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Weekly Columns!

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

 Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
Thursday morning I was among nearly 100 people who gathered at Belleville's Blair Theatre to listen to Jon Schallert's presentation on "Increasing sales and profits as a destination business."
The term "destination business" was a new one for me but as I listened I began to think about the destination businesses I have encountered.
Some like Wall Drug Store in the small town of Wall, South Dakota, have prospered for generations. The first Cabella's stores certainly fit that description. So too did the now closed furniture stores, Waneks of Crete, Smitty's of Jansen and Sedlack's of Hanover. We didn't know it when the business was open, but I think my father's gasoline station fit the description for he had regular customers from far away.
As a youngster, I was somewhat ashamed of the collection of old buildings and used equipment that made up the Blauvelt Station. I dreamed of having a shiny new red and white gasoline station of the design that was then popular. Even the company he purchased petroleum products from once proposed providing white porcelain panels at no cost so my father could cover the buildings and make the place look more modern.
My father wisely declined the offer.
I didn't understand why the sand box, merry go round made from a wooden wagon wheel, swings and trapeze bar had to be located where customers' children could play with them. I incorrectly, thought he had those things for me to play with and I wanted to move them to a location that was out of the customers' sight.
I was certain the swing which hung in a cottonwood tree and was made from a car tire was hard on business. Youngsters stopping at the station with their parents, spied that swing and made a bee line for it. They jumped in it without first checking to see if swing was dry. Frequently they soaked their pants in the rain water that had accumulated overnight. I was correct in thinking the soaked pants made some mothers mad but I suspect on a warm summer day the youngsters weren't that upset. At least one consultant has proposed a splash pad be installed in downtown Superior to give youngsters a place to play and cool off while their parents shopped.
The Blauvelt Station didn't have a splash pad but it had tanks filled with minnows, a livestock watering tank that usually contained a bullhead or two and a swing that held water. On a summer day visiting youngsters seemed to enjoy all those "water features." Instead of hurting business, I now think getting to soak their britches and get to ride in the tire swing caused youngsters to plead with their parents to "Please stop at Blauvelts." No other station in the area had such a swing. Occasionally a parent asked my father to make their children a similar swing.
I wanted to be rid of the horses, milk cow, goats and pigs that inhabited the lots behind the station. I thought the time it took to care for the animals could be better utilized serving the needs of customers. I didn't realize people stopped at the station to see the animals.
When the first Blauvelt gasoline station opened, there were nearly 20 other stations in or near Superior. If it was to succeed, it somehow had to be different. And the business the developed was unlike any others in the mix of products and activities offered.
When the station was located on the river bottom it had a well with a windlass. People could lower a small pail and withdraw water. They could just dump the pail and watch the water run down a trough but many people drank the water they drew from the ground. In later years the station iced and filled drinking jugs with the sweet well water. I remember being told "Your water tastes much better than what I have at home."
The station claimed to have the largest fireworks stand in North Central Kansas and Superior's largest assortment of gloves. Those claims may not have been true but they were never challenged.
Communities, as well as businesses need to find ways to stand out.
While visiting with participants attending Thursday's meeting, a woman asked me "Are you from Belleville?"
"No," I replied. "I'm from Superior."
Without hesitating she replied, "The Victorian Capital of Nebraska. I've never been there but I plan to visit. I'm from the Post Rock Capital of Kansas."
It was about 25 years ago that a handful of Superior business leaders looking for a way to set their community apart and make it stand out, hit upon the idea of making Superior the Victorian Capital of Nebraska.
With the assistance of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the community's strengths and unique features had been evaluated. Early on the story of Evelene Brodstone and her position as the world's highest paid woman business executive in the 1920s and position as a member of British nobility was recognized as something no other Nebraska community could claim. Her story continues to set Superior apart. It is a story that makes Superior unique.
Wisner and O'Neill may spar over being the Irish Capital of Nebraska. Wilber is the state's Czech Capital and Dannebrog the state's Danish Capital. Only Superior can claim to be the home of Evelyn Brodstone, The Lady Vestey.
Though many drag their feet and fail to take hold of the Victorian Capital concept, I believe it is the best of all ideas proposed. With widespread support, the Victorian Capital concept that can make Superior different. It can make Superior a destination community. To work, the concept must be embraced. Thus far it has not gotten the support it needs.
That support is needed just not at festival time but throughout the year.
A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

In the spring, I bought a dozen angelfish for one of the 55-gallon aquariums in my den. The idea was to raise the juvenile fish to adulthood and breed them. This is a time-tested method for obtaining at least one good breeding pair. Having been in the hobby for exactly 50 years, I have bred and sold a number of tropical fish in that time ­­ all manner of livebearers as a youth, then many of the more problematic egg-layers later on. Though I have often kept a tank full of adult angelfish, and witnessed natural pairing off, I never went to the next level and set up the special tanks necessary for breeding the angelfish and successfully rearing their tiny offspring. On Sunday, however, I set up the first of those required tanks, a 29-gallon "high" tank for isolating the pair to breed.
This would probably be a good time to tell you about my attic. There's currently a lot of stuff being stored up there, and among the stuff are many aquariums on stands that I have purchased and pieced together over the years from garage sales and the classifieds. A lot of people are in the hobby for a short time before they find it's not for them and they become eager to part with their tanks, fish, supplies and all. Anyway, when I read that either a 20-gallon or a 29-gallon would work for the breeding tank, but the 29 is best, I said to Kathy, "Well, I've got both up there, so I'll use the 29."
So, now the breeding tank is up, but I have yet to move the fish into it. Before I do that, I need to be ready to deal with a new brood of tiny fish when it happens, which means yet another tank for that. The fry-raising tank (baby fish are called fry) will be a standard 10-gallon with nothing in it but a heater and a sponge filter. I have that too, by the way, I just need to go upstairs and get it. They stay in that tank for a couple of weeks before needing to move to something larger. For that, they can move into either a 30 or a 55 that currently have Japanese koi, which are soon moving to the 120 in the dining room.
I chose angelfish this time because if I am able to rear good, sellable juvenile fish, there is nothing easier to sell than angelfish in the tropical fish world. They are the second most popular fish in the hobby, surpassed only recently by their cousins, the discus fish. I have only kept discus once, and it was about 40 years ago, but I plan to set up a discus tank in my den next year and may try to breed them as well.
My wife has always been patient and understanding about my hobby, and after time I think she developed a passion for it as well. Maybe not as deep as mine, but she does like it. Also, because I buy almost everything second hand, I don't spend much money on it. I think there may be a dozen aquariums in my house, and only about half are set up at any given time. And of all those tanks, I only bought one of them new at a store. And of all the aquarium fish in my house right now, more than half are what I would call "rescued" or "adopted."

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there." A line from the famous Christmas poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas," brings thoughts of hanging Christmas stockings as I once again pull out the decorations to bring some Christmas magic into our farm home.
A separate box was brought out from the basement storage shelves and opened to reveal the Christmas Stockings for each of the children, grandchildren, and also for me and my husband. As our family has grown through the years, so has the amount of stockings. There is longer room on the fireplace mantel for the numerous stockings to be hung, so thanks to a gift catalog from several years ago,and offered two metal poles with hooks, the poles were purchased and are now where the stockings rest. The top of each pole features a cut-out of a green Christmas tree. Each pole has a stand that so far has held the filled stockings.
Each stocking was made to fit that family member's interests, for example one is decorated to suit a Harley Davidson owner, another has fabric with pheasants to suit a person who loves to hunt. Of course, my husband, who's a pilot, has fabric airplanes covering his sock, and myself, a collector of angels, has them all over my stocking. Granddaughters' stockings feature their childhood liking ­­ Winnie the Pooh, kitty cats, Cat in the Hat book and The Wizard of Oz, just to name a few. One side of the family has horse owners and so their stockings showcase that interest. After we open the gifts under the tree, the granddaughters run to find their stocking, which just happens to be filled with their favorite candy, socks, maybe some bubble bath or even a little piece of jewelry. I think the adult children enjoy the filled stockings just as much as the children. Of course, the stockings are now waiting to be filled.
The history of Christmas stockings is interesting. In Europe, many years ago, a tale was told of how a man who had three daughters but was poor and didn't have funds for the daughters to marry. St. Nicholas came to the town where he and his daughters lived and heard about the father's plight. One night while the daughters were sleeping, St. Nicholas threw three small bags of gold through an open window into the father and daughters' home, and the bags landed inside the daughters' stockings that were hanging on the fireplace mantel to dry. Of course, you figured out the rest of the story. The next morning the daughters awoke and discovered the bags of gold inside the stockings on the mantel, and the tradition was started.
At first, children used their own stockings. Some were hung on the fireplace mantel, but some were hung on the child's bed post. Either brought the morning surprise to the children when they awoke to find the stockings filled by who they believed to be St. Nicholas.
I remember, as a child, Mother would hang our purchased Christmas stockings on the side of the staircase railing, because we didn't have a fireplace in our house. It looked quite decorative, as Mother would drape silver or red tinsel down the side of the railing and the stockings were hung at the top of where the tinsel was attached. My sisters and I slept in the upstairs bedrooms so Christmas morning as we awake, we couldn't wait to run down the stairs and find our stockings. From there it was just a hop and a skip down the rest of the stairs to the living room, where the gifts drew our attention beneath a cedar or more modern silver tinsel Christmas tree.
In more recent years, Christmas stockings have become a focal point of holiday decorating. Some try to make the stockings fit that year's chosen Christmas theme. Some are made out of fuzzy material, fancy velvet, jute to fit the rustic look or even shiny gold or silver to match the Christmas tree ribbons. Some stockings feature a Disney character or a favorite comic book hero, but no matter how the stockings appear, it's what ends up inside that really counts!
I read that decorating and cooking specialist, Martha Stewart, not only has special Christmas stockings for family members, but also for every animal on her special farm. For us Kansas and Nebraska farmers and ranchers, that would call for a lot of stockings! Depending on the animal, Stewart apparently fills the stockings with sugar cubes, carrots, grain or apples.
This week, I plan to shop for my family's stocking stuffers," which will take some thinking and planning. My thought list is long, but hopefully when Christmas comes, each filled stocking will be enjoyed.