Have a good Memorial Day. This morning (beginning 9:30 a.m.) I’ll be at the Vietnam Memorial on the MN State Capitol grounds for the annual Vets for Peace Memorial Day observance. Stop over, if you’re in the area. (See end of this post.)
This Memorial Day musing began with an unplanned detour on a north suburban Minneapolis highway on May 18, and concluded with a powerful musical May 26, about a post WWI farm family and community in northern Minnesota.
I hope my musing might bring back to you some memories from days past. All families have legacies which we inherit, and pass on…. (My own family list is at the end of this post.)
(click to enlarge the map, click a second time for greater enlargement, explanation below)
Some days ago I drove to an annual dinner in my old stomping grounds of Anoka County MN. Road work required a detour, and I found myself on Minnesota Highway 65 in Blaine MN, a route to/from work, which I had traveled daily for three years, 1966-69. The approximate six miles, from about 80th Ave NE in Spring Lake Park (1st Ave is downtown Minneapolis) to what used to be called 125th (Main Street east from Anoka) came on this day to be a reflective trip for me – a time to reminisce.
These days, the route is strictly suburban, and middle class; home to the world known National Sports Center. Back then, near 50 years ago, Blaine was just developing. Small tract starter homes were blooming west of the highway, ending about at 109th as I recall. To the east and north were essentially nothing but sod farms, and occasional small businesses and rural homes of the day.
I crossed Clover Leaf Parkway at about 94th Avenue NE, and remembered that back then I saw the large barn of Clover Leaf Farms, then a well known company name in the Twin Cities. The farm is long disappeared, but there remains an interesting history of the place here.
This is how history comes back to mind, unintended. The past is never that far gone.
As I drove up that stretch of “65” (as locals would say), I was listening to Vol IV of a CD collection from the 100th anniversary collection of the Minnesota Orchestra: it had been an impulse purchase at a garage sale a short time earlier. Playing as I drove that stretch was Mozart’s Piano Concerto #25 in C Major – a personal favorite. I stopped at Roosevelt Middle School, the place where I had been a teacher from 1965-72, and looked to see when the selection I was listening to had been recorded. Nov. 15, 1957, it said. I remembered Nov. 1957 in my life: we were at my Grandparents farm in Henrietta Township ND, probably at Thanksgiving, and in the evening we gathered on the lawn to watch Sputnik blink its way across the night sky – in those years, the newspaper printed the track of that first satellite in their areas.
I was a senior in high school.
in 1957, “CDs” were many years from becoming part of our vocabulary; now that same CD is rapidly becoming just another fossil. The computer on which I compose this blog, doesn’t even have a CD player as part of standard equipment.
Ah, Sputnik…it gave fuel to the space race and a real emphasis on science in American schools, and all of the other assorted things, good and bad, that went with the Cold War. Ah, CD’s….
Back home a few days later I was looking through a bag with some remaining items from my Grandfather Ferd and then Uncle Vincent’s desk at that farm, and came across several old road maps I had found there after Uncle Vince died. One of them, a well worn one of Iowa roads and towns in 1940, included the map of the U.S. which leads this post. This was, of course, printed long before the Interstate Highway System, which was designed as America’s autobahns, first and foremost a military defense highway system. I first drove on a section of Interstate in 1958, between Jamestown and Valley City ND. “A million dollars a mile”, they said of its cost, then.
My trip down memory lane, at least this trip, culminated last Friday night when we went to see “Sweet Land, the Musical” at Minnesota History Theatre. We were part of a packed house. Its last show was yesterday, though my guess is that it will be back. But you can still access the movie of the same name, or read Will Weaver’s short story which inspired both film and musical, “A Gravestone Made of Wheat”
Short synopsis: Sweet Land is of the triumphs, trials and tribulations of small farmers in Minnesota, from post WWI when a German war-bride came to marry a Norwegian farmer, when anti-German prejudice was still very high. Years later, the intended husband helped save a neighbors farm, and the community in turn helped them save his own farm. It is story of humanity, about greed and about generosity and the tension between invaluable legacy and valuable land. A further history summary of the era, from the program for Sweet Land, is here: Sweet Land001
The show begins with a for sale sign on the property, whose owners have died; it ends with the land not for sale…. I thought of my own families 110 year old farm which recently has begun a new life in North Dakota.
I thought of all of the inhabitants of that farm, now all but one deceased, and those of the neighbor farm whose owners were brother and sister of my own grandparents.
For this Memorial Day, I remember all of those people who lived for all or part of their lives on that land in rural LaMoure County North Dakota. May we be good examples of their raising us up.
The children of Ferdinand and Rosa (Berning) Busch: (born 1907-27) Lucina, Esther, Verena, Mary, George (Lt., U.S. Navy, Pacific Theatre 1943-45), Florence, Edithe, Vincent, Arthur (U.S. Army 1945-46).
The children of August and Christina (Busch) Berning: (born ca 1907-28) Irwin, Irene, Lillian, Cecilia, Rose, August (Captain U.S. Marines, Pacific Theatre WWII), Hyacinth, Ruth, Ruby, Rufina, Anita, Melvin (U.S. Army, Korea).
These families felt the cost of war. The husband of one was killed over Italy near the end of WWII; the son of another committed suicide on return from Korean war – he couldn’t leave the war behind; the brother-in-law of another, my uncle Frank, went down with the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor; a neighbor of the family, Francis Long, was killed in action, hardly a year into active duty in WWII. Everyone is affected by war. This day the tendency is to honor the fallen, who we call “heroes”. But among us are survivors, suffering in assorted ways from the effects of war. War is insane. We need to work very hard to rid ourselves of the impulse of war as a solution to problems.
And there are other true heroes who have committed their lives to finding some ways to seek peace.
Last night we watched the always moving Memorial Day program on PBS. At the end of the program Vanessa Williams and choral group sang the Hymn which captioned my 1982 Christmas greeting. Below is the cover, and here is the text of that card: Vietnam Mem DC 1982001
from Donna: Thanks for your inspirational words once again. This Memorial Day I am thinking of my relatives in Germany where my daughter and sister are currently visiting. Rich and I had the opportunity to visit them in southern Germany last October and it is amazing how welcoming they all were. While there I could not imagine leaving the beauty of southern Germany and arriving in North Dakota. It must have been a rude awakening that first winter. I expressed this to one of my cousins from Germany and he said “well if they hadn’t left they would most certainly been part of World War I & II”. Apparently during WWII my relatives would draw around their feet and then send their foot outlines to my dad and he would send back shoes. Growing up in an the all German community of St. Mary’s I am sure that all of our neighbors and friends had family back in Germany that were caught up in the two wars.
from Annelee (who grew up in Nazi Germany): Dick,Thanks for the Peace and Justice memorial Day 2017. I learned a great deal about the past as you took us down along the highways of memory lane. You brought alive the toils and struggles of your ancestral families on the farms. Then they were asked to give their sons. They were called to serve and they gave their lives.
Times have changed, some for better, some for much worse. Young men throughout the world since then have died and are still dying to serve a cause?
I remember my papa: I don’t know where he read, heard or came to the conclusion on his own.
He always said when our young men were called during WWII, and he learned that that many he knew had died — he shook his head and said
“WAR IS INSANITY AND INHUMANITY OF MEN TO HIS FELLOW MEN— I MAY NOT REMEMBER IT EXACTLY.
WAR IS STILL GOING ON, AND IT WILL CONTINUE AS LONG AS WAR AND ITS COST ARE GLORIFIED AND WE NEGLECT LIFE AND ALL ITS BLESSING PEACE COULD BRING.
from Christina: What great thoughts for this Memorial Day!
Veterans for Peace at Vietnam Memorial on MN State Capitol Grounds, May 29, 2017.
It was a chilly, blustery day, but there was a large group who gathered. Below are a few photos from the annual gathering.