Saturday, April 09, 2005

Boy Orator of the Platte

In third grade our teacher, Mrs. Alschwede, read us the story of Howard Carter's discovery of Tut's tomb. She was reading it the day we got word that President Kennedy had been assassinated. "Assassinated" is a big vocabulary word for a third grader, but then, so is "Tutankhamen".

I was blasted even further into the larger world by the 1964 Good Friday Alaskan earthquake. I didn't really have a grasp on the "Good Friday" religious concept then, and I'm still pretty shaky. Our Sunday School teachers, Mrs. Mohlman and Mrs. Schwartzkopf, made sure we sang "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" every week in third grade Sunday School.

I got confused when Walter Cronkite reported on Viet Nam. If God ever speaks to me, I am sure it will be in Cronkite's voice.

We had a small black and white tv, but it still had the power to confuse Agent Orange and "trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored."

On the way out the door after church, Mom would slip each of us a butterscotch drop to "tide us over". It's been forty-plus years, but if I go into a church I instantly crave butterscotch drops.

Mrs. Alschwede's third grade class went on a field trip to the Bennett Martin Public Library downtown. I can still see exactly where the biography shelf was in the Children's Room. We were encouraged to read biographies. Specifically, we were encouraged to read the Bobbs-Merrill Childhood of Famous Americans series:

Moore, Clyde B. J. STERLING MORTON ARBOR DAY BOY Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill 1962. J. Sterling Morton is a Nebraska hero. You can visit the Arbor Day site at

By the time HARVEY S. FIRESTONE YOUNG RUBBER PIONEER was published in 1968, I had moved well beyond the series. Still, I wouldn't want any of my sons known as "young rubber pioneers."

I was scissoring around some postage stamps Fritzi saved for me in a cake frosting can. I got to the Knute Rockne stamp. Van Riper, Guernsey Jr. KNUTE ROCKNE YOUNG ATHLETE Publisher: Bobbs-M errill 1952. It's funny the things that set you off. Rather than cry, I ventured forth on a search for those biographies of my wonder years:

Myers, Elisabeth P. GEORGE PULLMAN YOUNG SLEEPING CAR BUILDER Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill 1963.
de Grummond, Lena Young, and Delaune, Lynn de Grummond BABE DIDRIKSON GIRL ATHLETE Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill 1963.
Monsell, Helen A. DOLLY MADISON QUAKER GIRL Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill 1944.
Myers, Elisabeth P. F.W. WOOLWORTH FIVE AND TEN BOY Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill 1962. Stevenson, Augusta GEORGE CUSTER BOY OF ACTION Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill 1963.
Weil, Ann JOHN PHILIP SOUSA MARCHING BOY Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill 1959.
Wilkie, Katharine E. GEORGE ROGERS CLARK BOY OF THE OLD NORTHWEST Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill 1958.

It was about the same year that Mom and her buddy, Marilyn, decided we kids all needed a cultural outing. On a pouring-rain-steamy-day-sweating-in-your-plastic-raincoat day we were piled in the car and taken to the William Jennings Bryan house, "Fairview", on the grounds of Bryan Memorial Hospital. It's a black and white memory of Mom and Marilyn gasping when we all directed our attention to the Victorian sawed-off elephant leg umbrella holder!

I worked at Bryan Memorial as a volunteer and as kitchen employee. My dad would pick me up after my shift at the Lab Door just to the left of this spot. He was a Lab Door Retriever. If I was lucky, he would take me to Kings Drive In at 48th & O to get a deluxe cheeseburger.

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