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Across The Lake

Weather or not, there was no gloom Sunday as Presbyterians dedicated the bell at their new church north of Blackduck. Alice Cross and Leonard Anderson got the honor of ringing it as part of the dedication service, and a few members of the congregation braved the rain and chill to watch outside where the bell now hangs in its new stand. For the benefit of more of the members, the service was piped inside where they could appreciate the ceremony -- and the comfort.

Al Gerner told about it while we were having coffee. It happened back in the '30's when he was working for the Canadian Pacific, I think he said at Cook. He'd gone into Virginia with a friend that night, a cold January night, with the temperature probably around -20° or worse. Heading for home, the car started sputtering, and after a while, the engine just quit. A frozen gas line seemed the likely problem. So here they were, two guys in a car that had quit running, a wind outside dropping the temperature another 10° of more, when Al suddenly remembered.

For some reason, and Al didn't remember just why, he'd acquired a bottle of Old Grand Dad. It was that bottle of bourbon whiskey which prompted his thought that maybe alcohol would unfreeze the gas line. They poured the whole bottle into the tank, let it sit for awhile, and turned the ignition key. The engine came alive, and the two guys headed back to Cook. Without incident, Al remembers, except for one thing. For some reason, that Old Grand Dad seemed to have taken effect. The car just wouldn't run on a straight line after that.

Those old CCC camp newspapers Carol Rice gave to the camp historian will renew a lot of memories for Blackduck residents who were here "back then." Along with camp news, they contained advertisements for a number of Blackduck businesses. City Drug and the Gambles Store, among them, as well as the Hartz store, Wolden's Service Station and others. My favorite was being reminded again of the noon-time crowd of fellow high school students, gathering around for lemon phosphates or cherry Cokes at Rolfe's Confectionery.

Here's another bit of nostalgia. It was just years ago this month that the first section of the Scenic Highway was black topped. Well, quite a few years actually. An October 1955 copy of The American shows that the surfacing had been completed from Blackduck south to Kiowa Beach on Pimushe Lake. According to the article in the October 27 edition, the highway "is now comparable to any blacktopped state highway in Minnesota." It was hoped that the road would be completed the following year all the way to where it joins Highway 2 (and it was.)

There was more road work that fall, according to Chester Martin who was county commissioner at the time. The Alvwood Road had six miles of new gravel, and work was finished on rebuilding the Nebish road. The Hines road, like the others mentioned, is now blacktopped, but that fall it got a coat of new gravel all the way from Hines to Blackduck Lake.

It never took hold, but Red Lake -- the village -- became Redlake according to the Directory of United States Post Offices issued in 1955. The lake itself remained two words, and the Red Lake Reservation also retained that multiple-word designation. We just checked again on the Minnesota map issued by the state -- it's still Red Lake there, but Kerri at the post office did a quick check for us -- it's still Redlake (one word) in the list of post offices. You have to wonder how many people know that -- or care. The telephone directory, for instance, lists the number for the Red Lake Post Office.

Add this to things that get forgotten, but supposedly chewing a piece of gum will help prevent you from crying while cutting onions.

Our far-flung correspondents this week included Tina Carlson who lives with her husband, Harlan, in Eagle River, AK. He went into the Army in 1964, but like so many, enjoys "coming home" once in a while. He and Tina will leave their residence in Eagle River in a couple of weeks to visit Saum, where he attended school, and they'll visit the place where the town of Foy with its blacksmith shop and trading post once stood on Carlson's grandfather's land. We look forward to meeting them for a cup of coffee and a chance to say thanks for their recent kind note.

The small town store is a thing of the past, read the first line of the poem. It was written by Dorothy Brenning years ago when she was proprietress of the grocery in Hines, and was sort of recognized as the poet laureate of at least some of the east-central part of the township. "We stand in the window as the cars pass by, beginning to wonder the reason why. The shelves are empty, the cupboard bare. Where people are going, we don't know where." All this a half-century ago, before there even was a Wal-Mart or Target to help kill off those small town stores.

Thoughts while drying the dishes... Interesting that while we await the arrival of the H1N1 vaccine, another item in that old copy of the American reported that it was this month in 1955 when the clinic in Blackduck received its first shipment of another vaccine. This was the Salk vaccine which effectively brought to an end the worries over infantile paralysis -- polio. As for the other flu shot, the one which has become an annual event, we've gotten ours -- hope you have, too.