A box of books!
- Farms were community Part #3
- Chores in a one-room country school Part #2
- One small room in the country Part #1
Late every August, Mr. Borchert the postman delivered a large box to our farm home, which we eagerly ripped into like a box of Sugar Crisp cereal with a decoder ring inside.
That “new book” smell wafted into the worn old farmhouse. The world had just paid a visit to our Rural Route #2 Sun Prairie WI home.
Mr. Krause delivered groceries in a panel truck. Mr. Krebs delivered milk and butter. The Omar man delivered bread. Mr. Roller came by with a catalog of mail-order potions, spices, etc. “How much is the doggie in the window” is the first song I remember from the AM radio (1953). The world wide web? We got television in 1954 (I think was the year). Dad climbed up to the roof of our four-square to pull in the nearest NBC station out of Milwaukee. Down below, mother yelled directions: A little bit more, a little bit more … No! Too much.
I Love Lucy was the No. #1 show on the air (no cable). Older classmate Judy Klubertanz complained that they were made to watch Bishop Fulton Sheen instead. A Catholic prelate lecturing in front of a black board in prime time! James Dean starred in Rebel Without a Cause, not that we got into Madison for a movie.
Didn’t see a motion picture in the theater until the Catholic nuns in 3rd grade led us down to the Prairie Theater on Main Street Sun Prairie for Miracle of Fatima, a good four years after its release! That building blew up in the great Sun Prairie gas explosion of 2018.
Our first grade “readers” at Oak Lawn country school were “Look, Jane, look! Look, look, look.” Dick and Jane had a dog. (Its name was Spot.) Young Blaska was already enamored of the printed page. Kids got a stick-on star for every book they read. Father read The Capital Times (later the source of his undoing.
Before Father Jerome became too blue collar/Main Street for the “progressive” Capital Times), he listened to publisher Bill Evjue sputter and fulminate on WIBA radio during our Sunday after Mass meal. “Hell-ohh Wisconsin,” old Evjue would open, before erupting into a frightening coughing spasm.
1950s boy toys
I still have the set of Tonka trucks Santa gave me. Indestructible. Another Christmas present: a Cold War missile launcher. Read that Santa liked a snack of milk and cookies. Mother said Santa would rather have a cold beer. “What kind,” young David asked. Mother answered, “Schlitz.”
“The same kind dad likes!” young David marveled.
I don’t think I envied any material good until I saw one classmate’s Jumbo 64-crayon box of Crayolas — complete with built-in sharpener! Sixty-four colors including “flesh,” which was an off-white. (Different times.)
Does anyone play Jacks any more? Does anyone even know what that is? Girls (never boys) bounced a small rubber ball. Whilst that was aloft, they scooped up as many double-X-shaped metal objects as possible. If you think waking barefoot on a Lego was painful … Lincoln Logs and Tinker-Toys were big.
Young Blaska won new best friends when he brought his toy rifle to school. Try that today and they call out the SWAT team. Didn’t mind loaning it out to any boy that asked and they all did. I was never bullied.
Last week of December, the school stretched a wire across the front of the single room to hang a blanket over — the curtain for the school Christmas play. Your memoir writer played one of Santa’s reindeer, Donner. My antlers consisted of bent pipe cleaners. I could see mom and dad squeezed into the small, one-piece desks which likely served Jerome’s generation in the 1920s. It was the only time I recall seeing either of my parents at the school. I was never driven to school.
Mrs. Taylor signed off the Christmas production with “Well, that’s the best a poor little country school can do.” Ed Sullivan she was not.
We began this saga talking about the current (as of April 2020) novel coronavirus pandemic, the side effect of which is to sequester the population indoors, thus resulting in more social networking. And more reminiscing.
Trying to remember all the names
In response to all those postings of the 1950s on the Sun Prairie Facebook site, I fetched up the Oak Lawn class photo from 1955 shown above. That drew me to the little girl sitting right behind Blaska, second row right. She was my first girlfriend — even before Nancy Tallent (“I know you’re studyin’ up to be a farmer.”).
The girl’s name was Linda Jungbluth, a googly little thing with glasses and blond pigtails — alive to the little boy to whom she excitedly jabbered all her thoughts. We sat on the stone blocks that supported the legs of the heating oil tank just outside the school’s walls and talked about who knows what little kids talk about, anyway?
In one of those coincidences, moments after beginning these posts, I discovered her obituary in the 02-29-2020 Wisconsin State Journal. Turns out she was one year older than I. Always thought she was the same age.
For third grade, young Blaska was transferred to newly constructed Sacred Hearts elementary in the village for First Holy Communion instruction, integral to the curriculum. Never saw nor heard from Linda Jungbluth again until her obituary. Good night, little sweetheart.
Blaska’s closing statement: With how many live do we intersect? Some so briefly but still indelible?
There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone, and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall