|Nature's wondrous colors in Morris (B.W. photo)|
This post is composed of items that recently appeared on my "I Love Morris" site, but were presented on an "addendum" basis with sports reviews, therefore you probably haven't seen them unless you were interested in the sports. Sometimes I do a sports review and find I also have a non-sports topic I'm eager to share on. I present it under a subhead.
|Wildflowers by Pomme de Terre River (B.W. photo)|
Let there be music!
Close your eyes and try to imagine an MAHS marching band in the Prairie Pioneer Days parade. It would be right at the front. The approaching sound of the drum cadence might give you goose bumps. I guess it's too good to be true. Kids developed other interests as the years went by.
John Woell was in charge of the last great chapter of the Morris High School marching band. By the end of the 1970s, that heyday had passed. Kids were going to sports camps. Perhaps these programs were getting unreasonably expensive. (What isn't?)
Some towns hung in there like Litchfield. I had the chance to interview the Litchfield band director toward the end of my newspaper career. He talked about a recent Litchfield grad who excelled in sports and across the board, and this individual said that of all those activities, marching band was most memorable. It instills discipline. It's actually quite physically rigorous, especially for the drummers.
What enrichment these groups provide for their communities! They can even do an outdoor concert without marching. Part of the band could be up on the Killoran bandshell stage (at East Side Park) and the rest in front. What a magnificent sound! What great excitement! Hopefully the surrounding neighborhoods wouldn't mind.
Years ago I suggested that the Hancock High marching band come to Morris for Prairie Pioneer Days. Yes, I know this would have the effect of "showing up" the Morris school. Let's forget about that. Fact is, the Hancock band gets in shape for the July 4 celebration in Hancock. I used to be amazed how sharp this band looked and sounded considering this was their only "gig" of the year. This marching band has all the standard features. The PPD parade watchers would be thrilled seeing this.
I have heard the old refrain: "Oh, the kids don't stick around (through the rest of the summer)." Oh really? Where do they all go? I think this is an exaggerated excuse. I think the kids would have fun and find it highly rewarding to polish their routine for the Morris appearance. It's certainly no long trip here.
When I was in high school, we went to Moorhead and Winnipeg among many other places. We valued it. I remember that when we were in Winnipeg, one of the trombone players, initials G.B., seemed to want to watch TV during every available moment in his hotel room. I finally asked about this. Someone told me this individual belonged to the Apostolic Christian Church which I guess prohibited TV watching. I fail to see how watching "Bonanza" could be considered immoral or sacrilegious.
There is so much in this world I don't understand. I don't understand a recent action by the Morris Area school board. I don't understand the applause from teachers in response to that action. But if I was so smart, I'd still be with the newspaper.
All hail soccer!
It almost seems like a media conspiracy: all this attention devoted to world soccer of late. Memo to you younger folks: Every few years we get this meme that soccer has finally arrived in America. It never seems to stick, though.
Remember that in the 1970s, soccer exploded in popularity in Minnesota with the Minnesota Kicks professional team playing at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington. Freddie Goodwin was coach. The Kicks took off with faddish popularity. Actually the wave lasted longer than a mere fad.
But as I said, soccer never seems to stick. The Kicks couldn't make the transition from the beautiful, pastoral setting of Met Stadium to the basement-like atmosphere of the Metrodome. The Kicks are merely the fodder for nostalgia now.
What kind of organized soccer exists in Morris, if any? I remember a time when some rather robust youth programs were going. We saw games on that expansive old playground east of the defunct East Elementary School.
There's an area to the south of the present-day Morris Area High School that would be quite fine for soccer.
It's especially important that boys have the option of playing soccer. That's because they need an attractive option to football. Football gets worse media scrutiny all the time with the nonstop revelations about semi-crippled former players, or fully crippled. A herculean effort will be needed to try to get this nation to go into "withdrawal" from football. Progress will have to be done with baby steps. I do see it coming, though.
Let's get some enthusiasm revved up for organized youth soccer here in Motown! The girls have it good with volleyball, a healthy and entertaining sport all around. Boys, quit bashing your heads in. Cross country? Those little guys will keep going like the Energizer Bunny.
All hail soccer in 2014! Get going out on that "pitch."
PPD is in the books for 2014
The 2014 Prairie Pioneer Days seemed like a quite nice celebration. It serves its purpose as a midsummer community gathering for an outstate community. It doesn't seem to have all the features it once did. The turnout may be a tad diminished. But no matter.
A light rainfall caused us to leave the park a little sooner than we had planned on Saturday. Thus we missed most of the community band performance.
I would like to suggest a more ambitious community band. That's easy for me to say. I told Mr. Mike Odello to check the website for the Eastern Iowa Brass Band (EIBB) to see if the Morris area might have the potential for supporting something like this. A group like this would be tailor-made for the Killoran bandshell at East Side Park. Let's make those acoustic panels at the stage useful.
The EIBB is much more formal and structured than our community band. It travels for competitions. An old acquaintance of mine, Joan Force, is a long-time member of the EIBB. We're trumpet players.
Am I all talk and no action? Well, in 1971 here in Motown, I played in the "German band" as well as a larger ensemble for the grand Morris Centennial. The German band roamed around town (including into the Met Lounge). The larger group played under the reconstructed "alfalfa arch." A large photo of that reconstructed arch is on a wall at Willie's Super Valu. I could have been in that photo but missed it.
John Woell directed us musicians for the Centennial. Let's see a nice large formal musical group get organized for the Morris Sesquicentennial in 2021. If we're ambitious enough.
Del Sarlette has long suggested with tongue in cheek that Morris have an "apathy festival." Problem is, an organizing meeting gets scheduled and no one shows up, Del says. Rimshot.
If we're apathetic for the Sesquicentennial, there's no hope for us.
I hope our Morris Area school district gets back on its feet by then, with leaders who aren't getting into serious trouble. Is that too much to ask?
Everyone seemed to have fun for the Prairie Pioneer Days parade on Sunday. If I were to nit-pick, I'd say the politicians were too overbearing. I can remember five who were in the parade. I don't mind as much seeing incumbents in the parade, like Collin Peterson. It's annoying when a campaign lackey passes out literature along the route. All that stuff becomes litter. I am not a "Backer backer." Let's all support Democrat Jay McNamar!
I normally don't complain about minor price inflation, but I thought the $3.50 for an ordinary chocolate shake at the shake trailer was outrageous.
It seems Luther's Eatery has less competition than it used to. I hope First Lutheran Church raked in the $.
Siblings and their names
The Jergenson boys are presenting the same problem for the Willmar newspaper as the Holland sisters. It's not enough to refer to one of the Jergensons as "B. Jergenson" in the boxscore. One is "Brady" and the other is "Bryce," and in the case of the Holland sisters we had "Beth" and "Becca." You'll note that not only is the first initial the same, the first two letters of the first names are the same.
The system of using initials (for subsequent references) is common procedure for newspapers. You see, newspapers have limited space as they try to squeeze things in as much as they can. That constraint is solved with the Internet. Sometimes in the Willmar paper you'll see results of an athletic event, like a large wrestling tournament, where the type size is so small, I wonder why they even bother. It's unreasonably small and not just for people who need reading glasses.
The names "Bryce" and "Brady" should just be spelled out in full in all references. It was the same with "Beth" and "Becca." Maybe you just can't tell the players without a program!
What's up with the school?
Writing about the Morris Legion team puts my mind on high school matters, where obviously things have not been placid over the past few months. The waters have been turbulent. Our high school principal, a man I have never met, was forced out of his office back around Christmastime - not a merry Christmas indeed - and had to go on extended paid leave. That's nothing but bad news for taxpayers, I assume.
But hey, government entities can always get the money, right? Just like our library, which is hobbling along right now with much less than 100 percent of its assets being provided. I assume we as City of Morris taxpayers are supporting the library all along, even if it's hobbled.
As for the school, we of course got the bombshell news a few days ago that criminal charges vs. the principal were dropped, mysteriously. It's mysterious of course because we are getting no communication as to what the "new evidence" is. It's of public interest because the former defendant was our high school principal, a very important local official or public figure. I think we really are owed an explanation on this.
We deserve such an explanation because our school year was seriously disrupted. I'm sure there were severe logistical challenges for the school. I mean, for the principal to just be ejected, in effect, suddenly from his office - man, that's drastic. The school had to have been seriously inconvenienced, even if that's being denied. What would you expect them to say? "Man, things really went to hell." We won't hear that.
Everyone is going to try to put a gloss over this, and that especially includes the county attorney's office. The party line right now among the "tag team" of prosecutors and the police has been back-patting all around. "Everyone did an outstanding job" etc.
Well, I'll differ on that. If "new information" was to be garnered, it should have been garnered sooner. A man faced the prospect of at least 30 years in prison. Can you imagine what that must be like? And now, it's over and we're supposed to progress back to normalcy? Initially people are going to be relieved and will want to "get past this." But if you think there are not scars or won't be a cloud, then you must have been born yesterday. What a mess.
Motown ought to be above this. And now our superintendent is rowing away in his lifeboat.
Let's look at our community, sans hype
Sometimes I think we have the Garrison Keillor syndrome in Morris, feeling convinced we're all above average. Keillor's fictional town certainly pats all its young people on the back. The kids are all wonderfully talented, at least in their parents' minds.
We can rationalize this by saying self-esteem is important. Studies have been done showing that even though USA education lags on a worldwide basis, our kids' perception of themselves and by extension their schools is much more generous than that. Superiority seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or is it?
Our Morris is a little like an isolated island. Because of that we can create our own delusions. The surrounding towns have declined or rather they have adjusted, adjusted to becoming quite nice bedroom communities or havens for retirees. The towns are happy places but in some cases, not what they used to be. As a newspaper person I covered countless lively special events at the Alberta school. What has become of the Alberta school? Also in my career I covered Cyrus High School events including gala graduations. Such things seem to be gone with the wind. Starbuck has been through a similar scenario.
"The cheese stands alone" in Morris where we have the grand or maybe grandiose Morris Area School. The campus seems a bit much to me. Somehow we got all that built so I suppose we should thump our chest.
We got our absolutely state of the art football field built - look at the artificial turf. Big Cat Stadium is a shrine built to a sport, football, that is absolutely under siege today. If education reflects enlightenment, we should realize that football is a throwback sport that increasingly seems ill-advised. Its whole culture seems anachronistic. It reflects a time when macho males occupied a special privileged circle - boys blessed with bodies that were bigger and stronger. So what? We needn't pay attention or keep reinforcing that culture.
Morris as a whole projects a feeling of being the "cock of the walk," affording the best of most anything. Maybe compared to the small hamlets around us (and getting smaller), such effusive pride is called for.
Our family occasionally visits Fergus Falls and I can't help but think this is just as progressive a town as Morris. I would readily compare its assets with Morris. I will bet they have a public library that has been open all summer. I'll bet it's a quite fine library.
Here, because of a whopping dose of negligence by someone, the library has been scarred by a rather routine weather incident. The city blames a roofing company but I'm not sure this is the last word.
That incident should have put up a red flag, reminding everyone to be vigilant about water damage risks. I have been vigilant around our own house. But weeks after the library debacle, the very same thing happened to the Catholic school, maybe even worse. It takes herculean efforts to remedy this problem. The cost? It would be interesting to know the figure for both buildings. Insurance is involved - I should certainly hope so - but insurance companies don't just routinely cut huge checks without ramifications for the parties involved. Rain may be an act of God but these disasters were not acts of God. It wasn't too much to ask for preparedness to be exercised.
Morris regularly proclaims its fantastic quality of life. We can certainly brag about UMM and justifiably so. But I wonder how the community is really faring if you were to take UMM out of the equation. Too few people look at our community that way.
It's in UMM's interests for the outside community to thrive and be inviting. Yet we have only one real grocery store in the county. Coborn's used to be an asset with its 24-hour schedule. Coborn's is now a building on the edge of town with a message on the side proclaiming that it's open 24 hours. Except the building is vacated.
We have a McDonald's restaurant but its prices are constantly going up (and portion sizes are reportedly getting smaller). McDonald's has a monopoly of sorts too. We used to have a Burger King.
Where can people enjoy outdoor swimming around Morris? Come on, tell me. We used to have an earthen pool out at Pomme de Terre Park that for a while at least, was quite the rage. There was even a concession stand out there. (I heard the concession stand workers were paid ridiculously well.) Lifeguards were positioned. That pool would be right along the bike trail that circles the area.
The pool was closed and deteriorated to a swamp. I might have been one of the last people to swim there. (I got a bloodsucker.) Today there's a mere "spray park" that doesn't seem quite the same.
Morris is located close to Alexandria where the lakes are a huge attraction and swimming abounds, like with the Lake Latoka public beach. Alexandria is tempting for Morris residents for many reasons: its array of dining establishments, big box stores and lakes recreation. Let's be honest: Morris really does not compare well.
This is a town where you have to be scared to see a police car. I doubt that such fear circulates in Alexandria.
I recently contacted our local humane society, a spokesman of which in a terse manner referred me to the Lakes Area Humane Society in Alexandria. "Our kennel is full," she said. I'm glad I have never made a monetary donation to our humane society. Incidentally, we were undecided about keeping a stray cat but we decided to keep it for the foreseeable future, if it can become a little less "hyper." We have had him to the vet! We call him "Toby."
Alexandria has a new public school campus, right? And I'll bet Alex has school administrators who are non-controversial and non-notorious with their behavior. Morris certainly can't claim that! So, I'm not sure we abide by Garrison Keillor's criteria for being so wondrously above-average, unless said perception is only in our own heads (which I think it is).
Maybe "I Love Morris" for the intangibles!
There was a young man once with a passion for baked beans, although they had a rather unpleasant side effect with him. He met a young lady and fell in love, whereupon he realized that she would stand for none of this and that once he got married, he'd have to sacrifice the beans. Then one day he was driving home and his car broke down. He parked it and decided to walk, whereupon he passed a diner where the aroma of freshly baked beans overwhelmed him. He figured he could have some and then walk off any ill effects, so he ordered three big servings. He putt-putted his way home, where he was greeted by his wife, who informed him that she had a wonderful surprise awaiting him, but she'd have to blindfold him. She led him into the dining room and sat him down at the table, his blindfold securely on. Then the phone rang and she said she'd be back in a couple minutes. In the privacy of the room, the young man had some unfinished business so he lifted up a leg and "let fire," followed by some other blasts until there was a real "prize winner." He grabbed his napkin and fanned the air to disperse the ill effects. Then his wife returned and said "I have the most wonderful surprise for you tonight." She removed the blindfold, whereupon the man was treated to the sight of several of the couple's closest friends, all seated around the dinner table next to him - guests for dinner that night.