All posts by harrywelty


It only took four hours and some phone calls but my letter is on its way to the Sunday before the election Trib. Sadly I would have had to send it in yesterday to get in this Sunday’s Trib. I’m sure if the thirty day’s hadn’t interfered my letter would have counted as a free letter to the editor. Now it has cost me $62.50. No wonder political letters have all but dried up.

I also OK’ed an ad for myself on my Facebook Page. I’ll have spent about $20.00 each on four week-long ad runs. Unless I take up the offer Facebook sent me to get some of their professional advice on how to turn this post as an ad Were Republicans ever good?. I’m tempted.

BTW for your curiosity I have received not a single order for this book online…except for my brother…who graciously gave me a nice contribution as well. I have “sold” about 75 books by donation. I will not be printing out huge numbers of them but I will print out a couple extra when I put the printing order in. That won’t be any time soon. The last six weeks I haven’t had the long quiet stretches needed to compose a book…..just the short intense moments to crank out blog posts. I hope I’ll be able to clear my head after the election win, lose or draw. And in that time I will put together a quickie book (sort of a Harry’s Reader stopgap book as a freebie for those 75 unfulfilled orders. Then it will be on to my Idiot book about public education then if I can martial the concentration I hope to explain how the Republican Party turned out so cockeyed.

BTW – My “Idiot” Book comes from the famous quotation of Mark Twain: First God created the Idiot. That was for practice. Then he created the School Board.” I love that quote. I put it on my Education page in my first School Board related webpage.

Heck I just googled it and found three occasions when I broadcast that bit of spite:

W4SB2013 › WeltyforSchoolBoard
For God’s sake when I was in high school and a teacher’s orders were obeyed like … public that agreed with Mark Twain when he said, “First God created idiots.
Duluth Schools › ISD709
“First God created idiots. That was for practice. Then he created school boards.” Mark Twain. If you don’t read anything else on this page look at this. It is an …
The official source for all the blather of … – › …

Jun 15, 2019 – The candidate I thought had it made in the shade, the ex-Chair of the ….. reference to finding stuff on my first website: … She embraced evangelical tenets, like trusting God, not one’s own feelings. …. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain’s assessment: “First God created the idiot.

My “community engagement letter”

The DNT will not print regular letters to the editor that have appeared elsewhere. However, Forum Communications will take advertising and now charges for publishing political letter to the editors, endorsements etc. I have been annoyed with this since the practice was announced a couple years ago although, I have to admit it has thinned out such regular endorsement letters from a couple candidates who begged tons of their friends to submit them.

A few days ago I posted a link to the letter my friend Kathy Bogan sent the Trib taking them to task for endorsing an “uncivil” Loren Martell. I believe that is a very unfair charge although, knowing Kathy, I don’t think she means to be unfair. But the Trib’s editors told me I couldn’t reply until November 17th over a week after the election. I opted instead for their community engagement letter AKA as an ad to make more revenue. Fair enough, but dammit, Half an hour ago their website told me I was going to get a confirmation email that would let me send in my letter. I’m still waiting for for the website I was referred to to sent me a notification that I am in their system. Its been 45 minutes and its still not in my email in box. Just in case I never get my “community engagement letter” in the doggoned Trib here it is. As a “paid” letter I guess there is no harm in my sharing it on my blog.

Here it is:

My friend, Kathy Bogan, criticized the editors of the Tribune for endorsing my friend, Loren Martell, in his fifth campaign for a school board seat.

I have known both Kathy and Loren for a long time during our school district’s tumultuous past. Kathy is an ardent caretaker of our children. Loren is the embodiment of speaking truth to power.

Kathy has called Loren’s justified critiques of school board members uncivil. Having faced unhappy citizen’s myself while on the school board, I see things differently. I have always asked myself, “if we can’t feel passionate about our children what can we feel passionate about?”

Loren Martell was humiliated by our school board during the Red Plan wars when his microphone was shut off during his allotted three minutes and he was handcuffed by a guard when the Board grew impatient with his criticism. Rather than fold under this coercion Loren dedicated the last decade to watching his tormentors like a hawk and scrupulously reporting on their work (including mine) in the alternative press.

I agree with the editors who endorsed Loren, saying that it was time he was elected to the Duluth School Board. I’d go farther. I believe that if there is any justice in the world Loren should serve on our school board. He will serve with distinction and humility. It is rare for someone with Loren’s keen insight on the complicated finances of public education or the duties of a public servant to offer themselves to voters.

I believe Ms. Bogan will come to see this in Loren as I have seen it in Loren for the last decade. Loren will do this, if for no other reason, than to honor the memory of his late wife, a dedicated high school art teacher.

Take a deep breath everybody

On a semi-private Facebook Page devoted to defeating Donald Trump there is much angst, paranoia and backbiting some of it provoked, no doubt, by Trump paid saboteurs. Today a post about Tulsi Gabbard raised hackles pro and con. At the moment I’m an agnostic about Gabbard. I will rely on the New York Times to provide some sensible context but I’ll be darned if I’ll get hysterical a year out from 2020 with any potential disinformation.

This is what I contributed to the Facebook conversation:

“Everyone take a deep breath…..unless you are a Trumper in disguise. Of course this page hears it all good, bad, toxic, paranoid, disinformational. Some of it is honest internal nit picking. Some of it is a middle finger to keep anti Trumpers divided.

I caution vigilant skepticism and courage. It’s going to be a long year until November 2020.”

The following is a popular and long running video on Facebook. It is a good visual metaphor for anyone fearful that Trump’s mignons could reelect America’s real life alternative to Batman’s Joker as President. The Mama bear is the hoped for goal the day after the 2020 election. The baby bear is everyone wishing to say goodbye to the virulently stupid Trump Era. PS. If you think this video’s 2.47 minute run time is long you will never survive the next twelve and a half months.

From Russia with Love # 2

For one brief moment the United States led the Soviet Union to the doorstep of Democracy then Putin and his version of vulture capitalists suffocated Russian Democracy like a baby in a bath tub. Russian Foreign Minister from that hopeful moment shakes his head in disbelief at what is happening in America today and what it may portend for Democracy. He urges President Trump’s impeachment and removal to remove the stain from our nation. I heartily agree with him.

The America I Knew as Russia’s Foreign Minister Is Gone

From Russia with Love # 1

Its not enough that Trump has helped partner Turkey, our NATO ally, with Putin’s Russia in our spectacular betrayal of American decency. Trump has learned more useful lessons from Russia. To wit: the old Stalinist practice of photographic erasure of embarrassing details……like the apparatchiks who helped keep the Gulag’s working.

A Twitter user discovered that John Bolton had been replaced with Attorney General Robert Barr in a recent White House picture:

Joseph Stalin doesn’t have anything On Donald Trump:

The Glory that is public ed. Reunion details – Part 4

I surprised myself and just cranked out a couple thousand words in Part 3. I didn’t in-any-way proofread or polish it. I might just do the same here about my last day in Mankato a little over a week ago. or I might not. I JUST DID IT….BUT I’M NOT GOING TO EDIT IT EITHER.

I drove to a new hotel on Saturday night at a little past midnight. Had I left for Duluth after our dinner I’d have missed a lot of catching up. I didn’t rush to sleep. I still had 1 and a half Otaknams to review to see what my classmates were saying fifty years ago. Otaks…and Old trick. Read the full word backwards.

I decided before I headed to the bluff country east of Mankato to drive along the Nicollet County Road I used to bicycle to look for Rose Breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings. It was just North of the Minnesota River opposite Mankato’s Blue Earth County. Along the way I discovered a waterfall I’d never heard of before smaller than the Minneopa Falls on the opposite bank. Before stepping far from the road to take a look I read a modest plaque that mentioned Ray Sponberg who had helped draw attention to the forgotten locale. He was the Father of one of a Senior debater when I joined the team as a Sophomore. She was a very nice person and her father had taken Chartered Live Underwriter classes from my Dad at Mankato State. I snapped a picture of what was once a campsite for Sioux Indians long since banished to the Dakotas.

I meandered for a while along very pretty autumnal roads and then headed to the cabin where the Reunion committee was gathering. I guess my sitting in the High School parking lot gained me admission. It seemed a remote place under a heavy canopy of fall leaves. I’d get a chance to chat with a couple more folks before I left.

One of my classmates who hadn’t come had sent me an email asking if I might go. He’d done the same thing ten years earlier. He too was one of my debate teammates. Its worth mention his story as it will blend into the another story from another absent Debate teammate…..the first girl I ever dated.

I had met M (this time a boy) in seventh grade with I was talked into going out for the Gymnastics team. I could do a front handspring and to be honest I loved watching the gymnasts for than any other athletes at the Summer Olympics. I wasn’t six foot two back then but I was head in that direction and if you know acrobatics height is a genuine impediment.

Our tiny North Mankato contingent was put on an after-school bus that drove us to Mankato’s Franklin Junior High where, between us, we had just enough sad sacks to have a single dual match each year with Mankato’s Lincoln Junior high. The person I remember most from those days was M. He was a skinny awkward kid, who was desperate to prove his worth. He was half Sioux Indian and looked full blooded. He had been adopted by a sturdy German-American couple as an infant. He didn’t tell me this until we were in Debate a few years later but his native ancestry overwhelmed the Scandinavian. One of my high school classmates irritated by M’s fierce determination to be best at everything called him “Red Cloud.” M approached Debate the way he had Gymnastics or getting good grades – with a great deal of intensity. Later before my Dad made me quite Tennis because of a D on a report card we also joined that team. Mike was even more awkward on a Tennis Court but by God he got pretty good at playing a tenacious game of tennis before he graduated. In college we would get together over summers and play chess too. Did I tell you I hate playing Chess with an opponent who has to win? I didn’t care about winning that much but in the college library I once happened on a very slim Chess guide with I checked out and read leading to the only time I ever beat M. Darn it if M.could never remember me having beat him once.

M would continue to be one of my few long standing classmates with whom I reconnected once we got to the email age. He gave Claudia and I an ironing board for our wedding and was one of my groomsmen. My Uncle Frank thought the give was ridiculously utilitarian but we used a lot more than the hoity-toity silver pieces some of my relatives gave us. I think we still have the same one.

M didn’t come to our reunion but we assured each other that we would somehow cross paths again. We’ve done this several times but haven’t managed it. M went on to a career in the Foreign Service and lives out east. We’d started talking foreign policy after our gymnastics practice in 1967. I was spouting Anti-Vietnam stuff that I was hearing from my Dad and our Gymnastics Coach came in and took me on. Today there are not but-in-sky teachers around when we talk about Afghanistan and Pakistan where he spent several tense years.

M had a crush on the debater who asked me out on my first date as a sophomore. She had long straight golden hair and a scandihoovian name. She was in my English class where I impressed lots of girls by giving a humorous speech introducing myself to the class. I was was a class assignment and I was terrified because I had yet to put my Dad’s advice to be a debater into practice to avoid another panic attack. Dad came through again with the advice to joke around. At any rate in the middle of the year S asked me on a date. It was for a Saddie Hawkins Day dance which, just like in the lil Abner comic strip required girls to go after boys for a date. I was so shocked all I could tell her was I’d have to go ask my parents if this was OK with them.

As a few of my loyal readers know my Dad was thrilled with this turn of events. S’s mom drove us to and from the dance and we went out for pizza imbetween. She gave me a traditional compost like corsage and Mr. Frank the Speech teacher was probably Marrying Sam who tied our knot.

S like M (the girl) and M (the boy) were all much better debaters than I was an in no time I became part of the B team.

I quite debate after my junior year having been paired with L now deceased. L. was a “jolly” fat girl who was mercilessly teased in those days before half the school population grew to be plumpish. Her laugh was a defense mechanism used to bat every insult aside as though there was a competition going on. After college she joined a weight reduction program and slimmed down. There is no telling how scarred she was by years of belittling. M the girl also quit debate. S and M the boy continued on and near the end of our senior year M began dating S having developed a serious crush on her. When she broke off with him he couldn’t barely contain his loss.

I didn’t put two and two together until after college when a classmate told me that S had become a major spokesman for the University of Minnesota Gay’s. Thinking back I recalled two possibly tell tale events that foreshadowed this. S once cracked a joke about a nun doing push ups in a cucumber field for sexual release. I think you would have had to be there to see why this odd joke stuck with me. And then in the Christmas Party after high school I was entreated to host S came in and brought a Dylan album to play over and over and over again. She parked herself on the floor for an hour listening to Bob Dylan sing “Lay lady lay, Lay across my bog brass bed.” I was almost too busy cleaning up after my careless classmates to be too annoyed with seeing S remain glued to this song for an hour but I was still a little annoyed with this odd behavior.

Which reminds me of another discursive bit before I wrap up. At the Friday night get together I had a chance to be a bit of a raconteur about my political shenanigans with our old Class President who has dabbled in politics himself, behind the scenes. I told him about my Voodoo experience but had the most time embellishing the story of this Christmas Party. My parents had only a few weeks earlier completely replaced our furniture and installed a new carpet. Someone suggestged that it being winter we start a fire. I put in a log and fired it up……for about twenty seconds when rolling plumes of smoke began flooding the living room. I fiddled with the flue but the catch only spun around helplessly. Scott, later to become a Mankato policeman rushed into the breach and picked up the burning log and dropped it on the new carpeting. Then he picked it up again and dropped it again. Then he did it a third time saving his poor hands from blistering. Then he finally picked it up a final time and rushed to the door to heave it into a snowbank.

Actually Scott was with us Saturday night and he reminded me of this incident. I mentioned how many times he dropped the log in my telling and good cop that he was said. I only dropped it once. “That’s true,” I told him, “but a good story teller never lets that stop him from improving on a good story.”

Well, some years later yet another classmate of mine who was teaching in Duluth told me that S had been a lesbian. It all sort of added up. Sadly, I could see the sense of disapproval in his telling me this. Thank God those days are passing swiftly. But ever since I’ve enjoyed knowing that my first date was a gay woman. And that fact was confirmed by yet another of my original sophomore debate teammates on Sunday as we were sent out on a scavenger hunt. We too had gone out on one date in high school where she had explained how she was stuck attending Mankato State because her Father’s hand to mouth farming operation on a very expensive piece of farm property made it impossible for her to get any scholarships for a more rarefied college experience.

Now on a hunt for a snail shell a feather and some moss she told me how her fiend S stayed close through college a fact I’d been unaware of. And yes S was gay or bi or something. She had been trying to figure that all out. And I was her first date too.

These four largely unedited posts about the glories that are public education sort of misses my intention. However, I went to school with a lot of bright kids who, for the most part, grew up to be bright adults. We were part of the baby boom, at least the white baby boom, who got good schools that took our education seriously. It was a joy to see my old class again.

As I run for the School Board for my eighth time I’ll keep those memories in mind. If elected in two weeks I’ll do my best to do justice for all the kids in the Duluth public schools so that when some of them return to Duluth for a fiftieth reunion it will be as special as my fiftieth was to me.

Paid political letter

I’ve had a cordial email exchange with the Trib’s editorial page editor, Chuck Frederick.

He told me first that my letter about Kathy Bogan and Loren Martell couldn’t run until November 17 – after the thirty day delay and over a week after the election.

I told him that it was a damn shame my Op-Ed that they asked me to contribute would count against me.

He said he’d check with the entire Editorial Board but didn’t hold out much hope that they would go along with an early letter…..but, in a follow up email he reminded me of the Trib’s paid-for-political-letters. I’d forgotten that option…..which I have never felt very good about. But. I am nothing if not pragmatic. I asked Chuck to send my letter to the folks in that Department and have them contact me for payment.

I felt a little like our pathetic president negotiating with a dictator and letting them call all the shots…..but what else could I do? Chuck also reminded me that I could blog it but really! My circulation only compares favorably in terms of intelligence not volume compared to the Trib.

Alanna warned me

The previous post is about my proposed book. No. I realized early on I would probably not finish it on time. Alanna Oswald, bless her heart, was worried after reading some of my posts on the subject that I would make a lot of folks angry for reneging on my book writing promise. It wouldn’t be that many people. Its less than 75 orders and frankly, most of them would probably forgive me since getting me on the school board is probably their first concern. Continue reading

Bless you, Bless you, Bless you!

A string of emails today that put some tears in my eyes:

Subject: No Response

I sent in a form with my information about getting a sign and also along with a check for $25.00 donation for the book. I have received nothing but you have cashed my check on 9-24-19.
I sent a message on your FB page as well still no response.

I pray this is not how you operate and it’s just a overlook and or alot of orders to fill and I’m impatient. Thank You Continue reading

A letter to the editor from a wonderful person I had to disagree with…

… I just sent it in to the Tribune but I’ll not place it here lest that becomes an excuse for them not to publish it. I’m probably not past the 30-day period they usually enforce between commentaries even though I the Trib my campaign column a week or two before they published it. HOWEVER

Below is the letter my friend Kathy Bogan wrote to the Editors of the Duluth News Tribune: My response includes my belief that: “if there is any justice in the world Loren Martell will be elected.” (I say this despite the fact I very much like Loren’s challenger)

Kathy’s letter to the Editor:

I am writing to express my concern about the News Tribune’s editorial endorsement of Loren Martell for District 3 School Board representative (Our View/Endorsement: “Time for Martell to get in the game,” Oct. 9).

In light of the emphasis placed on civility at the Sept. 24 News Tribune- and Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce-sponsored candidate forum, it was puzzling that the newspaper would show support for a candidate who doesn’t always observe important tenets of civility in his comments at School Board meetings and in published commentary. I have attended several School Board meetings in which Martell displayed an acrimonious attitude toward board members and refused to leave the podium after speaking for the three minutes allowed for public comment. This was blatantly disrespectful to board members and those attending the meeting.

We need School Board members who show true leadership through working together and with school administration to address the multifaceted challenges of operating a large system that serves our children, families, and community.

Also running in the 3rd District for School Board is a well-qualified candidate who is knowledgeable about our district and what is currently happening in our schools.

The News Tribune’s endorsement left me wondering whether those involved considered the ability of candidates to function as members of a team charged with solving complex issues together.

Kathy Bogen


Alex Jone’s disciple

Someone on Facebook noted that Jim Fetzer (formerly of Duluth) just got whacked with a $450,000 defamation judgement. I replied that Fetzer didn’t care if he was wrong when he wrote a book denying the Sandy Hook massacre took place. Then I thought I’d better add a little more and wrote:

To be clearer. Fetzer isn’t interested in the Truth. Like Trump he offends people’s intelligence like a naughty kindergartner. He deserves to get whacked for it. He’s been this way for years. (Then I added a link to my old commentary on the rascal)


Fetzer shills for the gullible people of the day. Twenty years ago it was old hippies who thought JFK had been assassinated by the CIA. Today its Tea Party paranoids who really believe the “Deep State.” (meaning liberals) are ruining everything.

The picture in the Trib shows him sitting behind tall stacks of books which is meant to suggest research. Bwa, hahahahahaha

Could I support Elizabeth Warren?

The 2020 election is a little over a year away but I raised chuckles of appreciation not long ago at the Chamber of Commerce’s forum for the School Board candidates. I told the threadbare audience I wanted a presidential new School Superintendent like Warren. I’ve also said I am like Warren in that I have a plan for everything. I like Warren and I delight at seeing Donald Trump getting Pocahontased in the eye.

However, the wagons are being circled against this wannabe Native American. Former NY Mayor and current multi billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, a man I admire, is mulling a fight against her potential attack on Wall Street. I for one would cheer on Warren’s “wealth tax” but not at the expense of re-electing Donald Trump by dividing the electorate so that Trump’s blind and myopic supporters can keep him behind the nation’s wheel with 35% of the vote.

If it was a two-way race I would be less fearful because a Warren victory would still require her as President to get the Congress to go along with her most ambitious proposals. But the Congress might make a mighty Anti-Trump turn and give Warren the power to do what she wanted. I could live with a nationalized health care program although I think a gradual turn in that direction makes more sense. But again, could I endure the threat of four more years of a spoiled-rotten-child President who has cost me sleep for the past four years?

This is what centrist David Brooks said about Warren:

“First, there are Warren’s policies. On trade, she’s a protectionist. Her 10-year, $34 trillion health care plan isn’t paid for. Her student debt cancellation plan is a handout to the upper middle class. Her campaign seems to not acknowledge the inevitable trade-off between economic growth and high spending, high taxes and high regulation.”

To the extent that Mr. Brooks represents the thinking of a quarter of American voters who will toss a coin next year its worth agonizing about.

Here is Brook’s complete column.

Confirmation of my comments about desegregation…

…in the column found in the previous post.

When I get my News Tribune delivered to my door I check several things that I can’t easily find when I’m traveling and look online for the DNT. They include Dear Abby and the Bygone’s section. I was intrigued that yesterday’s bygones coincidentally confirmed my history of Duluth’s Schools integration with a summary of a forty year old Trib Story:

As always, this is a snippet. There is much more to the story than this.

Tomorrow’s column a few hours early

Duluth School Board District 2 candidate Harry Welty speaks during a candidate forum sponsored by the Duluth News Tribune and the Duluth Chamber of Commerce. The forum was Sept. 24 at the Duluth Playhouse Family Theater at the Depot in Duluth. (Clint Austin /

Candidate’s View Column: Look back to move Duluth public schools forward
Written By: Harry Welty | Oct 16th 2019 –

Ten years after the Supreme Court legalized “separate but equal,” my grandmother rode her horse to an all-white Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, Kan. Fifty-six years later, the Supreme Court ruled that Monroe, now a segregated all-black school, was unconstitutional. The court ruled that even if white and black schools were treated equally, forbidding black children from attending schools with white children treated them as inferiors.

Three years after Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education, I attended another all-white elementary near Monroe. In the first week of school, 100 black children from segregated schools were shepherded into our classrooms. Five years later, I was one of 14 white children in a sixth-grade class with 17 minority students. As the Supreme Court had hoped, I was vaccinated against any thought that I was superior to my black classmates.

My social DNA was formed in that integrated school, but my school’s integration was the exception. Over the years to follow, our nation’s schools re-segregated. When my dad was offered a job teaching law in Mankato, Minn., I found myself in an unfamiliar sea of white children.

Nevertheless, the issue of equity had taken root and came with me to Minnesota. In 1968, the year Martin Luther King was assassinated, I slept in a room with the first black student ever enrolled at Mankato High School. Bedru, an Ethiopian exchange student — and a Muslim to boot — was our family’s guest for the year.

I moved to Duluth to teach in another all-white Minnesota school 45 years ago and learned Duluth’s dirty secret. A 1920 lynching kept black Americans away until the Cold War gave Duluth a military base.

Among my Red Plan warnings was its uneven division of Duluth. It would re-segregate an integrated district. Along with this it traded 100 teachers ($10 million annually) for new buildings. Today, Duluth is not only more segregated, it endures overcrowded classrooms.

No one can fix our schools in 500 words, but I have spilled millions of words on this subject into a blog after retiring from my first eight years on the Duluth School Board. Since then I’ve served four more years. I’m once again offering my considerable experience to Duluth.

As bleak as our school’s current situation may seem, there is an opportunity to restore our schools with a new superintendent and School Board. We can have schools that rival the best public schooling Duluth has ever offered — despite the Red Plan’s bond repayments.

As we work toward this new birth, we must remember the rising of the oceans, the land’s parching, paving and flooding, and a sixth extinction that all are coming with climate change. Our children must be prepared.

I read that Duluth’s St. Mark’s church, founded by freed slaves, is inspired by the African principle, “Sankofa,” which means “to look back in order to move forward.” If I am elected to a fourth term on Nov. 5, that is the spirit I will bring to the Duluth School Board.

Harry Welty is a candidate to represent District 2 on the Duluth School Board. The seat is up for election on Nov. 5. He wrote this at the request of the News Tribune Opinion page.

Dr. Kirby’s column is something of a laundry list. He didn’t miss anything and you can read his comments in the Tribune here. By the way, The Doctor’s wife, a fellow general practitioner, oversaw the nurse who gave Claudia and I flu shots at the Mt. Royal Medical Center today.

The Glory that is public ed. Reunion details – Part 3

Day 3 The fallen, Age of Aquarius, ADHD, Buried history NOTE – I will not be editing this rough draft anytime soon or maybe anytime

This four part (five counting the prologue) was meant to be a reverie of sorts about a glorious public school experience. It should have been continued immediately but already the events are over a week old and I’ve gone on to other things in my campaign for the school board and more agonizing over the malevolent squirrel we have let into the people’s house.

So…pick up some pieces of your diary Harry.

I had agreed to patrol our old high school’s parking lot for three hours of Saturday’s morning directing alums to two classic cars which would drive them around the old haunts of their youth. It was rainy and I hunkered down in my traverse. The seven foot long sign I stuck between through my back door’s window. “Classic car rides” it said, or words to that effect. The temps were hovering just above freezing so I had no plans to walk around. Instead I invited people into my front and back seat to chat while they waited for other’s travels to come to an end.

In no particular order our old Biology teacher Mr. Banwort showed up to do some of the driving. While he waited for some people to squire around I asked him about days past. Later it was John my old classmate who I shared a short contest with over a young and very date-able lady. He asked if I remembered our telephone call. I did and I probably stole his story to tell his fiftieth reunion date.

We were both sweet on the Basketball coaches’ daughter. I must have taken her out on a date at some point because I had her phone number memorized. But like a typical guy I had dithered away the time before Homecoming to ask her to go out on another date. That’s when John called me to ask if she was going with me. I told John I hadn’t asked her yet and we fenced a bit in good humor about who would be going. John suggested that we race for the call after we hung up. I agreed, knowing I didn’t have to look up the young lady’s number. I won. I was smitten. The young lady was the first girl I’d ever kissed after a date. It was a beginners kiss but it was lingering as I tarried on her home’s doorstep. When the kiss came to and end and we said out goodbyes I hopped in my Dad’s car and drove home singing the pop folk-song. Kisses Sweeter than Wine.

I’m not sure if that was the date I had been left seething as we departed the dance in our school’s gym. As we left and headed for the back parking lot of Mankato High a couple unfamiliar guys were holding the door to the lot open. As they apparently let us out one of the fellows with a smirk let the door go so that it hit my date’s shoulder on the way out. I was in a state of shock. Without looking back I realized a gauntlet had been thrown at me to defend my date’s honor. At least that was the emotion surging through me.

“I’m going back to have a talk with that guy.” I told my date as I walked her to my car. She hung on to my arm and said, “Don’t.” Every fiber of my body disagreed with her command and I could barely hear the voice in the back of my head telling me my date was right. A fight would only make her date more miserable however it developed or ended. I didn’t turn back to challenge the beasts and knew I was doing the right thing……It was a right thing I couldn’t get out of my head for the next ten years as I imagined how I would have dealt with the curs. God, am I ever glad I’m no longer seventeen!

But I was a feckless youth. I’d had several dates over a couple months and she still seemed to be a little infatuated with me and that made me uncomfortable. As gallant as I had wanted to be with the door incident I was callow in the “how do I end this” phase of our dating. In my case rather than give some embarrassing declaration I simply stopped calling her. It wasn’t the last time I simply tried to evaporate myself out of a relationship. She was crushed and I when John inquired about our status I told him he was free to move in. God, am I ever glad I’m no longer seventeen!

After the morning car rides the Reunion planners had set up a “Magical Mystery” bus tour of Mankato. One of the features of the ride was a trip past every elementary or junior high school building that any of us might have attended. Not having gone to elementary school in Mankato this didn’t mean much to me but we were encouraged to shout out memories when we passed significant places. I obliged when we traveled past the County Seat. I shouted that when Claudia and I signed up for a wedding license in the building we both had to swear an oath that neither of us were “feebleminded.” Actually, I told the crowd that we “had” to get a license which has a somewhat different meaning than I had intended. That wasn’t true unless my wife’s gestation was arrested for seven years when we finally gave our parents grand-parenthood.

One of our “guides” on the bus gave us bits and pieces of history as we meandered through the town. He had been a drudge in the City Manager’s office assigned the task of drafting the documents that put a “mall” in the middle of our town’s main street. At the time it was intended to spare the City from suburbanizing and expanding its commercial sites out beyond the old town’s boundaries. This failed, of course, while it also put an end to high school kid’s “cruising” the main drag.

Among the other stories he told us was of the hushed removal and hiding of Mankato’s infamous boasting about America’s largest mass hanging when 38 mostly innocent Sioux Indians were hung for their part in the Sioux uprising that distracted Minnesota from the Civil War.

The granite sign was one of the first things I remember passing on the way to our new house in 1963. In the next decade it became a magnet for Red Paint. Not long afterwards an official in the Mankato bureaucracy had the tablet buried in Mankato’s Sibley Park. Later, fearing that it might be dug up and restored, he had it unearthed and driven to a secret spot along the Minnesota River where he dumped it.

I agreed with my fellow Scarlet and our guide that hiding this was not good history. As to the monument’s recovery he told us the official had told him in later years that the location had already been buried with three of the four witnesses. A fourth was being overcome with senility leaving the officer secure in the hope that the location would die with him.

It had been my intention to drive back to Duluth after having dinner with my classmates. Claudia, who remained in Duluth, did not think this was a good idea. So when the reunion organizer told me that I was invited to an after the reunion gathering I found another hotel for Saturday night and extended my stay. That meant I could be leisurely at the Saturday dinner and not hurry home.

More grads made it to the dinner and I got snippets of conversation with many but not all of the ones I would have liked to talk with. One of them was Leenie. I hadn’t seen her since High School to my recollection but I remembered my last summer after high school when a gang of us got together to swim in a local lake and generally pal around in a last burst of camaraderie before we were all cast to the four winds and college.

I’d gathered that her marriage with another classmate had ended poorly and when she showed up I have to say she had a beaten up look to her. I’d find out in the course of our conversation that this had more to do with her having had a double mastectomy three weeks earlier. And she was here.

Her family had been the host of our Australian foreign exchange student, another young woman with whom I’d been smitten. I asked Leenie if my understanding that the two of them didn’t get along had any truth to it. Leenie, told me it was mostly about her mother a very controlling “doctor’s wife.” At one point the Mother had insisted that their guest would have to find other accommodations. Apparently both girls stood together to swat this idea aside. I was aware of just how in-artful American hosts could be. It was a challenge for my family to host an Ethiopian student. The year before that the rich hosts of a Thai student turned him out after the initial excitement wore off and he was taken in by a far more considerate family.

Leenie would have been horrified at such an outcome. She had gone into social work helping at hospital birthing centers and in elder care. It was a far cry from her former husband’s interests. And her former husband was now suffering from senility in a home that bespoke of the good money he earned in Detroit before Americans had to share the automotive pie with the rest of the world. He’d been a car designer.

I asked a couple of folks about one other person who had never come to one of our reunions. It was yet another young woman who had mostly incurred her school mate’s ire but with whom I’d taken up a brief post high school dalliance although that is more than it was.

M was a girl that intimidated the bejesus out of me when we joined the debate team as sophomores. For me it was my Dad’s answer to my fear of ever suffering a panic attack again. I met a lot of my future dates on that team including they young lady would became the reunion host who along with her family moved into my family’s house and then invited me for a Sunday after school reunion gathering.

So many of these stories are tied together by that debate experience and our foreign exchange program. When talking with Mr. Banwort I had mentioned our old coach, a dirty old man if ever there was on, and how he’d told us the ranking of our classmates on the Mankato’s IQ records. My bully was was number two. I suspect M was number 1.

Our coach and the student debaters were pretty quick with their repartee and the coach like to fling insults at M. M always flung another one back quicker and more deadly than any tossed in her direction. I admired her intelligence and fierce self defense. Other’s did not. During our bus tour our guide also commented that M was the first girl to wear a brazier. That is just the sort of thing a junior high boy would notice and not mention until fifty years later. He mother was also a teacher. I expect that this coupled with her brains and the fact that her mother was a teacher all added up to a soup of jealousy and disapproval. I probably didn’t look as cowed by her as I was when we talked and lent a sympathetic ear to the few things she shared with me. When I once rolled my eyes at a comment about having to work hard to get all the easy A’s I saw her earning her response betrayed a little self doubt. She knew who was really smart and it wasn’t her. It was a cousin of her’s that had been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. So just as I stood in awe of her she too stood in awe of others.

I still recall defending M. to another of the graduates at the reunion who told me I was a pretty nice guy to stick up for her. I am pretty sure this discussion took place our senior year after M had been humiliated at a gathering of our International club and a large number of foreign exchange students who visited Mankato over the weekend. Despite hosting our Ethiopian student the previous year I’d never joined the International club. When kids signed up to be a host for a weekend I hadn’t done so. But one student from a nearby small town had invited himself to our celebration simply to escape the provincial home he had lived in for that school year. He was Pierre ____ ______ from Paris. He was nothing like the sweet fille from Grenoble my sophomore year. He was a swashbuckler. Suddenly I was asked if my family would take on an emergency guest and we did.

Over the weekend Pierre regaled me with stories of his sexual conquests in Minnesota. He’d had five of them. Never having considered trying to conquer anyone I listened to this cosmopolitan locker talk with interest and muted disapproval. One of his conquests, a virgin apparently, had been a bloody mess. For me this was better than a talking too from a priest on the subject of abstinence. How these young women would fair after his safe return to France I had no idea but I couldn’t rule out a growing Minnesota population at his departure.

Of course, a young woman estranged from her classmates and sophisticate beyond the rest of us was almost fated to fall under the advanced influence of a dashing and confident young Frenchmen. And so in the evening hours of our gathering with the other foreign exchange students the best and the brightest Mankato students noticed a steamed up car on an evening stroll with M and Pierre warming each other up. My friends formed a circle around the vehicle and serenaded them with the best of Rogers’ and Hammerstein. “Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you………”

My last recollection of M. was introducing her to my “fiancee” at the Italian restaurant M was a waitress at. Because I had shown a brief interest in her not long before it was sort of an embarrassing introduction for me. Like always, I’d melted away when M showed me some evidence of being more interested in me than I was prepared to show to her. I’d grown in confidence in college but even so I recalled how much her intellect had intimidated me back in high school. Melting way seemed safer. Certainly as a waitress she was no match for her Rhode’s riding cousin. I don’t know what became of M but that is an unknown chapter I’d very much like to learn about.

I’ve kept the original ideas I wanted to write about at the top of this post. Sorry, its long and I have no intention, now anyway, of editing it. What I’ve written about are the personal events that everyone experiences even while greater forces swirl around them in the world.

I’ve said nothing about the War in Vietnam but I shouldn’t let it go unmentioned.

Two of our classmates who had been Vietnam Era officers, one in the army the other in the navy got up and talked about our fellows who were scarred by the war or simply lucky not to serve in Vietnam. They mentioned the magic draft card numbers that were pulled at the beginning of our senior year that would doom some to the draft. My number, 41, put me at immediate risk of being called up…..except that I had always planned to go to college. The previous generation of WW II vets had graciously extended a 2-S deferment to young men going to college to become the masters of America. It would last me though almost the end of the war so there was no bloodshed for me. We baby boomers were all Age of Aquarius and ideals that required us to put long stemmed roses in the barrels of the guns wielded by our fellows unable to go to college.

Is it just me, or is the echo of that past still with us in our politics today?

The Glory that is public ed. Reunion details – Part 2

Day 2 Woodland hills in a flurry Friday Nite Lights, all the girls I knew pep fest alikum

I only lasted till ten in the evening at the bar we alums first gathered at. As young people swarmed into the main room I had decided a good night’s sleep made more sense than a late night carousing which, frankly none of my old classmates seemed all that interested in. I would spend most of Friday sealed up in my hotel but I did venture out once. I headed to Woodland Hills. This is the cemetery where my Dad was interred 32 years ago and where I took my Mother’s ashes 27 years later. This was the first time I saw both their names on the bronze marker. With a whipping wind carrying a bit of snow from North Dakota I blinked away a couple tears, kissed my fingers and placed them on their grave. The surrounding hills were full of autumnal colors as they were when my Father was laid to rest. He loved fall colors and I remember trips he took us on in Kansas when we were little to view the sugar maples in Hiawatha and Olathe.

A tour was offered of Mankato “West” which was sundered six years after I graduated when my Sister’s graduating class found itself divided. Half of her classmates attended a newly build Mankato East High School. Today even with ninth graders added to West’s attendance it is a smaller school that it was in 1969. Where my graduating class was 454 (although the number varied depending on which 69 grad you talked to)
The class of 2019 was only 278. It was also larger than the graduating class in the eastern school. If the other three classes were similar then there were only a little over 1000 kids at Mankato West. The total enrollment of three classes in 1969 was probably closer to 1500 students.

Because of radon gas in the buildings nether regions our tour was limited to the top three floors. Continue reading