage and musical endeavors." His parents preceded him in death. He was survived by two sisters. The Brainerd paper reported that funeral services were held at First Congregational Church with Rev. N.P. Olmstad officiating. I presume the church was in Brainerd.
Tommy once said "sometimes people think I'm Fatty Arbuckle. But most of them remember me in 'Sunnyside.' "
Indeed, Tommy "Fatty" Wood lived his life on the sunny side of the street.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Mike McFeely radio show (WDAY) calls out Taco Bell

Mike McFeely
There's a saying about how you know you're getting old when you no longer know what time Taco Bell closes. It came to mind as I listened to the Mike McFeely radio show last week. McFeely vented about how he and others had encountered problems at Taco Bell, particularly one located close to the Moorhead State University campus. OK it's "Minnesota State University Moorhead" now. There was a time when it was "Moorhead State College."
McFeely has a three-hour morning show on WDAY Radio, from 9 a.m. to noon. He used to be heard in the afternoon on KFGO. He dares to be a political progressive on the radio dial. He has had an on-and-off association with Forum Communications in his career. Right now it's on because WDAY is owned by the Forum. I hate to give Forum Communications credit but these days I prefer WDAY over KFGO.
A political progressive on radio can tread rough water. Radio nationwide can be a big swamp where those of the tea party ilk can rule. These days with my new laptop I can listen to live stream radio with no issues regarding signal quality. What a fantastic new world we're in. Within a few days after getting the laptop (from a genial Tucker McCannon), I started to wonder if I even needed cable TV anymore. Right now I have a cable TV package through Mediacom that costs too much. I'd cancel now and go to Federated, except I hate the hassle of changing services.
I changed phone services and got a bill for a nominal amount from the previous provider about three months after I thought I was done with them. With Mediacom I'd have to return some equipment. A Mediacom employee who came to our house about a year ago said his company was "trying to get rid of those (cable) boxes." Federated informs me that if I switch to them, there would be no box needed. I'd only want the minimal cable TV package for about half of what I'm paying now. That modest package now includes MSNBC which is the only channel I'm interested in. As with McFeely, that channel has a progressive political stance.
Speaking of political stance
As for conservative TV, why has Fox News become so poisonous and toxic? It is blatant propaganda for Donald Trump and his following. About 35 percent of Americans will support Trump no matter what he does. Remember Trump's "joke" about how people would support him even if he shot someone in broad daylight? What kind of country are we living in now? I'm glad I'm not a parent who has to explain to my kids who Stormy Daniels is.
Advertisers have finally bailed on Laura Ingraham's Fox News program. I could see that coming because Ingraham has tendencies that are clearly in the bomb-throwing direction. When I was a kid, such incendiary and reactionary voices were marginalized. You'd see this stuff on obscure pamphlets that wacko types would pass out. Ingraham went over the edge on anti-gun control.
I feel sorry for the local people who tried to get answers from Jeff Backer and Torrey Westrom on gun control. Don't be naive about this: conservative Republicans are not going to see the light on this anytime soon. Heck, never. In response, did they really talk about pornography demeaning women?
Economy doesn't always serve us
McFeely's rants about Taco Bell, which many of us could greet with laughter, reflect a mounting frustration many of us feel with corporate America. Corporations are run by people in distant offices who are cold and detached, making judgments solely on maximizing profit. Profit is always important, but companies are run in a more customer-friendly way when the owners are the local people you see in church on Sunday. At a certain point they are made to realize they have to serve the people. Not like the Wells Fargo banking system that was eventually exposed to be something like a full-fledged criminal operation.
In Morris we have Bank of the West, about which my feelings aren't too much better. So Bank of the West now pays one percent interest on a five-year certificate of deposit. Remember that letter that Ralph Nader sent to the Federal Reserve chairman about how people across the U.S. living on fixed income needed more generous interest? Do we really need to turn to companies like Edward Jones just to get decent interest on savings? I don't want to go through the hassle of making that switch. My checking account at Bank of the West was started at the old (ancient) Citizens Bank. How quaint. Those were the days when local bank presidents were iconic local leaders. Today banks are run by local managers who do what they're instructed to do, just like the Morris newspaper of today. Or Thrifty White Drug.
Thrifty White deserted main street and downsized its service to the public. I used to get my bird feed there. Do you really prefer this new world we're in?
Taco Bell is owned by Yum! Brands which also owns Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut has a restaurant in Morris.
Listening to McFeely's rants made me feel a little better because I know I'm not alone - I'm not alone as a customer having gotten lousy service because of the company's drive to keep overhead low. In other words, they don't pay enough. I used to visit our Morris Pizza Hut restaurant 5-6 times a year, i.e. not a lot, and it was surprising how many lousy experiences I had. When finally there was the opportunity to supply customer feedback online, I "flamed" them. It's too bad because I like the atmosphere at Pizza Hut. It seems real relaxing. More than one server there was amused - I enjoyed this - by how I'd bring an old Civil War magazine to read while waiting for my order.
Pizza Hut must rely on orders to send out pizza. The dine-in clientele seems almost nonexistent at times. I get the impression that Morris people prefer the busier Pizza Ranch with its buffet. Frankly I prefer Pizza Hut if I can just get decent service. I don't like it when a waiter comes up to me and says "we're real busy tonight." Once a waitress came up after I'd waited too long and explained that "a couple employees didn't show up for work." McFeely talked about Taco Bell restaurants that would literally be closed because they couldn't find employees to work. It's discouraging.
There is a Taco Bell in Alexandria. I dined there once with Bev Lucken. The experience was OK. I guess Taco Bell has sort of a "bar rush" reputation. The bar rush is a rapidly fading American custom. I remember when Atlantic Avenue Restaurant in Morris (DeToy's now) was open 24 hours - yes it's true - and would attract stumbling drunks. That whole scene is so gone with the wind thanks to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which incidentally is no longer run by mothers, it's run by lawyers. I suppose we're better off.
I'll close here with a "plug" for the Mike McFeely radio show on WDAY, 9 a.m. to noon. He calls out the tea party types. I don't know why he left KFGO. Maybe he's an easier "sell" in the morning than in the prime afternoon hours. North Dakota is a red state. But Forum Communications is a quite Republican-oriented company. I'm glad they make allowances for McFeely.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Hancock boys flirted with state, were stopped just shy

Hancock's exciting ride in the 2018 post-season ended on March 16. What memories! Although the big climb ended shy of state, the Owls put together 25 wins over the course of the 2017-18 campaign. Noah Kannegiesser may have led the way but there were significant contributions from others. I didn't personally watch the team. I wish I could have.
The curtain came down in the March 16 game that had Mahnomen/Waubun as the opponent. The game was for the 6A title. This time the winning magic eluded the gallant HHS crew. The Owls were stopped in a 71-64 final at the Concordia-Moorhead fieldhouse.
Mahnomen-Waubun has the "Thunderbirds" nickname. They entered the game as somewhat less than a world beater, with a loss total over ten. But it was the Thunderbirds who got the advantage and thus the right to advance to state. The halftime situation was the T-birds up by four, but Hancock made things more than interesting in second half play. Coach Cory Bedel's Owls got the score tied 52-52 with 9:45 left. Then the Owls climbed further as they seized the lead at 59-54. The time remaining: 7:32. Alas, the Owl crew could score just five more points. The final horn sounded with the T-Birds up by seven.
The books are closed on the HHS boys' season with a won-lost record of 25-3. The T-Birds outscored the Owls by a dozen points over the final seven minutes. Hancock was seeking its first state tournament appearance since 2003. Kannegiesser scored a bushel full of points as is his habit. His total on this night: 32. So his career total was upped to 2,688.
The Owls hadn't lost a game in over a month. Coach Bedel had his team streak out to a 7-1 record at season's start. Then it got even better with a win streak of 12 games. Finally they fell to Dawson-Boyd on February 12. The jets got going again with a seven-game win skein that included three wins in post-season.
Bennett Nienhaus complemented Kannegiesser with offensive prowess in many games. He was No. 2 in scoring behind Kannegiesser in the March 16 game with 15 points. Connor Reese found the range to score nine points. Cole Reese scored seven and Peyton Rohloff one. Kannegiesser and Nienhaus each made three 3-point shots.
Mahnomen-Waubun was led by Treston Spalla who poured in 22 points. Other double figures scorers for the T-Birds were Dion Bower with 18 points and Jayden Heisler with 13. Parker Syverson and Jon Starkey each scored six points. The list wraps up with Logan Pazdernik (4) and Will Bly (2). Heisler and Bower each made three 3-point shots.
Amidst all the excitement of reaching such a high level in post-season, a notable individual honor was announced. Kannegiesser, the Owls' superstar guard, is one of ten finalists for the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association McDonald Award. He's the only Class A player to be so honored. He's on the prestigious list with lots of metro area players and Division I recruits. Without a doubt Kannegiesser belongs on the list - he led the state in scoring with his per-game average of 36 points. He scored over 1,000 points on a notable shooting percentage of 57.3.
The McDonald Award is named for coach Bob McDonald. This year's award is the first. Where can fans enjoy Kannegiesser's talents in the future? Glad you ask. He'll be scoring for those Comets of Concordia-St. Paul of Division II.
Owls 61, Ortonville 54
The Owls reached the Section 6A championship game with their success vs. the Trojans of Ortonville. This game might have been postponed in light of the terrible van accident that resulted in Hancock students seriously hurt. Coach Cory Bedel reported that the team discussed the matter and decided to move forward and play the game. They'd play it with the injured students in mind, feeling inspired by them and their strength to persevere.
Amidst an atmosphere of prayer for those kids, the Owls went out and won their game at the Concordia fieldhouse floor. Hancock led at halftime 29-22. But the Trojans were a quite undaunted unit and seized momentum for a time in the second half, good enough to wrest the lead away from the Owls and to lead by four with six minutes left. The Owls fought back to prevail in the end, 61-51, for their third win over Ortonville this season.
Coach Bedel recited the old wisdom about how it's hard to beat an opponent three times in a season. Ah, it's superstition, right? Well, I don't know. "The kids came down and hit some big shots," Bedel was quoted saying. The reward for the winning surge was the South Sub-Section championship. Upon savoring the win, everyone's thoughts turned back to the tragedy of the accident and how the kids are striving to recover. So many people talk about "prayers." IMHO I'm not sure the prayers accomplish much.
Kannegiesser poured in 36 points in the March 12 win. He was one of just five Owls putting in points. His reliable sidekick in the offensive scheme of things, Bennett Nienhaus, scored nine points. Cole Reese added eight points to the mix. Peyton Rohloff scored six and Daniel Milander two. Kannegiesser brought waves of cheers with his five 3-point shot successes. Nienhaus made three 3-pointers and Cole Reese made one.
Rohloff led in rebounds with nine while Connor Reese and Nienhaus each grabbed eight. Kannegiesser showed his unselfish play with seven assists. He was all over the court as shown by his five steals.
Ortonville had four double figures scorers led by Tyson Powell who scored 15 points. Then we have DaVonte Edwards with 12 points and Mitchell Meyer and Caden Wellnitz each with ten. Peter Treinen added seven points to the mix. Meyer made a 3-pointer.
Owls 69, Battle Lake 61 (OT)
The Owls' exciting ride included a come-from-behind victory that required overtime. The site was the big floor of our U of M-Morris. It's too bad more post-season games don't get played there (like in the old days). The Owls got the advantage in overtime over Battle Lake in a 69-61 final on March 10. Whew!
Kannegiesser's point output on this day was 35 with every point important as the Owls had to rally from an eight-point halftime deficit. The halftime score was 37-29 with the Owls in that worrisome hole. The Owl faithful had to cross fingers and keep the faith, for what would be a wild second half here in Morris.
Sure enough, the Owls had what it took to surge and win. They outscored Battle Lake 40-34 in the second half and overtime to win.
Kannegiesser's 35 points were followed by Connor Reese's nine. Bennett Nienhaus and Cole Reese each finished with eight points. Peyton Rohloff put in seven points and Daniel Milander had two. It was bombs away by Kannegiesser as he sank six 3-point shots. The Reese boys - Cole and Connor - each made one '3'. Rohloff led the Owls in rebounds with six. Kannegiesser and Cole Reese were tops in assists, each with four. Kannegiesser led in steals with four followed by Milander and Nienhaus each with three.
The Battle Lake scoring list had four in double figures: Nick VanErp led their charge with 19 points. Colton Kirschbaum put in 15. Isaiah Dorn had a point total of 14 and Bennet Cameron contributed ten. The list wraps up with Brady Scholten and his three points. VanErp built his total with three 3-pointers. Cameron made two shots from long range and Dorn made one.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, March 23, 2018

Minnewaska boys fall to Breckenridge & Dahlgren

The Lakers' exciting ride is over. Fans relished the March Madness atmosphere. The Lakers played two games amidst that atmosphere and unfortunately, found winning elusive.
The road ended Thursday night. The 'Waska Lakers met Breckenridge in the state consolation semi-finals. The site was the Concordia-St. Paul court, home of the Comets.
Fans here in Morris might suggest that 'Waska was playing a little over their heads in state. After all, our MACA Tigers could taste victory in the second half of a post-season game versus the Lakers. Our Tigers were a pretty ordinary team. We saw that game slip away to a very opportunistic 'Waska team. Opportunism should be rewarded. 'Waska showed that magic again as they advanced further. Finally those Lakers could relish that state glow, and no one could suggest they didn't deserve it. But their luster dimmed as the state action got underway, first in a game vs. Caledonia in which the wheels came off in the second half.
The game against Breckenridge had a similar pattern: fading in the second half. The Cowboys of Breck presided over the Lakers 72-42 Thursday night. The Lakers end their season with a W/L of 21-9. Breck advances with 26-6 numbers. Breck was the prime district-level rival for our Tigers back in my younger years. We all remember the coach whose last name was Lipp. We remember that green color of the Breck team and crowd. It seemed we lost to them too often.
Breck led the Lakers 36-24 at halftime. The green team punched on the accelerator the rest of the way, outscoring 'Waska 36-18. Breckenridge plays Esko for fifth place in a game set to start a couple hours from when I'm writing this (Friday).
Dahlgren shows precise shooting eye
Derek Dahlgren was a big force for the green team on Thursday. Dahlgren made four 3-pointers. He led a real barrage of 3-pointer success by Breck, spread out among several players. Hunter Feigum made two shots from beyond the stripe. These Cowboys each made one long-ranger: Andrew Kram, Noah Christiansen, Max Johnson, Jace LeNoue and Copper Yaggie.
Dahlgren with his 3's led the Breck scoring list with 20 points. Christianson was close behind with 18. Feigum put in eight points. ("Feigum" was the name of my kindergarten teacher.)
Max Johnson scored six points and Dawson Peterson put in five. Several Cowboys finished with three points: Kram, Caden McGough, LeNoue and Yaggie. Sam Bakken added two points to the mix.  The list wraps up with Michael Randall scoring one.
For the Lakers, Jackson Johnsrud matched Dahlgren's output of 3-pointers, making four. Matt Gruber connected twice from three-point range, and Ryan Amundson made one '3'. Johnsrud and Gruber were the Lakers' double figures scorers with 15 and 10 points respectively. Jack Blevins put in five points. Garrett Jensen and Shawn Carsten each had an output of four. Ryan Amundson scored three points and Grant Jensen one.
Gruber led in rebounds with five. Christianson was the top assist producer with four. Four Lakers each had one steal: Johnsrud, Ryan Christianson, Luke Barkeim and Joe Piekarski.
Congrats to the Lakers on their super 2017-18 season! Enjoy spring. (My late father Ralph was a 1934 graduate of Glenwood High School. He was the youngest of five boys in the family.)
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com