Saturday, November 29, 2008


Xiao Qiang meant strong male according to the Chinese lady who lived west of us on 21st Street. That year, the Christmas cards read we hope your Christmas is wonderful; personally, I would like a puppy in my stocking. The front of the card had a West Highland White Terrier on it.

To my knowledge, no one new about my wish. I had wished it, said it, and the postman send the wish to around 50 addresses. I have nothing time stamped to say when the Japanese Chin /mix was purchased at the pet shop. I do know the owners kept the dog and let him run with beagles and big dogs until Christmas Eve day.

This story is not so much about what this dog with many pet names looked like, it is the answer to the question about how I found out about the dog. The question was asked by Mayank in a video made for me by my children, which included


who were all sitting in a group and video taped a message to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving.

From the back, sitting on the stairs, Mayank asked to know the true story about how I found out I got a dog for Christmas in 1982. Bud told me 'straight out', he says. Rachel says he did not. Ryen said he wasn't in on it, it was between Bud and Rachel.

Now we have to realize that each of us may remember the memory in a different way. What I do remember is there was a lot of fuss about going into Rachel's room. The door was also shut, which only happened when she was studying. That gave me clue that something was in there that was not wrapped, yet something that really excited the kids. I knew this because when they came out of the room, they were glowing. They also did not simply open the door and walk out, rather, they squeezed through as if to keep something inside. Was it a Westie, like the front of the card?

Bud did not say, "YOU ARE GETTING A DOG FOR CHRISTMAS" but what he did do as we sat at the table eating Christmas Eve supper was to pant as if he were a dog. In a quiet moment, I heard whining, scratching, and barking.

Xiao came to the table and sat in my lap as we finished dinner. I fed him turkey off my plate.

I visited Grace Wong, the Chinese professor the next day. She was very ill with cancer. I asked her what strong male was in Chinese. Today, I am reading that XIAO means end blown flute, and Qiang means spear. Yet, greater than a quarter of a century later, I am not dismayed. I am fondly remembering the dog who was loved and had many names.

He became:

Shing a ling
Chowie (soft c)
Chow! (soft c)

As a post script for clues by body movement, one needs to add Bud's mime for the earrings Rachel got for Christmas!

Friday, November 28, 2008


Old Trunks admires all of you who have the fortitude to go shopping on this day. There are two days that are tough on retail people: Sidewalk bazaars and the day after Thanksgiving. Please be kind to the clerks, humans aren't built to take the buzz of shoppers for those 12 hour days. It is like volunteering at a polio vaccine site, you learn to smile and look at the customer and walk the bumpy road and when you get home, all of it is a blur and you haven't one specific incident to cherish, unless, of course, it happened early in the morning with a little time between customers.

But we don't live in a service oriented retail realm now, do we? We don't go into Elaine's or the Fashion Shop and be asked if there is something special the customer is looking for and no one has asked me in decades if I had an idea in mind. In the 10 years I have shopped at Herberger's I was asked once if I needed help finding something.

I have trouble with Christmas buying and I have since I became an adult. There is no reason to fight it, landslides of gifts are the trend. I was raised with one gift for Christmas from my parents and always thought that was more than enough. Grandparents gave us each 200 pennies they had saved throughout the year. We could find a lot of things to do with those pennies! Grandma Mae nearly always made something for me, which I thought was THEE BEST. The little dolls with crochet clothing are still with me; one is bald and the other one's eyes roll back in her head. Yet, they are still an example of precious.

I wonder if it is all about income. I wonder if ingenuity and improv has left the building. These are times many don't have extra; it isn't the first time, nor will it be the last. People forget they can buy or make gifts throughout the year. And one by one, month by month, can fill out that list of gifts for people they hold dear. Certainly they have a box somewhere for the treasures to be stored.

Because of the way my brain is wired, I can remember nearly all the gifts I received as a gift at Christmas from my parents. Yes, they were purchased. Maybe it is a generation thing like white collar--Blue collar when one group, like my grand parents made things, and my parents bought things, and my generation makes things.....well, you get the picture.

Perhaps you have filled out your list. Perhaps you are working toward it and have an idea. Maybe you are all wrapped and under the tree and on this day, you are sending out your cards, if you are a card sender.

But if you are not, then consider some ingenuity and some improv by lightening your heart and keeping your wallet a little heavier.

Happy Black Friday and God Bless the retail clerks who look like a deer in the head lights.


Thursday, November 27, 2008


Salmon House: A General Thanksgiving Declaration offers the history of the pilgrims. It isn't the same read any of us learned in grade school. It wasn't like the plays we did with Squanto coming to camp with his friends and eating with the pilgrims. It does not offer history, as our plays did, that the Native Americans and the settlers were friendly. Go to that site if you want the sobering account of what was happening.

If not, and you are simply caught up in the wonderful spirit of being thankful, then think about your own thanksgivings with family. Think about how in grade school, we colored dittos, which when cut out, were place card settings of cornucopias, (then referred to as a horn of plenty).

Think about the steaming windows and look back on howyou mother may have gotten up in the middle of the night--about 5A--to put the turkey in, a big one--at least 25 pounds to cook until noon and the stuffing was IN THE BIRD.

Some of you may have gone to the turkey processing plant belonging to Land O Lakes in a dark brick building behind what was Piggly Wiggly at the time. You may have watched the live turkeys being taken from the truck and hooked by the feet and zapped with killing voltage before it even got inside the building. Although I do not remember the removable of the head and the bleed out process, I knew what that was all about because I had watched grandma behead chickens with a hatchet for years before. So the governor of Alaska does not stand alone on this one.

There were NOT turkeys running around New Solum township when my grandfather was a boy. If there would have been, not many had shells for a turkey shoot. Memoirs of grandpa include snaring rabbits; perhaps they trapped sharp tail grouse in the same fashion. The grouse lived in the open prairie and were plentiful in northwestern Minnesota. The early newspapers talk about the sport of shooting hundreds of them.

Old Trunks happens to like thanksgiving. It is a holiday to gather loved ones without the hype of gifts. Perhaps it is my favorite because it can be simple.

Now, mother took over Thanksgiving while the grandmothers continued to have Christmas Eve and Christmas day. She did not appreciate it being called "TURKEY DAY". She was one of those mothers who were up in the middle of the night and cooked for hours for one meal. It was a fine China meal, so to speak.

The bill o fare was always the same: Lime jello with shredded carrots and finely diced celery set on a lettuce leaf with a dollop of mayo on the top sprinkled with paprika. Daddy always set it aside saying, "Why eat that, when I have meat and potatoes?"

The cranberries where made the day before and if you were in the house, one could hear the !pop pop pop! of the berries as they cooked on the stove, (and according to mother, made a mess on the back splash).

The stuffed turkey was cooked in a roaster and basted. The gravy would be made from the drippings in the pan. I have that roaster, it has many memories! The potatoes were always riced with a bit of butter in the middle of the heap and MORE paprika. The first scoop out, messed up the artistic value of the creation. I do know there were vegetables but I don't remember candied yams. The pie was pumpkin and the whipped topping was real cream beaten with the mixer.

How did mother know when the turkey was done? Was there a thermometer? Grandma just wiggled the leg, if it was loose, it was finished.

There is much to be said about how hard it is to cook a turkey. There really isn't much to it. Buy it, thaw it in the fridge, take out the innerds, put it in a brown bag, put the bagged turkey in the roaster pan, put it in the oven and let it cook. The HARD part is the dozen other things that are traditional and without them Thanksgiving just isn't quite the same.

What do we do here? Tom makes Thanksgiving dinner. ALL OF IT. And as I told the dental hygienist, he makes what he feels is a feast. And I am thankful. See how simple that is?

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Old Trunks is remembering lunch hours in grades 7-12 being an hour long. The 'mavericks' preferred not to eat hot lunch in the cafeteria of school rather to browse the town for a 20 cent lunch somewhere.

Today I had a BBQ (made from ground hamburger and tomato + other), and some stale potato chips. On the first bite, I burned my tongue. It reminded me of the Double O Cafe on Main Street near Bredeson Cleaners but closer to Montgomery Wards.

It was a counter only kind of cafe what seemed no wider that a dozen feet. It was dark and as I remember, it probably had not been painted for decades. It was run by a Mister and Missus team who may have had the last name starting with an "O". They were both gray haired. He had something wrong with his voice and talked in a high pitch. Anyone recalling this?

Most likely, the buns were bought at Jungs Bakery, also on the same side of the street. They were uncut. When ordering a BBQ, the Mister would put the bun on a spigot like object which was attached to a plug in like crock pot. He would plunge the handle which fed the meat into the bun. And the first bite would burn your tongue.

Another place to eat for 20 cents was the counter cafe at the Red Owl Store. There one could get a hot dog and chips. Egg salad sandwiches were the same price at Parkins Corner Drug. Johnnie's hamburgers, a treat at any time of the day sold burgers for two dimes. If all else failed, try Carlson's Bakery and have two enormous cinnamon rolls!

As for the food at school, well, what can one say. It was government subsidized and if memory serves me right, all white. On of the saddest things I ever saw was when Chenney looked at the food, and the only thing worth eating was canned peaches. He turned and those slimy suckers slide off the plate and on to the floor. And the cooks would NOT restock his plate. Was the count really that close? That was the last day I ate there.

(Giggling) Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Will there be white food? Yes, at least turkey and mashed potatoes but no peaches on the slide.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Old Trunks has made a lot of fuss about cleaning products but one thing that has not come to mind is when to clean! Meaning of course, is there a system to this madness called housework? If your mother had a plan, you maybe following it. If not, let's look again.

Ask yourself if this is reasonable:

Dust hard wood surfaces
--And clean the TV screens so your growing cataract husband can see
Vacuum or mop all floors
--That is what husbands are for
Wipe down appliance surfaces
--This was so much easier when there was peanut butter and jelly prints
Wipe down counters
--Of course
Scrub the kitchen sink
--If you have a portable dish machine, make sure to do this just before you wash dishes.
Scrub the toilet, shower, and tub
--And wash the mirror to get the toothpaste spit off
Change the sheets
--and wash them

Vacuum upholstery
--Take the cushions off, too
Disinfect waste baskets and garbage cans
Disinfect the door knobs
-- I have never cleaned a door knob in my life, have you?
Dust ceiling fans
--while someone is spotting you as you stand on the bed or table!
Dust the mouldings
--That's the woodwork around the doors and windows
Clean the stove top grates
--or buy a stove with a glass top
Wipe down the kitchen cabinets and cupboards
Clean the microwave
--Unless something blows up in it sooner
Clean the grime line down the hall where the kids walk and have to hang unto the wall, again, easier with PB&J

Wash the curtains
--Get rid of the curtains or use a mop head for a curtain
Vacuum the mattress and turn or flip it
--and spend the next few months trying to find your hollow.
Condition leather furniture
--Oops, the sofa is several years old and the conditioning it gets is being sat in.
Wash blinds
--no sooner than six months, what a job
Vacuum draperies
--get rid of the drapes
Wash or wipe down baseboards
--after your shower, drag the wet towel along the baseboards, you are going to was the towel anyway.
Wash windows inside and out
--Oh, this is a grandma thing and I still do it.
Clean and degrease stove hood
--Quit frying! It is bad for you.
Polish stainless
--Then go out to eat so it is spot free for one day.
Clean inside of fridge
--And throw away the old stuff
Descale coffee maker
--Tom does this when I go to scrap booking retreats

Clean oven
--scrape oven
Clean lampshades
--vacuuming works
Sponge washable upholstery
--We sponged everything when we had a long haired cat and then let the vacuum suck the cat hair off our hands. Notice, I made sure I said CAT HAIR so you didn't think we were vacuuming the cat. HOWEVER, mother used to vacuum the dog.
Wash or dry clean slip covers
--get rid of them, they don't stay on anyway
Launder or dry clean pillows
--put feather pillows in the dryer on air with tennis balls
Launder or dry clean comforter
--Or give it to your son so you don't have to do it.
Empty out and clean cabinets and cupboards
--This is a major job because if your cabinets and cupboards aren't tight, you are going to have to wash everything too.
Scrub tile grout
--get rid of the tile
Vacuum the condenser coil on the fridge
--Believe it or not, this is on our list at the same time we take the shade off the ceiling light in the kitchen. How do all those little bugs get in there, anyway?
Clean filter on stove hood
--Hope you have the kind you can put in the dishwasher
Clean carpets
--call someone to do it.
Wash walls
--well, at least put a towel over a broom and get the webs down.
Empty and clean pantry
--toss the old stuff
Professional clean draperies
--I knew a lady who had the same drapes for 10 years and never cleaned them and they didn't look bad, either.



Monday, November 24, 2008


American consumer’s habits were changing and nature’s way of bleaching by exposure to sunshine was fast falling out of favor for more “modern” methods. By the end of the 1920s, a number of companies had begun making household bleach available. The earliest companies were: Clorox (1913) , Javex (1919), Purex, (1923), Zonite (1924) Laudrex (1937). Of those the first three were the major producers of bleach bottles found by collectors and diggers today.

Clorox Company began 1913 in Oakland, Ca
Bottled bleach in plain Unembossed bottles 1918-1928
1928 Company went public
1929-1930 base embossed with company logo
1931 first shoulder embossed bottles appear
1940 screw top appeared
1945 pattern added to shoulder area
1945- Gallon jug appears
1962 glass bottles disappear

Asa Eldredge, a medic in World War I, wanted a way to sterilize bandages. He and his brothers started the Hilex bleach company in St. Paul. At the height of Hilex popularity, the Hi and Lex gnomes, shaped like bleach drops, walked in parades. Asa kept them in his garage. sanitizing products ~William Eldredge, St. Paul, MN

Mother used bleach on everything. Her clothes were bleached then hung out to sun bleach. No wonder clothes were faded. The whites were white!

As Old Trunks writes, she wonders if the problem with the septic tank had to do with the amount of harsh chemicals she poured into the toilets and washing machine each week messing up the natural progression of septic break down bacteria.

The odd thing about it is she was so certain she was sterilizing everything. The word to look at is sterile, for certain, she sanitized.

The gallons of bleach left our home after the the children where out of diapers. Talk about mixing soiled nappies with bleach, oooo makes my eyes water even now. May I ask you this? Have you ever been in a laundromat when women are washing diapers?

The new washing machines, with the load door on the front use less soap. The bleach dispenser is very small.

Close your eyes and smell your home when you were little? Do you smell:




Lye soap



Sunday, November 23, 2008

BOM AMI in French means GOOD FRIEND

The original slogan for Bon Ami "Hasn't Scratched Yet!" is still in use. It is an all-natural multipurpose cleaner . A powerful blend of feldspar and soap, which is safe for use on painted surfaces, stainless steel, porcelain, chrome, nonstick surfaces, tile, or aluminum. Use for the original Bon Ami was everything from dirty pots and pans to tubs and windows.

The first Bon Ami soap was an abrasive laden tallow soap manufactured by the J.T. Robertson Soap Company of Manchester, CT in 1886. The powdered cleanser was developed a few years later. Marketed in America and unchanged for over 100 years, is widely advertised as a cleaner for persons with chemical sensitivities because it did not contain bleach or strong chemicals. In 2006 the cleaner was changed to be "easier rinsing" and is not felt to be the same product as in the past by some with chemical sensitivities.

Grandma used Old Dutch cleanser. Do you remember it? People of European decent were big on being clean. The Christmas Card even shows the little Dutch girl, the advertisement for the cleaner, coming on Christmas. Oh good grief.

I don't remember any can of AJAX--remember the slogan? Ajax, the foaming cleanser--bum ba bum bum--watch the dirt go down the drain. Can you sing it? I only remember my grandfather called it A-YAX.

Old Trunks isn't big on abrasive cleaners. I did get down on my knees and look in the back of the cabinet in the kitchen. I found cleaner, which has been here for some time. One is AYAX, (don't you love it), and Comet. Both are eye irritants, both have bleach for 'tough stains'. It reminds you in mini print not to mix it with ammonia.

This is how one is supposed to clean a toilet with Comet, directions on the back of a 21 ounce can.

To clean toilet bowl:

Flush toilet, (morons--of course we don't want a dump in there)

Sprinkle 4 ounces of Comet in bowl.

4 divided into 21=5 cleanings per can


Let stain 10 minutes


Now Ajax slogan was "Stronger than Dirt" and The first commercial jingle heard on TV in the United States was for Ajax Cleanser in 1948. The jingle was "You'll stop paying the elbow tax, when you start cleaning with Ajax".

Comet? In the 1960s and 1970s, Comet was known for a series of popular television ads featuring the character of "Josephine the Plumber" (played by actress Jane Withers). Comet states 98% of the ingredients are 'other'.
So, BOM AMI!, I wish you a fine day.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Oh, I can see grandma now. Dead of winter cleaning the windows on the inside and the outside. What was it with her and her fetish? Was it because she lived in a Soddy? Nevertheless, she puts all of us to shame.

What did grandma use? I can guarantee it was not one of the many products advertised as window cleaner~~You know the kind you have in your bathrooms, kitchen, and garage for everything? The new improved no drip? Window cleaners team with shower door companies and you make a hasty trip to the market to pick up THAT BRAND. How funny we are. How did windows get cleaned before all these products were available? My grandparents lived on $60 a month social security in 1961, do you think they were going to spend $1 on window cleaner, I think not.

I know we have talked about vinegar before but when it comes to windows it really has merit. The big thing is to mix it right.

This is the best glass cleaner.

1 c rubbing alcohol -
1 c water -
1 tablespoons white vinegar
Mix in a spray bottle.

And I figured out with 35 windows in this house that using rags which fabric softener had been added in the washer or dryer made the windows streak! Inside only, outside of the tilt-in-to-the-inside windows have a special coating, water only.

I don't know just what the alcohol does, I do know that Tom adds some to the cleaner for my glasses!

Oh doesn't this want you to just get to washing windows? Yea, right!


Friday, November 21, 2008


1 can (12 oz or 340 grams) Lewis Red Devil 100% lye
21 1/2 oz (605 gms) ice cold or part frozen distilled water
5 lbs, 7 1/3 oz (2.48 kg) lard or all vegetable shortening.

1 ea, 1-2 quart Pyrex or oven ware bowl
1 ea, 4-6 quart plastic bowl or stainless or cast iron pot
1 ea, plastic, wooden or stainless big spoon
1 ea, shallow cardboard box lined with plastic trash bag
Rubber gloves
Canning pot (for water bath if you

We all realize that some of the items have changed over the years and grandmother's did not have plastic trash bags to line their boxes. But making of the soap was still an adults job and it was toxic for children to eat. (No wonder parents threatened to wash some one's mouth out with soap and it works!).

So grandma had borax and made lye soap. Is lye still available? Is that too, on the bottom shelf at the market? Is there a lye soap 'ready made' on the market?

UPDATE the company that markets Lewis Red Devil Lye has pulled it from the market and has replaced it with a liquid drain opener that contains no lye. My suspicions are that it's due to its use in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamines.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Grandma used borax, a lot of borax. There was a string of twenty mules on the box, I imagined it was driven by men who were beery . . . a whip-totin' . . . gun-blazin' son of a coyote cowboys . . . from the orneriest end of the desert!

Eighteen mules and two horses were hitched together by single and double trees to form the twenty team. They were then latched to an 80-foot chain running the entire length of the team which was fastened directly onto the lead wagon. A long rope ran through the collar ring of each left-hand mule up to the lead mules. This rope was called the "jerk line" and was the primary method the driver had of controlling the team. A steady and hard pull of the jerk line turned the mule team to the left. A series of jerks turned the team to the right. The mules were trained to jump over the chain, when necessary.

Three men were needed to operate the twenty mules team. The "Driver" sat on top of the lead wagon and held the reins while guiding the team across the rugged terrain of the Mojave Desert. The "Teamster" or "Muleskinner" rode one of the horses which were the last two animals in the line. One of the "Muleskinner's" primary responsibilities was harnessing and unharnessing the team and handling the brake of the lead wagon. The "Swamper" rode on the rear wagon and was responsible for manning the rear wagon's brake on the steep downhill descents. He was also the chief cook and dishwasher on the trip. Imagine, if you will, twenty million pounds of borax hauled out of the desert lake bed in six years. All scraped and ready to load by Chinese who worked in 130 degree heat for $1.50 a day.

Is borax still available? Yes it is. It is on the bottom shelf in the cleaning isle. The same place that as 14 colors, dispense methods, and sizes of Dawn.

What can we, the modern keeper of the house use borax for? Well, not to recall 18 mules and two horses !!!

Here is a recipe for an alkaline all-purpose natural cleaning agent. We are supposed to be able to use it everywhere: in the bathroom, the kitchen, to spot clean the carpets, and to get that black gunk off the walls. It neutralizes odors, dissolves grease, and removes stains. -

1 teaspoon or 40 drops antiseptic essential oil (thyme, sweet orange, lemongrass, rose, clove, eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary, birch, lavender, or tea tree) -

1 teaspoon baking soda -

2 teaspoons Borax -

1 teaspoon liquid detergent -

2 c hot water

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake to blend before each use.

I am not sure how to keep the water hot until the bottle is empty but I have written borax on my shopping list and will give it a try.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


As mentioned in yesterday's post about "Marcia , (MAR-see-ah), NOT Marsha", I would trade bottles of SWIPE for favors like rides to the doctor.

Now, WIPE WITH SWIPE was the bumper sticker on the door of the car. It was a pyramid scheme to make money off all the little pyramids running around out there in dirty land.

Someone would sign on and have a party. At the party the idea was to get all the guests to buy in. Some one in our family bought in and expected me to go door to door in a pregnant state and after and pedal these bottles of 16:1 concentrate for $2.95 a bottle. We only had a dozen x a dozen!

The idea was that Swipe could clean anything. Of course the hospitals did not see it at a disinfecting agent, !!But why not, it got it clean!!

While still in Lawrence, I cleaned the stain right out of some one's runner rug, only for it to go through to the carpet and leave the stain. We slept in a meeting room in a hotel downtown Ottawa waiting for people to come and by in. There were no takers, nearly anyone really likes to go door to door and do cold sales, except of course, Girl Scouts.

The bulk of the SWIPE was stored in the back garage in Northwestern Minnesota. It froze and the labels fell off. It was hauled back to Kansas in a U Haul. The shine was off the silver, so to speak, and that is how I began trading SWIPE for rides.

Did it work? Was it safe? Was it safe on hands? The answer is not known. The only time I really used it was on a kitchen floor in a duplex with hundreds of layers of wax on it. Even at that I had to use a spatula to get the gummy old wax up.

Old Trunks is thinking about the products grandma used. I am certain they were limited. Borax comes to mind. May be a blog in there somewhere!

Did anyone call Judy Rambeck and wish her happy birthday yesterday?


Tuesday, November 18, 2008


"Marcia , (MAR-see-ah), NOT Marsha", she said, when she introduced herself back in the early sixties. A stout lady with orthopedic shoes and legs stripped of the varicose veins years early, was old than me by twenty years.

She was a mother of five living in a cottage like house on a tree lined street in Lawrence. To walk into her home was like walking into a gift shop which had just stocked up for the holidays. There was not a square corner in any room because, as I have become, a collector of what nots. She was the bread winner while her husband went to barber school; a new profession for him after an injury with the light company.

Marcia sewed doll clothes--better said--she designed and sewed doll clothes. The Barbie doll craze of 1959 continued and Marcia was designing clothes for her that would put Mattel to shame. The only problem was, the sewing machine was located near a furnace vent and the furnace was emitting fumes which made her very sick. She would say, "I am okay in the summer!" I am happy to report the leak was fixed and she went on to sew clothes not only for Barbie but other dolls as well.

One of those dolls was my own daughter. The few outfits she made for Rachel were for the summer. Imagine my surprise to learn she had enough fabric to make a simple A line dress and panty like shorts to match. The fabric, of course, was picked out by my daughter. Although she was paid for her time the agreement was she got the scraps.

Along with sewing and designing, Marcia liked to paint. She also liked to tell people about Macy's on the Kaw. I cannot tell you where it is, except it is on the Kansas River. She drew us a map on how to get to this huge junk-like yard. We spent the day rutting through the rubble looking for treasures. And, yes, I did try to Google it.

She would do child care for Rachel when Rachel was little. She was good with kids and smelled of fresh bread, had a great giggle, and loved to read to her. Something happened, and she was no longer available.

The last time I saw her, she stopped by the house on 21st Street with her station wagon outfitted for sleeping. She was either on her way to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico or on her way back.

Think about the amount of courage it took for her to pack up and move away from her family at near fifty. How could she do that? She was a survivor with a gift to make a friend or a pet out of anyone at any time. When I needed to go to the doctor and I didn't have a car, Marcia was there in her old Ford to take us. I traded a ride for a bottle of Swipe.

I have learned of Marcia's death via the Internet while reading the Lawrence Journal World. Although I have not seen or heard from her in three decades or more, I can still see her laughing and slapping her knee.

Odd, isn't it, how people crawl inside of you, teach you something, give part of themselves to you, then seem to disappear only to be recalled in the most precious of moments?

"Marcia , (MAR-see-ah), NOT Marsha". Isn't she cute!?


Monday, November 17, 2008


If my grandfather had studied zoology more diligently, he would have had considerable satisfaction from the study of the human louse and he would have never been at a loss for specimens. Of course he got these lice from the Swedes.

Grandpa would tell you there seems to be all shapes and sizes; some run fast and some wiggle along. We all know they bite and multiply rapidly.

Grandpa had lice in his hair. We know the intense cold would not kill them. No one in his right mind would try to kill them on their head with boiling water.

Grandpa, now separated from the Swedes and the lice and not believing in the beatitude:

Blessed are the crumby (who have body lice)
For he knoweth the benefit of a scratch.

Grandpa, instead, used kerosene in his thick hair, hopeful it would kill the lice. When the lice did not die, he poured more kerosene on his hair and lit a match to it. Burned off his hair and killed the lice. He remained true to that story until he died at 98. He also said that his hair came in curly. Believe it or not!


Tom and Elodee Johnson celebrate their tenth anniversary today.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Let's use Martinus Goldberg Johnson again. Let's say they he didn't like working with the crew he was on. Let's say that he went on a camp inspection tour. I understand it was common practice for men to walk between one camp and another, (always arriving at meal time), work a few days and be on their way to the next camp.

What if Martinus found his way to the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad where the principal hauled items were logs and iron ore? It is said that Rockefeller owned great iron mines and all the ore was shipped to Two Harbors and taken by boat to the east and the logs are taken to Duluth.

What did he think about? Did he, like many of the men in New Solum Township, not work in the winter, rather laid up enough money in the working months? I know Grandpa Ranum did just that. Although I do not know what he did with his time. He did not read excessively nor did he learn to play a musical instrument. Now, my grandfather was a pure blooded Norwegian and he was against all Swedes.

If my grandfather would have cut timber twelve hours a day throughout the winter, you can be sure he was the first one into the forest in the morning. He would not put himself into a position to follow Swedes for a few walking miles because of their smell. He would probably stay out of taverns for the same reason, stating they smelled like dead horses. Grandpa said that Swedes can swear for 15 minutes without repeating a profanity. And, besides, Swedes have lice...........................

And that is our story for tomorrow.


Saturday, November 15, 2008


We know that lumbering in Minnesota reached its peak in about 1905. The federal census was seven times more than at the close of the Civil War, (1865).

Yet in Minnesota, flour and milling were still half of the invested industrial capital. Railroads had been built in nearly every direction from the Twin Cities.

People headed north to the camps--Irish, Swedes-Norwegians, and Russians, to name a few. Where these men were well educated? What they were looking for is work, hard as it may be, to support their families.

Many of us have gone to these old lumber camps and tried to imagine what it must have been like to live under the circumstances theses gents did. Yet, Old Trunks wonders if most of the never took a bath or blew their noses in a handkerchief. She is wondering if they spit on the floor and then, before bed, hung their socks near the stove and walked barefoot threw the spit and crawled into bed.

My adopted grandmother lived with her folks near Akeley. Was her father or her uncle one of the men that went into the woods? Did either of them blow their stake on whiskey and get crazy drunk and lay outside the saloon, then get up in the morning and go back to work?

Could these folks read ENGLISH? Could they read at all? What did such a mix of people talk about at meal time? Maybe meal time, which was hearty food, was only the sound of flatware against the plate. Maybe it had a no talking rule to keep from fighting.

Let's imagine that Martinus Goldberg Johnson, was indeed, a sawer, dropping 80-110 trees a day depending on the size of the tree. We know Minnesota winters are dreadfully cold, what was it like in the woods at zero to thirty below?

Can you imagine the strongest, biggest man you have ever known, sawing down trees by hand from sun up to sun down?

The guys worked three to a gang. Two people did the sawing and the other , called an under cutter, notched the trees and cut off the branches.

We know from our trips to logging camps that beyond the gangs of three, there were people who worked as black smiths and certainly one who only did filing saws, fixing wedges, etc.

Oh and for those who wished to wash clothes, they did it outside in a barrel and a scrub board and hung them on a line to freeze dry.

Wages, you ask? Six months work, $30 each month if you stayed until April 1, otherwise $26.

Wanna do it? What would you do if you didn't like where you were logging? What do you do now if you don't like your job?


Friday, November 14, 2008


A blood-curdling murder occurred at Wells, MN on Wednesday.

Henry Ringer, owner of a meat market was stabbed to death with a huge butcher knife by a man in his employ named Korr.

Briefly told, Ringer suspecting improper relations between Korr and his wife, came home clandestinely and secreted himself under the bed. He was discovered by Korr, who supposed him to be a burglar and killed him instantly.

It is a sad state of affairs in which a wife's infidelity seems to have been the cause.

Martin County Sentinel
September, 1893

*Wells, MN is about 25 miles northwest of Albert Lea, MN

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Have we talked about Annie before? Old Trunks is certain there were several "Annie stories" in the 1890's.

Let's take a look:

Annie stood before the court last Wednesday charged with having broken the laws of the city of St. Paul by appearing in male attire. She passed under the name of Charles Parker and did a man' work at a farm in the vicinity of St. Paul for more than a year without her true sex being discovered.

Her employer, however, discovered the circumstances accidentally and informed the police, who, in turn, arrested Annie.

Annie said she didn't know there was a law about being dressed in men's clothing. She hated housework and was able to earn more money working as a man. She was dressed in rough working clothes, a dirty flannel shirt, slouchy felt hat and heavy shoes.

She said she was going to the lumber camp this winter. Judge tried to reason with her and admonished her to act like a lady. She told the judge she had been supporting herself since she was seven years old and had done pretty well at it.

The judge then dismissed the case under the provision that she would dress in women's clothing.

Annie had been in terrible with the law before. It is said she was known as the name Cowboy Pete and would ride her house through the streets at a reckless gallop dressed in cowboy clothes.

After being arrested and reprehended repeatedly in Minneapolis, she moved to St. Paul.

Authors note: Barb and I used to ride horse back downtown Thief River Falls in cowboy clothes. No one ever got after us for it! Must have been a law change!

Happy Birthday, Brenda!


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


It seems as if a college class at the University of Minnesota included housekeeping and home making during the 1899-1900 class year.

The subject fell into three divisions:
House work
Family life

The instruction was based upon the belief that housekeeping is as important as it is difficult, and that home making is the noblest form of human endeavor.

The points in detail in the preparation of food, the making of clothing, and the care of the house and house hold belongings, and the plan for home management. To start, the student in the correct way of becoming mistress of the business of housekeeping is the end sought. It is believed that for one who knows the reason for the doing it, there is no drudgery. Therefore, students are taught the specific danger that lurks in dust and dirt, in order that they may understand the dignity of the unceasing war which the housekeeper makes upon these forces.

The practical benefit to be derived from the knowledge students have gained in the cooking, sewing, laundering, and dairy classes is emphasized the shown in its relation to an adequate plan for the daily program for the home. While the science of family life has not be formulated, yet some of its fundamental principles are recognized and may be taught.

No wonder they teach this in junior high now, no college person would sign up for the course!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


(esp. during the last half of the 19th century) a class of women who have lost their standing in respectable society because of indiscreet behavior or sexual promiscuity.
a demimondaine.
prostitutes or courtesans in general.
a group whose activities are ethically or legally questionable: a demimonde of investigative journalists writing for the sensationalist tabloids.
a group characterized by lack of success or status: the literary demimonde.

The census page of Virginia, Minnesota looks like a brothel. It included a bartender, violin player, piano player, gamblers, watchmen, cooks, and demi-mondes, (prostitutes).

The part of the page Old Trunks is examining names demi-mondes from 27 to 17. They are from Canada, England, Scotland, Sweden, and some born in the states. Everyone is Caucasian. None of the demi mondes had been in the 'dance hall' for a year at this census.

As for Minneapolis, Daddy referred to a 'red light district' as we drove in from north to Washington Avenue where the Andrews Hotel was located. For some reason, unknown to me, it was where we always stayed. Mother talked about the alcoholics sitting in doorways. I always looked for the red lights and never saw them!


Monday, November 10, 2008


It is sad that if you could not make it in the city on $4.00 wages and a cheap boarding house room of $2.50 a week, you had to go back to the farm or become a prostitute.

Now prostitution was semi legal in Minneapolis from the 1870-1910. They paid month fines to the court and were allowed to work in certain districts.

A news article states:

Not long ago I overhead a woman belonging to the large class of outcasts who swarm our streets. She and a companion were on a shopping tour, and their talk turned on the life of working girls. "I used to be a respectable working girl myself," she said. "I tried for three years to support life on the wages I was paid as a cashier in a big store. It didn't seem as if anybody cared what became of me. The patrons of the store disdained to speak a kind word to be because I was a working girl. There were temptations on every side. So I gave up the struggle at last, and it always makes me shiver, to see a girl dying by inches in these stores. They call me unworthy of any decent person's notice now, but I don't starve and freeze since I quit being respectable," was her story and probably many others of her class could tell the same sort of tale.

I large stores, I found the wages of cashiers to range from $6 to $8 a week. Of course, the absence of evening work makes their life more pleasant than it otherwise would be.

We know that in the hotel business the highest paid positions was a cook at $4.00 and the least paid was 'common help' at $2.25 a week.

In the restaurants assistant cooks made $5.50 and Dish washers $3.83.

At the boot and shoe factories the vampers made $8.50 and the table girls made $5.10. Vampers put the shoes together on machines.

People who made pants earned $5.84 and the shirt makers made $3.36. Old Trunks thinks shirts are harder to make then pants!!!

Women who collated books in book factories made $6.75 and those who sewed them together made $4.73.

Imagine working in a laundry. Operating a machine, such as a mangler earned $6.20; those who starched received $5.55. All other positions such as ironers, washers, sorters were between those dollar amounts.

My grand mother worked as a domestic in Thief River Falls. There was a general spirit of dissatisfaction. Although, others interviewed said, some girls take about as much interest in the management of a house as the mistress of the house herself and that kind of servant could be left in charge of the house.

However, girls were not allowed to use the front door. I like to think my grand mother used the front door and did a really good job!


Sunday, November 9, 2008

ALL ABOARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Take a minute and think about your ancestor's who actually came over to America. Old Trunks wondered just what the cost of passage might be and if there was, as there are in airplanes, a weight allowance. Old Trunks also wonders if, the rolling pin, carried on the pregnant stomach of her child, was carried there because they were over on the baggage allowance.

A first class ticket from Hamburg, Germany to St. Paul states the price as $54.00 first class. We know the immigrants often traveled substandard, thus the price may be half of that. On either account, 100 pounds of baggage was allowed for each person although extra prices for extra baggage could be arranged.

Let's say the family's destination was St. Paul. That is where my great grandparent's sold one horse for $600 because their other horse died. They used that money to ride the immigrant train north. According to the Minnesota Historical Society, the price of passage to New Solum, Polk County, (at that time), was four cents a mile per person, first class. Often our ancestors rode for half fare.

What we have to remember is there weren't always trains to ride. Perhaps they came part of the way by steam boat.

Although a first class ticket of 54.00 seems little to use now, think bout how they had to save to have passage and that meals or food had to be brought along, (part of the 100 pounds), or bought in the train or at stops, which was not cheap.

Tomorrow, let's look at women's wages after the Civil War.


Saturday, November 8, 2008


Old Trunks is certain all of you have heard about the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Let's think about the beginnings of the doctors Mayo.

In the mid 1880's , medicine was primitive, at best. Remember the stethoscope was NEW, there was no thermometers yet, and one could only hope that baby would live. Remember that surgeon's washed their hands AFTER surgery, not before. Doctors were judged at how fast they could saw through bones.

Enter William W. Mayo who in the frontier of Minnesota,in 1850 began practicing medicine in a little town of Rochester, which has become one of the greatest medical centers in the world. His sons Charlie and Will would follow in their father's foot steps in the 1880's.

The Rochester Record and Union newspaper of April 23, 1880 states Dr. Mayo and associates removed a cancerous tumor off the cheek of a woman. The tumor was at the base of her right eat and an artery ran through the base of it. She is doing very well although it was a delicate and dangerous surgery.

In July of 1882 Dr. Mayo removed a tumor from the top of a man's head. It was eating through the bone. The operation was successful.

A few years later, The Sisters of St. Francis erected a free stating hospital. The paper states, (about Mayo),Although these examples of surgery are noble, nothing is an noble was the erection and maintenance of a free hospital where one received the best care and attention, (speaking of the Sisters of St. Francis).

By 1889, it is reported the doctors Mayo are performing removal of the bowel as well as wiring hip bones together of a man who was kicked by a vicious stallion.

In 1906 a leading surgeon from St. Louis is quoted by the paper as saying he had witnessed 104 operations in a few days and everyone has been successful.

Many of us know someone who has been, once again at Rochester and once again, diagnosed and had surgery after physicians in his home state could not figure out the problem.

As it was with my own mother, who, in 1949, was tired and slept a lot. Daddy was told to take her to Arizona for hot baths. She just kept getting worse. Daddy loaded her up in the car and dropped her off at Mayo. He brought me to my great aunt's in St. Paul and went back to Rochester. By the time he returned, she had been diagnosed.

Brilliant, don't you think?


Friday, November 7, 2008


In August of 1894, Walter had to get up at 6:00 o'clock in the morning so he could leave for his accounting job by 8:15; walking 45 minutes to work.

Then, because the food is better, comes home for dinner, (noon meal) and uses a taxi service. He states it is cheaper to come home for lunch and pay for the taxi than to eat downtown.

Walter says he has so much writing to do at work that he can hardly hold a pen and his arm feels lame. Oh, poor Walter, when he gets home he has to put the ice in the fridge and help his wife with dishes.

Then, after supper, he has to pile wood. He bought the four foot lengths of Maple and has to cut and split it. Then, there is a matter of ordering coal, would 3 ton be enough for September, October, November, and December?

Poor Walter, now he has to take his lunch to work to save the street car fare. He needs to apply that $3.00 to a $40 furniture bill and $15 on his stove.

Now in January, Walter decides he doesn't like his job. He works for his uncle. He has been treated meanly and anyone, according to Walter, that smokes cigarettes will do anything low.

In February Walter remains on his job but is bored because all he does is work and go home and goes to bed. Poor Walter who stays by the fire to keep warm and freezes his back side while the front side roasts.

Walter has been home with a head ache and eye pain for three days. He has to work with his eyes and thinks he needs to find a different job. He says his wife is a lovely housekeeper but she needs to be more economical in her spending.

By April, he is still harping about wanting to move. This time closer to the families. It is rumored the salaries will be cut even though the manager of the company is rich. The manager is considered the wage earners worst enemy.

Poor Walter is now bitching to his family about writing letters to him talking about how well is brother is doing. He tells his father he didn't have the opportunities his brother had. His brother took a job driving a wagon and delivering goods and the owner took a shine to Charlie while he, Walter pokes along at the same thing working for the railroad.

Walter writes to his mother in July and asks her to come and take care of his wife who is sick. Actually, she is recovering from childbirth.

Poor Walter has been so busy because he had to do all the writing of letters to his wife's family AND wait on his wife. The baby was a forceps baby and his head and face were all out of shape. Poor Walter had to work a few evenings to catch up at work.

Ah, now we know why he was bad mouthing his brother. His brother loaned him money and he doesn't have it to honor the loan. He tells his brother he doesn't have a decent suit to wear to church and both he and his wife need shoes but he doesn't even have the money for that! Walter makes $56.50 a month as an accountant and he owes the doctor $9 and the dentist $2.50.

He makes a list of what he owes:

$12.00 rent
19.75 groceries
2.00 ice
2.75 fuel
2.20 coffee, tea
3.00 milk and cream
3.12 baby food
.76 laundry
3.00 sewing machine payment

He has $7.92 cents left at the end of the payments.

In September of '96, Poor Walter lost his job which put him in a bad way.

Walter did not find a job from September to January when he wrote again to say that when he came home from looking for work, his wife and baby were sick..

Walter died in 1930 of Bright's Disease and his wife died in 1944. The baby served in WWI and trained in Salvation Army work and rose to the rank of captain.

Do you know any Walters?


Thursday, November 6, 2008


The Minneapolis Maternity Hospital opened in 1886. This is the report the following year. Let's look at its mission.

Maternity Hospital is a lying-in hospital for the confinement of married women, who are without means or suitable abode and care at the time of child birth. It also admits to its shelter unfortunate girls, who, under promise of marriage have been led astray.

These girls are not of the vicious or abandoned classes; most of them are young women of good moral and religious training, and who cherish both virtue and and reputation, but who in a moment of over-confiding weakness have fallen.

No hospital in the city admits an unmarried woman for confinement, no matter what the circumstances may have been. It is obvious on a moment's consideration, that it is much better for these patients to have a separate hospital devoted entirely to such cases, than to have only a ward in the general hospital. There should be a distinction made between those who are living a life of shame, and those who are often "more sinning against than sinning. To the latter, Maternity Hospital opens its doors, cares for them in every way as far as possibly watches over them after they have left.

Old Trunks wonders how many young girls were shuffled off to a hospital some where to have their babies. It truly saddens me to think the family found this to be the only choice. How frightened these young girls must have been. Why did parents send them away? Was it shame on the family? And what really makes me mad is, the sperm donor is free to go impregnate again.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Perhaps you have found yourself saying to your child, "Oh, that building used to be the Gustafson Nash dealership OR the Times used to be in the old Stewart Hotel."

Interesting, isn't it, that buildings are just buildings and name changes and original purpose for the building becomes totally something else. Such is the case with the following:

On University Avenue, not far from where we live, there is a three story buff brick building which now houses a group home for developmentally disabled.

Florence Crittenton, the daughter of a prominent New York businessman, Charles Crittenton, was four years old when she died of scarlet fever in 1882. Devastated by the death of his beloved Florence, the millionaire father began attending prayer meetings.

It was at one of these meetings that Charles Crittenton met an evangelist, Smith Allen. During a missionary tour with Allen to the "red light district," Crittenton met two young prostitutes and told them how the death of his much loved daughter led to his religious conversion. The girls, moved by Crittenton's story, expressed a desire to also lead a Christian life. To his dismay, Crittenton discovered that there were no alternatives to life on the streets for these young women.

From that day until the first home was opened on April 19, 1883, Charles Crittenton devoted himself to providing a safe haven for the young women of the streets.

A Safe haven for twelve to fifteen young women, was created at 711 South 13Th Street [now University Drive] in Fargo, with the help of a $ 1,000 contribution from Charles Crittenton. The land was donated by Hannah E. Briggs. I believe that this is the building on the left in the picture above.

The Women's Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U) of North Dakota had responsibility of maintaining the home, which served unwed mothers. In 1908, the Florence Crittenton Mission took over the work of the W.C.T.U. home. The main building site was completed in 1911 (the building on the right in the picture above).

The Articles of Incorporation for the Florence Crittenton Home were amended in 1971 with a change of purpose and name. The name Fraser Hall was chosen to honor Mrs. Irene Fraser (member of the Board of Directors) and to give a new focus to a program for the developmentally disabled.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Thanks, Susan B Anthony and others for pushing for the 19Th Amendment which gave women the right to vote upon its enactment on August 18, 1920.

That means my grandmother was 35 the first time she voted. That year, Warren B Harding's campaign slogan was "Return to Normalcy" It was just after WWI. As you can see on the chart, Harding, (in blue) carried MN. He was a republican. My grand father openly supported the democrats, grand mother never said. I do not know if she got Harding into office.


Coolidge R


Hoover R



First year Daddy voted


FDR D with twice as many votes as Landon AND 98+ percent of electoral




First year Mother voted


Harry Truman D

(finished FDR term and ran for election)


Dwight D Eisenhower R


Dwight D Eisenhower R


John F Kennedy D


Lyndon B Johnson D

First year Old Trunks voted

(Finished Kennedy's term and ran for election)

Old Trunks does remember the little trailer house parked between the Pennington Hotel and the J&B Drug store. It was the local headquarters for Eisenhower. There were I LIKE IKE stickers all over the out side. I was certain Eisenhower was in that little trailer. I do know we had an election in class in third grade and Eisenhower won. I do not know just how it was done or if we had any facts regarding the process. I LIKE IKE was a great campaign slogan and Old Trunks doesn't remember much about Adlai Stevenson of Illinois who ran as a democrat. History tells us that Nixon, Eisenhower's running mate did most of the 'dirty work'. Ike stayed pure.

You are free to vote let's hope you did.