All best for a good New Year in 2023.  Today, I think most about the empty chairs I learn of each year, with increasing frequency.  They are the people I knew who passed on in the preceding twelve months, some who I learn of in notes from their survivor.  I’m not alone in this ritual, of course.  We all are.  My personal status report at end of this post, but today, a visit down memory lane from 1958.


I had just graduated from high school in May, 1958.  There were eight of us in the class.  (We moved frequently.  The previous year, at another school, there were two seniors….)

In 1958, our parents had surprised us by purchase of a brand new car – a 1958 Chevy – V8, the works.  This was something special.  We’d had a 1951 Plymouth Suburban before that; and earlier a 1930s era car with suicide doors.

The new ’58 Chevy, photo by Dick Bernard at the Sykeston Dam.

I was the kid with the drivers license, and I had just graduated, and for some unremembered reason I got to take the car, solo, to visit a couple of friends from 8th grade at Ross ND.

Using the car was not a usual routine in my family.  And while this was only a day trip, it was not a short distance.  Here’s the map of the route, out and back.  It was not a short day, but at 18, a “piece of cake”.

I don’t recall our doing anything of particular significance.  We were just out for a ride.  The end of our route was New Town, ND, which had been founded due to the filling of the Garrison Dam reservoir in the 1950s which made the towns of Sanish and Van Hook uninhabitable.  A wikipedia article is here.

When we went there, there was no particular agenda other than to see New Town – as least I don’t recall any other intention.

I’ve done a quick review of the books I have about North Dakota – all from the 1950s and 60s – and none make any mention of the damage done to the lands of the native Americans who had occupied this land far longer than the settlers.  The only government interest in Garrison seems to have been storage of water for future irrigation…at least so seems the narrative in the three books I have.  The irrigation prospects seem not to have worked out; there is some power generation from the dammed up reservoir.

For we kids, in the spring of 1958, it was just a fun ride.  I dropped my friends off, then I drove home to Sykeston.


The post came to mind, today, because of an e-mail received from a long-time friend yesterday.  I reprint the note with his permission: “Your closing comment about the strange things you remember [from the past] brings an unhappy experience to mind. On my first day in school, I was running out of the schoolhouse and tripped on the edge of the entrance concrete slab and fell face down into the gravel.  This little girl came running over to see if I was okay.  That little girl was [a classmate], the first time I had ever seen her.  That image of her bending over to see how I was remains with me to this day.  She was such a special person, and our relationship lasted for ever and ever.  Each summer when I made my trips back to North Dakota, I would swing by their farm and visit with her and her husband.   Last August I learned that my so special friend that I have known for 76 years is no longer with us.  It is hard for me to comprehend what [her husband]  is going through after their 62-year relationship.  One of the toughest aspects of life is the constant loss of loved ones, but I guess it is what it is. 


Many of you know me only through this blog.

Personally, those who know me and see me frequently know I’m basically as usual.  It was last year, this week, the day after Christmas, when the diagnosis of colon cancer visited me.  And December, 2018, when I had my encounter with heart valve replacement.

I’ve written about both here, and I seem to have done pretty well.  This week, as usual, I did daily 2 1/2 mile brisk walks indoors.  I try to act my age; hopefully I’ll be reminded if I don’t….

I feel normal, which does not mean the same as last year, 10 or 20 years ago.  We all know this is true, from our own experience!  We march on, best we can.

Down in the garage is my Dad’s typewriter, on which he wrote probably thousands of letters to people over the years.  On the cover he pasted a portion of a placemat from his retirement residence at Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville IL.  The advice there is very simple and makes lots of sense, here:

Live for Today
Dream for Tomorrow
Learn from Yesterday

COMMENTS (more at the end of the page)

from Beth: Good for you to keep writing Dick.  I’m still slowing inching through two legal size drawers with 70 lbs of letters 1930-1952 from my mom, her parents, my father.  They are a treasure to me.  I have a plethora of letters I wrote to my parents, a friend I wrote to in England (friend from Ireland 1983-`1985)  She was English moved back there and I wrote her voraciously until she died.  Her daughter mailed me all the letters I had sent her mom.  They are a part of my history I couldn’t have recreated from memory.

from Emmett: And I have a comment about the Garrison Dam.  It robbed North Dakota of some of its most productive farmland, and hence statements of future irrigation were all political.  The real purpose of the dam was to hold back waters to minimize downstream flooding of the Missouri/Mississippi Rivers.  Those southern states had much greater political power than us North Dakota folks.

Dick, the reason that nothing ever happened in the way of future irrigation is because it was never intended,  and you can read all the books in the world, and it won’t change the facts.  As a long-time scientist, I tend to be leery of much that I read because I cannot always determine the true objectives of the authors.  Are they trying to influence their readers for political purposes, or are they just parroting something they have heard or read, or … who knows what????  I recall a situation where the Air Force Research Lab in Dayton, OH spent about $3 million to disprove a position paper that was written by a Stanford University professor for the purpose of promoting their university.  So read, but beware of what you believe.

Response from Dick: We have nothing to disagree about.  The below photo from Rich sort of says it all.  It must have been the then-Governor of ND signing the paper (Fred Aandahl?).  What seems to be the definitive history of North Dakota (Elwyn Robinson 1966 pp 461-66) seems to agree with your political conclusion.

You and I worked in different arenas with different criteria.  My job for virtually my whole career was to try to sort out some reasonable facsimile of fact among assorted opinions on matters  from petty to pretty profound; from individual differences to organizational and larger political controversies.  There is always truth in there somewhere, even if only fragments!

I once heard a talk on the concept of “power” which I felt was pretty profound. The speaker talked about various sources of power, such as who controls your job, or your money or what have you.  The greatest power, he said, was what he called ‘referent power’ – the likability factor.  It made sense to me, in the context that I was then-working.  More recently that has been turned on its head, too.  The previous President (whose name I will not use) is like a pied piper to his reverent flock, the powerless.  Makes no difference that he gives not a damn about them; they still revere him….  So, back to the drawing board.   I actually did a blog about this once.  Here’s the link, from 2011.

from Rich:

George Gillette, second from left, chairman of Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, and other tribal officials at the 1948 signing of the Garrison Dam agreement.
As a North Dakota native, when I think of Garrison Dam relocation this photograph is most poignant.



Ukraine, and more

POSTNOTE Dec. 26, 2022:  The following paragraphs basically summarize events the last few days before Christmas.  Here are two commentaries which I think you’d find of interest, received today: Letters from an American Dec 25; The Weekly Sift, Dec.  26.  The “Patriots” are all of us who saved the country from the invasion Jan. 6, 2022, and all of its preceding and successor pretenders in the United States.  It’s up to us to keep our democracy and our republic safe in the future.


There is so much happening, that I can only summarize some items.

UKRAINE: Yesterday, Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to a joint session of the U.S. Congress.  You can watch the entire speech, in English, here.  I highly recommend watching this.  It is specifically noted that English is not Zalenskyy’s native language.  His message was to Congress, but more pointedly it was to all of us.

On November 17, an organization in which I’m active, had a speaker present on the Ukraine situation.  The gathering was recorded, and can be watched here.

I asked a friend, not Ukrainian, who contributes to the people of Ukraine, which entity he’d recommend, and this was his response.  “There are a lot of people raising money for Ukraine.  I suggest [Stand With Ukraine MN] There are options on how the money you donate will be used.

Think of the people in Ukraine.  We’re in the first serious cold snap of the winter here in the U.S.  As I write, it’s sunshiny, 7 below zero, significant breeze and thus significant wind chill.  We’re not alone.  The Ukraine climate is very similar to what can be expected in my home state of North Dakota.  Pres. Zelenskyy talked at the 300th day of the Russian invasion, and the Russian strategy is clearly to create extreme misery for the civilian Ukraine population this winter, damaging  essential services like electricity and access to heat and water, absolute essentials.  Most of us take heat, light, food and water for granted.  We tend to forget what it’s like to be without these essentials.

Jan 9, 2023: a more recent post including Ukraine content is here.  See link to President Zelenskyy New Years address at the beginning of the post, and more content later in the post.


CUBA AND THE U.S.: In the last day or so I was reminded of a past situation in which I was in the near proximity in October, 1962.

It was the Cuban Missile Crisis, and a consequence of it has been essentially a blockade of Cuba since 1959.

What brought it to mind was the announcement that the Golden Rule boat, which I’d seen here in September, and whose mission I support, was going to travel to Cuba December 30-January 10.

The announcement included the following text: Golden Rule Cuba

I responded to the announcement as follows: I have long had an interest in and affinity towards the people of Cuba.  It’s not quite so simple as portrayed below, however.  I was in the U.S. Army when President Kennedy addressed the nation in October, 1963; in fact I watched his speech on a tiny television in an Army barracks a few short miles from a main suspected target for the missiles to be planted on Cuban soil.

Here’s what I wrote Dec. 3, 2016.  I’ve had other posts on the topic since.  Search Cuba in the blog archives.

Punishing the Cubans all these years has been stupid…on all counts…Castro far outlived those who thought he wouldn’t last six months, back in 1959.  But it has lots of political legs – otherwise it would have ended long ago.
The long attachment from an old Latin American History book from 1963 (link in the above blog) defines the issue well, in the very last sentence of the chapter.  Take a look.  
It is convenient to find somebody or something to blame.
Ironically, as I write, the President of Ukraine is in Washington D.C.  Ukraine is a quandary for the peace folks, I know.  It isn’t as easy as it seems to prevail as taking a position such as  just negotiate….
Have a good visit in Cuba.  
And a good Christmas and New Year.


NAZI GERMANY AND THE AMERICA FIRST MOVEMENT PRE WWII.  Finally, I would really urge you to take the time to listen to all eight podcasts at Rachel Maddow’s Ultra, about the very near miss this country faced, nearly succumbing to Fascism in the years preceding our entry into World War II.  It was a very near miss.  I’ve listened to all of the segments in their entirety (each is about 45 minutes) and they are an extraordinary look at our countries history: misuse and abuse of power by influential church and state actors.  To paraphrase Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 book title, “It almost did happen here”.

The entire Jan. 6 Select Committee report, released Dec. 23, 2022, can be accessed here in its entirety (click on “Report” for the entire document.  Personally, I have ordered my own copy.  Publication date apparently is early January.  This is an historic document.


We tend to forget that what happens elsewhere in the world has consequences for us.  We like to pretend that we’re still an isolated island in the greater world, a monolith, sheltered by oceans as boundaries; too easy to forget the consequences of isolationism and U.S. civilian support for the Nazis in the run-up to WWII.

Pretending that we don’t need to engage in helping other people in other countries, regardless of where they are is too often our blind spot.  There is still too much “leave me alone – deal with your own stuff” attitude.  What’s mine is mine, so to speak.

If you watch the news, you know of what I speak.  Refugees at the Mexico-U.S. border; Afghanistan resettlement requests, on and on.


Christmas evening I watched a compelling documentary, “Loan Wolves”, about the crisis in students debt and the reasons for it and why it is a crisis.  I think you can watch it free here.  It is worth your time.  At the end of the film is an extended revelation of interactions involving Sen. Schumer and Sen. Durbin, both Democrats.  The segment hi-lited for me a reality we often forget.  Senators, indeed any elected officials, have immensely complicated jobs, not amenable to simple solutions.  And even if they are of the same party, they are not necessarily fully apprised of their respective positions.


There is no better New Year resolution than to resolve to pay more attention to your role in the success or failure of our society. through the government each of us is responsible for selecting at all levels.


from Bob: Thanks for all the Rachel Maddow podcasts. They are  treasure of American right wing history , mostly disgusting. Hopefully, these times will someday only be like a bad dream, especially if we right our democracy and protect the constitution.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

from Claude: a thought flit into my mind as I was reading today’s headline as I was walking back from the driveway. Stranded travelers during the holidays probably incited more discussion about climate change than several Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) by Just Stop Oil or Extinction Rebellion. 2023 will prove to be an interesting year per the ancient Chinese blessing/curse.


POSTNOTE; Dec. 27: More items, Ringleaders and Foot Soldiers; The Fake Electors Scheme





About noon my time, today, Dec. 19, 2022, the Jan. 6 Select Committee convenes in Washington D.C.  I will watch, as I have watched every one of the public hearings of the committee thus far. (The official website of the committee does not show any scheduled hearing; most public channels will carry the proceedings live.)

As regular readers know by now, it is my habit to write on such things before they happen, rather than after.  I also hesitate to predict outcomes before the fact.

I will order the full report of the Jan. 6 committee.  The final report will  truly be an historical document.  There will be numerous sources – just search “January 6 final report”.


For this morning,  I choose to replay a portion of an earlier post I published on July 24, 2019, still available on line if you wish to access it.  Just go to ARCHIVES at right on this page, and call up the July 2019 calendar.

July 24, 2019 was almost 3 1/2 years ago.  It was 1 1/2 years before Jan. 6, 2021.

7/24/19 I wrote a particularly exasperated post, at the time the Mueller Report on the 2016 election was issued.

I said, then: “My opinion: the [then] President is as close to a common criminal as we have ever had in the highest office in the land.  It is his hope – and that of his fervent supporters – that he will beat the rap by running out the clock and then be reelected under patently false pretenses in 2020.  Others can – and have already – gone to prison.  Not him.  Yet.

A reader responded: “Well Common criminal he may be, but he is the best thing this country has seen since Reagan” and threw in that “Obama and Clinton should be in jail.”


I leave it at that.  What do you think?

Each of us are our government at every level.  Period.

COMMENTS (more at end of post)

from Fred: Another excellent summation by the committee. It is now on the record that a US chief executive has been charged by the legislative branch with insurrection against the America and its citizens. It is recognition very much deserved, the shame of which will stain that former president and his memory as long as there is a United States of America.


“A Stick and a Rock”

PRENOTE: Today is Beethoven’s birthday.  Thanks to Molly for this.  Molly: Celebrate with this (or other) rendition of the 4th movement of his 9th Symphony!


This morning I awoke with one of those unfinished dreams: I was at a conference somewhere and the leader had given us an assignment, to come to the closing session with a stick and a rock.  We were in a country environment, but I wasn’t finding either.   I woke up….

Normally dreams don’t stick, but this one did, and at coffee I kept thinking about the unfound stick and rock, and what the instructors plans were for the upcoming discussion…what did this dream mean?


I’ve started a list and as Christmas (and very cold weather) approaches I offer some thought starters.

My first thought was remembering son Tom’s little canoe, which I watched him whittle out of a small stick in the Quetico Wilderness in 1992.  I asked about the project.  It was for his daughter Lindsay’s 6th birthday, he said.

So far as I know, she still has the keepsake, now 30 years old.


Then I remembered an event, and resulting Christmas card:

It was the snowman I saw at the Pond made famous by Henry David Thoreau, Walden, in the winter of 2000.  Some unknown person or persons adding to an already pleasant winter day in Concord MA.

Snowman at Walden Pond Concord MA 2000


Then came a card this year, the most recent of several, from Joe Stickler, retired Science Professor at Valley City State University, whose brainchild is the very interesting Medicine Wheel and map of the Universe adjacent to I-94 at Valley City ND.  Many years of student and community volunteer work have gone into this great project, this bed of rocks.  If you happen by there, stop.  You won’t regret it.

Medicine Wheel park Valley City ND

Of course, I don’t know if the above were the stuff of my dream last night, but they could well have been.

I have one other memory to add, which is in a file I know I have, somewhere here, but cannot put my hands on it at this moment.

Some years ago, my cousin Jim Pinkney, then a professor at East Carolina University at  Greenville NC, wrote a short essay about the Mandavilla, as it thrived in the shade of their house.   The musing had almost a spiritual cast to it, about the plants strategies for thriving.  When I find the file, I will add it here.  It was memorable enough to keep in a file of its own.  (There are lots of internet references to Mandavilla, if you wish.).  Jim died in 2009; he left this gift behind.


You’ve heard the proverb: “sticks and stones may break my bones”….

Here, I presented four positive ‘sticks and stones’ and I know there are many others that could be on my list, and doubtless on yours as well.  It’s all a matter of perspective.  What does a story like this mean to you?

May this season and the coming year be especially meaningful for you and yours.

Merry Christmas.

Here, preparing for the coldest week of the year so far….

Earlier related posts Dec 7, 10 and 14.

COMMENTS (more at end of post)

from Fred: Didn’t know it was Ludvig’s birthday. I prefer the Third Symphony for the celebration.

from Claude: I think you’d find this 19 page monograph of interest.

To entice you to look at the graphs at least and possibly wade through all 19 pages I’ll paste in the Abstract here:
The human enterprise is in overshoot, depleting essential ecosystems faster than
they can regenerate and polluting the ecosphere beyond nature’s assimilative
capacity. Overshoot is a meta-problem that is the cause of most symptoms of
eco-crisis, including climate change, landscape degradation and biodiversity loss.
The proximate driver of overshoot is excessive energy and material ‘throughput’
to serve the global economy. Both rising incomes (consumption) and population
growth contribute to the growing human eco-footprint, but increasing throughput
due to population growth is the larger factor at the margin. (Egregious and
widening inequality is a separate socio-political problem.) Mainstream approaches
to alleviating various symptoms of overshoot merely reinforce the status quo.
This is counter-productive, as overshoot is ultimately a terminal condition. The
continuity of civilisation will require a cooperative, planned contraction of both
the material economy and human populations, beginning with a personal to
civilisational transformation of the fundamental values, beliefs, assumptions and
attitudes underpinning neoliberal/capitalist industrial society.
Keywords: overshoot; eco-footprint; carrying capacity; sustainability; population;
Recently I’ve increased my interest in the Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion movements as my recent video collages will attest.


Sandy Hook and other Symbols

POSTNOTE Dec 17: Jan. 6 Committee: Mon and Wed Dec 19&21.  These may be televised.

Ten years ago today (Dec 14, 2012) I was at a Twin Cities Shopping Mall where grandson Spencer and Middle School classmates were giving a concert.  Here’s Spencer (at left, in black, with Trombone) and classmates.  Spencer was 12.

Spencer and classmates, Twin Cities, Dec. 14, 2012

Concert over, driving home, came the first radio announcement of the tragedy at Sandy Hook…The horror at Sandy Hook was beginning at exactly the same time as I was watching these Middle Schoolers performing for family and friends.

Today, Spencer is 22, the last four years a Marine.

Where do you stand on the issue amplified by the tragedy of Sandy Hook?  Good beginning resources here and here.


Yesterday President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act, which was passed by the Congress last Thursday.

Count me among the vast majority of Americans who support equality in rights to marry, which Minnesota helped to pioneer in 2013.  Change came in Minnesota primarily through active organizing.  Positive change came by positive action.

I am male.  As such I can’t claim to understand WLGBTQ+ (W = Women).  We are all unique.  Speaking only for myself, for example, the new vocabulary will take time to get accustomed to.  Brittney Griners wife, for example.  Ours is no longer a white man’s world (“white man” is not a monolith0.  It never was, but….  It’s long past time for the playing field to be leveled, equality and respect for all.). Recently via a friend came a link to a brief discussion of the general issue.  You can see it here.


On the same day Congress passed the Marriage bill, the Catholic Diocese newspaper arrived with a half page article Cath Spirit Dec 8 2022  (The on-line article is not identical but basically the same as the print article.  The paper has small circulation compared with the Catholic population.)

In my church, as in all denominations, there is a very thick crust of traditional interpretation.  For instance, I did a quick search about Adam and Eve, probably the traditional Christian (and Jewish and Muslim) basis for all manner of interpretations of marriage and other things, like sin (the book of Genesis).  Long and short, there is no certainty of who authored Genesis, nor when, except it was very long ago, at minimum hundreds of years BC.  Back then issues like gender identity existed but certainly not understood.  Now they are, but still resisted in ways we all know.  Change in attitude is in all of our personal courts.  We are, indeed, the change we wish to see.


About 30 years ago I came into possession of the marriage contract of my first Bernard ancestor in French Canada.  This marriage was in 1730, when to be in Quebec meant to be Catholic.  The actual contract, translated, is here: Catholic Marriage 1730001 .  As I interpret it, the 1730 marriage contract was a civil document first, one of the requirements being later marriage in the Catholic Church.  Essentially, state and church were one in French Canada.

(Included also is record of another marriage record of relatives, in 1883, who were initially married by a Justice of the Peace over 25 years earlier and had ten children – illegitimate in the eyes of the church).  So it went.

Perhaps everything is simply political argument.  People ARE politics, period.

There is hate out there.  It is our job to push back and support equal rights for all.


I could make this post much longer, about Refugees at El Paso; Ukraine; on and on.  Those are for another time.

Today on my daily walk I noted a fellow elder wearing a DAV hat (Disabled American Veteran).  We chatted briefly.  Arthritis makes  a walk of less than a mile a struggle for him, but he marches on.  Later on in the walk a short chat with another walker whose son is in the National Guard.  She worries that he may be deployed.  In my case, the grandson pictured above is completing a four year tour in the U.S. Marines.

Life goes on for all of us.  Below the radar, life as we mostly experience it is pretty good.  It is stressed, no doubt, but we’re surrounded by good people.  We just need to act on the goodness.


Here’s an old penny postcard from the early 1900s, among the Busch farm collection.  This one from Grandma’s sister in Wisconsin, included with a letter, Dec. 10, 1905.  Grandma and Grandpa had married Feb. 28, and Grandma arrived at the new farm a few weeks later, following Grandpa, his brother and his cousin who did the first groundwork at the new place.

All very best wishes at this season.


All best wishes for good Christmas holiday and New Year in 2023.

Nov. 9-13 we were in New York State to help celebrate my sisters 80th birthday.

On a drizzly Nov. 11 seven of us took a day to see part of the Finger Lakes region.  Nearing Ithaca, a sign beckoned a short side trip to see Taughannock Falls, near Cayuga Lake.  It was an impressive site, even on a far less than ideal day, and I took this snapshot of part of the group.  The snap is hardly a prize winner, but thus is the fate of most mere mortal – and memorable – photographs!

Taughannock Falls NY Nov. 11, 2022

Back home I was sorting the remnants of the trip, and noted the New York State Road map I had picked up earlier on the same trip at the Geneva visitor center.  Something was familiar:

A very talented and certainly far better equipped photographer than I had caught the falls on a much better Fall day.  (It was almost impossible to  find the photographer byline on the map, but here he is, Paul Massie.  Wonderful shot.)

Maybe the two photos demonstrate the gap we all experience in our own lives, between the unattainable perfect we imagine, and the real that we experience every day!  Real life seldom even approaches the perfection of advertising.  Even Mother Nature has her dowdy days – witness my snapshot!


I was struck by something else on the map: the obvious slogan: LOVE.

It got me to thinking about how we label people, places and things, including ourselves, and how we use, and interpret, sometimes incorrectly, words expressed, or received….

I’ve very rarely been to New York, but the slogan on the map was very welcoming.  Our experience those few days matched the words.


I’m sufficiently elder so I can be excused for occasionally taking stock of my own life, steps and missteps, indelible history,  good decisions and not….  That’s life for everyone.  The more life, the more experiences.  Between reality and imagination is where we live our lives; perhaps the worst judge of our self is our self.

In another file, recently, I found a poem that I had used in my homemade Christmas card in 1979, which in turn was in a poetry book I still have, which I had purchased for my future spouse, Barbara, in 1961, in Valley City North Dakota,

For some reason, a poem in this book, The Loom of Time, especially spoke to me, even as a 21 year old,  Here it is for your consideration: Loom of Time.

My bank of life experience in 1961 at 21 was less full than it was in 1979 at 39, and certainly far less than 2022 at 82.  Your bank differs from mine, of course, but for all of us the general course is the same.  Life doesn’t stand still.  Live it as best you can.

I found the poem in “The Best Loved Poems of the American People” selected by Hazel Felleman c1936.  Here is the introduction to the book,  itself very interesting.  (The poem referenced at page 323 is entitled “Death”, author “unknown originally, signed “Beatrice”.)

Be kind to yourself and to others.  All very best wishes for the season and the New Year.

POST NOTE: In the Archive for Dec 7 2022 I have a post on my Uncle Frank, who died on the USS Arizona Dec 7 1941.

COMMENTS (more at end of post):

from Judy: Thank you Dick for this wonderful piece.  I hope you continue to stay well.   I so often think of what both Michael and Joseph would have to say about the place the United States has come to be.

from SAK: Many thanks for that poem The Loom of Time you used in a Christmas card & which you found in a book you offered your then future spouse. The poem brought a few things to mind.

For one thing its author remains unknown which reminds me of all the unsigned icons and something a teacher once told us at the end of the course: plant trees you will not sit under.

The poem also suggests in part something Kierkegaard wrote: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”. Now I don’t speak Danish but it sounded nice: “Livet må forstås baglæns, men må leves forlæns.”

Thanks for your good wishes & may I reciprocate wishing you a Merry Christmas & a New Year free of major health worries but full of joy – & hopefully, for our greater pleasure, bloggings!

from Rich:  I will share this [Mormon Tabernacle Choir] with you because of your spiritual and ethical compass. I have alway like this text because of what I consider to be very ecumenical and inclusive. The Mormon Tab Choir “performed regularly” in our family’s living room in Minot … especially at Christmas. Unforgettable.  Be good to yourself and enjoy every day.  Another Tabernacle offering from Rich here.

from Brian: Love the Finger Lakes region!  Dick, thanks for sharing.

from Steve: Dick, It’s not the size of the waterfall or the brilliance of the exposure that’s important. It’s the memory of the moment and the impression the image leaves in your mind. I loved the photo and the gray day.


Frank Bernard

Today is the 81st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.  Dad’s brother, my Uncle Frank, was one of those killed aboard the USS Arizona.

Best I know, at this writing, there are only two USS Arizona survivors still living.  Frank died at 26, he would be 107 if still alive.  He would have been a relatively senior crew man on the ship.

Uncle Frank has been a frequent subject at this space.  Enter search words Pearl Harbor and you’ll find over 60 posts going back to 2009.  Many of these were full posts, the primary dozen or so on or near December 7.  Most reference Uncle Frank.

Today’s post is unique, with all new content, specifically material from people who were on the Arizona or at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, at least two who remember Frank as colleagues on the ship, one of them in the same work group, living/working in the same part of the ship.

What follows is information from personal interviews or letters from colleague sailors from 1982 to 1997.  Those who shared information with me were all seamen at Pearl Harbor Dec 7, 1941,  (included is the date of their communication with me): Ross Miller, Harrisonville MO, ship fitter on the USS Arizona 1936-40 (Dec 1993 letter and 3-7-94 in-person interview); Guy Flanagan, St. Paul MN, a young Ensign who came aboard the Arizona a few months before Dec. 7 (9-17-82 in person); Vincent (Jim) Vlach, Riverside CA, seaman assigned to Executive Office of the Arizona for most of the time between 1936 and December 7 (letter 6-14-92); Chris Stapleton, Rochester MN, a survivor of the sinking of the USS Oklahoma which was near the Arizona (letter 7-11-97); and Charley Walters, Minneapolis, a Seaman on the USS Phoenix, a cruiser berthed near the Arizona which survived,  later sold to Argentina, later renamed the General Belgrano, and sunk May, 1982, in the Falkland War with England.  323 died (5-20-82 in person).

Here is one of many photos I have of Uncle Frank.  It is undated, certainly in Honolulu, which in 1940 had about 250,000 population, today about a million.

I had provided this photo and other materials about Frank to all of those listed above.  From Jim Vlach:The more I look at the picture of Frank holding the pineapples…I realize that I do recognize him.”

Jim was one of the office personnel who would deal with sailors for various reasons, such as shore leave and personnel records.  (In my own Army days I was a Company Clerk – the same kind of duty as Jim.)

The below comments reflect the thoughts of the seamen I heard from.

The Crew of the Arizona:  The crew was young men “from 18-30”,  according to Ross Miller.  Guy Flanagan, a young ensign assigned to the Arizona a few months before Dec 7, said that there was constant turnover, as the Arizona was a ship which did a lot of training of new seamen.

Vlach said “The 1177 KIA [killed in action]…represented 78% of the [Arizona] crew & about 1/2 the casualties suffered by the U.S. on Dec 7th 1941.”  

The history: It is easy to forget that before Dec. 7, the nation was not at war.

Pearl Harbor marked the entrance of the U.S. into WWII.  War also contributed to the end of the Great Depression, and the resulting war-time economy and accompanying restrictions.

Chris Stapleton said of Navy service: “I appreciated the food as I had joined the USN in July, 1940 because I was jobless, broke and hungry.  Many other sailors of the 1930s preferred shipboard life to being an unemployed civilian.”

Uncle Frank had in fact been part of a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) crew at Medora ND before being accepted for the Navy in 1935.

Vlach: “Frank’s sacrifice helped to awaken this sleeping country of ours from its isolationist viewpoint. Members of the crew were from every state, some from Guam, Canada, the Philippines & one from China.”

Stapleton remembered shore leave and the Iolani Palace because “it had an iron picket fence” as shown in the photo.

“Those choice looking pineapples reminded me of another favorite liberty spot in Honolulu – the Dole canning plant.  Sailors could go there and drink all the pineapple juice they could hold – free!”  

Of course, certainly sailors sought out other entertainment on shore leave….

The three I interviewed in person all remembered that talk at the time was that there was trouble ahead, without knowing any specifics.  This would be normal scuttlebutt.  Military men do not command themselves, and do whatever order comes their way from the next level up.  There apparently weren’t many premonitions about Pearl Harbor being attacked,  even though Pearl was packed with U.S. warships which were all sitting ducks.  Everyone apparently thought Pearl Harbor was easy to defend, and they were out of range of any enemy.

We tend to forget in these days how primitive communications were even in 1941.  Hindsight says that command all the way up was naive.  I think the U.S. was just acting on the basis of what they knew, which was much less than today.

Aboard the Ship: Ross Miller, who both wrote me and I interviewed in person at his home in Missouri, actually was in the same unit aboard ship as Uncle Frank from mid 1938-40.  He came aboard the Arizona in May 1937.  From his letter in 1993:

“I was in carpenter shop and Frank your uncle was ship fitting shop in the same division (R).  ship repair and damage control.  He worked with metal welding, replacing gaskets on hatch and doors watertight…air test and general upkeep.  Similar to a blacksmith.  I was what they called a wood butcher or carpenter.  Boat repair and general maintenance.  Frank was 3/C  (third class) and I was [also] 3/C.  He had 2/C before I was discharged in December 13, 1940, at Bremerton WA…His living quarters was 2nd deck between #1 an #2 turret on port side.  We sleep on army cots in the workshop…Your uncle was very personable person although I can’t put everything together.  We had lots of sports and movies on quarter deck or on fantail.  Your uncle was well liked and enjoyed himself and others.  We always had a coffee pot on in ship fitting shop.  Our clothes locker was about 2 ft by 3 ft and you had a sea bag which stored on third deck.  Our general quarters station was on third deck ammunition…We stood watch in fresh water hole…Our battle station was on third deck.”

What lay ahead? Frank Bernards Future.  Jim Vlach recommended an excellent book, which I refer to often: “Arizona, An Illustrated History” by Paul Stillwell.  The book has an immense amount of detail, including where the ship was, except for November through Dec. 7, 1941, which records went down with the ship.

During Frank Bernard’s time aboard the Arizona, the most common ports of call were San Pedro (near Long Beach), Puget Sound (Bremerton WA) and Pearl Harbor.

Until August 12, 1931, when it transited the Panama Canal into the Pacific, the warship had basically been on the east coastal area of the U.S.  Much of the then-American fleet went to the Pacific at the same time as the Arizona.

The book records that 21 October 1940 through 19 January 1941, the Arizona was at Puget Sound, Bremerton, Washington, probably for routine maintenance and updating.

On November 7, 1941, about 10 months after Bremerton and one month before December 7, Uncle Frank typewrote a letter to his brother, my Dad, which appears in its entirety here: Bernard Frank Nov 7 1941.  Note especially the second paragraph, about “the little girl up in Washington”.

I have always wondered who “the little girl up in Washington” was….  And as people and as a nation and world have we learned any enduring lessons in the succeeding 81 years?

My model of the USS Arizona, in wood, with great thanks to colleague Bob Tonra (RIP) who completed it ca 1996.  It’s in my home office, behind me as I type this post.

POSTNOTE: Unrelated new post about Labor Relations published yesterday.  Of course, I’m well aware of the action at Congress yesterday honoring the Capitol Police; and the election results last night in Georgia.  We have a lot to learn.  Are we open to learning?

COMMENTS: (more at end of post)

from Fred:  Always enjoy reading about your uncle. He was about the same age of my three uncles who served in WW2, two in the army and one in the navy. They all returned and led long and productive lives.

I have often thought about those killed in war and wondered about lives cut short. In a prominent place in a bookcase, there is the photo I took of French monument to the war dead. It is tiny Avallon, France. A soldier in Alpine winter dress stands over the body of a fallen comrade, while stoically staring into the distance. It is the only depiction like this I’ve seen. It is very moving.

from Dennis: On our first visit to Hawaii a few decades ago, Nickie and I added a stop-over on Oahu so that we could spend some time at Pearl Harbor – a very important part of our nation’s history. A significant portion of our visit was spent at the Arizona Memorial – a very sad tribute to so many lost lives. Thanks for sharing about your uncle.


Labor Relations

Dec. 2, a bill was signed by President Biden ending a threatened strike by railroad workers nationwide.  For anyone with any interest in Labor Relations generally, this is an opportunity to get a notion of issues and how they are resolved.  The railroad legislation is well summarized here.

As one whose full-time job was Labor Relations, for 27 years, every labor issue is, from the advocates point of view, ‘clear’.  But different constituencies have differing points of view, on virtually every issue, every time.  The railroad issue is no different; only the scale is much greater.


On a similar note, in mid-November a colleague sent along a recent and interesting video about the 1970 Minneapolis Teachers Strike, presented from the point of view of then-leaders and members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.

I forwarded the video to former staff and teacher union colleagues with some personal comments relating to Labor Relations in the public school teacher sector back then.  If you are a former teacher, particularly in Minnesota, particularly if you were active in either Association or Federation back then, this writeup and the video may be of interest to you.

My friend and organization colleague, sent me the below….  The video, here,  is about 30 minutes and interesting.  It was made this year.  I think you’ll find this interesting.


Of course, not all is quite as simple as it seems.  At the time, there were two teacher unions in Minneapolis and Minnesota, the MEA and the MFT [Education Association and Federation of Teachers].  I wrote about the Minneapolis and other strikes in 1988, 34 years ago.  Those memories are here: Teacher Strikes MN 1946 to 1980s.
The bargaining law (PELRA) was passed in 1971. Not 1972 or 73 as suggested in the video.  PELRA did indeed replace Meet and Confer, derisively called “Bring and Beg”, passed in 1967, which was an essential preliminary to legislating collective bargaining law in Minnesota, and a big improvement in the status quo: a bipartisan creation in the state legislature of the time.  Simply stated, state lawmakers had to be convinced to allow teachers to organize and bargain enforceable contracts.  This was not. easy.
Personally, I became active in the Anoka-Hennepin Education Association in 1968-69 as a building rep.  In about 1971 I was part of a Team that was in Meet and Confer and we met in the Adjustment Panel at the office of Leonard Lindquist, then a major labor lawyer in downtown Minneapolis.  I had a chance to witness, first hand, the potential and the limits of Meet and Confer.
Subsequently, in 1981, the right to strike was added to PELRA, and 35 MEA locals went on strike.  (In 1979, I was the President of the MEA stuff union when we went on strike against MEA, a truly unique situation.)
As you probably know, at the time of the Minneapolis Strike, and likely still, there were two sets of laws in Minnesota for public education.  One was for the Cities of the First Class (Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth); the other for the rest of the state, from large urban to tiny rural school districts.  Labor problems were not easily dealt with particularly in small communities, where all politics was local and very personal; the big cities schools were more attached to the political structure of the cities themselves – mayors, council and the like had much more power.  
Meet and Confer, in my opinion, was a necessary pre-cursor to the more major change to PELRA.
Take the time to read the attached pages about the Minneapolis Strike.  They add to the most interesting film of the old days.
Many thanks, again.”