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.

July 5, 2004

Highland has become a land of numbers!

My brother, John, and I used to go out to the Highland Store. He to visit with Gloria Anderson, a beauty queen and just a wonderful girl all around, and me to wander off with her little brother, Leon, and our .22 rifles, to shoot at this and that.

Leon was a great guy who died tragically young of heart trouble. Gloria is still around, thank God. Their parents owned the Highland Store; a good place to buy anything you needed, play checkers, and save a long ride into town.

This week, I heard from Burt Kreitlow, who has more than once graced this column. He is still enthusiastic about the Highland Community. Here is his report:

"I spent the weekend around Howard Lake, and I went to the annual Highland Picnic. I talked to Gloria from the Highland Store. Yes, she remembered you, but with a twist. She said she had dated your brother, but had no idea you had a crush on her. Still cute as ever!

"My first attendance at the Highland Picnic was in 1919, just before my second birthday. The Highland Midsummer Picnic is a tradition transplanted from Sweden in the very early 1900s. The entire weekend of which the picnic was the focus included two personal highlights. I'm sure the other folks each had theirs. Here are mine.

"First, John Mauk attended, along with his son and a retired grandson. This trio gave an interesting perspective of the generational spread seen by us old timers.

"John was a neighbor when I was a kid. He is now 97, and I had always considered him one of the older ‘boys.' These days, he does need some care, and his somewhat bent body arrived in a wheel chair.

"After I had finished reading aloud some of my stories, John's grandson announced ‘John wants to play.' And he did. Pulling his mouth organ from his pocket (we never called them harmonicas in Highland), he rendered a lively tune, plus an encore.

Then, he said, ‘Here's one of my old poems.' And off he went on a ballad, first learned as a child in Kentucky before his family moved to Highland. In both his musical performance and his recitation, he showed more breath control and volume than many half his age.

"The second was a sociological highlight, perhaps overlooked by others returning for the weekend. As a once a year visitor to my old stomping ground, I fill my spare time with family and memories.

"Saturday morning, I chose to spend looking around the area of School District 58, where in 1935-37, I taught in their one room school.

"I found the schoolhouse, now a family dwelling, and then began my search for the homes where my former students lived. All had changed. The roads were different, the trees were larger, or gone, and there was at least one new dwelling on every piece of land. I decided that the practical way to search for my school families was by driving around and reading the names on the mailboxes.

"How behind the times I was! There are still mailboxes at the end of driveways, but all they communicated were numbers. How could I find their names if there are only numbers? I remembered there were house numbers in the cities, but in the country we were people. I should have been seeing mailboxes with names like Levine, Walker, Rasset, Thune, Hays, etc. But I saw only numbers!

"In desperation, I entered the driveway where Levines once lived. Theirs had been the only house on that road. I saw several homes, surely built after the 1950s. I finally came to a house at the road's dead-end. I stopped, met the resident, and we talked.

"He had moved into the area in 1965, and recognized the names of most of the families for whom I was searching. ‘No,' he said. He didn't know if any still lived in the area. I thanked him and left.

"Later in the day, while visiting my kid brother, Billy, a youngster at 82, I related my morning's experience. ‘I don't recall any names on mailboxes around here either,' he said. ‘Mine is 7616 25th St. S.W. Let's drive around and see if we can find any names.'

"We did, and there were none.

"Highland has become a land of numbers!"

Waverly's St. Mary's school has all kinds of reunions every summer, but living down here in Texas, it's rare I get to hear of them.

This week, I got to hear of one held by the class of 1955, who gathered at the lakeside cabin of Clayton (Cyclone) Smith, and his wife Mary Ann (Sunfish), near Atwater. "Chick" Ogle Kuhn was there, along with Jerry and Delores (Dee) Broll-Hanse, and Kathy Nolan.

They actually gather three or four times a year and laugh up a storm. Smith's cabin is on Diamond Lake, and Dee's nickname is Harpo.

There is, right now around Waverly, a superabundance of tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, and other wonders, all still fresh.

The Mealey brothers of Howard Lake supported God only knows how many Waverly families by hiring strawberry pickers every summer at their large patches just west of Howard Lake. Working there was like a picnic every day. We were all paid by the number of quarts we picked, and I probably ate more than I picked. Jim Mealey was very kind to all of us, even the slow ones like me.

There are also some beautiful landscaped flower gardens. Since I don't live in Waverly, I won't get into trouble for leaving any out, but I hear some of the best ones are Don and Gerry Smith's, Mary ("Bugs") (Bugs?) and Don Klingelhoets', and Jeanne Painschab's. There are many others, I'm sure. Please let me know. Waverly doesn't have a yard of the month contest or award.

I wish Pauline Claessens and Ann Happe were still around. They would win awards hands down. In fact, Lady Bird Johnson one time gave them a presidential award while she was on her "Beautify America" kick. Lady Bird is still around, and if you are ever around Austin, Texas, one of the best places to visit is her very own wildflower gardens. She still shows up there now and then. A beautiful place and away from the Austin traffic.

Tiffany Ogle (Jim and Norma's daughter) ran for Miss Minnesota on June 19, at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. I am going to report that she won. The Fitzgerald Theater is where Garrison Keillor broadcasts from, and he makes up news from Lake Wobegon every week.

Why can't I make up news from Waverly? I guess I'll have to if I want to keep this column going, because my international readership all clam up when it comes to telling me anything. That's why I'm so grateful to people like Burt Kreitlow.

My own wife, Jeanne, is a master gardener here in the City of Corpus Christi, which does have a yard of the month contest. She will never win, because her garden is in the backyard, and out of sight of traffic.

Tim Painschab's wife, Donna, is a champion gardener in Corpus Christi, but they live too far from the center of town. At least most of her gorgeous plants are in front of their house. Their backyard is a perfect place for barbecues, a Texas tradition I have never learned.

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