Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..September 5th

September 5th……….GRANDPA, TELL US ABOUT A HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER THAT YOU HAD THE PLEASURE TO KNOW BEYOND YOUR HIGH SCHOOL CLASSROOM DAYS”.

Mr. Ralph Vincent “Smitty” Smith and his Morgan mare project at Washington State University.

The skrinch of saddle leather sounded out as Smitty stood in his stirrups, trying to get a glimpse of what was causing such a powerful noise nearby.

A Lockheed P-38 “Lightning” fighter plane.

It was the summer of 1944 and America was still engaged in World War II while this young buck was doing some cow-hand work along the mighty Columbia River Gorge on the high plains of eastern Washington State. Not wanting to miss the intriguing moment, Smitty gave a right rein to his handsome mount and the two of them made a gallop towards the precipice of the cliff that dropped straight down hundreds of feet into the Columbia River Gorge.

Pulling his faithful steed to a sliding stop at the vertical edge of potential doom, Ralph Vincent Smith was captivated by what his eyes beheld. Far below him, the twin, 1600 horsepower, Allison engines of not just one, but two Lockheed P-38 “Lightning” fighter planes were flying wing-tip to wing-tip just a matter of a few feet above those blue waters of the Columbia River. The immense, propeller-churning sound of those four powerful engines bellowed like a megaphone off both the Oregon and Washington gorge cliff facings. The young horseman was in awe of all of the sounds plus the derring-do of those two United States Army Air Corps pilots. They gave Ralph a thrill as he watched these two warbirds then begin to climb back up into the azure blue of that Northwest sky and split off like two blithe spirits heading to their next war destination.

The Smith boys. L to R: Third born – Robert, Fifth born – Keith, Fourth born – Ralph. All five of the Smith children were born in a snowstorm and even though Ralph was born in May, he received the same snowed-covered reception at his birth!!! 😉

Like those two P-38 “Lightnings”, Ralph “Smitty” Smith was to experience his own version of a wild ride while flying low and high in his life’s conquests.

The slap on Ralph’s bottom from the attending physician caused the first gasps of air and a wail heard round the house for the Smith’s fourth-born child on May 24th, 1926 on the family ranch near Cheney, Washington (which is just south of Spokane).

Smitty at about the age when a bullet stopped him in his tracks.

Life on the Smith ranch, during the “Great Depression” years was about as much of a cowboy existence as you could get. The Smith brothers learned how to ride horses and tend to the chores that were a quid pro quo of family expectations as they gleaned their very existence by caring for the land and the livestock that grazed upon it. With each passing year of youth, Smitty’s love for horses (and all animals) grew exponentially. He was even a blessing to meet his parent’s needs by helping to man-handle a sixteen-horse hitch that pulled their wheat gleaning machine over the rolling hills of fertile eastern Washington.

When you put three rowdy brothers together that were only a couple years apart from each other…….well, sometimes exuberant sibling rivalries boiled over into downright donnybrooks of a fight, now and then. It was during one of those heated brother altercations that the elder brother, Robert, got ahold of one of their father’s firearms. Whether Robert knew there was a live round chambered in that gun, or not, he pointed that “thunder stick” at younger brother, Ralph, and pulled the trigger. The slug and report of the gun’s blast dropped poor Ralph to the ground in less than a blink as the bullet tore into his flesh. Mom and Dad Smith scooped up their son’s almost lifeless body while someone went to fetch the doctor. Young, thirteen year old Ralph’s life lay on the edge of eternity’s door, but, praise the Lord………..he pulled through; although the wounds he received plagued him for years and left him unable to serve during World War II. He carried the souvenir bullet of that incident which nearly punctured his pericardial sac, for the rest of his life.

Here, in the 1944 Cheney High School “Pine Cone” yearbook, are brothers Keith and Ralph Smith.

When it came to education for two of the three Smith brothers, academic life was to be a “double-delight” in that both Ralph and his younger brother, Keith, enjoyed being Cheney High School Seniors and graduates together in 1944. Chronologically, Ralph would have graduated a year earlier, but was held back due to recuperation time from the shooting incident he had suffered at the hands of his elder brother, Robert. Even though younger by two years, Keith became his big brother’s advocate and protector as Ralph was eventually able to, once again, re-enter daily school life. Keith and Ralph continued as a team in that they both attended Eastern Washington University as well as Washington State University.

Keith Smith, Lt. Gen. United States Marine Corps. (1928 – 2012)

While Ralph’s heart was drawn, by his love of animals, to his hoping for a degree in Veterinary Medicine, younger sibling, Keith, was eventually drawn to the Marine Corps and became known as “A Marine’s Marine” with the rank of a three-star Lieutenant General. Even one of Keith’s sons followed his father into the Marines. Sadly, though, that son, Marine Corps Captain Vincent Lee Smith was one of the 220 Marines killed during the terrorist bombing of the Beirut, Lebanon Marine Corps Barracks on October 23rd, 1983.

In the mid to late 1940’s, wheat harvesting in Eastern Washington State was still done with large teams of horses like those pictured here.

Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Smith. 1956

With his various time investments into college life, Ralph garnered a Livestock Degree as well as a Judges’ Certificate for rating livestock in general.

It was May of 1956 when love bloomed in the hearts of Ralph and Miss Patricia Ann Collins. From their union, two lovely children came into the world in the form of Robin and Nolan Smith.

In the mid-1950’s, Ralph Smith went from riding horses to riding the wind while going to work for the Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle, Washington. Starting as early as 1954, Boeing had been conceiving and designing what would eventually become America’s first jet engine passenger airliner………….the Boeing 707. Part of Ralph Smith’s new job, in this jet liner design phase, entailed his team creating a wooden mock-up of the aircraft to study its design characteristics. To be better suited in his new line of work, Ralph began attending the University of Washington and Seattle University to gain his credentials in Architecture, Drafting and Industrial Drawing. Little did he know, at the time, that this knowledge would open up a new world of his teaching those subjects as a staff member of the Battle Ground School District in Battle Ground, Washington.

It’s the 1971-72 school year and Ralph Smith teaches the rudiments of a surveyor’s sextant to students (L to R) Michael Jackson, Cindy Sutton and Tom Johansen.

It was here, in my student years at Battle Ground High School, that the juxtaposition of my life and that of Mr. Smith intersected. I was both trepidatious and excited as I settled into the venue of learning the very basics of what drafting was all about. Mr. Smith commanded respect and admiration from his students for his high standards as a teacher and person.

In those days, there were no fancy digital electronics to make your lettering for your blueprints and daily draft work. Mr. Smith taught us well the importance of proper pencils to use, types of lettering fonts, etc. Even Mr. Smith’s young daughter, Robin, when she was done with her own school campus for the day, would come over to her dad’s classroom and marvel at the intricate work he and his students achieved. There on the wall of her dad’s classroom was a magnificent pencil drawing of a handsome railroad train trestle. Robin’s young memory of gazing at that three-point, landscape perspective drawing stirs her heart’s appreciation for her father’s vocation to this very day. 😉

Once again, due to health issues, our good Lord closed the door on Ralph Smith’s teaching career, but He knew, good and well, that Smitty still had a great love for horses and also aspired to the reaching of young people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To this end, in 1978, Ralph and his lovely bride, Pat, were the first “Horsemanship Directors” for the newly established “Royal Ridges Retreat” Christian Horsemanship camp in the lovely forested hills near Yacolt, Washington. It was both a challenge and a delight for Ralph and Pat to impart both the knowledge of horsemanship and share the Good News that Jesus loved every camper that came under their care for a week of fun, learning and life changing times.

In 1987, while on a hike with his wife, Pat, Smitty suffered a stroke and was taken to the hospital. It was determined that surgery was needed to correct Ralph’s leaking heart valves. But, while on the operating table, Ralph had yet another stroke that was so severe, it robbed him of the ability to swallow (among other issues). It was at this juncture, in my former teacher’s life, that I had the opportunity to get to know him closer as a brother in Christ. Since it was hard for Ralph to get out and about in those days, three or four of us men from Battle Ground Baptist Church would drive out weekly to the Smith home and have a Bible Study together.

Like any of us on this earth, Ralph had issues in his past that plagued him deeply. I remember, on more than one occasion, when Smitty would say to us. “Ya know, fellas, in the New Testament, 1st Timothy 1:15 says, ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief”!! Smitty continued, “And if the Apostle Paul called himself the chief of sinners, well, that makes me second in command”.

True, each and every one of us, in this life, have our failures and victories, our friends and our enemies. I, for one, saw this dear man realize his shortcomings. He was humbled by the Grace of God and strove to live a godly life by God’s mercy and love. I like what his gravestone says………“Truth Has Set Me Free”.

I look forward to Heaven someday and rekindling the fellowship of Ralph Vincent Smith, who was not only a fine High School teacher of mine, but a brother in the Lord to this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..September 6th

September 6th………POEM – “The Angels Giggle” by N. Elliott Noorlun. Created January 11th, 2014.

I’ll bet the angels giggle, Whene’er I exercise,

To see such spirited movement, From my flabby thunder thighs!!!

When trying to enhance my view, By simply sitting up,

I cry-n-whine, and wish to dine, Just like a chubby pup.

Of course this “glorious” figure, Did not happen overnight,

It took ice cream and “training”, To put my toes outta sight!

It’s scary, I know, That when my toe, Doth touch the bathroom scale,

The springs go “BOING”!!, And the screen starts glowing,

“THIS SCALE AIN’T MADE FOR WHALE”!!!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..September 4th

September 4th………..POEM – “Follow Me Back” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Elliott’s sister, Rosemary, came back to her alma mater, in the fall of 1964,, to crown the new Homecoming Queen….Ruthie Gilbert. Sharon Zeller Meyer (left center in white dress) is one of the elegantly dressed royal court. High School life was so mature then.

Follow me back, To 1965,

When farming, our school, And town did thrive.

When young folk still dressed, With style and flair,

T’was a sign of good parents, Who raised them with care.

Notice how all the tools, for the most part, in Mr. Parker’s shop were hand tools and not electric. He taught us all with high standards of discipline.

We looked to our teachers, With respect and pride,

For they were our mentors, Towards our future they’d guide,

Our thoughts and our actions, All tempered with care,

For they knew soon we’d face, A bold world out there.

Rewards were forthcoming, To bolster our soul,

And inspire us to greater, Achievements as goal.

And even for fun, Future Homemakers would note,

Their handsomest choice, For Chapter Dreamboat! 😉

This is Burdette Courrier, the 1965 Kiester High School Future Homemaker’s of America’s choice for “Chapter Dreamboat” that year! 😉

Our young folk were raised, To be honest and sound,

So even in death, Much love could be found,

To honor the life, Of their custodian friend,

By seeing that their yearbook, To his memory would lend,

A reminder that celebrated, This veteran and dad,

Who cared for that building, Of each young gal and lad.

Yes, the blue and white “Bulldogs”, Of this “Rambler” tome,

Are fondly remembered, In many a home!!!

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..September 3rd

September 3rd……….POEM – “Hog Stylin’ “ by N. Elliott Noorlun. Created 12.27.18

Well now you know, Young guys n gals,

Where your nose-ring style was born.

It came from the pigs, To slow down their digs,

Or else our fence would be torn.

So take it from farmers, Those old rural charmers,

A ring in the nose is no treat!

A style? Maybe so, But when boogers must blow,

Cleaning slime off that ring is a feat!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..September 2nd

September 2nd………POEM – “Look Into My Heart” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Don’t look on the outside, Look into my heart,

Where a youth-filled child still dwells.

Where fragrances, dreams, Each nuance of life,

Is vibrant as memory swells.

Though trapped within, This frailness of frame,

So that stumbling and faltering tells.

Within I’m still young, With songs still unsung,

And eternal youth still rings its bell!!!

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..December 25th Part II

Here on Christmas Day 2021, I played “Santa” to myself.

This Norwegian Farmer’s Son was born in January of 1954 in Blue Earth, Minnesota. For the next 13 years of life, I had the great joy of calling Kiester, Minnesota my beloved hometown!

True, my family entered another chapter of life when we sold our farm and moved to Washington State, but, my heart will always see Kiester as my one and only true hometown.

So, you see, even though I haven’t lived in Kiester since 1967, I have a great love for all those who impacted and contributed to my young life!! So much so, that recently I stumbled across three “Rambler” yearbooks for sale on eBay.

To me they are GOLD and I just had to have them to add to my Kiester history collection of photos, newspaper articles, etc..

There is one website that can make copies of old yearbooks, but they usually charge at least $100 to do so. These three gems were only $30 each.

There’s on old saying that goes……...”One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure”………to me, these are a treasure of memories with many faces I recognize in not only my town’s past, but even for my big brother and sister whose Grade School photos are in these cherished tomes of yesteryear.

I can’t wait to start cruising and perusing through these great old “Rambler” yearbooks.

If any Kiester friends may have lost your “Rambler” over the years, I currently have the yearbooks from 1958 – 1964 and from 1967 – 1972 and soon will have these three hometown memory volumes from 1951, 1952 and 1965. I’d count it a joy to make scans of yourself and/or family members, if you’d like. Just let me know.

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Starting tomorrow, I’ll be returning to my usual calendar format of stories and poems using the calendar date of September 2nd (where I left off before doing these recent Christmas stories.

Mange Takk (thank you) to all of you for so kindly stopping by to read this wannabe writer’s attempts to put to paper the gentle adventures of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..December 25th

December 25th…………“AS A TINY TODDLER, DURING YOUR YOUNG DAYS IN MINNESOTA, WAS THERE A CHRISTMAS TREE THAT GRABBED YOUR ATTENTION MORE THAN OTHERS”??

Elliott has a good scream because he missed Christmas of 1953, having popped into the world on January 14th of 1954.

POEM – “My Oh Me, A Metal Christmas Tree” by N. Elliott Noorlun

On my very first Christmas, I was ready to soar,

Having “popped out” back in 1954.

I could toddle n crawl, With a giggle n coo,

While Mom held my hand, As family waved a “YooHoo”!!

Elliott was a “swinger”, during Christmas of 1954, when he was allowed a ride in his cousin’s baby swing.

So along came Christmas of ’54,

I’m awake and aware, And yearning for more,

Fun as I posed, In my cousin’s baby swing,

I really enjoyed this new Christmas “thing”!!

Christmas 1954 finds Elliott’s sister, Rosemary, and big brother, Lowell, cherishing the joys of gifts they received while at our uncle’s home in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Big sister and brother, Smiled on each other,

As each gift was sweetly revealed.

Just then, though, I saw, Uncle Del’s “magic tree”,

And inside, I just could’ve squealed!!

Tiny Elliott was captured with a sense of awe as that silver tree changed and glowed with four separate colors as the motorized light wheel went round and round.

My, oh me!!!, A metal Christmas tree!!!,

Aluminum glory to behold!!

And plugged in beneath, Was a four-colored wheel,

That a light shown through, So bold!!

Around the wheel turned, As bright light within burned,

From red, to green, to blue.

And as gold came around, I uttered no sound,

I became “lost” in each grand Christmas hue!!

Elliott, sitting on his grandfather’s lap, looks like a little “Santa” dressed up in his red jacket.

Over the years, The Christmas tree cheers,

Came in styles big and small for the times.

But family together, In wintery weather,

Made Christmas the best of all climes!!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..December 24th

December 24th………….“HOW DID YOUR NORWEGIAN “SANTA” GET AROUND THE FARM DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON AND THE REST OF THE YEAR, AS WELL”??

POEM – “The Tractor Our Santa Did Ride” by N. Elliott Noorlun. Created December 24th, 2018.

This is the tractor, OUR “Santa” would ride,

Back in those days of yore.

When it came to farming, OUR “Santa” drove red,

A “Farmall” fan to the core!!

Elliott’s “Santa” daddy, Russell, is second from left in this line-up of neighbors who came together to help harvest corn. Left to right: Darrell Mutschler, Russell Noorlun, Russell Hummer, David Mutschler, ?, ?, and George Bauman.

He tried a “John Deere”, Only once in his days,

The chug-chug putt-putt made him sore.

So when Dad had fed, The cows and the sows,

He’d head for the IH Store.

With parts in hand, Our “Santa” felt grand,

And came home through our kitchen door.

He’d plop down for coffee, As his boots would come off,

So’s to relish his “Farmall” Christmas more!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..December 23rd

December 23rd………...”USING THE THEME OF CHRISTMAS, HOW DID YOU MAKE A YOUNG BOY’S DREAM COME TRUE THERE ON YOUR FARM IN SOUTHERN MINNESOTA”???

Elliott was a member of this sales club. Notice above how the Zip Code was not yet used by the United States Postal Service. 😉

I think that Santa, himself, would agree with my young boy’s mathematical hypothesis in the following computation which went like this………join “The Junior Sales Club of America” in the summer of 1965 PLUS sell 60 boxes of Christmas cards PLUS endure a 90 degree Minnesota summer heat wave PLUS be grateful for generous family and neighbors EQUALS a brand new bicycle!!!

Elliott drooled and dreamed of having a full-size, three speed bike! That $80 bike, in 1965, would cost $700 here in the year 2021.

Dreams are quick to course through the mind of an imaginative and hopeful young boy when you’re 11 years of age. A major desire began to burn in my yearning heart when one day, on our farm, there in our rural mailbox, came the arrival of an incentive-based toy reward catalog from the “Junior Sales Club of America”. Within the covers of that dreaming catalog lay a vast plethora of toy ideas that could be mine. Next to each toy was its dollar amount value and the number of Christmas card boxes that would need to be sold to achieve and receive the toy(s) of my desires.

Accompanying the toy reward catalog was a personalized Christmas card display catalog that I would show to prospective clients in hopes of garnering enough sales to be able to win my prize of choice, which was a handsome “Schwinn”, three-speed, 26″ bicycle.

A sample of one design, among many, that Elliott sold that summer, that could be personalized with the customer’s family name on each card.

My old 20″ bike had only one speed…….ME….huffing and puffing as fast as my Norwegian legs could peddle. If I could just achieve my sales goal, I would have a taller and more modern bike with three gears to shift into for lightning speeds of fast biking adventures…….or so I imagined. 😉

The logistics of procuring that new bike would take some doing. I must’ve whined my poor mother’s ears off into allowing and joining me in my fortuitous hopes of selling enough boxes of cards to earn that bike. Next, I began making a list of all of our relatives and friends that I could approach to buy my cards and how many boxes each would buy. The next hurdle was the timeline of how fast could I sell my required 60 boxes and send in the order to the company in time to get the cards back to my customers before mailing them out for Christmas that year??

Being a soft hearted boy, I knew that not everyone would say “yes” to my sales proposal for Christmas cards. I tried to maintain my positivity in the same vein as the British Statesman/Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill who once said, “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”. So, I did my best to smile and say, “Thank you for your time” to all those ladies of the house who would turn me down with a “No Thank You”.

Elliott is “on board” his sales transportation for selling Christmas cards. Mr. Morton Holstad holds a tight rein on their pony, “Little Lady”.

Our farm was located a full three miles in the countryside from our hometown of Kiester, Minnesota. Even the neighboring farms around us were between a quarter to a half mile away. If had tried to ride my “shanks horses” (an old euphemism for your two legs), it would’ve taken forever to walk long distances in order to sell those cards. Another travel alternative was my little old 20″ bike, but that would not have been much better with the ofttimes thick gravel on those country roads.

I then had an “Ah-haaa” moment!! I KNOW……..I’ll just ride my faithful Shetland pony to various farms or to Kiester while selling cards!! Our Shetland pony was the sweetest frame of equine elegance!!!! We even gave her the name of “Little Lady” because of her gentle spirit and willingness to please. Once she was fed, watered and saddled up, I could hang my satchel of card selling supplies from her saddle-horn, then swing myself into the saddle and away we went. With high hopes, my pony princess and I began our travels both near and far to local farms and even into our hometown city limits of Kiester.

Our farming community was nestled in south central Minnesota and just a mere mile, or so, from the Iowa border. A veritable checkerboard of gravel roads crisscrossed our agricultural countryside and “Little Lady”, with yours truly aboard, stopped at many a farm along those gravel roads.

Audio cassette tapes and cassette recorders had been invented just a couple years prior, in 1963, and, if I had been rich enough, at the time, I would have had one with me as I traveled. Why? You ask? Well, for those of us who lived in the Midwest, we associated Christmas and Christmas cards with frigid weather and snow, ya?

Yet, to the households I visited that summer, it seemed incongruous to the lady of each house I visited to have a youngster selling Christmas cards in the boiling 90 degree humidity of summer. After I had faithfully rattled off my sales pitch of how lovely my company’s cards were, and how they could be “personalized” with their family’s name and a short message……I’d almost always receive the same response, “Young man, it’s July and it’s 90 degrees out today!!! Why in the world are you selling Christmas cards in July”????

Elliott would have LOVED to have had a modern tape player to play back his response to potential customers for selling cards in the hot summertime of Minnesota. 😉

Like a “human tape recorder”, I would then have to repeat and repeat and repeat my reasoning to each and every household as to why I had to sell the cards in the summer in order to get the orders printed and back in time for mailing them out for Christmastime.

Eventually, through perseverance and the generous hearts of family and neighbors, I had finally achieved my sales goal and collected the dollars necessary to send in my order to the “Junior Sales Club Of America” office.

Elliott’s parents, Russell and Clarice Noorlun. Clarice was the banking intercessor for Elliott’s card sales.

The “Chief Financial Officer” of my Christmas card business was our beloved mother, Clarice. Out upon the kitchen table came all the cash, checks and coins I had collected from my various customers. Mom, in turn, using our Kiester First National Bank checkbook, made one single check to the greeting card company and away it went in the mail.

True to their word, eventually, in the chill of a Minnesota fall day, our local mailman delivered a giant box to our farm which was chock-full of 60 boxes of lovely and festive-looking Christmas cards for all our good customers. Each box of greeting cards were handsomely embossed with each family’s name and a personal greeting that they wanted to convey to their extended family and friends for the 1965 Christmas Season.

The Noorlun’s 1956 Chevrolet is ready to deliver all those Christmas cards that Elliott had sold earlier that summer in 1965.

On a special day, our strong father, Russell, hauled that massive box of greeting cards out to our good old ’56 Chevy and away we went to visit every farm and home where neighborly folks had bought cards from me.

All my customers were pleased with their orders and it was a zenith sort of a day for this young salesman to see.

I’ve heard that there’s an old saying in the Army………..“Hurry up and WAIT”!! That’s exactly what I had to do as I cherished and greatly anticipated the arrival of my handsome new bicycle. It was late winter or early spring of 1966 when the “Rewards Division” of “The Junior Sales Club of America” saw to it, one fine day, that there came a very large cardboard crate that contained the prize I had been working towards……..my new bike! Once assembled (thanks to my talented daddy) I rode that handsome set of wheels with great pride for it was the concrete evidence of a valuable life lesson of hard work (along with Mom’s banking prowess) for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..December 22nd

December 22nd…………“WHAT WAS A CHRISTMAS HIGH SCHOOL MEMORY THAT WAS MAGICAL FOR YOU AS WELL AS FOR HUNDREDS OF OTHER ALUMNI OF BATTLE GROUND HIGH SCHOOL”??

Emblazoned upon the happy halls of my teenage Christmas memories is one of my favorite Yuletide Carols entitled, “Carol Of The Bells”!! Since those days in the halls of education, the years have passed so quickly. Amazingly, it’s nearing the half-century mark since I was in High School, and, when I muse upon this Seasonal song, I am tenderly drawn to the honored memory of a hero from my teenage days.

The Honorable Mr. Orrell Peru.

Mr. Orrell Peru was one of those cherished mentors of my music education that impressed me with his very existence in living a life of high integrity as well as his altruistic love and passion for choral music. Mr. Peru’s intense fervor for music poured forth to thousands of students over the many decades that he faithfully taught as the Director of Choral Music at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, Washington.

“Carol Of The Bells” was an impressive Ukrainian Christmas melody that was owned and loved, not only by my “Tiger” generation of choir-mates, but also by the innumerable former Concert Choir members from decades past. For you see, way back in his early days of choral training at our school district, Mr. Peru began a grand tradition of making sure this Christmas Carol signaled the beginning of every Christmas Concert performance over the years and even beyond our own High School years, as well.

Elliott is top row and far right in this photo of the Battle Ground High School Concert Choir during the 1971-1972 school year.

The weeks preceding the festive Christmas Concert were thick with anticipation as our highly respected Choir Master put us through our paces, both in voice and in movement. The “movement” had to do with learning to sing “Carol Of The Bells” a cappella (for my young readers, this means voice only) while holding a battery candle and keeping step as we were to march from the entrance foyer of the gymnasium, through the darkened audience aisles and up onto the choir risers; all while keeping proper cadence and meter timing of the song.

Mr. Peru flashed the tree lights ON and then OFF to help us all keep proper timing of the song as we marched from the back foyer to the front stage and our choir risers.

The holiday mood was festive on that wonderful night of the performance. Many members of the audience on that special night were former Concert Choir members of Mr. Peru and had come to witness the musical tradition that they, themselves, participated in years ago.

The audience’s seasonal visiting and greetings hushed as the “house lights” dimmed to darkness with only a large, white electric star above the stage and a glorious Christmas tree of lights, next to our choir risers, glowing in their spectra of colors.

Nervous, kinetic energy almost sizzled among our choir robes as my fellow choir members and myself awaited the pitch pipe and downbeat of Mr. Peru’s direction to begin. Each of our hand-held, battery-powered candles were aglow and cast a soft white light around us in that darkened foyer.

The other 1/3rd of Elliott’s Concert Choir members from the 1971-72 school year at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, Washington.

With a check to his wristwatch, our honored educator saw that the concert performance time had arrived. Mr. Peru drew a round pitch-pipe from his pocket and placed it to his lips for the accurate first note on which we would build “The Carol Of The Bells”.

With rapt attention, we all responded obediently to the downbeat of his arm and young ladies began singing, “Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, throw cares away”!!! and we began our forward march into the darkened auditorium.

Since our choir would be spread out across the large gymnasium during this song, Mr. Peru had connected the white star above the stage, and the Christmas tree next to the choir risers, with a long cord that ran clear back to the foyer where he stood. With each beat of the music, Mr. Peru used a snap-switch to turn the tree and star on and off, on and off. This way, our choir stayed united as one in our singing as we all could see the visual pulsations of the music’s timing.

As each successive choir member entered the audience aisles, our candles gently illuminated our teenage faces. With our choir now moving and filling both aisles, as we marched towards the stage, so also did the sound of our voices crescendo for the audience around us to enjoy.

Mr. Peru’s homemade metronome worked for we climbed to the stage and mounted the choir risers till our candle-lit visage all faced the audience and our entourage finished the carol strongly with the last…….”DING, DONG, DING………….DONG”!!

We could easily see that the crowd was thoroughly pleased by not only the Christmas song itself, but also with the re-ignited memories in the hearts of many former choir members that were there that night in attendance. Together, my generation, and former choir members of the past, sang this special song while being directed by the delightful soul that resided within our teacher, Mr. Orrell Peru. To this very day, when I hear “Carol Of The Bells”, there are warm, Christmas memories in the heart of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.