Trial Balloon

Darlene's Flowers

Posted at 5:37 AM on April 6, 2010 by Radio Heartlander (75 Comments)
Filed under: Guest Bloggers

From the Desk of the Heartlanders
Guest Blogger - Anna

"Can you weed a garden?" This was the entire interview for my first job. When I answered in the affirmative, the follow up question was, "Can you get here by 9:30?" The application, such as it was, consisted of my future boss writing my name and phone number on the back of a green order pad of the sort used in diners. My only reference was a pal from school band who had worked there the prior summer. Clearly, this was not a job requiring security clearance, or for that matter, even a Social Security number. This was working for Darlene.

Darlene ran a floral shop out of the front of her house and yard. Her summer uniform consisted of double-knit polyester shorts, a cotton smock with patch pockets, flip flops, a fisherman's hat, and a cigarette. She was barely over 5' tall, "sturdily built," and didn't take any guff. Darlene believed in liberal politicians, church attendance for teaching kids morals, reheating coffee on the stove, a loop of floral wire was enough of a "lock" for her gate, and that everyone should be able to afford fresh flowers, even if it was only a single carnation (she'd throw in a little greenery to dress it up).

As promised, on that first day for Darlene, I weeded. Her pressing need that morning was to prepare her back yard for a graduation party for her son, who was completing law school. She was appropriately proud, but knew with fresh cut flowers in the house and bedding plants out front, she had to hope for nice weather and host the party in the back yard. After a few days of weeding and cleaning up the back yard, I was promoted to sweeping the front walk and selling bedding plants (divided, thankfully, into annuals and perennials on different sides of the front walk, and sun vs. shade front to back). I watered and sold and, as the summer progressed, was asked to help out with making boutonnieres and corsages for weddings.

When I left for college, I was asked back on weekends to assist with more weddings as well as lilies at Easter. Easter also brought the lily wreath that had previously been the purview of her son, the freshly minted lawyer. I was shown the large foam wreath form, the boxes of blooms (prepped in floral "picks" with water in them), the bow for the bottom, and given the one direction, "keep them all facing the same direction as you go." Darlene disappeared upstairs leaving me with the basement bench, the smell of lilies, and a lot of anxiety (mine only - she trusted my eye for flowers). I got a call from Darlene when I was back at college telling me how lovely the wreath had looked at the church ("one of the best").

After that first wreath, there was never an opportunity for a second; the shop had closed by the time the next Easter came. This is some of the wisdom I gleaned from Darlene: tuck the holder for a handheld bride's bouquet in a beer stein so you have both hands free; roses should smell good, not just look pretty; have faith in your endeavors (a neighborhood flower shop can flourish even on a side street); share praise. And even a single carnation can be enough to bring someone a little joy.

Who was your favorite, or most interesting, boss?

Comments (75)

You've set met thinking Anna and it's still a bit early for that!

My first job was at florist shop too, but I had possibly the worst cold of my life when Easter Lily's came in by the thousands! That is an aroma to set your sinuses on fire even if they're in fine shape. I did not return except as a customer.

Have to get some caffine and keep thinking about influential bosses...

Posted by Kim in Saint Paul | April 6, 2010 6:03 AM

Anna -- just lovely! Thank you.

My most interesting boss was named Mallard (no kidding!) He hired me to do the job of getting empty spaces to become software stores. It was a hard, stressful job, but it taught me to develop my organizational skills and how to be incredibly resourceful, traits that I treasure. Doing that job well got me the job I have now, which I love (hope so, I've been at it for 20 years).

He fostered a real sense of fun on his team (just 3 of us) that I always remember and both the other team members from this job remain close friends all these many years later. Mallard left town and we lost contact, but I'll always have a special place in my heart for him and that job.

Posted by sherrilee | April 6, 2010 6:07 AM

Good Morning to All,

Very good story and theme Anna. I worked for a man at a non-profit organization. He was always very nice to everyone and told me a few secrets about the organization, but kept some things to himself.

He moved on to another job while I was still working there because he knew that a nice guy, like him, would not be in a good position when money for projects ran out. He was right. The project I was on ran out of money and my job ended.

At the going away party for my boss it was very clear every one didn't want to see him go. The head of the Institute told my boss that he didn't know he was so well liked and he should stay at the Institute, but my former boss told him he was too late with his offer.

Posted by Jim | April 6, 2010 6:11 AM

Wonderful story, Anna and a great topic of discussion today - thanks! you painted a vivid picture of Darlene.
outside of babysitting, my first real job was at 15 at one of the two cafes in town - "Vern's." $.65/hour. i was a moony teenager, and like most teenagers, not interested in speed or efficiency. Vern and his wife ran the cafe; she did most of the cooking and they lived upstairs. a woman came in at 3 a.m. to bake a bunch of pies almost every day. Vern made fresh donuts a couple times a week. "Dorothy" was a waitress there also - on the order of "Flo" in saltiness, hair dye, and lipstick with aprons that always had a pretty handkerchief in one pocket.
several times a day the Greyhound would stop for a 15 minute break and passengers would flood the restaurant. Vern would have two kinds of quick sandwiches prepared and plenty of fresh coffee. the first night i moved at my typical pace. Vern was not happy. but instead of yelling at me, he told me what to do faster and better. by the second time the bus stopped Dorothy was on my side and i was hopping along quickly. Vern told me how well i had done. Vern and Dorothy helped me look ahead and plan and i think i was a good waitress by the end of the year. i moved on to other jobs, but "Vern's" cafe was there for many, many years. the bus doesn't go thru town anymore.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | April 6, 2010 6:32 AM

Great story, Anna, and it suggests many responses.

My best boss--and it isn't any contest--was a genial, smart, pipe-smoking man named Jim. This was when I was advising freshmen students at the U of MN, helping them sign up for the right classes.

Jim had a gift for working with people. He never criticized, and yet sometimes he gently corrected us when we were falsely proud of how we'd handled some situation. Jim set an atmosphere of trust and respect. We did our best work because we couldn't imagine letting Jim down.

I once had to go to Jim with the strangest and most terrifying story I'd ever heard from a student. I asked Jim to trust me to handle that girl's problems appropriately rather than telling her doctors what she'd told me, thus sending her back to the hospital she had just left. To go along with me, Jim was risking his career, standing to gain next to nothing. But he wanted to show his trust in me. He agreed to my cockeyed plan, and it all worked out.

He is old now. I talked to him on the phone for the first time in decades, and he couldn't remember me. Then I told him about that incident, and he remembered every bit. I trusted Jim like I trusted my father.

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | April 6, 2010 6:51 AM

Thanks for sharing! What an excellent topic, Anna.

Unfortunately, I never had any memorable bosses. Let's hope none of them are reading this and recognize me. ;-)

Have a great day, all!

Posted by elinor | April 6, 2010 7:05 AM

Greetings! What a fun subject, Anna! I clearly remember the boss from my first real job. A brand new Sambo's opened in town. I applied and got a job as a waitress -- no experience. As a new restaurant, we got full training.

Well, unfortunately I totally sucked as a waitress. When business was hopping, I'd get flustered, forget small things, shake as I poured coffee, got prices wrong and added up prices incorrectly (long before computers).

Luckily John Z (the owner) liked me. He made me hostess instead, where I flourished. I was only 18, but I vaguely resembled his wife, Janet. She also was tall, thin and brunette. He was always joshing and joking with me, giving me pointers to do a better job. I'll never work in the restaurant industry, but I have great respect for wait staff and always tip generously.

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | April 6, 2010 7:21 AM

Fun stories already! (Sherrilee, I knew a Mallard once too - great name, though I wouldn't visit on a child of my own.)

I think, Steve and Barb in Blackhoof, you both hit it with the essential Best Boss (at least in my book): one who teaches you something and who trusts you. That was Darlene. I miss her, and wish I could go back and tell her all I learned without realizing it. That opportunity, however, passed too quickly.

Happy Tuesday all!

Posted by Anna | April 6, 2010 7:33 AM

i was a searching youth who traveled the us in a vw van came back to minnesota to study music, art, vw mewchanics and to get to know my dad a bit after those teen years of confrontation. he was in sales and while i still have great love and involvement in arts and music i loved being able to feed my family by selling. the more the better. it became a 30 year journey that allowed me to have a dad and best friend all wrapped up in one. he was not a dynamo, he was persistant. he said the secrret to sales is to make lots of calls and be honest about what you know and what you don't. the humor and enjoyment in the human interaction is what makes the world go round. it has served me well and the memories of working together for 35 years will be treasured forever. i am lucky to have a memorable boss and i try to remember that when i am dealing witht the people i work with today.
thanks anna good way to begin the day.

Posted by tim | April 6, 2010 7:38 AM

Anna, i suppose good bosses understand youth and Darlene probably got her thanks from seeing how you improved (she obviously observed that, because she promoted you...) so whether we said something or not, i think they know.
and Steve, sometimes the smallest thing you do may make a huge impact on someone's life. some of my students have told me things that i did to encourage or things i've said and i've totally forgotten. i think sometimes they're making it up :-)
or i'm getting credit for someone else's help.
thanks again, Anna - i'll check back later; it's a busy day. a couple of past students (now friends) are coming out with a passel of human kids to see our kids. happy day, All

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | April 6, 2010 7:46 AM

I don't willingly put my neck into the yoke, so mostly haven't thought too much about bosses, although a lot of them did teach me quite a bit (the ones I learned the most from were the toughest masters), but I am forever grateful to all the powers that were when I had my son.

My immediate supervisor was concerned and caring enough to take the day off and come to the hospital (mostly to hear me talk on and on), because she knew I was pretty much on my own.

Everyone else up the chain of command was also very concerned and helpful, so much so that I felt compelled to stay on a lot longer than I otherwise might have.

After a few years of independence, I'm getting back into the box, starting yesterday. Glad for the work, but it will be an adjustment in our family.

Posted by catherine | April 6, 2010 7:53 AM

I think the most interesting boss I've had would have to be Susie, the president of the little consulting group mentined yesterday, where I replaced another Barbara at the front desk. She was/is a 4'9" dynamo with incredible vision, drive, and intelligence. I started out as receptionist, within a few months she sensed that I could take on more responsibility... In was eventually dubbed "internal consultant."

From her I learned to have confidence in my abilities, and to take risks. And she and co-owner Patrick understood something else: the methods they used with clients were also used within our group... we had a monthly staff retreat where we worked on our own "stuff."

Thanks, Anna, for a well-written story and a lovely topic to think about.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | April 6, 2010 8:00 AM

Catherine - by "back in the box" do you mean in an office? or just the "job box"?

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | April 6, 2010 8:02 AM

My first year teaching I was blessed with a principal who was kind, observant and helpful. He didn't evaluate what was happening in my classroom by sitting in the back of the room taking notes, but stopped in for a moment each day ostensibly to collect absentee lists.

At one point early in the year, he said he was going to come by to watch me teach arithmetic...then called "new math" -- I said, "if you do, I'm going to make you teach it." He never came by to watch, he lined up for me to observe other teachers instead -- one who was extremely successful at it, one who wasn't.

Brilliant. I found my ground and managed to do an adequate if not brilliant job of teaching the new math.

Much as I loved and respected him, however, it wasn't enough to keep me in the job...I ran off to Europe the next fall and it took me several years before I went back in the classroom. But Mr. Timm, I remember,,,I stayed in touch with him for many years, then lost contact, recently tried again to learn he had died in the 90s.

Thanks, Anna, for the positive spin on is always too easy to remember just the bad ones.

Here's to Tuesday, y'all.

Posted by cynthia in mahtowa | April 6, 2010 8:12 AM

Just counted--had 22 bosses I can identify. They ranged over the whole map of bosses: good to bad, hated me to loved me, caring to indifferent. (Remember that the Peter Principal was developed watching school administrators.) But I do not have a story worth telling about any one of them, which says more about me than them, I am sure. My high school football coach (I taught where I went to school) once offered me the head coaching job. (I did coach grades 7-8 for a few years.) I said to him, "I can just hear my pre-game pep talk: 'If you aren't internally motivated, I doubt that I can talk you into it; nor would I respect you if I could.'"

Posted by Clyde | April 6, 2010 8:26 AM

I had a boss in college named Hilda, who ran the snack bar at Concordia-Moorhead.. She was a very hard working but somewhat jaded older woman who ran a very tight ship and who had worked at the college for years. Her daughter was a rather well known classical singer and I'm sure Hilda didn't need to work as much as she did. My other memorable boss was the CEO of a hospital I worked at. He was a short and rather rotund man with an ego the size of Alaska who strutted around the place looking like a game cock or fighting rooster. He went the way of all tyrants, thank goodness. Sometimes it's not such a good thing to fancy oneself a big fish in a little pond.

Posted by Renee | April 6, 2010 8:27 AM

Wow, Cynthia, I kind of forgot a principal is also a boss! I too had an excellent principal those first couple of years. I'd landed a half day kindergarten class (40 kids!) at St. Anne's of the Sunset, and Sister Bernice was a kind and progressive person, open to trying new ideas. She let me do a staggered schedule (half the kids come from 8:30-11, half 9:30-12), which though it took more planning and some parental assistants, was a godsend. I've always meant to write her a thank you letter... maybe I'll try it now.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | April 6, 2010 8:39 AM

Renee -- I completely agree about the big fish/little pond. I think it just makes someone a better target! This was how it worked for a former odious boss, who also strutted. My friend and I, who had both jumped ship already, split a bottle of champagne the night we heard he had been "forced out of the pond"!

Posted by sherrilee | April 6, 2010 8:44 AM


Thanks for the story Anna... a good one.

I haven't had too many bosses in the first place and the ones I have had were just sort of 'there'...

Since most of my adult life was farming I was my own boss and he is grumpy and bossy and demanding but trusts me and knows eventually the job will get done...

I suppose my Dad was my boss too for a several years... I'll agree with you Tim, it's a good thing to do.
And now in this college job, my immediate boss and supervisor has been my friend for 15 years before I got this job and I'm still mostly my own boss....
And it's busy around here this week so he's insisting I get off the computer.

Later everyone!

Posted by Ben | April 6, 2010 8:53 AM

Ben -- did you like today's Writer's Almanac poem? Loved the "it's only 8 hours" sentiment!

Posted by sherrilee | April 6, 2010 8:54 AM

Looking back, I would say by and large I've been blessed with pretty good bosses -- one or two bad ones along the way, though.

As a secretary for many years, my bosses were mainly men -- some of whom I adored. The best ones knew the power of the secretarial grapevine so would ask me what was really going on in dept, and how to delegate tasks or projects to challenge me. I worked for a few wonderful women as well, but women are accustomed to doing everything themselves, so they didn't always give me interesting projects unless I took it from her (for her own good)!

It's kind of fun looking at what aspects comprise a "good" boss.

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | April 6, 2010 9:04 AM

Tim - my dad was a salesman, too. I'm often caught off guard by how many lives he touched selling choral music and hymnals. He didn't so much sell as go talk to friends he made when he was out at conventions. And along the way taught me that you can do something to make money and still have time to do something you love that will never make you a cent.

And all the Good Boss stories here, as well as a few Bad Boss examples, are why I have steered clear of being any sort of manager or supervisor myself. I just don't think I have it in me to be the sort of boss I feel I should be (a Susie or a Patrick or a Mr. Timm), and I wouldn't want to shortchange those working for me.

Posted by Anna | April 6, 2010 9:05 AM

I've had some truly wonderful bosses.

But the thing I realized is that "interesting" is often a Minnesotan term for "difficult" or "I'd prefer to stay off the record on my honest assessment."

In light of that, I'll share one detail on an "interesting" boss. Many, many years ago I had a boss who gave me a copy of the "The Art of War" told me to read it and pass it on to my fellow supervisors. I had read it, and thought that was pretty revealing boss-move at the time. It still makes me raise my eyebrows.


Posted by Julia Schrenkler, MPR | April 6, 2010 9:10 AM


WA Poem... Yes, an interesting answer of the sort that my mind just sort of went blank trying to comprehend how he could answer like that! I wouldn't be able to do it...

(what? Yes, I'm going!!) ...boss is scolding me for still being on the computer... but I haven't finished catching up on stuff yet! ;-)

Posted by Ben | April 6, 2010 9:14 AM

Julia--I took interesting to be a story worth telling, and I think more posts above were on the postive side. Nasty bosses are stories worth telling only at the monent. For me they faded into the background quickly.
I had one principal who was an excellent boss for me (won't discuss the other two) because he saw that I was not driven by his review of me but by mine.
And like all farm boys my first boss, and model for all of the rest, was my father. He taught me to do it the bosses way when he was around and to ingnore stupid reviews of my work. His attitude towards his son broke my brother, part of the reason hee has divorced himnself from the family, but made me indifferent to other people's work standards, if I could get aways with it.

Posted by Cly de son of Looie | April 6, 2010 9:23 AM

I've had several memorable bosses but not many good ones. As a manager myself I think I've learned more from the examples of what not to do than the (rare)positive ones.

For my first real job, I was a summer assistant to a wildlife biologist who specialized in snakes and owls. This made for many good stories, like the time we stopped traffic on a busy road by emerging from the woods with me desperately holding a 20 pound snapping turtle and him struggling with a freshly caught 4 foot long blacksnake. (It got particularly interesting when the state trooper showed up.) But on my first day, he gave me the best advice I've ever gotten: "If you want to succeed on this job, don't wait to be told what to do. Anticipate."

Another (different) boss moment I'll never forget: My son had emergency surgery, and, not having much leave time, I showed up for work the next day. My boss called me into his office, chewed me out a bit for being there, and then handed me a fairly short and inconsequential report. "I need a summary of this by the end of next week," he said. "Now get out and don't let me see you again until that summary is finished." This is a lesson I've tried to "pay forward" when my staff has had family issues.

I worked a plant nursery as well for a summer. Unfortunately they specialized in roses rather than lilies. Lilies don't have thorns, and my main job was weeding. My arms were one giant scratch, and my gardening efforts since have been largely confined to plants with less of a protective arsenal.

Posted by Don in West St. Paul | April 6, 2010 9:27 AM

It can be fun to remember the bad ones, too. My former wife had a boss who was even worse than the sociopath she worked for right after grad school. This woman, Chris, called frequent mandatory 5 PM staff meetings so she would have company as she drank herself to oblivion.

I enjoyed her at the Christmas party because Chris jumped barefoot on a table and performed a memorable dance, a sort of pole dance without the pole.

Chris eventually accumulated enemies. My ex wife was sleeping at 3 AM on a business trip in Germany when the phone rang. When she picked up she heard someone gleefully whistling, "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead!" It might have been any one of 30 people working under Chris.

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | April 6, 2010 9:57 AM

Steve - sounds like your ex-wife had a crazy bad boss. Yikes.

Think I like Don's boss' better (I have received similar treatment from a boss when there was a family emergency). Both of the bosses Don had sound like interesting characters.

Posted by Anna | April 6, 2010 10:55 AM

The one time I was a manager with staff under me, I was not a good boss. I mothered everyone too much, and found it hard to require all that was needed of people. Got too chummy, too; now I understand that with most people, a certain distance is needed. I'm sure I would be remembered as a nice but ineffectual boss.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | April 6, 2010 11:24 AM

If you have read my posts today, you know I made a mediocre boss.
But one story. Our accoutant had a five year old sone get brain cancer and die. We paid her salary through it all, even though she did not work. After 37 weeks (12 weeks after the funeral) we had to tell her she either had to come back to work or we would stoip paying her salary. She tried to sue us saying it was in illegal termination, which did not go any where.

Posted by Clyde | April 6, 2010 11:40 AM

Clyde, one thing you mentined about the Peter Principle... the younger bloggers may not be aware of what it is: the tendency to be promoted to your level of incompetency. Nice little book from the 70s that caught on by a Laurence J Peter. That's basically what was happening when I had that manager job. :)

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | April 6, 2010 11:56 AM

I remember that book of the Peter Principle -- it was interesting and rather amusing. My favorite principle was "work expands to fill the time." My father greatly enjoyed that book and he was the Director of Maintenance for the Green Bay school system, so he supervised a large contingent of janitorial, maintenance and boiler workers.

He would usually take the heat for unpopular decisions so the immediate foremen or supervisors could just blame "that goddam Jerry Ahl." At Dad's retirement party, my Irish brother-in-law who can tell great jokes and stories, had worked for a short while in Dad's employ. He told the story of how the men would talk about his future father-in-law (unknowingly), and wasn't sure who they were referring to because his name was sometimes prefaced with "that goddam ..."

I think my Dad was a good boss in a more subtle way. He was not a congenial man and could appear gruff, but those that knew him and his work ethic loved him, and knew he was really a teddy bear. All of his daughters, son, nephews, nieces, wife and friends knew him to be a very gentle man of extremely high integrity. I miss so much ...

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | April 6, 2010 12:14 PM

Barbara in Robbinsdale--Since you brought up the passage of time, I will mention that on the basis of posts yesterday I believe I am the oldest person in this set of common bloggers. Does that give me senior status or should I just get off, especially considering how many old man errors I have made in the last few days? But I will blame that on my spring flair-up, all the way into September.
Joanne--one day about six weeks into my first year of teaching, the school hired a new secretary to run the principal's office, including handling absence records. In the seventh period about three days later a junior girl showed me her absence slip from the previous day on which was checked unexcused. I asked her kiddlingly if she was really unexcused (she was a very well-behaved girl, almosta mouse). Standing by my desk in front of the class she went off into a minor tirade about how that new woman in the office was so stupid and she should be fired and all day long she had been asked that question and she was tried of it, probably the only time she had ever spoken up. I just sat there looking at her trying not to laugh. When she got done she could feel the high tension in her classmates. After a few seconds, she asked very timidly if that woman was my wife. I told her it was and then the whole class laughed. So I sent a student to go get my wife so the girl could explain to her. That was one on my funnest moments in a classroom.

Posted by Clyde | April 6, 2010 12:32 PM

tim--have you ever been to the Museum of Russian Art in south Mpls. just off of 35W? There is some quite impressive art there. And for Sherrilee and maybe others, they have a textiles exhibit right now.

Posted by clyde | April 6, 2010 1:03 PM

Clyde - thanks for the sweet story, that is cute. Another story about my Dad if you'll indulge me. I went from a Catholic grade school to the brand new public middle school, so I was now in Dad's domain.

I needed a note from my parents why I didn't have one of those stupid 1-piece gym uniforms girls used to wear (it was still being embroidered with my name I think). Anyway, Dad signed the note with a flourish and a smirk, muttering about "striking fear into her heart."

During the oil embargo in 70's, he was also not happy with my home ec teacher, who didn't like dad's edict to keep the school at a cooler temp. She would turn on the ovens in home ec lab and open the doors to warm the room. Dad would go ballistic about wasting money to heat the room. Our own house was kept at a cool temp as well.

Almost all of my siblings houses are still kept at rather cool temps! My husband has a very low tolerance for temps below 72 degrees, so I've put up with warmer house temps than I'd like.

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | April 6, 2010 1:07 PM

Clyde... thanks for the heads-up on the Museum of Russian Art. I haven't been there for awhile, since the first week they opened actually! But I live REALLY close to it so see it all the time. Good thing for this weekend I think.

Love where this blog takes me!

Posted by sherrilee | April 6, 2010 1:31 PM

tim--I used to assume that all Russian art of the 1900's after the revolution was a waste, controled by the Party. But there were some very virbrant work going on. That Musem has an excellent book about art of that period, at not a bad price, in contrast to every thing else in their store. I am going to take my Russian wife back to it in a few weeks, after I convince her we need to buy a wheel chair. It seems so Russain to work on those huge canvases.
I have been doing a series on fall scenes from this area, been trying to get a kind of darkness into the pastels. I think fall paintings seldom catch the sense of death in the colors. Not that I am achieving that.

Posted by clyde | April 6, 2010 1:52 PM

I don't mean to be competitive about something so stupid, Clyde, but I wonder if I might not be more the geezer than you.

We could go at this in an indirect way.

I remember when my family had an ice box into which we put ice cut from lakes! Even better, the ice was hauled by a horse that dragged a wagon with a canvas back flap.

Are you older than that?

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | April 6, 2010 1:59 PM

I would not rember such things since I was never in a city or even much of a town until I was 6. We did not get electricity until I was 11 and indoor plumbing right after, but that is misleading. My childhood memories are in perfect sync with people who are more than a generation older than I am because of the way my parents chose to live. Today it would be called homesteading or sustainable farming. etc. We just did it an did not have a name for it. I was born 12/19/44, the day the Battle of the Bulge started.

Posted by Clyde | April 6, 2010 2:11 PM

Clyde Well, we're about equally ancient.

I was born about the time of the Battle of Midway, in June of 1942.

The horse thing was misleading since my little town had a truck hauling ice and garbage before WWII, but wartime shortages caused some services to go back to horses.

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | April 6, 2010 2:17 PM

Steve, I yield the age title to you. But my wife would beat you by two years. She remembers the icebox very well, for the same as you do, in Mpls.
We can both mislead people by our memories. We did not even have an icebox. We stored dairy products in the well. They did not last all that long in the summer doing that but did well in the winter. My mother canned a lot of meat and she did some salting of pork to preserve it. Lots of fresh killed chicken. And we would buy herring fresh from the fisherman. I would eat that canned meat again. Do not remember the taste of the pork.
What little town?
I remember in Two Harbors an ice delivery truck as late as about 1953 or so. I do not think it was for iceboxes. I remember the ice house where they kept it. For some reason I was once in there with my father as a small child. I had not thought of that in years.
Thunder Bay Canada (or Fort-Port as we called it then) had milk delivery by horses as late as 1960.

Posted by cly de junior | April 6, 2010 2:32 PM


I grew up in Ames, Iowa, but spent the war years in Manchester (NE Iowa). That's where we had the icebox.

When I visited my grandparents in Des Moines, the main dairy in town used horses to run the milk routes. The horses knew which houses "took" milk and would stop automatically. I think that was in use well into the 1950s.

Been a Minnesotan since 1960.

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | April 6, 2010 2:43 PM

My roots are all Iowa on my mother's side. West central up through Spirit Lake. Wisconsin on the other side. My partner is from Ossian.

Posted by Cly de Iowan | April 6, 2010 3:02 PM

I will also add my two cents of a review of the Museum of Russian Art. I live almost within walking distance, and don't get there as often as I would like, but it's a great little museum. Highly recommend it to any and all.

(Can't add anything to the milk route/ice box/Iowa discussion since I'm a city kid, and born...well, um, the Beatles were still recording and getting along with each other when I was born...)

Posted by Anna | April 6, 2010 3:22 PM

You know, the way you two talk, I expect to see sepia-toned tin-type photos of you show up on the blog soon w/ the 1904 Worlds Fair in the background. Nice glimpses of a different life (I grew up in a big city...), but you're not THAT much older than at least one other of us!!

Posted by sherrilee | April 6, 2010 3:35 PM

Anna -- if you're almost walking distance from the MoRA, then you're almost walking distance from my house. Maybe we should meet at the museum one of these weekends!

Posted by sherrilee | April 6, 2010 3:37 PM

Great stories today. (so what's new?)

I have a memory of block ice, but it was for the 16 foot 1940s vintage trailer we lived in for 3 summers in Colorado, which I've mentioned here probably many times.After a couple of weeks of that (1958), we bought a really old fridge and set it on the palate outside the trailer...

Maybe we should get a little group together to go to the Russian Museum, which I've been meaning to check out but haven't yet...

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | April 6, 2010 3:47 PM

Sherrilee - that would be grand! And then we'll have to go to Liberty Custard for some dessert. :)

Posted by Anna | April 6, 2010 3:49 PM

Y'all are too much fun!

Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Ben | April 6, 2010 3:55 PM

Field trip!! How shall we plan? Pick a day (maybe a Saturday?0 to meet at the museum and anyone who can gather at the appointed hour at the museum?

Posted by Anna | April 6, 2010 4:07 PM

sherrilee--as I said, my memories match no one else my age that I have ever met because of the life my parents chose, for which I am ever thankful. Who else my age has ever plowed or cultivated with a horse. And I do have sepia toned pix. I used to teach and run a darkroom so I did some of our family pix in sepia for my sister and I. So there!
Wait hold on here. And this could be vital to my life-What is Liberty Custard, like custard ice cream a la Ted Drewes?? Where Details?? Details??
Mu wife and I are only five years apart. She graduated in 58 and I in 63. But those 5 years are huge. She became a secretary because she wasn't pregnant and didn't have to get married. So those were the two main choices. More women than men have degrees and graduate degrees in my class, across a range of careers. And my wife remembers the war, the day the telegram came saying her dear uncle had died. And Ice boxes and milk men and street cars, and so on. A few years make a big difference right in those years.

Posted by Clh oS Ye Olde | April 6, 2010 4:33 PM

Cly de Custard - Liberty Custard is a frozen custard shop in an a converted service station in S. Mpls (Nicollet Ave, about a block north of 54th street/Diamond Lake Rd). It is a little slice of heaven - at least so long as you are not lactose intolerant. :)

Posted by Anna | April 6, 2010 4:38 PM

There used to be one here when we first moved here. Greatest food I know. Best place to get it is in St, Louis, Ted Drewes.
So it must be close to the Malt Shop? So there's a fat rip: to the Malt Shop and the Liberty. After that I would fall asleep in the MoRA.
My wife like most Russians is sort of lactose intolerant, but she like most Russians as pretty much gown out of it.

Posted by Cly de custard | April 6, 2010 4:44 PM

Barbara of Robbinsdale-back in the box DOES mean an office (no cubicle, not sure I could do that on regular hours), but mostly it means regular hours. I'm continuing the free-lance work in my copious free time between 4-7am, so as to not let that go.

It's a very nice office, but a mental adjustment, nonetheless.

In the geezer competition, I have no hope of competing with you, oh honored elders, but I will put in my 2-bits for being an observant child with a memory, and recall a crank telephone in the basement of a country church that I believe was still in use as of the late 60s.

Another vote for the Russian Art Museum, very lovely, and enjoy the tea in the gift shop!

Posted by catherine | April 6, 2010 5:21 PM

Clyde, if you're still checking... Liberty Custard is VERY good, but not sure if it's in Ted Drewe's league. Truly, there is nothing like a concrete on a hot St. Louis day. Guess I'm giving away MY childhood location, aren't I?

And yes, we're in the Malt Shop neighborhood. Museum of Russian Art is right at the intersection of 35W South and Diamond Lake Road (54th Street). Liberty Custard is a couple of blocks from there.

Posted by sherrilee | April 6, 2010 6:26 PM

Me too; I live within blocks of the Museum of Russian Art and Liberty Custard. And my siblings are the age of Clyde and the other Old Ones, although I, myself, am very young despite being born in the middle of the last century.

Posted by A Lurker who Always Reads but Rarely Posts | April 6, 2010 6:26 PM

I knew somebody in the group has to know Ted Drewes. And exactly, on a hot day (like what else is there in St. Louis in the summer) standing in line outdoors and then getting the concrete. It's like you earned it.

Posted by Clyd de contrete | April 6, 2010 6:33 PM

i vote yes on the russian museum. saturday works.hours are 10-4 how about 12 or 1 ? or does next weekend work better? custard after rather than before will eliminate naps for me too.
welcome lurker. nice to hear a silent voice.
clyde i love the permanant collection. my mom is an icon painter so last time i went there was to take her to the icon exhibition a year (or was it two) ago. great stuff but the permanant colection in the basenent was incredible.
for your fall pastels try a new one so you don't screw up the ones you are currently working on. use a brown grocery bag and the burnt orange, deep blues and purple pastels and blend the edges to try a dreamscape kind of feel rather than the crisp hard edge on no rubbing the edge.
i may have to try it myself if i can put my hands on my pastels.
thanks for thinking of me. you have inspired me to remember those incredible powerful works

Posted by tim | April 6, 2010 7:06 PM

Always enjoy your rare posts, A Lurker.

OK, if we do a Saturday field trip, let's just not do it this Saturday, OK?, when I'm in Iowa. (I missed the State Fair for that reason...)

How have I missed Liberty Custard, since it sounds like it's a chain?

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | April 6, 2010 7:09 PM

I'm w/ you Barbara... this Saturday is out, but NEXT Saturday would be OK for me. I agree w/ Tim... Liberty Custard afterwards.

How about if I call the Museum tomorrow to see if they offer any kind of group rate and let everyone know on the blog???

Posted by sherrilee | April 6, 2010 7:20 PM

You all are so lucky to be able to plan such outings! The only thing I have to look forward to is a trip to Bismarck tomorrow where I have to give a workshop on compulsive hoarding!

Posted by Renee | April 6, 2010 7:47 PM

Renee--are you going to show episodes of my current favorite show--American Pickers, which is as much about hoarding as picking?

Posted by Cly de Picking | April 6, 2010 7:52 PM

Renee - believe it or not, I'd like to hear your workshop on compulsive hoarding - would've helped me a lot when I was trying to do an organizing business...

Yep, that would be the 17th, which works here for field trip to MoRA. How's that work for other folks?

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | April 6, 2010 8:16 PM

The 17th works swell for me - and is, like a lot of folks, better than next weekend (and a lot better than the 24th). Early afternoon, 1sh or so, is better for me - but I can probably be flexible. And I agree that custard afterwards is probably better.

Posted by Anna | April 6, 2010 8:37 PM

Clyde- I don't know about that show. We don't have a TV that gets any channels, but I do have pictures of some pretty horrendous hoarding. Since we have such ready opportunity to acquire (see Walmart and Target,, for example) It seems that Hoarding has become worse. It's a subtype, I think, of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and professional organizers can be a god send as long as they know about the cognitive distortions and skill deficits that hoarders seems to share. It's very hard to treat. I'd rather visit a Russian museum and eat frozen custard.

Posted by Renee | April 6, 2010 8:49 PM

17th is a go and i visited the websight and they annotate themselves TMORA.
1 oclock custard afterwards.

renee are you on your excersize program yet? you have been avoiding the issue.

what could be better than to be in a room full of compulsive hoarding northdakotans and renee.
by the way renee. i have attathed a map of the current pothole situation in bismark, can you confirm if these are true and correct and report back? thanks

Posted by tim | April 6, 2010 8:58 PM

i realized i shouldn't joke about the disorder you are trying to help people with. sometimes i overstep it a bit. but i would like to know about the potholes.

Posted by tim | April 6, 2010 9:01 PM

Tim-The pothole situation in Bismarck is bad, and I believe your map is as accurate as they come. I make sure I check really closely tomorrow. I'll bring my tape measures and rulers. According to Miller and Rollnick's seminal work, Motivational Interviewing (1995) I am in the contemplation stage of change, and I have been thinking about my exercise plan and will soon enter the action stage of change, at which time I will present my plan to the Trial Balloon community ( I had to get this stupid workshop ready first and get through Holy week choir and bell choir commitments at church.) By the way, if we didn't laugh we'd cry about the human condition, so don't feel guilty about levity.

Posted by Renee | April 6, 2010 9:17 PM

i look forward to your action plan and will withhold judgement until i see your proposal.
how about a initiating a hoarders ebay site where the proceeds go to pay for the clinic?

Posted by tim | April 6, 2010 9:37 PM

Tim-that's a great idea, except, what if hoarders start using e-bay to start acquiring more objects to replace the one's they've sold? The best practice for hoarding treatment takes place in patients' homes, not in a clinic, and you have to develop a relapse prevention plan so they don't fill up their houses again. I think we all have to start studying minimalist art and re-reading "Less is More" and listening to Bartok's string quartets to calm ourselves and find purpose in life. Anyway, I'll let you know how the presentation goes, and I bid everyone a peaceful night! I hope I don't fall into a Bismarck pothole tomorrow.

Posted by Renee | April 6, 2010 9:50 PM

Renee--American Pickers is about people who buy antiques and such and then sell it elsewhere. They drive around the country and visit people who have amazing collections of junk and some good stuff. Some people, almost all men on this show because of what the pickers are looking for, have acres of stuff and as many as 12-15 sheds full of stuff. I keep wondering what happens to their poor children when they die, and they are mostly quite old men.
I cannot make the 17th or any weekend for the foreseeable future. Wish I could.

Posted by Clyde | April 6, 2010 9:55 PM

Clyde- Twin studies suggest that genetics accounts for at least 50% of the variability in hoarding behavior that twice as many men as women hoard, but women are the ones who end up in treatment, probably since they live longer.

Posted by Renee | April 6, 2010 10:04 PM

by the way i was very surprised to learn that steve is a couple years older than clyde. i would have lost the bet. you guys are the high spots in the blogs regularly. could it be there is something to the elders being deserving of recognition?

i love the ice wagon discussion. in fargo the ice wagon was my dads big summer activity. they would run along behind the wagon and wait for the ice man to give them a sliver as a special treat. he wore his depression mentality like a badge of honor. it wasn't that he wanted us to have less he just wanted us to be aware of how much the world had changed since he was born in 26. it was great listening to his stories of the 30s and 40s growing up in a different world than we knew in the 60s when i was a kid. i now do the same thing with my kids telling them about nickle candy bars and collecting pop bottles as a source of income. its nice to pass on the wisdom of the years in a way that is incorporating the current conversation with the rememberance of the past. its amazing that we remember the washing stick and the ice wagn and are able to share that with the youngsters who were born with the beatles and the aarons who were born when the beatles were half in the grave already. (looking forward to aarons blog this week). the blog has taken the pace of the barber shop of the cafe in the sense of the passing on the tourch of tradition.

Posted by tim | April 6, 2010 10:13 PM

coffee in st paul with a little notice when it works would be great.

Posted by tim | April 6, 2010 10:17 PM

I just checked in on a whim -- I can't believe you guys are still at it! I might have to skip out of karate that Saturday and try to make it to the TMORA. Although that's a bit of a hike for me -- as long as it's daytime and not snowing, I'll seriously consider it.

I'm going to bed ... Good night!

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | April 6, 2010 10:39 PM

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