Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the Herald Journal and on this web site.

  Jan. 5, 2004

Santa Claus the bouncer, and other interesting characters

I met Santa at the mall. He was the nicest man, Santa was. I saw him on a break eating a hamburger and visited with him. He gave me his card and his picture.

He's the real thing. He has his own website. His beard is white and flowing and the hair on his head has outgrown any barber's skills. He has a red face, a big nose, a red suit and a big lap. Every year he flies in from Atlanta, GA to work at our shopping mall in Corpus Christi.

A picture with Santa costs $10. He works 12 hours a day, with some short breaks. He has a gentle smile and kindly eyes. As I walked back to work with him, many of the children walking in the Mall waved and said "Hi Santa" like it was an everyday thing for them.

He's been doing this for 14years now and he says the children haven't changed over those years, but the merchandise they ask for has changed considerably. The children know the names of sophisticated and expensive computer games now. Simplicity and innocence have departed forever, but he still likes being Santa.

What he does in his real life back in Atlanta is rather interesting. He's a bouncer for a night club there. He says, "I can really hurt people if I have to." Santa is a huge man, just like his double at the North Pole. He could really hurt me if he wanted to, I am sure. Don't mess with Santa.

While I was at the mall, I thought of a story Glen Keener had sent me.

"An elderly couple were holding hands while they were walking through the mall. As they approached, I commented on how romantic it was. He replied, 'We've been holding hands when we go out in public for over 30 years. I have to. If I let go, she shops.'"

Reminds me of the guy who said retirement was just "one long shopping trip with the Missus."

Back to Montrose

Dave Kelly, who grew up in Montrose, wants to see more material in this space on Montrose. He says he feels deprived because he never once saw an issue of "The Montrose Tribune" but tells me Bobby Millerbernd, who now lives in the old Montrose Creamery building, is a rather good archivist and probably can provide us with some old issues.

I am afraid to ask Bob for anything because he already sent me some pictures and other good stuff which I went ahead and lost.

Dave tells me, since Bob is now entrenched in the old creamery building, that he has at his fingertips such interesting artifacts as check blanks from the defunct Montrose bank, packaging for some of the old creamery items and lots of odds and ends. Dave says Bob isn't online, but he is listed in the phone book.

Thanks, Dave. I hope Bob isn't mad at me because I never used the good stuff he already sent me.

Dave went on to remind me that Montrose at one time "had a bank, a couple of hotels, a train depot complete with telegraph office, hospital, blacksmith shop, its own grain elevator, implement dealer and creamery (with its own labels: "Montrose Butter," "Montrose Milk," etc.)

Before my time, Montrose had its own newspaper, high school, telephone exchange with a live operator, and a lumber yard, not to mention the various bars and churches.

"The barber shop! How could I forget the barber shop? It was always located strategically close to one of the bars, so there was something else to do in case of a long wait.

"The Barber Shop was a source of news and wisdom. There were few places where no woman ever dare tread, but this was one of them. Here the men spoke freely, even more freely if they had been at the bar across the street after a long wait.

"One could hear of hemorrhoids, hernias, sore backs, injuries, layoffs, strikes, retirements, births, deaths, cars, trucks, tractors, combines and seed corn yields.

"Here there was a big stack of 'Popular Mechanics' and 'Field and Stream' magazines. Here a young boy could hear about how it was to be a man. There was little said about politics and religion, but a great deal of true philosophizing. Oh, and of course you could always get a haircut.

"Montrose even had its own little one cell jail. The jail was in the back in the basement of the old city hall. It was there until the old city hall was torn down and replaced maybe seven or eight years ago.

"As a kid, I used to peek into the back window of the city hall at that cell. They had a pot bellied stove back there for heat. It looked as if it was ready for use, except there was no mattress on the cot and the bars looked pretty rusty."

In commenting on Bob Fisher's great feat of raising a million dollars for the Homeless Coalition, Dave said that the Fishers lived right across the street from the Kelly Grocery. Nolan Zavoral had a great story on Bob Fisher in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune the week before Christmas.

And of course, we have our own Kevin Kittock of Waverly, Stan and Lorraine's grandson, who sleeps outside in the winter time to raise money for the homeless.

Bob Fisher never fails to mention that he is from Montrose when he is interviewed. He now lives in Wayzata where he has his shoe repair business. He has been sleeping in a tent outside in the winter for 14 years to raise the consciousness of people on the plight of the homeless. Nobody raises more money than Bob does.

Jim Gruning wrote me that he had attended a Wayzata Chamber of Commerce lunch last week. The speaker was Tony Oliva of the Minnesota Twins organization. He was expounding on how Carl Pohlad and the Twins organization, through their combined charities, last year raised $1.3 million dollars.

Jim said, "I thought to myself the Star Tribune should see the real story: A very humble guy who runs a shoe repair shop raised as much as a multi-billionaire! Wow. Is the power of one concerned individual something. What a great message for this time of year. The power of one person to change the lives of multitudes. That's the message of Christmas and Bob Fisher reminded me of it."

Letter from England

Richard Sheppard, a former Waverly boy now living in England, sent me this interesting letter:

"As you may know, Gabrielle and I moved to Wolverhampton at the end of October. Why Wolverhampton? Well, Gabrielle has been a director of a college here for over two years, and although that hasn't required her to be here full time, the commute has been a real pain.

"As a telecommuter myself, it wasn't such a difficult thing for me to pull up sticks, so we thought, 'Why not?'

"Our house has been completely gutted and renovated, so although there's a preservation order on the outward facing portion of the house, it's considered a new building in all other respects.

"Plumbing and electrical nightmares. It's a 'mews' style building, which means it was designed as a building wrapped around a courtyard. It traditionally provided a stable area but as far as I know, none of our neighbors is raising horses. I've been informed by my friend Maddie that the Swedes call it a 'overgatan.' More about Swedes later.

"It's the nicest house either of us has ever lived in. I was telling Gabrielle that there is an element of being here that reminds me of Minneapolis.

"The front of the house and the park has an element of a part of Minneapolis they now call 'uptown.' In front of the house is a park with two ponds that have islands in the middle, and a little canal connecting the two. The canal has a bridge over it. There's also a big conservatory and a gazebo. They call the ponds 'boating lakes,' but to my Minnesota friends and family, they would be considered ponds. "Charming nonetheless. Kind of like an extremely small version of Lake of the Isles.

"I've yet to find a pub that I'd call my local. Maybe I have to understand the accent first. They're not 'brummies' here, although there are a few 'brummie' accents with Birmingham being only 15 miles away.

"I certainly understand 'brummies' better than West Country accents, but the West Country accent is more pleasant to the ear. That's an irony. It sounds better, but comprehension is a bit of a struggle. Maybe they'll take pity on a deaf American?

"A couple of Fridays ago, I went to a local pub to mingle with the locals. It was pleasant enough, but I'm starting to get the impression people aren't that easy going with strangers.

"Anyway, I sat at a table and four Swedes came in and sat down next to me. They had just flown to the U.K. (Stansted!) that day and had come over specifically to see the Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club (soccer) play Newcastle the other day. One of them was a member of the Wolverhampton Wanderers Swedish Fan Club.

"And they were retired Swedish military men. It never occurred to me that I would ever meet Swedish soldiers in my life. I didn't even know Sweden had an Army. We drank until closing time and they had a much easier time understanding me than the locals did.

"None of them really knew where Minnesota was or the significance of the special Swedish/Minnesota relationship. The fan club guy knew every single Swedish national athlete who ever competed overseas, and he started asking me about Swedish players on the Minnesota North Stars. I didn't have the heart to tell him they had moved to Dallas.

"I haven't heard of any Swedes playing for the Wild so I was no help there. I told him I hadn't really followed the North Stars since 1978. They pointed out to me that it was 25 years ago and I felt suddenly old.

"The fan club guy had been to the States once. He was the only one. He went to Chicago to attend 'Hamburger University' for McDonald's. Since leaving the military, he's now working for McDonald's in Sweden. How sick is that?

"Have a jolly fab Christmas."

Richard Sheppard

Another English story

A while back in this space, there was the romantic story of Adrienne, granddaughter of the "Rip" Rasmussens, who had met her sweetie from England on the Internet. September 11 spooked him so much that he swooped to America to bring her home to England with him. They are now expecting twins!

I spotted two disheartening messages this week. One was at our church where I always slip hungrily into the parish hall after Mass. The sign said, "Kitchen closed due to illness. The cook is sick of cooking."

The other message was in a nursing home where I sneaked a peek at the medical chart of an old friend of mine I was visiting who is now an Alzheimer's patient. The chart read, "His cognition is currently compromised." My condition exactly. No wonder I have such trouble putting a column together now. If it wasn't for the help of old friends I don't know what I would do.

There was a columnist for our local paper here who had to do a column every day. I don't know how he ever did it. He didn't have friends like I do. His name was Bill Walraven. If you want to buy some good Texas history books, you can look him up on Amazon.com.

He wised up, finally, and quit the column business and went to book writing where the real money was.

Anyway, he used to write columns about his teenage boys when he wasn't writing about his dogs, a labrador and a poodle. His teenage boys resented the hell out of this, of course, and one day, after a loud argument with their father, whom they called "The Warden," one of them said to the other, "Whatever you do, don't give him a column!" Guess what. That quote ended up in his column.

My point is I will do anything for a column. I even had my picture taken with Santa Claus the Bouncer. Well, he did give me a senior citizen discount of 10 percent.


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