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).

Monday, April 2, 2012

The best writing focuses on everyday things

Did Mark Twain ruminate on how best to draw interest in his work?

I once heard a writer talk about how hard it was to predict the response to a piece. He would write something that he swore might be a Pulitzer candidate, and hear nothing. Then he would write on something seemingly trivial, like his family's first puppy, and get a hundred gushing responses.
I was reminded of this lately when I got sincere feedback on my item about kids as self-starters in an earlier age. I'm not alone in noticing how kids today are so protected (as if they were "collectibles") and have organized activities waiting for them around every turn.
"Self-starters" means you organize on your own.
Kids lived more in their own world once, for better or worse. Whatever hazards might be out there, they had to buckle down and fend for themselves to a large degree.
A virtue or a drawback? A combination maybe.
I heard from two people who remembered some adventures on a farm. Both said they could feel grateful "being alive" considering some of the intense horseplay.
This was back when there were more farms and they were diversified. You might have to weave around a flock of excited ducks as you pulled in to visit someone. Horses were kept as companion animals.
I remember all this from "the farm down at the end of the road" where I grew up. It's were I live now too: Northridge Drive. Earn Julius was the farm owner and Fred Tatge the "hired man."
Fred's family lived in a very modest house but had a most vibrant life that didn't seem constrained at all. He was an engaging fellow with wit. He asked me once why it wasn't OK to "wear 'holy' pants in church" (pants with holes of course). He'd hitch up a cart to one of the horses and go back and forth in the neighborhood, welcoming kids to ride along
I remember him like yesterday but unfortunately he left us long ago.
Earn watched every penny which was typical of men of his generation. He served on the Morris school board. I doubt the school board members of his day could envision the kind of school campus we have today. Earn like Fred has been gone a long time now. The number of people with memories of these guys is getting whittled down.
Farms today are fewer and I presume they harness far greater efficiencies. They are more focused and benefit from technology.
Poultry is raised in more specialized operations, right? I remember as a kid visiting a farm in the Alberta area where the boys that afternoon were chopping the heads off chickens. The headless bodies put up a fuss for a while. Somehow these images remain pretty well impressed in your head.
The people who run farms today, who I'm more inclined to call "businessmen" rather than "farmers," wouldn't want kids fooling around on their property. Holy liability, Batman.
The people who commented on my post were playing on their own family's property.
Earn sold lots to the east of his farm where he knew darn well kids would be present, wanting to come over to the farm once in a while. But I can't recall him ever making an issue about it.
The "hay mow" was a treasure trove for us. There were ropes enabling us to swing like Tarzan. Perhaps he and Fred weren't aware of this activity. But In a general sense I think they were.
The boomers grew up in a culture that gave us wide latitude. Those people had gotten through the Depression and World War II. They were thankful to have relative prosperity and to be surrounded by kids.
It would be a couple more generations before society upped the organized activities and elaborate facilities for accommodating kids. Rules would be stringent.
Facilities? We'd scout around to find something approximating a baseball diamond and then have to come up with our own bases. The out of bounds lines had to be determined.
I began my recent post (on my "I Love Morris" site) remembering the "soap box derby" races. I suggested that some of the entries were more "contraptions" than racers. I described the location as "the downward slope on the east side of the old school."
Although this is precise, I suspected a reader might still get confused and think of Columbia Avenue. Reader Del Sarlette was thrown momentarily about this, then when I clarified for him, he responded as follows, enjoying the nostalgia (I know, which "isn't what it used to be"):

"I realize now you did say 'east' when you were relating the soap-box derby story. For some reason, my mind went immediately to the steep hill on the West side. We’d ride down that hill on our bikes - pending traffic allowance - and see how far north we could coast. I do remember sledding down the east hill in the winter. (I also remember Scott Groth using his sax case as a sled while returning to Mr. Korochek’s room after fifth grade band.) One of my most clear memories of that eastern slope: One day, during the split-shift years when high school football practice was at noon at the close of the class day for the older kids, for some reason I was hanging out at the top of the hill and hadn’t gone inside yet. Jim Neal came out of that side locker room door in full uniform, sat on the hill to lace up his spikes, and started singing Gary Puckett’s 'Young Girl' at the top of his voice. It’s amazing how such trivial episodes remain lodged in the mind."

I have to smile reading this. The imagery of this energetic student athlete singing with such gusto is precisely the type of memory I'm fond of writing about.
We'll forge ahead, remembering that the posts with the most seemingly trivial and mundane content can be the most memorable. Mark Twain would nod approvingly.
The would-be Pulitzer stuff? I won't give up on that either.
I'd like my politically-focused material to get more attention. My orientation on that was cause for a little sarcasm in a recent comment I got from friend Greg Cruze of Cold Spring:

"Nice story of the Wadsworth Trail. Very interesting history. It was nice that you held back on a shot at Republicans too. I know it was hard, but it made the story better."

Mr. Sarlette indicated he didn't remember the soap-box races, but he did conjure up memories of the skateboarders - reckless souls as he remembers them.
Del responded to what I wrote about the generally more unsupervised lives of us kids:

"Yes, we did have freer reign in those days - went outside at noon after sleeping in, then not coming home until (at least) supper time. Walking as a group through assorted neighborhoods, trying to line up enough guys for a baseball game . . . But, I’m as guilty as the next parent when it came to over-protecting the kids. And I don’t have an answer for that. I have read/heard this topic discussed in assorted venues before, and the common consensus seems to be that child abduction, sexual molestation, etc. isn’t really any more prevalent today than the '60s, it’s just that there is more publicity about those crimes. Some of those things just weren’t talked about back in the day."

Morris had a different look in some key ways. The "Columbia Avenue extension" didn't exist. It's hard to believe, but you couldn't enter Morris where the present-day Pizza Hut and Subway Restaurant are located. You'd have to walk through weeds.
If I wanted to ride my bike to school I'd have to take the long way using Iowa Avenue and go past the cemetery (to the new high school). The old school, where I attended through grade 9, was of course closer.
Del lectures me on the sentimental way I reflect on the old school, as if I'm suggesting it could have had value longer. He says with firmness that the time always comes to "move on." He's totally sold on our new campus which I have maintained is over-developed.
I think a big problem with the old school is that the powers that be didn't let go of it sooner - I mean tear it down. If that was going to be its fate anyway, well. . .
I think it's terrible we couldn't at least cling to the art deco auditorium. The 1914 building is built like, well like a brick schoolhouse. It seems to me the museum could have been transferred there as a first step in re-developing it.
That grand old anchor building could have been gutted like the UMM building that is now called the Welcome Center.
"Pipe dreams," Del and others might say to me.
But it's only depressing to see the old campus just disintegrating with the ravages of time, vandalism, pigeons etc.
The Morris community once made a huge commitment to that campus and property as being our wellspring of education. Now it's blight. Would any other descriptive word suffice?
Contrast this to the tender loving care Donnelly has always shown its "town hall," which really is a bare-bones (WPA) facility. Where there's a will. . .
I wrote about the contemporary schools, so many of which are located and designed in such a way as to seem like "prisons." I also admitted I took the "prison" term from the lips of a current Morris Area school board member. I'm fond of it, as at the very least it's descriptive, if not uttered with denigrating intent.
Again, Del's thoughts:

"To lump all contemporary schools into that category is silly. All institutional buildings built nowadays have to be one story, unless said institution is willing to figure in the cost of elevators and/or the lot is too small. If the lot size permits, one story is the way to go for a lot of reasons. Long-term stability dictates brick construction, energy efficient windows and doors that are going to all look the same, so naturally most one-story brick buildings are going to appear similar."

Del responded to my argument about how the old (1914 vintage) fortress-like school building could maybe have been salvaged through "gutting" it.

"I can see where you're coming from, but that has been done in other places and has always been regretted. A prime example is the auditorium for the old 'Central School' in Montevideo. Exactly the same thing happened there when it came time to replace the old school in the middle of town with a 'prison school' (middle school) on the outskirts. Only there, unlike Morris, the old building was torn down but the auditorium 'saved' and restored. OK, so it's a nice looking old building, but is a bear for the school district to maintain, and as all concerts have to be held there - no new auditoriums were built in either the high school or middle school buildings - the students have to be transported to and from their respective buildings for rehearsals, set-ups etc. (One high school principal told the high school band director a couple years ago that they couldn't bus kids to the old auditorium for rehearsals because that constituted a 'field trip,' and budget constraints had put a moratorium on field trips."

Time marches on.
I appreciate much the feedback I get on whatever topic. We'll be exploring Morris history more. We can't go back any further than the Wadsworth Trail. And no, partisan politics needn't be any kind of constant!
I don't care if the Stevens County Historical Society ever acknowledges what I'm doing. I'm fond of telling people I've established my own "historical society" with my two sites.
And a big difference is that I do this sans the incessant begging for money! (Man, it's like the "Gremlins" wanting chicken after midnight.)
I'm delighted to reach an audience without spending a penny. My photography costs a little but I could eliminate that by going digital. The online world affords an end run to make around all sorts of legacy institutions.
It's a delight. Feel free to respond anytime. "We love Morris."
And, what's the jewel of the West Central Minnesota prairie?
"Morris of course."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

No comments:

Post a Comment