I’m On A Rant!

It’s Friday, the end of the week. The world is spinning around us with reports of strife, bad news and so on and so forth, and if you don’t know what so on and so forth means, look it up. Yes, that might be a little snarky. I had someone tell me once I don’t write enough snark. On another note, I am plunking this out with one finger because I have an injury on my right-hand ring finger and though it is a small handicap to deal with, it does hamper my words. I  downloaded a new speech to text program but I haven’t mastered it yet, maybe I never will,  the one plunk method takes more time.

Now that you have an idea about the attitude you might get the direction this post is going.

In my latest mystery, #ASmallTownCanBe #Murder, I write not only a murder mystery but about the nuances of small towns. I live in a small town. I have been a small-town girl all of my life but there are some changes that make me sad. Communities in rural areas have to fight for their identity and survive with ambiance and coziness in a world sacrificed to ideas of people in offices far away that have no idea adding us to their growing number of generic businesses is not only bad for the survival of the community but for their own bottom line as well.  When you become a number in the line your identity ceases to exist. At that point, even the line may disappear. When we don’t seem as profitable as the big city we are like the baby thrown out with the bathwater, and as residents, we have to fight harder for our mainstreets to survive.

We do survive in my community. We reinvent ourselves, pick up the pieces and move on. What brought about these thoughts is a couple of recent experiences. A few weeks ago an editorial in a Twin Cities newspaper mentioned that Mike Bloomberg, the presidential candidate, visited a farm outside of our community. The writer lamented that Bloomberg should have taken the time to stop in town and visit with the rest of us to get a good picture of the joys and struggles of rural America’s main streets. It mentioned what we had lost in the past years. The writer had a good point as we have lost to the changing worldly ambitions of businesses. I took a small issue with it because I felt we also gained so much and are alive and well, moving forward.

This past week I had experience with a corporation that has been contracted to pick up garbage in our city. That is the other thing that brought this column on. You see I wanted to discontinue their service in favor of a local business. A year ago when I called to cancel they lowered their rate so I stayed. In the meantime, I found a neighbor that was paying almost $30.00 higher than what I was paying. Their service kept going up and they didn’t know if they called and complained their bill might be lowered. It was then I realized none of us are probably paying the same amount for the same service. This year my bill went up and I decided to go local and not with the service the city contracts with. My surprise was how much it was going to cost me to discontinue that service and have them pick up my container. However, I wouldn’t have known this until I got the bill as it was not readily given to me in a dollar amount until I asked. It was almost as much, save for a $2.00 difference, as my three-month bill. This shouldn’t have surprised me as many of the big corporations such as cable and telephone charge you a disconnect charge, This is how I knew I grew up in the small-town world when hidden charges were not part of the small-town landscape.

It goes farther than that. A nationwide chain came into town and our dry-goods store closed. One of our banks that were in our community as long as I can remember was sold to a larger bank. The old bank employed many people and the new bank cut most of the staff, and if we need support we have to call another state. A larger chain bought our hometown’s bustling drug store that was also a gift shop and had the original old fashioned soda fountain still serving treats.  The drug store hours have been cut so much that the working person cannot get in there with those hours. And the soda fountain is shut down along with the gift department greatly minimized. It is no longer about the consumer.  We used to have more than one gas station. An Iowa chain came in, bought land, bought the other stations and closed them down. Those are only a few of the changes that happened when big businesses try to change the landscape of a small town. They haven’t looked into the faces of their consumers because we are a number on their chart instead of a face that is familiar.

Now that is the bad news of my rant. I and I imagine you, get tired of sitting on the phone to get service. I think we get discouraged because we feel we are not heard. I am telling you if you want to be heard, shop in a small community at a locally owned business. You will be heard. You will experience what customer service really is.

In my community when we needed a new school we built one. Our meat processing plant closed down. Our city worked hard to get a new one in place and it has provided employment and good wages. You will find it hard to get a parking place downtown on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays as our local thrift shop entice people in town and out of town to shop. They might take time to visit one of our locally owned eating places or the coffeehouse or take in a movie at our theater. The library is always busy with readers, speakers and different project days and evenings. Moving on down the street our locally owned hardware store has reasonable prices and the flowers at our locally owned flower shop will make you ooh and ah.

Our liquor store is building new. Our new industrial park is starting to fill up and our craft and quilt store is in the process of moving to a bigger building. You can have your choice of different denominations of churches and if you need to pick up a gift the local funeral home also has a room of unique items by local artisans. Locally owned for generations, there is no better place to let them take care of the loved one you have lost. There is so much more to our community with a grocery, beauty shops,  newspaper, exercise facilities,  depot museum,  veteran’s memorial, parks. golf course and a swimming pool along with senior care facilities and senior housing, trucking firms, plumbing, electrical businesses, car repair and I could go on. Yes, we have more.  And yes, we still have another locally run bank. And our local window company can make your house warmer with the right windows.

The best part of a small town is its people. They care about each other. The business owners care about their customers. We don’t give up, we regroup and move on. Did I mention we are a community somewhere around 2200 people? It is not the numbers it is the heart of the community. When one hurts we all hurt. It is what makes a community unique.

Large corporations don’t understand that our bottom line is people and that is what makes a business in a small community a success. We have to tolerate the changing business climate in the larger world. We don’t have a choice with some things. I will admit to ordering online, usually things I can’t get in town but it isn’t the same.

My long rant is done. I might also add we have our local utility too and that too is a blessing. We know them and they know us. The same can be said for our local emergency services such as fire and ambulance. And for the garbage company that seems to be playing with our heads and finances — I wish I would have known your garbage bin was such an expensive object I would have painted it gold to match its value.

If anyone knows Mike Bloomberg, tell him to come back and see a successful, small community. We are the heart of America. He missed out but don’t you. Come for a day. come for a season, we will give you a reason to come back.

P.S. We have building lots available if you want to stay for a lifetime.

 

Julie Seedorf is a former columnist and now is an author of eleven cozy mysteries. To find out more about her books visit  julieseedorf.com

Karma, Relics, History and a Class Reunion

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf printed in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of 8/27/2018

Last week when I wrote about my class reunion, it hadn’t yet happened. I thought I would report a little more on a fun night for those of you who can’t decide whether they should attend the event from their high school. It might change your mind.

class picture 1968The class of 1968 of Wells-Easton High School had a good turnout and people attended from as far away as California and Florida. Some we hadn’t seen since we graduated 50 years ago. But at this reunion, I felt as if something extraordinary happened that only the universe could put together.

Friday before the reunion, my friend Vicki and I received a message with a picture from a classmate’s wife who resides in Missouri and was not attending the reunion. The picture was a class ring with the year 1968IMG_0537 on it along with the initials WHS and BL. She had seen the picture on Facebook posted by a friend of a friend. She did not know the person posting but thought perhaps the ring might belong to someone in our class, although they could not think of who had those initials.

I read the message and immediately thought of my classmate Brad Lines who lives in California and who I have contact with on Facebook. I messaged him the picture and question in the post: Does this ring belong to anyone in Minnesota? It was found somewhere in Minnesota.

Brad messaged me back. He thought it was his ring. The ring was lost 50 years ago at a camp in Paynesville. He called the woman. She lived in Paynesville.

The interesting part of this was that he and his wife, Jill, were just about to hop on a flight to Minnesota to attend our reunion. They had decided not to attend but changed their mind the previous week and booked a flight. When they arrived in Minnesota they drove to Hutchinson, met the party who found the ring and made it back in time to join a happy hour that afternoon with our class. After 50 years, he was again wearing his class ring — on another finger because as you well know as we age our body tends to grow, meaning our fingers expand in size.

We also found out on class reunion weekend we were history in our museum. The Wells Depot Museum was honoring the class of 1968. We found our pictures (they had my picture from kindergarten in a showcase along with three other kindergarten classmates, which were better than some of the class pictures I wouldn’t have wanted seen), articles from our time in school and letter jackets, GAA shirts, articles of our accomplishments, etc. Whoever thought we would be museum pieces, although I must say I am already officially an antique. A ruler from my dad’s shoe store with my writing and my name and grade three on it were found in an antique shop in Iowa a few years ago. Antique store plus museum must make me a relic. I won’t add my classmates to that designation as I don’t want to offend them and risk the wonderful comradery we found at the reunion.

We savored the moments we spent together and hoped our 17 classmatesIMG_0558.JPG who have passed were having a heavenly reunion with each other, too, as we felt their presence when candles were lit and moments of silence were observed to honor them.

It couldn’t have been more fitting for Brad to get his class ring back the same weekend of our reunion. It filled us all with amazement, gave us more to ponder about the universe that keeps calling us back together. We reminisced with those who used to be our best friends, became better friends with those who were acquaintances in high school and because we all had a good time decided to not wait for another five years to meet again. We are going to call it a 70th birthday party. In two years we hit the magic age and what better way than to celebrate it with those who shared the beginning years of our lives?

Our class motto was: “Those conquer who believe they can.”  We believed, we conquered and 50 years later we are still going strong. img_0574.jpg

Note: I have been the Monday columnist for the Albert Lea Tribune since around 2005. That is so many columns. I am delighted they want to keep me on, and so I will be moving to Thursdays. It is also a time to rename my column Sprinkled Notes, which is what I use for my blog, which can be located at sprinklednotes.com.

Happy Birthday Gladys Johanson – 100 Years Young

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published the week of 10/23/2017 in the Albert Lea Tribune

“If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of 10 years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” — Confucius

I love this quote by Confucius. Confucius was a Chinese teacher, a politician, and philosopher that lived between 551 BC and 479 BC. This thought came to mind as I contemplated the people in my life who have reached the grand age of 100. I am awed by the fact I have an aunt that is going to be 101, an uncle who lived to be 102 and now I have a friend who celebrated her 100th birthday on Thursday.

File Oct 20, 9 26 32 AMMy friend’s name is Gladys Johanson and I first remember meeting Gladys back in my late high school years when one of her daughters was my best friend.

I want to share a little history on Gladys’ life. Gladys was born in Matawan on Oct. 19, 1917, and was the fifth child of Minnie and Herman Vogelsang. She had two brothers and two sisters and two brothers that died in infancy. She married Wilbur Johanson on Nov. 18, 1937. He passed away Nov. 29, 1975. She has lived in the same house since she married Wilbur.

One of the many amazing things about Gladys, at least to me, is the fact she has 14 children, having them all within 20 years. And of these 14 children, seven were boys and seven were girls. When I think of the stress we go through today raising one or two children, I can’t imagine raising 14. Yet, I always remember Gladys’ smile and her kind heart for everyone. Her smile today is as welcoming as it ever was. She has a happy glow surrounding her.

Gladys was a stay-at-home mom until later years when her final child was in school. She then entered the working world at Stamper’s factory, and she never missed a day of work in the 10 years she worked for them. I wonder how that happened with 14 children, even though at that point all were not still at home. We all know kids and germs go together and illness usually follows the adults in their life. How many of us now could say we haven’t missed a day of work in 10 years?

Here is another little tidbit I didn’t know. Not only did Gladys take care of her house and her children, she also was the bookkeeper for her husband’s carpentry business. Remember there were no computers back in those days, just brain work and the pen and pencil and maybe a typewriter.

I had the joy of sitting down with Gladys and her daughters Corrine, Kim and Dawn. I admit I had lots of questions because I was curious, not only on tips for aging but having been an only child myself, how it felt to be one of 14 children.

My experience in knowing some 100-year-old people has been that they didn’t seem like people that worried a lot. I asked Gladys about that. She answered, “I never worried, tomorrow was another day.” And, “When there is a will, there is a way.” As for being 100, she said she really didn’t feel any different than when she was younger. Her daughter Susan in an email told me as Gladys aged and started to discover things she could no longer do she would announce with a chuckle, “Well, I guess I can’t do that anymore.”

One of the things Gladys and her children attribute to longevity is a healthy diet. The backyard was a garden, and Gladys and her husband raised the food for their family. The gardening became an assembly line and even the smallest child was put to work doing something. Canning was a big part of their life in having their homegrown food year round.

According to Gladys daughters, each child had their own job. Saturdays were cleaning day and you did not go anywhere until the chores were done. And if you are a teenager out there today reading this column — the kids in this family had to earn money and put their own gas in the car if they wanted to drive.

Gladys is a fabulous cook and the girls shared one of their favorite dishes was their mother’s mashed potatoes. Corrine stated, “It must have been the love she put into it.”

Supper was always served at 6 p.m., and family members were expected to be at the table at that time. “When you heard the whistle blow you knew it was time to be in for supper,” Corrine reminisced. “The table was always set correctly and she still does that today.” The Johansons had different sets of dishes for every day than for special occasions. And prayers always did, and still do, accompany Gladys’ meals. Faith is an important staple in her life. The prayer at dinner: Abba Lieber Vater from her German roots.

At 100 years old, Gladys’ eyesight is still stellar and she can read the tiniest print. Her spelling and penmanship today are perfect.

Sitting down again after all these years at the Johanson table, I still felt the comfort of being a part of the atmosphere. I felt the love this family has for one another with Gladys being the role model for generations of Johansons. These parents had the secret we are all looking for in raising our children, and it was summed up by a statement from one of the daughters: “We had discipline but we always felt showered with love.”

Gladys has 20 grandsons, 11 granddaughters, 21 great-grandsons, 19 great-granddaughters and three great-great-grandsons. And she has made a quilt for each one.

After spending time with Gladys, I realize she led a simple, hardworking, content life knowing what was important and what wasn’t, and she is reaping the rewards of a long life with a family that loves her. Isn’t that what we all want but forget when we are caught up in the world we live in today? Gladys is a role model for all of us.

I would say Confucius statement fits perfectly with this family. Gladys planted a seed, the trees grew and those trees blossomed and planted new seeds for generations to come. Happy 100th birthday, Gladys.

 

Gladys Wilhelmina Irene Vogelsang Johanson

Born in Matawan, MN on October 19, 1917. The fifth child of Minnie and Herman Vogelsang. She had two brothers: Melvin and Milton, and two sisters Mabel Buelow and Ellen Meyer. Two of her brothers died in infancy, Elroy and Roger.

She married Wilbur Johanson on November 18, 19367. He passed away November 29, 1975. She has lived in the same house since she married Wilbur.

She gave birth to 14 children within twenty years: 7 sons and 7 daughters:

Kenyon Johanson

Corrine Schultz

Joan Kuntz

Jerald Johanson

Glenn Johanson

Russell Johanson

Vila Stump

Bruce Johanson

Emily Ness

Mark Johanson

Susan Johanson

Dawn Dutton

Richard Johanson

Kimberly Zimmer

Mom and dad planted a very large vegetable garden in the backyard more out of a necessity than a hobby, and from the harvest, they canned and froze food for the upcoming winter. In later years, mother worked at Stampers factory for 10 years in Wells – never missing a day of work!  Mother also worked for her husband Wilbur as the bookkeeper for his carpentry business in Wells. Her hobbies were sewing and for her 30 grandchildren she hand-quilted each of them a quilt. Embroidery also became her hobby, and she hand-embroidered tablecloths, many dish towels and pillow cases for her family. To this day, she still embroiders.

Mother never complains she takes life in stride; often you will see her sporting a big smile. As she aged and started to discover things that she could no longer do she would announce with a chuckle, “Well, I guess I can’t do that anymore.”

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