Hemmingsen On Kranz

Of course I knew Dave Kranz. You can’t be in the same line of work in the same town for over twenty years without a knowledge of each other. The truth is…and I base this on nothing he ever said or done..I  didn’t think Dave thought much of me as a real journalist. He was right, of course. I didn’t have any formal education in journalism and leaned more toward feature stories while he relished working in the trenches digging up the hard news and political stuff.  Other than a cordial greeting when our paths occasionally crossed, it wasn’t until my approaching retirement that I realized I’d been wrong about Dave. It was Kranz and an Argus  photographer who asked to meet with me for lunch and an interview about my  career and exit.   He couldn’t have been nicer or more complimentary.

My friend and longtime Keloland colleague, Steve Hemmingsen, was a real friend with Kranz and I’ve asked Steve to share a few personal memories here. (The photo is a screen grab from the 2002 U.S. Senate debate. That’s Steve on the far left; Dave on the far right.)kranz debate

Much has been said and written about the passing of the one-time Argus Leader political guru Dave Kranz.  Deservedly so, and as far as I know, every bit of it has been so accurate Dave would have grunted his editorial approval.

 

Knowing that Dave and I were not only colleagues, but friends for half a century, almost to the year, since we were both novice journalists in Austin, Minnesota, Doug has asked me to share some personal reflections.  Austin was a good place to start and a good place to get acquainted with fellow journeymen journalists.  With a TV station, two radio stations and an old established newspaper it was small enough to become familiar with each other and big enough to have a journalism community.  We spent a lot of time in a lot of bars.  Austin had a lot of bars, although I don’t remember Dave drinking much, if at all, or smoking…anything.  He was more serious than the rest of us, even in the tumultuous 60s.

 

I intend these reflections to be humorous, but as Dave himself would attest, accurate.  We used to kid about his sartorial splendor.  Dave wasn’t always the be-suited editor he became.  I used to joke that he took the 1950s song “Tan Shoes and Pink Shoe Laces” as a dress code, like some guys view Esquire…or used to.

 

While in Austin, after I had headed west, Dave rented an apartment owned by the man many viewed as an “errant heir” to the Hormel “Spam” fortune, Hollywood composer and one-time husband of Leslie Caron, Geordie Hormel.

 

I never saw the place, but I understand it was posh, located above Geordies bar, the one with a fire house pole so you could slide from the mezzanine to the main floor.  I doubt if Dave ever did the “pole dance.”  But I have often wondered what the apartment looked like when Dave vacated for Mitchell and, ultimately, Sioux Falls.

 

Why this conjecture? Dave would buy a brand new car and within a year, it looked like he had had it detailed during a SCUD missile attack in downtown Baghdad.  None of that mattered to Dave.  His thing was good, accurate reporting and well-researched analysis and good conversation, usually about the previous two, or major league baseball.

 

Our parallel paths brought us to South Dakota, home to Dave (Dave was one of the Kranzburg Kranzes), the frontier to me at the time.  Our friendship endured and grew to the point that he and my son shared a mania for baseball and baseball cards.  I hope they’re both comparing notes someplace now.

 

When he was at the Mitchell Daily Republic, Dave would call me with the occasional news tip. Why?  So that KXON, now KDLT, wouldn’t get the story first.

 

One time, Dave was at KELO.  We were talking in the lobby as Captain Eleven puffed a cigarette.  Dave was at his dress-code best.  When he left, the Captain shook his head and said: “There goes one of the most powerful people in South Dakota.”

 

Indeed.  I think David Kranz would have taken it as a compliment, and I think the Captain sort of meant it as one.

 

It was painful for me to witness Dave’s slide into the abyss of dementia.  I don’t know if anybody has talked about that.  A group of friends…Ted Muenster, former Argus publisher Randall Beck, Jimmy the Priest and I used to make the trip to Watertown to visit Dave.  Finally, just to see him. The trip home, whether alone or individually, was always somber and maybe a little tearful as we watched a truly beautiful mind wither away, way too early.  Dave was younger than all of us in years and maybe wiser than some of us in intellect.

 

By the way, in the name of accuracy, Dave would remind you that in Austin, the Spam capital…the one in the can, not the one in your computer…it’s pronounced “Hor’-mull”, not the hoity toity “Hor-mell’” of TV commercials.

Hunting Nightcrawlers

It appears that we’re in for a few rainy cooler days as we start this downhill run to the end of June. That’s fine by me as I’ve not been terribly appreciative of this leap from Spring to swelter with very few sublimely perfect 70 degree sunshiny days in between.

No, Iike the experience of being surrounded by a good, non-threatening life-giving rain that lasts a while; unlike those lightning and thunder filled downpours driven by hurricane force winds that come and go with frightening speed causing hail damage, flooded basements, power outages and interviews on the news with long faced people standing in their front yards next to a hundred year old cottonwood tree that their great granddad planted and now lies in a giant broken heap on the ground.

I’ve been known to stand out in a warm summer rain and just look skyward allowing the soft droplets splat against my face. (I know, “not enough sense to come in our of the rain’ and all that but, as a kid, I used to love strolling the sidewalks on mild rainy evenings in my little town pretending to be a god with the power to grant worms, who had ventured from their comfortable confines underground to bask on the dangerous but still warm concrete, life or death.  I was a good god, for the most part, granting every squiggly creature at my feet a second chance to redeem themselves unless, of course, there were just too many on the cement to dodge and their souls wound up at the mercy of my shoe soles.

My dad bought the property for our house in Volga from Joe Dahm..who ran the local bait and tackle shop.  Eventually, we kids discovered that for years, Joe had been seeding that lot in town with night crawlers that hadn’t been sold at the store.

It wasn’t until the folks started digging up the back yard for mom’s garden that they discovered loads of the big worms at every turn of the fork.

I seem to remember dad saying something like “It looks like this is where Joe Dahm disposed of his unsold night crawler inventory.”

By the time our house was built and for a few years following, nobody thought much about the huge night crawler population on our land…but then kids in the neighborhood heard that the new owner of the bait shop was paying 25 cents a dozen for them especially when the walleye bite was on at lake’s Campbell, Goldsmith, Oakwood, Poinsett and Sinai.

Well, it wasn’t long before young entrepreneurs in my town began prowling the neighborhoods after dark with their flashlights trying to capture worms which, in search of fresh air I suppose, had ventured far enough out of their holes to fall victim to the lightning fast reflexes of youth and wind up in a Butter Nut Coffee can where..when enough had been gathered.. would be redeemed for cold hard cash at Jones’ bait shop.night crawlers

I never thought much about worms; either angleworms or night crawlers..other than I found them disgusting. Not as disgusting as tape worms which reportedly would lodge in a little kid’s guts and grow to great lengths before being expelled in the biffy after the administration of prescribed treatment from the doc. I don’t know anybody who had a tapeworm..but then all my friends and family preferred their meat prepared as God intended: well done.

I did know lots of kids..mostly farm kids…who came to class with a telltale ring on their head..etched there like a crop circle by what we assumed was..because of the name..a worm.

Turns out ringworm isn’t a worm at all but a highly contagious fungus often picked up from animals or other infected humans.

I am instinctively fearful of snakes and have always put worms in that category of creatures I’d rather not touch…but it was the lure of great wealth that helped me overcome such phobias as a kid when I learned that Jones Bait Shop was paying big money for night crawlers and I was living atop a gold mine.

Still, I would never have ventured out and after them had it not been for a kid by the name of Lanny Lee. I really don’t know too much about Lanny except he was a little older than me and was living with his grandpa or uncle (I’m not sure of the connection) Oscar Lee in Volga who was a gifted artist but earned his living by painting houses.

Lanny was memorable for his small stature..his dark complexation and a speech impediment in which his L’s and R’s became W’s…much like Bawey Kwipke on “Big Bang Theory.”  Unfortunately,  Oscar’s grandson was cursed to have both his first and last name begin with L. which made it too easy for torment and teasing by classmates; Wanny Wee…wapped all up in toiwet papew. I’m ashamed to admit is was among those cruel clods  But, surprisingly,  Wanny..I mean Lanny..never really let on that he was bothered by it.

He was too preoccupied by cashing in on the crawler crop and, though Oscar, he knew where to look; our yard!

Many nights..way after bedtime..I’d hear a tap, tap tap on the screen of our bedroom window and hear this; “Doug..you awake?  It’s Wanny. Wanna hunt night craw-wers?”   And, find my flashlight grab a coffee can and quietly sneak out the back door where I’d join him in our great quest.

It was Wanny..er, Lanny who taught me how to put a red handkerchief over the flashlight lens so as not to spook the worms which would venture most of the way out of their holes especially on a rainy night. Then you had to make sure snatch them with lightning speed and hang on tight. Not too tight, though because once in our grasp, night crawlers had an incredible ability to try slither back into their holes with inexplicable power and without proper finesse and pumping action, they’d break in two.

Some nights it was a real bonanza and we’d manage to extract four dozen or more worms which had to be kept alive long enough to collect our two dollars from the bait shop. It finally dawned on me after sneaking back into the house and three back breaking hours had passed, that we weren’t going to get rich at this.

Soon after, my dad bought a power lawn mower and I began cutting the grass for several elderly folks in our neighborhood..earning fifty cents a yard…even more if Mrs. Berg was in a generous mood..and I managed to get each one done in a half hour.

Oh, Lanny would still come around on occasion tap, tap tapping on our window in the middle of the night making his wequest…but I’d had enough.

I was reminded of those nights on a recent fishing trip in which night crawlers were what the Walleye were hungry for and I had to reach into that Styrofoam bucket filled with cool dirt and a few reluctant worms hiding out at the bottom.

It still gags me a little to handle those slimy buggers and I continue to marvel at how stwong they are in their wesistance.

Dog Days Of Spring

It’s been such a nice day that I thought I’d leave the TV off and get a few things done.

Number one was to give those pretty yellow flowers in the yard a second baptism of weed killer because the first one didn’t take.

They must not be Lutheran dandelions.

I have opened the back door to let some fresh air in and hopefully bring with it a few wisps of inspiration as I now assume my familiar position at the computer keyboard.

Unfortunately all I hear is the gentle whirr of the overhead fan and a chorus of neighborhood dogs yelping their lungs out.

dogs

Talk about inspiration, one starts to bark and all the others within earshot feel compelled to join in. I wonder if it’s just an instinctive reaction or if they’re actually communicating with one another.

Hmmm..perhaps something like this:

“Ruff, Ruff…Hey, Sadie what the heck are your masters cookin’ for supper over there..it smells delicious like dead carp or Buster’s butt.”

“Yelp, Yelp..It’s Mediterranean. That’s the curry your perceptive snout is picking up. They used to toss me a few scraps and it was real tasty but hot as that German Shepard down the street. They stopped sharing with me, though, because they didn’t get to the back door fast enough to let me out and I left them a little steamy souvenir on the carpet. Man, that stuff was as hot goin’ out as it was goin’ in. Did you hear about Spike..the neighborhood stud hound? He hasn’t been the same since his master brought him back from the repair shop. He must have broken something because he was going to get fixed.  Something happened there, though,  because now he just sits around with his sad-eyed head on his paws as if there’s nothing left to live for.  Poor fella. Maybe I should strut by there and give him a little whiff..see if that perks him up a bit.”

In other Lund neighborhood news..I finally parted with an old friend this past week; my 1969 MGB which I’ve owned for 42 years…but not driven for 10…was sold for a ridiculously small amount and unceremoniously hauled from the garage and onto a truck. It had to go…taking up precious space which will now…hopefully..be occupied by a riding lawn mower.mg

But, oh, the memories:

I borrowed 800 dollars to buy it in 1976. I thought it was a great deal but my wife at the time thought it was the most impractical stupid thing I’d ever done.  But, like me,  our young daughters just loved to go for rides in the “little car.” In my memory I can still hear them laugh as they pretended to be homecoming queens waving to people while perched on the back lid as I slowly drove them around the neighborhood.

My current wife, to whom I’ve been married for 34 years, has always loved the “little car”. We took short summer dives in it for years. A Mother’s Day ritual each May would be to drive it to the greenhouse. We’d get lots of stares traveling home loaded down with plants and flowers in the back.

Speaking of plants, we’re off to Volga with a few in the car to decorate the graves of Mom and Dad Lund.

I wish you a Memorial Day that’s both memorable and safe.

My Rock and Roll Roots

It was quite a weekend for this old scribe.

Despite the inclement weather, the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association held its annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Ramkota April 14th and it was my honor to be among those inductees as part my 15 year association with the Mogen’s Heroes band.

hof mogen's group shotThey even let me sing a Neal Diamond song..which was a thrill. hof doug singingThey gave me a plaque and everything.hof plaque (461x640)

There were many musical influences in my life..especially Elvis and The Everly Brothers..but if the truth be told..back in the early fifties, one of my childhood heroes was (gulp) Liberace.

Yup, I admit it, back in the early days of TV, the flamboyant pianist was a regular visitor into the Lund home on Thursday evenings and I was glued to the set watching his every move and listening to every chord. I liked all the music he played from classical to show tunes to the Beer Barrel Polka. Mom was a big fan too and together we’d guess on when Liberace would turn to the camera during a performance and give his trademark wink. We really didn’t think too much about it at the time but today, I suppose, most everyone would immediately conclude from his mannerisms, sparkly outfits and speaking style that Liberace was gay. It turns out he was, of course, but such things just never crossed my young mind nor do they matter today. All I could think about was how much I wanted to play piano like him..hof liberace I’m sure my mother would have loved a keyboard celebrity in the house too..which is probably why she didn’t object too strenuously when I mentioned the possibility of taking lessons. The only piano teacher in town was Mrs. John Miller..the school superintendent’s wife.  Mrs. Miller charged one dollar per half hour..which may sound cheap but this was at a time when my old man was making two bucks an hour working construction ten hours a day. Plus there was another problem; a big one. We didn’t have a piano; pretty hard to be the next Liberace without one. Here the story gets a little fuzzy. All I remember is coming home from school one day and there it was; a big old upright piano that had somehow been squeezed into the little bedroom I shared with my two brothers. I have no idea where mom got the thing or how she paid for it but there was no turning back now. If she found the cash for the instrument, she’d figure a way to come up with the money for lessons. But I was in for another big shock that day.  My mother sat down to this old relic, placed her diminutive fingers on the black keys and, to my amazement, started banging out the only tune she knew; that was like Chopsticks only more up tempo and a lot more complicated requiring the use of all her fingers and the entire keyboard. I begged her to teach it to me..which she eventually did but pointed out that it was just a novelty for fun, not really playing.   At age 12 or 13, I was one of Mrs. Miller’s older students so I’m sure she expected me to catch on to the basics in a hurry. To be honest, it was kind of embarrassing having her sit so close to me with the smell of face powder in my nostrils and that blasted metronome ticking away as I tried to bang out simple little tunes from the red John Thompson book for modern piano. “Papa Haydn’s dead and gone..but his memory lingers on. When his heart was full of bliss, he wrote merry tunes like this.”

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Mrs. Miller wasn’t about to provide any shortcuts even to a student of such advanced age. I can’t say that the lessons were boring..more like terrifying because, no matter how much my mother prodded and pleaded, I rarely practiced until a few hours before making the walk over to my teacher’s house because A) I was lazy. B)I hated those silly childish tunes and C) I’d discovered rock and roll. That first recital by all of Mrs. Miller’s piano students was one of the most humiliating evenings of my young life. I struggled through a glorified version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”  and then, to muffled applause, shuffled back to my seat vowing to never go through this again. But then, one of advanced students (younger than me) concluded the program performing one of the most beautiful melodies I’d ever heard. I found out later it was “Theme From Liebenstrum” by Franz Liszt. It was in the back of John Thompson’s red book Grade TWO..which I had at home.

For the next week, I practiced that piece over and over until I had it down perfectly with just the right inflections in all the proper places. I even raised my right hand after playing some of the notes, just like Liberace. My mom couldn’t believe how lovely it sounded and my renewed enthusiasm to play. I couldn’t wait for Mrs. Miller to hear it and immediately recognize that she had been holding this talented young man back. But after I was through, she only said that it, “It was very nice, Douglas, but you musn’t jump ahead. We need to crawl before we walk..walk before we run.”  Much to my mom’s disappointment but financial relief, I quit piano lessons shortly thereafter.

There was a guitar at home with my name on it. My cousin and I had visions of stardom and beautiful young ladies cowering at our feet like Elvis so, in the same room where the old upright piano now sat idle, we practiced and practiced learning guitar chords until our fingers bled and singing along with 45 rpm records till our young voices grew hoarse.doug and grouse practicing guitar

If only I’d applied that enthusiasm toward the piano. But, true dedication, it seems, is often motivated by lust and fame.

I thought about those early musical beginnings as they gave me a plaque for contributions to the history of Rock and Roll in South Dakota..and kind of wished Mrs. Miller could have been there to see it.

Palm Sunday Sacrifice

So it was congregation participation day at our little country church (Springdale Lutheran) on this Palm Sunday. Everyone..not just the kids..was
issued palm fronds to wave as we marched around the sanctuary and gathering room singing.
Our return to the pews was followed by a stirring and meaningful number from the enthusiastic adult choir. Then it was showtime as Pastor Trey and several church members assumed the role of key characters from the Passion story with responses from the audience and hymns mixed in. All in all, a most meaningful service followed by Communion.  Now, it was not the drive-by Communion this time but the real deal where we actually all go up in groups and kneel at the altar to receive the sacraments. I used to prefer this option but that was before my knees grew old, tired and unwilling to support the weight of my mass without letting me know in no uncertain terms..this is gonna hurt. Considering the pain our Lord suffered, I’m a little ashamed to admit my concentration on the meaning of the moment can be clouded with thoughts about what will I do if I can’t rise to my feet after Pam disperses the little cup of Christ’s blood (Mogen David wine) given and shed for me. But it was all good and, like I said, the readings were first rate.
I’m always moved at the part of Jesus’ crucifixion where one of the two thieves being put to death at the same time feels remorseful and says so. He then receives assurance from the dying Savior, that, indeed,  the thief would join Him that day in paradise. That seems to supersede all other biblical requirements and gives real hope to those of us who often figure we can never measure up to the demands of salvation.
After church, we needed to stop at the grocery store for a few items…including bread and wine. (Hmm)
On the way home, I was still filled with the spirit and decided to let others know it was Palm Sunday by sticking our fronds out the car window and waving them at others driving down East 10th street. I was hoping to get a few honks of approval from my fellow motorists but most just smiled or looked really puzzled as they passed by.

Linda sort of sunk down in her seat at my spontaneous calling to evangelize Sioux Falls traffic…and, even though it’s Spring and Easter tide, my un-gloved hand nearly froze..so I brought the tropical foliage back in the warm car feeling satisfied I’d suffered enough for the Lord this day.

What a frond we have in Jesus.

What a frond we have in Jesus.

Chefs Of Keloland

I don’t dread Monday’s like some people do; never have really..except, maybe when I was in High School and Jay Ruckdaschel had promised a Monday biology test the preceding Friday.

I suppose it’s because I didn’t dread my job at Keloland; especially since my work hours were such that I never had to set an alarm clock to jar me into consciousness each morning. For several years during the 90’s I looked forward to the first day of the work week because it was Monday Menu Day on the Early News at 5; a six minute cooking segment featuring invited guests who would come on and display their culinary skills. Co-host, Angela Kennecke and I would assist the cooks in their preparations then…to the delight of our audience..tasted each dish and give our opinion.

monday menu (640x424)

I forget the name of our 10 year old guest chef on Monday Menu but years later I did a story on him all grown up and a chef at Minervas; inspired, he said, by that experience on our show.

One of the questions people would often ask me over the years was weather I really liked the stuff people cooked on Monday Menu as much as it seemed or whether it was all an act. Well, truth is, most of the recipes were really good and worthy of our “mmmmm’s” and “oh, that’s delicious” comments. But there were plenty of exceptions.( More about that in a minute.)

I think our bosses at Keloland were pleasantly surprised at the popularity of Monday Menu. So much so that after a while, they built us a fancy new set that included cupboards as well as an actual stove and refrigerator so guests didn’t have to provide their own electric frying pan and ice chest. Each received a Monday Menu apron for appearing and their recipe was written up in the Shoppers News. Before long, Monday Menu was THE place to be for promoting a cause or event. For example, every spring a representative from Freeman’s Schmeckfest would be there to prepare some German cuisine; everything from boiled home-made sausage and kraut to Kuchen and poppy seed rolls. The Sons of Norway would promote their annual Lutefisk feed by force feeding some of that foul fish down our gullet. No amount of butter could make lutefisk palatable to me then or now. But I’d be first in line when we had the lefse bakers on.  Oh, we had some bizarre stuff people tried to pass off as food..especually during the tofu times when there was a nationwide effort to convince Americans that this gelatinous glob of goo could actually be a delicious alternative to unhealthy red meat that was clogging our hearts and shortening our lives. I’ve tried tofu baked, fried, in soups, salads and casseroles and if that’s all there was to eat, life wouldn’t be worth living anyway. I don’t believe I ever went “MMMMMMgood” after sampling anything made with tofu on Monday Menu. My hypocrisy only goes so far. There was the time when somebody made a warm salad that included lemon grass and nearly made me gag as did anything with liver as an ingredient. I was also never big on seafood so when a guest fixed that, I’d have Angela do the tasting honors..including the time we were served a whole trout including the head on a platter for us to try.  There were so many interesting cooks that appeared on the air with us. It was a thrill when Wynn Speece “The WNAX Neighbor Lady” was there. Wynn was a dear friend to the thousands who listened to her on the radio sharing her recipes and gentle conversation for over fifty years and it was such and honor when she came on Monday Menu at my request.

One of the more interesting characters on the show was Lawrence Diggs AKA “The Vinegar Man” from Roslyn, South Dakota. An expert on all things vinegar, Diggs came to Roslyn from busy San Francisco for some peace and quiet and do some writing. Before long, the townfolk thought he should set up a vinegar shop on Main Street which led to the International Vinegar Museum and Vinegar Festival in Roselyn each summer. Anyway, Diggs came on with several different varieties of vinegar for us to taste and to explain his passion for this sour wine. Angela and I sampled each one on a sugar cube and were fascinated by Diggs’ knowledge of something most of us think very little about.

Also memorable was the appearance of our colleague and fellow anchorman, Steve Hemmingsen who agreed to prepare and share his legendary recipe for Beef Wellington. It was by far the longest most complicated recipe ever featured on Monday Menu and we darned near had to join the CBS Evening News in progress because there was no way Steve was going to get finished within the allotted six minutes. Thankfully, there was no liver in his recipe and it was delicious.

Most everyone who worked at Keloland TV had a turn or two on Monday Menu including Angela and me..several times.

I’ve often been asked which one of the foods featured was my favorite.

There were lots and lots of really good things to eat but, I suppose, the one that sticks in my mind was Philly Cheese Steak served up by our new General Manager, Mark Antonitis; a Philadelphia native . We were understandably uneasy about having the boss cook on the show. What if it was inedible?.  In fact, Angela and I were both so nervous that we each made the mistake of calling it Philly Cheese CAKE during the intro.But we got through it and when it came time for the tasting well..the thinly sliced and quickly griddled sirloin beef served on a long crusty toasted roll with caramelized onions and  melted cheese, was to die for.

Ironically, not long after he cooked that fabulous feast on the show, Mr. Antonitis called a meeting to announce he was changing the format of the Early News dropping all the daily features including Monday Menu. He figured a news show should have more…well, NEWS. Mondays weren’t as much fun after that.

Man, all this talk about food has my gut growlin’ .

“Linda, do we have any sirloin steak, hoagie rolls, onions and Cheese Whiz in the house?”

The Miracle of Lent

What are you giving up for Lent?
We Christians love to ask that question and compare the degrees of personal sacrifice and hardship we are willing to endure for a few weeks late winter..early Spring.
Christian #1 “I’ve gone without chocolate for a month, thought I’d never get through it.”
Christian #2 “Well, I haven’t had the TV on since Fat Tuesday and missed out on the best parts of the Olympics and “Survivor.”  Who was kicked off?  No don’t tell me until Easter Sunday.”
I guess the main reason people give up pleasurable things during lent is to serve as a reminder of Christ’s suffering.
I usually don’t take part in the giving-up thing because I’m always reminded of His suffering this time of year from an episode in my youth.lent (340x300)
During the week of Ash Wednesday, every kid in Sunday School class at First Lutheran Church in Volga would be issued a container about the size of a pop can. It had a slot in the top and was wrapped in holy purple construction paper with our names written on it.
It was our responsibility to fill those cans with coins during Lent. The money would then be donated to the poor or to foreign missions or something. We were to bring those Lenten Coin Containers back to church with us on Easter Sunday. Then each class would march up front to deposit them on the altar demonstrating the financial sacrifice we had made for our risen Lord.
Both my two brothers and I always had good intentions of putting every spare piece of change we had into those cans but would wind up blowing it on candy, the pin-ball machine at City Cafe or the must-have spring edition of baseball cards that just arrived at Westaby’s Clover Farm store.
Before long it was the Saturday night before Easter morning and we’d only managed to drop a few measly pennies in those cans over the last 40 days and now faced the embarrassment of having the whole congregation discover what sinful, lazy cheapskates those Lund boys were.
And that’s when God worked His miracle!
As we reached for our mostly empty Lenten Coin Containers and prepared to face the scorn of the masses at church, we were shocked to find the cans were suddenly heavy..filled nearly to the brim with pennies, nickels, dimes and a few quarters.
A guardian angel had come in the night to save us!
I think of that wonderful angel a lot. She was not only there for me at Easter but anytime I needed someone to bail me out of trouble with no questions asked.
I sure miss you mom.

Heartaches

So, I’ve had a New Year’s resolution sort of forced upon me this January.  It turns out that my being officially classified as morbidly obese may not be the only reason for my lack of energy and shortness of breath at the slightest exertion.

At the urging…nay, insistence, of my family, I finally went to the doctor before Christmas. I’d been hedging on that visit primarily out of embarrassment at having gained back all and more of the 40 pounds I’d lost in 2016.  He really doesn’t give me cause for such shame. In fact, he’s sympathetic to my dilemma but, in spite of my pleas that he prescribe some magic pill to jump start my will power, he keeps insisting no such pill exists.  What he does say is that he could live with my ginormousness if I’d just begin and stay with some type of exercise regimen. That’s when I had to confess that I get poohed-out just climbing the basement stairs. Not being able to catch enough breath leads to panic. So, I’ve been trying to avoid any and all extraneous activity out of  a real fear that I will keel over for lack of oxygen.

Bottom line; the exercise I need to lose weight and build up strength gives me the sensation of drowning or being squeezed into a small  space with no exit.  Even though my heart sounded strong, he ordered an EKG which led to a recommendation that I see a cardiologist for more tests to make sure the old blood pump wasn’t a major source of my problem.

And so, I thought, the doctoring begins.

My first trip to the heart hospital was mostly to visit with the guy and set up a stress test and echo cardio exam.

So, that’s where Linda and I were before sunrise on December 30th.  A photo session, really. heart stressI just closed my eyes as they squeezed me through the orgasmatron..or whatever they call that tube shaped device that takes images of the heart before and after being injected with some nuclear material designed to get it racing without the need of a treadmill.  After being allowed to exit that claustrophobia cylinder, it was off to another room in which Linda was allowed to join me as electrodes were applied to my exposed ample bare chest by an attractive young nurse who proceeded to smear Vicks Vapo Rub…KY Jelly or some such lubricant on a probe which she rubbed all over my torso showing images of the old ticker from every possible angle on a screen for close observation. Linda was fascinated at the show.

It was all pretty painless and I got the feeling I passed.

Forward to January 2nd.  Phone rings. Hello is this Doug? Yes. Could I confirm your last name and birth date please?  (If you haven’t been to the doctor for a while, be prepared to give your birthday out to anyone and everyone wearing scrubs.)  Well, Doug I have some results from your recent echo gram and stress test. The echo test was well within acceptable perimeters. ( I sensed a “but” coming). But, the stress test did show your heart not getting the required amount of blood for optimal function. We’d like to schedule you for an angiogram.

How soon? (pause)

Would Friday work?

And, so that’s how I’ll be spending my weekend.

Hopefully, any issues will be discovered and addressed at the time.

I’m anxious to feel better.

Holiday Highs And Lows

1959 was perhaps the most interesting year of my life.
I was 13 and it was a year of discovery..if you know what I mean.

It got off to a rough start when less than two weeks after my birthday, we heard on the radio that Buddy Holly had been killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.
Buddy Holly, along with the Everly Brothers and Elvis were the main reasons my cousin Grouse and I learned to play guitar and start a rock and roll band. Grouse could sound just like Buddy. Still can.
He had that Holly hiccup down pat. (ah-weh-ah-heh-ah-hell-ah) He managed to wow the girls and many a talent show judge with it. We loved singing that kind of stuff and had absolutely no trouble finding an audience or hitting the high notes.
But on Sunday mornings as we sat in the 1st Lutheran Church kids’ choir loft looking like  little cherubs in our purple robes and heavily-starched white collars in the shape of a cross, we didn’t feel so musically gifted as we had the night before with our electric guitars strapped on and cranked high..then singing into the microphone..‘Oh, Oh, Claudette..pretty little pet, Claudette.”
For some reason, the old hymn writers like Dykes, Watts, Gerhardt and even Martin Luther, himself, did not have kids in mind when they were coming up with all those complicated hard to sing melodies and lyrics for the hymnals.
There certainly was no Ah-weh-ah-heh-ah-hell-a mighty fortress is our God.
Or.. oh-ha-ho-ah-holy night.

Grouse and me back in our early rock and roll days.

Grouse and me back in our early rock and roll days.

Somehow, though, word got around to the choir director, Mrs. Nelson, that Grouse and I were getting pretty well known for our singing prowess at birthday parties and Farmers Union meetings.
She decided that the two of us, along with John Bjerke and his perfect little fluty choir voice would be this year’s wise men in the Christmas program.
We tried to explain that we were rock and roll singers. What she wanted were George Beverly Shea-type singers.
“Oh, you’ll do just fine,” said Mrs. Nelson and we knew that was going to be her final word on the matter.
So there we were, the day of the Christmas pageant. The sanctuary shook as Alma Brendsel,  the church organist,  pumped out “We three kings of Orient are” and we kind of schlumped  along toward the front in our shiny Magi outfits, wearing gold crowns and carrying gifts for the Baby Jesus.
When we got to the baptismal font, the organ stopped and we turned around to face a sea of Lutherans all anticipating this year’s interpretation of the only Christmas carol written in that awful gloomy minor key.
Mrs. Nelson sat there at the piano with a hopeful smile as she struck the opening chord.

“I don’t want to do this..the notes are too high,” I thought to myself. But there was no turning back now.

Here are the three kings some time later for our confirmation photo. I'm back row second from right, Lawrence Gruseth (Grouse) is back row far right. John Bjerke is second row far left.

Here are the three kings some time later for our confirmation photo. I’m back row second from right, Lawrence Gruseth (Grouse) is back row far right. John Bjerke is second row far left.

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar (I’m sure we sang “travelers”afar)
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star
(Chorus)

Then it was Bjerke’s turn to sing his solo:

Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold, I bring to crown him again.

John hit every high note right on the money and triumphantly stepped back.
Grouse was next.

Frankincense to offer have I.
Incense owns a deity nigh.

He got through it fine too..resisting the urge to do the Holly hiccup at the end.

I’m next. Oh God, I’m next. What’s my line again?
Myrrh!? What the hell is myrrh anyway?
I felt a strange rush of heat to my cheeks and little bumps began to protrude from my forehead.
Without even thinking, I began to screech out my morbid verse:

Myrrh is mine its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom

And that’s when I dropped the ball.
Two of them, actually.

God had chosen that very moment to turn me from a boy to a man..from an alto to a baritone and I believe I finished singing that song a full octave lower than I began.

Did it really happen that way, you ask?
Well, wondrous things can occur when you sing
Star of wonder, Star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Merry Christmas!

Happy 95th WNAX

wnax cake (640x442)

Happy anniversary to WNAX radio in Yankton, “Your Big Friend in the Midwest.”

It’s been 95 years since WNAX signed on the air making it not only South Dakota’s first..but one of the very earliest and most powerful broadcast radio stations in the world.  It really put our little state on the map with a signal that, back in the uncrowded airwaves days, flowed into homes and business  places for hundreds and hundreds of miles.  Still does. It’s always fun to tune-in to 570 while driving home from somewhere in Kansas or even Oklahoma and hear the familiar voice of Jerry Oster reading the news from WNAX.

That's Jerry in the blue shirt welcoming listeners to an anniversary open house to the WNAX studio in Yankton.

That’s Jerry in the blue shirt welcoming listeners to an anniversary open house at the WNAX studio in Yankton. (SDPB photos)

There have been so many WNAX personalities that I remember from my  younger days besides Jerry: George B. German, Norm Hilson, Bob Hill and, of course, Your Neighbor Lady, Wynn Speece.  I did interviews and stories on all of them over my years at Keloland TV but had a special spot in my heart for the Neighbor Lady.

I was so sad when she died ten years ago.  I wrote a Lund at Large blog about our association at that time and thought I’d share it here with a Happy 95th Birthday nod to all the friendly folks at WNAX.

(Lund at Large from 2007)

My favorite neighbor has died.

“The Neighbor Lady,” Wynn Speece, never lived within 70 miles of my house in Volga but she was there every day…on the radio.. and a companion to my mom and thousands of other homemakers and farm wives.

“Hello good friends” was her on-air greeting for 64 years as she opened a program filled with helpful household hints, stories about her family, recipes, listener letters and commercials that she would read live.

Advertisers would line-up trying to get on her show because products endorsed by “The Neighbor Lady” sold like pancakes… pancakes made from “Martha Gooch” flour, of course.

 

She first signed-on the air in 1941 over WNAX radio in Yankton which had one of the most powerful signals in the world reaching into at least five states.

wnax (620x400)

During the forties and fifties, The Neighbor Lady’s audience numbered into the hundreds of thousands..mostly women listening as they went about their household chores.

The program was such a big hit that the station had people who did nothing but open and answer bags and bags of mail which averaged a quarter million letters a year.

During an interview for Keloland News years ago, I asked The Neighbor Lady about her amazing popularity.

“Back then,” she said, mine would often be the only woman’s voice many of these ladies would hear all day..especially during the winter.”

It was also her sweet gentle voice was a welcome source of comfort and reassurance to those whose husbands or sons were off fighting in the war.

When I was little I just remember her as the nice lady on the radio every morning; a white plastic Philco radio that sat in the kitchen atop the refrigerator.

When the Neighbor Lady made personal appearances huge crowds would turn out to see her demonstrate kitchen appliances, prepare a favorite recipe or sign a copy of the annual WNAX Neighbor Lady cook book.

But mostly, people just wanted to see her..the woman behind the voice.

She was a big star… and even though it wasn’t shining as brightly by the mid 80’s when we did our interview, I was awe-struck.

After saying how great it was to meet her, Wynn said she and her husband, Harry, were longtime fans of Keloland and never missed watching Steve and ME on the news.

How about that?

We’ve had lots of good visits in the years since. I just loved hearing about her lifetime of experiences on the radio.

She was an icon to so many and as genuine as the love she had for Harry who preceded her in death a couple years earlier.

Now we must talk about the Neighbor Lady in the past tense too.

Even though she lived until the age of 90, it’s hard for those of us who knew and admired her, personally and professionally, to say

“Goodbye good friend.”