Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

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

 Feb. 3, 2003

The Super Bowl is behind us, but the quotes remain with us

Now that the Super Bowl is behind us, here are some quotations which I have been saving for this blessed day.

Upon hearing Joe Jacobi of the Washington Red Skins say, "I'd run over my own mother to win the Super Bowl," and Matt Millen of the Oakland Raiders say, "To win, I'd run over Joe's mom, too."

Torrin Polk, a wide receiver, on his coach, John Jenkins: "He treats us like men. He lets us wear earrings."

Football commentator and former player Joe Theismann said, "Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

NFL coach Bum Phillips, when asked by Bob Costas why he takes his wife on all the road trips, Phillips responded, "Because she is too dadgum ugly to kiss goodbye."

The times, they are a-changin'

I think every newspaper in the English speaking world publishes letters to Santa.

Since I am an incurable newspaper buff and a compulsive reader, I have read these letters more faithfully than Santa himself.

In my research, I have noticed a shift in children's Christmas wishes over the last 70 years.

As an example of how we have changed, here are a couple of letters to Santa printed from The Waverly Star in 1933:

Dec. 14, 1933

Dear Santa,

I want something for Christmas. I want a BB gun, shells for it, and a pair of boots. My brother, Anthony, wants a BB gun too, and a caterpillar.

Your friend,

Paul Poirier

There were other poignant requests for candy and nuts and dolls and toy trucks, including this one:

Dear Santa Claus,

I have four sisters. Their names are Dorothy Ann and Rita and Bernetta and Margy. Bring for Christmas a game we can play.

Bring Dorothy Ann a story book. Bring Rita a tan scarf and a pair of mittens. Bring Bernetta a dress. Bring Margy a pair of silk stockings.

Patricia Marie Klich

Now here's one from this year, Christmas 2002:

Dear Santa,

I want a new cell phone. I want three real rabbits and $35.

I need a Play Station #2 for my computer along with a Game Boy. I want my own CD player and some new CDs.

I want some heart pants and a heart shirt with spaghetti straps. I would like for my daddy to have a new red motorcycle with pockets.

I will leave you some Krispy Kreme donuts and a Dr. Pepper. I hope you have a nice trip.

Love,

Tiffany

P.S. I would also like the Stuart Little 2 movie.

Small towns r us

I have some good news ­ I have found a new colleague and future friend as soon as I get to meet him.

I have Commissioner Richard Mattson to thank for this. He had forwarded to me some work from Brian Lentz, who has dozens of kinfolk in Minnesota, including Dick Mattson.

Along with his e-mail about his Texas travels, he included a picture of the Spoetzl family brewery in Shiner, Texas, a photograph which he had taken himself. I had been to Shiner myself and I have a special interest in the local brewery.

This may seem disloyal to the land of sky blue waters, but Shiner Bock Beer is now my drug of choice. The first time I was in Shiner, I ate in a dusty cafe there on Main Street.

They didn't have a menu, but you ate what the family ate.

The family lived and cooked in their own apartment in the back of the restaurant. German was spoken there. When it was time to do the dishes, you were just out of luck. It was then I had my happy introduction to Shiner Bock Beer.

Shiner, Texas, was settled by immigrants from Germany and Bohemia. Like the Minnesota immigrants from such places, they brought along their own "buttermacher" from the old country and their own "braumeister" and, less often, their own "priester."

Most of these small town breweries and creameries didn't endure, but thank God the Shiner brewery survived.

A few years back, the Spoetzl family decided to do some market research to see if they should expand or die. The researchers they hired came back with this advice: "You have a good product and a good reputation. The only mistake you are making is that you are not charging enough for your beer."

So, Shiner doubled its prices and the rest is history. Consumers figured that if it's expensive, it must be good. Now Shiner is to Texas what Coors is to Colorado.

Here's the letter from Brian Lentz:

"Hi Jim. Since I was laid off by nLine in December, I've been taking little road trips to discover Texas a bit more . . .

"I've only lived here a year and I love it . . . My parents, grandparents, great-grandparents were from Howard Lake . . .

"Mom and I rode the Great Northern Empire Builder to Howard Lake from Idaho almost every year to spend the summers with Grandma and Grandpa Klammer in Howard Lake, and my Great Aunt Ella on Dutch Lake . . .

"Tiny little world sometimes, isn't it? . . . Let me know if you can find any connections to the Hengels or Klammers or Shepherds or Albrechts.

"Highest regards,

Brian Lentz."

The good news is soon Brian and I will be collaborating. Texas is so huge that it takes at least two travel writers to cover it. Both of us will look for Minnesota connections.

My idea of a travel writer is John Richards of Corpus Christi, who has a column today in the Corpus Christi Caller Times entitled "A Room with a View at the Ranger Motel."

He loves small towns as much as I do, and here is what he says about small towns in Texas:

"We have known Santa Anna, Texas for decades and have watched the population drop each census year . . .

"Already, the high school football team has shifted from regular to six-man football . . . During our time, the town has lost its lumberyard, hardware, auto parts, and drug stores . . . the story of Santa Anna is somewhat interesting and a little sad.

"I think Santa Anna is a microcosm of what is taking place all over Texas. A multitude of small towns, all shrinking and deteriorating, are trying desperately to stay alive and be a place to call home. Each has its own unique, out of the ordinary character and fascinating stories to tell.

"For me, these towns represent Texas as much as, if not more than, our big cities."

Up front

We are losing World War II veterans at a very fast clip.

Some say as many as 4,000 a day are dying now. Who would have thought a few years ago that our wonderful young men from Waverly would be an endangered species?

Nobody captured the spirit of these men better than Bill Mauldin did in his classic book "Up Front," picturing the GIs in the infantry during WWII.

When I was young, there were many World War I veterans around, like Conrad Smith and others from Waverly who had served overseas and saw the horrors of trench warfare. I wish now I had spent time with them and asked them more about their life before we lost them all.

Let's take advantage while we can by honoring our WWII men even more, but for now, let us mourn Bill Mauldin.

Glen Keener sent me this quote after we lost Bill Mauldin Jan. 21:

"The death of Bill Mauldin and the citation of his picture of a weeping Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial (Lincoln bent over in grief) at the time of the Kennedy assassination reminds me of one of his pictures that has haunted me for many, many years.

"When Eisenhower died, Mauldin drew a full page picture in 'Life' magazine. It showed a military cemetery . . . in all its bleakness . . . and the caption said, 'Pass the word. Ike's here.'

"To this day it makes me weep."

Bill Mauldin described himself as "a New Mexico hillbilly."

The Albuquerque Journal, in its obituary for him after he died in Santa Fe two weeks ago, described him as a very modest man who is survived by seven sons.

He had enlisted in 1940 and was assigned as a rifleman to the 180th infantry division. Soon thereafter, his drawings from the front were being published in "The Stars and Stripes," the newspaper for servicemen.

To their credit, they continued to support him even after he got a face-to-face upbraiding from Gen. George Patton, who apparently didn't like Mauldin's portrayal of army officers.

Mauldin drew the characters of Willie and Joe, "a laconic pair of unshaven, mud-encrusted dog faces who slogged their way through Italy and other parts of battle-scarred Europe, surviving the enemy and the elements while caustically and sarcastically harpooning the unctuous and the pompous . . .

He portrayed the tedium and treachery of war, entertaining and endearing himself to millions of fellow soldiers in the war and to Americans at home.

Mauldin could not only draw, he could write:

The infantryman

"Dig a hole in your back yard while it is raining. Sit in the hole until the water climbs up around your ankles.

"Pour cold mud down your shirt collar. Sit there for 48 hours, and, so there is no danger of your dozing off, imagine that a guy is sneaking around waiting for a chance to club you on the head or set your house on fire.

"Get out of the hole, fill a suitcase full of rocks, pick it up, put a shotgun in your other hand, and walk on the muddiest road you can find.

"Fall flat on your face every few minutes, as you imagine big meteors streaking down to sock you.

"After 10 or 12 miles (remember you are still carrying the shotgun and suitcase), start sneaking through the wet brush. Imagine that somebody has booby-trapped your route with rattlesnakes which will bite you if you step on them.

"Give some friend a rifle and have him blast in your direction once in a while . . . run like hell all the way back to your hole in the backyard, drop the suitcase and shotgun, and get in.

"If you repeat this performance every three days for several months, you may begin to understand why an infantryman sometimes gets out of breath.

"But you still won't understand how he feels when things get

tough . . . "

And so it goes with Bill Mauldin.

He was buried last week in Arlington National Cemetery.

Next week I hope to tell you of another World War II journalist who helped us all get through World War II: Ernie Pyle.


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