"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)

Friday, December 9, 2016

"I Say Merry Christmas From Yesterday"

Isn't there a part of all of us that reverts back to childhood at Christmas? My Mom might well feel like FDR is president again. She graduated from high school in 1942, in between the Great Depression and the height of World War II. And yet people made do at Christmas to celebrate the best in us, defying all the adversity in the world.
This is the third year that I have written a song to mark the Christmas season. The title is "Merry Christmas From Yesterday." It suggests that we almost literally step back in time to re-create our childhood and our childhood surroundings. My song was recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Bob Angello. Bob gives me some very nice guitar/voice recordings. A really good song doesn't need to be dressed up a lot.
Once again, Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck put my song online on YouTube. If you need help with media transfers or other "geeky" type projects, contact the Gulsvigs. I invite you to listen to my song "Merry Christmas From Yesterday." You may click on this link:

Christmas is pretty simple for Mom and I nowadays. It's the opposite from when our family was larger and more of a mainstream type of family, more active in consuming. We are at a stage now where we consider getting rid of things, "de-cluttering."
I visualize when we lived in St. Paul and Dad taught at the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. Life was so peaceful and pleasant for me then. No domineering schoolteachers. No bullies to be wary of. I had to start dealing with bullies as soon as we came to Morris. Yes, I was protected from reality and its harshness when we lived in St. Paul. But God bless that stage in my life, its tranquility.
I admit being fascinated by TV as soon as I discovered it. TV ended up shaping the fundamental outlook on life for my generation. You can look at back issues of Mad Magazine to appreciate that. Ironically or sadly, Mad Magazine seemed to poke fun at all the symbols of the good life that us boomers were receiving from our parents.
I remember our TV from my preschool years, obviously primitive by today's standards. It had a maroon cabinet. I enjoyed watching "Captain Kangaroo." I was a little apprehensive about that "Bunny Rabbit" character because he didn't say anything. I had to wonder what he was thinking. "Mr. Green Jeans" was very appealing. "Dancing Bear" would stop by. The Captain would introduce cartoons like "Tom Terrific."
Your blog host with Santa, 1958, at Dayton's
I remember the game show "Concentration." I remember one of the greatest contestants who had a Jewish name. I mention this because this is how I gained my first background on who Jewish people were. I even remember her name: Ruth Horowitz.
I was probably an unusual child in that I took strong interest in the evening news shows. The Cold War gave an uncomfortable backdrop to all that. I learned about the Iron Curtain. That oddly likeable Nikita Khrushchev got impressed into my consciousness. He was a symbol of something we were taught was evil, yet he seemed human and reachable. We had our famous "caretaker" president, Dwight Eisenhower.
The '50s eventually became the stuff of strong nostalgia for my generation. There is a natural human impulse toward nostalgia. Of course, we tend to remember the good things far more than the bad. We can easily forget that boredom was once a problem for our young generation. Today, thanks to the limitless tech stuff, boredom has been eliminated and replaced by data saturation. So we have problems like distracted driving.
It's hard to imagine living in the pre-digital world. Somehow we got by. And Christmas was a constant that brought joy.
Our family had the traditional family Christmas celebrations. A genuine Christmas tree with bulbs and tinsel, gifts at the base, cards from friends/relatives displayed in a prominent place. We made sure my father got a wrapped box of peanut brittle. Our dogs got a chew bone to occupy them. The dogs sensed that something special was afoot. (We had one dog at a time.)
On Christmas Day we got together with my uncle Howard and his wife Vi of Glenwood. Our two families went back and forth hosting for the various major holidays. My uncle was probably rich as Croesus but he never had cable TV! He was a prime example of the Great Depression generation with its conservative nature. They seem to never get over those traits - watching every nickel spent and being very reluctant to throw anything away. Compare that to today where we have new "generations" of tech stuff coming out all the time, forcing us to discard stuff. It contradicts the very nature of those older folks.
The newspaper industry began to go through successive generations of tech stuff, and this contradicted the nature of the family that owned the Morris paper for most of the time I was there. The late Ron Lindquist once said to me that every time he suggested getting new equipment of some sort, the first response would be "can we get a used one?" Once the tech revolution got established, that attitude was no longer practical.
Technology helped newspapers to a degree, but in the long run it hurt, because all those tech inroads helped create new communication outlets that have displaced newspapers. You're reading one right now.
I guess my placid St. Paul years are the underpinning for my Christmas song of 2016. I think many of you can relate. Merry Christmas.
Addendum: Thoughtful feedback
I'm pleased to share this feedback on my song from a friend.
Hi Brian,
We just listened to this great song! You are good at this! This truly depicts the days of yesterday. We often think about how the family time seemed much more simple back then, with good black and white shows to watch and great comedians keeping it real. Those were the good old days! (Now I am showing my age!) The future Christmases will be a bit different, with the demanding cellphones and tablets and computer technology that takes away from the good old Yahtzee, Monopoly and Scrabble board game days. (Though as a Grandma, I bring these games out and get them to agree to play with me.)

Thanks for sharing Brian!!

- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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