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.

 Nov. 24, 2001

Are you old enough to remember these roadside messages from Burma Shave?

Don't lose your head to gain a minute; you need your head, your brains are in it.


Drove too long, driver snoozing; what happened next is not amusing.


Brother, speeders, let's rehearse; all together now, good morning nurse.


Cautious rider to her reckless dear; let's have less bull and lots more steer.


The midnight ride of Paul for beer led to a warmer atmosphere.


Speed was high, weather was not; tires were thin, "x" marks the spot.


Around the curve, lickety-split; it's a beautiful car, wasn't it?


Passing cars when you can't see, may give you a glimpse of eternity.


At intersections, look each way; a harp sounds nice but it's hard to play.


The one who drives when he's been drinkin' depends on you to do his thinkin'.


Birds, these signs cost money, so perch but don't get funny.


Burma Shave, which is still in business, solicited contest entries for their signs. The jingles that won were spaced along the side of the highway about 25 yards apart and consisted of five signs, with the fifth sign stating "Burma Shave."

I was puzzled by the very brand name because the men of Burma are smooth faced and have no beards to shave.

I don't know what year this national advertising campaign ended, or why it ended. Perhaps it was decided by the Department of Transportation that the signs caused more accidents than they prevented.

Indeed, they were a distraction, especially if you were in a car with someone who insisted on reading them aloud and, then, reciting others he had memorized.

In any case, I missed them when they were gone.

A story of two wolves

"A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt. He said 'I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.'

"The grandson asked him, 'Which wolf will win the fight?'

"The grandfather answered him, 'The one I feed.'"

I want to thank Paul Byorth for this one. He was born and reared in South Dakota, and has many Indian friends.

The legacy of FDR: the civilian corps and Waverly troops

Franklin D. Roosevelt's inauguration as president in March of 1933 marked the beginning of a new era ­ the first measure enacted to relieve the plight of the unemployed established the Civilian Conservation Corps (March 1933 to July 1942), which provided work camp employment to over three million young, unmarried men during its 10-year history.

The CCC came into its own as part of the National Recovery Act, when the famous Blue Eagle, symbol of the NRA, was all of a sudden everywhere.

Many of the Waverly businesses still had the Blue Eagle in their windows when I was growing up in the '40s. Almost immediately the NRA had added $3 billion dollars to the purchasing power of working people.

Side note: Insert anti-Republican political rant here.

Editor: Oh no, you don't! Don't you dare!

As far as the CCC is concerned, if today you visit a national or state park, or a national forest anywhere in the US, you can thank the CCC for most of the infrastructure.

Yellowstone National Park, with its 3,468 square miles, is probably the largest example. There are sites all over these United States too numerous to mention.

The channel between the two Waverly lakes is one of their projects. Every time you catch a crappie or a catfish there, you can thank the CCC.

The headlines in The Waverly Star for the May 25, 1933 issue had read "55 Wright County men to be sent to Forest Camp near Ely. Waverlyites enlist. Army officers will examine recruits in Buffalo."

Some of the Waverly men who immediately responded were Hans Kugler, Harold Clements, "Happy" Pususta, Earl Stuhr, Tommie Graham, Jim McMann, Tony Lattimore, Roy Le Page and Wallace Yodder. Many more were to follow.

A large part of this emergency employment was in forestry, even though it was not a part of the lumber industry.

Unemployment had been running at an incredible 30 percent. The CCC gave employment immediately to over a million and a half young men.

Even though the pay was only $900 a year ($75 a month), our young men from Waverly jumped at the chance.

Enlistees had to be unmarried men, between the ages of 18 and 25, and in good physical condition. The contracts they signed were for six months.

At least $25 of their $75 paychecks had to be sent home to their families. It was much like the Job Corps under Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty in the '60s.

The hard work they were bound for in the north woods of Minnesota was going to be in what we now call the the Boundary Waters State Park, with Ely as the jumping off point into the wilderness.

After the disastrous blow down there two years ago, don't you wish we still had the CCC?

The Waverly Star said "The work in the forest will include making simple trails, common roads and fire lanes; planting trees, construction of fire towers, shelters, etc . . .; landscaping and other work in the state and national parks; eradication of tree pests and diseases, and the improvement of the forests by thinning and removing undesirable species."

Next week I will publish some of their letters home to The Waverly Star from F. 17, 1721; CCC, Isabella Work Camp; Ely, Minn.

Information on the NRA and the CCC came from General Hugh S. Johnson's book "The Blue Eagle: From Egg to Earth," reprinted in 1968 by Greenwood Press, New York. General Johnson was the World War I hero whom FDR appointed to head up the NRA.

The legacy of FDR continued: The four freedoms

In 1933, President Roosevelt said in one of his fireside chats, "We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression . . . everywhere in the world.

"The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way . . . everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want . . . everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear . . . anywhere in the world."

These words really resonate in our world of today, don't they?

When my father listened to FDR on the radio, hunched over to catch every word, I got the same "Shhh!" I got when he listened to Amos and Andy Sunday evenings.

President Roosevelt consistently gave the country a message of social justice, not just for Americans, but for the entire world.

He saw to it that his fine sounding words on social justice and equal rights were carried out in projects like the CCC, the WPA, and the entire NRA experiment. The Social Security Act would be passed in 1935, our nation's belated start into providing welfare assistance.

In 1940, FDR was elected for his third term, in large part on a platform of keeping us out of war. He said, "I promise you American mothers that none of your sons will ever fight on foreign soil."

He said, "If the human race is to survive, the world must find the way by which men and nations can live together in peace. We cannot accept the doctrine that war must be forever a part of man's destiny."

My mother didn't trust him and voted for Wendell Willkie, who ended up with only 82 electoral votes compared to Roosevelt's 449.

Then along came Pearl Harbor to prove my mother right. And all bets were off. Perhaps if the trial run of enlisting our young men into the CCC had not been accomplished, our mobilization for World War II would not have been so swift and successful.

Until next week, then, when we get the thrilling letters from Camp Isabella in Ely, Minnesota.

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