Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Profile: Velma Isley

This is a memory of Margaret Matthew Patzer about the St. Vincent Fair around 1928. Margaret is referring to Velma McCrystal Isely who was a great teacher and a wonderful person. Velma Isely was the Mother of John (Class of '63) and Elizabeth (Class of '57). She was a woman of great intelligence and compassion. I remember her silencing a group of bullies harrassing a mentally retarded girl with her great moral compass. I think I learned so much about social justice when she stood up for the weak and oppressed that summer day in 1957. I think that I was so impressed by Velma Isely's strong sense of ethics and she was a profile in courage. I have tried always to follow her example in being an advocate for the consumer in my work in law.

- Michael L. Rustad
My cousin transported my pet lamb along with some of his animals to the St. Vincent Fair. The afternoon I was to show my lamb, I convinced a friend to skip afternoon school with me and find a ride to St. Vincent so I could show my lamb. As we entered the gate Velma the lady in charge of registration and who knew me asked what I was doing there on a school day. When I said "to show my lamb" she said it was not registered so she registered it immediately. When it was time for me to show my pet lamb I found us moving closer to the front and finally in first place! I had won a trip to the St. Paul State Fair. When I left later that year my dad emptied his wallet to give me money to help buy food while there (this was about 1933 at the peak of depression) and I felt badly that he had to give me the only money he had.

- Margaret Matthew Patzer
Mrs. Isley was the wife to the agent at the depot in Noyes where my Dad worked. She was also my Kindergarten teacher.

The things I remember about Kindergarten are:

- Mrs. Isley singing Button Up Your Overcoat and encouraging us to sing along

- Learning the letter U's "short" sound - she taught us by using the example of what happened when you tried to lift a bucket full of sand - "...ugh" She had me demonstrate it in front of the class.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Depot Memories: Circus Train

The greatest show on earth...
One of my early memories is one night my father working a late shift at the depot, and calling Mom to hurry and come over there. Very unusual for him to do. Mom didn't tell me why, wanting to surprise me.

When we got there, he took us out back, onto the platform by the tracks. It was pitch black, but a clear night with stars twinkling overhead as I looked up. As my eyes adjusted, I looked straight ahead and noticed a stopped train. I could hear the engine down the line idling, and once and awhile I could hear a car shift and bang against the next one. I soon could make out smells like a farm, and colorful pictures on the sides of the cars.

"It's the circus train," my Dad said, a smile in his voice.

"Really?" I exclaimed, all wide-eyed.

"Yep...it's the Barnum and Bailey, Ringling Brothers, too - the Greatest Show on Earth - see it on the train?"

There it was, in large bold letters, along with pictures of elephants and clowns and horses.

"Can we go closer, Dad?" I asked.

"Sorry, but it's just made a quick stop before going into Canada. You can't board, and it's too dangerous to go closer."

I was disappointed, but that passed quickly. Just to get a chance to see the train was magical. I knew it even then...

Sunday, September 02, 2012

1955 3-Car Crash

The incident documented in the articles below, happened only a year after the tragedies of the drunk driver accident on the same street, and the drowning of the sisters and father of one of accident's victims three months later.  An already mourning community was hit with further tragedy within a year's time, all three incidents involving youth of the community...

NOTE:  At least one of the articles has names incorrect.  To make it clear, Gloria Gardner was the one who died; Virginia Gardner lived.