"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A house reminding of U.S. Civil War - morris mn

A house reminding of U.S. Civil War - morris mn
Click on the image to read about the historic Stanton house of west Morris.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why can't Unisphere become truly iconic?

It stands 12 stories high and represents the entire Earth. You would think such a structure would be impressed on our consciousness more. I have suggested in the past it ranks up there with the Eiffel Tower in France and Taj Mahal in India. But it does not enjoy that same iconic status.
The structure I'm talking about is the Unisphere. It even got a little boost in the 1997 "Men in Black" movie, when the story had it destroyed by a crashing flying saucer.
It would take a lot to destroy this spherical stainless steel representation of the Earth. It holds a special place in my heart because I was present for the 1964-65 World's Fair. People streamed into Flushing Meadows NY for that spectacular affair. The Unisphere was constructed as the symbol. Today it is one of the few remaining artifacts.
The World's Fair had an ironic theme: "Peace through understanding." Our country was in fact on the cusp of terrible divisiveness as we were to plunge into the Viet Nam War and experience other social tumult. The apex of the war was probably 1967.
The World's Fair had a peaceful and optimistic outlook that should have been borne out in our country's direction. It was not. But the purpose was noble.
The Cold War seemed to send certain forces spinning out of control. It was a strange and sort of paranoid time. The World's Fair sought to brush all of that aside, imploring us to think of peace and harmony.
Because of its purity in this regard, the Fair is a touchstone in the memory of boomers in the New York City area. And, for all who visited like yours truly who was there because of the University of Minnesota-Morris men's chorus. Our singing lads with their signature maroon blazers visited the World's Fair in Seattle (1962) and New York (1964). They helped put UMM on the map. UMM was in its fledgling days.
The men's chorus performed in a spirited way.
The Unisphere is a prevailing symbol in my memories. It rises up in its steel splendor in Corona Park, Borough of Queens. It was built not just to represent the Fair, but to celebrate the beginning of the Space Age.
Three rings circle it, representing the orbits of the first U.S. astronaut, the first Russian cosmonaut and the first communications satellite to orbit the Earth.
We learn that "locals don't pay much attention" to it anymore. Perhaps residents of Paris don't pay much attention to the Eiffel Tower either. But I would argue the Unisphere deserves the same iconic status. Occasionally we do see it in the background of a TV commercial or in other fleeting ways. But it's too fleeting and incidental.
The New York Mets were still a new team in 1964. Their home of Shea Stadium was so close to the fairgrounds, it appeared on fair maps. The '64 season was their first at Shea as they had moved from the old Polo Grounds in Manhattan. They were in their third year. They hadn't yet shook the image of mediocrity so well established at their inception.
The Mets played at Shea Stadium from 1964 to 2008. They went from being horrible in 1962 to winning the World Series in 1969. Their heroics in '69 were helped along by West Central Minnesota native and WCSA graduate Jerry Koosman.
My family strongly considered attending a New York Mets game during our stay for the World's Fair, as I remember. But we did not. There were so many things to do and see. It seemed endless.
You might say the New York World's Fair had a special atmosphere of class because it had no true midway. I'm talking a "honky tonk" type of midway. No, this World's Fair was a true exposition. And while this was classy and laudable, the lack of that midway probably hurt attendance. Organizers were hoping for 70 million. Instead they got 51 million.
Hey, the UMM men's chorus was worth the price of admission! Oh, and the admission price was $2 in 1964 and $2.50 in '65. For kids the price was $1. One dollar! What a value.
In addition to that theme of peace, so ironic, the Fair was planned as a showcase for mid-20th Century U.S. culture and technology. The Fair ran for two six-month seasons: April through October in 1964 and April through October in 1965.
It was also a grand consumer show. Many people got their first interaction with computer equipment. Back then we thought of computers as bulky, esoteric and kept in back offices away from the public.
I fondly remember the Sinclair "Dinoland" with its life-size replicas of nine different dinosaurs. Ford introduced its Mustang vehicle at the Fair. The Mustang ended up making an even bigger impression than the Unisphere.
If only the "Peace through understanding" theme had really spread across America and its leaders. It reflected such fundamental common sense. Instead we fell into the abyss of war, civil rights struggles and a generally turbulent time.
Young people fought to find the joy of life as they always do. They gravitated to the Monkees musical group. And of course we had the Beatles. Our family came upon a genial street vendor by our hotel in Manhattan who wore a Beatles wig! Remember the "mop tops?" The New York World's Fair coincided with "Beatlemania," that phase that began with "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."
The New York World's Fair has receded in our collective memory. But the Unisphere remains. It's like a rock, indeed, weighing as it does 700,000 pounds. The people who craft our popular culture should pay more attention to it. It should take no back seat to the Eiffel Tower or Taj Mahal.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, June 24, 2013

Another departure for heaven: our "Sandy"

Our beloved canine "Sandy" died on what would have been my father Ralph's 97th birthday.
"You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says 'Wow, you're right! I never would've thought of that.' "
- Dave Barry
 
Wednesday, June 19, would have been my father Ralph's 97th birthday. How he would enjoy sitting outside on our front portico, even if our spring and summer weather turned out not as pleasant as hoped. Indeed it has been less than pleasant. The wind seems to have been our constant companion.
First we waited impatiently for spring. It arrived grudgingly. Surely summer would splash all over us, right? I'm thinking of "splash" in a figurative sense. Really we've been splashed upon by precipitation. Buckets have cascaded down. We have been designated for flash floods. The Thursday night wind was a terror.
A sad coincidence marked my father's date of birth for 2013. His pride and joy "Sandy," our canine family member, died on that day. Sandy would have been 17 years old on July 1. For a long time we felt confident he'd make it. Our previous dog "Heidi," a Lhasa Apso, lived to about 16 1/2.
Sandy was surprisingly resilient. He was a larger dog than Heidi and he had some health issues when younger. We have always heard that the smaller dogs have the best chance for a maximum lifespan. Sandy and Heidi failed in ways that were similar at the end. The body begins to shut down.
We like to think when the dogs are younger that this will never happen. We like to imagine them living to a very ripe old age and being happy and content until the very end. That is just not going to happen. We nurture them for as long as we can. Certainly they have nurtured us with their presence.
I feel an emptiness now just as big as when my father Ralph passed away. It's no mere cliche that "dogs are members of the family."
I buried Sandy on our property and put together a little cross using sticks and string. In the aftermath of the Thursday night storm, with the ravages all around me, my first order of business was to make sure that cross was present and erect.
Yes, Sandy was just an "animal," thus the cross might be misplaced, but his master Ralph was a Christian. I hope the presence of the cross ensures a speedy reunion in heaven between my father and Sandy. Their struggles are over now. "They're in a better place."
That humble makeshift cross is just as moving to me as any stone memorial that might be peddled by a local business at an inflated price.
The grave and the stone don't really matter. The soul is departed. At the risk of sounding radical, I'm skeptical even about the idea of a formal funeral. With us humans living longer all the time due to advances in medical science, by the time we die there are few of our contemporaries still around. A small private service could be held with primarily family.
Let me add that thousands of dollars could be saved, in case that's important to you. If this kind of expense is called for, I'd rather send the money to the designated memorials. The deceased's soul has departed.
I feel grief about Sandy's death that is quite comparable to when Dad died.
Let me tell you a little about Sandy. He was an "Eskipoo" although this is not considered an official breed. It's a popular mix of poodle and American Eskimo dog. Sometimes it's spelled "eskapoo" or with a hyphen as "eski-poo." There's an alternative name too: "pookimo."
Sandy had a history of eye problems and seemed mostly blind for much of his life. Oh, but he was happy. Thanks to the Internet I was able to research and find out that "eye infections are the most common health issue" for this dog.
I'm wondering if ours was a 100 per cent Eskipoo because he was heavier than the normal, the normal being 13-20 pounds.
I learn that the Eskipoo is "ideal for those with allergies, as they can grow long hair and do not shed." They have fluffy hair. They are known as "smart, loyal and sweet dogs."
They have a sociable disposition which our dog showed with his fondness for our long-time neighbor, Les Lindor. Les would often visit our house Friday night for pancakes and sausages. Sandy always picked up hints that Les would be coming over soon. He'd bark with great anticipation. Les reported he could hear this as soon as he set foot outside his house.
These are priceless memories.
Sandy got to an age where the only thing that would make him run would be for me to say "let's go see Les." Les might be sitting in front of his garage, or bringing in his waste container, or just out in his yard. This kind of neighborhood friendliness should set an example for everyone.
Les preceded my father into heaven. Now "all three" are there, beyond their worldly limitations and in God's care.
We greatly appreciate the Morris Veterinary Center for their very caring and capable touch. They are there for you for the good and the sad.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Recycling rules add to complexity of life

The Onion had an item about a "man on the cusp of having a good time." What happened, of course, is that he remembered some responsibilities.
My, what has become of us? Seems like when I was a kid, we had a fair amount of open time in which to just relax and seek some fun. This man "on the cusp" could taste it, I guess, before that checklist of things to do emerged in his mind again.
The Onion is satire, for those of you not familiar. What satire does, is to identify raw truths and then skewer them to make us think.
Again, what have we become? A KFGO Radio personality noted the other day he was going to buy toothpaste, then discovered there were 50 kinds. He seemed exasperated. "I just wanted to buy some toothpaste," he said.
Have you ever shopped for some items in a hurry only to get home and find they weren't all exactly what you wanted? (Let's continue even though I'm sounding awfully Andy Rooney-ish.) Maybe you bought some pudding cups only to discover they're "sugar free."
Now we get a four-page flyer in the mail about a new recycling system. The powers-that-be will claim it's "easy."
Busy people would prefer just keeping their old habits. Many people have reservations about recycling to begin with. Are we sure all this stuff doesn't just end up in a trash pile somewhere? Will the authorities begin to fine people who don't follow all the recycling rules to the letter?
We're supposed to "rinse and remove" the lids or caps for an array of containers. You know darn well a lot of people aren't going to follow this. Are penalties or fines on the horizon? Could they become onerous?
"Oh no, that's not the plan," the authorities will say. Beware the slippery slope. The only way seat belt legislation could get passed in the states was with the assertion that it would only be a "secondary offense." Well, what happened with that?
My father who grew up in the Great Depression was flabbergasted by the seat belt rule. It starts out as a good idea as many nagging regulations do. The state then gets intoxicated on its power. It's not enough for something to be a "good idea" anymore. We end up with myriad rules and guidelines that leave us feeling like that guy in the Onion "on the cusp of having a good time."
We feel we need to stay fixated on accomplishing things and carving out the most risk-free life we can, never mind that such efforts seem to be having a dehumanizing effect on us.
Remember when life slowed down a couple notches during the nighttime hours? Now we take for granted we can watch any cable TV channel at any time, yes even at 3 a.m. And of course we can go online. For sure we have conquered boredom.
But increasingly I think we feel a little boredom would be welcome. We could fall asleep knowing there are definitely no better options (than sleep). When I was a kid, this was the world in which we lived. The TV "broadcast day" would end at a certain time, maybe midnight. It would be announced with fanfare including the Star Spangled Banner and military-type scenes. Getting up early meant you might see the "test pattern" on TV. For some reason that included an Indian headdress.
The online world and Facebook couldn't have been imagined when I was young. We have definitely conquered boredom in our contemporary world. But perhaps with some collateral damage? Maybe our brains are just getting too bombarded, like with those new recycling instructions.
I'm sure senior citizens are going to fall behind on a lot of this stuff. They grew up just "putting out the trash." Those metal "trash cans" with lids that could be wielded like cymbals if you sought a little levity.
Remember when stores were closed for Sunday? It was just understood that Sunday was our "day of rest" and we should put our material concerns aside, reposing with family etc. I know there are still certain religious denominations pushing for that. It's a futile effort considering how the big box stores and chains just assume that the full schedule needs to be filled. Profit optimization. The tills don't ring when the doors are closed.
The 40-hour workweek seems to be a casualty too. Chris Matthews of MSNBC sniffs at the suggestion that any such thing exists anymore. Workers strictly do what is expected of them. There's no parceling out of work/personal time based on principle - what's healthy for individuals and families. CEOs answer to shareholders who swim in circles like sharks.
We have businesses in Morris that were once mom and pop, following much more of the "principled" model (i.e. seeking "what is right"), whereas now they answer to non-local owners who couldn't care less about such things. No exaggeration there. The company has to "perform" up to a certain level. No chance to just yawn and "knock off early" on Fridays. You'd better be prepared to consume lots of caffeine and take marching orders.
And whatever you do, don't even think of "getting on the cusp of having a good time."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, June 17, 2013

Morris' school buildings over expanse of time

Our old public school, set to be razed
The oldest buildings on the UMM campus have been under the tender loving care of the state. The state has the resources to make these venerable structures wholly welcoming.
The same cannot be said for our old public school. The wrecking ball is reportedly set to arrive there. That "ball" is part of our conception of how these things are done. We might also envision those demolitions where explosives are set here and there, the building comes down and the whole thing ends up on a cable TV news channel.
I'm not sure if these popular scenarios are going to unfold here. The whole thing may well end up more dull, as often happens in reality.
I think it's sad to juxtapose those visions of destruction with those old UMM campus buildings that have been so well preserved.
Our old public school was developed like an erector set. I'm sure the original 1914 structure was deemed quite grand. I'm sure it was considered absolutely momentous when it opened in Morris in 1914. It stood alone then. The main entrance was an inviting place that could be seen for several blocks down Sixth Street.
The school occupied a prominent position, being on high ground. "The hill," some people called it. I remember a Morris mayor from many years ago who felt the school staff was becoming a little aloof and arrogant, and he said their attitude was one of "leave us alone up here on the hill." Well, OK.
East Seventh Street was the main entrance to Morris from the east in an earlier time. It passed by the school on the north side. Businesses with a fair amount of people traffic were located along that street. Remember when the Dairy Queen was there? It's been a while now.
We all wax nostalgic thinking about the "Pylin." That was a drive-in that would seem most apt in a movie like "American Graffiti."
I acquired my considerable amount of baseball cards mostly at Stark's Grocery. I then had an acquaintance sell them for me in the 1980s on commission. I netted a considerable amount. I hear that today, the market has fallen for baseball cards mainly due to saturation. I did well selling mine when I did. I probably paid for a Las Vegas trip or two, seriously.
I'm a little stunned that today, the old Stark's building houses a tombstone business!
Lesmeister Motors along East 7th Street is still there. Us kids could examine Army surplus items there once. Need a good canteen?
What's sad is to reflect on how the area including the school was so "hopping" with people activity once. Babe Ruth baseball teams had their practice on the playground. The community was proud of that school campus through much of its history. Toward the end we weren't supposed to say much positive about it. The politics were that we were supposed to push hard for something new.
We certainly got something new. Past generations could not have imagined how spectacular our new school is. They'd say "where the heck does the money come from?" My, they'd faint seeing the concert hall. Heck, I practically did. Ditto the new varsity gymnasium.
I remember how momentous it was when we abandoned the old gym of the old school and moved into the 1968 gym. How we celebrated that! The old gym was a charming place but it was too small and not tailored to contemporary varsity sports. Let's not forget that these old facilities "had their time."
Sometimes I think we're too eager to dismiss old facilities as just being worthy of the wrecking ball, as we lose our sense of history and appreciation. The old gym is where the 1955 Morris High basketball team played en route to making the one-class state tournament (like in the movie "Hoosiers"). How exciting that ride must have been! Imagine the thrills.
The term "gym" was interchangeable with "auditorium." Let's emphasize this was an art deco auditorium, built as an addition to the anchor 1914 structure. I'm sure the auditorium was deemed just as grand at the time of its opening. I'm assuming there was a grand opening in which the whole Morris community burst its buttons. Contrast that to how the community just shrugged and said we had to move on from the old school, as if that facility had lost all useful purpose.
Maybe it's true we had no choice but to move on. Maybe we had no choice but to leave the old public school campus crumbling and pathetic, as it has been for the last several years. Could we not have demolished it sooner? I'm puzzled about this. The inside has become sickening with its decay.
Meanwhile we see old buildings on the University of Minnesota-Morris campus retain their usefulness. Take a look at the Welcome Center. Or better yet, admire the Multi-Ethnic Resource Center which seems ancient with its background. That building housed music when UMM first began. I have reason to remember that well. I remember getting in trouble when I played a record of John Philip Sousa music a little too loud!
Our UMM campus of today has a varied history, all beginning with the "Indian school." We're going all the way back to the late 1880s. The 1880s were a time of prosperity and rapid development in Morris. We saw several Victorian style homes (or mansions) go up around town. There was sort of a fortress mentality behind building such elaborate homes, I have read, based on the dangers of the outside world.
The music building where I played that Sousa record dates back to 1899. The Sisters of Mercy established the Indian school. It never really got firm footing. It closed for four years, then was re-established by the Federal Government with little commitment or resources.
The 20th Century arrived. Those behind the Indian school may have meant well, but the objective of trying to "westernize" the Native Americans seemed dubious. Let's say it reflected cultural bias.
In 1910 a major new chapter began for the campus. It was time for the storied West Central School of Agriculture to open its doors. The campus was a collection of 13 buildings at that time. Included were a hospital and morgue!
That old anchor building which today is the Multi-Ethnic spot was designated for agronomy.
We saw two new dormitories built in 1911.
The agriculture faculty was augmented by home economics. The faculty taught and researched. Crop rotation was a research priority. The WCSA would later carve out a distinct reputation for sheep and lamb research.
The WCSA had a period of fits and starts at the beginning. It really landed on its feet in the 1920s, so that by 1929, enrollment was up at a robust 388. The fits and starts weren't over though. The Great Depression and some poor harvests held back the WCSA.
Today the State of Minnesota seems to guarantee continuity. Such wasn't the case way back when, when the school had to adjust to vagaries of the world around us. The Depression was far-reaching. Families became hard-pressed sending their children to school.
The state finally decided some continuity was needed, so in 1935 the legislature passed a bill providing for state payment of tuition. Today "financial aid" has ironically pushed the cost of post-high school education way up, to where many experts feel we have a "higher education bubble." In '35 the state's gesture seemed more logical and practical. It may have literally kept our campus going. Enrollment grew back up to 391.
One crisis gave way to another. After the Depression we became focused on war. War was weighed as early as 1940. The WCSA responded by developing an aviation training program. We were a "primary aviation training school." The new Morris airport was weaved into this endeavor.
The America Firsters fought hard to keep the U.S. isolated from the European conflagration. We might forget how popular the Firsters organization was. Charles Lindbergh was a top spokesman. Alas the Firsters seemed to disappear overnight with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The U.S. got dragged through World War II, did its job, extinguished Fascism, and then it was time to return to some normalcy. The WCSA took on a very thriving tone. Enrollment burgeoned up to 455 - wow! - for the fall of 1947. That figure would be an all-time high.
The campus had setbacks in the form of fires in 1949 and 1950. The school began requiring a fourth year of studies. By 1952 this was totally established. Previously the fourth year was optional.
We saw some new construction in the 1950s. But oh my, outside circumstances were about to intervene again. The nature of farming was changing. The WCSA was established on the assumption that many farm kids had to be available for farm labor at home much of the year. Their studies had to be compressed into a shorter school year. Technological inroads were wiping out this limitation for "farm kids."
We would see an end to the "ag schools."
UMM began as sort of an awkward little duckling breaking out of its shell in 1960. The WCSA and UMM would co-exist for a short time. Then, no more WCSA. The WCSA's experiment station would survive. Today it's known as the WCROC ("the rock").
The last WCSA grads got their diplomas in 1963. Now it was time for UMM to bloom. The first UMM graduation was held in 1964. I was there.
UMM campus architecture reflects its history. The old has been preserved. Such is not the case with our old public school which apparently is soon to come down. The "look" of that part of town will certainly change. Will things be better there? Will we see development? I'm not too optimistic about that.
If the best we can hope for is expansion of the cemetery, well. . .
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cannon, Smith & Holzheimer in state showcase

Three Tigers carried the MACA banner in the state track and field meet, always held in an atmosphere of great excitement.
We had Marcus Cannon, MaKenzie Smith and Katie Holzheimer carrying that banner with pride in St. Paul. The state's best in track and field assembled for the climactic event on June 7-8. The venue was Hamline University.
 
First there was sections
The Tiger trio qualified for state with their sharp showing in sectionals at MSUM-Moorhead.
In sectionals, MaKenzie Smith with her distance running prowess was tops in both the 1600m and 3200m - quite a feat. She was clocked at 5:22.96 in the 1600 meters (also called "the mile") and 12:06.01 in the 3200. She has been a standout in cross country as well as track and field.
Katie Holzheimer, who I discovered recently is a whiz at the drum set in addition to athletics, was second in the 100m dash in sections. Her time: 13.17.
Marcus Cannon of the Morris Area Chokio Alberta boys got over the hurdles with precision and speed. He was second in section in both his hurdling events: the 110 meters (16.17) and 300 meters (42.09).
 
And then, the 2013 state meet!
The state-qualifying Tiger trio arrived at the pinnacle event focused and fired-up.
Senior Cannon put an exclamation point on his prep career, medaling in both his hurdling events. Marcus placed seventh in the 110m event (16.17) and eighth in the 300m hurdles (41.86). Note that his 110m time was identical to his sprint in sections.
A medal comes with placing in the top nine.
Cannon ran pre-lim races on the Friday of state, getting clocked at 16.15 in the 110m hurdles (fourth in his heat), and posting a 41.18 time in the 300m (fourth in his heat).
The state champion in both the 110m hurdles and 300m hurdles was Jon Tollefson of St. Croix Lutheran. Jon ran a time of 14.72 in the 110m distance, and came through at 39.90 in the 300m.
MaKenzie Smith turned left a lot, bearing down to try to achieve top-notch performances in the 1600 meters and 3200 meters. The distance whiz, known for her height as well as stamina, placed 12th in the 1600 meters with her time of 5:22.73.
Junior Clare Flanagan of Blake was a nemesis of Smith and all the other distance specialists. Flanagan set a new Minnesota Class 'A' record with her time of 4:48.41 in the 1600m. She broke the previous mark of 4:48.79 set in 1986. (I remember attending and covering state track meets in that era, an era in which Anna Carrington made her mark for the Tigers. She's Anna Vikander today and has a son playing for YME.)
Smith did better in the longer 3200m distance, the longest one offered. Smith ran to a No. 8 showing in the 3200m run, held on Friday. Thus she medaled. Her time: 11:33.13. Blake's Flanagan was tops in this distance too, blazing with a 10:27.85 time.
Katie Holzheimer had an anticlimactic state meet as she was just shy of qualifying for the state finals in the 100m dash. In her Friday pre-lims race, Katie was fifth in her heat with a 12.80 time, coming up shy of the 12.79 cut-off time. Holzheimer can reflect on lots of athletic (and music) heroics in her prep career.
The orange and black projected pride!
 
Media thoughts
Prep track and field seems a little handicapped, in my view, getting optimal media attention.
The baseball and softball teams get what I would call "team-centered" coverage. If the Tigers win a game, there's an article with a headline highlighting the Tigers and with at least half the names being those of the Tigers. The article is all about our "team" winning. A casual reader can quickly and easily get familiar with the players. It's fun.
Track and field is, shall we say, more challenging. Typically there's a headline that refers to a meet, not to a team. A meet usually includes several teams and in some cases might include a great many teams.
Which is fine and dandy, of course, but for a casual follower, it's hard following the individuals. The names are often in small type and all blended together, organized by the many various events. A reader has to sift through a sea of data to ferret out the MACA individuals and appreciate what they've done.
I would have liked to do some MACA track/field posts through the spring. However, 1) it's laborious to try to separate out the Morris names, 2) it's a strain to read the small type, and most of all 3) I'm scared of missing someone.
The small type is also a problem for wrestling tournaments in the winter. These athletes should be able to get the same type of attention and acknowledgment as those in other sports.
Here's a suggestion from "your humble correspondent" (not that I want to talk like Bill O'Reilly): The coach could write a little summary after each meet - it's not such hard work - and submit it to Pheasant Country Sports who'd be glad to get it. Or simpler yet, launch a little website of your own. Hey, if I can do it. . .
I'd be happy to take some photos for you - really.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, June 10, 2013

Morris, state as whole were raw in 19th Century

Our town was on "the outskirts of civilization" in the 1870s. Such was the characterization by Chief Justice Calvin Brown.
Ol' Motown officially came into existence in 1871. It's easy for me to remember because I remember the town centennial in 1971. It was the days before Prairie Pioneer Days. A big summer celebration was against the sleepy norm. When you thought of a summer celebration back then, you thought of the Glenwood Waterama.
Legend has it the Waterama was threatened by members of my generation who'd come to town and be a little too unrestrained.
Today we have summer celebrations all around. Cyrus just had theirs.
But let's go back to the 19th Century. We could have been the backdrop for a Clint Eastwood western. Those Eastwood movies were really about life under territorial government. "Hang 'em High" even taught us some particulars about the judicial system - pretty skeletal.
Morris was a mere tent town in the 1870s. Chief Justice Brown called us "a typical frontier railroad town." Brown was writing for a collection called "Historical Contributions." He noted we had "much of the disorder and roughness incident to most all new towns (out here)."
He talked about "the solider of fortune, the gambler, the adventurer and others of restless, uncertain and doubtful purpose, to be shunned, feared and encouraged to move on."
Just as the Eastwood character was a lonely and vulnerable presence as "law" in "Hang 'em High," answering to a beleaguered judge, we can assume our county sheriff was likewise through most of the 1870s. He was literally the only law in town!
Culture and law made their restless inroads. It was through fits and starts to be sure. Churches and schools sprouted. But as the 19th Century wound down, there were rough-hewn and dangerous elements still very much out and around.
"Morris had its own ugly outside world to contend with," one account read.
No transition was made easily or routinely. Such is the case with all fundamental cultural changes. The Internet developed in fits and starts, right?
The 19th Century was entirely a horse and buggy world. We learn that the first automobile in Morris was a 1901 Olds owned by the Fowler family. Undoubtedly it was little more than a novelty then. I'm reminded of the movie "The Shootist" which was John Wayne's last, showing a very early car amidst the typical horses.
At the end he pauses to look at the contraption as he's about to enter a saloon for his final gunfight. The car is symbolic, suggesting to Wayne that his era of gunfighting is being ushered out by civilization's advance. We should note he was a "good guy" in the movie. He explained his personal ethos very simply as one in which he treated others the way he'd want to be treated. It was hard for such an ethos to rule in a world of limited law enforcement, where the unruly elements could throw their weight around.
There was an organization called the Women's Improvement League in Morris at the turn of the century. They petitioned the village council to have all saloons closed on Sunday. The council heard complaints in 1902 about the alleged existence of brothels. We saw an ordinance passed in 1904 limiting the length of rope used for picketing cattle so they couldn't stray into the streets or other yards.
It's interesting to ponder the very basic challenges the hearty residents out here dealt with. It's interesting to contrast with the very nitpicking kind of laws and regulations we live with today. Maybe today we have become over-regulated. You had to be thankful just waking up alive and healthy in the 19th Century.
The 1870s in Morris included an economic panic, a grasshopper plague of three years, intense blizzards and prairie fires. The human spirit prevailed. The odds were overcome. Ambitious home-building marked the early 1880s. The school, considered quite fine, was a catalyst for this. Churches enhanced the foundation. That beleaguered sheriff gave way to better law enforcement provisions.
The Stevens County Tribune reported in 1881 that maybe our streets could be cited as another strength, "but we guess we won't," it added in a note of levity. Room for improvement, yes.
Today Morris' most significant growth is to the east. A large number of very high-quality homes have gone up out by the bypass and even further out, by the Pomme de Terre River. A lot of that space was wild and windblown when I was a kid. We see "McMansions" out that way now.
A person with whom I was walking one day said "what do these people do, to make all this money?" The question is really too logical to call for an answer. It's just the way it is. I'm too naive to ever get on such a course. I believe that if you're going to buy something, you should have the money to pay for it. One of the most elaborate houses in our community was reportedly built by a family whose business had gone under more than once. I don't understand these things.
In the 1880s, Morris' growth was to the west. Various additions sprouted. You'd never know it today, but Park Avenue was a place of distinct privilege and prestige. Today it just blends with the rest of Morris. But my, in the late 19th Century it was called "the drive of the city." People would burst their buttons in their buggies along Park on lazy summer evenings.
I have written before about the Stanton house along Park. It was put up by the son of Abe Lincoln's secretary of war. Not much is known about young Lewis Stanton who had health problems. His legacy is "Chimneys" which was the name of his Victorian house along Park Avenue, still standing. You see it as you go to West Wind Village. It's still eye-catching. The Vince Dalager family used to live there. We wish Vince well as he battles health issues related to age now. He was a trusty electrician.
 
Growing pains out on frontier
Morris gradually put aside its rough edges and the unruly people who made for a frontier atmosphere in the 1870s. It could have been worse. It certainly seemed to be worse in southern Minnesota.
It was the day after Christmas, of all times, when Mankato declared war (in effect) on New Ulm in 1866. We learn in a book by Ethelyn Pearson that "a raiding party of 300 set out from Mankato, armed with guns and two pieces of artillery." Whoa.
Thus was the account in the press, although Ethelyn (mother of retired Morris industrial arts teacher Larry Parson) suspects some exaggeration. Mankato and New Ulm were county seats of Blue Earth and Brown Counties, respectively. There was no "war" but the circumstances were certainly a tinderbox.
The catalyst for such strong feelings was a bill for 75 cents worth of whiskey. A protest was heard that the bill was excessive by 25 cents. OK, some other factors were certainly woven in.
Trappers George Liscomb and Alexander Campbell of Mankato pulled into New Ulm where Christmas celebrating was robust. The trappers had quite a harvest of muskrat skins. These they sold in New Ulm for about $25.
Their next order of business: seeking some entertainment (quite the dubious step). They arrived at the National Hall Saloon. A little alcohol, right? What could go wrong? The patrons played cards.
The Mankato pair undertook a dance just for fun, mocking Indians in a faux "scalp dance." This was highly sensitive since the Sioux outbreak had occurred just four years earlier. We had bloodshed out here just like in the eastern Civil War. Was God punishing this young nation for something? Slavery?
While dancing, Liscomb made the most impolitic remark, that "he didn't give a damn for the Dutch." Now we have trouble. Then the bill was presented for the drinks. The trappers took exception. Already they had been derided, inaccurately as it turns out, as "half-breeds." The recipe for violence was ripe.
The trappers stabbed a man. The melee grew before the intrepid sheriff, a man named George Jacobs, was able to intervene and take the trappers to jail. Liscomb was seriously wounded, bad enough that he would have died had other more perilous circumstances not intervened. We're talking lynching.
The Duluth lynching is famous but I hadn't heard of this one in Mankato until reading Ethelyn's book. Rumors grew around town of "half-breed redskins" fomenting violence.
The sheriff couldn't prevent the mob intervening. The mob hanged the two after first abusing them quite badly. The sheriff continued powerless. Minnesota had become a state presumably with the law enforcement power to ensure civility, but rough edges remained. Clint Eastwood probably couldn't have done anything. The bodies disappeared.
Word of the incident reached Mankato where word circulated that an "army" should be dispatched. Mankato-ites were aware the trappers were not so-called half-breeds. They were in fact members of Company "H", Second Regiment of the Minnesota Militia.
Captain L.N. Holmes of the Mankato militia took a detachment of men to New Ulm. The bodies were finally found and taken to Nicollet County. A coroner couldn't be secured.
The bodies were then put on a wagon and taken to Mankato. There an inquest resulted in facts of the incident being known.
It appears the militant feeling just slowly dissipated. But Ethelyn wrote "it was years before New Ulm and Mankato were able to forget and patch up the differences created by the catastrophe of Christmas Day, 1866."
Pearson wrote about this in her book "It Really Happened Here!"
Morris had its own uncivilized element but nothing like what transpired to the south. In 1866 our Wadsworth Trail, precursor to the railroad, was just two years old. Burrowing owls probably ruled where today Morris sits. The human spirit is undeterred.
We overcame so much adversity and misery, but today we have to worry about getting seat belt tickets. Maybe civilization is going backwards.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

MACA boys fall to Fairmont, finish 17-4

The third inning told the story Tuesday night (6/4) in the MACA vs. Fairmont baseball game. It was a story with a disappointing end for the MACA Tigers.
The Tigers, in a habit of winning, often winning big, succumbed to Fairmont. The score was 5-3 as the orange and black had its season end. Morris Area Chokio Alberta vied with Fairmont (from southern Minnesota) in the Section 3AA playoffs in Marshall.
Coach Mark Torgerson's crew closes out 2013 with sterling 17-4 won-lost numbers. Click on the link below to see coverage of this game from the Marshall Independent:
  
In other Tuesday baseball, Lac qui Parle Valley, coached by Morris native Bart Hill, was denied in a bid to return to the Class 'A' state tourney. Hill's Eagles fell to Springfield 7-0 in 3A play, also in Marshall.
Colby Siegert pitched the whole way for LQPV and took the loss. LQPV had seven hits but was hurt by three errors. Three Eagle players each had two hits: Austin Haas, Brandon Hill and Preston Kraft. Jalen Baldwin contributed one hit.
Coach Hill noted that Springfield's infield played rather deep, helping them cut off potential hits.
  
Congratulations, MAHS graduates
The Morris Area graduates of 2013 are "out in the world" now, as they say.
The last Morris Area graduation I covered for the print media was in 2006. I remember it well. The first graduation I covered was in 1979.
In '79 I wrote about "flashcubes going off all over the place." That's really a time capsule item.
"Flashcubes" were those little flash attachments used with Kodak Instamatic cameras. The Instamatic was like the Model 'T' of the photography world for a time. It seemed universal among people who just wanted to take day-to-day family photos. Frankly the quality wasn't very good.
The "high end" cameras like Nikons seemed very pricey by the standards of middle class people. We could scarcely dream of "digital" photography then. Cost is hardly a factor with photography now.
Anyway, those "flashcubes" could create a spectacle on graduation night. I covered many graduation ceremonies at the 1968 gym of MAHS. There was the year when an earthquake created a sensation like a train passing right next to the school. The quake happened while a Lopez boy was giving his commencement address. I suspected within seconds it was an earthquake.
I remember the quake here in the late 1970s.
A major memory I have of those ceremonies in the '68 gym was how hard it was to hear a lot of the speeches. I struggled to just catch a few snippets that I could use in reviewing the event.
I remember when the MAHS choir was under the direction of an assistant football coach and, shall we say, wasn't real sharp. I later mentioned this to a school counselor who said "were you at the (recent) concert?" He smiled, suggesting there had been a pattern of mediocrity, not to be blamed on the kids of course.
I left the newspaper before it became once a week. My departure was under severe duress and in my opinion, not voluntary.
The MAHS graduation is held on Friday which means it cannot be covered in the next day's Morris newspaper. The paper sort of "fakes" coverage by gathering some material pre-ceremony, like a posed photo of the speakers and a transcript of their speeches.
Parents would far prefer actual coverage of the ceremony. There's a wait of eight days now to see that in the Morris paper (just like for a football game in fall). Does anyone care? Well, the constituencies I dealt with through the 1990s would care.
A posed photo of the 2013 speakers was on the front page of this past Saturday's paper. (I don't buy the paper but I see it out and around.)
I'm sure parents are chagrined that an article about serious alleged sex crimes is right next to the photo. That article told me way more details than I wanted to know.
We don't need to read descriptions of sex acts. Also, all of this behavior is "alleged" at this point. The article had the effect of convicting the person. Just as a matter of professional practice, the article should have included "alleged" (or words to that effect) in every reference to the criminal behavior. This article did not. I'm not sure a lawyer couldn't use this to gain leverage on behalf of the accused individual.
Was an article even needed at this point? What purpose does it serve? An article could appear after the matter has been disposed in our judicial system.
The article that appeared Saturday only made parents want to put the paper somewhere where their kids won't see it.
I don't even like the "district court" feature in the local newspaper. I think it's an intrusion into privacy. Most of the matters disposed there, like seat belt tickets or minor speeding, are so trivial they don't constitute "news." They constitute "gossip." Get a seat belt ticket and you'll get teased by a dozen people in church who "saw it in the paper."
Most of the people who buy the paper today are over age 55 and they only want to see if anyone they know died.
Memo to advertisers: older people are not heavy consumers. Many live on fixed income. You're trying to reach consumers. If you really want to advertise, I'd suggest that "Morris Area Merchant" publication. It's user-friendly, compact, and isn't cluttered or buried with ads for Alexandria businesses, who don't need any special help here, IMHO.
Anyway, congrats again to the Morris Area High School graduates of 2013. Try to enjoy summer now, cool as it might be. Don't rush into any decisions about the future.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, June 3, 2013

MACA boys plate 11 runs vs. Pipestone

Tigers 11, Pipestone 2
The Tigers have been scoring runs in bunches in the post-season. The offense of coach Mark Torgerson's crew has been most robust.
On Saturday (6/1) the pattern continued, this time at the expense of Pipestone. Amidst strong wind (a norm of the 2013 spring), the orange and black put eleven runs on the scoreboard.
The momentum took hold in the fourth inning when four runs came in. The other big inning was the seventh: five runs scored.
The 11-2 win kept MACA on a roll as the post-season keeps building toward a climax. Now the Tigers are preparing for the losers bracket final, set for tomorrow (Tuesday, June 4) in Marshall. The opponent is Fairmont, another foe from southern Minnesota (at the Iowa border in fact). Game-time is 7 p.m.
If the Tigers win, they'll play Luverne Thursday in the section final.
The Tigers scored their eleven runs vs. Pipestone on just six hits. Pipestone was held to four. And Pipestone had its share of fielding woes with five errors, while MACA was flawless in the field. Sacrifices were instrumental in the MACA success.
Jacob Torgerson and Mac Beyer did the Tigers' pitching. Jake was the pitcher of record with his six innings pitched, in which he overwhelmed a number of Pipestone batters, striking out eight. He walked just one while giving up four hits.
Beyer hurled for an inning and gave up no runs and no hits. He struck out two and walked one.
Six different Tigers had the six hits. Tanner Picht scored two runs. Tyler Henrichs knocked in three runs. Logan Manska scored three runs and drove in one. Beyer, Chandler Erickson and Lincoln Berget each had a hit. 
Four players hit safely for Pipestone: Alex Ossefoort, Damian Skyberg, Gunner Manderscheid and Trav Thomssen.
Coach Torgerson was quoted in the Willmar newspaper saying: "With it being windy, we played good small ball, and we took advantage of their errors." 
The win was No. 17 on the season for the orange and black who are clearly on a roll in 3AA play. 
  
Grand slam in May 30 win
Tyler Henrichs was in a grand slam mood on Thursday, May 30. The Tiger student-athlete came through in a dramatic way with a dinger with the bases full. This was in the MACA baseball team's 11-1 win over New London-Spicer. It was a Section 3AA losers bracket game and resulted in NL-Spicer being eliminated.
Meanwhile, Henrichs and his Tiger mates could savor their 16th win of the season against just three losses. Their Thursday success was in Marshall.
Henrichs connected for his grand slam in the third inning. The homer highlighted a nine-run rally that made it pretty certain MACA would be the victor. The Tigers had scored two runs in the second. Their final line score was a superb eleven runs, ten hits and no errors. The Wildcats hurt themselves with four errors.
The Wildcats were also limited to four hits in the face of quality pitching by Jacob Torgerson and Bryce Jergenson. The two only had to pitch a total of five innings due to the ten-run rule. Torgerson fanned three batters. Jergenson finished things up and set down one batter on strikes in his one inning, walking none and allowing no hits.
The losing pitcher was Lucas Nordmeyer.
Henrichs' big blast was part of a two-for-three boxscore line. He scored two runs to go with his four RBIs.
Lincoln Berget's bat was sizzling with three-for-three numbers and three RBIs. Jergenson picked up an RBI as part of going two-for-three.
Chandler Erickson went two-for-three and scored two runs. Tanner Picht had a hit and an RBI, and Torgerson had an RBI and two runs scored.
Ryan Vraa had two hits for the loser. (It's kind of nice to refer to New London-Spicer as the loser. It'd be nice to do that more often in football and basketball.)
  
Tigers 6, BOLD 5 (on May 23)
The Tigers met the Warriors of BOLD in a clash of conference kingpins on Thursday, May 23. This game closed out the regular season and it had a suspenseful air.
MACA nearly closed out this game in the regulation seven innings, but they'd have to work a little harder. The BOLD Warriors, champs of the WCC-South, rallied to tie the score in the top of the seventh. So, the score is 5-5. The Tigers, tops in the WCC-North, ended up tops in this game by scoring a run in the bottom of the eighth.
Coach Torgerson's crew prevailed 6-5 for win No. 13, thus getting an infusion of confidence going into the post-season.
BOLD batted in the top of the eighth and went down 1-2-3 against hurler Chandler Erickson, who had put his pitching arm to work in the sixth.
Tom Holland worked the pitcher for a walk to start the bottom of the eighth. Jake Torgerson laid down a bunt that got the fleet Holland to third. Up to bat comes Bryce Jergenson who lofted a sacrifice fly to center. The Tigers could celebrate! They could feel like the cream of the crop in the WCC.
Success came despite being out-hit by BOLD 13-7.
Errors cropped up for both teams - three by MACA and four by BOLD.
Bryce Jergenson rapped two hits in three at-bats and drove in a run. Lincoln Berget, Tom Holland and Tyler Henrichs each went one-for-three. Holland drove in a run. Henrichs' hit was a double and this Tiger crossed home plate twice.
Tanner Picht added a double to the mix. Chandler Erickson went one-for-four with an RBI.
It was Erickson getting the pitching win with his stint of three innings. Brett Grund was the losing pitcher.
Riley Kramer was a BOLD hitting standout with a three-for-four showing including a double, an RBI and two runs scored.
Viva Morris Area Chokio Alberta baseball for the 2013 spring (and now summer)!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com