Norwegian Farmer’s Son…June 2nd

June 2nd…“WHO, IN YOUR CHILDHOOD HOMETOWN, HAD A UNIQUE OR EVEN FUNNY NICKNAME?”

#990 Vern Bufkin and father.
“PUD” Bufkin is on the right in this photo with his father.

Every town in America, I’m sure, is populated with unique individuals that bring character and ambiance to the everyday life of a community.  My childhood hometown of Kiester, Minnesota was no exception.  In previous stories, you heard me tell about a person in our town with the nickname of “Lightning”, but today, there’s an individual that I share story about with a smile and children knew him by the nickname of “Pud”.

IP job7
“Pud” was but one of a number of great janitors that cleaned our school there in Kiester, Minnesota.

Born into this world in 1914 as Vern Bufkin, “Pud” and his father, Ed, were quite a team when it came to cleaning our school.  I remember “Pud’s” dad as being a very stoic, straight-laced and straight-faced person.  Mr. Bufkin Senior, being from the old school type of generation, even wore a bow tie on his fully-buttoned, long sleeved shirt.  “Pud”, on the other hand, was pretty laid back in his dress code and his “take it easy” attitude.  I can only theorize where “Pud” may have acquired his nickname, that I do not know, but I enjoyed him just the same.

Janitor cleaning the classroom illustration
“Pud” was our pal.

“Pud” was sure a kind soul to me, seeing that in those days, I was little hot-wired tiker a buzzin’ around those echoing halls and stairwells of dear old Kiester Elementary School.  I knew I could always approach “Pud” and receive a smile and a gentle greeting.

#209=Elliott singin' outside with kids; Spring 1983
Elliott as a janitor later in life at Glenwood Heights Elementary School.

It’s highly probable that “Pud” may have been a subliminal inspiration for my own many decades as a custodian in the Battle Ground School District and now here in the school systems of Hawaii.  Maybe, in the back of my heart, I’ve also wanted to show kindness and a smile to the thousands of children I too have had contact with in my lifetime.  Either way, I’m glad that “Pud” was part of the young life of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

NFS 6.2b
“Pud” is gone now, but Elliott will forever remember his kind ways 😉

 

Advertisements

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…June 1st

June 1st…“WHAT WAS YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING DATING EXPERIENCE?”

NFS 6.1m
The movie AND Elliott’s date night were disasters!

Hollywood and my dating life coincided in the early 1970’s and they both led to the same outcome…….DISASTER!!!  The distinct difference was, Hollywood raked in the dollars from their type of disaster, but I raked in one of the worst dating experiences of my young life!!!  Little did I realize that attending one of these films would be a portent to a personal disaster in my dating experience with a lovely fellow classmate there at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, Washington.  Everything that COULD go wrong that night DID!

 

 

#989 Joan Brosius 1972
Joan Brosius 1972

It was 1972 and my Senior year at Battle Ground High.  I had admired Joan Brosius from a distance as we fellow classmates passed each other in the long hallways and pursued our final year of public education within the portals of these instructional corridors.  Self confidence was NOT my forte at that zit-faced stage of life.  I had an enormous fear of being rejected by this beauty if I even attempted the courage to ask her out for a date.  Nevertheless, from the dregs of my boyish insecurities, I actually managed to muster out the words one day, “Hi Joan!  Would you like to go see a movie with me and have some supper afterwards?”  “How’s about going to see the disaster flick called Airport at “The Broadway” in Vancouver?” Whether she felt sorry for this quivering blob of boy flesh, or whatever……she actually said, “Yes!”  I was catapulted to Cloud 9!! 😉

NFS 6.1f
“The Broadway” movie theater in Vancouver, Washington 

I pulled our 1967 Dodge Coronet 500 into Joan’s driveway that evening and was welcomed into her quaint home for the customary meeting of her parents and family.   After escorting her to my family’s car, we began our journey into Vancouver and the evening ahead of us.  I began to perceive that the evening was not going to gel for “love” in that we only seemed to touch on very generic topics of conversation, such as the weather and other superfluous topics that just didn’t spark any deeper interest of one of us towards the other.

NFS 6.1i
Elliott’s fat wallet hurt him to sit on.

Popcorn and drinks in hand, we shuffled into the darkness of “The Broadway” movie theater and took our seats for the first of the Airport disaster movies that had initially come to the nation’s screens in 1970, but was making a second round through movie theaters again.  Unbeknownst to me, my own disaster was about to unfold before my very eyes.  My bony gluteus maximus was sending me messages as I sat down.  My wallet was too fat!  It wasn’t full of money, but instead was full of just a bunch of paper junk that made it a giant wad in my back pocket and painful to my posterior premises to sit on, so I removed the wallet and put it on my lap.  The intensity of the movie’s plot had my rapt attention for what was happening up on the screen and I soon forgot all about the presence of the wallet.  The climactic movie came to “THE END” up on the screen, but what happened next made it “THE BEGINNING” of trouble for me and my ego AND for my poor date, Joan.

NFS 6.1n
Elliott promised Joan a dinner, after the movie, at this airport in Portland, Oregon.

As I and my date stood up to leave the movie theater that evening, my wallet quietly slipped to the floor without my slightest knowledge.  Part of my promise that night was to treat Joan to supper at the Portland International Airport just across the Columbia River from Vancouver.  Yup, you guessed it, I’m now penniless and without a driver’s license and am totally oblivious to both points.  Once parked, we made our way in to a nice restaurant inside the airport and we sat down to a delicious dinner as we chatted about the movie we had just enjoyed together over in Vancouver.

pop016
Elliott was in shock!!!!

After the meal was completed, we both stood up to get our jackets on and walk on over to pay the bill for the nice meal.  My hand reached back to my back wallet pocket and a look of horror lit up my face!!  Sensing my shock, Joan asked, “What’s wrong?”  to which I replied with great angst, “I lost my wallet!!”  “You’re KIDDING ME?!”, she said.  My reply to her was classic stupidity……..“I thought this only happened in the movies??!!!”  I slapped all over my body to every pocket I had on me that night, but no wallet.  NOW what do we do?  Sheepishly, we walked over to the cashier told her our plight.  At first, she thought we were teasing her, but she then turned serious quickly and threatened to make us go into their kitchen to begin washing dishes to “pay for our meal”.    Like a kidnapper, I bargained with the cashier…….“My date will stay here while I run back to the movie theater for my wallet!!”  Deal?  Deal!

NFS 6.1j
Drunks made passes at poor Joan while she waited and waited for Elliott to return.

Poor Joan was now a hostage while I drove, sans license, VERY cautiously back across the river to Vancouver and “The Broadway” theater.  As I exit my car, I see the movie theater staff are literally closing the double doors for the night.  I race down the sidewalk crying out, “WAIT, WAIT!!!  I lost my wallet inside!”  After pleading with the manager, he allowed me to look in the seating where we had sat.  Some low life person had stolen my wallet and it was gone!  It’s now about 1:00 AM and I asked to use the manager’s phone.  In those days, families usually had only one phone and, for the Noorlun family, was out in the kitchen.  The phone rang, and rang and rang until my mother finally had walked down from the bedroom and answered it.  After sharing my dilemma and need, my mother roused Dad out of bed and they were on their way to save the day…….which it was in this case, the night.  In the meantime, “prisoner” Joan is languishing at the restaurant and suffering the drunken passes of numerous men who are barely able to stand up in their slovenly state of drunkenness as they exited the bar there.   Later, Joan related that a very handsome and generous man had offered to pay her bill and take her home, but these were the days before cell phones and she kindly declined his offer out of respect for my being sick with worry for not knowing what had happened to her if she DID leave with that handsome man.

NFS 6.1p
Mom and Dad to Elliott’s (and Joan’s) rescue in paying the supper bill.

My folks eventually rolled up to the movie theater (with cash in hand) and my father took home the one car while Mom (who actually HAD her driver’s license with her) drove me back down to the airport to pay the bill for the meal and set poor Joan free from her bondage.  To exacerbate an already acrid situation, the night sky began to unload a torrential downpour of rain on us as we sullenly rode home, without speaking a word, to Joan’s place with my mother as our chauffer.   Upon arrival at Joan’s family home, Mom pulled our car to the end of the graveled driveway that was littered with potholes full of water from the pounding rain.  Joan’s yardlight was burnt out, so as we half ran from the car to her back porch, we both stepped into deep puddles and got our feet soaked.

NFS 6.1g
Elliott’s excuse for a kiss was horrible!

In a vain attempt to rescue this first date (which, by the way, was our LAST) I attempted to give Joan a kiss goodnight.  Normally, as most of you know, a gentleman tilts his head to one side to facilitate a nice kiss on the lips of his lady.  NOT ME!!!  In a clumsy act of total doofishness, I came straight on towards her face.  We connected nose to nose, chin to chin and teeth to teeth……CLANG!!!!……it was horrible!!!  And, on top of that, I had the gall and audacity to say, “I hope tonight won’t affect our future dating!”  (OF WHICH THERE WAS NONE!!)  Holy Guacamole, I thought to myself, what a loser I am!!!! 😦

NFS 6.1h
Joan had every right to be furious!!!

Needless to say, in the next few days at school, I heard reports that Joan was intensely livid in anger over what happened that night and told the whole world about her absolutely worst date ever she had had with that stupid guy, Elliott!!  And, you know, she had every right to be angry with me.  I was so embarrassed about that night that from that moment on,  I refused to date anyone for the next three or four years because I was so crushed by this failure.

NFS 6.1l
Elliott can laugh now, but back then, he was crushed by that feeling of total rejection.

After almost 50 years having passed, I can now look at this incident in life and laugh about it.  Time heals all wounds, I’m told.  They say we learn from our mistakes, and if that’s the case, I sure get to learn a LOT, cause I make a LOT of mistakes!!!  Hopefully, the young ones of my family will learn from Grandpa’s mistakes and avoid the ooooops’s of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

NFS 6.1c
Enter a caption

 

 

 

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…May 31st

May 31st…“DOES YOUR FARM STILL EXIST BACK IN MINNESOTA?

#668 Aerial of Kiester farm 001

Sadly, no.  The only thing consistent in life is change, and with that change came the eventual demise of our family farm back there in my childhood State of Minnesota.  First, our barn mysteriously burnt down within a year, or so, after we moved out to Washington State.  Next, for a time, our beloved home had been rented but eventually was left abandoned and empty.  Tragically, it became a party house for local youths to have their beer parties in and they trashed the house so badly that it was offered to the local fire department to be used as a practice burn……..so now it was gone also.   Over the decades, building after building succumbed to the aging process and fell under rot and heavy snowfall on its roofs.  The beautiful windbreak of trees were cut down and sacrificed for a few more acres of land to plant crops on by the new owners.  One of the oldest buildings was the last to go………the granary and remaining buildings were bulldozed, till now, nothing remains of our farm except a hint of where the driveways used to be.  I’m sharing a poem I wrote to convey some of the feelings I experienced when I heard the home place was completely gone.

#667 MN home farm
Summer of 1968.  The last time Elliott and his family (on vacation) saw their Minnesota farm in its complete glory.  Already, one can see corn has been planted into the cowyard next to the barn.

POEM – “Quiet Now” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Quiet now, except for the wind, Coursing ‘cross the soil,

No longer a farm or family, Where once our father’d toil.

T’was a glorious time, When voice and sound, Of family did thrive,

As daily symphony of life, Would bring our farm alive.

Yet came the day, When destiny, Called our family West,

To new horizon that our father felt, For us would be the best.

Thus as our tires exited, The graveled driveway fine,

One could almost hear the sound of pain, Of a farm in lonely whine.

From renters to vacant, One could muse, As our home would silent mourn,

Until a fire would see it gone, And from its moorings torn.

Other buildings stood valiantly by, As decades came and passed,

But in the yearning for productive land, We knew they could not last.

Returned now to the soil, Which Indians once did roam,

Yet our memories burn faithfully, Of that dear childhood home!!!

#77=Kiester farm, February 1959, looking NW
Looking Northwest across the front yard at Elliott’s childhood farm home near Kiester, Minnesota.

 

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…May 30th

May 30th…“WHEN YOU WORKED AS A CUSTODIAN AT GLENWOOD HEIGHTS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WHAT DID YOU DO TO HAVE FUN WITH THE STUDENTS THERE?

NFS 5.30f
Elliott’s alter ego was “Cubby”

Clark Kent (mild-mannered newspaper reporter) may have jumped into a phone booth to emerge as Superman, but me?  I jumped into my Custodian’s Work Room and emerged as “CUBBIE”, The Glenwood Heights Elementary School baby lion mascot!!!  Of course, I wasn’t all THAT mild-mannered around the school each day, cause I was always on the hunt to have fun in any way possible with the Kindergarten through 4th Grade boys and girls that came to see us each day for education and a grand old “Sharing And Caring” time…….Shooowahhh! 😉  You see, our Grade School level mascot was the younger equivalent of the Laurin Intermediate School mascot, which was a full grown Laurin “Lion”…….therefore, we were the “Lion Cubs”; and thereby “Cubbie” was born.

#731 Sylvia Wiser & kids at Glenwood 001
Mrs. Sylvia Wiser was not only the very heart of Glenwood, but also the inventor and maker of “Cubbie The Lion Cub” costume that Elliott, and others, wore for various school events.

Our school was so blessed to have among us the one and only Sylvia Wiser.  Not only did her children attend that great school, but Sylvia worked in various capacities of service over the years.  She was a beloved Playground Monitor for a long time and eventually even moved her talents inside the school building to being an Office Assistant to our grand secretaries.  Another of Sylvia’s many talents was the ability to create a full length Lion Cub costume for supporting our many award assemblies and other school events.

#635=Elliott working, last day at GHP; 1981
Elliott first cleaned up his school and would then jump inside the door to the left for a quick “Cubbie” change and emerge as his alter ego, ready for fun!

All work and no play makes Elliott a dull boy, so rather than just sweeping and cleaning, I had the pure joy (and a little mischief) in becoming the mystery person inside that Cubbie costume on a regular basis for the kids to enjoy.

NFS 5.30a
“Cubbie” at Christmas.

It was decided, at the inception of this new personality, that Cubbie should have an air of mystery about him.  The students were never to know who was actually in the Cubbie costume at any time.  The “lion cub” was to remain mute and not say a word, so as to give away the identification of who was making the mascot “come alive” at any occasion of his appearing before the students.  Whenever it was my turn to make Cubbie come alive, it was total elation on my part, in allowing me to take on a completely different persona that could do almost anything and get away with not being chastised as I WOULD have had done to me in regular circles of social etiquette.  The costume was complete with furry slippers, mitten “paws” and a long tail.  The head of the costume had been built over a construction workers hard hat and the only way I could see out of the “face” was via a small, black-screen “nose” in the front of the snout.  This tunnel vision necessitated that I constantly had to keep my “head” on the move so as to see where I was going AND to see if any kids were sneaking up behind me to pull a prank on this poor ol lion cub.

NFS 5.30e
“Peekaboo! I see you!!”

“Curiosity kills the cat” and sometimes, the curiosity of some students just got to be too much about WHO was inside the Cubbie costume.  So much so, that I’d have little ones come for a hug and they’d then grab the face of the costume and look inside the little black-screened “nose” to see who was inside the costume THIS time.  “Heyyyyyy everybody, it’s Elliott inside Cubbie!!!!”   Well, well, the jig was up and so I’d just continue the fun as best I could 😉   I almost fainted, on a number of occasions, because there was no way to really get a sufficient supply of oxygen into the costume’s “head” for fueling all my wild antics and cavorting.   Necessity being the mother of invention, I came up with a way to breath by drilling a hole in the “mouth” of the costume and then cutting a large plastic tube that I held in place with my teeth while the front of that tube barely jutted out the mouth for enough fresh air for me to breath and keep up the fun.

#884.1 Glenwood Staff 1984
Sweet Mrs. Esther Baker

I was so thankful for our sweet-spirited Principal, Esther Baker (and later Carol Anderle and Jeff Newport) for allowing me to get “wild and wooly” during our Cubby Awards Assemblies while in my Cubbie Costume.  In my days of wearing the lion cub costume, “Cubbie” wore a Triple Extra Large school T-shirt over the costume.  This way, I could put my “paw” up under the T-shirt and imitate my lion heart beating heavily from physical exertion or from showing I loved someone.  As I stood out in the school hallway, our Principal, Esther Baker, would welcome the entire student body to the awards assembly and get them quieted down a bit.  Then, like the master of ceremony at a circus, she’d give me the grand entrance by saying, “Come on in, Cubbie!!!”.   That was my cue to come running, full speed, into the gymnasium and make a slide “into Home Plate” and end up laying on my side in front of Esther and waving at the crowd.

NFS 5.30d
Elliott was thrilled by the children’s laughter!

Jumping up from the floor, I’d then prance around the gym and play “peekaboo” with the kids by placing my “paws” up over the big eyes of the costume and then, lifting a “paw”,  pop one “eye” open and then the other.   Swinging my lion’s tail, I’d saunter over to Esther and give her a side hug and THEN, I’d even have the audacity to sometimes take my “paw” and mess up her hairdo.  THAT was when the kids really went wild with giggles!!!  Esther would chastise Cubbie with “Behave yourself, Cubbie!!  Now you just go over there in the corner till you can be good!”   Oh boy, this was too fun!  I’d mimic being sad by slumping my shoulders and hanging my lion head down low and drag my lion’s slippers along into the nearest corner.  Kids loved it and so did I!! 😉  Pretty soon, Esther would ask, “Can you be good now, Cubbie?”  I’d silently nod my lion’s head and, with a shrug of my furry shoulders,  we’d get on with the awards ceremony.   At other awards assemblies, someone else would get inside the Cubbie Costume.  Many of the kids would see me standing nearby and realize that I wasn’t making the costume “come alive” on that occasion.  A number of the little sweethearts would say to me, “We knew it wasn’t you inside Cubbie this time, cause that person just sits there and doesn’t do anything funny like you do!”

“Whoever has the most FUN, wins!”   That was my motto then…..and now!  The energy of a child’s smile still lights up the face of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

#187=Elliott by refinished sign in front of GHP; circa 1982
Elliott, when he wasn’t wearing the Cubbie Costume, refinished this sign in front of his school to honor the memory of a very well-loved secretary of Glenwood Heights Elementary that is a part of the Battle Ground School District in Washington State.

Norwegian Farmer’ Son…May 29th

May 29th…“WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS OF AND HOW DO YOU OBSERVE THE HOLIDAY KNOWN AS MEMORIAL DAY?”

NFS 5.29a
Fort Vancouver Barracks Post Cemetery is, by some, considered to be the “Arlington National Cemetery” of the West Coast for its rows upon rows of lovely white marker stones which honor our fallen soldiers.

It took 43 years of living in the Pacific Northwest before I finally grasped the opportunity to enter and visit the Fort Vancouver Barracks Post Cemetery (in Vancouver, Washington) on a Memorial Day weekend.  I had driven past this historical site many times, over the years, but the “tyranny of the urgent” usually kept the car rolling towards another destination.  Unlike today’s holiday, the gates to this venue of veteran’s graves are normally closed to the public for most of the year to protect these hallowed grounds from unwanted scoundrels who would cause harm to these honored 1,400 monuments to the lives of soldiers and their families who have served so gallantly in our nation’s military past.  I’ve read that this cemetery resembles “Arlington National Cemetery” (located in the State of Virginia), in that it has white, above ground markers where most cemeteries , in today’s modern world, prefer flat grave marker stones to make it easier for landscaping crews to mow and trim the lawns.

NFS 5.29c
This is one of four soldiers, buried at Fort Vancouver Barracks Post Cemetery, who was awarded The Congressional Medal Of Honor for his military service to our nation.

I discovered that there are four servicemen buried here that were recipients of The Congressional Medal Of Honor.  I had the pleasure of locating three of those four headstones that day on my visit.  Their white marble headstones are specially honored  with a gold emblazonment of a star to honor their special place in our country’s memory.  Upon one of those Medal Of Honor graves, someone had paid homage by leaving a photograph of that soldier leaning against his headstone with flowers and a blue ribbon gracing the photograph.  Very poignant and touching.

NFS 5.29d
Our honored soldier’s graves in Vancouver, Washington.

Having parked at the back of this patriotically decorated acreage, I slowly and meditatively strolled up and down the rows of grave markers and gave thanks to God for each soldier who served our nation from the Indian Wars on up to the present day.

NFS 5.29g
Scout decorates graves with flags.

Thanks to local Boy Scout troops, each grave was bedecked with a handsome American flag.  These small banners of Liberty were a very lovely, and symbolically, were a thought-provoking sight in themselves.   Suddenly, as if summoned forth from the treasuries of Heaven, a stiff wind blew briskly through the graveyard and brought each of the miniature “Old Glory” flags to a sharp and horizontal type of “salute”.  I mused within myself that each eternally quieted soul beneath this sod was being saluted for his service to this fine nation of ours.  Even above the din of the nearby freeway, these white marble sentinels were silently, but distinctly, lauded as all those American flags across over a thousand graves were now “alive” with praise, in their crisp, whispered flutters for what each soldier had accomplished in military service, in both his daily duties of soldiering to valiantly conducting himself on the field of battle against our foes.

#261=Clarice Noorlun & siblings; circa 1943
Left to right…Uncle Robert Sletten, Elliott’s mother Clarice Sletten Noorlun, Aunt Beverly Sletten Smith and Uncle Del Sletten.

Having paid tribute to the local patriots in the Vancouver Barracks Post Cemetery, I then traveled eastward to Evergreen Memorial Gardens Cemetery (there in Vancouver, Washington) honor my own family’s serviceman, my Uncle Robert S. Sletten.   Uncle Bob, who is buried near our father’s grave, served in the United States Army Tank Corp in the European Theater of Operations during World War II.  As I pondered upon his life, I recalled Uncle Bob telling of how he had found an accordion in a bombed out house in France.  After the war had ended, Bob brought that accordion back to the United States with him and learned to play it quite well.  As a boy, I remember him entertaining our family with a song or two at family picnics.  Our mother’s other brother, Del, was an infantryman in the United States Army and was stationed in Italy.  Uncle Del’s Division fought valiantly in the mountain warfare against the Germans and had even won the Presidential Unit Citation Award for gallantry under fire.  Uncle Del’s place of rest is at a cemetery in our Home State of Minnesota.  God, in His mercy, brought both of our uncles back safely from that war to live out long lives and enjoy seeing families grow up as well.  Even though both of these family soldiers now reside in Heaven, on every Memorial Day they receive their due honors from this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

NFS 5.29i

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…May 28th

May 28th…“IS THERE ANY ITEM YOU OWN TODAY THAT IS TREASURED AND PRESERVED FROM YOUR CHILDHOOD?”

#988 Lillian Noorlun Greenspun
Elliott’s VERY lovely Aunt Lillian Noorlun Greenspun.

To an impressionable little farm boy, like I was, a visit from my father’s sister, Lillian, was like touching base with royalty.  She, and her handsome husband, Gene Greenspun, were like “Prince” and “Princess” to me whenever they could make the long journey to our Minnesota farm from the steel and concrete canyons of the legendary New York City, New York.  In my little boy eyes, my auntie held every attribute that a princess could possess.  Hers was a tall and slim, gorgeous figure that was framed in her long, Norwegian blond hair.  Those golden locks framed the most feminine face that Hollywood, itself, would beg for.  So impressive was her beauty that, one day, she left her Home State of Minnesota to begin a modeling career in New York.  While living there, she encountered, grew to love, and married her very talented husband who was a dynamic business man in the booming toy industry there in the “Big Apple”.

NFS 5.28a
Elliott has treasured this jeweler’s loupe (magnifying glass) for over 50 years now!

I absolutely idolized both of these precious family members!  Both of them gave me their rapt attention whenever they’d vacation with us on our farm.  It was upon the occasion of one of those magical visits that Uncle Gene handed me a gift.  It was my very own Jeweler’s Loupe (which is a magnifying monocle).  I was shown how to carefully unwrap the spring wire so that it would allow me to put it around my head to hug the monocle in place over my eye.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to have this new toy that allowed me to see the world super close up!  I found myself exploring in a whole new realm I never had the chance to do before.  You could often find me on my knees somewhere crawling along the gravel driveway looking for “gems” or in the weeds inspecting tiny bugs that had, up to this point, evaded my exploratory eyeballs.  That little jeweler’s magnifying loupe has followed me for over 50 years now.  I carry it daily to use in my work at school and at my hardware store job when people have tiny writing that they can’t see properly.  Every time I touch this gift from Uncle Gene and Aunt Lillian, I say, “Thank you for your love and my closer look at the world that surrounds this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.”

#43.1=Gene Greenspun(Aunt Lillian's husband)
Elliott’s Uncle Gene Greenspun.  A super talented and gifted man with a generous heart!

 

 

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…May 27th

May 27th…“DID YOU EVER PLAY A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT?”

NFS 5.27b
George Harrison was the Lead Guitarist with the world famous rock band called “The Beatles”

The famous guitar player, George Harrison (with The Beatles), would’ve been proud of me as I imitated him to perfection there in front of our Holstein dairy cows in our barn on the farm back in Minnesota days.  I was in love with guitar music from my earliest days and, since I didn’t have an expensive Gretsch guitar to play, like his, I used one of my father’s five tine pitch forks.  The hardwood handle of the fork was my pretend guitar “neck”, and the five tines of the fork were my guitar “strings”.  As The Beatles songs rang out on the barn radio, to the screams of thousands of girls, I “played” for our 15 head of Holstein dairy cows and responded to their feminine mooo’s of appreciation for my pretend talents. 😉

NFS 5.27a
Elliott also played “air guitar”!! 😉

From the reaches of my farm boy memory, I had always been enthralled with the lovely music that came from a guitar.  The charisma of a guitar’s aura has always permeated some part of my existence to this very day.

#35=Elliott(Harmony Stella guitar, Dec. 1967)
It’s Christmas of 1967 and 13 year old Elliott is learning an E minor chord on his Harmony Stella guitar.

The year 1967 saw a dramatic paradigm shift for our family as we sold the farm in Kiester, Minnesota and moved clear out to the West Coast, landing in the southwest corner of the State of Washington in a town called Battle Ground.  I was one VERY lonely boy without our extended family and friends nearby from our past life in Minnesota.  I was a wandering soul in a new land with no buddies and not much to do now that we were city dwellers “in town”.   Other than daily chores around the house, life was pretty boring when you’re a stranger on the block.  One day, as I was cruising the neighborhood on my bike, I came across a local garage sale.  Inside that garage, beckoning to me, was a Harmony “Stella” guitar.  The family wanted $20.00 for the instrument, so I buzzed home on my bike and returned with the cash and, for the first time in my young life, I now owned my very first guitar.  Next question on my mind was, “Now, how in the heck do I PLAY this thing?”

NFS 5.27e
Elliott’s teacher.

A few days later, as I was watching television, I happened to stumble across the local PBS (Public Broadcasting System) channel, out of Portland, Oregon, known as Channel 10.  There, to my elated joy, was a beginner folk guitar course called “Folk Guitar with Laura Weber” that repeated three times a week.  It was taught by a sweet lady with a big smile whose broadcast studio was based out of San Francisco, California.  My television teacher’s name was Laura Weber.  I sent away for the first edition of what would be a total of three lesson books and they were only $1.00 each (plus shipping).  I was thrilled and watched all three episodes each week as I’d practice the rudiments of basic guitar playing.  I practiced so much, that I garnered blisters and a little blood on my finger tips in order to acquire the callouses that Laura Weber said would eventually accumulate over time.

NFS 5.27d
A Gianinni Classical Guitar

Within the first year of life there in our new town of Battle Ground, I had met a new friend that lived down the street from me by the name of Dennis Fleming.  He had a Gianinni Classical Guitar that he was willing to sell to me.  The neck was wider, for ease of playing, and the “action” on the neck, along with the soft nylon strings, was MUCH easier for me to make chords with.  DEAL!!!  I bought the guitar and set my “Stella” aside for the next generation of guitar music to commence.

#36=Elliott(Hernandez Classical, July 10th, 1976)
Elliott plays his “Hernandez” Classical Guitar on July 10th, 1976.

Musical time marches on and it’s now 1972 and my 18th year of life and I am “freed” from High School’s bonds.  That summer, I paid $340.00 cash for a beautiful new Hernandez Classical Guitar.  The music store that sold me that beautiful instrument also provided classical guitar lessons,(for a price, of course) so I began to move into yet another phase of enjoying this type of music in my life.  Although not professionally proficient, I had acquired enough general knowledge classical guitar and note reading to be able to pick out a sampling of classical tunes and deepened my love for this instrument even more.

#208=Elliott pretending to be Elvis; circa 1981
Elliott plays his “Oaks” Guitar.

Thanks to Beacock Music in Vancouver, Washington, I was introduced to the “Oaks” Guitar.  It was a handmade, one of a kind musical wonderment made by two brother who lived there in Vancouver.  Mine was the very first edition of what I think was the M1 or M6 model and it’s sound was phenomenal!!  For the late 1970’s, its price tag of $600 was a bit steep, but you know……you get what you pay for and I wanted to have that “Oaks” sound in a big way.  For a steel string guitar, its tone was rich and mellow……just what I enjoyed!!  I took that guitar with me everywhere!!  School, church, home; you name it, that guitar was like my shadow.  Sadly, it was stolen from my car in 1988 and never recovered.

#55=Elliott singing to Glenwood kids (March 1991)
Elliott has fun playing for the students at his school with his “Black Beauty”.

Sadly, my insurance company, at the time of the guitar being stolen, gave me less that $200.00 to replace what was, in my opinion, a “Stradivarius” valued guitar in that one of a kind “Oaks”.  So, at the time, I gave up guitar all together until I could save up the $1,000.00 I needed to purchase my next dream which was a “Guild” Jumbo Body acoustical guitar.  A very generous friend at our church said, “Elliott, I just can’t see you without a guitar……..here’s the $800.00 you need to go out and buy that “Guild” that you want.”   I shed tears of thankful joy at this dear man’s generosity and became the new owner of an instrument that was the epitome of mellow sound.  The gorgeous black finish on this marvelous guitar led me to call it my “Black Beauty”, and that she was!!!

#209=Elliott singin' outside with kids; Spring 1983
Elliott loved to sing for the children at Glenwood Heights Elementary School!!!

In my personal reflections, I see that John Denver’s song, “This Old Guitar”, sums up my feelings about this fine instrument of pleasure.  Similar to Mr. Denver, playing guitar has brought innumerable blessings to me over the years!!!  It has helped introduce me to new friends, enabled me to express my given feelings at any moment of life.  Guitar playing has even been an avenue of expression of my very soul (whether that is joy or sorrow) and has been a tool for me in my simple attempts at creating lyrics and poetry.   I’ve also been able to bring praise to God in many venues of worship, AWANA children’s ministry and at the Royal Ridges Retreat Horsemanship Camp to name a few inspirational outlets for singing His praises.

It’s nothing fancy that I do, but I enjoy being “just a strummer” as the Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

#207=Elliott in Sandy Bristol's class; circa 1978
Mrs. Sandy Bristol’s 4th Grade Class gets serenaded by Elliott while they eat their lunch.