Category Archives: History

The Family Escutcheon

Today’s Post comes from Occasional Caroline.

My nephew turned 40 over the weekend. He has had challenges throughout many of those years, including struggling with addictions. He has been sober for a number of years and is doing well now, but is ever vigilant not to slip back down that slippery slope. Forty is a milestone and he invited family and friends to a gathering to help him usher in the new decade. The invitation and his situation, brought to mind an episode and an item from the family canon that I thought would be meaningful to him and support both his sobriety and his interest in family history. My problem was that the story really started in the late 1800s and the chain of custody of the actual facts has more missing links than the other kind. Here is the story I was able to cobble together from the collective memories of my mother, brother, sister and me, and present to my nephew:

We thought that you were the perfect person to hand down this family heirloom and story to. Although the people who could give us the most accurate information are no longer available to confirm or refute these “facts”, here is what might have happened that we have pieced together from the memories of those of us were around for parts of this saga. Total historical accuracy is not what you’ll read here, this is the new truth from the 21st century onward…

Long, long ago, when your great grandma, was a young girl, a man in the family (quite possibly her father, but maybe not) regularly drank more than was prudent. Each day (or possibly more or, less often) he would send one of his 3 sons, (if indeed it was Grandma’s father) to a neighborhood bar to have this brown pitcher filled with beer, and returned to quench his thirst. Grandma developed a loathing for what excessive drink could do to a man.

At some point, when he was old enough to know better (in his 40s), her son, your dad’s, aunt’s,  and my father, did one of 2 things. Or, more probably, he did both and one was the straw that broke the camel’s (Grandma’s) back.

Scenario One: He drank too much at his favorite bar, headed home, driving drunk on back roads, and was pulled over by the police and given either a DUI ticket or a warning. Somehow Grandma found out about it (back then all legal infractions were published in the local newspapers, so she may have read it, if indeed he got the ticket). In any case Grandma knew and she was furious with him.

Scenario Two: He arrived at a family gathering in a state of intoxication, which his mother quickly recognized, and she was furious with him.

Whatever the infraction/(s) was/were, at some point, still furious, his mother presented the family symbol of excessive drink, the brown beer pitcher, to her son as a stern reminder of her fury and disapproval of his lack of sobriety. It was also, of course a loving reminder of her parental devotion, and concern for his welfare. We are all quite certain that his mother never, ever saw him drunk again (which is not to say that he was never drunk again, just not in her presence).

So, with pride and recognition of your years of sobriety, and to commemorate your fortieth birthday, we present you with that same little brown jug, which is now the family symbol of keeping the plug in the jug.

You have become the keeper of the story and the jug, and you may use, alter, enhance, embellish, retell, hide, proclaim, ignore, or do anything else with them you wish.

Author’s note: I have thoroughly examined the pitcher for any identifying marks and found nothing etched, stamped or printed anywhere on it to help identify where or when it began. It is fairly small, about 7 inches high. Notice that the handle appears to be a greyhound. What’s up with that? In any case, if the back story is at all accurate, we assume that the pitcher is at least as old as my grandmother would be; she was born in 1890, so nearly 130 years, but it could be older.

 

What’s in your family canon? How has  your family embellished family “history”? 

George Washington Liked Ice cream

Today is the anniversary of the first commercially produced Ice cream in the US in New York City in 1783.

Ice cream had been sold in ice cream parlors in New York since 1776. George Washington is said to have spent $200 on ice cream  ($4500 in current money) in the summer of 1790.  That was a lot of ice cream! Thomas Jefferson had an 18 step recipe for an ice cream dessert  similar to a baked Alaska. By 1800, insulated ice houses were invented, so that ice cream could be stored and sold to the masses. In 1945, the Navy provided a barge in the western Pacific that produced 5400 gallons of ice cream an hour for sailors.

I love ice cream.  We don’t make our own, although we have an electric ice cream churn. I see that our strawberry bed is flourishing, and perhaps there is some strawberry ice cream, or at least strawberries to put on top of ice cream, by the end of the month.

What is your favorite ice cream treat? Tell about ice cream from your childhood.  (Gelato, Froyo, and Sherbet count here, too).

Decade on the Trail – Pictorial

Today’s post is Part Two from Barbara in Rivertown

Today we have a pictorial history to go with Tuesday’s written one. Thanks to all baboons who sent me photos – I’ve used only those that have two or more baboons in them.

I think this is the earliest one in my collection – taken with Dale Connelly at the MPR booth at the State Fair (in 2009? 2010?) Not all in it became baboons, but I do see Sherrilee, Beth-Anne, and Linda in the middle row, and Jim and thigh (that guy in the hat) in the back.
The above is a smaller group in the Seed Art room, maybe 2011
Below was taken at our first meeting, at a picnic table in Wabun Park, by Minnehaha Falls in S. Mpls. BiR, Jacque, and Anna in the background. Also present were Sherrilee, Linda, and Steve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know whose idea it was to start going to museums – the first one I attended was, I think, the Russian Art Museum in S. Mpls – Anna, tim, Joanne, BiR, VS
Then there was the Swedish Museum circa 2012… extra points if you can remember what the exhibit was. VS, tim, Linda, Lisa, BiR, PJ
There have been gardening adventures – at PJ’s yard.  The group shows Bill, Robin, Lisa, Krista, PJ in back; ljb (Edith), BiR, Linda, VS

 

…. and in PJ’s kitchen, where Lisa modeled her prom dress
At Steve’s – well, at Steve’s we took down a tree limb in the back yard of his darling bungalow.
Chain Saw Gan – madislandgirl and S&H(son & heir), Lisa, tim, YA (VS’ young adult), Bill, Robin, BiR, Linda, Michael, and Ben!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had Steve’s surprise birthday party, also at Wabun Park – tim managed to get him there after some ball game, I think. VS, Steve, tim
There have been several trips to Rock Bend Folk Festival. Here’s City Mouse, with the Morning Show’s producer Mike Pengra on the drums.
It’s a dirty job but somebody’s gotta do it… And admission is still FREE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda, BiR, Krista, and I think Holly, at Rock Bend – not sure which year…?

There have been a number of events that didn’t get photographed: PJ organized a Guthrie outing for, was it? H.M.S. Pinafore? There have been game nights at tim’s, a painting party at Steve’s before he moved, Pi Day at Sherrilee’s.

But we do have one of a Solstice Parties at Sherrilee’s – Steve, Linda, tim
A few made a weekend trip to Steve’s cabin, up by Cornucopia, WI: Linda, Steve, tim, Krista, Jacque

 

 

 

 

 

 

and a few went south to Donna’s cabin at Spirit Lake, IA – but no photo!

North Dakota Renee made it to a BBC at tim’s when she was in town, of which we have no photo. But Steve provided one of her and husband Chris, taken when they were visiting near Steve’s place in Portland.

There have also been sad times… not only the ending of The Late Great Morning Show, but also the memorial after

Jim Ed Poole’s (aka Tom Keith) death in 2011. This proves that you can get baboons to smile for anything: TGith?, PJ, tim, Joanne, Anna, mig’s S&H in back; Linda, VS, madislandgirl.
A quick meet-up of Barbara and Joanne of Big Lake after the 100-Mile Garage Sale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I didn’t have my camera back in April when I met another baboon Linda at baboon Chris’ book signing at the lovely Fair Trade Books in Red Wing. But here’s a photo taken at another of Chris’ signings:
And here is from Chris’ FIRST book signing!

And we even had a congratulations gathering when Beth Ann won the Kemps State Fair Ice Cream contest

No baboons in this shot, but here are the fixins!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s been your favorite Baboon gathering or outing? What/who got left out here? (I’m sure I’ve left out some baboons…)

What field trip shall we do next??

A Decade on the Trail

This is Part 1 of a two part trip down memory lane from Barbara in River Town.

We’ve been blogging here for (are you ready?) 10 years. For anyone new to the Trail, this group started when we were still listening to a beloved (Minnesota Public Radio) Morning Show that aired from 6 – 9 a.m. in the 80s, 90s and aughts (2000s). It was an eclectic music extravaganza peppered with cleaver (see Glossary above) ads, zany characters and radio plays put together by Dale Connelly (a master of parody and verse) and Jim Ed Pool (aka Tom Keith, the super sound effects guy for Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion). When Jim Ed retired at end of 2008, Dale stayed on, and the program morphed into an online streaming station called Radio Heartland https://www.thecurrent.org/heartland/ . Dale also created a blog in early 2009 called the Trial Balloon, in which he’d write an introductory piece about anything under the sun, talk about it on the radio, and ask a question at the end to get an online conversation going.

Dale, our Alpha Baboon, hung in there posting 6 days a week for most of the next 5 years. By the time he decided it was time for a sabbatical, he had written 1,166 of the 1,397 posts (231 of them being guest posts provided by the Baboon Congress when he was away). Here is his June 3, 2015 entry:   https://trailbaboon.com/2015/06/03/five-year-plan/  at the end of that phase.

The Baboons rose to the challenge, and kept the blog going with a wide-ranging collection of guest posts for the next 18 months or so, with Dale chiming in from time to time with a post. In early 2017, Dale “cut the umbilical cord”, and we got our own url: www.trailbaboon.com/ , with Verily Sherrilee and Renee in North Dakota taking the reins of the blog, on alternating months. (This statement doesn’t begin to cover the work and commitment involved – I don’t even know how to describe it – and how grateful we are that they’ve taken this on.) Other baboons provide guest posts that we send to them by email (though not as often as we should).

At some point early on, we started also gathering in the space-and-time realm… I believe the first book club meeting was in June of 2010. (Go to above left under Blogroll: Blevens’ Book Club – there are even minutes to the first meetings!) And we started doing “field trips” – anyone know what year the Russian Art Museum trip was?

Over the years various baboons have come and gone, and occasionally come back – life happens, and some months or years work better for blogging than others. A core group of us are still here, several of whom have been posting and commenting almost from the beginning. Old-timers check in occasionally, and we love it when they do. We’ve found we just enjoy connecting most mornings (and sometimes late in the evening) in this mysterious place in cyberspace, to exchange thoughts, experiences, recipes, songs, book/movie recommendations, health info, travel or garden tips, musings on the English language…

What’s the strangest group you’ve ever hung out with? (…besides this one)

Remembrance

I came of age in the sixties, when it was all the rage to be un-patriotic. It felt like blinders had come off for the first time; we didn’t want to accept the perfect glowing images we had grown up with but were seeing America in all its stark reality.  This got ugly fast, of course.  Vietnam vets got the brutal end of this, as if risking life and limb wasn’t enough, but you had to put up with immature folks back home ridiculing you for your service.

Then the pendulum swung back after 911. In shoring up our solidarity we reverted back to flags and flag decals everywhere, freedom fries in the congressional cafeteria and presidents decried if they didn’t have their flag pin in their lapel every time they stepped out.

I feel smack in the middle of this spectrum. Having traveled quite a bit, I feel quite strongly that there are few places where I would prefer to live.  Religious struggles, authoritarian regimes, overly controlling policies (think.. it’s a crime to spit out your gum), racism/sexism practically built into the system – all of these things make me think I’ll just stay here, thank you very much.  On the other side of this fence is my feeling of disquiet about our current political crisis; it’s embarrassing when I travel.  (Except when I go to London, as their problems are pretty overwhelming right now as well so they’re not as quick to judge.)

But in general, I’m glad to be an American and will fly my big flag this weekend and stick my little flags out in the front garden. No picnics or parades, but a quiet weekend of gardening and weeding and thinking of those who have fallen for me.

What are your plans for the weekend?

RIP Doris Day

I’ve just seen that Doris Day has passed away at the age of 97. Born in 1922, she got into show business at the age of 17 as a big band singer and her first film was “Romance on the High Seas”.  The first part of her film career was top heavy with musical comedy but she broke out of that mold in 1955 with “Love Me or Leave Me” which she always said was her best performance.

Her later life was filled with music and her deep care for animal rights. The Doris Day Animal Foundation is a very active presence and supports all kind of animal initiatives.  She released her last album “My Heart” in 2011 and all the proceeds went to the Foundation.

Doris Day certainly wasn’t my favorite actress of all time, but I did admire her and thought she lived a full and meaningful life. The world is slightly less buoyant today for her loss.

Tell me your favorite and your least favorite Doris Day films?

 

 

Rusks

I baked 11 dozen sweet rolls for an Easter fundraiser at church to raise money to send our bell choir to New York in November.  The rolls were either cinnamon, raspberry, or blueberry filled, and were lavishly iced. I had 3 dozen left at the end of the day, and brought them home and made them into rusks. That involved cutting them in half, brushing them with melted butter, and baking them at 275 until they were crispy/chewy. They store really well.

I brought a bag of rusks to work on Tuesday. My coworkers  thought they were delicious,  but only one  had ever eaten anything like them before and knew what rusks were.

This puzzled me greatly, since I assumed that everyone would know rusks. I grew up with Zwieback and Dutch rusks.  Dutch rusks came in round packages with windmills on the paper covers, and my grandparents would pour broth on them to soften them up.  My coworkers are of German Russian and Czech heritage, and many of them grew up on farms, and I thought they would be familiar with a fine way to extend to life of stale bread.  The only one who knew rusks was a coworker of Danish heritage.  She said her grandmother used to butter stale bread and sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar and bake it. She didn’t know they were called rusks.

You would have thought I had brought in the most exotic pastry imaginable. I looked up rusks on the internet, and found that there are examples of twice-baked bread from the Philippines to Greece. I think that it was used extensively to extend the shelf life of bread on sea voyages. There are loads of rusk recipes in the Nordic Baking Book my son and dil gave me for Christmas. Perhaps rusks are more common the closer you live to the Baltic or North Seas. In any event, they demand more rusks at work.

What family or ethnic foods do you have a hard time explaining to other people?