I may be only one oat seed in a field of millions, yet I have a story to share of beginnings on our beloved farm in southern Minnesota and beyond to life as I've seen it to this point. Famous? No. Gifted? Unlikely. Yet, I want to leave a legacy to my children and grandchildren of who this gentle Norwegian man was. My happy times, sad times, successes and failures. Someday, those who are tiny now, will have this volume to come to and get to know this Norwegian Farmer's Son.
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.
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!!! 😉
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”???
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!!!
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.
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, “Thankyou for your time” to all those ladies of the house who would turn me down with a “No Thank You”.
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”????
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.
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.
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!!! 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.