Of this, memories are made.My generation of the boomers is easing out of the work phase of life and into the unknowns of retirement. Tomorrow (Saturday, July 19) has a fete scheduled in Willmar for Tony Cruze. Tony is part of the large and very vibrant Cruze family. Those kids had countless friends around Morris. Their home base was South Street. I have previously joked that "The South Street Kids" would be a nice movie title. I'm not sure fiction would be any more engaging than the truth.
So substantial were the boomers with our numbers, our elders really couldn't keep up with us or adequately watch us. Today we look back in a vein of "the good old days." We tend to remember the good things more than the bad.
There was bullying and some real dangers as we sought our excitement. Parents just seemed to assume the risk was out there, and didn't seek to eliminate it. As kids we were told to watch carefully as we got out of a school bus. Today the onus is on the motorists. Today as I make my rounds, I won't go near a school bus, so as not to risk committing some sort of infraction. Bus drivers are at the ready to call in this stuff. I have heard that at least one Morris driver, apparently on the bubble for getting fired, fancies herself a quasi police officer.
We have enough trouble with our regular police who get consumed with harassing good people with trivial citations. Don't even try to drive a couple blocks without putting on your seat belt.
Tony Cruze is a law enforcement guy. He is a law enforcement "good guy" who has done serious work with a purpose. He's commander of the CVI Drug Task Force, part of the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office. He's a 1973 graduate of Morris High School, as is yours truly. So is his brother Art. Art "sells air" - in other words he's a radio ad salesperson. Both ply their professional skills in Willmar.
Art takes care of his matriarch mother Leona in Paynesville. Leona was a Rudnicki.
Tony Cruze was a heavyweight wrestler in high school under the venerable Al Hendrickson. He had the kind of physique you'd expect for that. Our "class prophecy" had Tony "getting mistaken for the Hamm's Bear and shipped to the Como Zoo."
Scott Beseman was also available to wrestle heavyweight for Motown. Theater definitely became Scott's thing when he left high school. He headed west to Idaho. Like me, Scott did not always find high school to be the most supportive environment.
Our '73 class had its 40th reunion last summer. I didn't attend, partly because I didn't want to get into a photo that would appear in the Morris newspaper. Also, we had to have our dog, nearly 17 years old, put down a few days earlier. I was downcast.
I had helped organize the 30-year reunion in 2003 and got discouraged when a class member, initials V.S., decided not to come simply because we hadn't been able to book the Old No. 1. OK, do it without me then.
Appetizers will be served at 6 p.m. on July 19 for the Cruze fete. The program is set for 7 p.m. All of this is at an establishment called "The Oaks." Tony's family is hosting.
I will forever be bitter because I had to miss graduation receptions for Tony's children due to my commitment to cover the Chokio-Alberta graduation, always on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Today the Morris paper doesn't even cover the C-A graduation. Today the Morris paper just wants to disseminate Alexandria advertising. This must be "Alice Through the Looking Glass" or whatever.
Those Alex businesses get enough of our dollars even if all that advertising garbage wasn't send around.
The Cruze family also includes Greg of Cold Spring who is kindred in spirit with me.
When I was beginning college the boomer youth gathered at a basement dive called "The Buccaneer" in Willmar. People my age can remember notorious "watering holes" like that. The drinking age had been lowered. We were eager to behave like "adults." How wayward we were. Or, how wayward our society was.
Young people deserved to drink because we had been drafted for the Viet Nam war, or so the reasoning went. We are so human an animal. In St. Cloud the boomer youth congregated and took in disco music at a place called "Trader and Trapper," which later became a Goodwill.
The Class of 1973 is filtering into retirement. Maybe we're staggering. I left my full-time employment prematurely. I suppose that's another reason I didn't attend the reunion.
Steve Poppe and Craig Murphy were lighweight wrestlers under coach Al in the early '70s. We sympathize with Steve on the recent death of his father-in-law. Steve and Craig are 1973 MHS grads. But the real wrestling star from our class was Randy Thraen. I'm happy for his success although I felt his weight-loss efforts were a bit too much. I have long had reservations about this aspect of the sport. I saw Randy at the recent Prairie Pioneer Days. We fondly remember the late Chuck Kopel who was a top-notch wrestler with our class.
Edith Martin was a class speaker for our graduation. The ebullient "Edie" is a daughter of the late iconic Willie ("love ya") and Rachel. She implored us from the podium to "not be a Milquetoast." None of the Cruze boys would ever be mistaken for a Milquetoast. They too are most ebullient.
Now Tony is stepping out of his professional life. Into what? Are we really wiser than when we stepped out of high school? Or just more worn out?
We were in high school so long ago, the high school auditorium wasn't even built yet. Grades 10-12 only were at the high school building. You might say the boomers swarmed.
People my age are part of what's been termed "baby boom cohort No. 2." One of our traits is cynicism. Some very bad things were happening with our nation as we came of age. Watergate was ripe in our senior high school year. Watergate was not only a bad thing, it was stupid.
The years 1973-83 were a particularly bad time for our economy. We expected the worst.
A seed of optimism was planted in us, destined to eventually sprout and bloom. It was only a seed in 1973.
Imagine living life with none of the electronic gadgets of today, none of the connectivity. It seems analogous to cave paintings, right? Yet we got by day-to-day with typical human grit. We had tons of energy spending idle time at Lakeview Lanes and punching up Paul McCartney and Wings music on the juke box ("Jet," "Band on the Run" etc.) We went to "The Back Door" at Sunwood Inn, the establishment now known as Prairie Inn. The Back Door was where we reveled in being of legal drinking age. There was live music. We listened to Doobie Brothers songs until we practically went deaf. Air hockey was a new novelty.
We were generally svelte in our physique. If you were "fat" you stood out and might bring whispers, whereas today no one would think anything of it.
I'm not fully nostalgic as I write this. It's rather the opposite. Nevertheless, we look back on our developmental years with a constructive eye, realizing that if we did engage in foolishness, it was somehow part of our nature. It's what makes us human.
Society seemed eager to have us joining the ranks of adults who can drink alcohol. A few short years later we'd get the "just say no!" campaign of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Remember that PSA that showed the eggs frying? "This is your brain on drugs." I have read that many people of a certain age are averse to fried eggs because of this.
We grew into "yuppies." Suddenly we threw off the yoke of left wing thinking that defined us through the '70s. That yoke served us well when we had certain social welfare causes. Then we discovered money. We discovered money isn't so bad after all. Hell, we discovered it was like honey!
Eventually we became tea partiers. John Stewart has described the tea party as "a going out of business sale for the boomer generation."
So here we are, getting feted at retirement gatherings like Tony's. And what brave new world might be lying ahead of us? Shuffleboard? That's the old stereotype. What have we gained from all our life's ventures? I guess I'll quote the Alex Karras character from "Blazing Saddles," who in a moment of resignation gave us the line: "Mongo just pawn in game of life." Such words ring just as true as "don't be a Milquetoast."
At any rate, congratulations to Tony on his full life and career. Law enforcement is not always an honorable profession, as we have seen here in Morris with the pathetic and wayward attempt to convict our high school principal - an episode that denied our high school the services of its principal for most of the school year. Again: "Alice Through the Looking Glass." Our graduates of the Class of 2014 will be spending the rest of their lives telling friends and family about the calamity of their senior year: having the principal disappear from school grounds due to groundless charges of criminal sexual misconduct. I can't think of anything more sordid.
On the heels of that Keystone Cops episode we have had major buildings get practically wiped out because of an apparent lack of engineering oversight, at the public library and then the Catholic school. The Cruze kids spent a lot of time at that Catholic school. The Cruze kids got me interested in Catholic bingo. I feel a bit kindred with the Catholic faith because of that.
I remember once playing croquet with the Tony Cruze family and hearing a frustrated Tony exhort: "Oh Holy Mother of Croquet be with me!" Us boomers will need such guidance in retirement. Do a Hail Mary.