Being here in Minnesota is always a trip (and I am not just talking about the drive). It is interesting to see how things change and how they stay the same. The nearest city to where my parents live is Alexandria; a city known for the three-story-tall Viking that used to stand in the middle of the main road through town.
I say “used to” because a few years back someone decided that, perhaps, having a three-story-tall statue standing on a six-foot-tall concrete base in the middle of a busy state highways was not the best idea. Not that I had ever actually heard of any accidents from people hitting Big Ole, but then I don’t live here all the time, perhaps there had been. So, the city moved Big Ole off to a park a hundred yards distant at the side of the road.
But there are things that never seem to change, the diner on Broadway that has been there since my grandmother used to take me there for a patty melt and a pop for lunch when we were spending the day “in the city.” The Maid-Rite sandwich store that sells the most unusual sandwich (crumble-fried hamburger and grilled chopped onion mixed with mayo and melted American cheese - trust me, it is not as unappealing as it sounds!) is still there.
Then there are other buildings which have been put to other purposes. The old Red Owl supermarket is now an Ace Hardware, the old library, its gothic architecture making it stand-out on its street of sturdy Midwestern homes, is now a real estate office (the new library is a much larger and more modern) was built a few blocks away to house a much larger and growing collection.
But even the people and the things that they do remind me of the past. Last night, for instance, I was reminded of a trip I took to Buffalo, NY many years ago. Last night I went with my parents to play whist with their whist club. It was so much fun. I don’t get to play cards as much as I would like to. So, why would this remind me of a business trip to New York? Well, it’s like this…
On that trip, my colleague and I tool a side trip on a weekend we had free. We drove up along the lakeshore to a 19th century fort that had been part of the defenses of Canada that saw action during the war of 1812. While there, the guide was giving his schpiel about one of the particular rooms. He told the group about how the officers would spend the evenings here in this room drinking and playing cards.
He then went onto say that they thought that it was cards they were playing but hadn’t been able to verify it. Their journals talked about a regular whist game. It was all I could do to restrain myself from laughing. After the tour I approached the guide on the sly and told him that, indeed, whist was a card game and that it was very popular where my people were from and would he care to, I could explain to him how it was played so that he could be more aware of what the journals meant.
Today my folks and I are working around the house. My siblings arrive today and tomorrow. Friday we’ll be digging horseradish! Yum! (By the way, the dearth of pictures today is due to the fact that it is still exceedingly wet and raining.)
Wherever you are today, I hope all your memories are pleasant ones.
Don Bergquist - October 07, 2009 - Kensington, Minnesota, USA