Saturday, September 15, 2007

Under One Roof

The Move to Auburn

Ken’s Story
We moved from Stanton to Auburn in the fall of 1959, into a small house on the corner of 15th and M Streets. The house was rented for us by my boss, the publisher of the Auburn Newspapers, for the sum of $65 per month. One of my motivations for moving to Auburn was the better pay. Most of my salary increase went into that rent.

Sam’s Version
It wasn’t a bad little house, a little drafty, but not too bad at all. We had a great big old tractor tire for a sand box. The neighbors were a little odd, but having come from Stanton that was no big deal. I felt a little like Dennis the Menace completely surrounded by Old Mr. Wilsons. The house across the street had an oval window and the old maid teacher up the street drove a 1932 Chrysler.

Friday, September 14, 2007

700 Sixteenth

Ken’s Story
In 1960 we moved into another rental house at 700 16th Street, out on the edge of town. Because the new house had a formal dining room, Mother bought us a used dining suite - table, chairs, and a buffet. She paid $45. Twenty years later our daughter, Kay, and her husband had the whole suite refinished at a cost of more than $1000. Another twenty-five years later and it’s still in use. A comparable suite today would probably run five grand.

Sam’s Version
What a house! Big rooms with steam heat and lots of closet space to hide in. A huge yard and porch. The empty lot across the street had a real baseball diamond laid out on it and even old benches to sit on. Across the street in the other direction was an old farm house with a grape arbor and lots of interesting places to hide.

Hiding seems to have been a theme of mine in those days. Might have something to do with the infamous swan experiment. Now let’s see, what would happen if you sat in a dark closet with an inflatable pink plastic pool toy and a sharp pin? I was somewhat startled by the results. The answer is this, you make your sister cry.

The best thing about the house on 16th Street was that it was owned by the local mortician. The funeral home was next door. Kay and I would take turns running the rent check over to the office. We had to practice being solemn and quiet in case there were dead people in the parlor.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Shop

Ken’s Story
Janice worked for about six months as a fill-in linotype operator at the newspaper. Her stint as an operator provided some good humor (not at the time, of course, but funny now).

One incident happened like this. One of the newspaper’s country correspondents wrote out her copy in long hand. It was a tedious portrayal of who-visited-who that week, page after page after page. When Janice finished setting the type, she added a remark at the bottom. “Thank God, the end, Amen.” She expected the proof reader would enjoy the comment and then mark the line for deletion. Either through lax editing, or pure orneriness, the comment did not get deleted. The paper’s entire readership was treated to the barb. The publisher did not appreciate the humor. He was of the old school and thought a woman’s place was in the home - not on a linotype.

Sam’s Version
The Auburn Newspapers gave me my very first paying job. The paper published “Funeral Notices” for the two local mortuaries. These were small black-bordered cards with the name of the deceased, the time and place of the funeral, and a very brief obituary. For 50¢ I delivered Funeral Notices to all the local businesses. The store owner would place them on the counter for customers to read. Since the newspaper was published only on Tuesday and Friday, the Funeral Notice was a far more trustworthy method of drawing mourners than the newspaper’s sometimes tardy obituary.

My sister soon joined me in this little delivery business. We would take turns running to the “shop”, as everyone called the newspaper office, after school to see if anyone had died. It was a good day for undertakers and delivery boys when two stacks of black-bordered cards were setting on the glass counter - a whole dollar for the same amount of walking as fifty cents. That bought a lot of Circus Peanuts.

When I say we delivered funeral notices to all the businesses in town, I meant only the respectable retail stores and cafes. Not the bowling alley, pool hall, or taverns. The newspaper also printed sale bills for the local auction house, primarily advertisements for upcoming estate sales. For a very profitable $1.50 we delivered these also, and got to go into the pool hall, to boot. I guess the theory was that the folks in the tavern probably wouldn’t go to the funeral, but they just might show up at the estate sale to bid on a box of used hand tools.

We delivered funeral notices and sale bills not only in the four-block area of downtown Auburn, but we had to walk all the way up Courthouse Avenue and deliver to the businesses in South Auburn around the courthouse square. It was quite a job for a fourth or fifth grader and we were quite proud of the responsibility. Being a patronage position, we held on to the job well into high school, long after teenage tastes outstripped the revenue stream.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Bowling Alley

Ken’s Story
My bowling team (the OK Rubber Welders ) won the Midnight League championship in 1962. Janice’s bowling team also won their league championship for the ‘61-’62 season.

Sam’s Version
Ah, yes, the Auburn Bowling Center - six lanes, no waiting. Back in those analogue days, keeping score while your parents bowled was a great exercise in mental math.

I’m pretty sure I saw the Wizard of Oz for the very first time there one Sunday when Mom was bowling.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Ken’s Story
Also in 1962 Janice went to work full time at Magnolia Metal Company as a bookkeeper.

This was the first manufacturer in the state to use the new Nebraska Industrial Development Act (IDA) bonds. Auburn worked hard to land Magnolia. The Chamber of Commerce convinced the governor, Frank Morrison, to board a bus in Auburn with a delegation to meet Pierce Koslosky, president of Magnolia, at the airport in Omaha. They thought the governor’s presence would impress Pierce and help convince him to move from New Jersey to Auburn.

It worked, apparently, but that is not why the event sticks in my mind. The plane was about an hour late. So while we were standing around the airport waiting, the governor came up to me at said, “Ken, I know that World Herald reporter over there but I just can’t say his name.” Naturally, my head grew a hat size larger when the governor called me by name. But the pride was short lived. I happened to know the reporter. I identified him and I heard the governor call him by name, just as he had me. I followed the governor for the next hour and he repeated the process, learning one more name each time. When the plane arrived, he had called nearly everyone in the crowd by their first name. Politicians do have their ways.

Sam’s Version
The net effect of Mom going to work full time is that Kay and I had a long succession of rather colorful baby sitters. The Hedley’s, for example, were into yard art long before it was fashionable and when most of the neighbors thought of it as just junk. Mr. Hedley was the caretaker of a number of rural cemeteries. Now that was a lovely day outing for us, to go play in the cemetery while he mowed around the tombstones.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Our House

Ken’s Story
In August, 1963, we moved into a new home at 607 13th street. The house was started by a man who, with his family, lived in the basement while he continued to build the rest. Unfortunately, he had a stroke and died so was unable to finish the project. The upstairs was finished by a local carpenter known for his excellent work. He was financed, however, by two men. One of them was a local plumber so we figured that part of the work would be top notch. That was not the case. Over the years we found the plumber had used mostly his unwanted overstock from his business and eventually most of the plumbing in the house had to be replaced. Otherwise, the home has held up well and we have enjoyed it for nearly 45 years at this point.

We paid $14,250 for the house, borrowing $13,000 for 30 years at five and a quarter per cent interest. Our monthly payments were between $72 and $73 per month for principal and interest.

Sam’s Version
The Warnicks were the family in the basement. Their son, George, was my age and we went to school and Sunday school together. For a long time in grade school he was my best friend. I guess that was good enough to get my dad named as a pallbearer for George’s dad’s funeral. Other than that, I didn’t even know they were acquainted.

George and his mom moved to a rental house a few blocks away, down by the grain elevator and railroad tracks. The house had an old chicken coop in the backyard that made a wonderful space ship, fort, spy den, what ever. I was not the most out-going kid, and it was kind of nice to have someone call up on a Saturday morning and ask, “Can you come down and play?”

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Bad Dream

Ken’s Story
This story has been told much more often than Kay would like. With two small children having to prepare for school, we often split the morning responsibilities of getting them ready. On one morning, it seems Kay got to kindergarten without any underpants on. I thought Janice had seen to it and she swore it was my job. At any rate, the kindergarten teacher called Janice at work and she brought the proper clothing to school. When inquiring about the problem, Kay assured her mother it was okay. “I didn’t tell anybody...but David, and Bobby and maybe Jimmy, and ......”

Sam’s Version
Kay always was more out-going than me.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Jaycees

Ken’s Story
I served nearly two years as Jaycee president. I came in as a replacement for an elected president who left town before his term was up. After being elected for a regular term, the local chapter changed the term of office from January 1 to July 1 and thus six months was added to my second term. For this, the Jaycee Outstanding Man of the Year plaque now hangs on my wall. The U.S. Jaycees also named me to the list of Outstanding Young Men in America. This honor is a money-making venture since most who are given the award buy the annual book that lists their names. The Jaycees don’t miss any opportunities for fund raising. I declined to take the bait and did not buy a book. Mother, however, was sent a letter announcing the honor and she purchased a copy, which we have to this day.

Janice served as president of Mrs. Jaycees in ‘64 and our lives turned really hectic with both of us committed to heavy outside duties.

Sam’s Version
Cheese sandwiches, pancakes for supper, and more eccentric baby sitters are the natural consequence of having hectic parents. Rita, the next door teenager, would take Kay and I cruising and down to the Green Lantern or Tiny’s for a root beer float. Steve Klinger’s older sister was an avid sock-fight enthusiast. She would also fold us up in an old wool blanket and hurl us around like a hammer throw.

They kicked dad out of the Jaycees at age 35. I thought at the time, how cruel people are to the elderly.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Go Big Red

Ken’s Story
In the fall of 1964 we went to Lawrence to a Kansas-Nebraska football game. Gale Sayers, a graduate of Central High School in Omaha and later a star back for the Chicago Bears, was playing that day. Also playing was a fullback, number 45 for Nebraska. He was Frank Solich, the Cornhusker’s future head coach.

In 1965 we went to the Nebraska-Texas Christian football game in Lincoln. Janice’s nephew, Butch Gilliam, played pulling guard for the Horned Frogs. Butch got six tickets as a player and sold them to his relatives. It surely was a “no-no” in those days as it is now, but was overlooked. In those days players got other perks, also. Butch reportedly drove a new Ford car every year while he was playing. It was leased to him but he never made a payment.

We got to go down on the field and visit with Butch before the game and he frightened us with his appearance. His front teeth had been knocked out earlier in the season so he had a partial plate put in. For the game, however, he removed the plate. When he faced his opponent across the line of scrimmage his menacing, no-teeth grimace was intended to intimidate.

TCU returned to Nebraska the next year we got to see Butch play again.

Sam’s Version
Nebraska just pasted TCU both years. This was at the start of Devaney Era at Nebraska. Dad says that college football schedules are worked out so many years in advance, that when these games were scheduled TCU was the power and Nebraska was the patsy.

The second TCU/Nebraska match was my first Nebraska football game. There is nothing in America quite like game day in Lincoln. The Sea of Red. It is so communal.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Ken’s Story
Sam and Kay were part of the Nebraska Centennial pageant production at the fairgrounds in Auburn in August 1967.

In 1969 we took a vacation trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota. On the way out, we watched the Apollo 11 moon landing and television shots of the first walk on the moon from our motel room in Valentine, Nebraska.

Sam’s Version
Acting in the centennial pageant was a great honor. It was probably another one of those patronage deals, since neither Kay nor I are great talents. I played the part of the mischievous frontier school kid, slingshot in my back pocket. On cue, I whipped it out and plunked the school teacher in the back of the head. Caught, of course, the hickory stick was administered. But I had the last laugh, pulling a protective reading book out of my britches. I ran off stage unscathed, waving the reader over my head. Now that I consider it, I may just have been type cast.

The moon landing made a big impression on me. The motel in the Black Hills had a swimming pool. Kay and I would jump in the deep end and use the underwater “weightlessness” to bound across the bottom of the pool as if it were the lunar surface.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ball Games

Ken’s Story
Sam took up football in middle school, which reminds me of the time I covered an afternoon game for the newspaper. Auburn was whipping the visitors by a large margin. In those days the middle school had fifty or more kids out for football and only one coach. I had the news camera and was standing by Coach Jim Kleine when late in the game he was clearing the bench. Coach Kleine said “Is there anyone who hasn’t played yet?” One kid, whose helmet nearly obscured his head, jumped up and said he hadn’t. “What position do you play?” the harried coach asked.

This was also the year Sam was operated on to relieve a testicular abnormality

Sam’s Version
Thanks, dad.

It’s hard to keep a secret in a small town, especially a medical secret. Everyone’s concerned, of course, for an otherwise hardy thirteen-year old that spends a week in the hospital. Since I had to shower after gym in front of my mates, it didn’t seem practical to hide from them the surgical result of having had testicular torsion and an inflammation of the epididymis.

“Ol’ One Nut” and “Uno” were the inevitable nicknames.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

More Ball Games

Ken’s Story
A news clipping from 1970 says Sam scored a defensive touchdown in Auburn’s 36-0 win over the Syracuse freshmen.

Sam’s Version
It was a fumble recovery in the second quarter, when the game was still rather close. Syracuse ran a sweep left. I met the running back near the thirty-five yard line, wrestled the football from him, grabbed the loose ball, and ran down the far side line to the east end-zone.

I also intercepted a pass that year against Falls City. I read the quarterback, dropped back a little and caught the ball over my head at the line of scrimmage. I thought I had a clear shot to the end zone, but before I could get up a head of steam, I was embarrassingly tackled from behind by a lineman.

Gee, dad, don’t you remember anything?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Cedar Creek

Ken’s Story
My step-father, Arthur Logsden, died in October 1970 at age 72 in Omaha. He was a retired Union Pacific demurrage clerk.

Grandpa Art had worked for the UP for 40 years and lived in Omaha all his life. He loved flowers and the out-of-doors but had little chance to enjoy them in the metropolitan surroundings. Consequently when he retired, he and Mother bought a cabin at Cedar Creek on the Platte River south of Omaha. Mother said she had worked forty years to get out of a place like that (the cabin was rustic, to say the least) but went along with it and just returned to their Omaha residence when she got bored. Art would stay and try to get flowers to grow in the sandy soil and putter around.

We went into Omaha one time during the week when Art was working and on the way to see Mother we stopped at the rail yards. We wanted to show Sam and Kay where their grandpa worked. In his last year before retirement he had volunteered to go out into the yards as a utility worker tagging cars just to get outdoors. We drove around the yards not knowing for sure where he worked but we saw a variety of small shacks, apparently to shelter workers in cold weather. It was the fall of the year and leaves had already fallen from the scraggly trees growing randomly in the area. As we drove by, one of the shelters had artificial flowers attached to all the limbs of a tree nearby and we knew immediately that had to be Grandpa Art’s shack.

Art loved to play pinochle and was very competitive. If he was winning, the evening usually wasn’t too late but if his luck was running bad we had to stay up until he won.

He also liked to think of himself as handyman around the house but his skills left something to be desired. For example, during a visit to Auburn, he noticed a lamp cord with a broken electrical connection and volunteered to fix it. I tried to talk him out of it but finally agreed to bring home the parts after work that night. As he began to work, I showed him that it was a new-style plug; he simply had to insert the new plug, press down, and contact would be made. Instead Art started to bare the wires with a pen knife. I told him that was not necessary and explained the new style to him again. He insisted he do it his way and completed the job. When he plugged it into the outlet, there was a big flash and the wall was covered with black soot.

Sam’s Version
Cedar Creek’s business district consisted of one general store and two taverns. The general store was for real, with a pot-belly stove and ancient proprietors as old and dusty as the fixtures. We always assumed that the couple had opened the store to trade with the Indians and were still trying to get rid of the original merchandise. The store’s great glory was a large, old-fashioned candy counter with every kind of licorice, hard stick candy and box of brand name treats.

It was the most fantastic retail experience I have ever encountered.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Hot August Naught

Ken’s Story
For Kay’s 13th birthday party, which happened to be on Friday the 13th in August, we booked the municipal pool after they closed for the night. Refreshments included watermelon so the only cleaning up was to hose down the area next to the pool after the event.

Sam’s Version
A soon-to-be eighth-grader and her friends are, most naturally, beneath the recognition of her soon-to-be sophomore brother. But, Kay (the gracious person she is) allowed her brother to invite some high school friends. Mom and Dad, at no extra cost, were happy to save me from the boredom - the giggling gaggle - we high-schoolers derisively called “little buggers”.

And little did Mom know that she set me up for a grand humiliation of adolescent proportions. We are not called “wise-fools” without reason.

The Auburn pool is large for a small town. It was built during the Great Depression by the WPA. My grandpa was on the crew that built the pool and the other structures in Legion Park. Mom always claimed that WPA stood for We Piddle Around. I never quite saw it that way. The stone sidewalk bridges, the public restroom, the band shell, and the pool bath house were well constructed but lumpy, in a nostalgic folk-art way, formed from rounded reddish-brown glacial erratic boulders (Sioux quartzite drug down from Minnesota during the last Ice Age) cemented into pillars and walls. Massive, yet tactile.

Although Dutch elm disease had run through town a decade earlier, there were still enough mature black walnut trees, hackberries, and red oaks to give the park and the pool a cool, secluded atmosphere. At twilight, the pool could be refreshing and mysteriously romantic.

In the mind of a fifteen year old dweeb, a kid whose self-confidence inhabited only academic and minor sporting realms, Kay’s party on a fine summer Friday presented a perfect opportunity for a helpless romantic. I had lots of friends who were girls, but zero girlfriends. It’s true that, while delivering May baskets in fourth grade, Janet Ely had caught me and kissed me. Some say I let her catch me on purpose, but I say that I am still embarrassed at having been run down by a girl.

Back in the day, the May basket was a much better indicator of who you liked than the traditional Valentine’s Day celebration, which by law required you to give a Valentine to everyone in the class. But expressing an innocent fondness for a few girls in grade school, in my case Janet, Anne, or Mary Lee, gets lost in translation on the other side of puberty. Especially after Joy and Cathy, so confusingly feminine, arrive on the scene, causing my vocal cords to crack and pimples to rise, turning my words into gibberish, and jellifying my intestines. So in high school, I stuck mainly to the weather and one’s health.

An after hours pool party was a real treat in a town with no movie theater, one stop light, and six lanes of bowling. Properly chaperoned, it was also an innocuous enough occasion that even the tongue-tied could invite a girl. Although I still admired Janet and Mary Lee for their talent and intelligence, it was not love. Joy was out of the question. She was my Daisy, as unattainable as a green light on the end of a dock. I asked, anyway, and she demurred. She and Cathy sat for a time in the bleachers outside the fence on the west side of the pool, chatted with the swimmers, and left. It was often hard to tell if I was mad at or mad about Cathy. At the time I was trying to get her to notice me by ignoring her. Never a winning strategy, especially for fifteen year old dweebs.

So the focus of my attention was Anne. Anne of the golden hair, the dangly ear-rings, the soft piano of a silver voice. We had been together in practically every classroom since kindergarten. One winter break, after Mom had gone back to work, Kay and I stayed during the day at the Oestmann’s house. It was the year that the Strawberry Alarm Clock had their fifteen minutes of fame. When the movie of my life plays in my head, Anne’s theme music is “Incense and Peppermints”. That and Burt Bacharach’s “Close to You.”

I invited other high school kids to the party, of course - older sisters of Kay’s friends, marching band chums, and most of the sophomores on the football team (this being almost the last weekend before “two-a-day” practices started). I did not invite Rick Kennel. He and Anne had been a handsome pair, but had broken up earlier in the summer. My secret desire, my purpose, my plan, was to watch for the right moment, to talk quietly to Anne, alone in the moonlight, and, if my heart didn’t first explode in my throat, ask her out.

Alas, with the duties of a host, the dynamics of that many teenagers floating around the shallows, and Joy and Cathy watching from the end zone, the right moment, or, more to the point, the right amount of nerve, never quite materialized. It came time to wish Kay a “happy birthday”.

I climbed the ladder to the life guard’s chair, away above the high diving board. Only the privileged few, the Red Cross trained, can occupy this chair. Or in this case, the master of ceremonies at an after hours pool party.

As I settled into the chair and picked up the microphone for the PA system I glanced out over the pool. In the far northwest corner, in the dark, shaded from the lights by the tall black walnut trees, one of the football players, Bill Fitzgerald, and Anne sat in three feet of water, alone and talking comfortably.

With the radio station disconnected from the loud speaker, we sang “Happy Birthday” to Kay. It was then eerily quiet as the crowd looked up at the crow’s nest, expecting some remarks from her older brother. What ever speech I had prepared to toast Kay was lost in annoyance over this unexpected turn of events with Anne. So, instead, I told some lame jokes, real groaners, in a vain effort to distract Anne from her chat with Bill, you know, to impress her with my wit. Failing miserably, as a comedian and as a helpless romantic, I launched into a long ghost story (this being Friday the 13th). As I rambled on, I noticed that Bill and Anne had resumed their mutual admiration society, and at very close quarters.

My insides were now too upset to pay much attention to my brain. I lost the thread of the ghost story, stumbled over a couple of the plot twists, and completely flubbed the punch line. By this time the party guests were mostly ignoring me, resuming their splashing and laughing in the night.

So I did the only decent thing I could think of to put a miserable performance to an end. I put down the microphone, stood up on the life guard stand, and did a pratfall into the deep end. A belly-flop from eighteen feet. Closing my eyes to the glimmering dance of lamplight on the playing water, closing my ears to the smooching in the far corner, I smacked into the pool and accepted the sting of humiliation.

By the time I surfaced, someone had plugged the radio back into the loudspeaker. Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again.” Naturally.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

We're Number One

Ken's Story
The 1971 Auburn High School Bulldog football squad was 5-0 and rated number one in the state by both big city dailies. The team finished the season second after loosing to Fairbury in the eighth game of the season.

Sam’s Version
As a sophomore, I certainly didn’t get to play with the varsity during that spectacular season. I was suited up and stood on the sidelines as the Fairbury Jeff’s broke a long run for a touchdown in the third quarter and broke our hearts. Highs (being rated and recognized as Number One by the Omaha World-Herald) and lows (beaten by one bad play) were rather novel emotions in my sporting experience. Heartbreak, however, was just another day in the life.

The next week, the last game of the season, was an away game at Tecumseh. We typically ended the pre-game warm-up with that old fashioned callisthenic, the jumping jack. From time untold the football team has spelled out “A-U-B-U-R-N” while jumping. That night the seniors threw decorum aside. Arms and legs flying in unison, we shouted out “Who the Hell is Fairbury. We’re Number One!” Although it didn’t make much logical sense, that bit of defiance (the administration was not pleased) awoke us from a week of lethargic self-pity. We went home a winner.

Jeff Whisler was one of the few sophomores that got to play that year. Jeff would stand just behind the Head Coach, at his elbow, and follow him up and down the sideline. When a lineman screwed up a play, as linemen are want to do, the Coach would swivel, grab the first lineman he saw, and shout, “Get in there and fix that!”, as coaches are want to do. Jeff got a lot of playing time that way.