Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook by Bill Blauvelt Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Life, Beyond the Ranch, by Tonya R. Pohlman

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
The television program known as "Garage Gold" supposedly features an eastern company that will clean and spruce up a garage in exchange for the contents. Producers of the show work hard to build suspense and excitement around the Garage Boys' finds.
Will the Garage Boys find a valued hidden treasure that more than pays the costs of cleaning and sprucing up the garage? That's always the question just before the show breaks for a commercial.
Generally, I accept without question the stated values presented on the show. For example, how would I know the value of a World War I army helmet or a book autographed by W. C. Fields? Occasionally, I think the values are inflated in the name of entertainment. During one show they claimed to discover an industrial grade paper cutter and placed the used cutter's value above it's new selling price. Since The Express has one of those cutters, I base my evaluation on experience. The cutter looks nice but doesn't work well and certainly is not suited for a commercial application. I place the value closer to $50. Certainly not the $1,000 quoted on the show.
Saturday afternoon, Rita and I would have welcomed the Garage Boys assistance at 500 Commercial but they would have been disappointed when they found little of value in the stuff we were sorting through.
We started to clean the garage last year and have yet to complete the task, but we are gaining.
We have found some interesting things but thus far noting of much value in the garage attic. When we started, there were boxes that had not been opened since my parents moved from the country in 1972. Since my parents have died, I think it is probably safe to dispose of their bank statements from the 1940s. But what about coloring books from the 1930s and World War II training manuals?
As a youngster, my Uncle Duane liked airplanes. For youngsters growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, I suspect airplanes could be compared to the space ships of my childhood. I didn't dream about flying an airplane but I certainly did dream about exploring the universe in a space ship.
The garage attic contained a 1930 book entitled "Designs of Aircraft for Girls and Boys to Color" by Bill Bailey.
According to the instructions "If your box has all the colors in it, you will be able to manage easily. If you have only red, blue and yellow paints you can make any other color, for red and blue mixed make violet or purple, red and yellow mixed make orange, yellow and blue mixed make green, and red, yellow and blue mixed make brown. Do not have your brush too wet, for the color will run. Some pages are not colored. Use your own ideas for them. If you have no water colors, use crayons."
Duane apparently did not have the suggested water colors for all pages were colored using crayons.
The illustrations show the advancement of air travel.
The parachute jumping page shows men jumping out of single-engine, double-seated biplanes. The pictured Ford Tri-motor looks much like the airplane I took pictures of at the Superior airport. However the helicopter looks more like gyrocopter. It had a single high wing, a propeller on the fuselage nose and a helicopter type rotor above the wing.
Refueling in flight pictured men standing in open hatches holding a hose stretched between the two planes. Instead of an aircraft carrier, a floating airport was pictured. There were blimps and Zeppelins to color. Motors were started by men spinning the propellers. Airmail was picked up from an ocean liner by trailing a cable over the ship. One of the more imaginative pages pictured an airplane hooking onto a dirigible. There were pusher planes with the engine in the rear and even an all-metal blimp.
A dirigible was pictured landing on the roof of a downtown building. While most planes were bi- or tri-winged, a mono-wing plane was shown spraying for mosquitoes.
The book was bound by stapling flat sheets of paper to two eighth-inch thick sheets of cardboard. Book tape was used to cover the staples. We were still occasionally binding books that way when I started in the printing business but the labor cost made the method impractical for all but short runs. The last time I called a supply house to order book binding tape I was told, "That is no longer available. I suggest you go to the hardware store and see if you can buy duct tape in the color you are looking for."
In this century most everything requires the use of duct tape and a cable to connect it to a charging device. When Duane was playing with coloring books, duct tape hadn't even been invented. It's a wonder he grew to manhood.
And how to manage the tangle of charging cords we must now deal with will the topic for another entry in this notebook, if I ever solve that question.
In addition to cleaning the garage I've been trying to organize my home office. I've been searching the internet for suggestions on how to keep all the cords in order but thus far the ideas don't look like they will improve my situation. Why can't the manufacturers select a universal charger design that works with everything?

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli
Most people have a piece of clothing or shoes they are just not ready to part with. Even when there are holes in their favorite pair of jeans, or a cherished cap or shirt becomes soiled and stained, they still are pulled out of the dresser or closet and worn.
When my sons were children, one had a T-shirt that was his favorite. In time, oil stains were here and there and the color began to fade. Even though I threw it away on wash day, he always pulled it out of the trash and wore it. One day it just began to fall apart on its own. It went from school shirt to chore shirt, but it was hard to give up. My other son wore his favorite cap, stained and worn, until it came up missing one day. Later, I admitted I was guilty of tossing it away.
My husband finds it hard to give up any piece of his clothing. Jeans are worn even after holes made while working on the fence can't be patched anymore. He claims they are just getting "broke in." I ask him to please at least not wear them into town, and he answers, "Why not? They are in style. I see them new in clothing stores with holes in them." I try to explain it looks like he has a wife who never sees to replacing or mending holey jeans. He just laughs and says, "They don't notice the holes at the grain elevator or service station." Well, I think they do. The other guys are probably saying to each other, "Shame, shame having a wife who lets him out of the house with holey jeans like that." Maybe, or maybe not. Any way, this winter he'll wish he didn't have so many holes in those old jeans to let in the cold air.
I guess I'm just as bad, because I hate to give up wearing my capri pants, even though it's fall. During spring and summer, I love capri pants. I wear them until my ankles begin to get cold. One of my friends hates to give up her sandals and continues to wear them well into the winter. And even though she gives up wearing them outside during the winter, when she is inside, she continues to wear them.
Sometimes being loyal to a ball team causes a person to continue wearing a sweatshirt with a team logo on it washing after washing. They may think it is so special, if they quit wearing it their team may not win.
There are billed caps my husband cherishes with logos that feature his hobby of aviation. The caps are separate from his farm caps and are kept neatly on a shelf in his office. These caps are only worn for "good." His farm caps with logos of seed companies, livestock associations and car companies are worn while farming, become stained and after several washings begin to fall apart. Though he has about 30 replacement caps in his coat closet, he never gives up a cap unless it is so worn even he can't stand it. That has to be pretty bad! I don't think he'll ever give up his favorite caps. He always washes those by hand. He never trusts me with their care.
It may be a rancher with favorite boots that have changed in appearance through years of service, but just can't be parted with; or that coat that keeps getting pulled out of the closet year after year even though the style when out in the 70s, we all have things we can't seem to part with.

A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

On Sunday, we went to Peru State College for the vocal music department's fall concert. Our daughter, Kateri, is a freshman and a member of the concert choir. Also performing was the chamber choir, a 16-member group comprised of concert choir members, selected by audition, I imagine.
It was the first concert under the direction of a new choir director at PSC. The man who began as director of vocal music there my sophomore year (1979-80) died from complications of open heart surgery just as this fall semester commenced. He was only faculty member remaining from when I was a student, and I was looking forward to Kateri having choir with him. I was in all the vocal emsembles there, including "Misty Blues," the school's show choir.
But the new guy did a fine job.
It was nostalgic for me and Kathy to sit in the college auditorium. My time in that building as a student would easily have been in the thousands of hours, including rehearsals, performances, set building and painting, classes and work study.
It's a small, but beautiful and historic performance venue ­­ with a traditional proscenium arch and balcony. The white plaster has all been painted flat black and the deep blue teaser and main curtain have been replaced with the same in gold, but otherwise the theatre is pretty much like we left it. Several rows of seats in the back of the house have been sacrificed for a new light and sound booth, replacing the antiquated backstage dimmer panel and sound system to which I was well-accustomed.
I have been in the building a time or two since I graduated, but Sunday was the first time I sat down and watched a performance of any kind in a long time. To be honest, I did little of that even as a student. If there was a theatrical performance, I was either backstage or onstage ­­ or perched precariously on "the beam" operating a follow spot. The last time I watched a performance there was about two years after I graduated. I drove down from Omaha to see a play because I knew some of the actors still.
I should know the date the auditorium was built, but I don't. The school's drama club, Peru Players, was established in about 1910. I served as president for two years. There's also a ghost story associated with the building ­­ involving a varsity wrestler, a beautiful actress and unrequited love, but that's for another time.

Life, Beyond the Ranch, by Tonya R. Pohlman

Marty and I indulged our wanderlust with a weekend getaway to Omaha this month. Our last trip to Omaha was a quick overnight stay in March for a Gordon Lightfoot concert. On that hurried occasion, we experienced just enough of the atmosphere of downtown Omaha and the Old Market to assure our return.
For our recent trip to Omaha, blue skies and moderate autumn temperatures made for further enjoyable exploration both indoors and out. Marty and I first visited the Durham Museum near Omaha's Old Market district and Little Italy. The museums I enjoy most are those that not only contain pieces of history, but those that are part of the history they contain.
The Durham Museum building is the result of renovations from 1975 to the present day, of Omaha's Union Station, originally opened as a passenger train station by Union Pacific Railroad in 1931, and closed in 1971. According to museum's historical timeline notes, in 1971, Congress established the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, now Amtrak, to handle all railroad passenger travel. Union Station was given to the City of Omaha in 1973, and despite initial discussions of demolishing the building, it was opened as the Western Heritage Museum in 1975, later renamed for Chuck and Margre Durham, whose leadership and generosity made for further major renovations.
For me, the Durham Museum was an opportunity to imagine what train travel might have been like in its heyday, with complete train cars including passenger and dining cars accessible for visitors to board and walk through. For Marty, the Durham Museum offered a chance to meld his interest in trains with nostalgic recollection of his own travels by rail. For some, like my husband, Marty, train travel might have included the luxury of finely cooked meals shared in a dining car. For others, like my mother, it was a necessity as she traveled by train east to west in her childhood, with her parents and sisters, leaving their New Jersey home for a new life, new home and new adventures in Colorado.
I imagine train travel, before Amtrak, a time lost to us perhaps, when travel was part of the experience and adventure, and not simply a means to an end as our regulative forms of commercial travel seem today. "Getting there is half the fun," an idiom explained as what happens before doing something is a large part of what makes that thing enjoyable, meant more in the days of pre-1970s passenger trains.
My insistence in the present day, on regular stops of our personal vehicle at truck stop convenience stores, a large, ice filled styrofoam cup of Diet Coke, and maybe a lukewarm chili dog in route to whatever destination Marty and I have chosen, cannot be compared to a seated meal in a dining car of maybe a Spanish omelet for 98 cents, or for dinner a well-prepared and expertly served grilled Oregon salmon for $1.65, complete with potatoes rissole, corn O'Brien, warm dinner rolls and your choice of dessert from a selection that included Camembert cheese and toasted crackers or fresh baked apple cobbler.
For Marty, there are memories in riding the rails, of raw power, strength, perhaps integrity and masculinity, exhibited in plumes of smoke from the stack of a steam engine, or promises of yesterday's adventures with the urgent wail of a train whistle. For me, there are imaginings of romance and unforgettable journeys by way of bygone day passenger trains, not unlike what some people might consider when they think of Paris.