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.
May 27, 2002
I took a scolding from Gerry Meehan Smith this week because I said in one of my columns that "You can't even get a haircut in Waverly anymore."
She told me there is a perfectly wonderful hair cutting establishment (aka barber shop) at 406 Lake Avenue.
(For you oldtimers who haven't been to Waverly in a while, the streets are named and numbered now. 406 Lake Avenue is on the way down the hill to the ball park if you turn off Main Street to the right, if you are going west towards the church.)
Ms. Sue Leaf offers men's haircuts there, as well as women's, and doesn't charge any more than my barber here in Corpus Christi who calls himself a "hair stylist."
Gerry told me that the informant who gave me the false information about "no barber shops in Waverly" probably meant that there was no longer an opportunity to sit around all day and shoot the bull with Elhart Diers, Frank Littfin, or Leo Decker.
In case you are trying to get a book published, one of Jeanne Moosbrugger O'Leary's nieces is just the person you have been looking for. She is in the book business in New York City.
I asked her to tell me about her work so I could put it into The Waverly Star.
"Dear Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Jim,
"I joined this agency last August, a very bad time indeed since September, as we all know, was rendered pretty fruitless in the business world of New York City.
"So, I happen to be off to a rather slow start in this new career of mine, but I'm actually just starting to send out some proposals now. I have some wonderful projects.
"A literary agent, as you may or may not know, is the representative for authors. We read lots of submissions, looking for good projects, and once we find good writers, we agree to represent them on a commission basis.
"The standard literary agent's commission is 15 percent, and that pretty much means 15 percent of everything.
"So, the process works something like this: I find an author writing a book of narrative nonfiction on a WWII sea disaster (this is all hypothetical). He has a pretty good story, but the proposal's a little weak, so we do some major editing before anything will go out.
"I make sure he puts some good anecdotes into the proposal that will draw the editors into the story, I make him fill out the outline a bit more, and I may even make him write a sample chapter or two.
"Once it's all ready, I make multiple copies of the proposal and start calling. I call editors who like this type of work from most major houses. I'd definitely want it to be seen by Doubleday, Random House, Knopf, St. Martins and Harper Collins.
"I want to top the highest bid and continue that, in turn, until no one wants to go higher anymore and the best bidder wins. There are a few other details but it may all be getting too technical beyond this.
"So, assuming I end up selling the book for an easy $100,000, then my commission (which I split with my company, by the way) is $15,000. But that $100,000 is an advance against royalties, so the royalties are on a kind of sliding scale, but generally 15 percent.
"And the percentage for the bulk of the sales is based on the retail price of a book. So, for a $20 book, the royalty per book is $3.
"Once you've sold enough books so that you've passed that $100,000 mark, the author starts getting twice yearly royalty payments and I take 15 percent of those as well.
"And now that we've sold the book here, we usually only offer North American rights to the book, so we go on to try to sell the book to publishers in other markets - England, Germany . . . not to mention to a film company for development.
"So, there you have it."
Mother of Madeline and William
Wife of Chris . . . and favorite niece.
The Kohaneks (continued)
I should have called Bob Decker before I gave out the false information on Charlie Kohanek to a lady from New Jersey named Vicki Kohanek. She was looking for leads on the Kohanek family.
For those of you who never lived in Waverly, the Kohaneks were a distinguished pioneer family who farmed in Woodland Township. I told her that.
Charlie Kohanek was now living in St. Bonifacius, information I had gleaned from the phone book.
(Berni Reardon had sent me a phone book so I wouldn't keep making bonehead mistakes like announcing that Pat's Kountry Kurls was on Highway 12.)
Anyway, Bob straightened me out. He told me Charlie Kohanek was one of his father's best friends and longtime hunting partner. Bob himself had attended Charlie's funeral almost 40 years ago in St. Bonifacius and still has the Holy Card from 1964 to prove it.
I don't know why Charlie Kohanek's name is still in the phone book with a St. Bonifacius listing.
Ms. Vicki Kohanek forgave me for my mistake and, in fact, sent me this charming letter for use in my column:
Why did our ancestors stay here?
"In October, 1875, we decided that the last winter we had spent in Minnesota was very severe, and John and myself thought we could never endure another like it.
"We had talked of going on to Oregon, but when we began to hear the praises of Florida we concluded that was the very place we ought to go.
"So, we thought we would go with the Miller party, who were leaving Minnesota. When we got there, we would start an orange grove. That is why we went to Florida.
"The men spent days looking over this place where we are, and found the land was rough and uneven, the soil was poor, the fences all down, and everything gone to ruin.
"The house and barn were good, though, and that was all. They made up their minds that they could never pay the rent and make it pay a cent, so they concluded that as long as our goods had not come through from Minnesota, we would give up the place.
"We were all disappointed and homesick, and the men all wanted to go straight back to Minnesota. I thought as long as we were here, we ought to try once more to find some place that would pay to live.
"John agreed to go to Tallahassee and see if our things had come, and if they had not, we would go back to Minnesota. So we went back.
"We tried to leave Minnesota, then, but we weren't able to, so we had to come back to Minnesota after 18 months of trying it in Florida. We left a whole colony of Minnesotans down there.
"Cold as it is we never regretted coming back home."
Side note: They left the Minnesota colonists down there in 1876. I wonder what became of those "colonists."
People live to be old down there and, perhaps, some of them are still playing softball, shuffleboard, pitching horseshoes, or square dancing. Dan Herbst tells me that turning 80 is no big deal in Florida, something which I have passed on to my brother John.
John is in Waverly today, May 27, for Memorial Day, and he has just turned a healthy 80. Dan says you can get fat down there just by eating birthday cakes with the 100 year olds, but I will bet they didn't get to be 100 by eating birthday cake.
Vicki Kohanek, who doesn't live in Minnesota anymore, added:
"The weathermen love Minnesota . . . never a dull moment!"
A kinder, gentler time
Ralph Hunt sent me this.
It made me think of the Ollig family, who used to own the phone company in Waverly back in the good old days:
"When I was quite young, my parents had one of the first telephones in the neighborhood. I well remember the polished old case fastened to the wall and the shiny receiver on the end of the box.
"My first personal experience with 'Information Please' was when I whacked my finger with a hammer at the tool bench when nobody was home but myself.
"I walked around, sucking my finger, until I spotted the telephone. I went and got a footstool in the parlor and held the phone to my ear. 'Information please,' I said.
"'Information,' she said.
"'I hurt my finger,' I wailed into the phone.
"'Isn't your mother home?'
"'Nobody's home but me,' I blubbered.
"'Are you bleeding?'
"'No, I hit my finger with a hammer and it hurts!'
"'Can you open your icebox?' she asked. I said I could.
"'Then chip off a piece of ice and hold it to your finger,' said the voice.
"After that, I called 'Information Please' for everything."
. . . And so did I. All I had to do was to pick up the telephone and say
"Time Please" and they would tell me the time. The Ollig operators never grew impatient. They always told me the time . . . and anything else I wanted to know. (I wish they were around now so I could get some news for this column.)
I remember when the Olligs took us from the old days of the party line and the crank on the side of the phone to the dial phone when the O'Leary number became 2195, the McDonnell girls' number became 2131, and Jack Daigle's number was 2238.
Before that, the Leonard Galvins could be reached on their party line at two longs and a short. The other people on their party line were their neighbors, who protested vehemently at any eavesdropping, which was apparently one of the hobbies of the Galvin sisters.
My informant, Bob Decker, had worked for the Olligs and strung the lines, climbing poles along with the best of them, before he enlisted in the Army and went to combat in Korea.
He told me he could listen in on everybody in Waverly, but never did so. If he had, I know he would have remembered conversations word for word this many years later.
My stringer from Graceville, Minnesota, Carol Bauer Rose, is like that.
Carol was last in Waverly to attend my brother Myles' funeral, and we exchanged a great deal of information at the time. I have consulted her ever since. She has a boundless interest in people and a Bob Decker sort of total recall.
She told me recently, when I asked her about telephones in the old days on the farm, that her number was 17-F-21, which was two longs and a short.
"Buller's number was 17-F-12, which was two longs and two shorts.
"Wiegmans' was 17-F-11, which was one long and one short. The other Bauer's number was 17-F-31, which was three longs and a short."
Her husband says "What a memory!" But, lucky man that he is, she doesn't remember grudges.
She does remember when Kathy and Rick Nolan's mother was postmistress in Graceville before she married Charlie and moved to Waverly.
Carol's memory is much better than mine, but I will bet it is not any better than Bob Decker's. Carol and Bob should be writing a column! There would be no gossip because they are two of the nicest, kindest people I have ever known.
Quote for the week
"The world would be better off if people tried to become better, and people would become better if they stopped trying to be better off.
For when everyone tries to become better off, nobody is better off.
But when everybody tries to become better, everyone is better off."
- Peter Maurin, Cofounder of The Catholic Worker
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