Column: The importance of following 'porch rules'

Two years ago, Marilyn and I moved to very small house after having lived in a much bigger one for nearly 20 years. This was a reluctant admission on our parts that we were slowly moving toward our “sunset years” and that we needed to downsize.

We love our new place.

One of the most attractive parts of the house was a very small front porch, and we very soon established a practice of observing “porch time.” This was great until the mosquitoes and other insects starting butting in on our time. So we began to talk about having a screened porch built on the back of the house, and this past summer we hired a friend to build it for us.

“Porch time” became a wonderful part of our summer days. Often we’d sit out there until 10 o’clock in the evening, enjoying bug-free leisure, reading or just talking or thinking.

As part of our preparation for the advent of our new porch, we spent some time watching the sales for the right kind of furniture and accessories.


Guest column: A veterans memorial at Memorial Field?


I appreciated reading Warren Bluhm’s recent effort to connect the community with one of the issues covered at the September meeting of the Oconto Falls School Board. The district does not operate in isolation, and connections with the community take many forms — one of the most recent was the potential location of a fitting memorial to local veterans on what is now a vacant portion of the Farm Road school property.

Just a bit of background on the 40-acre site: It was purchased (not without some controversy) just over 50 years ago, when it became obvious the existing high school was no longer adequate to serve the needs of the growing school population. Many felt the site was beyond legitimate size needs, but the school board made the hard decision to move forward with faith that unforeseen future needs might someday reinforce the idea that they made the right choice.


Column: The night the NBA came to Oconto

I’ve recently been struck by a wave of nostalgia, and memories of my childhood and teen years have resurfaced. And I’ve had some mail from readers who’ve approved of my trips back into my gray matter. So here’s another excursion down Memory Lane.

When I was kid growing up in Oconto Falls, some of our local heroes were the players on the Northern Lites basketball team. The Northern Lites was a semi-pro team sponsored by a local company, Beam Chemical, which manufactured a number of cleaning products.

Most of the players were local guys, former high school stars like the Lemirande twins and Chub Magnin. Our high school coach, Romie Kosnar, who was from nearby Lena and had been a star at St. Norbert, was a favorite. Two of the guys were from Green Bay and De Pere; Kelly Daanen was a lanky blonde about 6-6, and Joe Meeuwsen (whose daughter Terry became Miss America in 1973 and then became a host of the 700 Club on TV) was a rangy forward.


VanHaren: Heading ‘uptown’ was big part of growing up

When I was kid growing up in the 1940s and 1950s on Konitzer Road south of Oconto Falls, hardly anything was more thrilling for us farm kids than the chance to go “uptown.” Perhaps you think Oconto Falls was not a very sophisticated place, and you’d probably be right, but then I wasn’t a very sophisticated guy, either. There were many wonderful places to visit uptown. They probably weren’t so exciting for the town kids as they were for me, because they were there all the time.

Still, I wonder if they appreciated all the charms of the town like I did. I’ll bet not many of them ever went to Tait’s Elevator, for example. Tait’s Feed and Fuel was on the northeast side, next to the railroad tracks, and we’d go there often because that’s where we’d take our oats to have them made into something we called “ground feed.” There they’d take the oats we’d brought in and they’d add the nutrients that my dad thought were essential to his increasing his milk production.


Sid’s was the epicenter of the Fabulous ’50s

It’s always seemed a little strange to me the way we break time down into decades. (You know: “the Fabulous ’50s,” “the Roaring ’20s,” etc.) Because to me, my life doesn’t break down that way. As I look back at my life, I realize that a lot of the phases of my life cross over decade lines, and some of them are way short of a decade. It isn’t fair to cut history into slices of 10 years.


Column: It makes me weak in the knees

There’s a commercial on TV which makes my knees cringe. Maybe you’ve seen it. There’s a guy (obviously equipped with a video camera on his hard hat) climbing a cell tower in Alaska. All you see is his hands reaching for climbing pegs and the tower covered in ice. Every time I see it, I can feel this weird sensation in the back of my knees.

I wasn’t what you’d call an intrepid hero back when I was a kid. (I’m still not an intrepid sort, I guess.) There were lots of things that I was a little afraid of, but I didn’t like to let anyone know that I was afraid, so in order to take my mind off some things, I’d “count.”

Example: I was not very good with heights, and some of the chores we had to do on the farm involved some climbing. At silo-filling time, for instance, we’d have to climb the silos to put the filler pipes into the the top of the silo.


Remembering uptown after hearing about downtowns

In small towns all over America today, you can hear discussions about improving our downtowns. With the development of malls and big box stores on the outskirts of towns, many downtowns sort of withered up and died. Small businesses found it hard to compete against the convenience of the malls and big superstores.

My mind often goes back to days when I was a lot younger and things were different. When I was a kid, Friday night was a big night in Oconto Falls. Football under the lights in the fall, basketball games at the high school in the winter, all that good stuff. Friday nights in Oconto Falls were special all year around. The stores stayed open on Friday nights until 9:00. Wow! Farmers like us came to town to do our shopping, and the stores were open on only that one night.


‘Now I know my E-T-As’

Authors who wish to try to ink an opinion may find it hard to do so if arbitrary constraints obtain which limit normal writing. My point is this: If I may not apply my usual supply of alpha marks, it disallows virtually all my vocabulary and scripting skills and I can’t publish my opinions succinctly; my capability will diminish significantly, allowing for no normal communication. I’m advising you not to try to do this; it isn’t worth all your machinations …
I give up! Does the paragraph you just read seem weird to you? Look at it again. Does anything strike you? Probably not. But I was attempting to write without using the letter “e.” Every once in a while when I was teaching, I’d assign my kids the task of attempting to write a paragraph that way, thinking that by doing so, I’d force them to substitute synonyms for words that contained e’s, maybe help them to build better vocabularies.


The odyssey of a stool in the school

Many years ago — probably 55? — in the early days of my teaching career, I found an old wooden stool the janitors at the junior high were throwing away because one of the legs and two of the cross-pieces had fallen apart. I rescued the stool and re-glued it. That stool became a permanent part of my classroom furnishings for the rest of my career.

But that’s not the end of the story. When Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre did its first production of “Godspell” in 1977, one of the props people asked if they could use my stool in the show. Well, why not? They asked if I cared if they painted it (it was a natural shade of oak). Well, sure. So when I got the stool back after the show, it was very colorful – yellow, green and orange. Very “Godspell-y.” But that was OK. It gave it character.


Dad’s face still staring back in the mirror

Fourteen years ago, I wrote a column, which I called “When did my dad start appearing in my mirror?” Now 14 years later, I am even more struck by the image I see when I look in a mirror.
Sometimes — not always — but sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I see my dad’s face where my face used to be. Mind you, I’m not complaining when I see my dad’s face there; after all, I am my father’s son.
There’s a line from a ’90s rock song (but I’ll be darned if I can remember who it’s by) that says, “Though my friends mostly don’t see it, I see my father in my own face.” When I was a kid, I used to look at my dad, and I’d think “I don’t resemble him at all.” I always thought I looked more like my mom. To be honest, I sometimes still look at myself and see a little resemblance to Mom. I think that the older I get, the more I’m reminded of my dad. Mind you, I don’t spend much time looking in the mirror; these are passing glances I’m referring to here.


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