Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chapter 43: Barb on Couch with Book

It appears that at this point in time, late 1955, Mom had rearranged the first floor of the old Great Falls parsonage, creating a double living room area and moving the dining room furniture into the playroom.  I assume our toys were brought upstairs to our respective bedrooms.

Barb appears to be particularly happy with her First Golden Dictionary.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chapter 42: Paul on Couch with Book

Here I am in my cowboy shirt and suspenders again.  The shirt, I'm sure, is a Montana thing.  If we were still living in Washington state or had already moved to Pennsylvania, I don't think such an item would have been found in my wardrobe.  Mom did a fair amount of clothes shopping from the Sears catalog, but, I don't know, this shirt has "local business" written all over it.

Then again......

Perhaps an alternative approach to this post is to note that the Disney production of Davy Crockett:  King of the Wild Frontier, debuted on TV in December 1954.  A year later, more than $300,000,000 worth of Crockett merchandise had been sold.  I don't think, however, that the shirt I'm wearing in this photo falls into the frontiersman category.  Davy wouldn't have been caught dead in such a thing and, moreover, he would probably have kicked Roy Rogers butt, just for fun, given the chance.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chapter 41: Paul's 6th Birthday

Correct me if I'm wrong, but from the downward angle, it would seem that Dad is standing on a chair to take these two pictures.

The girl sitting across the table from me is Sharon, my first girlfriend.  (One word, as I did have a bit of a crush on her.)   She lived around the corner from First English Lutheran Church in the 700 block of Second Avenue North.  She was a year ahead of me in school -- a first grader -- and the youngest of three children.  Surprisingly, I remember her siblings names and approximate ages.  Rita was in the 4th grade and Charles in 6th.  (What I don't recall is the family's last name.)

From an early age, I felt comfortable visiting other people's homes.  I spent a lot more time at Sharon's house than she did at mine.  One memory that curiously sticks in my mind:  looking out the second floor bathroom window -- our bathroom windows weren't frosted either -- which provided a view across the alley of the back sides and roofs of the business along the 700 block of 1sts Avenue North, the largest building housing a Buttrey's grocery store.   I also retain another image of Sharon and I sitting on her front porch.  She read a page to me and then encouraged me to read a page to her, to which I responded eagerly.  I'm not sure how much she had to do with it, but by the time I started first grader, I was already an accomplished reader. 

I remember the radio with fond memories.  Mom kept it tuned to a station that played popular, i.e. pre-rock-and-roll, music.  Joan Weber's "Let Me Go Lover" was a huge hit in 1955.  Sometimes when Dad would try to show us some affection, holding one of us tight in his arms, we'd call out "let me go", and he'd mockingly start to sing the chorus of the song.

In addition to music ("Standing on the Corner" and "The Yellow Rose of Texas" two other songs that I recall hearing frequently, I listened to broadcasts of "The Lone Ranger".  It would be another year before a television found its way into the Nelson household.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chapter 40: Paul's First Day of School, with Larry in the Wings

Kindergarten, huh?

Looks like the lad standing at the front entrance to Whittier Elementary School in Great Falls, Montana, [same facility still in use] already has a few years of school under his belt.  By the third grade, I had grown so tall that a number of my classmates called me "Daddy". 

Full disclosure:  The first photo was taken on the day before the 1955-56 school year started.  I remember the one-block walk with Dad, the only time my parents ever accompanied me to or from school, even though I had to cross a very busy, though one-way, Second Avenue North.

At a very young age, Larry became a master of the impish, mischievous grin.  I'm not sure of the occasion for this portrait, although from the clothes he's wearing, the photo must have been taken on a Sunday.   And, upon closer observation, in late September or early October, as the leaves are just starting to turn color.   I think that's a 1952 Ford to Larry's left.

The brick building in the right background is the Demolay, whose original purpose was to serve as teen recreation center.  Childhood curiosity led me into the lobby a number of times.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chapter 39: A Visit to Dad's Relatives

The distance between Great Falls, Montana to Dad's hometown of Rockford, Illinois, is 1200 miles.  In July of 1955, Dad drove this entire distance by himself.  Uncomplainingly, as far as I can recall.  Mom didn't get her driver's license until two years after we moved to Warren.  Dad must have really loved to drive.

I have always been enamored of this photo of my grandparents, or Ma and Pa, as their seven children always called them*.   In most of the photos I have of them, they look so stern and forbidding, someone that a 5-year-old would prefer to avoid.  Even a 5-year-old grandson.

*In the Nelson and Luthgren families, the women were usually named first:  Ma and Pa, Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, Signe and George, Ruth and Rudy, Gen and Ed, Millie and Jerry, Edna and Walter.  On the flip side, I have no idea why these couples were the exceptions:  Ford and June, Frank and Stella, Min and Lila.

I was never completely comfortable around Grandpa Nelson.  He spoke English with a thick accent.  When he spoke to me, I'd turn to one of my parents, my face frozen in a mask of confusion, silently pleading for a translation.  My cousins never had this problem, but then they saw him on a much more frequent basis.  If not weekly, certainly once or twice a month at a minimum.  I wasn't even on a once-a-year schedule.

One of the few family portraits from this period of my life.  Larry and Barb look bored, Barb more interested in sucking her thumb, a habit she had developed by this time, and one that would continue well into grade school.  The photo was taken in Iron Mountain, Michigan, where Dad's brother-in-law, Frank Carlson, husband to his sister Stella, was pastor of First Lutheran Church.   Both Frank and Stella were prone to haughty, holier-than-thou airs when practicing their religion  Once we were older, the joke among the Nelson children was that Frank's prayers were as long as Dad's sermons.  Frank could be insufferably long-winded.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chapter 38: Norbeck's Cabin (North of Helena)

Five decades later, I remember this day with a bold, striking clarity, as if it happened yesterday.  It was the first time in my life when I felt as though my family and I, along with our hosts, had suddenly found ourselves on the only inhabited place on Earth.  I have only  vague memories of the drive from Great Falls and back.  The Norbeck cabin was located an indeterminate (at least it was to me in 1955) number of miles north of Helena, not within view of  U.S. Highway 91. But the visit itself had a most powerful and lasting effect on me.

From a Google search, I assume our hosts were Rev. Nels Norbeck, pastor of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Great Falls, and his family.  I suspect the Norbecks also spent time at the Bible camp on Whitefish Lake.  I don't remember spending any time inside the cabin, and, considering the breath-taking scenery on a perfect summer day, we had little interest in doing so.

It was my first time on a horse -- and bareback, no less.  I look quite confident, surprisingly so, considering how tentative I usually was around animals -- dogs in particular.  Wish my legs could get as tan now as they were then.

Larry appears to have just a hint of a question on his face, as though wondering if the horse might turn into a bucking bronco.  The girl holding the reins, the Norbecks daughter, I assume, looks to be about 10 years old.  She exudes the aura of an old hand at this sort of hospitality.

Not having brought her swimsuit along, Mom is content to sit on a low log bench, enjoying the God's-country setting and engaging Nels in conversation while Dad takes a picture of a very contented group.  The boy holding the innertube looks to be a couple of years older than his sister.  Barb must be inside the cabin taking a nap.  She doesn't appear in any of this series of slides.

Many years after the fact, the pond water doesn't look very inviting.  And from the way I've parked myself on the little dock, I might having been thinking the same thing.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chapter 37: More of Whitefish Lake

In another, yet this time more careful, review of Dad's slides, I discovered that, though he might not have had much of an eye for portraiture, he knew how to frame a landscape composition.  I offer this first slide, an elevated view of Whitefish Lake, as Exhibit A.  (Exhibit B, which gets us ahead of this blog's timeline, is found here.)  The gloomy, not-quite-ominous ambience is more in tune with how I felt during an unscheduled return visit to this area in September 1974.

A view of the cabin where the Nelson family stayed for a week, I assume.  The car, a 1955 Buick, is a relatively recent purchase, one in which Dad must have offered a particularly generous "minister's" deal from a local dealership.  It is the car in which a family of six, four children ranging in age from 7 1/2 to 3 months, moved from Great Falls, Montana, to Warren, Pennsylvania, in July 1957.  I have many pleasant memories from this long trip.  Wish Mom and Dad were still around to offer an alternative perspective.

I assume that's Whitefish Lake, considerably smaller than Flathead Lake, in the background.  Best evidence.  Before returning to Great Falls, we drove through Glacier National Park, which wouldn't have taken us within viewing distance of Flathead Lake.