Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Brush with Stardom…

Lawrence Welk
Except it was well before stardom hit Lawrence Welk.  As a young man, he and his band traveled throughout North Dakota and eastern South Dakota playing for dances, and one of those jobs was at Cottonwood Lake, near Redfield, South Dakota, when he was just 17.

One night, he asked 19-year-old Mary Joyce out on a date.  After that date, he told Mary she was too old for him, so asked her 15-year-old sister Ag out instead!  She went out with him a few times, but eventually declined his requests as his breath was terrible!

There are a few things about this story that don’t line up perfectly – Mary and Ag’s ages would make the year 1916, but Welk would have been only 13 then.  Perhaps it was a few years later – but Mary was married in 1920, so it would likely have been around 1919.  This story came from uncle Jimmy Yost, about 2002, through his nephew Brian.
Mary (left) and Agnes Joyce

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Holiday Meals

If I sit quietly and block out the real world, I can remember vivid snippets of holiday dinners at Grandma and Grandpa's house.  Thinking back to our arrival at their home, I can still smell the aromas of some wonderful things cooking in the oven, and hear the rattling of the pressure cooker control.  I can see the pink bowl on the table, always filled with something really, really good; I can see plates with slices of different pies on the buffet.  I see a pretty pink popcorn cake that was destined to be munched on all afternoon, long after dinner was gone and everyone had thought they were full.  No matter the holiday, it was always a full and delicious meal, and lots of good company and conversation.

Now that I have a fair number of years doing Grandma's job, it occurred to me that I probably never told Grandma how much I enjoyed and appreciated all those fantastic meals - all the potato peeling, the cooking, the baking, the trips to the grocery store, all the money they spent, all the cleaning poor Grandpa had to do in preparation... and they probably had no idea that they were making such comforting and lasting memories.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Passion for Mechanics

The year was about 1917, and the place was rural Beadle county, South Dakota, and the Will Knutz family was going for a ride in the new car!  But first, photos had to be taken.  People piled in and out of the vehicle, in various configurations, until it was finally time to take a spin.  For little Bill "Willie" Knutz, sandwiched in the back seat between his uncle Delbert and Aunt Lulu, and behind his brother Howard, this was a life changing event.

Bill told the story of when he was just a lad, and the car needed repair.  Will took the car to a mechanic in Huron, and as the man worked on it, Bill watched his every move.  The mechanic finally noticed, and invited young Bill to take a look under the hood, and took the time to explain all the parts to him and what they did.  He was fascinated at how it all worked together, and from that point on, Bill was deeply interested in mechanics.

As a young man, Bill worked as a farm hand.  He told of many cars that he had bought and sold, and he tinkered with them all.  Only one got the best of him; he told how it sat in the barn for months while he worked on it, and he never did get it running.

Over the years, Bill used that mechanical ability to fix just about anything that needed fixing; they never had the money to just replace things, so you could argue that it was out of necessity. But I think otherwise - when he would get our attention as children, he'd take us to his basement workshop and show us whatever he had apart at that moment, and how it worked, in detail.  Then he'd fix it.  And I suspect he would have fixed things regardless of his financial condition, because on that day in the mechanic's shop long ago, he'd found his passion.