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Prime Time: Many memories of Tracy Lutheran Church

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News Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
(218) 333-9819 customer support
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

I have many memories of old Tracy Lutheran as we called it. It was a high, white church with a bell tower and a steeple that reached into the heavens.

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It was there that Bill the Barber (Bill Helgeson) employed us older boys in Sunday school to ring the bell to announce the beginning of worship. Bill had two daughters who were cute and nice. I think he enjoyed entertaining us boys, kind of as a surrogate father.

Before church began, he would let one of us go into the belfry. The bell was big, and you of us had to put your whole body into it to get it to ring. Bill lifted us and had us hold onto the rope. Then he would help by pulling on the rope himself and let us swing up and down as the bell swung up and down. It lifted us up several feet. This was a real hoot. When we were done, we joined our parents for worship.

The Brotherhood sponsored a meatball dinner in the fall and a pancake dinner in the spring for fund raisers. The men again had fun with us older elementary boys. They would challenge us to see who could eat the most meatballs and the most pancakes. We sat at one table to the right as we went downstairs to the dining hall. In those days, they did not think of the problem some people would have in going down the stairs or in climbing them. The sanctuary was up many stairs, and the basement was down at least as many. We ate until we were ready to burst. We never paid any attention to who won. That just was not part of the game. We all participated, and when it was over, we went onto other things.

The Brotherhood always sponsored a Father/Son picnic every spring. We went out to the Lake Shetek Bible Camp for it. The Bible Camp was an old CCC camp from the Depression years. Men went there to live and work to earn a little money during those years of scarcity and unemployment. I was born in 1939 at the end of the Great Depression, so I really did not experience much of that. I do remember war bonds and rationing stamps. War bonds were sold to raise money for the troops in Europe and in the Pacific. Rationing stamps were used to control the use of food.

At the camp, the men had a great supper for us: barbecues and hot dogs, baked beans, potato chips and so forth. After supper we played a game of softball. The teams were all made up of fathers and sons. Even the pastor played. I remember him pitching. I was quite impressed that he was so good. Of course, the men let the boys hit and get on base. Then they would hit opposite-handed, so they would not nail a drive that would knock us over. All I remember is clearly having a great time with the men of the church.

After the game, several of us brave souls went swimming. Now this was in the first part of May, so the water was pretty cold. Some of us jumped off the end of the dock and others went in gradually. I remember my breath just about stopped once I hit the water, but then my body got adjusted and it wasn't bad.

When we hit ninth grade, we were allowed to sing in the Senior Choir at church. The girls sang, too. I remember we boys were so proud of singing with Dave Abernathy, Julius Sandbo, Coach Sebastian and Dad and all of the rest. Mom directed the choir, and we had a good 30 members. Mom made sure we sang good solid music: the classics and music from the Saint Olaf Choir, which was sacred for our family.

We always had a concert at Christmas. One of our favorite Christmas songs was "The Little Drummer Boy." Julius Sandbo always got the "pums" at the end of the song wrong and added one more after everybody else was done. We had fun kidding him about it, but it was one of the things that made Christmas so special.

Confirmation was another memory of standing in front of the church. Classes met on Saturday mornings during seventh and eighth grade. I did not enjoy these classes. I worked at the Red Owl grocery store with my brother, Bob. At nine o'clock I would run to the church for class and then run back to the store to work.

I don't think Pastor Obrestad had his heart in teaching. He was a very intelligent man, but I think he had so many responsibilities that he did not have time for this, too. I most remember wondering what time it was, so I could get back to work. I was paid 65 cents an hour and appreciated that more than learning Lutheran theology.

After two years of instruction, we confirmands had to sit in the front two rows of the church on the left side. The church was packed for us to recite by memory the Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments and Articles of the Apostles' Creed along with Luther's meanings. Again, this was a tradition. All of us confirmands were terrified we would forget or make a blooper.

I knew Pastor Obrestad realized our terror and consequently made the exercise as painless as possible. I remember standing and turning to face the congregation when my time came. It was like a death sentence. I quickly prayed that he would give me something I remembered. Each of us had to recite two parts along with Luther's meanings. Thank God, I made it through. In fact, all of us survived unscathed.

Confirmation Sunday was quite another experience. Confirmation made quite an impression on me. When I considered my relationship to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I was quite moved. I was taught by my parents and church to regard Christ as a friend, and confirmation cemented that relationship.

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Pioneer staff reports
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