Franco-Fete in Villes Jumelles (the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul) September 28-30, 2012

UPDATE Sep 12, 2012: Here’s an interesting hour with samples of Le Vent du Nord music and discussion of Franco-Fete on Bonjour Minnesota radio program Sep 11, 2012.
CONTACT INFORMATION: Check in occasionally. Scroll to end of this post.
Francophone, Francophile, French-Canadian ancestry…or know someone who is, or is interested? Consider passing this post along, about a very special event in Minneapolis September 28-30, 2012. That’s only two weeks away. Home website is here.

(click on all photos to enlarge them)

Statue of Pioneers corner of Marshall and Main Street NE, Minneapolis, less than a mile from the conference venue.

reverse side of Pioneer Statue

In 1980, the United States Census asked, for the last time, a question about the ethnic background of Americans.
That year, 7.9% of Minnesotans- 321,087 persons, one of every 12 citizens – declared themselves to be a least partially of French (France and/or French-Canadian) ancestry. Neighboring Wisconsin counted 7.3% Wiconsinites of such ancestry and many other states had very significant numbers of persons in this category. Fr-Can in U.S. 1980001
It is this base, and any of those with an interest in the French language and cultural influence, who will want to set aside the end of September, 2012, for the first-ever Franco-Fete in Minneapolis.
All details, including registration information, are on the web here.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: The agenda continues to evolve. Even if you’ve checked before, check back again to get a more complete picture of the entire conference. The music and meal programs especially should be reserved now as we anticipate very significant interest both Friday and Saturday evening.
Franco-Fete will include all the elements of a fine program: family, food, fun…along with academics, history, music…
This will be the first such Fete in Minneapolis-St. Paul, but is not a first ever venture.
Leader Dr. Virgil Benoit, French-Canadian (Franco-American), professor of French at the University of North Dakota and a lifelong part of the Red Lake Falls MN community, has been putting together similar festivals for over 35 years in various places in Minnesota and North Dakota. Dr. Benoit is a professor of diverse talents and great skill, as well as having great passion for the culture and language of his birth.
This years conference will be the largest and most ambitious thus far. Most likely it will be continued in subsequent years.

Virgil Benoit ca 2008 compliments of Anne Dunn

There are two major venues for this years Conference:
Our Lady of Lourdes Church, since 1877 the spiritual home of Minneapolis French-Canadians, will be the venue for Friday night Sep 28. The below photo, taken ca 1968, shows Lourdes as it was before the development of Riverplace around it in the early 1980s.)
DeLaSalle High School, a few short blocks from Lourdes on Nicollet Island in the Mississippi River, and within a short walk of downtown Minneapolis, will be the venue for all of Saturday Sep 29 programs.
On Sunday, September 30, at noon, the French-speaking congregation at St. Boniface Catholic Church in nearby northeast Minneapolis, will host those who wish to experience the Catholic Mass in French. This community, largely immigrants from African countries with French colonial overlays, is a vibrant French-speaking community in the midst of the Twin Cities. While not a formal part of the conference, we urge participants to take part in this ending celebration.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Minneapolis, 1968

Our Lady of Lourdes, August 7, 2012

DeLaSalle High School, Nicollet Island, Minneapolis MN

Fr. Jules Omalanga, pastor St. Boniface Catholic Church, Minneapolis, after Mass March 25, 2012

After a sit-down supper at Our Lady of Lourdes on Friday Sep 28, and tour of the church, noted musician Dan Chouinard and friends will give a concert in the sanctuary of the Church.
On Saturday evening Sep 29 the noted Quebec band Le Vent du Nord will do music workshops and a music program at DeLaSalle. They are internationally noted, and one of Canada’s most popular ensembles. (The web page can also be accessed in French.) UPDATE: More on the Le Vent du Nord event here.. Tickets can also be purchased on-line here. The evening program begins at 5:30 p.m.
The St. Boniface Francophone Choir of Minneapolis, Dan Chouinard and others will also be part of this evening extravaganza.

And Sunday Sep 30 at noon, the community at St. Boniface will host all for Catholic Mass in French.
Again, Franco-Fete is only two weeks away!
Now is the time to enroll.

NOTE: You can find many related commentaries using search word Quebec or French-Canadian. Or enter any of the following numbers in the search box and click enter: (Each has a basis in French-Canadian or Quebec) #15 Grandpa; 28 Weller; 43 Fathers Day; 280; 306; 313; 388; 449; 450; 459; 481; 486; 510; 550; 573; 582; UPDATE Sep 5: 585; 610; Aug. 17, 2012; Sep. 1, 2012;
You are invited to submit your own commentaries, either as a distinct blog post, or as a comment to be added here.

General, local contact:
Dick Bernard
cell 651-334-5744 (leave message, with return phone #).
Specific, including interview requests:
Dr. Virgil Benoit
University of ND at Grand Forks
toll-free: 855-864-2634

Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette about July 12, 1869

Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette married at St. Anthony of Padua in then-St. Anthony, now-Minneapolis MN July 12, 1869. In 1871 the City Directory showed them, and the rest of Collette family, living at what is now the corner of SE 2nd Street and SE 6th Avenue at what is now a block or two from Father Hennepin Park and Minneapolis’ Stone Arch Bridge, and perhaps three blocks from I-35E bridge. More here.
Additional information for those with a continuing interest in matters French-Canadian are invited to visit here. This space will be updated and may well become a continuing presence for those with an interest.

#585 – Dick Bernard: Visiting History

Some months ago a cousin I’d never met in person, JoAnn (Wentz) Beale, wrote from California, suggesting that we get together when she came to an event in her home town of Grafton ND. It was a great idea. Her grandmother, Elize Collette Wentz, and my grandmother, Josephine Collette Bernard, were siblings, raised on the home farm, still owned by Maurice D. and Isabell Collette, just west of Sacred Heart Church in Oakwood. Maurice is the son of Elize and Josephine’s youngest sibling, Alcide.
JoAnn and I spent the better part of an afternoon and early evening visiting the sites of our Collette family history.
It was a most enriching day.
Maurice D showed us around, and JoAnn posed on the site of the Collette home which was occupied from about 1885 till 1978, when Collette’s built a new home just to the south. Here’s JoAnn, June 25, 2012, on the site of the old house. (click to enlarge)

JoAnn Beale on the site of the Octave and Clotilde Collette home, Oakwood ND June 25, 2012

I found a few earlier photos from that same farm yard a few years earlier:

1954 photo, Unlabelled photo summer lunch in the farmyard just to the south of the old house. Apparent identities as known. Isabel Collette probably took the photograph. At right: Bonnie and Maurice Collette; at the end Margaret (Krier) and Alcidas Corriveau; (couple in between not known); at left Beatrice and Alcide Collette; at end of the table Josephine and Henry Bernard. The other persons are not known, and the photo is not labelled.

Alcide and Beatrice Collette with Donald David, in the farmhouse, probably in 1956.

Photo old Maurice D Collette house with new house in background. Photo taken in 1979, looking southeast; new house was built in 1977-78. Old house was torn down about 1981.

JoAnn and I spent time, of course, in and around the magnificent Sacred Heart Church, which is due to be closed within the next two years. I’ve put together a small Facebook album of photographs taken on June 25 here. That’s Maurice D. Collette with JoAnn in one of the photos in front of the church. (The entire Centennial History of the parish, from 1981, can be accessed here.)
I’ve been to Oakwood many times, but until June 25 had never actively sought out the site of the old St. Aloysius School, and found it, at least as represented in the driveway and the flagpole, and the lumber used to build two homes on the site, about a block north of the church. Across the street remains the Grotto. All these are in the Facebook album.
We had a cool drink with Maurice in the tavern across the street from the Church, then took a little tour and back to Grafton.
Before dinner, I took a solitary drive to see the little house at 738 Cooper, the only place I ever knew as my grandparent Bernard’s home.
This time, for the first time in my life, there was no house there.

former 739 Cooper Avenue, Grafton ND, June 25, 2012

It caused me to think back to other photos of other times at that little house down the block from the Court House in Grafton.

Henry and Josephine at 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton, probably early in the 1940s

Grandpa and Grandma on the front porch, probably late 1940s. Here's where they watched the world go by, at least on Cooper Avenue.

Grandma Bernard "myself in the kitchen" at 738 Cooper.

Undated photo of a meal in the living room at 738 Cooper. Note photo of their son Frank Bernard on the wall behind them.

In the last photo, I can’t help but think of the time, at Thanksgiving I think, where Grandpa, among other occupations an old lumberjack, taught we kids how to clean our plates…by licking his own plate clean. My guess is that Grandma Josephine had a bit of advice for him later, but the memory was cemented in our mind. Ah the memories….
Grandpa had an immense amount of pride in his service in the Spanish-American War in the Philippines, 1898-99. Down the block from 738 Cooper was the monument to his unit in that War. Five of his comrades died in a battle at Paete P.I., and apparently two more died shortly after returning home. They are reflected on the monument, which was raised in 1900.
Here is one photo of the monument. A few others are here, on Facebook.

Spanish-American War monument at the Walsh County Court House, June 25, 2012. In front of the monument is a smaller monument to those who served in other wars. Let us work for Peace.

There is a necessary postnote to this post on a family history.

We cannot escape the reality of getting older. The wonderful lady who really helped give me much impetus to begin this family history years ago is very near going into a nursing home at age 92. I visited her on this trip. When I began this journey 32 years ago, she was a huge resource. Now she is completely vulnerable, confused, cannot live alone, and is obviously scared of what is a necessary change for her.
Others who helped with the history have died; still others are very ill.
This trip, and the great meeting with my cousin from California, remind me that if there is work to be done on family matters, now, not tomorrow or next month or next year, is the time to do it. We just don’t know when it will be too late.
Thanks, JoAnn, for the idea of (as my Dad liked to say) “a face-off”!

Winding down after a most enriching day travelling the "roots road": center is JoAnn (Wentz) Beale, at right, Dick Bernard, at left JoAnn's cousin Kasey (Kouba) Ponds. At the Market Place on 8th in Grafton, June 25, 2012

#582 – Dick Bernard: The Street

“Back in the day”, my Grandpa Henry Bernard (born on a farm in Quebec in 1872) spent most of his adult life in Grafton ND.
He came to Grafton area with a first grade education and carpentry as a trade but had a particular gift for figuring out how mechanical things work. For years he was chief engineer of the local flour mill, and long-time volunteer and President of the local fire department and the guy, the Grafton history notes, who drove the first motorized fire truck to Grafton from somewhere.
Both my Grandpa’s had inquiring minds – Grandpa Busch was a farmer with a couple of patents – but he didn’t have easy access to the streets of any big town.
Grandpa Bernard did, and in retirement he loved to “kibitz” or be a “sidewalk superintendent” in his town of several thousand. Most times it was on his bench on the front stoop of their tiny home at 738 Cooper Avenue. Sometimes it was watching the action elsewhere in town.
There exists a wonderful film clip from a day in 1949 which includes him watching a crew lay a concrete section of street in Grafton (here, beginning at about 4:15. He even merits a subtitle!). In the fashion of the day, he was dressed up. He was a common man, but when you went out, you dressed up!
Paving that street in Grafton was the ‘street theater’ of the day!
I think of that vignette because for the last week or so the crews have been in our neighborhood rebuilding our street – the first time in about 20 years.
(click on photos to enlarge)

Romeo Road, Woodbury, mid-June, 2012

Such projects are essential nuisances to folks on the street, but a change in routine.
Kibitzing a few days ago, a neighbor and I were wondering why they replaced some sections of curb and not others, so we went to look (cracks were the villains, mostly).
Some unlucky folks had the entryway to their driveway blocked for a few days because their section of curb had to be replaced.
As I write, the street is prepared, and repaving is about to be begin, but early Tuesday morning came another inconvenience. The neighbors across the street – the ones who couldn’t get into their driveway for a few days – had another unfortunate happening.
Early on June 19 came those violent winds, and one of their trees blew over, blocking that driveway again….

Early morning June 19, 2012

Its all better now. The tree was rapidly removed, and life goes on.
We have assorted complaints, of course, but work crews are doing their work very efficiently, and somebody somewhere in our communities did the planning, letting of contracts, etc., etc., etc. None of us had to worry about this planning and implementation.
Yes, we’ll have to pay an assessment, but it’s a small price to pay as part of our community.
And a bonus is the chance to re-view Grandpa Bernard in action at 77 years of age, now 63 years ago.
I wonder what he could have been able to do had he been able to pursue an education.
He died in 1957 when I was 17.
I’ll visit his and Grandma’s and others graves in Grafton and Oakwood ND next Monday.
Thanks for the memories.

#573 – Dick Bernard: Three Memories on Memorial Day 2012. Frank Peter Bernard, Henry Bernard and Patricia Krom

I’m at the age where death is an increasingly regular visitor to my circles. This Memorial Day three deaths come to mind.
The first came when I was 1 1/2 years old, when my Uncle Frank Peter Bernard went down on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor HI. He was 26 years old, and I had “met” him in Long Beach CA five months earlier, at the end of June, 1941.
(click on photos to enlarge them)

Henry Sr, Josephine, Josie, Frank Peter, Richard, Henry and Esther Bernard, Long Beach CA late June, 1941

I’m the family historian, and I recall no talk, ever, about any kind of funeral or memorial service for Frank.
He was from Grafton, ND. On Dec. 7, 1941, his brother, my Dad, was a teacher in the rural ND country school called Rutland Consolidated; his sister lived in Los Angeles; and his parents were wintering in Long Beach CA. Indeed, according to my Dad, they were not sure, for some time, whether or not Frank was dead. His good boyhood and Navy friend, John Grabanske, was reported to have died, though later was found to be very much alive (and lived on, well into his 80s). Here’s my Dad’s recollection, as recounted by myself 50 years after Pearl Harbor: Bernard H Pearl Harbor001
The closest I have to a “memory card” about a formal remembering of Uncle Frank is a long article in the February 17, 1942 Grand Forks (ND) Herald, reporting on a large ND picnic somewhere in the Los Angeles area on about February 12, 1942. Such picnics were common in those days – a gathering of winterers and transplants.
There is a poignant passage which I quote here in part: “A touching incident occurred during the program. [The counsel for the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles] read a press report telling of the death of a young man of Polish descent at Pearl Harbor, the young man being a native of the Grafton area. When he had finished reading a man and his wife arose in the audience, the man asking if he might interrupt for just a moment…the man [my grandfather] said the report of the boy’s death later was found to be in error, but that the man actually killed at Pearl Harbor was the pal of the boy mentioned in the first press report. “The boy killed,” said the man, “was our son!”…The entire audience arose and stood in silence for a moment in honor of the dead hero and the parents who made the sacrifice.”
Uncle Frank’s grave, on the USS Arizona, is probably among the most visited cemeteries in the world. I know his sister, my Aunt Josie, visited there in 1969, but my Dad and his parents never had that opportunity.
The next funeral I remember is for that same Grandfather of mine, who died May 23, 1957 at age 85. I was 17.
His funeral was in Grafton, on May 25, 1957, and many people came to his funeral.
Grandpa was a Spanish-American War Veteran, Philippines, 1898-99. We still have the flag in recognition of his service.
It has 48 stars. Alaska and Hawaii had not yet been admitted as states. It is the flag we raised on a flagpole the family purchased at Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL, after Dad died in 1997. We raised the flag on Memorial Day, 1998, dedicating it to Grandpa’s sons, my Dad and Uncle Frank. (Here’s an interesting piece of research about percent of Americans who actually serve in the Military)

Dedication of flagpole with Grandpa Bernards 48 star flag, Memorial Day, 1998, Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL

Plaque for the Our Lady of the Snows flagpole, 1998

Time passes on, many more deaths and remembrances of all assorted kinds.
The most recent came on May 19, 2012, in Langdon ND, a memorial service for my cousin Patricia (Brehmer) Krom. Pat actually passed away in Las Vegas on January 25, and there was a memorial service there at that time, but the Langdon area was her home, and my Uncle Vince and I went up for the Memorial Service.
All funerals are alike; all funerals are very different. Pat’s was no exception.
I doubt I will ever forget the eulogy at Pat’s Memorial, given by her husband of 42 years, Kent.
He retraced two lives together in a truly memorable way, one which any one in any relationship for any length of time could immediately relate to; from the first awkward dance at Langdon High School, to her death at only 62 years of age.

Pat Brehmer Krom's life, May 19, 2012

The details are unimportant, except for one which I will always remember. As I recall it, regardless of how their day might have gone, it was a frequent occurrence for exchange of a simple expression of affection: “I love you Kent Krom”; “I love you Pat Brehmer”.
Can’t get better than that.
Arriving back in LaMoure, before I left for home, I picked up a new flag for the flagpole at Vince and Edith’s residence, Rosewood Care Center.
Friday, May 25, at 10:30, they dedicated the new flag to the memory of Patricia Brehmer Krom.
Happy Memorial Day.

Spring at Redeemer Cemetery near Dresden ND May 19, 2012 near the grave of Mary and Allen Brehmer

Memorial Day, which began as Decoration Day in post-Civil War times, has a long history. Ironically, it was born of what was likely America’s deadliest war ever (in terms of casualties related to the entire population). Americans slaughtered other Americans.
Here are some impressions of today received from individuals. Possibly because the day has an over 140 year history, and because the means of war has changed so much in recent years, making war almost impersonal (see the Pew Research above), there are differing interpretations of what Memorial Day means: is it an event to be solemnly remembered, enjoyed, celebrated, etc.?
How we look differently at the meaning of Memorial Day is good reason for increased conversation among people with differing points of view.
From Susan Lucas: Dick, at the end of your blog you say, “Happy Memorial Day.” I’m afraid I don’t find this day a happy one. The three flags represent our three sons. I’m just so sorry that so many in our society regard Memorial Day as the first day of summer and a three-day weekend to go to the cabin. Anyone who visits Fort Snelling or any other national cemetery can truly appreciate why we have a Memorial Day. While Tom did not die while actually in the service, as the original “Decoration Day” was meant to be, the day should honor all who have been in military service. It’s a day to honor their memory. I question whether it should still be a national holiday when, as Pew Research suggests, so few families are actually impacted by military service anymore.

May 27, 2012, at Ft. Snelling Cemetery from Susan Lucas

From Carol Turnbull: Beautiful!
Scouts observing Memorial Day at a Cemetery in South St. Paul MN, doing upkeep of graves, and placing flags at the stones of veterans.

Scouts at So St Paul cemetery May 28, 2012

Daughter Heather and granddaughter Kelly at grave of Mom and Grandma Diane in So. St. Paul May 28, 2012

The annual commemoration by the MN Veterans for Peace at the State Capitol Grounds, St. Paul MN. Many Vets for Peace, but no means all, are Vietnam Veterans. I have been part of Veterans for Peace for over 10 years.

Veterans for Peace near MN Vietnam Vets Memorial on the MN Capitol Grounds May 28, 2012

Local VFP President Larry Johnson at the MN Capitol area observance May 28

Gita Ghei, whose father was caught in the conflict in western India (a civil war of sorts) at the time the British transferred authority to Indians.

Vet Jerry Rau performs a composition on May 28

Commentary here from Digby related to a Veterans for Peace event in southern California.
Other commentaries on the label “hero” as a topic of contemporary political warfare are here and here.
Of course, such a term is a moving target. In the 2004 Presidential Election, candidate John Kerry, whose military service and heroism in Vietnam was ridiculed by “Swift Boating” negative ads, was made to seem the opposite of what he was: a serviceman who had done his job above and beyond the call of duty. I agree with the assessment that the word “hero” is often misapplied in todays political conversation. Personally, I’m a lucky Vietnam era veteran. I served during the first Vietnam War years 50 years ago, and can prove it. I did everything I was asked to do, and I never left the United States. Indeed, we were preparing a reactivated infantry division for later combat in Vietnam, but in our frame of the time, we had no idea that such a war was developing. We simply did our jobs. If that is heroism, so be it.
But, then, John Kerry was far more a hero than I every thought of being, and he was viciously ridiculed for his service….
President Obama spoke at the Vietnam Memorial on Monday. I had the lucky privilege of having been at that Memorial the very weekend it was dedicated in the Fall of 1982. Vietnam Mem DC 1982001
A little photo album of my service time as a “hero” at Ft. Carson CO can be found on the internet, here. Note my name in the first paragraph, click on the link to the album, and open the link to a few of my “Photographs of 1/61….” in 1962-63.

#550 – Dick Bernard: Heritage. The Collet’s of St. Anthony MN. An Easter Story

There are legions of people who toil in the trade of family history. I’m one of them. We can all tell similar stories: as you begin to peel the onion, you find endless layers. Dead ends turn into “aha” moments. Aha moments can later return to dead-ends. The quest for a families history never ends.

Easter week I had an “aha” that may be one of those openings to a new chapter in my own family history. I hope someone takes the bait. I’ll just provide raw material.

My grandmother Bernard was Josephine Collette (until ca 1878 the family name was Collet, then Collett), born, it was always said, at St. Andrews ND in 1880. St. Andrews, at the confluence of the Red and Park Rivers, was built on the general site of an Alexander Henry Trading Post, known to most present-day people as a rest stop on Interstate 29 between Grand Forks ND and the Canadian border.

St. Andrews had a short and interesting life as settlers poured in beginning in 1878. It is said that Grandma’s Dad, Octave, ran a “hotel” at St. Andrews, probably during the period he was proving his claim a few miles west at Oakwood.

For years I knew the Collette family had first migrated in total to the legendary frontier town St. Anthony, preceding, then later absorbed into Minneapolis. They came west sometime in the 1860s. They had come from St. Lambert QC.

There are no family legends about intervening stops, or how they actually made the trip (depending on when they came, they might have gotten as far as the Mississippi R by train, thence upriver by steamboat.) But no story of what had to be a hard 1000 mile trek has surfaced.

Exactly when they came and left St. Anthony is still lost to history. The 1870 census of St. Anthony shows 14 in the Collette household and that the second to last child Joseph (May 21, 1864) was born in Minnesota, the older children in Canada. (St. Anthony in 1870 had a bit more than 5000 population, similar to Grafton ND today.)

By 1869 my great-grandparents Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette had married – at St. Anthony of Padua in St. Anthony – and had their first child, and were likely living with the rest of the family, though recorded as a second household. You can see a tintype of Clotilde and Octave, likely taken after their marriage in 1869 in St. Anthony MN, below (click to enlarge all photos).

Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette at St. Anthony MN ca July 1869

The census shows that four adults were working in a “paper mill”; the two wives were “housekeepers”. (There is mention of the Paper Mill at page 328 in this most interesting link about the St. Anthony Falls District.)

By 1875 most if not all Collette’s moved to Dayton MN (suburban Minneapolis), thence in 1878, the first of the family moved to Dakota Territory. They seem to have made group decisions on these matters.

But where did they live in St. Anthony?

Until this past week, I hadn’t delved into this question.
I found the likely answer a few miles from where I type this post, at the library of the Minnesota Historical Society. In the 1871-72 city directory of Minneapolis and St. Anthony was this: “Collet, D. farmer 2d St. cor [corner] Maple”. I asked to see a period map of St. Anthony (click to open, portion below): St Anthony ca 1870001.

I’ve been to this area many times, in fact, twice this past week I was in the falls area for other purposes. I made a trip to see the exact spot. Alas, there is no longer a “Maple Street”. A quick review of contemporary maps fixed Maple as now being 6th Avenue SE, the access point to Fr. Hennepin Park and the famous Stone Arch Bridge one short block away, and three blocks upriver from the I-35W bridge – the one that collapsed into the river in 2006.

While the environment has totally changed from 1860s and 1879s to today, it felt like I was home for Easter.
Here are some photos I took in the area Friday April 6, 2012. Click to enlarge.
Happy Easter.

downtown Minneapolis from the corner of 2nd and “Maple” (6th Ave SE) Apr. 6, 2012

The corner, looking west at the ruins of old Pillsbury Flour Mill.

On the Stone Arch walking bridge. The Collet corner would be two blocks behind the photographer.

Tourist Map at Fr. Hennepin park. “Collet Corner” would be a block outside right hand side of the inset box on the map.

Tourist info at Stone Arch Bridge two blocks from 2nd and Maple (6th Ave SE) St. Anthony (Minneapolis).

Postscript: Of course, tentatively answering one of these questions raises infinite other questions. Without enumerating mine, perhaps you can raise your own…and help with the research!
Type the word “heritage” in the search box to find the previous five heritage articles. #1 is here.

#510 – Dick Bernard: A Memory of a long-ago Ground Hog Day

Today is a pea-soup fog day in my town, and the temperature is about 32 degrees, so any of the resident Woodbury groundhogs have no worries about sunburn, or freezing to death. They will not see their shadow, at least not from sunlight.
But the place for groundhogs today is Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Punxsutawney Phil has been on the job since 1887, telling us about the rest of winter. Here’s something about him, and what he predicted today….
There are, of course, other groundhogs, and twenty or so years ago my Dad, Henry Bernard, recalled a story of his Dad, circa 1912 at their home on Wakeman Avenue in Grafton, North Dakota.
“I must have been four or five [Dad was born Dec 22, 1907] when this incident occurred.
My father, Henry Bernard, was the chief engineer at the flour mill. During the summer the fellows caught a woodchuck (groundhog) and put him in a cage. He was named “Pete”. Pete gave a lot of amusement to visitors. His ability to peel and eat a banana was a source of awe to visitors. However, his ability to eat a soda cracker without losing any crumbs was remarkable.
Pete was kept in the cage until fall when he became very drowsy and slept almost all the time.
Dad decided that Pete was ready to hibernate and took him home and released him in the unfinished basement that we had. Pete got busy and dug a hole in the dirt wall., “stole” bananas, apples, carrots, etc., and took them inside the hole and sealed it from the inside.
Dad remembered the story about the groundhog and on February 2nd told mother to watch and if Pete came out to send the “boy” (that was me) over to the mill to tell him.
Sure enough Pete did come out, saw his shadow and went back into the hole for another six weeks. We must have had more winter.
Then he came out again but was sickly and died shortly after. The veterinarian said it was because he lacked certain things for his diet that he would have picked up if he has run wild. Dad had Pete mounted and kept him for many years. This story was often repeated and even I have repeated it many times since that time.”
Thanks Dad.

#486 -Dick Bernard: The 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

It is not hard for me to remember Pearl Harbor Day. Seventy years ago my Dad’s brother, my Uncle Frank, near the end of his 6th year on the USS Arizona, lost his life aboard the ship. I’m old enough to have “met” him, in Long Beach CA, five months before he died. The caption on the photo, written by his mother, my grandmother Josephine, is succinct: “the first time we had our family together for seven years and also the last.” December 7, 1941 and the days following were chaotic. My Dad’s memories, as recorded years later, are in this single page: Bernard Frank Pearl Har001
Immediately came WWII for the U.S. Many kinfolk, including seven of his cousins from a single family in Winnipeg (one killed in action, some in U.S., others in Canadian forces), went off to war Collette boys Winnipeg001.
Last year I sent the Pearl Harbor museum all of the photos and records I have of Uncle Frank, and the photos have been posted ever since on Facebook. (The family photo referred to above is near the end of the album.)
WWII was very short for Uncle Frank. Then came the rest of it.
NOTE: I have written several posts about Uncle Frank. Here are links to the others: Dec. 7, 2009, Dec. 7, 2010, Dec. 9, 2010, Jan. 2,2011, Dec. 7, 2011, May 28, 2012.
Ah, “War”. A good friend and I recently engaged in a conversation about the complicated business called “War” and he asked this question: “What do you think are the rational lessons learned from WWII?”
It’s a fair question, and below are some thoughts on the topic from someone (myself), born on the edge of WW II (1940) who’s a military veteran from a family full of military veterans dating from at least the MN-ND Indian War of 1862-63 through, very recently, Afghanistan.
click on photo to enlarge

New Draftees into WWII, August, 1942, North Dakota

Here’s my informal list.
1. War begets more and ever worse future War. For example, the defeat, impoverishment and humiliation of the Germans at the end of WWI gave Hitler his base for seeking revenge.
2. The American isolationist attitude during Hitler’s rise was not helpful to containing the evil objectives of the Third Reich. This was both pacifist and (primarily) “me first” attitude in an unholy alliance: what was going on in Europe and the Far East during the 1930s was, supposedly, not our problem. By the time the U.S. engaged after December 7, 1941, the die was cast for a horrible, long war. Corollary: politically, spotlighting an ‘enemy’ is far better – and more deadly – than nurturing true ‘friends’.
3. War is much less about heroism than it is about fear and and the reality of death. There is a tendency to feel invincible when you’re young, but that disappears when your buddy beside you ends up dead and you’re at the mercy of the next projectile with your name on it. A very young cousin of mine, American citizen perhaps three years old, was killed in the liberation of Manila, in the supposed sanctuary of a church yard in early 1945. It will never be known whose shrapnel it was that hit her, in her mothers arms, that day. It matters not….
4. War casualties are far more than simply being killed or physically injured. PTSD and other kinds of mental illness is now a known outcome; displacement of non-combatants; homelessness, suicide, property loss and the like are also major (and largely uncounted) casualties from war.
5. Winning a war is illusory and short-term at best. Those who think they’ve won better begin preparing for the next war, which they may lose.
6. The Marshall Plan, following World War II, was a good outcome of War. But it would have been an infinitely better outcome of Peace not preceded by war.
7. War is great for business (but Peace would be even better). “Swords beaten into ploughshares” to tackle future threatening things like resource scarcity, climate change etc., would be great for business, and great for us all, but require changes that business is not inclined to make. The business rule of thumb which I believe prevails: we don’t want it until we can control it and make money off of it.
8. War enables new tyrants, each of whom thinks they’ve figured out how to avoid the mistakes of the previous vanquished victors of earlier wars.
9. The only really new developments of War post WWII are a) horrors of nuclear annihilation (the U.S. has a huge arsenal which is worthless unless we wish to annihilate ourselves); b) terrorism is a new tool, and we have far more home-grown domestic anti-government terrorists than evil others.

10. “They who live by the sword will die by the sword” is ever truer and deadlier. Mass annihilation is ever more possible. In the recent wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. human casualty count was relatively low. This was overshadowed by huge Iraqi casualties, and population destabilization and displacement, and massive debts incurred by the U.S. to wage war. We bred resentment, not friendship. While we were not brought to our knees physically, this time, we were nearly destroyed economically. Here is the U.S. physical casualty count from past wars, from The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2007. War Casualties U.S.001
Reasonable estimates of deaths from war in all countries in the the previous century approach 100,000,000. War is usually,in the end, a creature of convenience than of necessity – an easy but deadly way to attempt to solve problems. That is another rational learning, in my opinion….
With the greatest respect for all victims of war, I urge Peace.

#481 – Dick Bernard: Thanksgiving 2011: An old car and family ties

My family letter for this Thanksgiving included this photo, and the content which follows. This began with a very recent correspondence with my relative JoAnn, who I’ve never met in person, and who had sent me the photo with a request to help identify the date it was taken. (click on photo to enlarge)

Willard Wentz and Grandma Josephine Bernard, 738 Cooper Avenue, Grafton ND, sometime in the 1940s

“As informal keeper of the family history of Mom and Dad’s ‘sides’ of the family, I am always open to new surprises, of which the above photo is the most recent.
The photo is of my Grandma Bernard and her older sister Elize’s son Willard (Sonny) Wentz (born 1915), sitting in the Bernard’s 1901 Oldsmobile at 738 Cooper Avenue, Grafton ND, sometime in the 1940s. [The 1901 survived because they kept it indoors, in storage, for most of its life. Its appearances were very rare – once in awhile it was an attraction in the local July 4th parade.]
[My relative] JoAnn is Willard [Wentz] and Dorothy Ann (Altendorf’s) daughter. They married in 1942 in Grafton.
As with ALL family stories, there are mysteries here. The most specific one is when the photo was taken. JoAnn notes her Dad is very thin in this photo, and about a year after his marriage he had almost died from a ruptured ulcer. That would have been in 1943.
My grandfather lost his leg due to diabetes about 1946, and (probably) somewhere around that time they added the bench to the porch. Initially (from other photos), the bench was beside the tiny house. The only dated photo I have which includes the porch seems to have been from Easter, 1947. Henry and Josephine probably bought the tiny house in the very early 1940s, and the early pictures do not show a porch. The bench in the photo appears to be fairly new.
During that time – the 1940s – the 1901 car was stored in the little garage behind the house; later it was stowed in the City Hall downtown. (The 1901 still lives on with Tony Bowker in Ramona CA, inland from San Diego.) Here’s the cars story.
“Family”, with all its ins and outs and ups and downs and narrowness and broadness, has always been “Thanksgiving”.
Hopefully you have a great day today, AND RESOLVE TO LABEL YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS!!!! : – )
HELP on more identification of this photo is solicited.”
Of course, there is always more to any story.

Willard’s parents (William deceased February 11, 1919, and Elize June 4, 1920), and two of his father’s siblings, died of tuberculosis when he was young. After his mother’s death, along with his older sister, Clarice, he spent several years in the Catholic Orphanage in Fargo. When Clarice reached 18, she stayed in Fargo. Sonny, then 13, came back to Grafton to live with his eldest sister and her husband.
Willard’s daughter, JoAnn Beale, in an accompanying note as we discussed the history of the photo said: “They [doctors] were so worried that he [Willard, then about four years old] would come down with TB, that he was made to sleep in the backyard, summer and winter, in a big sleeping bag. Jo [Josephine, his older sister] didn’t like that much, but Doctor’s word was law….
I wrote back to JoAnn: “Dad once in awhile would tell the story of his relatives with TB (he was born Dec 1907) and he was old enough to know the fears, etc., that went along with this disease. He was a teacher, and every year had to take the Mantoux test, and always tested positive, so he must’ve been exposed to TB, but it never actually made him sick.”
So, this Thanksgiving, my personal reminder to myself is to take nothing for granted. We are all, every one of us, in one big family.
Happy Thanksgiving.

#459 -Dick Bernard: Heritage. Michif Language and Music; Haitian Family Story and Food. Thoughts of Booyah and Culture, generally.

An October theme for this writer came to be the topic of Heritage. Previous posts on this topic are here and here and here.
October 18, found me in a classroom with multi-cultural students of French at Macalester College in St. Paul MN. We were listening to Professor of French and French in America scholar Professor Virgil Benoit of the University of North Dakota speak on the Michif culture of the Chippewa Reservation at Turtle Mountain ND. Dr. Benoit is a passionate defender of the French language, one of the major world languages, and one of the most studied languages in the world.

Dr.Virgil Benoit, University of N. Dakota, at Macalester College, St. Paul MN October 18, 2011

Dr. Benoit’s video guests (from a 2005 video interview) were Turtle Mountain Michifs Dorothy and Mike Page (Mike is pictured with the fiddle above). Mr. and Mrs. Page conversed about various aspects of their culture, including use of their native Michif language, a language infrequently used at this point in their history. “Michif” is a culture and a language, usually a combination of French-Canadian and Canadian Cree ethnicity and language and customs. (A number of links related to Michif, including a fascinating conversation spoken solely in Michif, can be found here.)
A few days later, October 21, we attended a most interesting talk presented at a Minneapolis Church by Jacqueline Regis about her experience growing up in the southern peninsula of Haiti (near Les Cayes). Haiti, the second free Republic in North America (independence in 1804) was born from a revolt of African slaves against their French masters. It was viewed as a threat by slave-holding and infant United States with consequences to the Haitians lasting to this day (click on Haiti history timeline link here NOTE. the reference to 1919 should be 1915). The loss of Haiti was a major defeat for the French, however, and a direct consequence of that defeat was the co-incident sale of the huge Louisiana Purchase to the United States in 1803.
Ms Regis, long in the United States, is fluent in English but grew up speaking Kreyol and learning French, now both official national languages of Haiti, though French is the language of government and commerce.
[UPDATE: see note at the end of this post] Here is a Haitian recipe for Haitian Pumpkin Soup, served at the gathering: Haitian Recipe001. Food, along with Fun and Family, are very important parts of all cultures.
As I was listening to the Page’s and Dr. Benoit on Tuesday I began to think of a regional stew often featured at large group gatherings in this area. It is called “Booyah“, sometimes “Booya”, and when I looked it up I found it is likely actually derived from a French word, and possibly was first used as a reference to the stew in Wisconsin.
Booyah, like Americans generally these days, consists of many common elements, but no Booyah is exactly the same.
So also is American culture: very diverse. And the diversity was reflected both in the classroom and the church sanctuary in the Twin Cities this week.
Dr. Benoit, the Page’s, Jacqueline Regis, and everyone who make up the American booyah have good reason to be proud of their heritages, as reflected in the rich tapestry that is the American culture.

UPDATE October 26: an incorrect link is shown in the pdf. A reader provided the correct link for the Pumpkin Soup recipe: see it here. Other recipes here and here

#450 – Dick Bernard: Heritage (Part 1 of 4)

UPDATE September 7, 2013: This post has evolved into time into a series of posts directly related to Heritage.
Directly related post are here. Also related is a post on Tin Type photographs accessible here. Also see Part 3 here, and Part 4.
Also at Nov 3, 2011; Dec 22, 2011; Apr 7, 2012; Sep 1, 2013.
This post was primarily intended for two groups of people I did not meet until October 8 and October 11. At both gatherings we explored Family Heritage, and what follows is the briefest of synopses of what what was done to encourage people to think of their own heritage in some organized fashion. (At the end of this segment is an update added after the October 11 segment.)
Here’s a standard definition of the word heritage:
her’it-age, n. [OFr. heritage, an inheritance, from heriter: LL. hereditare, to inherit, from L. hereditas, inheritance, from heres, an heir.]
1. property that is or can be inherited.
2 (a) something handed down from ones ancestors or the past, as a characteristic a culture, tradition, etc.; (b) the rights, burdens, or status resulting from being born in a certain time or place; birthright.
3. in the Bible, (a) the chosen people of God; Israelites; (b) the Christian church.
As being lords over God’s heritage. – 1 Pet. v. 3.

For over 30 years I’ve been delving into my family history. It began as an unintended excursion into the past, but once started I found it impossible to quit. So far I’ve put together five documents easily totaling 1500 pages which would qualify as ‘history’, though they are of interest only to a certain audience within my families of origin.
Succinctly, every one of us has our own idea of what our history is, and what is important within that history. Family History, like U.S. or any other history, is only part of the story. The parts hidden from us by our forebears, and hidden by ourselves from our descendants are the real history, perhaps never to be formalized, but nonetheless crucial to who we are.
At the upcoming workshops, I’ve decided to have the participants become the faculty and hopefully begin to get into a vigorous discussion of elements of their own heritage. At the workshop, they’ll get some handouts, and I’ll tell them of this blog post, and they can review things if they wish.
I plan to do a “flash card” kind of exercise, asking the participants to note the first thing that comes to mind, as it relates to any one of their parents or grandparents, when the following words are stated. (The words are strictly in random order, and will be further recited in random order. At the end of the exercise, everyone will get a copy of the words.)
The basic question: How would you respond (first impression) about your heritage when the following word is presented?
1. Graveyard (example: do you have any particular memory of a burial or a graveyard image – burial service, monument, lack of monument, etc?)
2. Artifact (is there some item, some thing, that comes to mind?)
3. Food/Recipe (similar to #2, and so on, for the other words)
4. Photo
5. Dance
6. Religion
7. Dress
8. Community
9. Language, if other than English
10. War/Peace
11. Nationality (self-designation)
12. Relationships with other nationalities
13. Country where born.
14. Immigrant/native born?
15. Music
16. Occupation/Work
17. Pets
18. Gardening/Food Preparation
19. Play/Recreation
20. Tradition
21. Dates/Places
22. Holidays
23. Sayings/Folk Wisdom
24. Significant Accomplishment
25. Inherited mannerisms/traits
26. Family Secrets
27. Letters
28. Books
29. Stories
30. Housing
31. Medical/Disease
32. Education
33. Games/Hobbies
34. Special Talents
35. Transportation
36. Tools/Utensils/Kitchen
37. Art
38. Homesteading
39. Names, naming systems (i.e. Lars son, etc)
40. Water matters
41. Mens Roles
42. Womens Roles
43. Skills, gifts, talents (i.e. sewing, mechanical knowledge)
We usually think of inheritance when we think of heritage: what was left to us in money or property sense.
Really, the far greater component of heritage is what came with us as our birthright. Definition #2 for heritage covers this waterfront well, I think.
I know there are far more than 43 elements to heritage, and I am guessing that a few more of these elements will be added at either or both of the upcoming workshops. If so, they’ll be added to the list.

Some access points to my own idea of family history:
German-American and French-Canadian
assorted references at this blog. See tabs at right for Family History and Quebec/French-Canadian. A directly related link on Tin Type photographs is here.
UPDATE October 12, 2011:
The sessions on October 8 (very abbreviated in length) and October 11 were well attended and interesting.
The post session comments are in #452, posted October 12, 2011.
The handouts at the sessions were:
General thought starters on Heritage: HeritageThoughtStarters001
Quebec Marriage Contract from the year 1730: Quebec Marriage Cont001
As I developed my notion of what Heritage is, the following illustration evolved (which I didn’t have time to expand on at either workshop). (See illustration at right.)

The Box with the arrows represents the multiple “frames” people use when discussing Family History in any of its aspects. There are many boxes, as noted in the long (and incomplete) list above. But each of us have pieces in all of these frames.
The essence of the conversation on Heritage was this: we are, every one of us, the very definition of “Heritage” (note definition 2(a), especially the word “etc.”) We can perhaps modify the impact of our heritage by decisions* or choices we make through life, but the essentials of who we are came with our birth. If we are fortunate, we have something of a balance between B and A. “B” might be likened to a Balloon, which gives us the buoyancy to soar above our base; “A” might be likened to an Anchor, which can have positive or negative connotations. Either the anchor or the balloon can create problems for us.
For someone interested in Family History but daunted by the task, the key piece of advice, after 30 years, is to start where you are. Perhaps you only know tiny fragments. Write them down.
The letters in the description are:
K (Keep items that might be relevant to you or someone else in the future)
L (Label things like photos and newspaper articles, including date and newspaper, etc. It is amazing how often this is overlooked.)
R (Record things as soon as possible after they happen – it is amazing how quickly memories get foggy)
A (Ask, ask, ask…history comes available to people who inquire.)
There are infinite additions to this writing.
Add your own chapters.
* – There is an interesting and very simple distinction between the words Decide and Choose. The root word for “decide” is the same root word as for other words of obvious meaning: suicide, homicide, insecticide…. When one makes a decision, they tend to kill off other options. Choice implies more possibilities.
It’s your choice!