Dad & the CCC's

My Dad grew up on a farm in northwestern Minnesota.  He only went through 8th grade, which wasn't unusual back then.  When you were part of a farm family back in the 1930s, every hand was needed to make it run.  Farming was a labor-intensive job back then, with many farms, including my Grandfather's, still using horses for some of the work right alongside machinery.

Dad, 1938
When Dad got to be around 19, he went further north to a town called St. Vincent, where his Uncle Gail and Aunt Liza ran Short's Cafe.  It was actually part soda fountain/ice cream counter, part restaurant, part saloon, and - if rumors were true (and I have heard stories from people who knew, that they were), part backroom gambling hall.  He went there to work in his uncle's establishment and there met my mother (age 16), one of the village girls stopping by for a soda.  While the rest of that story, as they say, is history, Dad had more personal history to forge before he and Mom were married and walked the rest of their lives together.

Dad's discharge papers from the CCCs.
Sometime in 1940, Dad decided to check out the CCC, or Civilian Conservation Corps.  The CCC was one of the New Deal agencies, offering work programs to young men seeking employment during the Great Depression.  To put it simply, the program provided training/experience for the young men, and much needed works projects for the public - a win-win for everyone at the time.

Dad worked in Company 718, stationed near Big Fork, Minnesota, which is in the north central part of the state, not far from the 'arrowhead' region.  His company was part of a group that worked in the Pine Island State Forest.

Dad's time with the CCCs were cut short, when he was notified to report for medical examination, the precursor to induction into the military.  It was then only a matter of time before he was called up for training, active duty, and sent overseas to fight.  But that, that is another story...
Call to Duty


Look up...Waaaaay Up!

Jerome the Giraffe and Rusty
the Rooster with Friendly...
I grew up in the farthest northwest corner of Minnesota.  Our homestead was part of the village of St. Vincent, but it was on the north side, behind some woods, and looked out onto farmland.  Unless you knew otherwise, it was pretty much like living out in the country.  To our west, just across a small field, were the river woods, and just behind them, was the Red River of the North.  It was the border between us and North Dakota.  To the north, just two miles away - and in our flat river valley, within view of our own eyes - was the Canadian border.  We were so close to Canada, in fact, that the little town just across it - Emerson, Manitoba - had the closest hospital to us, and therefore, I was born there.

There has always a close relationship between Canada and our little corner of America because of our geographic location. One of the things we shared was television.  In the early 1960s, there was no Sesame Street or Nickelodeon.  But for those lucky enough to have access to the CBC, there was the Friendly Giant.

The Friendly Giant was a beautifully simple program, consisting of Friendly the Giant, and his pals, Jerome the Giraffe, and Rusty the Rooster.  There were a few other friends like the Jazz Cats who would come by and jam with them for a few songs.  Friendly himself not only told fun stories and joked around with Jerome and Rusty but also played the flute.  The show always started with the camera slowly panning from right to left across a little village, until it came upon a very large boot, Friendly's boot.  All the while, you were hearing off-camera a comforting baritone voice saying it was a beautiful morning today, and so on.  Once the boot showed up, the voice would say, "Look up...Waaaaay up!", and up the camera went along with our eyes, until we saw the smiling face of Friendly.  He'd say he would go on ahead to open up the drawbridge so we could come in for a visit in his castle, and in the meantime we should start walking there to meet him.  As we imagined ourselves going to the castle, onscreen we saw it, and the big drawbridge being let down for us to cross; all the while, a gentle song was being played on a harp.  Once inside, we were escorted to the fireside where Friendly put out some chairs in front of the fire (one big one "...for two to curl up in..."), as well as a "...rocking chair for those who like to rock."  I always imagined myself in the rocking chair.  Then the show would begin!


Old Homes are Old Friends

The house I grew up in.  The section far to the right was all that was originally built by
my grandparents in 1906.  The rest has been added on over the years.  Every time I go
by and visit the house, I almost think my parents are going to come up to hug me...

I grew up in a very old house that leaned and creaked and had strange smells, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I loved it.

I am once again in an old "home with character".  I sometimes have little plants struggling through the cracks in the basement concrete by the washing machine, and herds of Daddy Long-legs living in the bathroom, as well as a colony of ladybugs hanging out pretty much everywhere they want to.  Many things don't work quite right, and it takes a lot of love and care, but that's alright.  I can relate.