The best State Fair in our state!
THE GRAM WITH A THOUSAND RULES writes: “Subject: Memories of Heritage Square.
“Hey! No fair! When August rolls around, it’s time to start thinking about going to the State Fair. Sadly, this year, we have only the memories of our favorite places at The Great Minnesota Get-Together.
“Mine all emanate from Heritage Square, where our family manned a booth beginning in 1976. It was the Bicentennial year, and we decided it was the perfect venue to showcase our porcelain-doll business. It was supposed to be just a one-year venture, and the site we were assigned was located inside the big tin-roofed building on the east end.
“We were required to wear costumes appropriate to the era. (Note: Long dresses in an un-air-conditioned building in the heat of a Minnesota summer are definitely not a cool combination.) Our kids ranged in age from 8 to 22 that first year, and we had our photograph taken by the Antique Photographers to remember this one-year adventure. The kids all stifled their giggles and tried to hold still for the photo. It is a treasure and still sits on our mantel.
“The concept of Heritage Square turned out to be a smashing success with Fairgoers, and we found ourselves back there summer after summer. By the end of our 16-year run, five of our kids were married, and 13 of our grandchildren had been born, and I had some kids-in-law to rope in to help in our booth.
“In the beginning, our two older sons were a bit embarrassed to sit around in a booth sporting a large sign that said ‘Dolls By Marmi’ (gasp), but they were handy, capable helpers, especially on set-up and tear-down days. Even though that building could get ungodly hot and sticky on humid days, our college-age daughters enjoyed wearing the old-time costumes AND the 20 percent commission I paid them when they garnered a big sale, while our two youngest grade-schoolers just enjoyed the freedom to roam around inside our little village called Heritage Square. They checked back with us every half-hour or so, but there was so much to see: the Glass Cutter as he made magic with his tools, the Wood Carver, the Blacksmith, the Pioneer House and the Portrait Artists — but their favorite hangouts seemed to be the Used Bookstore and the Caboose of the Train.
“As the older kids became less available, the two youngest took over. They memorized the sales pitch and were old pros — urging me to take a break so they could rake in some commissions. I remember my youngest telling me one year as she ironed her costume in preparation for the Fair: ‘I’m glad we’re not like normal people, Mom. This is so much fun.’ I was at that moment feeling a wee bit guilty, since all six kids had spent the previous two months of their summer vacation working at our Pick Your Own Berry Farm.
“I digress. Back to State Fair memories:
“We opened at 9 a.m. and closed at 10 p.m., and our dreams every night were a blur of snow cones and bodies shuffling past our booth. I jotted down just a few of the memories that come to mind:
“* The lunging crush of eager visitors to Heritage Square straining behind the gate, looking more caged than the animals at the zoo, as they waited every morning for the gates to open.
“* Those dear ladies who came to see our dolls several times each Fair. They always wore old-fashioned high-necked dresses and elaborate hats created with a multitude of pastel petals. They would arrive, giggling with happiness, after breezing in from a morning at the Beer Garden. (We secretly called them the Baldwin Sisters, from ‘The Waltons’ television show.) They never bought a darn thing, but they were always a welcome sight.
“* The old gentleman in the Antique Booth next door to us who called Kid’s Day ‘Sticky Fingered Day’ and referred to Senior Citizen Day as ‘I Coulda Bought That For a Nickel Day.’
“* The elderly ladies who looked oh, so innocent after being caught pilfering a small item, saying ‘But aren’t they for free on Senior Day?’
“* The lady who sniffed with disdain after her friend admired my reproduction porcelain dolls, telling her: ‘Hummpph . . . they aren’t like my ANTIQUE dolls. These dolls are man-made.’
“* The lonely fellow who stopped by EACH day and told my beautiful daughter-in-law that she looked like she belonged in the ‘Little House on The Prairie’ television show and then proceeded to recite the script, word-for-word, from one of his favorite episodes.
“* The one that was a real show-stopper was the smartly dressed, haughty young woman who appeared at my booth on Day One of our 12-day Fair and exclaimed enthusiastically about my dolls as her two sullen-faced teenage daughters looked over their shoulders at the leering teenage boys they had spotted by the root-beer stand. She told me that she was home-schooling her daughters the coming year, and she was exposing them to new experiences. She announced imperiously that she would be coming by my home studio on ‘Tuesday, next, for a tour and a lecture.’ I told her that I would still be at the Fair on ‘Tuesday, next’ and ‘Sorry, but I don’t give tours or lectures.’
“Home studio? Ha. We poured the clay into molds and fired the greenware in my kiln in the basement by my laundry tub. I created doll clothes on my sewing machine in the dining room, and I painted the porcelain doll faces at my kitchen table — between meals. We were a cottage industry, as were the majority of the booth owners in Heritage Square. The State Fair was open for 12 long 13-hour days each year, and our fellow booth owners became lasting friends. The laughter and camaraderie we shared was more valuable than the income from the sales. Volumes of memories; no regrets.
“Many years after I had shut down my doll business, I was in a fabric store searching for blanket material for my 25th grandchild when I was startled to hear a woman shout from several aisles away,: Marmi! At last I’ve found you. I need you! I broke my head!’”
Now & Then
And: The Permanent Grandmotherly/Granddaughterly Record (responsorial)
Writes OTVO: “My cousin DebK of Rosemount recently submitted an article on catalogs and magazines of years gone by [Sunday BB, 7/26/2020], and it prompted me to dig out my Fall and Winter 1943-1944 Sears, Roebuck catalog and take a look-see.
“Oh my! How times have changed. The catalog was definitely your place to go for anything you needed from Building Supplies to a Farmer’s Best Friend to Gardening to Clothing. Dresses were from $2 to $12, a full-length fur coat for the cold Minnesota winters priced at $100. You get the idea, and paging through it was a journey back in time.
“We acquired the catalog many years ago, when we and another couple purchased a tax-forfeited acreage in Northern Minnesota. Purpose for the purchase was for deer hunting and snowmobiling. An elderly couple had owned the land, and the time came for them to take residency at the nursing home, so they left the house just as it was. They had no heirs, so it ended up in county ownership. I am assuming they were Finnish, because there was a sauna which we very much enjoyed. Our fellas took on the job of cleaning out the house, and their stuff ended up in a bonfire. Much to the dismay of us wives, I hate to think of what treasures went up in smoke. I likely would have saved more, but am thankful to have rescued my Sears, Roebuck treasure.
“Well, that is how it goes. A blast from the past.”
Our birds, ourselves
Leading to: Know thyself!
Wilor Bluege of St. Paul writes: “Subject: Pogo, the One-Legged Robin.
“For several weeks now. I’ve been observing a one-legged male robin around the yard. There’s no sign of his other leg. Don’t know how he lost it or if he was born that way. He came again today. It’s astonishing to watch him hop along on his one leg! He does quite well on the sidewalk, but the uneven grass gives him more of a problem. But I have to say, that robin has somehow learned to cope — and thrive — even with his disability. He has to flutter his wings to keep his balance when going after a worm in the soil, but he has managed!
“Since I first saw him, I’d been deeply concerned for him, wondering how he would be able to mate, defend himself, and help raise a brood. Then at about 9:10 the other night, as I was just turning in, I heard a sharp retort from a robin just outside my bedroom window. I looked out, and there he was! There was a fledgling with him, whom he had been feeding! That bird is absolutely amazing! He’s a miracle on one leg! He is my inspiration as I navigate life on ‘one leg’ (so to speak) without my other ‘good leg’ (my husband).
“On 7/5/2020: My one-legged robin, whom I’ve decided to call Pogo, just showed up at the ground-level birdbath. It’s no doubt overstepping my authority and just the teensiest-weensiest bit arrogant to call him ‘my’ one-legged robin, let alone the effrontery of naming him Pogo. Honestly, I wasn’t thinking of the cartoon character; I was thinking of the toy.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t grab, focus and click the camera fast enough before he hopped nearly out of the frame. Anyway, there he is, my ‘hero bird’ and spiritus rector.
Update July 10, 2020: A teenage male robin was under the tree in the back yard this morning. I’m going out on a limb here and guessing it was Son-of-Pogo, because all of a sudden when a squirrel appeared in the tree, Pogo attacked, dive-bombing repeatedly, machine guns blazing (i.e., barking and squawking) and drove the squirrel away. He was relentless in his pursuit of that squirrel and drove it out of his territory! Maybe Pogo’s last name is Maxwell? (Or full-name, George ‘Pogo’ Maxwell, after my Uncle George who was a fighter pilot?) I got better pics of Pogo today!
News Update July 12, 2020: “Pogo Defends House from Psychosciuridae!”
“It’s Sunday, 9:45 a.m., and I’m opening the shades on the west side of the house. I see Pogo on the next-door neighbor’s roof. I know it is Pogo because he’s only about 10 feet from me in full sunlight
“Suddenly, Pogo dive-bombs at something on our house which I can’t see. He flies back to the neighbor’s gutter, still keeping an eye on whatever it is on our roof. It’s then that I see the shadow of — you guessed it — a Psychosciuridae projected onto the neighbor’s east wall! The squirrel’s body is still, but the interloper’s tail flicks angrily. (It all happened so fast, I couldn’t get a photo!)
“I went out to the garage to retrieve my homemade gutter cleaner — a telescoping pole handle to which I have affixed a bent-out-of-shape toilet brush which looks sort of like a periscope. I hoped to exorcize the phantom squirrel from the roof, but apparently I’m less effective than Pogo. The squirrel didn’t budge. I put the periscopic gutter cleaner away. When I got back to the house, the shadow of the Psychosciuridae had evaporated. I suspect that Pogo, seeing my ineptitude, had come to my assistance and dispatched him.
“News Update, July 21, 2020: “My impulse this morning was to try to save Wee Pogo from the depths of the window well of the abandoned house next door. I hadn’t seen the wee nestling since he somehow made his way to the front terrace from the back yard, where he’d spent the morning in the shadow of a large rock near the ground-level birdbath.
“It was not yet able to fly or scamper, so it must have fallen out of the nest and somehow fluttered and flopped its way into the shadow of the rock.
“I’d seen Pogo only once yesterday, high up in the tree in the back yard. (At least I thought it was Pogo.) Mrs. Pogo seemed to be doing all the heavy lifting yesterday, feeding the youngster and carrying fecal sacs away. Each time food went in one end, a fecal sac popped out the other, and Mrs. Pogo dutifully removed it.
“I went out to run some errands, and when I got back, the nestling was gone! Oh dear, I thought, had a cat gotten it? Yet Mrs. Pogo was still around, clucking for her baby, but apparently to no avail. I searched all around, because the baby was way too small to fly. Then, shortly after 1 p.m. I looked out the front window, and there he was at the base of some Pampas grass at the top of the front steps. All was well, it would seem, although I was concerned that compared to where he had been, he was a bit too exposed there on the bank. A half-hour later, Wee Pogo had moved closer to the house (probably under the hedge), and Mrs. Pogo was clucking contentedly on the front lawn.
“Around 9 a.m. this morning, I heard Mrs. Pogo chirping. I looked out to the east and saw her with a mouthful of food perched on the rim of the neighbor’s window well, which is 4 feet deep! She dropped down into the window well! Wee Pogo had to have fallen into the depths of the window well from which he would be unable to fly out!
“It should have occurred to me that a window well might just be the safest place for the little guy — but, no. I went out in the pouring rain, climbed down into the 4-foot-deep well, lifted the wee birdie out and let him go. All the while, of course, Mrs. Pogo was having a fit. She darned near took my head off! She was well within her rights to be in a froth!
“It was only then that it dawned on me and I was overcome with remorse, guilt, and self-doubt. Who was I to presume to know what was best for Wee Pogo and Mrs. Pogo? Now Wee Pogo would again be exposed to far more precarious things than being tucked inside a window well — even if it meant staying in there for weeks while he developed the ability to fly. But how was he going to be able to learn to fly upwards when he couldn’t practice! Nevertheless, I asked myself: Why do I always have to ‘fix’ things — as if I always know what is best? Why do I think it’s my duty to ‘save’ things that may not need me to save them?
“Mrs. Pogo carried on, squawking hysterically for 15 minutes, but then (thankfully) I think she must have relocated Wee Pogo, who had disappeared god-knows-where in the gardens and shrubbery. All is quiet now, except for Mrs. Pogo’s calm clucking voice. (Trust me, hereafter I’m going to stay out of her way!) I have learned my lesson not to be so arrogant as to attempt saving a creature that quite possibly does not need to be saved.”
Vanity, thy name is …
DONALD reports: “Minnesota plate on a Mitsubishi SUV: ‘IAMSHE.”
BULLETIN BOARD NOTES: Proper grammar! Our kind of gal.
Could be verse!
TIM TORKILDSON: “‘Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.’ — Proverbs 11:31
“The recompense that may be mine
“I leave to Holy God divine.
“His loving kindness tips the scales
“because his mercy never fails.”
Words to live by
THE RETIRED PEDAGOGUE of Arden Hills: “Subject: Words of wisdom.
“For my birthday party (masked and social-distanced), my wife posted a number of ‘THOUGHTS TO LIVE BY’ in the garage. Here are two of my favorites:
“‘IF YOU CAN’T BE KIND, AT LEAST HAVE THE DECENCY TO BE VAGUE.’
“‘WE COULD LEARN A LOT FROM CRAYONS. SOME ARE SHARP, SOME ARE PRETTY AND SOME ARE DULL. SOME HAVE WEIRD NAMES AND ALL ARE DIFFERENT COLORS, BUT THEY ALL HAVE TO LIVE IN THE SAME BOX.’”
Band Name of the Day: Not Like Normal People