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).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

morris mn - essays at most pleasant time of year

A glimpse of autumn nature, out by Pomme de Terre North Lake. (B.W. photo)
Note to readers: "Morris of Course" is a companion website to my older site which is called "I Love Morris." Thanks a lot if you've visited both! Local sports reviews generally go on "I Love Morris." Because I have posted more frequently on sports this past fall, and because many of the sports reviews aren't particularly long, I have inserted some general interest commentary as sort of a post-script. If you are not interested in reading the game reviews, you may not have been aware of the unrelated stuff. Assuming you might be interested, I have assembled much of that here today on "Morris of Course," as sort of a compendium or potpourri or whatever you might want to call it. Why am I posting more often on sports? It is because of the often-sluggish performance of the local newspaper with its website.
Nice name for a lake - let's revive it? (posted October 2)
The "Lake Crissey" name has faded from general use through the years. I don't think it was ever cancelled. It's the name for what we would otherwise call "the Pomme de Terre reservoir." You know, it's that body of water out at Pomme de Terre City Park. It was once a state park. It once had a popular "earthen pool" right next to the river.
You see, "Lake Crissey" is a wide spot on the Pomme de Terre River. So is Pomme de Terre (or Perkins) Lake north of Morris, along with "Middle Pomme de Terre" and "Pomme de Terre North."
I have suggested before that "Pomme de Terre" gets used too much and thus we can get confusion. Whatever, the city park has wonderful aesthetic qualities that attract campers, walkers, bicyclists and everyone.
Our city park out there once had the name "Riverside Park." The local Kiwanis coined that name in the mid-1930s. The dam was not yet fully constructed. Oddly the name didn't catch on. Once the dam was fully up and running, the lake and beach became a magnet for people. The lake (or reservoir) took on the name "Lake Crissey." It was named for A.D. Crissey who was the region's state representative and who supported the creation of the dam and park.
It's a nice name, isn't it? It rolls off the tongue easily. It's nicer than "Pomme de Terre Reservoir," wouldn't you say?.
I first heard the name when I was doing an article for the local print media on the biking/walking trail. I was handed a map that had "Lake Crissey" on it. I was intrigued, asked a question or two, and got some background.
It turns out "Lake Crissey" had faded from popular use years earlier. Perhaps one reason is that this lake doesn't really seem like a lake. It doesn't seem quite big enough and it hasn't been used for swimming in a long time. There was some swimming there when I was a kid, enough to justify a diving raft. Today the feeling you get when visiting there, pleasant as it is, is that it's just a wide spot on the river.
So what? I would like to suggest here and now that "Lake Crissey" be fully restored as the name for this body of water. It's a reminder of our history. The City of Morris should put a sign up. How about it?
Whither old school property? (posted September 18)
The recent suggestion of an outdoor pool for the old school property should have many of us feeling like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day."
I mean, the proposal has come up with regularity through the years. It's almost embarrassing because we can't seem to realize this goal. We eventually did realize the goal of an indoor ice arena. Perhaps we all take that for granted now. That's fine, but I remember well the days when hockey was kind of a "church mice" sport in Morris - a sandlot type of sport.
It was "mission accomplished" with the ice arena, our Lee Community Center, but the outdoor pool continues as kind of a mirage in our heads. It's a lofty idea or goal, and we have in fact flirted with success.
We had the "earthen pool" out at Pomme de Terre City Park for a time. It was all the rage when it opened but then it faded.
More recently we have gotten the "spray park" built at the city park. I don't know to what extent that has been successful. But I doubt many of us judge that as a substitute for a real outdoor pool. So we hear again that clarion call that a new pool is needed in Morris, an echo of many such cries through the years.
I remember writing a feature article about this for the local print media back in about 1980. I remember two female lobbyists showing up at a city council meeting. They much appreciated the attention I gave the subject. But there was no immediate action.
We eventually got that earthen pool. For some reason that couldn't get established for the long term. So a void is once again seen.
And now we hear the call for a new pool on the old school property. I'm not sure why we had to wait for this property to become available. I'm not even sure why the City of Morris ended up with the property dumped in its lap. But whatever, we're moving forward and now there's the high-profile suggestion of getting this new pool.
A good idea? Naturally, but it's much easier coming up with new ideas than paying for them.
Had the community really wanted this asset, why not initiate it at Green River Park? Green River is quite ideally located in terms of being convenient for residential neighborhoods. The old school property is on the northern end of town.
I'm skeptical about whether there's potential for any kind of development on the old school property. A new outdoor pool? Maybe it's worthy of looking at, but we as a community need to reach a resolution on this. Let's either get one or move on from this dream.
The suggestion has one feeling like Bill Murray (listening to Sonny and Cher at wakeup-time).
McDonald's not enough? (posted October 5)
I'm healthier today than I should be. I attempted to have my evening meal at McDonald's in Morris on Thursday and Friday nights, but I had to depart. Customers were crowding there. As I left on Friday, I noticed cars backed up for what seemed like a block from the drive-in window. Had I waited to be served, the wait would have been too long and uncomfortable.
I have noticed that sometimes McDonald's has only one cash register going when they should have two. A customer waiting in line behind me pointed this out once. Sometimes a customer will be at the counter being served a large and complicated order. It takes time.
So, maybe there should be benches for waiting, or maybe the place should operate like a traditional restaurant where you take your seat and get "waited on." At least you could sit and relax.
But McDonald's is "fast food." Problem is, fast food establishments are not as fast as they used to be. One reason is their menus have gotten larger. It's a trade-off: Do you want to emphasize speed of service or variety of selections? I don't know, but the glut of business that sometimes happens at our McDonald's is calling for some sort of remedy.
It was kind of sad Friday night, seeing this little oasis of a business with bright lights on the north end of town attracting such a crowd of people wanting a service, while the rest of the town seemed deader than a doornail. Something is out of whack in terms of supply and demand. 
Either we need a second fast-food restaurant, like we had for a while with Burger King, or McDonald's needs to expand or otherwise adjust its service for those "runs" of business.
A bus pulled in while I was there on Thursday. Buses are to be expected from time to time. Like any business, McDonald's should strive to serve all its customers in an effective way all the time. It's a community or Chamber of Commerce issue.
Bring back Burger King? Is it true our local McDonald's pulled certain strings to see that the Burger King would leave? That's fine as long as McDonald's can handle the demand henceforth. I'm not sure it can.
If anyone associated with our local McDonald's reads this, don't cuss or gnash your teeth. You should be thankful for people like me who care about your business.
"I'm lovin' it?" Well, not all the time.
Oh, what did I end up having for supper on Thursday and Friday nights? A bowl of Grape Nuts Flakes and whole wheat toast.
Fan mail from some flounder (posted September 13)
I was walking home from my breakfast at McDonald's the other morning when a car pulled up beside me and the window rolled down. This charming citizen informed me that in her view, the Morris newspaper isn't nearly as good as when I was there.
Obviously there is a lot I could say about this. The reason I have rolled up my sleeves of late writing about Tiger sports is that the newspaper has seemed to exude more lethargy than usual, certainly in terms of its website. If the coverage isn't later, it's minimal or skeletal. It might have originated from the Willmar newspaper.
I learned long ago that the Willmar paper is quite fallible when the Tigers play on the road. That's because the home team coaches call in.
But even if the material weren't fallible, we have kind of an empty feeling when our own Morris paper relies on material from Willmar. I assume the Morris paper has an employee who "gets in free" with a "press pass" for home games. Thus there's an expectation that the Morris paper will give a rip.
If this attitude is not forthcoming, then I have a theory as to why. I shared this with a sports parent at the Morris Public Library recently. The day may come when the newspaper pleads that it really can't do a good job without "sponsorship" (i.e. sponsorship specifically of sports coverage). I guarantee you this is their mindset these days.
And don't think my theory is outlandish. Who would have thought ten years ago that people would have to pay for obituaries? Today they do, by paying something like 50 bucks to the funeral home which then pays the paper.
We already have "sucker businesses" in Morris who pay to be in the paper's "sucker ads." This is the term used by some in the newspaper industry for those "ads" which are just a block of space with some benevolent or promotional theme at the top, and then you see lists of businesses below. I'm sure you know what I'm referring to.
Even the MACA sports schedules appear each season in a "sucker ad" form, with those tiny - yes, very tiny - boxes along the edge with businesses' names. If you have paid for such an ad, think of how you might spend this money better. You could give it to the Sports Boosters or the Morris Area School Foundation, where the money would have tangible results. You don't have to send it to Fargo where the newspaper is owned out of.
Just stop and think, please.
And most importantly, keep supporting the Tigers!
Should "visitors' comments" be re-visited? (posted September 7)
I'm starting to get the notion that our Morris Area school board will rue the day it began the "visitors' comments."
The public has historically not made a big deal of this, or at least that's my impression. Lately, though, I get the impression that "visitors' comments" might be becoming a forum in which parents with a variety of beefs are going to show up and hang them out to dry.
Free speech? Of course we have free speech. The question is process. Should anyone just be allowed to show up and squawk about something? This perhaps isn't even the crux of the problem.
The crux may be the inclination of a certain media business in Morris to highlight a "squawk" in its subsequent coverage, as if that item had the most gravity on that night. A parent will come and vent and then see that subject get headline treatment. The public observes and realizes this is a platform for getting grievances aired.
Which is fine, but grievances could get disproportionate attention in the scheme of things. We all know it's tremendously easy for school parents to develop their little gripes, not that they are all to be dismissed, of course, but it's impossible running a school to please everyone all the time.
Here's the danger I see now: A pattern of complaints getting disproportionate attention in the press, could get administrators discouraged, feeling under siege as it were. They might become jaded and cynical before their time. And we don't want them to have that kind of outlook. We want them to be cheery and idealistic as long as possible.
I have seen certain school administrators get worn down in my life. It's a daunting job they have. And I'm not sure school board members should have to sit there listening to comments on subjects that may not be under their direct purview. Many such comments ought to go directly to an administrator, perhaps via email, and get a response on those terms with no newspaper headline involved.
It is ridiculous that the school's most reasonable no-hat (in classroom) policy became a tempest in a teapot recently. A certain media manager in Morris greased the skids on that, crossing a line in terms of propriety, in my view. I don't think this community has been torn apart at all on the hat policy.
This pass-fail hubbub of late could probably be adjudicated without the public demonstration at the school board meeting. Parents who wish to speak for "visitors' comments" should perhaps at least be screened beforehand, to see if the subject is really proper for the board to listen to in such a formal setting.
Other than that, let's have a happy and successful new school year at MAHS!
Anniversary of infamy today (posted on September 11)
I'm writing this post on September 11, 2013. I remember showing up at the (now vacated) Morris Sun Tribune building on the morning of September 11, 2001, entering through the back which was typical, and being told a plane hit the World Trade Center (or "Twin Towers").
I remember being in New York City in the summer of 1972 and using my Kodak Instamatic to shoot a photo right from the base of the towers, which were at the time new and I don't think even fully implemented yet. It will be haunting to look at that photo.
Instamatics were the "camera for the masses" at that time and not real impressive. We're so spoiled today having digital cameras with quite fine quality, ease of operation and economy! Of course I don't have one yet. I always trail fairly far behind when it comes to technology. I use my Canon AE-1 35mm camera at Tiger football games. I feel rather like Paul Bunyan and his axe competing with the folks with chainsaws.
But I'm proud of my work.
I wrote a 9/11 remembrance post in 2011. Here is the permalink to that. Thank you for reading. - B.W.
Newspaper publishes paean (posted on September 20)
I noticed a feature article on a former superintendent in a recent Morris newspaper. I don't buy the paper but I can occasionally page through at a public place.
I saw a feature article on a fellow named Frank Fox. He is deceased.
I wondered at first if this was the first in a series of articles on former supers. That would be an interesting concept. I wrote a blog post at the time Dennis Rettke passed away, sharing some personal recollections and acknowledging what I felt were his strong points. All supers have strong points or they wouldn't have reached that level in their careers.
I'm starting to think the newspaper feature on Mr. Fox was a one-shot deal. It was written by someone not on the newspaper staff. Maybe someone with personal connections to Frank Fox just wanted to see this article, written as a paean, done. I don't blame them.
But I'm not sure that Fox, who really wasn't here that long (1947-56), needs to be put on a pedestal relative to any other supers. I suspect he worked in a time when people in his position had greater latitude to run the system, as opposed to a later time when unionization and the empowerment of unions created a quite different complexion.
I was in high school when a fellow named Fred Switzer was superintendent. I think Mr. Switzer had the misfortune of working in a time when the teachers union really had its claws out. I remember a time when the spectre of teacher strikes seemed to be looming quite regularly around Minnesota.
I remember attending a public discussion at the Grant County Fair, Herman, one year where an exasperated individual (I believe either an active or retired superintendent) talked about how teacher strikes were "tearing apart" small communities. Charlie Berg was part of that discussion, I recall.
Teachers unions still exist. But it seems the system has been tweaked so that their activities aren't as disruptive as they once were. Oh, we all love teachers. But we want to stay on an even keel.
Fred Switzer himself told me about the tremendous amount of time required to get every "i" dotted and "t" crossed in negotiations with teachers. I also seem to recall there was a nucleus or clique of teachers here - I could name names but I won't - who were aggressive and parochial on these matters, pursuing sort of a scorched-earth policy vs. that big bad administration (and board).
Working under these circumstances, it would have been impossible for Mr. Switzer to have wrapped up his career here drawing such warm feelings as did Mr. Frank Fox (evidently).
I would say Mr. Switzer was a "maligned" superintendent. Which means that he got criticism but that much of it was undeserved or overstated. He was here a long time. I think he knew the ropes.
It is true that some phases of extracurricular declined during Fred's tenure. Even here I'm not sure he deserves much if any of the blame. Schools were going through retrenchment that meant they'd have to bite the bullet and allow volunteers to play a bigger role, especially with elementary athletics.
Morris dragged its feet on this, and it was that nucleus of activist and parochial teachers, that I have already alluded to, that bears the blame. Volunteers were anathema to all their aims. I'm quite sure that if a volunteer were walking down a school hallway and said "hello," many of the teachers wouldn't say anything back.
I think this climate has been addressed now. The MACA extracurricular is right in line with other schools, maybe superior. But it was a tough battle to fight for a long time. I was there. I was at that sports banquet/program of infamy back in about 1987. Many of you not familiar might not even believe me, if I were to tell you bout it. It's not a "tale from the crypt" but it's close.
Mr. Switzer should get his due. Maybe the newspaper can continue a series of profiles of former supers. It's really a pretty good idea. That paean about Frank Fox was quite fine. Now let's see some more.
What's in a name? (posted October 4)
The Washington D.C. team of the National Football League has always given us interesting stories. The current one has to do with the nickname. 
That name has the same unsavory air as the "Charlie Chan" movies. You know, those Charlie Chan movies that now appear to have been blackballed, all because a certain cable movie channel once announced plans for a "Charlie Chan Marathon." There was a tempest of a reaction, just like when Trent Lott opined that America would be better off if Strom Thurmond, the old Dixiecrat, had been elected president.
Old westerns are treading rough water in terms of still having circulation among the public or getting on television, "marathon" or not. The Washington D.C. team of the NFL is of course called the "Redskins." The name is right out of an old John Wayne type of western, right in there with other terms like "pale face" and phenomena like smoke signals and "Indians lining up on the hill" (ready to charge and scream).
No doubt there was conflict and misery in the old west. But to take a term like "redskins" and attach it to a contemporary sports team, making Native Americans a sheer mascot, is unacceptable in the year 2013.
I remember when Charlie Berg, a long-time politician from West Central Minnesota, used the term "smoke signals" in a quote of note. Berg has an uncanny talent for delivering the quotable quote. He even continued that during the big local protest vs. the proposed jail in Stevens County.
He once talked about how his constituents might get lost trying to find a big league sports stadium in Minneapolis. Dick Guindon of the Star Tribune did a cartoon on this, showing Berg delivering this statement not in the capitol but in a nearby church cathedral (i.e. with dome), because he had gotten lost.
Remember Guindon? He did the famous cartoon of Minnesota kids "walking to school backwards" against a wind in mid-winter, part of the panorama of our (beloved) Minnesota lifestyle.
"Redskins" should be ushered aside. The new name for the Washington D.C. franchise should be "Red Tails," honoring the Tuskegee Airmen. This suggestion is being put forth strongly vs. the stubborn owner of the team.
When I was a kid, the Washington NFL team was known as the "over the hill gang," a group of older players who were more than the sum of their parts, coached by the eccentric George Allen. I believe Allen eventually got blackballed from the league because, legend has it, he made a coaching decision based on the (gambling) pointspread for a game. That's an utter no-no.
The Redskins also gave us the ungodly sight of Joe Theismann experiencing a compound fracture in the leg on national TV.
The Redskins also made it clear through Doug Williams that African-Americans, lest there be any doubt, could man the quarterback position with 100 per cent capability and acceptance. It took a while.
Today the Washington quarterback is the African-American "R.G. III" who has found himself in controversy not because of his skin color, but because he was likely exposed to unreasonable risk of aggravated serious injury in last year's playoffs, perhaps jeopardizing the rest of his career.
The "Redskins" name might be the least of the NFL's problems now, as the revelations keep coming on the unacceptable health risks all players have playing the game.
Go Vikings? I couldn't care less.
Media happenings (posted September 24)
Looking at the want ads in the Morris newspaper, it looks as though turnover is happening at the Morris newspaper.
It is my opinion that the newspaper is not a pleasant work environment.
We all know changes are happening with newspapers. The Internet has been a highly disruptive force for this medium. This is a good development for the general public but it creates obvious stress with the print media. Newspapers no longer have the entitled position they once did. They are trying to preserve whatever niche they have left.
Technology has allowed more work to be consolidated, to be done in central locations (like with Detroit Lakes, relative to the Morris newspaper). History books may someday tell us that networked computers were the biggest job killers of all time.
The Morris newspaper is owned by a chain which means it can harness all of the current trends. Does that mean it puts out a better product? Heavens no. But it can use synergy to cut costs.
Being an employee in a business that aggressively seeks to cut costs means watching your back. The modern corporation works the numbers constantly to optimize profit. Employees are statistics.
The heroes in the movie "Moneyball" (Brad Pitt) weren't the players. Rather we saw the cutting-edge approach with numbers analysis, using computers, trumping all the judgment that the scouts once made. It was a numbers proposition. You plugged in certain players that together had the odds favor them vs. most opponents.
But it wasn't about the players, not about their hopes, their dreams or their families. It was about the numbers and ultimately the money.
I don't know all the details about what is happening at the Morris Sun Tribune. I could scrounge around but have felt no strong impulse to do so. I suspect there is an atmosphere of instability and never reaching a status quo that can be comfortable for an indefinite period.
Should we care? Historically we have felt we should care about the stability of our newspapers. But that was when papers were in their entitled era, when they performed functions that couldn't easily be duplicated in any other way in the community. We have come light years from that.
People can get information at the micro level from their computer. The systems may have been a little specialized at first. The average layman might have been a little slow catching on to it.
I remember about seven years ago telling a friend that my photos were being posted on the Morris Eagles baseball website. This individual, who had a good education and worked at the soils lab, said "how do you find it?"
The average person is far more well-versed today "finding stuff" on the world wide web. Search engines are anything but a mystery. (We can be nostalgic about "Alta Vista.")
"Friday Facts" from our Morris Area Chamber of Commerce is getting better continually, as a bulletin board for upcoming events in our community.
I have continually needled the school district about how it should make its website more of a PR and outreach tool to the whole community. I have continually needled businesses in Morris to quit supporting those "sucker ads" in the Morris newspaper, which simply extract money from businesses with no tangible return.
Old habits fade slowly. Let's hasten the process.
I'm delighted to perform journalism with no need for a printing press. It's the year 2013. If you are going to spend money on advertising in print, then do it with Heather Storck's "Morris Area Merchant" publication. It's entirely local in its orientation. It doesn't exist to serve Fargo, ND.
In the days before Peyton Manning (posted September 27)
"The Book of Manning" is a much-promoted special on ESPN these days. I remember Archie Manning not as the revered patriarch but as a young quarterback coming out of Ole Miss, much heralded.
It seems we'll never know how good ol' Archie could have been. His pro career was quite full, lasting 14 years. You'd think at some point he'd be part of a team that could assemble winning pieces. Instead, he seemed destined to play in situations where his talent was held back. Clearly this is how football history portrays him.
Many of us might not remember he had a stint with our Minnesota Vikings. He came here in a celebrated trade, joined by Dave Casper who was another huge name. I remember the Star Tribune headline word for word: "Vikings get Manning, Casper in trade." It made our jaws drop.
Trades involving big names often aren't what they seem. Players get nicked up through the years. Far from leading Bud Grant's Vikings to the summit, the pair limped along in a mostly forgettable phase.
What fun it would have been had Manning been in top form at quarterback and led the Vikings to some glory. Maybe he was just disoriented being north of the Mason-Dixon Line. This was a man of the very Deep South having played for Ole Miss and then the New Orleans Saints.
As a Viking I recall him getting sacked often and violently, so much so, I remember Del Sarlette saying that the sight of Manning at the end of a sack was like Beetle Bailey having just been beat up by Sarge.
I also remember a "highlight scene" where Manning, on the run, made an awkward and inappropriate, for him, underhand pass attempt. It was a blooper candidate.
Manning's time with the Vikings isn't recalled in ESPN's "The Book of Manning." Today his reputation is probably inflated. Minus the wins, we just can't assume how good he really was. His sons carry the football banner to be sure.
Peyton threw seven touchdown passes in the season opener. The previous pro QB to do that? It was Joe Kapp of our Minnesota Vikings. Yes, I remember Kapp as something other than an old man getting into a fight with another old man in a YouTube video.
Kapp threw seven touchdown passes on September 28, 1969, in a 52-14 win over Baltimore (the Colts, not the Ravens). His feat was on a warm Sunday afternoon at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington. Kapp threw passes to 12 different teammates that day.
Jim Souhan sketches a history of Vikings quarterbacks in his column today (9/27). He might have written more about the season when the position was up for grabs among three players. I remember that season well because it was the first when I really followed pro football and the Vikings. It's not so much that I reached a certain age, it was more of a case that we had just gotten the "able cable" (cable TV).
Coach Grant had acquired Norm Snead in the off-season. Many of us assumed that the well-established Snead would take over. Grant wasn't completely sold. Knowledgable friends told me Snead threw over the middle too much to suit Grant, who was very risk-averse. Remember, the rules didn't favor passing in those days so much as today.
Grant set up a three-way competition for the starting quarterback job. Gary Cuozzo was in this along with Bob Lee, who also punted. Lee had an advantage of height and stature. He ended up winning out.
Those were the days of the heralded "purple people," when our defense could really apply a vise. Alan Page was a long ways from showing his sober wisdom as a Minnesota Supreme Court justice. He was a supreme lineman, not always quite on the same page with the stoic Grant.
Us boomers have fond memories. We have seen many quarterbacks come and go since. For the record, Archie Manning is in there, unfortunately as a footnote, perhaps worthy of a Beetle Bailey cartoon.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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