In digging through detritus from what remains of my wife's aunt's estate I came across a cunning little paperback, published in 1942. It turned out to be a patriotic pamphlet with a picture of a minuteman on the back and an admonition to work hard and conserve food and beat the Hun. On the cover was a picture of a triple decker sandwich and the title "Cedric Adams Sandwich Book of all Nations: 400 New Ways of Making Delicious Sandwiches. Available Only Through National Food Stores."
"What is an epigram? A dwarfish whole, Its body brevity, and wit its soul." -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge Washington Irving, author of characters like Ichabod Crane, also wrote about real-life characters, notably George Washington, our first president. One hundred and fifty years ago today, Irving passed on to the great remainder shelf in the sky, after completing his fifth and final volume of his George Washington biography. His final words? "When will this end?" Well, I guess!
Thanksgiving is upon us and I've got a confession to make. Having reached the age of four score and two, I hate turkey. Hate the sight of it, stacked up in mountainous heaps in grocer's coolers across the nation. I hate the discussions about whether fresh (actually frozen) or frozen taste different from each other.
Many years ago, I fell heir to an old barn next to my grandparents' residence in Whitehall. I don't know what possessed me but I saved boxes and barrels of stuff stored there by my ancestors. The valuable materials I donated years ago to the Wisconsin State Historical Society, but I still am in possession of little things that I occasionally peruse in order to figure out what my ancestors were really like.
Recently I've been bouncing around the neighborhood, grabbing a bite here and a bite there and I'm here now to tell you that menus in the upper Midwest range from the ridiculous to the sublime. Let's start with the ridiculous.
I recently subscribed to the new Saturday Evening Post after half a century of going without it. The refigured version is aimed at LONs (Loveable Old Nostalgists). It's a pale imitation of its former self, peppered with reproductions of Norman Rockwell cover pics and stories about the good old days.
In a recent article in Harper's magazine, author Will Self wrote an essay titled "The Death of the Printed Word." Self gave examples of how infrequently people read serious novels these days, pointing to a speech he gave at Manhattan's 92nd Street Y in which he asked 300 people in the audience if anyone had read a novel by Norman Mailer. Only three responded in the affirmative. Self writes that he wasn't surprised and gave as his reason that the visual arts—theatre, film, TV—have taken the lead.
Last week I introduced readers to my entry into the Groves of Academe. That would be at Larkin Valley State Graded School, hard by Rat Coulee in Preston Township. As I told readers it was made up of a lilac bush outside, an American Flag, a "Tudor" outhouse, one for four boys and one for two girls, and August Nyberg's farm next door, where our teacher Adella Hanson roomed and boarded.
I call Alvin Paulson "the Sweet Singer of Polk County" because he from time to time writes in a farm journal a memoir of life in that neighborhood when he was a kid growing up. I wait anxiously for the occasional appearance of the octogenarian scribe because it gives this octogenarian hope that what old folks have to say has meaning for today's readers. Last month, the Sweet Singer wrote about his first day at school, South Clayton District No. 7, back in 1936. He came armed with crayons and pencils purchased at Erickson's store in Clayton.
Have you ever gone to bed after a vigorous exchange of ideas with one with whom you disagree? Have you then tossed and turned in bed, wishing you had said THIS when your adversary said THAT? Have you kept on tossing and turning until the alarm clock rang in a new morning? Of course you have!