“I don’t want to go to school with no niggers.”

That was what my new neighbor, little preschool Donna Beth Wylie, told the slightly older, about-to-be-in second grade me back in 1958 when I moved into the Loman Hill Elementary School attendance area in Topeka Kansas. This was four years after the US Supreme Court had ruled that Topeka couldn’t have two separate school systems, one for black children and one for white children.

Every year or two I begin fixating on a book I would like to write. Its more than that phrase “I could write a book” that you are always hearing people say, teachers especially. I heard someone say this while I served lunch at the Soup Kitchen yesterday. In my case I actually have written one book and I’ve got a blog that, in words, equals a small library. I’ve been wanting to write about race relations for a long time. The book I started thinking about writing twenty years ago would have been a novel. It would have had as its central starting point the infamous Duluth lynching that took place just after WW I when a lot of unemployed veterans were being squeezed out of jobs in Duluth’s steel mills by cheap black labor. I wanted to tie the lynching to Topeka, Kansas, where one of the victims had family and was represented by a black lawyer who later took part in the Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education challenge, and my Kansas grandfather who won a WW I Congressional Medal of Honor as an officer in an all black infantry division raised in New York’s Harlem.

Toward that end I began earnestly buying books about black history. I’ve read a number of them but most still await my attention. The idea of that novel has been getting dimmer in recent years but not a book about race. Its such a big subject that most everyone is clueless how deeply racial ideas, mostly inept ones, infect us even its victims.

I remember when Roots the television series helped make ABC a serious television network after the 1976 Olympics. Its depiction of one families history from Africa through the slave trade into the Civil War years was a revelation to black Americans who’d lived the experience. I suspect many black grandparents who despaired of their children understanding their history were grateful to ABC and the series author Alex Haley for putting a face on an largely unwritten past. Haley also co-wrote Malcolm X’s gripping autobiography.

The most common thought in America where race is concerned is probably “I’m not a racist.” Saying it almost proves you are and so I never say it. You can deny it to yourself but not to others depending on how they define the word. Socrates said he could win any argument if he was the one allowed to define the words being debated. Whether you or I am a racist all depends on the definition of the world. I for instance have made a habit in recent weeks of walking up to to black strangers to introduce myself as a School Board member. Something is going on in my head to be doing that. Maybe its racism. One of the people I met that way a few weeks back walked through the Soup Kitchen today and was quite excited to see me.

I thought of a first sentence for a first chapter of a new idea for a book on the subject this morning. I’d base the book on the books I’ve read on the history of race in America and beyond. It would be a rumination about race and my family’s experiences with black Americans through the years. I created a folder for a book in my computer. I thought Donna Beth’s attitude on integration would be a good beginning to a prologue. As for a sentence to begin a first chapter I thought of this:

“If you are deeply invested in the word for word truth of the Bible and believe that the world began roughly 6000 years ago with Adam’s creation you have been raised to be a racist.”

My prologue would elaborate on Donna Beth’s petulant proclamation. My Mother had a great fondness for Donna Beth’s family and in the five years we lived next to the Wylie’s she got to know her Mother Joyce Wylie very well. When we visited them annually for years after leaving Topeka old Walt would always laugh when he saw me and repeat the scurrilous thing his indignant older daughter had overheard me say about him and reported back to him.

“Mr. Wylie spits and swears and he smokes cigars too.”

Walt was a military policeman in Italy after WW II. Joyce told my Mom that his job entailed going into brothels and pulling black American soldiers off of white Italian woman trying to survive the post war.

If I ever attend to writing such a book it might free me from the compulsion to rise to my Buddy’s every put down when I post something about the crappy experiences of black Americans.

It’s Saturday and I would love to go to Duluth’s “Boo at the Zoo” with my grandsons. The older one will be Luke Skywalker and the little one will be Slimer from Ghostbusters. Sadly, I agreed to clean the church this morning so I’ll miss out.

History restored

I headed home after singing to my Mom for a few minutes before rushing off to serve lunch at the Damiano Soup Kitchen. While home I read an email that made my day. A reader of my last post who noted my discouragement at not having saved my old School Board diary found it for me. It was on the Wayback website: It looks like I’ll find all or most of my old diary entries. I’m not sure if this was the first one I ever wrote but its here. I’ll make sure to copy them and save them this time.

Thanks Jason.

By the way, the “Wayback Machine” was Peabody the Dog’s device for time travel. Sherman the Boy was his pet.

Chimps in the news – a little self criticism

Can Harry intimidate people into being nice?

That is the question I’m faced with as I contemplate the Bullying and BFFing post. Intimidation. That’s a bully’s domain and part of my schtick. It has been since I began writing about the School Board back in 1999. Back then I was far more defensive than aggressive. One of the Board members I served with told her allies critical things about me and they passed on her evaluation of me in letters-to-the-editor.

I responded by writing in my old website in a section of it I called “School Board Diary.” That portion of www.snowbizz.com is gone now obliterated by some calamity when I pushed the wrong button. Then I got a four year gig writing in the Reader Weekly, now the Duluth Reader. I continued writing for the Reader off and on for some years afterwards. Elected official are targets for lots of criticism and I’ve got lots of vulnerabilities that make good targets. I failed as a teacher. I was a long time Republican and would like to be again if the Party stops being all Fox newsy. I was pro choice, which today’s Republicans call “pro abortion.” I was and am free with my criticism of the School Board. I often did not vote the way the Teacher’s Union wanted particularly when I supported the Edison School experiment. I was one of Mark Twain’s idiot school board members. As an idiot I let our school buildings fall into disrepair. Later I opposed the Red Plan and thus tried to deprive our students of the schools they deserved.

Perhaps you can divine by the way I phrase these criticisms that I don’t take them all that seriously. I do, however, take criticism seriously. I can more than hold my own in most arguments and the fact that very few people criticize me publicly any more suggests two possibilities. Maybe my old Red Plan adversaries are too embarrassed to criticize me since I was right and they were wrong. Or Maybe, potential critics are afraid I will respond so viciously (which I would justify by calling it honesty) that they would in effect being getting into a peeing contest with a skunk. The latter possibility is the one that prompts this post and that question I asked at its beginning. “Can Harry intimidate people into being nice?”

I think intimidation can work. Perhaps the more important question is whether it should work. The advocates for the Civility Project believe that being civil is the best way to resolve problems and avoid the hideous example of our current Congress. I have often analyzed this contention and done so with considerable skepticism. But perhaps my tough criticism has become its own form of bullying.

The previous post makes an important point. Favoritism can be taken to unhealthy levels that foster resentment. OKaaaay Harry! Point well taken but aren’t you heading way over the top by pointing out those terrible stories about Chimpanzees in the News? Well, gosh, stammer, stammer, uhhh I guess I did it for the same reasons Republicans today are campaigning for Congress on Ebola. Maybe you heard of it. Its a disease which has killed exactly one American on American soil in a year in which thirty thousand Americans will die from the flu.

But really Harry – Rampaging Chimps? That’s not exactly the same as someone getting a parking pass they may not be entitled to. Besides, the folks who got the pass weren’t my biggest concern. Its the BFFing by other administrators that I wanted to shine a light on turning team players into Good ole boys.

I have felt for a long time that there is an unhealthy favoritism riddling the Duluth Schools which I believe is corrosive. I’m just not sure that my corrosive criticism will make things better. I’ll try to stick to simple criticism from now on.

From Bullies to BFFs

Four and a half hours of sleep. For me, these days, not bad. At 4:30AM I decided to walk half mile down hill to McDonalds for coffee and some apple pies.

Keeping your temper is an important part of life. Mine has not been exactly angry during the recent long blog posting binge, just a little loopy from lack of sleep. Even so I’m getting more sleep than Abe Lincoln did as President. The book I’m still 25 pages from finishing described how his union soldier guards cringed outside his door when he did catch moments of shuteye. The President moaned so pitiably in his sleep they were unnerved.

Ah, but during this waking hours Abe was very much in control of his emotions. He had to be. For two and a half years he got almost non stop bad news. As his reelection campaign neared everyone thought he was toast. Gettysburg, Vicksburg and the soldier vote saved his Presidency. I’m looking forward to our Board’s midterm election next year. They went badly for Lincoln. I have to keep reminding myself that the burden on me is only the Duluth school district not the fate of the nation or the lives of a million men at arms.

I’ve been coaching my ally Art Johnston to keep his cool. Its not getting any easier after five month’s under a very dark cloud. I twitted him a bit Monday for a little crotchetyness. We had been discussing bullying and every time its on the agenda its all Art can do not to gnash his teeth.

If and when I make the time to meet the Superintendent – not easy to do with such lovely weather waiting for me outside and good books to finish – I should raise the subject of fairness.

Social scientists are discovering how fundamental the question of fairness is to humans and other animals. The sense of it is particularly strong in primates. Our nearest primate relatives Chimpanzees have made a couple alarming appearances in the news recently when they felt they were being treated unfairly. In one story a man’s testicles were bitten off when he and his wife who could no longer care for their family Chimp took their chimp treats at an animal care facility that took them in when the babies grew up to be unmanageable. The husband and wife would take their adored chimp treats which he would get to eat in front of other discarded chimps. So aroused to anger were the chimps who had been left out that when a caregiver forgot to lock a cage one angry chimp escaped and damn near killed the husband. In a similar experience a woman who was asked by a friend to help her restrain the friend’s unruly chimp got her face ripped off by the angry animal. She has since had a face transplant.

Back when I was fighting the Red Plan a few of my old friends learned the hard way that it was a disability not to be young and gorgeous in the Dixon Era. I’m afraid that legacy of favoritism may still be with us.

One person I got to know recently was hired by the District and shown their new office. When this person returned to occupy it after moving from another state to Duluth they found their office occupied. The new occupant had an influential friend in the Administration that intervened in the office assignment process. In a similar vein I heard that Art Johnston’s most vociferous accuser made sure that another top administrator’s child would be permitted to park at her school though the child was not otherwise entitled to do so. This became general knowledge when the police liaison at the school kept putting parking tickets on the car only to learn that they were all being ignored and forgiven.

Its not a big leap from bullying to Best Friend Forevering.

After I teased Art about Monday’s meeting he sat mute through Tuesday’s Education meeting while, comatose as I was from my Habitat work, I still managed a couple questions. After the meeting Art darkly and a little sarcastically asked me if he had been well enough behaved. I told him that of course he had been. He had been as quiet as a church mouse. Then I told Art that my greatest fear was that he might pop like steam valve under too much pressure. That led to a discussion of his least favorite subject bullying and favoritism.

I asked Art if he’d read George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Art said that he had. I read it for a junior high English class and it made an impression on me. I wrote down the quote and its famous amendment from that book and showed it to Art. I asked him if he remembered it. Art read it over and nodded his assent:

All animals are equal.”

“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

Art smiled wryly and headed for the parking lot. The pressure, for the moment, had been turned down a bit.

Spare yourself again

“Spare yourself” is probably the operative phrase while I’m suffering from restless mind syndrome. That’s a syndrome of my own naming if you had any doubt. I recommended that my readers spare themselves rather than reading a very recent post and I should have said the same about the last rant. My Buddy sent me an email with the phrase “incoherent” in his text but I haven’t the energy to read it. I don’t quite have the energy to be any more coherent now just after Ten when my mind is reeling like I remember it doing on the limited occasions back in college where I’d had too much to drink. So once again I advise you to spare yourself from reading any further. Continue reading

Remember Harry. You are not the little Dutch boy…

…and your blog is not a Holy Dam. [pun intended]

Blog posts born of an overactive mind are a pain. I got Rosebud started but went farther afield with it than I intended. I was going to upload it as an incomplete Part 1 and then do the Part 2. Then, of course, I had the Octoroon series to finish and a passel of emails between my Buddy and me on civil rights and then there are all those old posts I promised to write like a series on the teacher’s union and the Edison Schools and then, and then, and…

I’ve got a life to live, a school system to save, and while I’m glad my Buddy keeps my wit sharp I have to put things in focus. His last email that I was charged up to rebut got to his only real argument for not yielding to race hustlers – the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Kapow! Take that Harry. Just now I chortled at the thought of debating that subject ad nauseum. Well Buddy. Your point is this. Never mind that for two hundred years the US refused to treat blacks as equal even after the Civil War. We should start treating them equal now, no special privileges, screw Affirmative Action, insure voter purity by imposing photo identification cards. If poor folks just care enough they can become a success. Nevermind that one in three blacks end up behind bars compared to one in seventeen whites because that’s all the fault of our drug laws. We should go all libertarian and free blacks then we’d have nothing to worry about while saving beaucoup bucks on the cost of imprisoning a greater share of our population than any other country in the world except maybe Pol Pot’s Cambodia.

Yeah Buddy. I know I’m putting words in your mouth but I thought it was pretty funny to Google “race hustler” and find it Continue reading

The BWCA, a reminiscence

Here’s the email I’ve been chewing on:

Harry: At least Forum Communications is instilling some common sense to an otherwise ding-dong DNT staff. Nolan not only voted against continuing outboard motor and snowmobile use in my backyard, the BWCA, he vigorously fought against it in 1978. He has voted against the second amendment and gets an “F” from my two unions, the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America. He is not for the little people. I’m not nuts about Mills, but then, why would I vote for someone who doesn’t support our way of life? ***

I got my first taste of politics in Northern Minnesota in the mid to late 70’s when I ran for the legislature against Mike Jaros, my great anti-Red Plan ally of late. As a Republican who visited most of our National Parks as a kid and as a great enthusiast for Teddy Roosevelt who got the parks rolling I was happy with the Wilderness Act that created the BWCA. That doesn’t mean I was not sympathetic to hundreds of residents who got their backyards taken away from them. Continue reading

I strip the silver lining off of every cloud

I’m going to hop back in my car after this post and apologize to the guy at McDonalds.

Woke up at 3:30 with an unwelcome busy mind. So what else is new?

While Claudia toiled over a five page assignment on predestination throughout Church History. She read about three books last week leading up to writing it. I kept absorbing my book on the Presidents of the Civil War Era. Before its finished I’ll be able to recite all the presidents up to Hayes no problem. More than anything this is part of a lifelong project to understand the details of US history from beginning to end. Lincoln and the Civil War have loomed large in this enterprise. The echos of this past are still ringing in our ears and on our news. Fergusson, Mo., a few miles from my brother and son, still festers weeks after its boil popped.

My Octoroons post was the latest attempt on my part to rehash these echoes and my Buddy predictably took me to task. Iknow, I know. I recently said I would probably stop emailing him. I can’t help myself. I’m week. After four or five hot retorts on both sides he sent me another salvo and I resolved to post all of our traffic on the blog. Easier said than done. One of his retorts had an enclosure I spent better than an hour trying to format to fit the blog. I still haven’t formed a reply his last email which brings the Constitution into the argument.

Of course, the ongoing problems with the School Board are a backdrop to these worries about equity and civil rights. I had a long call with a staff member who assured me I was right on target to say our overcrowded classes are a disaster. So, I made the mistake after getting out of bed to check my email on my cellphone. It contained a defense of Forum Communications from a sympathizer of mine relating to my cartoon about congressional candidate Mills. That’s the next post (after I apologize to the McDonalds order taker)

All these untangled threads were on my mind as I set out on a vigorous hour long hike topped off with a stop at Micky D’s for coffee to get me through the Mill’s post to come.

So, when I pulled in to pay for my coffee they young man who has gotten used to see me early in the morning greeted me as he always does with the most genuine good will and affability. My first comment to him after his jovial question about how my day was going was to josh that it wasn’t going as well as it was obviously going for him with all his good cheer. I forked over a buck ten for a large black coffee and commented that it wasn’t a bad price to which he agreed.

It was then I went all sour but in a rueful laughing sort of way. Well, of course it probably took a couple dollars worth of gas to get here (a huge overstatement) and I threw in some comment about keep the price of gas low with wars in the middle east and mentioned fraking. By then the poor fellow had a most querulous look on his face. I looked up in half apology and said “I strip the silver lining off of every cloud.”

I’m off to apologize before the next shift change.


My reply to a letter to the Duluth School Board suggesting that Denfeld is being shortchanged as a result of “favoritism” at Duluth East High.


Thank you for your letter concerning “favoritism” in the Duluth Schools.

First let me explain that I was only able to read the first page of the letter. Somehow my download only allowed me to see that first page. There was nothing I found surprising in your reading of research on the subject. Because I could get no further I can’t respond to the entirety of your message.

I can assure you that I’ve been worried for many years that our bifurcation (dividing in two) of Duluth would lead to this situation or something very like it. The best way to address this would be to pump more money into the western half of our schools. We do not have this money available without pulling it from elsewhere. That elsewhere might end up having to be Eastern Duluth Schools. I would not oppose this should it prove necessary to end the favoritism.

If you would be kind enough to send me the letter to my personal email address I would appreciate it. Hopefully you could put it in the body of the email in case I have just as much difficulty opening it as I had in my District email account. That address is harrywelty@charter.net

Harry Welty

Ignore my criticism

“About this endorsement
This endorsement was determined by Forum Communications management”

Stewart kind of reminds me of Dan Quayle with more hair. I know, I know. That’s all ad hominem. I’m just jealous of his tongue.

BTW. I got a gander at it (the tongue) on the DFL website and it moved me to comment that it looked like the DFL was trying to elect Mills. It was sort of irrelevant. I liked another’s comment that the incumbent Rick Nolan sounded like everything he said came from the Democrat’s talking points whereas Mills sounded like a regular guy. Yeah, but I’m pretty sure he’s not exactly my kind of regular guy. More pictures here.

He reminds me too much of the college kid across the street this Fall dressed up in doctor’s scrubs during UMD’s Freshman Orientation. He was holding up a sign saying “Free pap smears.” He told me he thought it was a lot more creative than the sign held by the kids across the street. Their’s said: “You honk. We drink.”

Another instance of the Duluth School Board being unnecessary

This happy story in today’s sport’s sections gives me a reason to josh about the impotence of the current Duluth School Board.

One of the many unplanned consequences of the Red Plan is the unequal populations of our two high schools Denfeld and East High. The consequence is that it makes little sense to put the smaller Denfeld in the same Athletic conference where they would be overpowered by the larger schools that are better matches for the larger East High. But this meant that two old rivals; natural ones at that, would not meet on the gridiron for a football scrimmage.

I read about an attempt to rectify this a week ago in the Trib. At no time was the School Board appraised of this sad dis-junction. It was resolved without bothering our pretty little heads with the problem. I’m pleased with the positive resolution. I’m aggrieved that it gives our administration one more proof of our School Board’s in-consequence. Pass me the rubber stamp.

in Brief – 2 Meeting Mike Simonson

I was startled four days ago to read that Mike Simonson died.

Last week I met Mike Simonson while appearing on Henry Bank’s Radio program. He recalled meeting me in the past, probably when I was on Duke Skorich’s KUWS program fifteen plus years ago. Since then his voice had become familiar to me and last year he became one of the Duluth Reader’s stable of columnists. In Mike’s case he was more of a news writer and among the best writers that the Reader has ever published.

We chatted a bit as he stayed through the first half of my interview. He told Henry it was a good program. A couple days later I read of his death.

I wish I had more to say but I can’t think of much beyond remarking on the close timing of my first recalled meeting with a local celebrity and his unexpected passing. Such timing always is striking. He seemed a very nice and unaffected fellow and he was a damn fine writer.

in Brief 1 – Turn, Turn, Turn (not so brief)

As I put on Pandora I once again had to switch it from the kid’s rock station to one of my presets. This time it was the Byrds a rock group from my days in secondary school and one of my favorites. The first song up was Turn Turn Turn.

What I had in mind this morning for my fingers was a major opus on the state of Black America…..yeah, yeah, yeah (Beatles on this triplet) Not another one. Its got several titles lining up in my head. Always an Octoroon or maybe An Octoroon’s Octoroon or how about the Octoroon in all of us? It will probably drive my Buddy nuts. I’m sure its prompted in part by my latest history book on the Presidents and of course, my belated entry into the world of white goody two shoes looking out for downtrodden African Americans. Whether I get to it or not today it will be making an appearance. A hint. If your spell check is anything like mine the word shows up with an absolutely wrong headed recommendation. In this checker’s case “Toronto.” Not even close although a lot of Octoroon ancesters might very well have fled to Toronto before the Civil War.

I’ve struggled before to find the right way to jot down lots of miscellaneous thoughts before. A single post with a string of disconnected thoughts is one way. The problem with is that longish posts probably scare away readers in a hurry even if they have subtitles. Today I’ll make the separate thoughts individual posts. I’m already guessing I’ll give up the ghost long before I’m prepared to handle octoroons.

As for three good turns. I’ve written about that song before. The only mention I found was at the beginning of 2014. It was a hopeful thank you from my campaign supporters. Reading it again it appears that its hopefullness has been sabotaged by the reality of my first ten months on the School Board. I thought I had written about the song one other time but I could not tease it out of Lincolndemocrat’s search engine. So, I’ll sacrifice a lot of other thoughts to recall it now. For those readers who find reminiscences tiresome stop here. Continue reading

Election Ennui

I must admit I am right where the majority of Americans seem to be regarding our elected government. I’m bummed out. I’ll also confess that in the recent primary election I was guilty of a first. I didn’t vote. I always vote but didn’t this time.

I’ll vote in the general election but with little enthusiasm. Today’s newspaper had its fill of last minute stories about the looming November election including letters to the editor. There was only one that caught my interest. It was from a woman thanking the Trib for its recent story about the massive inequity in Duluth’s angry Red Planet.

The writer wants the School Board to be reshuffled. I have little doubt that she will get her wish but it won’t be until next year that the Duluth School Board seats will be up for grabs. It will only be three of the seven as the other four were up for the ballot last year.

I’m grateful to the letter writer for this observation:

I hope voters interpret this into voting every member out at the first opportunity. The taxpayers can all shout, “We told you so!” even though that doesn’t get us out of the mess we are in.

I think a change of Congress would be far more likely to improve the climate in America today than a change on the School Board will clean up the Red Plan mess. We have close to twenty years of debt we most likely can’t be excused from paying off and that is a longer stretch of time than I have the heart to serve on this board. Still, a new board might pick up a mop and pail and get started. The current one has locked all the broom closets.

West Duluth Business mtg.

Art Johnston called me up last week and asked a favor of me. He told me that the West Duluth Business Club would be meeting at Mr. D’s today and asked if I could attend since he was busy doing engineering work out of town to pay off his legal bills. He asked me not to tell anyone where he was as he was worried the powers that be in the District would call some critical meeting knowing that he couldn’t make it. I’m not sure if that’s paranoia but my old motto was “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you. Besides a similar thing happened once already last winter or spring. It will be Thursday before the District can do anything about this so I guess I can spill the beans now.

I got no sense at this meeting that Art was persona-non-grata out west. In fact my sense was quite the opposite.

I had expected a presentation by the principal of Laura MacArthur but heard Russ Salgy instead. Russ is in charge of the Valley Youth Center which I visited regularly in my previous incarnation as a school board member ten plus years ago. Russ gave a lucid and sobering analysis of the limited opportunities for kids in West Duluth and afterward I asked him to send me the Power Point or a link to an online version. Russ said he’d try to oblige me although I’m not certain if or how I might be able to make that information available to my readers by way of this blog.

This meeting has me doing some serious thinking. None of it leads me to happy talk as a solution. Now I’m beginning to wonder if its only the School District that is shortchanging our children. Maybe the City is playing a role too.

The Presidential role call

I’m about to tread on familiar territory. I surprised myself by finding this old post in a search. It only goes back to last May. Quoting from it spares me having to reframe the reminiscence:

When I was a kid my Dad (his son-in-law) and I were talking about history. One of us challenged him [my Grandfather George Robb] to list all the presidents from Washington to Lyndon Johnson in order. He did it with no hesitancy. That’s not all that surprising. His family was steeped in post Civil War politics. There is an old family story about the time my Grandparents, Winona and George Robb, arrived late at a Robb family gathering. When My Grandmother asked if they had missed anything a sister-in-law told her not to worry. The men were talking presidents and were only up to Warren Harding.

I’ve never been able to recall the presidents in order from the Ninteenth Century. There were two pools of them that gave me trouble. The first trouble spot were the ones from Jackson to Lincoln were I was unclear about a stretch of six of them. That’s eight presidents really but I knew that Martin Van Buren followed Jackson and that Buchanan preceded Abe. That left the troubling six. I’ve known that Polk was in there because Abe bedeviled him over the War with Mexico. I knew that there was a Taylor and a Tyler the former being a Mexican War hero. I knew that Millard Fillmore was in there too. Poor Millard has been the butt of many jokes. I found this webpage while trying to locate a cartoon ghost of the old president that I was sure made the rounds years ago.


It turns out I was right about that cartoon ghost of Millard Fillmore.

During this stretch of six presidents there were three political titans sharing the stage with Andrew Jackson. They were all legislators, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. Like US Senators today their legislative leadership made them targets when they pursued their Presidential dreams and so more obscure politicians and generals got elected in their stead. According to My Reading List I read the book about them The Great Triumvirate in 1995.

There has been one more troublesome stretch of presidents for me – the ones in office around the time of my Grandfather Robb’s birth. That was the “Gilded Age” of big money and forgettable presidents between Grant’s successor Rutherford B. Hayes and Teddy Roosevelt’s predecessor the assassinated McKinley. That’s another five (including Grover Cleveland twice). I started a book about that period of history last May that again was about a legislative titan, House Speaker Reed. That book was mentioned in the May post linked to previously. I set that book aside when the School Board decided to remove Art Johnston and its sitting under a pile of books next to the computer. I’ll get back to it eventually. He was one of the heroes in JFK’s Profiles in Courage. Perhaps when I finally read it, it will help me with that second stretch of less memorable presidents.

I’ve always been far better versed in Twentieth Century US history. Heck, I lived through the last half of it so I’ve had that century’s presidents down cold since college. There have been 44 of them so far. The Bush Boys call each other 41 and 43 for short. It sure would be nice though to be able to impress my grandson’s like my Grandfather impressed me when I was a kid.

To that end I’ve gotten into a new book that is putting some meat on the bones of that first troublesome stretch of presidents. I mentioned buying The Presdident’s War a few posts ago but I’ve been poking into it in the last couple of days. I’m up to page 66 a little before Abe Lincoln takes office. These fellows turn out not to be quite as forgettable as I thought. Even the much maligned Millard Filmore managed to acquit himself pretty well during his single term as President. Last night before turning in I read a harrowing anecdote about Franklin Pierce which was new to me.

Pierce had been a successful politician for some time when his retiring wife finally prevailed on him to abandon politics for a normal life. He jumped in one more time to her chagrin and got himself elected President. When he was heading back with her and his only child after his victory to put his household in order before assuming the Presidency the train they were riding jumped its tracks and fell fifteen feet onto rocks. The crash smashed his young son’s skull in in front of both parents. His wife wore black for his full term but Franklin still angled for a second term which did not come to pass. That was typical of many of his fellow presidents in the 1800’s. Single terms and presidential deaths while in office help explain why there were 23 presidents in that century compared to seventeen in the next (counting Adams, McKinley and Clinton only once despite their terms bleeding into a second century).

Perhaps I need to go back to Kid Rock since the Faure’ channel is putting me to sleep before I proof read this post. No. I’ll upload it now and clean it up later. Maybe. ZZZZZZZ

Moves like Jagger

Quarter to four AM and I’m listening the “Kids Rock” on Pandora. A bit of a surprise but I share Pandora with my daughter and I guess when she has our grandsons listen to Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Minions singing YMCA, or “What the Fox Say?” it switches my channel gets there so I didn’t have Gabriel Fuare to greet me when I revved my computer up to upload my latest sleeping-waking thoughts.

I was destined to wake up early anyway because Claudia asked it I wanted her to set the alarm for 5:30 to watch the Moon’s eclipse this morning. I was afraid that the clouds might obscure it but when I walked into the computer room a bright moonlight was shining through my porch door onto the floor. Cool. Oooh, now I’ve got Dynomite playing by “Kidz Bop.” I just went to their big show out at Bayfront festival park with the grandsons a couple weeks ago. They’re touring show. Claudia and my daughter got called up to dance during one of their numbers. I shot a lousy video of it on my cellphone. Its one of the zillions of photos/videos that has nearly ground my phone to a halt because of all the memory they are hogging. It means I’ll need to take a day to figure out how to download the lot somewhere else so I can shoot another zillion of them over the next year or two and eat up the memory all over again.

Ah, but this is not the post I sought out to write when I jumped out of bed. That one is coming up. This one just fits into the “Harry’s Diary” category. I keep that one up to: ONE, help me remember what was going on in my life at the time I posted other reflections on the world and Education in Duluth and TWO, offer some proof that this finger happy old curmudgeon has a real life outside of the computer and my public kvetching.

Now that I’ve had a good dose of rocking to wake me up its time to switch back to some classical music while I pontificate about the Presidents of the United States. Then it will be onto a lively spiritual at our church men’s club. I’m today’s designated song leader and I’ve chosen Every time I feel the Spirit. I hope all the other old guys can keep up with me. Our guest will be a long time Duluth Principal, Richard Carlson, who just wrote and published a children’s book. In the small world department, author Carlson’s daughter Mary Anne is attending seminary with Claudia. She’s an educator (retired) too.

The Narrow Road

I finished reading the Narrow Road to the Deep North to Claudia last night. Like a movie trailer that gives too much away this pitch perfect book review will tell you what to expect. I feel myself fortunate to have read the novel with a little less awareness of the books destination.