Between the tech rehearsal and the show I had four hours to kill in Mantorville. No slight towards Mantorville intended, but it’s not a place of inexhaustible attractions. I headed over to the antique store next to the theater, and entered the usual world of piled-up flotsam, the detritus of farm houses and attics. Jingle of the bells on the door, the old smell, the stillness, the immediate sense of sympathy for anyone trying to make a go of this; who needs any of this? Dishes, dishes, dishes. So much ceramic. I wonder how many years it has to sit here before someone gives it a “mercy drop.”

I asked if they had any postcards. Why, yes. A small selection, but I found two. Also two cards for the section of unnamed lost and forgotten peoples.

One goes into the Unhappy from the Git-Go bin:


The other is one of those startling faces emerging from the past and interrogating you, demanding your attention, again:

Anything else? Yes. But we’ll get to that. When I took my purchases up to the counter and presented some plastic, it was a “gosh, er, well” moment. Checks or cash only. They took cards at the other store, next to the chocolate store, and it was the same owner so the guy said he’d walk it over after he closed at 5 and I could buy it there, because they stayed open until 6. Then I remembered that I actually had my checkbook in my backpack, because I’d had to send a check to something or other last week. I’ll be back.

Wandered over to the other antique store, and it was overwhelming. Quiet. Massive. Clothes, dishes, row upon row of the detritus of lives. Mom’s 1970s knitting mags:

Of course a phone book from 1978, which I find fascinating:

Peter Fonda with the Black Guy who didn’t represent Inclusion, because they didn’t have that word, or Diversity, because they didn’t use that one either. Equality, that was it. Ditto the woman, who was now working a computer. This was the image for the small-town Midwest phone company, forty years ago. What’s more, if you grew in this era, there was nothing unusual about this image; it backed up what you saw on TV.


Back to the small store to pay with a check. I walked back to the first antique store, and passed a third one, which was between the first one and the big one. Two women of a certain age were putting up evergreen boughs over the door, one on a ladder.

“Looks nice,” I said. “It’s already that time!”

“We wanted to get them up before it’s real cold,” said the lady on the ladder.

“You could help, you know,” said the one holding the ladder.

“I could! Can I?”

They laughed and waved me away: just busting my chops, as they don’t say.

Passed the Opera House; a young woman in her twenties was sitting on the bench outside. I said hi.

“It’s not bad!” she said. “It’s not like yesterday.”

“Forty-one degrees?” I said, remembering what my weather app said. “I’ll take that.” She smiled.

In the store I wrote out my check and took my goods. As I was leaving I got a text from Daughter, and noted ah, my kid’s texting from Boston! The guy behind the counter said he loved Boston. What did you do there? He rattled off some schools and ended with “Masters in Urban Planning at MIT.”

Well. Then he said he worked on the NRP in Minneapolis. Had I heard of that?

“You’re looking at a former NRP board member. Lynnhurst neighborhood.”

So we get to talking, and it turns out that he’d done lots of planning work in Minneapolis, and had been responsible for some traffic calming on the street two blocks from my house, and then we got into a discussion of urban planning in general and zoning and density and architecture and Brutalism, and I’m having the liveliest discussion on cities and urbanism I’ve had in months in the confines of a dry goods store from the 19th century in a tiny town in the bleak plains.

I wasn’t surprised, just pleased.

Hungry; not many options, aside from the Hubble House or the bar, so I decided to drive to the gas station for coffee and a sub. There’s a Casey’s, so you can get both and maybe a pizza if you want it. Four guys running the food operation in the back, three on pizza duty; the order string had six tickets, meaning people had phoned in orders. The new guy made my sub. First time. He put the lettuce on before he put it in the oven. No big deal. Over at the coffee stand (six types of coffee) a young guy in hunter blaze orange with camo smudges on his face was getting a cup of French Roast. He apologized for reaching over to get a cup lid because he was in my space, as these things are understood. No prob. A charming young lady was running the register and bantering with everyone about this and that. Friday, 5 PM; it’s the hub, the nexus, the hopping spot.

I sat in the car in the gas station parking lot and ate my sub. It was good.

Back to the Opera House. I forgot to mention that I went upstairs after the technical run-through:


Four rooms of old props and costumes. The floors creak. It seems haunted, but in a genial, resigned sort of way. It all made me feel quite honored to perform here - a century of history in this small building, so many stories, so much applause, so many people rapping their knuckles on a door frame for good luck as they headed out from the dressing room to the stage, so much.

An hour to kill, so I sat in the dressing room while Astrid did make-up, and paged through the item I’d found in the Memorabilia store. A yearbook from North High in Minneapolis.


Graduating into a bright world about to crash.

I had to have it. A remarkable artifact. Everyone in the book is gone. Everyone in the book is startlingly alive.

The North side was, as Wikipedia puts it, "the center of Minneapolis' Jewish population."

Look at the things the school provided:

A fella could learn a trade in high school, or at least get a good start. If not, he had a working grasp of how things worked.

There's a section devoted to illustrations and doggeral about the top teens in school:

The style of the time: avant garde! Annette would go on to the U, where she worked in the Daily's business office. After that, she enters the untraceables.

Most of these people died in the 70s and 80s.

All of that took place during the Mantorville Interval. All of that could happen any small town in America, if you stop, park, walk, talk, and listen.



It’s 1919. Newspapers did have illustration capabilities, and they’d had them for a long time. Didn’t mean you had to pretty up a useful paper with some silly pictures.

A man had to set aside a few hours just for the first page.


The Gas Regiment! They’re back!



The GAS REGIMENT. The Celtic was, as you might guess from the name, a White Star vessel. She preceded the Titanic:

The first ship larger than SS Great Eastern by gross register tonnage (it was also 9 feet, Celtic was the first of a quartet of ships over 20,000 tons, dubbed The Big Four.

She had almost 300 passenger on a 1904 run, but only about 200 when she was stranded on the Cow and Calf Rocks. Never recovered.

I think this is made up.

At least it demonstrates that people have been doubting the usefulness of the groundhog prediction for at least a hundred years.



Yeggs! Those damned Yeggs. I remember the Clover Leaf milk brand, at least as it appeared on corner grocery store.

Here’s the address.









That there artist was C. M. Payne:

Wikipedia indicates how many strips he went through:

Charles M. Payne (1873–1964) was an American cartoonist best known for his popular long-running comic strip S'Matter, Pop?. He signed his work C. M. Payne and also adopted the nickname Popsy.

In 1896, Payne was employed at the Pittsburgh Post. Coon Hollow Folks, his first comic strip, was followed by Bear Creek Folks, Scary William and Yennie Yonson. He created Honeybunch's Hubby (originally titled Mr. Mush), for the New York World and in 1911, he drew Peter Pumpkin for The Philadelphia Inquirer. His 1910 strip, Nippy's Pop, was later retitled S'Matter, Pop?

Initially carried by the Bell Syndicate, it ran from 1911 to 1940. During the 1920s, S'Matter, Pop? was a Sunday strip in the New York World, followed by decades as a daily strip in The Sun. In the early 1930s, S'Matter, Pop and Honeybunch's Hubby (which returned from a 20-year hiatus) spent times alternating as the main strip and the topper strip.

In 1964, Payne died in poverty.

That last line just hits you right in the sternum. Much more info here.

Couldn’t resist slipping in one of these.

You get the general idea? Men who play cards in a high room with a oval frame on the wall.

He did these for years. I have about a hundred ready to go for a website to come out in 2021.


Those were the days.



That'll do; see you around.




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