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The Spirit and me

Updated: 2018-03-06T08:25:13.914-08:00




Sleeping in a rowhouse


Sleeping in a three bedroom row-house with ten kids and two parents can get pretty cramped. I remember sleeping with four other brothers and sisters in one double bed in a very small bedroom. The three older kids slept at the head of the bed (up-top) while the two smaller kids slept at the bottom. That way the older kid's feet were in the younger ones faces all night. You know there were a lot of "rights of passage" in our family and this was one of them, as one kid grew and left home you moved up to the top of the bed. Of course when my oldest sister Alice decided that she would rather sleep on the sofa rather then in bed with four of her sisters (she was in her teens) one of the sisters was moved out of our bed and took her place and I being the oldest male moved to the top of the bed and no more smelly feet! Alice slept on the sofa (which my dad called a "teat) for years with her head on the arm of the sofa. Almost every morning she got up with a kink in her neck and went around groaning with her head slanted to one side. Mom would sneak up behind her and snap her head back to normal. Alice would let out this God-awful scream that you could hear down the block and then she would be alright. I don't think there was ever a time that I didn't have at least one of my brothers sleeping with me. To me a military bunk was heaven!



Mar I’m having a very hard time dealing with Mar’s death. It was like losing a part of myself. I can not think of Mar without remembering our childhood together. As those memories coming flashing back I only see two people, Mar and me... Mar was three years older then me. We had a sister, Susan, that was born between us but she died when she was five. So, Mar was the one that I looked up to, we were pals and as it is with pals we both laughed and cried together. Our family had what you would call a “pecking order”. Everyone had to go through a time when it was their turn to do the tasks that the older kids no longer wanted to do and the younger kids were just to young to be able to do...but their turn was coming. Mar and I were the ones that had to go out in the rain or snow looking for a store that sold a certain kind of cake or ice cream for dad or to go to the grocery store and buy things on credit even after the grocer told mom she couldn’t have any more credit. We would always yell “put it on the book” as we scurried for the door hoping that the grocer wouldn’t embarrass us in front of other customers that knew our family. Mar and I would run away from home at least twice a month. Once we left early in the morning and walked for hours only to turn around and go home after it got dark...we were dismayed to find that no one knew we had left. Once we were told that we had to clean the cellar. Now cleaning the cellar was like being sent to purgatory. We knew that we must have done something against God and humanity to be assigned to such a gruesome task. Our cellar was where mom put all the clothes that she got from Goodwill where she worked. She sorted clothes that people donated to the poor. Mom would take one of us to work with her for one day during the summer. She would sort through the clothes (mountains of them) and pick out stuff for us to wear during the coming school season. Sometimes we got to pick something that WE wanted to wear and I thought I was really cool going to school in old second world war uniform shirts and pants that I had to roll up to make them fit. Well, she would put the clothes in large laundry bags and bring them home and they would wind up in the basement. this went on for years and the basement was full of bags chuck full of clothes that were forgotten except for when my older sisters, who no longer lived at home, came by looking for clothes. They, and some of us still living at home, would go down the basement and start looking through the bags (mom called it “rooting”) and throw clothes all over the basement floor. After a while you couldn’t walk down there and so somebody...Mar and I had to clean it up. It was a nasty dirty, and dusty job (dirt floor) and me being allergic to dust was sneezing and crying the whole time. We found a surprise cleaning that basement once...fleas! It seems that our little mongrel dog wanted to contribute to our misery. We came out of the basement that day with a very itchy rash. Mom felt so bad that she treated us to a Tasty-Kate and Pepsi. Once when mom and dad were going through one of their trial separations, mom moved out with us and we lived in an apartment over top a jewelry store. There were so many of us in that small place that mom would send Mar and me to Paterson Park every day. We left early in the morning with a lunch ( usually a peanut butter sandwich) and were told not to come back until supper time. there was a pond in the park and we spent all day watching people fish for Sunnies and feeding our sandwich to the minnows. In case any of you have been wondering why the pagoda meant so much to us it is because that is where we spend much of our time during the day. We would race each other up and down the stairs. We would sit on the top floor and look out over the park and make believe we lived in the country. Yeah, Mar and I went through a lot together. Once we were left at home, only the two of us, and there was nothing to eat.[...]

Veterans Day 2009


Just got home from Jonnies school where he and I celebrated Veteran's Day together.

I arrived about ten minutes early and stood outside the classroom door as the kids inside looked at the door to see who was outside finally the teacher allowed for the kids to leave their chairs and they came to the door to welcome me. Jonnie looked a little shy as he greeted me and his teacher told him he could talk to me in the rear of the classroom as his classmates readied themselves for lunch. I took my commendation ribbons out of my pocket and asked Jon if he wanted to wear them. He jumped at the chance and stood real still as I pinned them to his 'Peterson' jersey. As we were walking out of his class he began to put his jacket on and I asked if he was gong outside and he explained that his class had recess right after lunch. Funny though, he didn't put his jacket fully on...he kept my ribbons exposed for everyone to see and his stature became very military as he held his chest out and tried to walk like he was marching. I had a wonderful lunch with a grandson who was truly impressed with his granddad and this made me very proud. I left my ribbons for him to wear all day and I gave him a picture of my ship to keep. I had a great day with my grandson and I thank everyone for allowing us to do this...
Oh, and Jon gave me a picture that he had drawn of my ship out of memory and it really does look like my ship. It's on the shelf with all my other Navy stuff.

Navy Education


I know, I know, it's been over a year since my last post. I truly don't know where the time went, but today is Veteran's Day so this is my day to say thanks to the Navy and thanks to those that served with me, who, in every meaning of the phrase 'changed my life'... "Education"--- To my dad meant getting through the sixth grade, then leaving school getting a job and helping the family by giving your pay to him. It meant that now you will be treated as an adult, there was actually people that was going to listen to your opinion and you didn't have to go to bed with the kids anymore. It was a 'right of passage' you were going from childhood to adulthood and all you had to do was quit school which most kids, when they were sixteen, hated anyway so it wasn't really much of a decision. "Education"---to my mom meant that you went until you either got tired of it or they threw you out. She more or less agreed with my dad on the other stuff. "Education"---to me meant that I knew I needed it to get ahead but didn't know how to go about staying in school. It was tough. I knew I wasn't stupid because when I went from the sixth to the seventh grade I was placed in an advanced class and began taking courses that was to prepare me for college. I know you are probably laughing or chuckling to yourself but for me it was a major triumph, you see no one had ever finished junior high in my family let alone to even consider college. When I was sixteen and living with my sister I dreamed of becoming an astronomer. Then I moved back home and all those dreams came tumbling down. To make a very long story short, I was pulled out of school when I was in the eighth grade and put to work in a nearby department store. Yeah, that's right I was sixteen and in the eighth grade. I was very sick the first year I suppose to go to school and didn't go, then because my family moved to or three times a year I was kept back a few years. Anyway, I worked at the department store for about six months when they let me go. Dad was furious! Everyday he came home and asked me if I got a job and called me lazy and stupid for not getting one. This went on for months and it got so I was going to my older sister Mar's home and she and her husband Johnnie convinced me to join the Navy where I can be my own man. I took their advice but dad wouldn't hear of it. He was convinced once he thought he could get an allotment check he okayed it. Whew...that was pretty long just to let you know how the Navy and my shipmates changed my life but thought it was important to see my mindset after I arrived on my ship. After all the work of putting our ship back together we were finally nearing the time when we were going to to sea. One morning a list of sailors were read over the PA system to report to the hanger deck of the ship, and I was on the list, there were about twenty of us. We stood at attention as a Navy Ensign told us that we were the only sailors aboard that did not have a high school education. He told us that he had put all our names in to take the high school GED test and that we had six months to study and pass it or we were going to back to school because none of us were going to leave the Borie without a high school education and he was going to see to that...I took him seriously. I bought a book titled "High School Subjects Self Taught" and started to study in earnest. I remember being at sea and trying to study on watch in the middle of the night. A young Ensign saw me and gave me the keys to his office (about five foot wide and maybe eight foot long) and told me that I could study there where I could little quiet...I was in heaven. I was having problem with two subjects however and the test date was getting closer and closer. The first of my worries was algebra and the answer to my Prayers came from a place where I least expected shipmates! Just remember back when you were in your late teens (males) it was a macho world where you[...]



I'll start this as I was leaving from the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Like I've written in a previous blog I left Baltimore alone. No one was there to see me off because Dad was pissed off that I was leaving and no one crossed my Dad, so it was pretty lonely and lets just say that I was a more then a little apprehensive about my new life. All I knew at that time was that I needed a change, a change that would get me out of the slums, away from the no-where jobs and living from pay check to pay check. Also, I needed to find out who I was. Am I someone "different" that could change his station in life or am I just another slum kid just fooling himself and like my Dad said during our last conversation, only a kid thinking that I was becoming a man, a man that could change his life but will be rejected by the outside only to return to the slums to live out my life thinking of things that could have been?I was scared to death and it would have been so easy just to turn around and run for home where my Dad, with a knowing smile, would have been so consoling as he plotted his next move to get me a job and start charging me rent just like he did with all my sisters. I had already had experience with that. I remembered my first job as a part time stock boy at Taubman's Department Store on Pratt Street. I made twenty five dollars every two weeks and Dad took twenty of it for "rent". I was fifteen years old. I had no problem with giving my money to my family but I knew that Dad was going to use it for gambling and didn't see why I had to pay for that. Thinking of the consequences of failing in my attempt to change my life spurred me on and I got on the plane. It was a jet which was unusual for 1961 and of course it was the first time I'd ever been on a plane. I remember thinking to myself, see your life's changing already. And change it did...If I remember correctly it took three hours to get to Chicago and it was evening before we got to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Waukhegen, Illinois... Navy Boot Camp! After arriving I, along with about fifty other guys were herded into an auditorium were we were all sworn into the U.S. military plus we signed an Oath of Allegiance. After that we were given speeches by several high ranking Naval Officers advising us of the honor and integrity of the Navy plus we got a history of the battles that the Navy had won and the tragedies and lessons learned on the battles that were loss. After that it was getting close to taps so we were told to take all our valuables and place them under our pillows for safe keeping. We did as we were told and after reveille in the morning we found that someone had reached under our pillows and stole everything of much for honor and integrity!Our first full day in boot camp started with a great meal in a chow hall the size if Delaware. After that we got a sea bag and filled it with our first issue of Navy uniforms. We were taken into a hall where we were told to strip off our old clothes and put them in a box to be mailed home. We each had to stand in a three foot square box that was painted on the floor. We put on our Navy work blues for the first time but not for long. We went to the barber shop where we all got every inch of our hair shaved off. As we were leaving guys that had been in the Navy about a week before us began to call us boots. We were divided into companies about thirty sailors per company then each company was given a barracks. after we assigned barracks and "racks"(bunks) we were told to strip down to our scivies and wash all our new uniforms because the Navy believes that all new clothes are considered unclean. The hardest thing to get clean is the white hat. Soap gives it a dull color and you must keep washing and rinsing until it is as white as snow which can take all day.The next several months was pure hell with getting up at four thirty in the morning for inspection whic[...]

USS Borie DD-704


After about six months in Portsmouth we finally went to sea in I think it was June 1962. Our first "cruise" was with the families of all the sailors aboard. We just took a short trip around the harbor. The water was as calm as it could be and resembled a table top as we dropped the last mooring line in the water and the captain ordered all ahead one third. We weren't out five minutes and I got sea sick. I was so sick...I didn't think I would ever be able to sail and that's all I wanted to do. I didn't realize at the time that the Navy didn't care how my tummy was feeling, I was going to sea even if I had to puke my way across the Atlantic.After about a week of taking on stores (food) and ammo we headed for Guantanamo (Gitmo) for what the Navy calls a "shake down" cruise. Which in civilian terms means that we were going to go through a lot of training with little sleep in the heat of the Caribbean in the middle of summer. I didn't think it was going to be hard but it was like going through boot camp again. This time however, it was a lot of "what ifs" training...what if the ship was sinking, what would you do? what if the engine room took a torpedo what would you do? That kind of stuff. Most of the old salts knew what was going on and it didn't take us long to learn what our jobs were during war. I was very disheartening however when you go through all that training and a wisened sailor who fought in the second world war says that most destroyers (tincans) sank within a minute of being struck by a bomb and if a torpedo struck the engine room you had better make sure your life insurance was caught up because you will never make it out alive. Preparing for a nuclear attack was the worst. The engine rooms were already 120 degrees and you had to shut off all the vents. We took salts tablets to keep from dehydrating and some of us passed out and had to be dragged topside to get fresh air.We spent some time shooting our five inch guns at targets that were painted on an island. They never told us when they were going to shoot them off so we were taken by surprise and didn't have time to protect our ears. Some of us lost hearing for several minutes which led to hearing loss later in life.After getting all that training we headed home to Norfolk were we all went on leave before leaving for the Mediterranean Sea. I was looking forward to the cruise except for the rough seas. Some of the guys told me that it could get so rough that the waves could get twenty feet high and I, who gets sea sick standing of a pier, wasn't looking forward to it.We were a part of a fleet that was leaving Norfolk and I'm not sure how many ships were in the fleet but I know it was over fifty. I was told it takes seven days to get across the Atlantic. After we were out for a couple of days I became a little apprehensive knowing that we were out there alone and had to depend on each other. We learned what it meant to have someone depend on you and sometimes with their very survival. I was standing on the main deck one day looking over the side when one of the older guys came up to me and said "don't worry we're only two miles from land...straight down!" Yeah, that made me feel just great.Anyway, the thing that I fearing the most... a storm at sea, struck about five days out. It was a hurricane. It lasted for days. The ship was taking unbelievable rolls and had us literally walking on the bulkheads (walls) and trussing (tying) ourselves into our racks where we trying to get some rest. The old salts had a ball with this. Most of them weren't sick and would walk by you eating something that smelled and looked bad or would send the younger guys to the bilges to find out how high the water was. Once you saw and heard that water slouching from one side of the ship to the other you got sick all over again. Some of us were actually carrying a bucket around with us. You couldn't go outside because the s[...]

Cuban Missile Crisis


After the Med Cruise and just about everyone was back from going home we began getting the ship ready for our next cruise. I was in the engine room and had a pump that had given us trouble on the cruise torn apart and laying on the deck. My first class came down and asked me how long it would take to put the pump repaired and put together. I told him that it was repaired and I was putting it together when he told me that I had to get it together as soon as possible. There was a sense of urgency in his voice that I never noticed before so I hurriedly got the pump together. We received a message over the ship's intercom that we had fifteen minutes to go on the pier, call our homes and tell our families that were we going to sea, didn't know where we were going and didn't know when we were coming back. Everyone scrambled to the phones on the pier. Every ship got the same message at the same time so the lines at the phones were a block long and I couldn't get to a phone. We looked toward the end of the pier because we knew there were phones on the base and found that the end of the pier had been blocked off by marines who wouldn't let anyone off. We ran back to the ship because time was getting short and we didn't know what to expect next. We knew that the U.S. had a running argument with Russia over Berlin and we all thought we were going to war.It usually takes about an hour to get the main engines "lit off" (running) but this time we were ready to go to sea in half that time. Nothing was transmitted to us as we sailed out of Norfolk into the open sea...We were going at "flank" speed (as fast as we could go) and none of us knew where we were going. About a half an hour out we received the speech that was given by President Kennedy in was the middle of October 1962. We knew where we were going, we were going to be a part of the blockade of Cuba and we knew that there were missiles on the island manned by the Russians pointed at the US and that there were more on the way. The Russians were sending a convoy of ships with missiles aboard and we were to stop them. We weren't part of the blockade...we were looking for subs. We were in open sea patrolling when suddenly we were again at flank speed. We headed to an unknown location. Scuttlebutt was that a Russian sub was spotted and because we had special sonar we were send to help surface her. We found the sub and with our sonar there was no way she was going to lose us. We followed her for days. Finally, she broke the surface and Borie sounded her horns. I was below deck shaving when I heard the horns and I knew what it meant. I ran topsides and stood with the rest of my shipmates as the sub surfaced in front of us. The sub never submerged after that it stayed afloat as we ran along side of her for two days. I'll never forget my fears as we tracked that sub while it tried to lose us. We had been at "general quarters" for a couple of days which means we had to stay at our battle stations until the threat was cleared. We had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and an apple for all three meals with no sleep except for catnaps at our battle stations. I remembered all the stories of my shipmates that had been in war; It only took a few minutes for a destroyer to sink, during battle sailors with guns were placed at the hatches leading to the engine room to make sure that no one left the engine room which is the least protected area of the ship and if a torpedo doesn't kill you as it explodes through the hull then the six hundred degree super heated steam will. All these things passed through my, and all my friends, minds as we tracked the sub.Suddenly we were at flank speed again leaving the sub behind as we headed south toward the Caribbean Sea. General Quarters were secure and we had a chance to get a good meal and to get some much needed rest. We were headed for the Panama Canal. We wa[...]

Long week


I don't know why I don't post more often but I do find it a good way to vent when things get to me and also it is a good way to share my feelings with those that I love.I've been going around and around with the VA about possible kidney problems. I was told that they, my kidneys not the VA, have been producing protein above the normal level for the past three years and more tests were needed. Okay, so I get the tests done, not knowing if I had a problem but I was pretty concerned. I never heard anything back from the VA on the results. I was dragging for over a week not knowing if there was a problem and if there were, I didn't know if there was anything that could be done. Bummer!Anyway, I started a new job at Caribou that same week and with a possible kidney problem and trying to get acclimated to a new job where I was the oldest by about forty years was...let's just say "disheartening".Then something happened.I went to the mall to a junior achievers mall project. I walked along the mall corridor as kids ran around me. They were divided between trying to sell their product, which they made themselves, or visiting their friends and goofing off during their rare visit to the mall. I saw Alaina sitting at her table taking her role as artist and entrepreneur very seriously. I looked toward the taco stand and saw her two brothers goofing off as they waited on their pizza. I walked toward them on "monster" legs. As I neared Sawyer, he started to scream and I mean scream: "No, grandpa no"! You know, I'm proud of my Swanson family. Everything they do, they do it together and I think that's wonderful. I turned back to Alaina and she tied a friendship bracelet around my right wrist. I, being the cop that I am, did a little investigating. I walked over to Sawyer and Jonnie and checked their right wrists. There were so many friendship bracelets around their wrists that I wondered how they got their arm washed. Did a little more investigating...their mom had just as many! I walked back to Alaina just as Grandma was getting her bracelet around her wrist. Boy am I in good company!My long ordeal started on Thursday. I went to work as usual at 5 am and got off at around 11. Bible study started at 1 so it was a quick trip home to eat lunch then it was Mom and I back to Willmar. We also had a long Social Concerns meeting at St. Pat's and didn't get out of there until 9:30. Then it was up at 4 to start all over again. I was bushed! After work I went to Church and had to decide if I was going to the jail Ministry. I could have come up with many legitimate excuses on why I couldn't go, but as I was sitting in Church I looked down at my wrist and saw my Love bracelet. That's when I realized that my decision had already been made for me and I feeling fully energized headed for the jail.These pass several months has been very discouraging for our Ministry because we've only got maybe one or two inmates come and the Parish Priests were thinking of discontinuing it. I had seven inmates attend this Friday and it was wonderful! It was very heart warming. I had one of the inmates burst out in tears and thanked me for coming. Several of the males actually told me that they missed me! They said that they were afraid that I wasn't coming back and then I met a jail poet he's going to put his poems on paper and I'll post them. He recited several of his poems and I was thanking God for giving the energy to be there...and then I looked down at my bracelet...and thanked Him...and thanked Him...and thanked Him... [...]

Our Family III


Food.I don't remember things like eggs or bacon during weekday breakfast. We had eggs but normally we just had them on a special occasion such as Christmas Or Easter (we had eggs...we never went to Church). Christmas and Easter were pretty big around our house. We always had eggs, sausage and a treat which the family called "dougdies". Mom would go to the store and buy hot roll mix then mix it up and let it rise overnight. The next morning she would break the dough into circular pieces about five inches wide and paper thin. She deep fried the dough in lard, then we ate them while they were still warm with Kings syrup which you could only get locally in the Baltimore area. Oh, it was wonderful and we could never get enough. We had to be pried from the table because Mom ran out of dough long before we ran out of appetite. I'm not sure that the "dougdy" recipe was something that just our family had thought of, I think that others made the same thing but named it something else although I've never seen nor heard of it anywhere else.Basically, when it came to our cuisine we had a German background. I and most of my sibs love liver. I can remember going to school with liver sandwiches the day after we had it for supper. My schoolmates left the area when I broke out my lunch and no one offer to swap lunches. Mom fried the liver in lard with onions. Until I was an adult I didn't know you could have it any other way.A little side story about liver. After we moved to Atwater I was asked if I wanted to go to the nutrition center (a place where seniors were assured of getting at least one good meal a day and NO I wasn't considered a senior at that point in my life). The seniors wanted to meet the new cop in town. Anyway, I walked into the center and I could smell the wonderful aroma of cooked liver. Needless to say...I got in front of the line! We were only allotted a couple of piece each and no matter what I did to persuade the cook to give me more, she won't waiver. I sat down at the first table after the food line and...and this is each senior came by where I was sitting they each took their portion of liver and put it on my plate! I ate lunch at the center every "liver Wednesday" and the same ritual occurred.Back to the story. Another thing which we ate a lot was sour kraut. We had it instead of potatoes and we (and I still do) loved it. Bruanswauger was a usual staple for school lunches and once again I did have to worry about anyone stealing mine. We always ate our sandwiches with mustard but once I became a cop I found a guy who ate in with mayonnaise...yuk!Ya' can't from Baltimore and not love seafood. I can remember going crabbin' in the bay. I'll give you a lesson on how to crab like an inner city kid. First, you have to get a crab net. That's a net that looks a lot like a net you would use to land fish except for two important differences. One, the net was made of wire mesh which resembled chicken wire. Two, the net was attached to an extra long pole, I'll explain why these two differences are important as I continue my story. Next, you need to get some rotten meat. What we used to do is buy chicken wings and leave it out for a few days. Oh, and you need to buy some extra strong cord...okay lets go crabbin'! It would be nice if you had a boat but if you could afford to own a boat then you could probably be able to buy your crabs and not spend all night crabbin'. You can crab just about anywhere and old piers were best (unless you own a boat but we've already been through that!). You crab at night and it is always done better with a few six packs of beer. First you get some brave soul, probably the one who drank the most beer, and have him or her ( that's right, women crab too) tie a piece of rotten chicken to the end of the heavy cord. Throw the chicken into the bay, th[...]

Rough Week


We've had a pretty rough week. Last Wednesday Doug Hamilton died after a long illness. Doug is Buddy Hamilton's father. Doug was a very wonderful man. He has been my friend for over twenty five years and it was hard to say goodbye. As I look back at all the things that he did for family and friends I realize that he sat the example for many in this small town. He will be greatly missed and I consider it an honor to have known him. Rest in Peace Doug. I'm sure that the Father has deeds that he wants done in Heaven and that's why he called you home.

Our Family II


As I wrote in the last entry, there were ten of us, seven girls and three boys. It was tough sleeping because there were only three bedrooms. Of course mom and dad got one of them leaving two bedrooms for ten kids. It really didn't matter what sex you were when it came to where you slept. There were five of us per bed. Three big kids slept at the top of the bed while two of the smaller kids slept at the foot.Why were our sleeping arrangements made in this way? Because the two little kids always slept with the feet of the bigger kids in their face while the bigger kids never had to worry about whether the smaller ones had clean feet or not. You know, now that I think about it and looking at my stature...I would still be sleeping at the foot of the bed.:) I remember when my oldest sister Alice became a teenager, she no long had to sleep with the rest of us, she got to sleep on the sofa! At first, we all thought of it as some sort of "rite of passage". Wow, she got to sleep by herself, what an honor! That is until she started getting up in the morning with a kink in her neck from sleeping with her head on the armrest. Alice would scream if anyone even looked at her neck let alone try to straighten it out. Mom used to sneak up behind her and twist her neck real fast or Alice would walk with her head crooked all day. (boy the reads like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies or a Jeff Foxworthy skit!). I never slept by myself until I joined the Navy, except for that year with Alice.

Every school year we always had new to us that is. Mom worked for Volunteers of America which is a lot like the Goodwill. One day a week during the summer months she took one of us to her workplace to pick out clothes for school. I remember when it was my turn. We went into a room that had mountains of used clothes that were donated for the poor people of Baltimore. The piles were sorted by size. Mom pointed to a pile and told me to pick out clothes that I liked.Okay, we're talking early fifties here with the Korean and WWII fresh on everyone's mind. Nothing would make a young male feel more like a hero then to don his country's uniform. Most of the clothes I picked out were US Marine Corp dress shirts and pants. I must have looked a sight when I went to school in my dress kacki pants and shirt...yep that's right my mom let me wear them. I remember taking the stripes off the shirts...I thought I looked cool! Shoes? Yeah, they were used too. Most were too big so we got tissue paper for the toes. As we used to joke...the soles were so thin you could stand on a dime and could tell whether in was heads or tails.:)

More Later

Our Family I


I thought I'd write for awhile about my Dad's family and how my siblings and I were brought up and how it influenced our lives. First, I want you all to know that I know that I am not the smartest man in the world and you'll have to forgive me for my grammar and spelling which sometimes even spell-checker can't figure out.We lived in the southern area of Baltimore which was called "Pig Town" for most of our childhood. Pig Town was a lower to middle class income area. Most people had jobs working for the railroad or the many factories in the area.We lived in row homes all our lives. I'm talking about homes that were about fifty feet long by eighteen feet wide and,if you were lucky three stories high. Every house had a front "stoop" and a rear "stoop". The row houses in Baltimore were from a different era. At the turn of the century none of them had indoor plumbing and there was an outhouse in the back yard. When indoor plumbing was introduced suddenly a three bedroom home turned into a two bedroom home with a toilet.At first we never had a bath tub (at least I don't remember one) in the house. We had to go to a bath house which was really a shower house which was strategically located in the center of a neighborhood. Even though I was very young, I can still smell the steam and the small bars of Ivory soap they used to give you. When did we go there? Why,every Saturday of course!In the summer every window in every house was open and no one had screens, air conditioners were unheard of. Old people sat by the window twenty four hours a day and if they weren't there they were either sick or dead. No one got away with anything because everyone was watching you and you could get spanked by a concerned neighbor(one of those old people)as well as your dad, if your dad was pissed off enough about what you did.There were ten of us not counting mom and dad. We lived in neighborhoods where people watched out for one another but it wouldn't be unusual to have two fathers watching and instructing their sons on how to fight as the boys "duked it out" in the middle of the street. No one liked strangers or cops and immediately became suspicious when an unknown or a "prowl" car came into the neighborhood. We never heard gunshots and all of us learned how to fight. We usually handled things with our fists or just yelled at each other a lot.It was a time of very hot summers where in the evening everyone sat outside on the front "stoop". The kids played curb ball, kick the can and red line. The snowball man came around once a night and I can still hear the screams of small children yelling "wait a minute!" to the drivers as they attempted to get their attention. Dad always seemed to have enough money so we all could have a snowball which tasted wonderful on those hot sticky nights. During a thunderstorm we would lay down in the gutters and let the cool water run around us on it's way to the sewer. I know, I know, it was filthy but none of us ever got sick and it felt so good! We were not rich but I really don't remember going hungry. There were some rough times but we always seemed to have enough.Sometimes during the summer we went to camp. That's right camp! The city government had a program called "The Fresh Air Camp". The poorest of the poor was sent for two weeks to the Appalachian Mountains where we spent our time swimming and have cookouts over a campfire.I remember,as my sister Mar would say "we would cry when we got on the bus to go and cry when we had to go back home!" Once we got there the first thing that had to be done is we were all deloused. They put us in a shower and spread some kind of blue disinfectant over our whole bodies. There wasn't any shame in this everyone had to go through it so we didn't know[...]

This Summer


What a summer we've had! First, had our beautiful first grand daughter Rocky, graduate high school. It was wonderful being there with her that weekend. I was so proud of her, she is so beautiful. Next, we had to say goodbye to my number two daughter, four of my grandchildren and a wonderful son-in-law. Standby Denver the LeBon/Johnson clan have invaded your beautiful mountains and serene valleys. Denver, you should be celebrating because we are a proud lot...and nothing comes before family! Next, Mom had her problems with her heart. Everything is going very well. Anyone that doesn't believe in modern miracles hasn't heard this story of a loving mom that found she had heart problems through her annual physical.
Next, we're going HOME to Maryland to be there when our number three daughter, Julie has her baby boy (wishful thinking). I'm looking forward to the trip. I just love Hampstead and can't wait to sit on the back deck in the morning as the deer graze along the hillside.
Then, we're off to Spoken where I'll be dancing at my son's wedding. Then you will see why I have the nickname "twinkle-toes". I can't wait to meet my future daughter-in-laws parents. I'm so proud of my son, he's turned out to be quite a man. I'm not sure but it looks like we'll be coming by train unless the airfare comes down.
Then, sometime this year, before the snow flies, I want to take a trip to Denver and spend some time with the Johnson's. All this, and the gas prices are going through the roof! Oh well, this is what retirement is suppose to be about.

Love to you all!



I've waited to write this blog so that you would hear about Mom's condition from her. I look at this as a wake up call for the both of us. I'm trying to convince her that we should retire as soon as possible and enjoy life. We really don't know what we're going to do but I think we've made up our minds about where we want to live. I think we'll stay in the Willmar area and take trips in the winter. Of course we'll be taking trips to Washington State and Colorado in the summer with trips to Maryland and Florida in the winter. We love this area during the spring and summer. Hopefully we'll find a small place in Willmar and leave Atwater. Since all of our kids left home there is really nothing to keep us here and we've often asked ourselves why we're still here. Anyway, keep your Mom in your Prayers especially on Tuesday when we go to St.Cloud



"There is an appointed time for
and a time for every affair under the

A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time plant, and a time to uproot
the plant.

A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones, and a time to
gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far
from embraces.

A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.

A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent and a time to speak.

A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war and a time of peace."
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

What weekend we had last week. First, we got to go to our to our oldest granddaughter's graduation. It was a stormy night but the smile on Rocky's face more then made up for it. I wish I could see my "big city" girls more but with tight schedules and the outrageous price of gas makes it almost impossible. On Saturday we had Rocky's party and the whole family was there to celebrate and play a little volleyball. We had a wonderful time even though there were a few injuries.
Then came Tuesday...We had to say goodbye to Chuck, Chris, Allison, Ashley, Tanner, Mitchell and of course Ruby. Saying goodbye was very difficult. I spent most of the day after I got off work helping Chuck move the heavy furniture into the moving van. Chuck asked me if I was going to miss my family, I almost lost it then, I had to get away and stand by my truck until I could hide my emotions.
I'm getting pretty choked up writing this blog. I'm going to miss them all so very much.
Take care you Johnson's and remember I love you all.


The Journey


(image) I guess you've all been wondering about my fascination with sail ships. Well, besides the fact that I think they're just beautiful there is a Spiritual reflection that I have that I would like to share.

Ask yourself what you would be thinking when you board a sail ship to go on a journey. You're all excited about the trip, what kind of goodies there are to eat, how many friends you're going to meet along the way and most important, what is your destination going to be like. You go aboard and find all sorts of people doing all kinds of jobs to get the ship underway. Some of the jobs you find most interesting, saying to yourself, 'I could do that' and then there are the jobs that you say is something that you could never do.

Now, I like to think of life as going aboard a sail ship and preparing for a journey. Everyone tells you what your final destination (Heaven) is going to be like but you really don't know for sure and you're kind of apprehensive about it, not really sure you want to start this journey into, what you believe, is the unknown.
Because someone loved you so much when you were born you were Baptized into Jesus Christ thereby giving you the ticket to board the ship. You find everyone that you love aboard, both alive and dead, to help you understand your journey. All the passengers and crew are your community who have the same apprehensions that you do but because they've been sailing longer then you, there is a certain amount of joy in their lives because they know, through Faith, that the destination is worth the many perils and heartaches that they as a community are going to have along the way. Everyone aboard ship (the community) has a job (vocation) with is designed by God just for him or her. You can always recognize these people, they're the ones that are always full of joy. These people set the example for you. There are some of them that when you see them at work, you stand in awe wondering how and why they do the things they do. The ship finally gets underway after all the provisions (Eucharist, Bible) are safely stowed away. No sail ship can get very far without the wind. The wind is the Spirit of God that blows you and your community toward your destination. As you sail along there is calm with a gentle breeze and sometimes there will be gale force winds (sin) taking you off course and which will make you feel as though you're not worthy to continue. Then, just when you're ready to give up hope that you will ever get back on course...the gentle breeze begins again steering you and your community in the right direction.

Then, and this is the real realize that there are many ships traveling in the same the same our Lord, which is one and all!

This week


I still haven't heard from anyone regarding our upcoming fortieth wedding anniversary.

Late last week I was given a new client in the hospice program. I was warned by many of the nurses that he was an old "crank" and would probably chew me out when I go to meet him. The next day I went to the assisted living home where he was staying. I was met at the door a nurse's assistant who advised the he was in a bad mood and would probably throw me out of his room. I went to his room introduced myself and we sat down and had a conversation about his old job how long he had been retired, etc, etc. He was very nice the whole time and shook my hand when I left. the nursing assistant was in shock. Anyway, that was last Thursday, on Friday I came to work and was told that he had been admitted . After work I went to visit him but he was sleeping. I spoke to the nurse who stated that he had been given some pain med. but he was expected to recover and would be going to a nursing home. To make a long story short, I visited twice spoke to his daughter both times because he was sleeping...probably in a coma. Well, he died on Tuesday morning.

One of the neighbors behind had a tree taken down and asked if I wanted the wood. The only problem was, I had to cut it up and haul it into my wood pile. I finished it last night. (nice to know I can still do things like that , or as your Mom put it "I still got it").

Was supposed to go to jail Ministry today but I received a call from the jail that the inmates were in "lock-down" and there won't be any programs today. So I spend the day with your mom shopping and doing a lot of yard work.
Tomorrow I go to Marshall to study.



Hello everyone! Sorry for not posting in such a long time, I don't have an excuse except that I've been pretty busy and then I forget...I know what you're all thinking! "He's just getting old" and you're right I am but I've never been more content then I am right now.

I went to the VA about my skin cancer a few months ago and they zapped a few suspicious spots. I just got the cost of that half hour in the mail...$950! I'm glad I don't have to pay for it.

I've decided that I am going to study to become a Secular Franciscan. It will take three and a half years to complete the study and be accepted into the Fraternity. A Secular Franciscan is a lay person who has been called to live the Gospel of our Lord according to the teachings of St. Francis and Ste. Claire. No, I won't be living in a monastery or get one of those little bald spots on the top of my head, which would have been hard to distinguish with my current hair style. I'm just starting out and I Pray that the Holy Spirit will help me in this decision. As most of you know, I've been going to the Franciscan Retreat house here in Minnesota for the past twelve years and I feel that whenever I feel that little tug by the Holy Spirit it was always a Franciscan that did the tugging. So, Pray for me and I will keep you all in my Prayers.

I started a Jail Ministry here in Kandiyohi and have found it to be a wonderful and eye opening experience. There's nothing like praying the Rosary with five or six inmates (with gang tattoos) that truly want to know our Lord Jesus Christ. It just appears that they can't get enough of talking about our Lord. I just can't believe that I'm doing this! Then I remember that I am just doing what the Spirit of God wants me to do, that this certainly isn't about me, but it's about our loving and forgiving God that has led me here and I've never been happier. Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns forever!

I've decided to take a little time off this summer from the coffee shop. I'll only work three days a week. That will give me time to go camping, fish and bike. I really want to spend some time with my grandchildren and hope that this time off will give me the opportunity to do so.

I'm about half way done with my current sailboat which is coming along just great. I may have to take a trip to Denver to deliver it this summer.

I really don't want to think about part of the family moving to Denver. I remember how long it took for us to adjust to Minnesota and I still won't say "ufda" or "pop". I can't stand hockey (unless my grandchildren are playing)and for the most part all Minnesota pro teams should be semi-pro. Snow is just beautiful as long as you don't have to be digging drunks out of ditches or shovel four foot of it off your roof. I guess I went off on one of those "rants". I don't like the idea of my kids moving away and I get dry mouthed every time I think that I should have spent more time with them while they were here.

Mom and I are celebrating our fortieth anniversary this year and would like to go somewhere special next fall. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

I'll try and keep you all updated sorry for the delay.



I went to the Va Hospital in St.Cloud today for a checkup (everything is ok) when I saw an old Vet come to the revolving door into the check-in area of the hospital. He had two canes keeping him "afloat" as we Navy Vets would say. He was walking very slowly through the revolving door hoping that the door didn't hit him from behind. He had a grim look on his face as he looked toward the floor. It was a look that you see on a lot of these former warriors as they struggled along trying to make appointments. Why was he looking down? The reasons are probably many, maybe he has been in pain for most of his life, maybe coming to the VA brought back bad memories, maybe he was just having a bad day. All I know is that he looked like a man beaten, a man that has seen better days and probably thought that those days were gone. He wouldn't look at me as he struggled by going to his left and into the check-in line. Then suddenly everything changed. He saw an old friend sitting in a chair on the far side of the waiting room. All of a sudden his chest stuck out, his gait quickened as he made his way to his old buddy. Both were grinning ear to ear as as he made his way across that waiting room his head held high...he was young again.



I went to Elaine's wake last night and the funeral home was packed as I knew it would be. A DVD was playing and Elaine was playing the piano and singing. It nearly broke my heart as I remembered how she played at the hospital. There were so many pictures of Elaine with her family. I didn't see one picture that showed her alone, she always had family around her. There was one picture that showed her wearing a big hat with a very big bow and a pair of very heavy shoes, it must have been taken in the early forties when that style was the fad...I bet she was the "cat's meow"!

Elaine has touched my heart in a very special way...I will never forget her.

I'll miss you...


Sorry I haven't written anything lately but I've been working on one of my models and after the sails are made it will be done!

This morning I went through the Emergency Room entry door as I do every morning on the days that I am working. I was carrying a couple of gallons of milk as I made my way down the corridor toward the coffee shop. I was stopped short by a nurse pushing a bed toward the x-ray department. As we passed I saw that it was Elaine on the bed. We said hi to each other as we passed and I could hear her say to the nurse "that's Earl, he's a real nice guy". I smiled and continued to my shop.
At about 6:30 am I heard a "code blue" for the x-ray department. My heart sank as I said a little Prayer for the person and hoping it wasn't Elaine. Well, about a half hour later my fears came true as I found out it was indeed Elaine that had suffered a heart attack and died.
I felt just terrible all day as friends stopped by to comfort me because they knew what Elaine meant to me. They all made me remember that Elaine is in a much better place now, with no more pain. The realization that she is no longer in pain made me feel so much better because she had been in pain for such a long time. I remember when I had torn a rotator cuff, the pain was terrible. After I received a shot the pain left immediately. I didn't know how much pain I was in until it was gone. I'm sure that Elaine feels the same way...being free from all her pain must feel like...Heaven!

If you haven't read it already there is an old entry on this blog about my friend Elaine.

What a week!


I'm reading a book titled "From Image to likeness" by William A. Simpson. The general theme of the book is that through our journey God is an image but as we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit we become a likeness to God. There's a chapter that deals with seeing God in our everyday lives. I surely have seen Him this week. I have a friend whose husband goes through dialysis treatment on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of every week. Well, I saw her yesterday in the patient waiting area and stopped to say hi. I knew something was bothering her as I asked how she was doing. Suddenly she grabbed and hugged me as she explained that her husband's cancer had returned. She broke down in tears as she told me that he had lost the use of his right leg. He was having an MRI done as she waited. I left her there after a few minutes and was leaving the hospital as I saw her husband in the x-ray waiting room, he was sleeping in his wheelchair. I stopped and put my hand on his shoulder, feeling his shoulder bone through his shirt. I just said hi and left. I went to St. Mary's Chapel to say a Prayer for this wonderful man and woman and you know I don't even know their names. As I sat in front of the Eucharist I remembered how I first met them over two years ago. She was taking him to his treatment on Thursday morning and I was in my coffee shop with "Swing" (WWII era) music going full blast out of the CD player. After she took her husband in she came out and told me that the music I was playing was his favorite. That afternoon I saw my brother Steve and asked if he would make copies of the CD and he took them home and brought them in the next day. I saw her the following Tuesday, gave her the CD and watched as tears welled up in her eyes. I never said much to her after that knowing that she had many things on her mind and everything revolved around her husband and I didn't want to appear like a pest. We just smiled as we saw each other every other morning. Well, today is Thursday the day of his treatment and what a wonderful day in turned out to be!
First I want you to know that I love the hospital where I work, some wonderful things occur there everyday. Today we had a blind person playing the piano and singing Christmas carols at the top of her voice. Someone opened the door to Dialysis so then patients could hear the music, I looked over and saw that it was the lady whose husband was sick. I walked over and asked how the MRI turned out. She looked at me with tears of relief as she told me that it wasn't as bad as they thought, the symptoms were brought on by a recent bout with the flu and the cancer hadn't returned. She hugged me then and thanked me. I went to Chapel today and thanked God for this wonderful job, for the wonderful people I get to know, for my family, and for my wife...all of which I surely do not deserve.
I could go on and on about the things that happened today and I think I'll add some more but I think its time for me to stop for now.

Been Busy!


This is a very busy time for Mom and me with Christmas preparations at our Church and being busy at my coffee shop. The hospital had their Christmas party this week and I caught up in moment decided that I would stay and help. Well, just to let you all know that good things do happen to those that have good intentions, after the party began and the high school choir took their first break I heard a voice yelling "grandpa! grandpa!" I turned to look to see who it was and saw my number two granddaughter running towards me with her friends. Allison ( Allie Oopie) was in the choir and at her first chance came to say hi to me and to share a loving hug. The choir began to sing again and the Ooper and I traded smiles as she sang and I served coffee. I am truly Blessed and it is moments such as these that Jesus nudges me in the ribs just to let me know that he is always here. The love that I and a believe Allison felt for one another as we smiled is proof that Jesus shows his presence through Love. I think that I was being reminded that the Christmas Season is about the one true gift that God gave the world...His only Son!
So, slow down and remember to always look for those little "knowing" smiles" because that is Jesus' nudging you in the ribs...and heart.

Well, it's over...


After a pretty hectic day we arrived at the Va Hospital in the cities at about 2 pm. I waited around for just a few minutes then was taken into an office and asked a lot of questions and blood pressure was taken 155/77 pulse 98...thanks city traffic! Driving in the cities isn't like driving at all, its more like a competition on just how many people you can cut off at 70 miles per hour!
Anyway, after the questioning I sat around to about 3:30 (little over an hour) then taken into the operating room. Mom went with me and held a wonderful conversation with the doctor (a first year resident) as she (the doctor) was cutting into the back of my neck. It took a lot longer and was more complicated then I thought and lasted for over an hour. Another biopsy will be taken to find out it they got it all, if not then I'll have to go back and do it all over again.
I took today and tomorrow off from work, mainly because I have this huge bandage covering my neck and I can't take it off until tomorrow night. Plus, I'm in a little pain but it's not too bad. I hope this is the end off this...I don't want to go through this again!