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Across The Lake

The St. Paul Hotel celebrates its 100th birthday next month and presumably will still welcome guests with a top-hatted doorman to afternoon tea beneath the Waterford chandeliers in the lobby. When the million dollar edifice in downtown St. Paul opened in 1910, it promised visiting businessmen the latest in modern convenience. It still does, but they've now substituted wireless internet connections for the Underwood typewriters they once offered along with a telephone in every room.

Lloyd Hoffman presented a challenge last week. Knowing I'd once worked at WDAY he sent a copy of a poster for Rudy Sten and the Sleepy Valley Cowboys with "Oldtime, Modern and Hill Billy Music featuring the Electric Hawaian Guitar." They were playing in Middle River, Minnesota, Saturday, February 19, but with no year shown. There were some other things in Hoffman's letter, like did I know Lem Hawkins?

Hawkins was gone before I joined the station though he did come back working for another Fargo station later on. Hoffman's clues weren't nearly as much help as the perpetual calendar in World Almanac. Feb. 19 occurred as a Saturday in 1927, 1938 and 1949 during the time period involved. The first was too early, the last too late so 1938 it had to be. That left the question: Where is Middle River?

It's not in the Rand McNally atlas, but on the Minnesota DOT map, you'll find it about halfway between Thief River Falls and Greenbush, right where it's always been. Bet the band drew a good crowd when they played there 72 years ago.

Marion Barry was mayor of Washington, D. C. when he described the crime rate in the nation's capitol. Reminded me of something the TV folks in the Twin Cities could be saying now. As Barry put it, "Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country."

Curt Matheny took a second look at the lady pictured on the front page of Northern Light, the newspaper covering the Lake of the Woods area. Sure enough, after more years than he cared to mention, it was Candy Bernstrom. She's Candy Nelson now, but she a Bernstrom when she graduated from Lancaster High the year that Matheny was teaching there. She and her husband retired a few years ago and now live in their vacation home on Zippel Bay. Retired, but only from farming. Now she bakes and during the ice fishing season, her caramel rolls have made her pretty famous in those parts.

She started it to have something to do, but now every morning she's up at 4:30 a.m. and half an hour later, has the dough mixed and by 7:30 a.m. the first rolls are out of the oven and ready for delivery. Yes, delivery, because if fishermen haven't picked theirs up, they can have them delivered to their fish house by Candy's husband. Weekends Candy does eight to ten dozen, weekdays a few less. And she does it right there -- as long as the ice was solid, you could find her place by looking for the street sign for Bakery Road.

When the Blackduck School Board meetings became part of my beat, I got more than a little interested not only in the four-day week, but in all the pro and con arguments taking place. "How can our kids learn anything with a four day week?" was one question, often followed by a "Kids in Europe go all week." Seemed to me that was a pretty solid reason to think about a shorter week, until I did a little reading and learned that in Germany, schools are different. Four levels of schools there teach a trade. A broad education gives way to teaching a vocation, teaching how to become a baker, a butcher, a government worker, maybe how to build cars.

The Germans do build good cars and bake good bread. But whatever you're trained for, that's almost the limit of what you can do pretty much for the rest of your life. The school you attend determines your future trade or occupation. Still more than a fifth of German 15 year olds cannot read or calculate properly and 8 percent of teenagers drop out of school. A recent report concluded that too much of German education remains hidebound. One regional government in Germany is changing, though, now requiring that all teachers in lower tier schools be trained to the same standard as those in high school. Since German schools are often held up as an example, just thought all this was interesting.

A footnote to this school talk. It is really unconscionable the way the state education people have been treating the Blackduck district and probably any other district that has or wants the four-day week. As this is written, the state has once again told the Blackduck district it will have to wait for approval. It was supposed to have acted more than two weeks ago, then delayed it until last week, now says it will be another two weeks before the board gets an OK to plan and budget and hire or fire teachers and other staff to operate next year. Probably the worst part is knowing that some other lame-brain in that same department will be hollering because they don't have one of the dozens and dozens of forms Blackduck won't be able to fill in until someone at another state desk gives their blessing. No wonder that so many rue the day when local school boards lost control, or live in fear of the new federal program. Instead of No Child Left Behind, it may soon be All Children Left Behind.

Had a nice note this week from Elaine Schuh. The Kelliher lady was among the first to recall the good advice she'd learned from her mother. Like the other remembrances, it'll be included in our Mother's Day column a few weeks from now. It would be nice to hear the tips on living your own mother passed along -- drop me a line at the American if you would.

Thoughts while drying the dishes... It may not be as 'rare as a day in June" or rival "October's bright blue weather" but wasn't it nice to see the sun warming things up and to spot the first daffodil breaking through the ground?