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

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

For want of a well-fielded dribbler in '67

It was not healthy to be a Minnesota Twins fan in 1967. Americans had much bigger fish to fry than baseball in that long-ago summer. I was 12 years old. I was dealing with issues like: what am I supposed to do at a junior high dance? The issues of adolescence were daunting.
There was a time as the Internet developed when a website came forth called "Get Mortified," the whole purpose of which was to let people share stories and photos from adolescence. We're supposed to laugh at those photos. Mine ranked right up there: I had braces. We tried to find our place among our peers.
Following major league baseball was liberating. I could retreat into my own world doing this. The Minnesota Twins were very young (as a franchise) at that time. In those heady days of Calvin Griffith and Halsey Hall, the Twins were like an extension of our identity in the Upper Midwest. This set the stage for sadness.
There were no East/West divisions then. Only one team from the league made the World Series. This was a pretty hard feat to achieve. Jim Kaat once told a friend of mine that the 1967 Twins team was even better than in '65. In '65 of course we won the pennant but lost in seven to Los Angeles (and Sandy Koufax) in the World Series.
In '67 our stable seemed pretty well stocked with talent. How unfortunate we couldn't simply "pull away." Fate just wouldn't have it that way. We were among four A.L. teams desperately fighting at the end of that season. We left it to chance if we could make the "big show" that year. A bad break or two might break us. There was another big consequence to our failure to pull away: Jim Kaat's arm got overworked. An elbow injury forced him out of the second to last game.
The last two games get the focus of baseball historians. We lost both, crushing the dreams and emotions of so many adolescent boys who had their stacks of baseball cards. Nothing could possibly happen at a junior high dance to offer us consolation for that. 
Of course, it was nothing but foolish to be so emotionally invested in a baseball team. Our diversions were limited then. No Facebook or any meaningful electronic communications, at least nothing like today. We listened to the top music hits on our transistor radios, offered up by KDWB mainly. Remember their jingle? "KDWB, Channel 63." Our DJ was "Tac" Hammer. Songs like the Association's "Windy" were played endlessly. We read on the back of an Association album that one of the group members "didn't eat meat." I was perplexed.
 
Tapestry of music
The year 1967 was when the majestic organ strains of "A Whiter Shade of Pale" cascaded from our radio speakers. That unique song was from Procol Harum. This was the year of "I'm a Believer" from the Monkees. The Beatles, who seemed other-worldly with their fame, gave us "All You Need is Love," "Hello Goodbye" and "Penny Lane." I still have my "Hello Goodbye" record and displayed it as part of my collection at the Morris Public Library. The "flip" side of that record was "I Am the Walrus." In preparing my collection, I thought at first that "Walrus" was the 'A' side - it was so well-known. I was wrong.
The song that probably evokes the most nostalgia or memories from the time: "San Francisco (wear some flowers in your hair)." George Harrison of the Beatles once commented on that celebrated escapist phenomenon that took hold in San Francisco. We hear the term "hippies." Harrison visited the place and he felt the images were inflated in significance. Gee, would the media be guilty of over-romanticizing something? Harrison said the place was nothing more than a "bowery."
Davey Jones sang "Daydream Believer" in 1967. That 45 RPM record sleeve was in my collection at the library. The Doors gave us "Light My Fire." Frank Sinatra, who might have just been a relic, joined with daughter Nancy for that distinctive song "Somethin' Stupid." It's distinctive because it's one of those pop songs so simple in its essence, we swear we could write one just like it. Silly rabbit, writing "simple" popular songs is extremely difficult. I know something about this.
The Viet Nam War was raging in 1967. Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys was indicted for draft evasion that year. The draft board in Louisville KY refused an exemption for Muhammad Ali.
The American League pennant race wound down with a maddening lack of resolution. Adding to the angst was how inept the four contending teams could be. Teams fumbled away opportunities. There was one beacon through all this: Carl Yastrzemski of Boston. Why couldn't it have been Tony Oliva? Boston ended up as the team of destiny. We helped them with inept stretches of play.
 
Identifying a pivotal point
Historians focus on those last two games in Boston. The tale of woe for the Twins was one for the ages. But, a baseball season is composed of 162 games. I'd like to focus on September 16. The Twins were in Chicago. Attendance was depressed because of racial turmoil in Chicago's south side. Some things never change.
Roger Angell wrote that "each pitched ball seemed heavy with omens, and spectators greeted the most routine enemy pop fly with nervous laughter and applause."
Our Dean Chance was in his Twins prime. He could be so awesome when he was "on." I was so sad to see him still on the Twins roster in 1969 when his arm had been depleted. In '67 Chance excited us with his considerable talents from the mound. He was seeking his 19th win on September 16, 1967. He was "on" in the early stages of the game.
The Twins loaded the bases in the fifth, using a sacrifice along the way. I'm reminded of the contemporary movie "Moneyball" in which the Billy Beane character says "no sacrifice bunts - never." The sacrifice has always been a much-debated tactic in baseball. You're giving the other team an out. Considering the Twins' offensive firepower in the 1960s, the sacrifice seemed a dubious ploy.
The  White Sox pitcher was Tommy John. I'm sure this was before the surgery that bears his name. Many good pitchers flamed out with sore arms in those days. Sports medicine was not as advanced. Teams would later have so much money invested in players, they became much more tender and caring about players' physical welfare, and pitchers topped the list. Pitching is an unnatural act for the human body. Whitey Herzog wrote in his autobiography that "a pitcher injures his arm on every pitch." In the '60s, four-man rotations were common along with complete games. I don't remember hearing about "pitch counts."
Beane would learn how to take advantage of opposing pitchers who were coddled. He'd seek to wear them out, i.e. get them out of the game, getting deep into a foe's bullpen, by taking lots of pitches. How often do you see a hitter going after an obvious ball out of the strike zone? Force pitchers to throw strikes, and you're putting lots of pressure on them.
OK, so the Twins have the bases loaded, and up comes Ted Uhlaender - remember him? - who hits a "chopper." Tommy John deflected the ball. He then made a wild throw and two runs come in. OK, we're on our way, right? But remember, this was 1967, when the baseball gods forced an excruciating exercise. The Twins scored once more in that inning.
Then in the fourth, Bob Allison homered. Angell recalled that the Chicago outfielders "studied (the ball) in flight like junior astronomers."
 
Tasting victory, but. . . 
Hey, we were up 4-1 in the bottom of the ninth! Chicago's Tom McCraw comes up to bat and singles. He pulled in at third on Ron Hansen's single. We remember Hansen as a slick fielder and woeful hitter, but on this day he produced, guided presumably by those baseball gods. Maybe it was those "angels in the outfield" as in the movie (the 1951 version).
Tony Oliva made a horribly timed error in right field. No one remembers Oliva as a truly clutch player. He'd be in the Hall if he were.
Here comes Rocky Colavito to the plate. Rocky Colavito! What a name. He was also a quite good player. Here he hits what appears to be a perfect double play ball. Oh, my! The ball bounces over the third baseman's head. A run comes in.
Les Josephson made the anti-Billy Beane move of bunting. He was willing to "sacrifice." The ball dribbled along the third base line. Dean Chance scurries toward the seemingly harmless ball. Chance, who would later gain note as a carnival entrepreneur, dropped the ball, then seemed to fight it, and finally couldn't help but just glare at it. Now the score is 4-2, there are no outs and the bases are full. We perspired as we were glued to our radios, perhaps wanting to cry.
"Wild bird cries rose into the night," Angell wrote.
White Sox manager Eddie Stanky was seeking every possible edge, so he employed his third pinch-runner of the inning! Stanky once managed the Minneapolis Millers. He was rather a character.
Wayne Causey comes to bat. Our manager, Cal Ermer, a snakebit figure in Twins history, called on Jim Kaat to pitch. Kaat unleashes a wild pitch, allowing in a run. Causey hit a fly ball to right to tie the score. Sheesh!
Now we see Al Worthington come to the pitching mound for Minnesota. Worthington had a long tenure as top-tier reliever for our Twins in our early years. He was rather iconic and dependable. Al made a classic save appearance in a win, the first time I ever personally attended a Twins game at Met Stadium. I remember the P.A. announcer would always announce his name as "Alan" Worthington! I remember him gamely peeling off his warmup jacket. Really, ol' Al who was a man of the Deep South, was like a father figure to us young boomer boys.
Continuing with that Sept. 16, 1967, review: Billy Beane would not approve of the intentional walk that Al gave to pinch-hitter Smokey Burgess. Stanky sends out yet another pinch-runner. Hell's bells, the Twins also issued a pass to Don Buford, setting up the force at all bases, but hey, let's just get the hitters out, OK? That's would Beane would say.
Pete Ward was the 12th batter to appear for Chicago, actually in a span of just one-third on an inning. "Whoa Nellie," Keith Jackson would say.
Angell informs us that Ward had been hitless in his previous 21 times at bat. The count was 2-2 when Pete hit a liner off Harmon Killebrew's glove. He trotted to first triumphantly.
Had the gods up on Mount Olympus scripted all this as some sort of wrath vs. Minnesota? We had to ask. Nothing could be more painful for the young boomer male Twins fans. We were overly emotionally invested in the Twins.
Comiskey Field set off its scoreboard rocket display, usually reserved for home runs, after Ward's hit. On the next day, Sunday, Gary Peters shut out the Twins 4-0. The colorful Eddie Stanky was conqueror.
You can talk all you want about those two losses vs. Boston at the end of the season. There was a fairly tale-like quality to Boston's success. But the Twins' misery was hardly confined to those two games. It was a better team, perhaps, than the one that won the pennant in '65. Cal Ermer had a chance to go down in Twins annals as famous. Instead he stepped back into obscurity, spending much of his career in the minors. He did marry a beauty queen from Tennessee.
The Twins would go on to win the West Division in '69 and '70 only to get crushed by the Orioles in the playoffs. In '69 the Orioles would go on to lose that storied World Series against the New York Mets and our own Jerry Koosman. Surely Mount Olympus made sure the Mets would win that one.
We needed a touch of joy and exhilaration, considering all the pain our nation had been through with the Viet Nam war and civil rights struggles. The Mets were like a wellspring of joy.
The '67 season could have been the Twins' greatest ever. Sigh.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, August 25, 2014

Morris banks engaged in deceptive practices?

I have discovered to my chagrin that our area banks may not be operating in the most ethical way. There is nothing downright sinister about this, it's just that it's an outgrowth of our current U.S. ethos demanding that no stone is left unturned in seeking profit.
What I have noticed is that banks are starting to offer "specials" for certificate of deposit (CD) rates. Meaning that you have to 1) become aware of the "special" and 2) then go in and ask for it.
"Well, this is all quite fair, isn't it?" you might ask. Businesses offer specials quite often. Look at the ad circular for Town and Country.
I have never likened bank accounts to combing the local businesses for "specials." If you aren't paying attention, if you do not become aware of a certain "special" or ask for it, you are a chump or sucker and you'll end up with an interest rate on your CD close to zero.
I took advantage of a special at a bank recently and am getting one per cent interest for that account. I was told that had I done nothing, had I allowed my CD to roll over automatically, I would have gotten .15 per cent interest. I should note that this "special" was apparently not announced to the public, rather it was announced via a mailing. You had to bring the letter to the bank.
Considering all the crap that can be in your mailbox, like a sale at Schweiter's Chevrolet or myriad hearing aid offers, you might miss something like this. We often hang up on telemarketers.
We hear about the need to "save" the U.S. Postal Service. I'm not sure we need to generously compensate the local mailman for filling my mailbox with credit card offers.
Up until recently, I just assumed that when a CD rolls over, I'll be getting the standard fair interest rate for that time. Maybe I wouldn't be paying so much attention if interest rates hadn't fallen so ridiculously low in the first place. Who in his right mind is going to choose to purchase a bank CD if the interest rate is down around .15? What's the purpose? This is a CD and not a standard passbook account.
Many older retirees like the safety and simplicity of simply putting money in the bank. The FDIC covers it, right? I know plenty of people in the financial services industry laugh and scoff at the idea of putting any importance on the FDIC. Well, I don't know. What happens when this whole "party" ends in the stock market, as well it might? People might suddenly start thinking that safety is important.
Banks have always been available for people with conservative sensibilities, for people who don't wish to stick their neck out. Now banks are forcing us to do this little "dance" to be aware of when we might get higher interest.
I brought up this issue to the head of a local bank and he said "it was in the paper," meaning that the bank had placed an ad promoting their "special." I won't name any names here. It should never be assumed that everyone locally, or even 3/4, buy the Morris paper or look through it meticulously. I don't wish to fumble with a whole pile of ads for Alexandria businesses. No way am I going to buy groceries at that Elden's store - I shop at Willie's. I don't wish to see the "Canary" with its full-page ads for Jim Gesswein Motors. I'm not going to go to Milbank SD to buy a car.
This bank person should be advised that saying "it was in the paper" is going to be taken as an affront by a lot of people.
The rule of thumb now is going to be, that whenever you have a CD mature, contact the bank and ask if they have a "special." Can we even trust the bank 100 per cent to tell us about this? Remember that at one of the banks I've cited here (which I won't name), you had to be on a certain mailing list. If I'm not on that list but learn of the special, can I go into the bank and demand this interest rate anyway?
Will this whole pattern lead to a practice of having to "haggle" with your bank or banks? "Haggling" is a practice that is associated with third world countries.
The cynical side of us can theorize that the banks are trying to get by with paying decent interest to only a portion of their customers, i.e. the ones astute enough to come in, make demands or "haggle," while playing all the other customers for "chumps." In an age where a rapacious capitalist like Mitt Romney can make a good run at becoming president, maybe I shouldn't be surprised.
This top-down system of huge enterprises pulling strings to maximize profit, where their employees, even "branch managers" and the like, are just automatons following directives from above, has been passively accepted by us up until now. Many people who work for these companies know full well they are following ethically challenged directives. But this is 2014 in America, and this is the ethos we have passively acquiesced to. And this will continue until there is some sort of financial earthquake. Or, until the disappearance of the middle class creates so much stress we'll finally see a political backlash.
We'll suddenly realize the Republicans were never on our side. The Republicans have used trickery - populist language - to get elected, and it's all too cute by half. We all know what Republicans stand for. If you don't know now, it will all become clear in due time. Forget the personalities. All Republicans stand for the same set of ideas.
I am distressed that I have had to find out the hard way that we must all watch our certificates of deposit very carefully. I'm not the kind of person with a good instinct for "haggling." I'm the conservative type who has always felt comfortable just putting my savings in the local banks.
While I was able to take advantage of one local CD special at a bank, I missed out on the chance to consider another, at that bank that just assumes we all see newspaper ads. I don't like being dissed like this. Banks should offer uniform and fair CD rates to all their customers. No one should have to jump through hoops. Banking in Morris should not have to be like keeping an eye out for the sales at J.C. Penney.
  
Addendum re. the Morris newspaper: All those Alexandria ads - do you really think those businesses are paying the standard rate to be in the Morris paper and to reach the Morris audience? Would Elden's pay the same rate to reach the Morris audience as Willie's, in light of how Elden's must only get a minuscule amount of business from here? So, why are we showered with their ads?
Morris businesses should assert themselves. If nothing else, I would implore Morris businesses to stop supporting those "sig ads" in the Morris paper - you know, where you put your name on an ad with some sort of touchy-feely message. The recent full page devoted to MACA sports schedules falls into that category.
"Oh, but shouldn't we support the school sports teams?" Of course we should, and the paper could simply publish those schedules as part of their reporting mission. The only reason they try to sell those ads, which are absolutely tiny boxes in which appear names of businesses, is that they can.
Maybe the day will come when the paper will say: "yes, we can provide thorough coverage of the Tiger football team, but we need sponsors." What the paper would really be saying is this: "We'd like to get more money."
The newspaper is owned out of Fargo which isn't even in Minnesota. Do not feel obligated to subsidize it. This fall, if you want to see a review of a Tiger football game in print (in the Morris paper), you'll have to wait eight days until after the game is played. In other words, the next game will have already been played the night before.
Don't just support the newspaper because it's "there." Don't do it out of old habits. Take care of your own interests, please. Knock off those "sig ads" (also known as "sucker ads" to some in the newspaper industry).
 Back when the paper went to once a week, their salespeople reportedly went around town saying they "wouldn't cut staff." Well they didn't right away. But it seemed that not long after that, two employees were in fact laid off. Was the paper lying to us? If they were, I'm sure it was because of "directives from above." The local people are just (smiling) automatons.
And now the local Chevy dealership is pleading hardship with taxes, wanting some sort of "abatement." Car salesmen would never mislead us, would they?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, August 22, 2014

Pop music not as organic as we think

Nostalgia about the 1960s is a perverse thing. So hideous was the tragedy of the Viet Nam war, it's hard to even acknowledge that any normal phases of our life could go on. They most definitely continued. The pop music factory kept giving us its tantalizing nuggets.
Songs of a particular era are put forth as a way of understanding our culture at that time. That's highly idealistic, as I would suggest instead, as someone who has studied the craft of songwriting, that songs are produced by people highly disciplined and experienced in the field. In other words, it's more a matter of professional proficiency than organic "inspiration" caused by our cultural environment.
Oh, the cultural environment does provide the raw material. In the late '60s, anti-war fervor might weave into your work. That's fine, and you may in fact have subscribed to all that - 90 percent of all reasonable people did. I can assure you the other ten percent weren't actually involved in combat.
The passions of the time, whether it be anti-war or other humanistic values, aren't enough in themselves to inspire commercially successful songs. Music is a hardcore business. I remember a bigshot in the music business saying (in a seminar I attended in Moorhead)  that industry people could slam the door on him just as readily as any vain young songwriter.
Let's be clear: songwriting is a skill. It is true that top songwriters break the rules sometimes, but you can be sure they know what the rules are.
It is common to see paeans about the music of the 1960s. Cliches abound about this. Young people were expressing themselves and seeking to assert in a manner never seen before, so the legend goes.
Transistor radios did allow kids to select their own kind of music. Kids had more money, or had more money showered on them. Thus they had more "fooling around" money.
In reality, the majority of kids followed a rather dull path not much different from other generations: going to school, surviving its drudgery, getting a foundation with career and family and fighting all those mundane battles. If they did watch "The Midnight Special" on TV, it was a minor passing fancy. Music essentially helped them combat boredom, which is what pop music has always done.
John Lennon was a highly intelligent man. He had to be well-read to have come up with the whole library of lyrics he wrote. Genius? I'd suggest it was more a matter of hard work. Toward the end of his too-short career, he said something defensively about all the "slack time" he had fallen into. I read a quote that he wanted to remind all his fans that back when they were "smoking dope," he and the other Beatles were in effect working their asses off. As I'm sure they most certainly were.
We have been deluded by the pop music of the '60s. It was not created by idle and distracted minds who were caught up in the "psychedelic" stuff. It was not all that organic at all. It didn't spring from pot-smoking sessions. It is a tragedy that the belief ever grew that drugs are somehow inspiration. Fact is, the Beatles had developed their music craftsmanship to a highly advanced level. If it seemed like they catered to the drug crowd, it was only because they were commercial artists and knew their audience.
Lennon and McCartney were masters of the "catchy three-minute song." They were masters and deserved high praise. But its wellspring was not simply an escapist desire for hedonistic pleasures. Much of that is stereotype, just like the notion that drugs inspired Hunter S. Thompson's journalism. Hey, Thompson earned all his fame and credentials when his lifestyle was clean and serious. He rode the coattails later. All the later silliness simply made him a candidate for Hollywood making a "biopic" about him.
A movie would never have been made about Jackson Pollock had he not had peccadilloes and personal or psychological problems in his later years. Why are we so fascinated by those "problems?" Why do we infer that somehow those problems had something to do with "genius?"
Many of these people may in fact break down because of fame. Fame is not part of the normal human condition. People accept fame because in the early stages it may seem cool. They also associate it with the acquisition of money. As time wears on, it becomes less cool. If the Beatles had been told about the ridiculous level of fame they would acquire, would they have said "yes" to stepping into it? I would say "no."
Lennon gave us "All You Need is Love" in 1968. Surely we needed a "love" message at that time. But is it really a sign of philosophical genius to simply write "All you need is love?" That phrase and its melody worked for Lennon because he was a highly advanced professional song craftsman.
Sometimes I think songwriting is a little overrated. How many lines in popular songs are simply written to achieve a certain rhyme? Or, because the lines have a certain number of syllables that fit the melody, and "roll off the tongue" as needed?
Still, I have total respect for this mysterious craft. I say "mysterious" because: has science ever demonstrated why certain melodies are more popular than others? We can only speculate on this. I believe the old TV show "The Twilight Zone" had an episode tied in with this. I never watched it but I heard about it. According to that episode, a melody is popular only in connection to how close it comes to a certain "ideal" melody, a melody no human ears were ever meant to hear. In this episode, someone was given a chance to hear the ideal melody. And, instantly becomes a vegetable. . .
Of course, TV episodes are created by people who have simply mastered a professional craft too. P.J. O'Rourke once said during a C-Span interview that he felt a certain level of anxiety or stress when writing his books. Someone then called in to the show to shed light on this: "The reason you feel stress is that it's your work."
So true. Successful commercial art is more a matter of professional craftsmanship and discipline - stressful things to ply - than anything merely organic or inspirational. Sad perhaps, but true.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I remember 1962, the sweet and the bitter

I was seven years old in 1962. We all revered JFK as president. The nostalgia connected with him seems harmless. He hardly seemed president long enough for us to really judge.
How much of our adulation was based on cosmetics, i.e. this notion that in the eyes of women he might seem handsome, "dashing" or whatever - an archaic set of thoughts through today's prism. Let's use a more acceptable description: charismatic. What does that quality prove? Cliff Robertson played him in the movies.
In 1962 our University of Minnesota-Morris was still a fledgling institution. I'm not sure its future was even solidified. My father took the U of M-Morris men's chorus to the Seattle World's Fair (a.k.a. Century 21 Exposition). Ralph Williams directed the singers as the opening to the Minnesota Day festivities. Morris was making an imprint.
I was in the second grade at Longfellow Elementary in west Morris. My teacher was a white-haired older lady whose last name was pronounced "first-snow." We learned "penmanship" in those days. We seem to pooh-pooh that skill today. I'm not sure this is prudent. Putting pen to paper would seem practical in many situations. If it's a dinosaur trait, then I'm a dinosaur.
Kids didn't just play on the Longfellow playground, they swarmed. There were more of us boomers than our elders could handle, it would seem. Each one of us did not get tender loving care. We were treated in bunches. We were "mainstreamed." Special ed. was limited to those needing pretty special attention, not at the margins. The strong and the weak, the smart and not-so-smart had to pull together and feel a common resolve to get along and get through the system. This was hardly done to perfection, but I think you'll find most of us have warm memories superceding the bad.
Today we try to iron out every flaw in every child, resorting to "meds" lest any shortcomings surface.
The year 1962 was more an extension of the 1950s than the dawn of anything new. I'm speaking in cultural terms. The phenomena we associate with the '60s hadn't surfaced or come to the forefront. This was the year of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," a song you surely remember, done by a group you almost surely don't: the Tokens. Chubby Checker gave us "The Twist," a meteoric craze. I remember that well.
The Shirelles intoned "Soldier Boy," and The Four Seasons were definitely on the map with "Sherry." A musical and movie have celebrated the success of The Four Seasons, but remember, they and the other performers of that year would be steamrollered by the Beatles. Gene Chandler gave us the song "Duke of Earl" that puts a smile on my face. "Duke of Earl" pulled us back to the '50s.
But surely we were moving ahead, inexorably, and ushering in that time when the four mop-tops from England would make all other music seem stale. Talent wasn't 100 percent of the Beatles' story. A visiting professor at UMM once explained that the recording industry in England was way ahead of here. One of the problems here, it was explained, was that young men who might be interested in that industry "had to worry about the (military) draft." "The British invasion" was partly due to refined craftsmanship, not just good songs.
My musical idol, the late Maynard Ferguson, put out what I felt was his best album in 1970 when his home base was England.
The year 1962 was during the heyday of Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield as "sex symbols." Monroe met her mysterious fate that year. She and Joe DiMaggio had been divorced for eight years, yet Joe made the funeral arrangements. Ah, baseball! Joe DiMaggio represented the heyday of the New York Yankee mystique. The mystique was still somewhat strong in 1962. The team had pennant-winning quality, but the absolute primacy wasn't guaranteed.
It's almost embarrassing to say our Minnesota Twins, in their second year in 1962, had a state of the art ballpark in 1962. They truly did, and it's embarrassing because this was two ballparks ago! In '62 "the Met" was put forth as an example. The Twins had the resources to go toe-to-toe with the Yankees. And, go toe-to-toe we did.
Those were the days when only one team from each league made the World Series. Which is a crying shame, because our Twins were superlative with a 91-71 won-lost record, providing countless thrills at "the Met" for us neophyte big league fans. We tore through the league but alas, the Yankees' sheen was still a little too strong to be defied. We were the bridesmaid in the American League. We trailed the Yankees by only five games. But alas, only New York made "the big show."
It's easy to overlook that '62 Twins team, a team that sprang from the mediocrity that carried over from the old Washington Senators franchise. That old Washington team in the late 1950s must have been just like the "New York Knights" before Roy Hobbs came along in the Robert Redford movie "The Natural." One can just imagine the exasperated "Pop Fisher" at the helm.
Cookie Lavagetto became the Senators manager in May of 1957. The Senators finished last in the American League in '57, '58 and '59, then took on some signs of life in 1960, but not in time to save the franchise. Here in Minnesota, where for a time we anticipated the San Francisco Giants (with Willie Mays) coming, we instead got Calvin Griffith and his shaky but promising Senators.
The A.L. came here because prospects looked brighter. In '61 the evidence wasn't forthcoming that the move was the answer. Lavagetto bit the dust as manager, although he warranted everyone's full respect because he had missed four years of big league ball due to military service in World War II. Sam Mele was handed the Twins' reins.
The team languished through a 70-90 record in its inaugural season, when the novelty value carried the day. In '62 the novelty aspect was no longer needed, or certainly wasn't relied upon as the foundation. The Twins were "real" - a bona fide competitive product keeping us wide-eyed.
The trade for Vic Power solidified the infield. The flashy Power could handle many of the erratic throws from the Twins' young infielders like Zoilo Versalles. At second we had the former Purdue quarterback, Bernie Allen, and at third the red-haired Rich Rollins.
No one can forget our original catcher, Earl Battey, who shook hands with JFK prior to the start of an all-star game. Harmon Killebrew struck out a lot and struggled to keep his average up, but we all know what his stock in trade was: home runs. Holy cow, "the Killer" struck out a career-high 142 times in '62.
We remember Harmon's majestic blasts but we can forget his weaknesses, and the fact there were times when we booed him. "The Killer" drove in 126 runs in 1962. Bob Allison was a famous early Twin but his talents never wowed me. He was streaky.
Pitcher Camilo Pascual led the league in strikeouts. Vic Power lived up to his fielding reputation, winning his fifth Gold Glove. Amazingly, of the four Twins named to the all-star team in '62, Harmon Killebrew wasn't one of them! The four were Rollins (ahead of Killebrew?), Battey, Jim Kaat and Pascual. Jack Kralick threw a no-hitter on August 26.
A movie should probably be made about Vic Power's career. He was a pioneering non-white player in a time when race was a matter of contention. He was not African-American, rather he was from Puerto Rico, where he would note that skin color was of no matter. He must have found the USA to be a strange place. He learned not to worry about getting served in restaurants, as he chose instead to get his food in grocery stores, items like salami and bananas.
Power had a 12-year big league career with several teams. It could have been longer - should have been longer - had the welcome mat been put out for him sooner. The big leagues initially shied away from him because he didn't seem compliant enough, passive enough for a non-white man. Racists of the time would describe him as "uppity."
Vic was an all-star with the Kansas City Athletics in 1955 and 1956, and with Cleveland in 1959 and 1960. He was voted MVP of that 1962 Twins team that "turned the corner" for our franchise. He was one of eleven players to steal home twice in a game. He struck out only 247 times in 6,046 at-bats.
Remember how Power waved his bat while waiting for a pitch? He taught Tony Oliva that trait. The idea? It was to get the pitcher thinking he wanted a pitch down low when in fact he wanted it higher where he could really paste it. Deception is a big ingredient in what separates big leaguers from those further down.
The 1962 baseball season could have been the last ever. In late October, the Cuban missile crisis emerged with the prospect we might all become toast. How important was JFK in navigating us out of that? It's hard to know, just like it's hard to know if JFK could have prevented escalation in Viet Nam.
Nevertheless, "Camelot" evokes warm thoughts. I learned of his assassination at Longfellow School from third grade teacher Lillian Pedersen (later to become Lillian Ehlers, living to over 100).
They say life in America wasn't the same after that. Surely that's oversimplification in an extreme way, as JFK was a mere mortal who surely wasn't king. They say the Viet Nam war ran Lyndon Johnson rather than the other way around. Could JFK have handled it any differently? We really cannot know. History swept the USA into a new and troubling place, far bigger, it would seem, than any one man, "handsome" though he was.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, August 15, 2014

Roots of Morris' Federated Church go way back

Federated Church is the church across from the high school. I remember looking at the steeple during cross country workouts. I must have figured that looking at something would divert attention from the toll of the workout. Let's be frank and call it "pain."
My weight in the fall of my senior year was between 140 and 150. "Williams, you're a mere skeleton," my English teacher said to me on the first day of school.
Many kids were thin by comparison to today's kids. A "fat kid" would stand out. Today I think there's very little stigma associated with being heavy or "fat." That's nice in a way, as no kids should be stigmatized by physical characteristics. Michelle Obama wants kids to be healthy though. The perfect ideal is elusive.
It's OK to be heavy as long as you're vigilant about health issues. Set a goal to establish an ideal weight. Your physician can help you. Food temptations seem all around us today, e.g. those frosted rice krispie bars at the checkout of the convenience store. It wasn't always like this. Unlimited refills of soft drinks were unheard of when I was young.
Anyway, this post is about Federated Church, that fine structure across the street from our public school. It's now an old building.
I can remember when Federated Church was across the street from a different school. Federated Church was a venerated building across from the old Longfellow Elementary in west Morris. Us kids saw it every day when arriving and departing from school. I knew nothing about it. I first entered that building years later when covering a Republican political event for the newspaper. I remember getting to know legislator Dave Fjoslien and his wife there.
The building looked quite grand from outside. Typical of old buildings, it looked bigger on the outside than it seemed inside. Our Carnegie library was like this.
Some background for those of you younger than me: Longfellow Elementary was the building where today St. Francis Health Services offices are housed. It went through a phase as an apartment building. In the bottom level was the gymnasium, a rather small one obviously, like the one at today's St. Mary's School. I had "Mr. Grant" as phy. ed. teacher there. I enjoyed him.
I was in the third grade at Longfellow when my teacher, Mrs. Pedersen, later to be known as Lillian Ehlers (living to over 100), informed us that JFK had been shot. I remember her being called out to the commons area briefly. She returned with a most somber disposition. She informed us of the grave news, and for the next several days we were consumed with the tragedy. This was the first event where I remember continuous TV coverage.
I have previously written about First Lutheran and Assumption Churches of Morris. I enjoyed delving into their history. Federated Church has a most significant historical niche. It grew out of a merger of two congregations. One was the Congregational Church, which had a building across from the Carnegie library. Today the old library building is preserved as part of the Stevens County Museum complex.
My mother used to walk me to the library when I was a kid. Its amenities were limited by the standards of today, but it seemed truly a place of wonder to me. Rows and rows of books! Margaret Grove was the pillar as librarian.
The Congregational Church had roots going back to Morris' earliest days. It was the first organized Christian effort in this community. A meeting at the school house on August 8, 1874, saw the congregation get formed with The Reverend J.L. Fonda as pastor. There were nine charter members. Morris was only three years old. There were only 75 inhabitants here.
Congregational Church services were held in the railroad depot and the school house until a building was completed in 1879.
Today's Federated Church incorporates the Methodists. A Methodist church was organized here in 1877 with The Reverend J.P. Oakey as pastor. Services were held in private homes until 1881 when a small wooden church was built on the later site of Federated. The 1880s were a prosperous time for Morris. Victorian homes sprouted.
In 1897 the small Methodist church was replaced by a larger brick structure. That's the building we saw as kids from the old Longfellow Elementary. Kids played the old playground game "pom pom pullaway" at the Longfellow playground. "Come or else I'll pull you away!"
Clusters of boys liked throwing rubber balls up against the side of the school building, and then fighting to see who could catch it. It was a badge of age and strength to be able to throw a ball up on the roof (as Marvin Schultz could).
Federated Church was organized in 1928. It was one year after Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs. Our nation was on the cusp of the Depression and hard times. The '20s were stable and placid. I'm sure that like today, the people felt the good times would go on indefinitely. We take for granted today that the stock market is a reasonably secure place, even for ordinary folk. Well, you all might be right, but. . .
The Congregational and Methodist churches joined hands as the '20s came to a close. The merger had been contemplated for a while. Serious efforts to achieve this were made in 1914-19. The marriage was painstaking to accomplish. We shouldn't be surprised, since we're talking about religion!
What finally nudged the two groups together? According to the Diamond Jubilee publication for Morris (1947), it was "a combination of circumstances." Yes, that's nothing but vague. Sometimes the messy details of church doings are best left unspecified.
Methodist Pastor Lee Workman is credited with helping lead the merger to a large extent. Federated Church had its home in the old Congregational Church building until 1940. The congregation was growing.
In 1939 the decision was made to remodel and enlarge the Methodist Church building. Ground was broken for a new addition in May of 1940. The building was dedicated in November of 1940 as Federated Church. America was now on the cusp of World War II. The church's pastor was C.S. Sowder. The pastor at the time of the Morris Diamond Jubilee, 1947, was E.H. Podoll.
Today Federated Church has its home along Columbia Avenue where we find that annoying sign telling us what speed we're going. It's there because of the school, naturally. The nature of Columbia Avenue tempts you to drive a little too fast.
Country Day Nursery has long had its home at Federated. Sarla Agarwal was in charge at CDN for a long time. Her son Sudhir was a contemporary of mine. Sarla charmed with her use of an old record player playing vinyl records. It did the job.
The history of Federated Church is "the history of two traditions," according to the Diamond Jubilee article. "Its strength is the strength of two communions. This is remembered with high regard and deep appreciation. In the spirit of the pioneers, the church continues to uphold God and his righteousness."
I find the design of the sanctuary interesting. The pews get progressively narrower as you go back. An example of faddish 1970s architecture? Perhaps.
I'm a member of the generation that has questioned why so many different Christian denominations are needed. Us boomers became highly skeptical of organized religion itself. We saw the many rituals as mysterious and rather unneeded. Most of all I think we found it strange that people fixated on these traditions when there were so many problems in the nation, such as Viet Nam and Jim Crow. We felt our mainstream denominations had become "irrelevant" in trying to deal with all that unpleasantness.
Many of us saw churchgoers as "hypocrites." That's a longstanding critique.
Today we have taken a deep breath and tried to move on. I still don't see why so many denominations are required. But church seems OK. Let's strive to make it "relevant."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, August 11, 2014

Nighttime and the dark as hazy buffer time

Does your mind work differently before the sun comes up? Do you even have a chance to test this, or are you simply too harried? Do you traipse off zombie-like to your worldly commitments, shortly after the sun comes up? Hopefully you have a chance to drift.
Time can seem suspended in the hours before daylight. It's like a relief zone from the so-called real world. At least that's how I find it. Today there's an increasing need for relief from the harried pace, from the need to check all your electronic devices all the time etc.
My own electronic assets have remained minimal. I use public computers. I don't use Facebook. I blog because I'm a lifelong practitioner of long-form journalism. I have two free email accounts.
The 20-year-old Brian Williams of 1975 would be startled reading those last two sentences. Blogging and emailing would have been mind-boggling in the disco decade. And yet, those two platforms are just scratching the surface for what people do today.
Heck, we would have been startled just learning of VHS tapes. It'd be a miracle punching in a movie and watching at your convenience, and watching it again. If there was something "hot" on TV then, you had to sit down at the advertised time and make sure to watch it then. You might not get another chance! Imagine that.
I used to go to our Morris Public Library to read Time Magazine. We'd use the "card catalog." The tech advancements have virtually crushed boredom.
We see the Butch Patrick character in "The Phantom Tollbooth" looking incurably bored in the 1960s movie. People my age can relate to him. He drags himself into his house at the end of a school day. There is no special stimulation available for him. If that movie were to be re-made today, the approach would be 180 degrees different: the Patrick character would need relief not from boredom, but from all the pervasive and tempting electronic distractions all around him, and on him.
"The Phantom Tollbooth" is a fascinating story much like "The Wizard of Oz." The movie uses mostly animation. A re-make would have real potential although with that different emphasis from the original. Butch Patrick, incidentally, played the little boy in the classic TV series "The Munsters."
In the '60s and '70s we never could have foreseen that boredom would someday be eliminated. It's one of the great miracles of history. Because the development proceeded slowly, we didn't notice it all that much. We grasped at each new development and then felt we were entitled to it - we expected them to get better too.
We erased from our minds those memories of when we had to get along without all that stuff. Time Magazine at the library! We had few tools for really asserting our own identity - our own creative talents. We had to accept creative people and what they fed us from a separate world, a world centered in the Northeastern U.S.
Stimulated as we are today, we need a respite now and then. We may have a hard time even finding enough time to sleep. We hear about sleep-deprived drivers. We hear about distracted drivers causing horrible, even fatal accidents.
Maybe we need to covet sleep more. Maybe we should take a long look at how we plan our sleep. Even with 10-12 hours of repose in each 24-hour cycle, we are left with plenty of time in which to energetically pursue our worldly aims.
Keep in mind that our sleep doesn't need to be continuous. It is fascinating to awake in the middle of the night and to rustle around, pondering some of your life's issues without the harried atmosphere of daytime pressing on you. The world can still be a most placid place, a place where time can actually seem suspended.
I have developed a pattern of retiring early at night. It might even be before 9 p.m. I awaken at 2 or 3 a.m. I brew some instant coffee and usually do some writing, by pen in a good old-fashioned spiral notebook. I'm quite contemplative at that time. It's a state of mind that can't seem to be duplicated at any other time of day. In experiencing this, I'm duplicating a lifestyle that was quite typical in a long-ago time.
Part
of the experience is to return to slumber as morning approaches. This I do on the davenport. Finally ol' Sol comes up from the horizon. That middle-of-night episode seems as if it happened in another dimension.
Back in the days before gas and then electricity, my rhythm of night-to-day was standard. Nighttime projected a whole different atmosphere. It called for different sleep patterns. We were forced to slow down considerably. That's not to say our minds couldn't be engaged - they were engaged in a different way.
The forces of order were forces of light. Chaos reigned in the dark. The early modern period saw Europeans living in two worlds, one marked by light and the rules of society, and the other blending anxiety and fantasy in a dreamy kind of community. Terrors and dangers were courted when the sun went down. People got lost and fell into ditches. People could fear the mysteries of darkness even when inside, behind walls and shutters.
Candlelight spelled a fire danger. Can you imagine being dependent on candlelight? The North American colonies experienced this world. Nighttime was an alternate reality for a substantial portion of the pre-industrial population. Darkness could provide an alluring freedom. Just watch out for ditches.
People slept differently in those long-ago times. It evokes the same fears we might have when reading The Brothers Grimm. Our circadian patterns had not been altered by the persistence of light beyond sunset. Like yours truly today, people had a "first sleep" after which they'd awaken for a time, shuffling around and perhaps attending to minor business, and then go back to snoring for a time.
Modern lighting has altered the state of our biology, as well as our society. A character in "Canterbury Tales" decides to go back to bed after his "firste sleep." A doctor in England concluded that the time between the two sleep periods was "the best for study and reflection."
No LEDs or wall sconces. We seemed to follow the more natural rhythm of God's creation. Let darkness surround us, and let us adjust, even with some anxiety.
Maybe we weren't meant to totally conquer darkness. Maybe we're supposed to be humbled by it. Maybe darkness is the hand of God insisting we feel some humility at the force of his creation. Maybe he's telling us to just hunker down in a more limited world. Maybe defying or denying the dark is a way of dissing God's creation.
We hear so many people complain of sleep problems. Gas and then electricity has changed the nightscape into an extension of our worlds of work and play. Sleep was once segmented, whereas today we have the "consolidated" model for sleep, also called "mono phasic."
Some medical researchers think the old way was better. An academic named A. Roger Ekirch has researched and written about this. His main tome: "At Day's Close: Night in Times Past." It came out in 2005.
Ekirch
pored over old diaries, medical books, court records and literature. People referred to their "first" and "second" sleep. The references vanished over a relatively brief time in the late 17th Century. Street lighting was improved. People who were uplifted by tech became more time-conscious as a result of efficiency.
So, we have the world of today, where people stream around zombie-like constantly connected to all the electronic stuff. We are totally caffeinated, all the time. We can forget it didn't used to be like this.
Boomers like me can forget. We forget boredom and the stupid things we used to do to deal with it.
Butch Patrick's character found escape in an animated fantasy world. "Digitopolis" was a city built on the importance of numbers. Another city accented words. Which was more important? We were made to ponder. An orchestra director would get on his podium and "direct" the sunset. There was no wicked witch, otherwise this world seemed much like Oz.
Today the escape place would not be from boredom and the mundane demands of a boring world, rather we'd need escape from the caffeinated reality we find ourselves in during daylight. We need a reprieve. We need a new approach to nighttime.
Maybe our ancestors benefited from the limitations they lived with.
Maybe we ought to feel a special fascination with nighttime. Let it cast its eerie spell on us. Let it humble us. Maybe that awakening period affords us a better chance for thought and reflection. Forget the hands on the clock. Let nighttime prevail with its distinctive, albeit somewhat scary spell.
But don't fall into ditches.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, August 4, 2014

World Cup? MN Kicks soccer once captivated us

All this World Cup Soccer buzz has gotten us thinking again: is soccer firmly implanting itself in our consciousness now? It would be nice if we could resoundingly answer "yes." It might mean that a big wave of young men would take a fresh and enthusiastic look at a sport other than football. No longer would football, a brutal sport, be considered some sort of rite of passage - a badge of machismo.
Football has been getting dragged, rather grudgingly to a degree, into the 21st Century. No longer is a dissing of gay people considered a prerequisite attitude for donning of the pads. Football is having to watch its back. The insurance industry will see to that, and lawyers. Meanwhile we have the sport embraced all over the world, soccer, lurking as the alternative.
Is the World Cup a turning point? It remains to be seen. Soccer has always gotten a periodic bump in popularity. The problem is to sustain it.
Time has separated us from the Minnesota Kicks chapter of Minnesota history. If you're young you might need a primer. You might need a primer about Metropolitan Stadium. "The Met" was that grand castle-like structure on the Bloomington MN prairie. It was built as a lure for major league baseball. But, we had to wait five years for the majors to come here.
Calvin Griffith brought his Washington Senators. Minnesota immediately fell in love with the team, re-named the Twins. My generation of the boomers got on board with the enthusiasm. We were transfixed as such iconic early players as Zoilo Versalles, Earl Battey and Camilo Pascual plied their talents.
The boomers could be a fickle crowd, though. By the time the 1970s dawned, we weren't quite so enthused about baseball. We were ecstatic about the purple Vikings. Perhaps we had gotten spoiled by the Twins' success of the 1960s. Our attention span always was limited. We seemed to be itching for something new. And, we certainly got it.
The year was 1976. We were bathing in the disco '70s. "Happy Days" gave us that ridiculous "jumping the shark" episode that grew into a popular expression. When a particular entertainment commodity got stale and started doing anything to jump-start its popularity, it had "jumped the shark."
Boomers learned of a totally new entertainment commodity that was going to sprout at the Met.
We had always known about soccer. We considered it a boring unit in phy. ed. We were supposed to jog around until getting close to the ball and then try to kick it. We never developed a refined sense of the sport. We might groan when informed by the phy. ed. teacher that we were going to play soccer. We much preferred "scatterball." But we developed a sense of what soccer was.
Through the media we learned of a certain mania that prevailed about soccer over much of the world. We were a little puzzled. Scoring seemed so limited in so many of the games. Players seemed to run about in a random fashion. Soccer was a curiosity.
Then in 1976, with "Fonzie" holding forth in our culture, we learned of a serious big league soccer venture that would make its home in Minnesota and out at our "Met." Hmmm. Could it captivate us? As I said, boomers had begun yawning about the Twins, a trend I didn't necessarily understand or support. My compatriots of that restless generation were ready for something fresh.
So along came the Minnesota Kicks! All hail the Kicks. Minnesotans as a whole seemed ready for something fresh. Casinos hadn't sprouted yet. Without gambling, institutions like the Carlton Celebrity Room just couldn't make it, try as it might. Minnesotans cast about, and led by its teeming boomer population, discovered soccer and the Kicks. It was an amazing episode in Minnesota history. We ought to be reminded about how the Kicks drew such huge fan numbers to the Bloomington prairie.
The Kicks came here from Denver where they were known as the Dynamos. The Kicks were born amidst a truly big league promotional and marketing campaign. The team got started with two road games, both losses. So, was the whole venture going to fade? It was Mother's Day, Sunday, May 9, when our Kicks strode onto the Met Stadium turf to discover 20,000 fans, quite affectionate in their disposition. We were neophyte followers of the sport. It didn't matter.
Food company executives were the team's investors. The temperature was a most pleasing 83 degrees for May 9. Only a few more than 17,000 tickets were even printed! Team officials were hopeful for a crowd of about 12,000. The game was slated to start at 3 p.m. About 17,000 fans already had their fannies in the seats. But outside, lines at the ticket booths were growing! Ah, the vagaries of the entertainment industry.
Jack Crocker, chairman of the Kicks, knew all about supermarket courtesy. He was the head of Super Valu. He did just what Paul Martin, our local Super Valu operator, would do. Our local Super Valu has always been "home of the people lovers." Crocker enlisted help to take rolls of tickets through the lines.
This action wasn't sufficient to diminish the rush. Team execs had to be pinching themselves. Crocker threw his arms up, in effect, but most delightfully, and decreed that anyone still waiting should be admitted for free. Nearly 3,000 fan hopefuls were given a pass for paying and they ended up out in left field, where no reserved tickets had been printed. This gesture was a public relations bonanza, endearing the Kicks to virtually the whole state's population.
The Met Stadium playing field was now a "pitch." The English-born players became known to us as "lads" and "chaps." We learned to describe a 1-0 score as "ace-nil." In that debut game on Mother's Day of '76, the Kicks defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 4-1. Alan Willey was a most popular "lad" as he scored two goals.
Remember the coach's name? It was Freddie Goodwin.
In 1977 the Kicks would play their opener at home. The date was May 8, an early date for trying to count on ideal weather, but again God seemed to bless the affair. The temperature was 76 degrees. Fair and mild conditions prevailed for the whopping 35,966 fans who attended. Willey had taken on the nickname "Artful Dodger." He scored all three goals in a most pleasing 3-0 win over Team Hawaii.
Fast-forward to 1978, the year I graduated from college: Now the Kicks took the field, or "pitch," before 36,057 admiring fans. The temperature was 60 degrees and skies were overcast. The Kicks prevailed 2-1 over Dallas.
In 1979 those vagaries of Minnesota weather came forth. It was a rainy and windy Sunday with the thermometer showing 42 degrees at the 3 p.m. start time. Still, 24,131 enthusiastic souls showed up to watch and to enjoy the Kicks' 4-1 win over Atlanta.
The vagaries of our weather turned up the heat for a July of 1977 game, a game played on a day with the mercury hitting a record-matching 100 degrees! We didn't talk of global climate change back then. The Kicks and a Swedish first division club named Hammarby took the field in the evening with the temperature having "retreated" to 95. This was a mere exhibition match. It didn't seem to matter much for Kicks fans. Joe Soucheray described the fan turnout of 24,032 as "scantily dressed even for a Kicks crowd." So, you can just imagine.
In retrospect, Kicks soccer has become known as sort of a faddish mecca-type gathering for the young boomers. Although I never attended a game, I can easily imagine all the distractions, foolishness and even debauchery that was engaged in.
Maybe I should say "especially" debauchery. I worked at a summer resort in 1973 where I observed behavior some of which I wouldn't even want to describe here. If your parents are boomers, you will probably find them tight-lipped or maybe even in denial about this. Today they believe in a strict work ethic, a structured and responsible daily routine and discipline. They might even be tea partiers politically: "To hell with everyone else, I'm just going to get mine."
Believe me, in the 1970s these creatures were quite different. We were hedonistic but at the same time altruistic with our personal political and philosophical attitudes. Does the aging process itself change us?
You would think the aging boomers of today would be gushing for the more lenient stance toward marijuana use sweeping the nation. However, I learn that we are not disposed this way, we are in fact advising caution, even though we once purchased Cheech and Chong LPs. You'd show up for fall classes in college and be assigned to a roommate who had that little bag of marijuana tucked away somewhere.
We reveled in the lowered drinking age. We partied and listened to deafeningly loud rock music, played on our "stereos." A good sound system was expensive. Vinyl records were expensive. Today you might get a souvenir CD as a freebie with a box of breakfast cereal. Wow!
The boomers with all their fun-seeking vices showed up en masse for Minnesota Kicks games. People joked about how all the "extracurricular" stuff was the real attraction for the youth, not so much the soccer. That was true but only to an extent. Minnesotans got a real taste of serious soccer thanks to the Kicks of the disco '70s. It was a quite extended run.
But it was destined not to last. These boomlets of soccer popularity seem always to fade, only to be resurrected later. The sport of football has to be whistling past the graveyard about this. Sometime that soccer popularity is going to reside permanently in our consciousness.
Think back to August 25 of 1976, when fans seemed to almost beat down doors to take in a soccer game at the Met. The Kicks' largest crowd ever turned out that night. The Kicks took on San Jose and won 3-1 in the Pacific Conference championship game. The official fan turnout was 49,572. Team officials were convinced that the extent of humanity was actually in the vicinity of 50,000-plus. They were assembled at every available vantage point - on the grassy knoll between the third base bleachers and the left field pavilion. They were under the scoreboard. They "stood like sentinels around the upper perimeters of the stadium," Soucheray wrote. It was a typically steamy summer night, 86 degrees, at a time when people were of a mood to cling to summer with school starting not far off.
I suppose it was State Fair time. The football goalposts were up for a Vikings exhibition. Fans celebrated by taking down those posts - a fact I hate reporting in light of Morris history (the death of a student here in such an episode). The sod got ripped up in souvenir-size chunks. "This must be the sports story of the year," Kicks exec Jim Ruben said. League Commissioner Phil Woosnam went a step further with his comment: "This is the sports story of the century."
What incredible memories. But they seem sort of lost now. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could resurrect all that? Will the World Cup be a catalyst for that? It could be, but no signs exist of this now.
Let's hope. Let's remember those glorious orange Minnesota Kicks T-shirts that became like a uniform for the boomer generation of the '70s. The memories are far more warm than for "Happy Days" and that shark-jumping. BTW I watched that episode at my St. Cloud apartment when it was first aired.
"Happy Days" could be "appointment TV" for us youth. Same with "Kung Fu" and "Mash." We had the "monoculture" in those days. We were way pre-Internet and pre-digital. Somehow we got by.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com