Notebook
February 26th, 2021 by Gary Osberg

Tomorrow would have been my cousin Tom’s 74th birthday.  Tom died way too young in November of 2019.  Back in the fifties, Tom was the first kid in Upsala to see the newest Chevrolet model every fall. His grandfather, Bill Hagstrom, owned Hagstrom Chevrolet.  The auto transport would come to Upsala in the evening with the car wrapped in a covering and Grandpa Bill would have it delivered to his home on the edge of town.  He would have it stored in the garage behind his house.  Later, he would let Tommy into the garage to get a look at the brand new model before the unveiling at the dealership. It was a huge event in this small town.

It must have been pretty exciting to work in the design department of Chevrolet back then.  The 1954 Chevrolet was quite different from the ’55 and the ’57.  Both of those are collector cars today.  In those days there was only one body design with the addition of chrome being the major difference between the Biscayne, the Bel Air and one other.  In 1958 Chevrolet introduced the Impala.

I bought my first car from Tom’s dad, Uncle Duke.  It was a white 1954 Chevrolet “150” which was the low end of the line.  Black rubber took the place of chrome on various parts.  I paid $300 for it and my grandmother Laura Ramlo had to co-sign the loan from Farmers State Bank.  The owner of the bank, Axel Borgstrom, was not very loose with his money. 

Today “Hagstrom Chevrolet” is Upsala Motors.  They are located in beautiful downtown Upsala.  Upsala Motors is a program sponsor for Radio Lab every Saturday here in central Minnesota.  Stop in and say hi to the Peterson brothers, Dean, Tim and Mike. 

 “Love is the magician, the enchanter, that changes worthless things to joy, and makes right royal kings and queens of common clay.  Love is the perfume of that wondrous flower, the heart; and without that sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts; but with love, earth is heaven, and we are gods.”  Robert Green Ingersoll.

February 19th, 2021 by Gary Osberg

“You just need to find your authentic swing!” Advice from Bagger Vance, a character in the movie “The Legend of Bagger Vance”, released in 2000 and directed by Robert Redford. Doing well at the game of golf is akin to doing well at the game of life. I am here doing what I do, loving what I do, to a large degree because of luck. Being in the right place at the right time.

I had no idea what I was “going to be when I grew up”. I once signed up for the “Phillips Gas Station Management Program”. Those of us in the program wore company uniforms but I don’t remember having to wear “the cap”. They taught us how to properly check the oil and wash the windshield while keeping an eye on the gas pump.

One day in 1962, my sister’s boyfriend Barry Larson asked me if I had any skill with “drafting”. He had a side job that he needed help with. I was living with my mother recovering from a back operation and I told a fib, but I got the job. When he came to pick up the finished work, he was not happy. “Don’t you know the difference between an object line and a dimension line?” Clearly I did not. I bought an instruction book on “Drafting” and did the work over again. I ended up as an Engineer Aid on the Polaris project at Honeywell and designed a part for the gyro used in the missile . I own a tie clasp with a submarine on the face of it. I probably still have that instruction book in a box somewhere. When I left that job in 1965 to go back to college they gave me a very nice compass set and a briefcase to carry my books.

Over the last 59 years I have had twenty three jobs, in three different industries, drafting, office equipment and radio.  I started my radio career on the third floor of Wimmer Hall on the campus of St. John’s University in October of 1999.  It is hard to believe that soon, it will be 22 years with Minnesota Public Radio.

“Wisdom is what is left over after we’ve run out of personal opinions.”  Cullen Hightower

February 12th, 2021 by Gary Osberg

It is still winter and I for one am growing weary of it all. The days are getting longer but I have not heard any Cardinals singing their songs looking for love.

Sunday is Saint Valentine’s Day, “an annual holiday celebrating love and affection between intimate companions.” (Wikipedia) The day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine, established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD.

Some claim that the first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love is in Parlement of Foules by Geoffrey Chaucer who wrote: “For this was sent on Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” This poem was written in 1382 to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia both of whom were 14 years old.

The sending of “Valentines” probably started in Great Britain. Esther Howland developed a successful home-based business in Worcester, Massachusetts making Valentine cards based on British models. The US Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, second only to Christmas. There are many ways to demonstrate affection to those that you feel love towards. Gifts of music is one.

If it is romance that you are looking for, check out Allie Sherlock’s cover of “Unchained Melody” on YouTube. I have a close personal friend that unwittingly revealed his unique love for his wife. He is a retired business man who has a cell phone, but the only person that has his cell phone number is his wife. Every time his cell phone rings he knows that it is the love of his life who is calling him. Now that is romantic.

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”  Leonard Cohen

February 8th, 2021 by Gary Osberg

Sixty two years ago last Wednesday will forever be known as “The Day the Music Died.” Rock and roll pioneers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper”, J.P Richardson, were killed when their plane, headed for Moorhead, MN, crashed into a frozen cornfield near Clear Lake, IA, just six miles from take-off. Holly chartered the flight after his tour bus broke down and fellow musician Carl Bunch ended up in the hospital with severe frostbite. Don McLean referred to that day as “The Day the Music Died” in his 1971 song, “American Pie”.

Fans of the late, great musicians call the plane crash “the first and greatest tragedy rock and roll has ever suffered.” Over the years several memorials have been created in their honor, including a steel guitar and three records bearing the three performers’ names, a giant pair of Holly’s famous Wayfarer-style glasses marking the crash site, and Don McLean’s hit song “American Pie.”

Fifteen year old Bobby Vee and his Fargo band, The Shadows, were called upon to fill in for Buddy Holly at the Moorhead engagement because he knew all the words to Buddy’s songs.  Bobby Vee went on to become a music legend of his own.  He had 238 Hot 100 chart hits.

The Vee family lived in the St. Joe area and for many years they performed as the headline act for the annual Joetown Rocks fundraiser here in St. Joseph.  Let us hope that we will be able to rock in St. Joe to music in the streets in 2021.

“One kind word can warm three winter months.” Japanese Proverb

January 29th, 2021 by Gary Osberg

“Happiness is, a warm puppy”. Charles Schulz.   

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The Constitution of the United States of America.

In the February 27, 2006 issue of The New Yorker there was an article on pursuing happiness. It turns out that by nature we have been hardwired to emphasize the negative. Survival depended on being wary. The curious and unwary could be eaten by bears or tigers. “Call no man happy until he is dead” was a Greek saying. According to many psychologists, once we are out of poverty, the most important determinant of happiness is our “set point”, our natural level of happiness, which is largely inherited.

Of course we have no control over our set point. Those of you who have more than one child know that they do seem to be wired differently. Same parents, same conditions and yet so different. However, we can control our attitude. “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen made quite the impact on me. We also can decide if and how much volunteer work we will do.

Ready for the secret to happiness? Here it is: Happiness is equal to your set point S, plus your life conditions C, plus a bit of volunteer work, V. “H = S + C + V”. If you want a copy of the article, let me know.

Now in these unusual times, it is hard to do the V portion.  I have turned to music.  I start each day watching Allie Sherlock, a 15 year old busker (street performer), in Dublin, Ireland, on YouTube.  I also sent off to Ireland for her first CD. It took a month to get one, but it was worth the wait.   Check her out at www.alliesherlockofficial.com  or simply search Allie Sherlock in YouTube.

“Happiness is hard to put into words. It’s also harder to source, much more mysterious than anger or sorrow, which come to me promptly, whenever I summon them, and remain long after I’ve begged them to leave.”

David Sedaris

January 22nd, 2021 by Gary Osberg

54 years ago today, KSJR 90.1 first broadcast from the third floor of Wimmer Hall on the campus of St. John’s University. The first words uttered by engineer Dan Rieder were, “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.

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 intern, Ellen Newkirk.

Ellen now lives in St. Joseph and works for the College of St. Benedict.

“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 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 mistakes, 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 15th, 2021 by Gary Osberg

When the family moved from St. Louis Park to Upsala in October of 1956, one benefit was that I did get out of having to do “detention” at Park Junior High school. My rebellious nature had already kicked in. That fall I started hanging out with other “town kids”. The Upsala school population was divided into “farm kids” and “town kids”. For some reason one of us decided to steal a gas cap off of a parked car. I am not sure which “genius” came up with this idea, but in any case the prank turned into a project. Everyone in town was talking about it and I am sure that old man Miller printed a story in the local newspaper. Earl Metzger was the local policeman and in time one of the “gas cap gang” confessed to his parents and we all got busted.

We were gathered up and forced to reveal the hiding place of the gunny sack full of gas caps. All of those who were missing their gas cap were told to come to Earl’s garage and sort through the lineup of gas caps to claim theirs. We appeared in front of the Justice of The Peace in the backroom of the fire hall. Justice Bernard Lunder sentenced us all to “six months of church attendance”. Many years later I would visit Bernard at the nursing home in Sauk Rapids and we would talk about the “separation of church and state”.  He simply laughed and said he thought we would benefit from his sentence.  Not all of us learned the lesson. The “Black Knights Car Club” was born a few years later.

“It is unwise to pay too much, but it’s also unwise to pay too little. When you pay too much, all you lose is a little money, but when you pay too little you stand a chance of losing everything because the thing you bought is incapable of doing what you bought it to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot. It just can’t be done. So, when you deal with the low bidder, it is wise to put a little something aside to take care of the risk you run. And, if you do that, you can afford something better.” John Ruskin

January 8th, 2021 by Gary Osberg

I was an army brat.  Dad served in the navy during the war and later he joined the army. In 1950 he was a Sergeant in the 5th Army stationed in Vienna.  As “dependents” we were housed in an apartment building that was quite nice, 41 Gregor Mendel Strasse.  There were two marble faced fireplaces and a baby grand piano along with a crystal chandelier in the dining room. 

I ran with a group of other army brats and I was the oldest in the group. Nine years old.  One day in February we were hanging out in front of the large estate on the corner next to our apartment.  One of the kids put his hand in the fence opening and a dog took his mitten.  I bravely offered to go through the gate and recover the mitten.  I still remember starting my walk across the large yard toward the two “Boxers”.  They greeted me by jumping up and knocking me to the ground.  They proceeded to chew on my arms and legs. I covered my face with my arms. There was a fairly large crowd watching and finally the Austrian man who we referred to as the “fireman”, (he took care of the furnace in our apartment building) came in and pulled the dogs off of me. 

I walked home and my mother fainted when she opened the door.  I spent about 6 weeks in the Army hospital.  It took me a while to get over my fear of dogs.  The occupant of the estate was a Colonel in the army and they did give me a new winter coat.

“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 1st, 2021 by Gary Osberg

I celebrated my tenth birthday on a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean. My mother and her four children were returning from a stint as a US Army Dependent Family stationed in Vienna, Austria. Dad was in the Fifth Army.  He and the family dog, Mickey, got to fly home later. 

When he arrived in Upsala a few weeks later, Ma and baby brother Brian were in New Ulm visiting her cousin Helen. Dad borrowed a brand new 54 Chevy from Uncle Duke who owned Hagstrom Chevrolet in Upsala. My brother Bill and I rode along with Dad to New Ulm.

I was napping in the back seat and I woke up when our car was broadsided by a dump truck. I had a broken leg. I can still remember the pain when they lifted me on to the X-Ray table at the hospital in Cokato. The cast that they put my leg on went from my toes to my crotch. I was in the hospital for a few weeks and when it came time to transport me back to Upsala, Dad took me to Uncle Elmer’s house which was the Dokken Funeral Home in Cokato.

I had to spend a night on a cot on the main floor in the living room next to the viewing room. The next day they took me to Upsala in a black Studebaker hearse. That explains a lot, huh!

I spent the next two months sleeping on a cot in Grandma Laura’s dining room behind Ramlo Grocery.  I think that I gained 30 pounds.  When I went back to Upsala school, I remember falling down a flight of stairs the first day.  No one had taught me how to use crutches to go down stairs.  I quickly learned how not to do it.

“Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day-to-day living that wears you out” Chekhov

December 24th, 2020 by Gary Osberg

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 alcohol. Her mother, Grandma Laura Ramlo, drove her 1952 Chevy from Upsala to 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 now he is your problem, not mine”.  She took us all back to Upsala to live above 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