June 13th…“WERE YOU EVER IN A PARADE? WHERE? WHEN?
In the rarefied chill of that Fall dawn, the frigid wind tore crisp, dead Maple leaves from their tree stems. Pawns now, in a game, they ricocheted off the frozen glass of my farm house second-story bedroom window. God was putting our rich farmlands to bed for the Winter that was soon to be upon us. Yet, our wonderful community of Kiester, Minnesota was actually coming awake for another season, of sorts; the season of football, food, fun and family!! Like a coiled spring under pressure, I catapulted out of bed to soak in the excitement of this special day! Not only was I racing to begin this festive occasion, but, since there was no form of heating in our upstairs bedroom, I was freezing cold and racing as I yanked on warm layers of thick clothing, as quickly as possible, before my poose gimples…..(goose pimples) got too big 😉
I was giddy about this day for at least two reasons. The first reason was that our beautiful sister, Rosemary, had been selected by her classmates to be HomeComing Queen that year. The second reason for my thrill, was that I was going to be part of the parade through our village that day to help celebrate our “Queen” and to cheer our “Bulldog” football team to victory over our arch rival football team from Frost, Minnesota.
The very essence of classic Americana was about to transpire in our beloved hometown as former students were welcomed home, once again, to enjoy their memories of education in the hallways of their alma mater (dear mother). Those, who now lived in those halls, encouraged the elder, former students to take in the joys of a parade, bonfire, cheerleading rallies, funny skits put on by various grade levels of the school, the exciting football game in the evening and even to attend the HomeComing Dance in the school gym. These two days of festivities were going to be like slicing into a multi-layered cake of sweetness from top to bottom.
Big sister, Rosie, had gone on ahead of our family to prepare her regal self in crown and robe for riding in luxury on top of the back seat of a local citizen’s elegant convertible car throughout the parade route. Our sister’s “king” for that day was the honorable, and handsome, Mr. Warren Meyer.
As our ’56 red-n-white Chevy pulled into Kiester, you could feel the excitement in the air as the pinnacle of fun creativity was about to be shown off along the parade route. Local farmers would donate their flat hay wagons (we called them flatracks) or their family pickup trucks so that various Grade Levels of the school could then create their own “floats” for the big parade. For my very young readers, these large artistic creations were likely called “floats” because their football-themed decorations would spill over the sides of the wagon and went to almost ground level, covering the wagon wheels and framework. Therefore, those devices, when pulled or driven along the parade route, seemed to “float” on air…….thus the name “float”.
As each cog of a gear has its part in the overall operation of a machine, I too, as a little boy, had a part to play in this annual extravaganza. Each Grade School and High School class was instructed to create a banner to announce their group, and, usually an individual piece of theme-related artwork would be created for each student to carry in the parade, as well. The year that we created giant pencils to carry stands out in my memory. We made sure to create the largest erasers on the end of those pencils, because our banner out front said that we were going to “RUB ‘EM OUT!!!”; meaning the beating our “Bulldog” football team was going to give to the “enemy” team from Frost, Minnesota.
Our town’s marching band was well known in the southern Minnesota area. That fine reputation was due to the excellent leadership of the honorable Mr. Milton Glende who devoted many decades of his life to making music happen in the best ways for our community. This HomeComing celebration was to follow that great tradition as our sharply-uniformed band members snapped to attention in the blue and white dress uniforms along with their gleaming white marching shoes. As Mr. Glende’s whistle blast signaled the music to begin, each band member’s white shoes pulsated in perfect cadence as one rousing marching tune after another was played to the elated smiles and applause of our town’s population that had clustered along the entire street system of Main and Center Street and back around to the school grounds. There I was, marching along with my class as we celebrated so many things that day. Former students coming home to visit once again, the harvest of local farms being gathered in before Winter, our “Bulldogs” football team that always made us proud, whether they lost or won a game……..the list just went on and on. The cheers of family and friends that day made everyone feel like a hero…..even this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.