Notebook
January 27th, 2023 by Gary Osberg

Many years ago my Dad went to work as a dishwasher at Little Sisters of the Poor in St. Paul. His boss was a woman named Maxine. They became real good friends. Her family also referred to him as Grandpa Bill. Maxine and Dad never lived together, but they ended up living a few floors apart in the same high-rise apartment building next to St. Paul Ramsey Hospital on University Avenue. When Maxine died, I attended the funeral and Dad surprised me by asking me to sing “The Lord’s Prayer” and “Amazing Grace” during the service. There was no piano, so I had to sing “a Capella”. It was ok.

One of the pieces of furniture that Dad brought with him when he moved into my house in Upsala was a corner unit with glass shelves and a glass door that had belonged to Maxine. Her family had given it to him. After Dad passed in 2004, I set out to clean his room.

One of the items in the corner cabinet was a small green egg with silver decorations and a seam abound the middle. I was curious to see what treasure was inside, but when I pried it open, expecting to find a doll, what came out were ashes! “OH MY GOD! IT WAS MAXINE!”. I spilled a little in my haste to put it back together and I quickly put it back into the curio.

A few years later my daughter bought the house from me. Every summer Kerry and her mother would have a garage sale. It happened again to Marcia while she was helping my daughter gather items for the garage sale.  After that I decided to dig a hole next to my Dad’s grave at Gethsemane Church in Upsala and bury the “egg” before there was nothing left of Maxine. 

“Tell me, what else should I have done?  Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon?  Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  From The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

January 20th, 2023 by Gary Osberg

55 years ago today, a telegram arrived at our studio on the third floor of Wimmer Hall on the campus of St. John’s University, authorizing KSJR to go on the air.  The first KSJR radio broadcast was on January 22, 1967. The first line uttered by engineer Dan Rieder was, “Heed my words, Earth People. You have 10 minutes to live.” The first concert aired was a pre-recorded concert by the Cleveland Orchestra. What began as Minnesota Education Radio became Minnesota Public Radio on January 1, 1975. 

Since then, MPR has grown to a network of 46 radio stations reaching nearly 1,000,000 listeners every week.  MPR has earned nearly 1,000 broadcasting and journalism awards, including seven George Foster Peabody Awards, six Robert F. Kennedy Journalism awards, a prestigious Alfred I duPont Columbia University Gold Baton Award and a Grammy Award. Programs and podcasts produced by Minnesota Public Radio’s parent company American Public Media, reach over 18 million listeners each week. 

This is a version of the story of how Bill Kling was selected to lead the creation of what has become the largest network of public radio stations in the United States. It was written by our first Collegeville Studio intern, Ellen Newkirk.

“The Saint John’s University monks chose Bill Kling to help start their public radio station, Minnesota Education Radio, because of his “bright mind” – literally. SJU graduate Marty Mahowald told Ellen the story of Bill Kling’s selection as the station’s first leader as told by his professor Fr. Gunther Rolfson. Fr. Gunther told Marty that in the 1960s, Saint John’s had a mandatory lights-out policy at 10pm when the faculty residents would flip a switch that turned off all power on each floor of the residence halls. However, one evening, during a walk around campus , Fr. Gunther noticed a light illuminating from a single room in Benet Hall.

The next day, Fr. Gunther used a master key to enter the room and found a system rigged to keep the power on after the switch was flipped each night. The room belonged to Bill Kling. Eventually, the monks decided Kling’s innovative and determined spirit was just what they needed for their new endeavor. According to Mahowald, “Fr. Gunther said that they knew that starting a new campus radio station would present struggles, budget challenges and many other issues to deal with and it would take someone with a lot of moxie to lead it through to success.” It turned out to be a very good decision; Kling served as president of Minnesota Public Radio until 2010 and created one of the greatest public radio station networks in the country. “  Ellen Newkirk, CSB, Class of 2013.

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping-stone. Close the door on the past.  You don’t try to forget the mistake, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”  Johnny Cash    

January 13th, 2023 by Gary Osberg

Today is Friday the 13th. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, NC, reported that an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business on this day. “It’s been estimated that $800 to $900 million is lost in business on this day..”   Source: John Roach.

According to Wikipedia, the actual origin of the superstition appears to be a tale in Norse mythology. Friday is named for Frigga, the free-spirited goddess of love and fertility. When Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Frigga was banished in shame to a mountaintop and labeled a witch. It was believed that every Friday, the spiteful goddess convened a meeting with eleven other witches, plus the devil – a gathering of thirteen – and plotted ill turns of fate for the coming week.

For many centuries in Scandinavia, Friday was known as “Witches’ Sabbath.” source: Charles Panati, Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things.

“A man will sometimes devote all his life to the development of one part of his body – The Wishbone.”  Robert Frost  (1874-1963)

January 6th, 2023 by Gary Osberg

In April of 1977,  I went on a retreat at the Cenacle Retreat House in Wayzata, Minnesota. Sister Ten-Tie Saniel presented “Effective Living” a seminar based on John Boyle’s “Omega Seminar”. The sisters taught us the importance of affirmations, “stating a future goal in the present tense”.  The reason that this works is because your sub-conscious mind cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy. 

I have formed the habit of repeating these six affirmations every morning. It has made a big difference in my life.  The six basic affirmations are:

  1. I am loved; therefore, I like myself, unconditionally as I was created. (Repeat five times)
  1. I never devalue myself with destructive self-criticism. (Envision yourself doing something that you are very proud of)
  1. I see love in others and have warm regard for all persons at all times. (Envision yourself doing something nice for somebody else)
  1. I am easily able to relax and with every affirmation I become physically and mentally healthier. (Envision yourself doing something relaxing)
  1. I am completely self-determined, inner directed by the spirit of love and allow others the same privilege. (Repeat five times)
  1. I accept total responsibility for the consequences of my actions and reactions. (Repeat five times)   

You can add up to 5 more “goal specific” affirmations.  Something like: “I especially love and enjoy weighing 170 pounds.  

“Life is easier than you’d think; all that is necessary is to accept the impossible, do without the indispensable, and bear the intolerable.”  Kathleen Norris

December 30th, 2022 by Gary Osberg

The year 2022 is coming to a close.  “Father Time” is a theme for many cartoonists at the New Year.  In 1966, my mother’s mother, Grandma Laura,  gave me three old pocket watches.  One had belonged to her father, Fredrick Anderson.  It is a Waltham watch, silver with a gold stag inlayed on the back.  Another watch is a key wind.  It appears to be the oldest of the three.  It also is silver with a picture of a dog engraved on the back.  It belonged to her father-in-law, Meinert Larson.  The note 1890 is written on the document that Gram gave me along with the watches.  The third watch was a gold watch that had belonged to her second husband, Ingebret Ramlo.  I was very honored that she had entrusted these heirlooms to me. 

I purchased a fourth watch and had the four mounted in an antique frame that hung on the living room wall in our first apartment at 7439 Lyndale Avenue South in Richfield.  We lived in a lower-level apartment, since the rent was cheaper.  

One Sunday evening we came back from a weekend in Upsala to discover that someone had broken into our apartment and stolen some items, including the watch collection.  I was sick.  The culprits were caught, and all of the stolen goods were recovered except the watches.  On the drive home from work one night, I spotted the same boys searching for something in a ditch along Lyndale Avenue. I stopped to confront them, but they spotted me heading their way and they ran.

These boys came from good homes and they hired a good lawyer.  I attended the trial and was disgusted when they got off with the charge of “lurking and lying in wait”.  I was told after the trial that if I were to make a trip to downtown Minneapolis, to the defendant’s lawyer’s office, that I might find a bag on the lawyer’s desk that might contain some “items of interest”.   I had no choice but to play along. I did get the watches back without the antique picture frame. 

While doing my annual house cleaning, I brought out the watches.  I located the key and wound up the watch that belonged to Great Grandpa Meinert and laid it on my dresser top.  As of this morning it is keeping perfect time.  A watch made by the American Watch Company in Waltham, MA,  still going strong after 132 years.

May 2023 be a good year for you and your loved ones.

“It’s good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.”  Mark Twain       

December 23rd, 2022 by Gary Osberg

Two days until Christmas. I have all of my shopping done and now I simply have to pace myself on the cookies and candy.


Children love Christmas, as well they should. As with most families, some years, Christmas gifts were easy to come by and some years the budget would not allow for much. The Christmas of 1956 was a memorable one for me. My mother had to move from our home in St. Louis Park due to Dad’s inability to handle booze. Ma’s mother, Grandma Laura Ramlo, drove her 1952 Chevy from Upsala to 1620 Colorado Avenue South in St. Louis Park, put Dad in the back seat and drove him to the VA Hospital in south Minneapolis. She told them, “He is a veteran, he is a drunk and he is your problem, not mine”.  Then she took us all back to Upsala to live in the apartment above the Ramlo Grocery in Upsala.

I am not sure what the reason was for our ending up living in an apartment in Little Falls in December. It had something to do with getting financial aid. That Christmas, Santa brought us six big Tonka Toy 18 wheel trucks. There was a cattle truck, an oil tanker, a freight truck and three more. This was a perfect gift for a family with five boys. I was 13 years old and brother Bill was 10. We played with them non-stop. I am not sure what my sister Kathie got that year.

For many years I had the impression that they were from some sort of social agency that served the poor. It turned out that “Santa” was Dewey Johnson, a classmate of my mother’s from Upsala High School class of ’37. Dewey’s cousin was one of the founders of Tonka Toys. Dewey had already passed on before I learned the “rest of the story”, so I never did have a chance to thank him.

Perhaps you know of a family that has come upon hard times and they could use a “Secret Santa”.  

“Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men”.   Angel    

December 16th, 2022 by Gary Osberg

This true store was first told by Gary Gilson.  Gary is a Twin Cities writing coach who teaches journalism at Colorado College.  He can be reached at www.writebetterwithgary.com  

“I knew a New Yorker named Phil who worked in Manhattan’s Diamond District, along 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. He traveled to and from work by subway from his home in the Bronx every weekday for years.

One day, in the week before Christmas, Phil entered the subway car on his way home and, as a veteran rider, immediately sensed something was off: only one passenger in the car, a drunken, disheveled man, ranting and cursing and flailing his arms against the world.

Phil felt tension in the air.  Then he noticed a group of passengers huddled at one end of the car, cringing in fear.  Phil went right over to the man, sat down, put his arm around the man’s shoulders and began to sing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…”

The man slowly calmed down, and soon he was singing along with Phil, “where the treetops glisten, and children listen…”

And then, just as slowly, the passengers at the end of the car started drifting toward Phil and the man, gathered around them and joined in singing, “with every Christmas card I write..”

And they all kept belting out holiday songs as the train barreled northward toward the Bronx.

These people had never known each other before, and now they were singing and laughing and hugging, if only for this brief moment in time.  They were so connected that some riders chose to stay on the train past their stops.

The troubled man brightened; he seemed to be feeling part of something larger than himself. And all it took was an arm around the shoulders, a familiar song, a gathering of humanity and, above all, a man named Phil.”   

Thank you to Gary Gilson for allowing me to share this Christmas story.  Merry Christmas.

December 9th, 2022 by Gary Osberg

Christmas is only two weeks from Sunday. I think that I have it covered, but I still have a couple of gifts to buy. I used to wait until Christmas Eve, but I have improved in that regard. I trust that your plans are all coming together.

In 1958 I was the youngest member of the Black Knights Car Club in Upsala, Minnesota. One of the older members borrowed his dad’s 1950 Ford and we ended up in a drag race with another member. I was riding shotgun. The Ford slid off of the gravel road into the left side ditch and hit a bridge. I can still remember the horn blaring, the rear tires spinning and the sound of the windshield breaking. I had put my arm up to protect my face and the force of the impact broke my wrist. I was a sophomore at Upsala High and that fall I had to stand on the sidelines instead of playing football. The sling that held the cast for my broken wrist did provide a perfect place to hide the “tools” that I shoplifted later on.

The car club had plans to drop a V8 engine into a 1936 Chevy Coupe that the club had acquired from the leader of the gang, Duane, (AKA “Punk”). We needed tools. The old Chevy was stored in a garage that was behind the house that my mother rented on Borgstrom Street in Upsala. When the Morrison County Sheriff showed up at our front door with a search warrant, Ma fainted dead away. They were going to charge her with “fencing” since we had hidden some stolen goods in the barn next to the garage. The club house for the Black Knights Car Club was an old chicken coop next to the barn that we had cleaned out. The garage was still there in 2010, surrounded by trees growing out from the foundation. It has since been torn down.

The entire gang was brought to trial in the Morrison County court house in Little Falls and we each received a sentence of six months of probation. “Punk” was held in the county jail for almost two months without bail. I do believe that some of us “gang members” were the only ones to visit him. Our school superintendent, Mr. Whoolery, was named as our probation officer.  All of the “gang” went on to become productive members of society and none of my four younger brothers ever got into trouble.  My bad example had its merits. 

Tomorrow you will have an opportunity to enjoy a very special Christmas concert at Ritsche Auditorium on the campus of St. Cloud State University.  The St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra will be performing “Holiday Potpourri” at 3pm.   You can purchase your tickets at www.stcloudsymphony.com or at the door. I hope to see you there.

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light get in.”  Leonard Cohen

December 2nd, 2022 by Gary Osberg

It looks like the ice on the pond is not going to be very safe for a while.  Do not go out there unless you are with a buddy and be sure to check the ice often.  When I was a wild youth in Upsala, we used to drag race our cars across the ice on Cedar Lake west of Upsala. To my knowledge, no one ever went through the ice. We got away with a lot of stupid things as kids.  One winter we made a game of standing on the hood of an old DeSoto, using it as a giant snowboard as we were towed in the ditch behind a car.  Dumb and dumber.

After a heavy snow we would make a party out of driving into the Burtrum Hills with our old cars and just try to get stuck.  These were not SUVs, we had a 1954 and a 1952 Chevy. We simply packed a lot crazy boys in the cars with snow shovels in the trunk and went for it.  My sister and one of my classmates both ended up in casts after a toboggan run down a steep hill in the Burtrum Hills.

Try to not let your young children read these Friday notes.

You may want to come to St. Joseph tonight for the annual tree lighting at the corner of College Avenue and Minnesota Street.   Great River Chorale is presenting “Amid the Winter’s Snow”, tonight at St. Mary’s Cathedral in downtown St. Cloud and Sunday at 4pm at Bethlehem Lutheran Church.  Tickets can be purchased at www.greatriverchorale.org  or at the door.  I hope to see you there on Sunday.

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”   Seneca

November 25th, 2022 by Gary Osberg

My mother’s mother, Laura Ramlo, and her husband Bert, owned a grocery store in Upsala, Minnesota. Most of us called her Grandma Ramlo instead of Grandma Laura and some just called her Gram. They lived behind the store in small quarters. The bedroom didn’t even have doors. There were entrances from both the dining room and the living room with heavy drapes hanging from poles. They heated the living space with a fuel oil burner that was in the dining room and it had to be filled often. The store was heated with a wood burning stove. The wood and the fuel oil were stored in the attached warehouse. That was convenient.

Gram was famous for her Thanksgiving dinners which were more like a feast. Owning a grocery store made it easy for her to offer all three: turkey, beef and pork, some years. Grandpa Bert would complain about her “raiding the stock” but not too hard. My job was to fill the crystal water glasses with water from the cistern pump in the kitchen. The kids would sit at card tables in the living room. We would always sing the “doxology” and express our thanks for the goodness in our lives and the food on the table. Every year, Gram would offer her apologies for the food, even though it was awesome. “I don’t know why I keep doing this, I just can’t cook anymore.” Not true Gram.

I trust that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast yesterday.

“If more if us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” J.R.R. Tolkien author of The Hobbit.