Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Three years ago I wrote a series of posts about my wife's aunt (Othelia's story) army nurse WWII experiences, from Fort Snelling to North Africa, Italy, France, Germany & Dachau.  It's not in your million hits category, but it is among the most read of my writings.

Fast forward 3 years and a phone call from Bavaria. Wolfgang.  He had seen the posts on the 95th Evac Hospital odyssey and discovered Oat's photo of GI's playing baseball - included in the last post in the series.  Remarkably, he printed the photo, walked to the edge of his village on the banks of the W├Ârnitz River, held up the photo against the horizon and verified it was Ebermergen, taken in 1945.  (95th  Evac unit records show a hospital setup in Ebermergen in late April, 1945)  The clincher were the power lines in the photo,  still in place today. So he tracked me down and phoned me with the story, hoping for more background on the 95th.

This all came about because Wolfgang's local history club is writing a history of Ebermergen and from stories he has collected from the few remaining elders who remember 1945, he knew that Oat's unit, the 95th Evac Hospital, was stationed in Ebermergen for a few weeks at the close of the war and that a number of the nurses were deployed to Dachau for a time.  Searching for "95th + Ebermergen", he discovered Distant Innocence. Voila, the power of Google for good. (I have subscribed for a copy of this book.)

So here you have the first offering of my planned town ball series - completely serendipitous. This Ebermagen Field was certainly one of thousands GI's platted in pastures across Germany after VE Day. These same GI's returned home and replicated these primitive ball fields in towns all over the country, launching the golden age of town team baseball.

GI baseball. Ebermergen , May 1945

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin

Friday, August 3, 2018

Champion Leghorns

I know you were expecting an article on Sig Rykhus' chickens, but no ...

Recently "Big Time" sent me a scrapbook with every Park Region Echo newspaper clipping referencing the Lowry baseball team from 1954 through 1962. It was sent to him by "Tubba" whose father (Ray Hayenga) was the compiler.  What a treasure. 

I offer you here a teaser - photos of the 1955 & 1960 league champion Lowry Leghorn teams. Lowry oldtimers will remember these names. And there is a distant ten-year-old baseball fanatic that confesses to hero-worship of these guys. I even had my own miniature Lowry uniform with the #10 on the back. (If you remember who wore that, you're just as affected as I.)

Based on this scrapbook, I plan to write a history of those great Lowry teams. I know there is but a small niche market for this topic, but you have to write what you love.  Stay tuned.

1955 Resorters League Champs

1960 Pomme de Terre League Champs

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

13 Virtues

Your image of Ben Franklin may be him flying a kite in a lightning storm with a key on the string. Or perhaps the author of Poor Richard's Almanac. Or perhaps a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Or on that wad of $100's in your wallet.

Franklin lived in that 18th century Age of Enlightenment when it was possible to "know everything". Franklin was author, scientist, philosopher, statesman, diplomat, inventor, civic leader, postmaster, printer, man of the world.

He also lived in a time when rules of gentlemanly conduct were pre-eminent. It was important to men of stature to exhibit good character. Franklin developed a system that he rigorously followed to improve his character based on 13 virtues. He focused on one of the virtues during each week of the year, "leaving all others to their ordinary chance."  Serendipitously, 52 is divisible by 13 so each virtue received special attention 4 times a year.  He admittedly fell short many times but believed the attempt made him a better man and contributed to his happiness. In his autobiography, more ink is devoted to the virtues than any other topic. 

Franklin developed the 13 virtues list when he was 20, and followed this regimen his entire life.

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
In Franklin's words,  "I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit."

However in this age of rage, I wonder if any of us is capable.

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Bank

Lowry State Bank circa 1955 with Lee's Barber Shop to the north

You might think a staid old small town bank would be an unlikely source of high drama and tragedy, but ... you would be wrong.

Lowry State Bank was first organized in 1899 but wasn’t officially chartered until December 26, 1907.  Andrew Jacobson was the Bank’s first president. He served in that position until January 1926 when Iver M Engebretson succeeded him. Iver was a pillar of the community.

From the 1908 Minnesota Who's Who:
ENGEBRETSON, Iver Martin, banking; born at Ben Wade, Minn., March 11, 1877; son of Pedor and Anna (Ronning) Engebretson; educated in district schools of Pope Co., Minn., and state high schools of Glenwood, Alexandria and St. Cloud. Unmarried. Began in banking business Oct., 1899 and is cashier of Bank of Lowry; director and treasurer Lowry Telephone Co.; director Lowry Hardware, Furniture and Machine Co., Northwestern Mortgage Security Co. of Fargo. Was first Sgt. Co. M, 13th Minn. Vol. Inf., Spanish-American war and in the Philippines; treasurer village of Lowry; ex-president village council. Member Norwegian Lutheran Synod, M. W. A., Court of Honor. Address: Lowry, Minn. 
[Editor note: Iver married Sarah Jane Andrew in 1910]

Lowry State Bank survived the depression era when bank closings were the rule rather than the exception with conservative management, but, in 1932, was willing to take over the accounts of the failed Farmers & Merchant's Bank down the street. F &M later became Hank Bosek's Grocery. Hank slept in the old vault. Iver M served as bank president from 1926 until his death in 1957. His brother Herman then assumed the presidency. Herman had been a bank employee since 1920.

The cautious approaches continued well past the depression days. As an example, in 1952 my father was seeking a home loan. Our family had owned a business in Lowry since 1916. Dad was 7 years working for the family business after having served 4 years in the Pacific during WWII and was the son of a stockholder in the bank. Not good enough.  Poor risk.  Loan application denied. (The VA finally acceded to loan him $13,000 at an outrageous interest rate - 2% I think.)

As a 10 year-old, I had my very own LSB savings account complete with a little brown leather-covered passbook showing deposits and withdrawals - and the pennies of accrued interest. The money I received for my birthday went into this account - after the Sunday School tithe of course.  I always went to Maggie McIver's teller window. I'm afraid I blew my allowance on baseball cards.

When I was to get my new 24” Schwinn from the hardware store, my parents, to teach me character, had me go to the bank by myself and withdraw the $39 from my savings account - out of the $50 or so balance - and take the hard cash over to the hardware to pay Martin. (He might have given me a break on the price.) Not sure I learned the intended lesson. Seemed like a fabulous use of the money to me. And of course, the bank called my home to verify before they handed over that wad to a kid.

In the late 50's the bank was the scene of tragedy. The Engbretsons had sold controlling interest in the bank to Stanley Billey and his son Arthur. In late June, 1959, Margaret McIver, a 50 year bank employee, arrived at the bank to find both Stanley and Arthur dead from gunshot wounds. Initially, thought to be a robbery gone bad, it soon became apparent that it was a family dispute gone horribly wrong and the deaths were ruled murder/suicide. I was 12 years old and I recall sitting on my bicycle looking through the glass block windows to see the bodies, one on the floor the other in an office chair. This was simply unfathomable in a small town - or anywhere else for that matter. Ghoulish of me. Maggie McIver retired shortly thereafter.

Shortly thereafter the Billey estate sold their controlling interest to John Pardun of Rochester. Less than 2 months after assuming control of the bank, the FBI arrested Mr. Pardun for embezzlement from the Rochester Bank, and found indications of similar behavior at the Lowry bank.

Cliff Mork - center

Jinxed. Who would be willing to operate such a bank? Happily a fellow from Morris came along, Clifford E. Mork, who took over the bank and brought much needed calm. Cliff ably ran the bank for 26 years until his retirement in 1987, when Chuck Thompson became President. When Chuck retired in 2000, Cliff Mork's son Robert became President.

The bank is still a Lowry cornerstone.

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin  

Monday, April 16, 2018

Don't Stop Giving

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 
I John 3:17-18

"We who have much should be willing to share. It is not for the poor, but for ourselves that we might become less narrow, less frightened, less lonely, less self-centered." David Foster Wallace

The earth is warming. That is a fact. You can argue why, but average temperature data is indisputable.  At the same time, we are becoming a colder nation, but not in the temperature sense. The recently passed tax reform bill is a case in point. I don't care for April 15th any more than the next guy. But a tax cut which primarily benefits the richest of us and results in a predicted increase of $1.5 trillion to the deficit smacks of payoff and contempt for fiscal integrity. Where is the fiscal conservative concern for our children and grandchildren? 

Tax policy affects individual behavior. Consider the long December lines at courthouses with people pre-paying their 2018 property tax to avoid forfeiting the deduction which is capped as of 2018.  But for me, the most unsettling aspect of this bill is the projected impact on charitable giving. Yes, we should be giving out of the goodness of our hearts and not to get a tax deduction. But the fact of the matter is, 13% of all charitable giving occurs in the last 3 days of the year.  Most folks are not all that altruistic - the poor have more empathy (see the widow's mite Luke 21: 1-4).  A wise man I once knew said - ".. them's what's gots, keeps". 

Your church, food shelf, college, United Way, Red Cross, Feed My Starving Children, LSS, DAV, [fill in the blank]... all anticipate a fall-off in giving. I realize that the charitable deduction was not eliminated in the 2018 bill, but the increase in the standard deduction means many more people will not itemize deductions and along with that goes an incentive for charitable giving, affecting, I suspect,  these 13% last minute donations.

So, I beseech you. Don't reduce giving to your favorite charities. If you can, increase it a little. They need you now more than ever.

And you, dear individual filer, come a pittance.  " ...according to a new analysis by the Tax Policy Center, middle-income taxpayers would pay about $900 less than under current law, about 1.6 percent of after-tax income, while the lowest income households would get an even more modest tax cut compared to current law.  By contrast, the highest-income one percent of households , who will make about $733,000 and up, would get an average  tax cut of roughly $50,000 or 3.4 percent of their after-tax income. Those in the top 0.1 percent, who will make $3.4 million or more next year, would get an average tax cut of about $190,000, or 2.7 percent of their after-tax income." Don't you love percentages? They always yield a nicer result if the base is big.  

A mortgage against my grandchildren for $75/mo return,  I find unacceptable. But then if you live in a high tax state - you know who you are - or if you have a not-really-all-that-large family ($4K personal exemptions gone; if you you pay state tax; if you own a home; ($10,000 cap on deductions of state, local, real estate tax payments) you may not like the look of your 2018 1040.  

Furthermore, the tax reform bill gives corporations a huge windfall (35% rate down to 21%) with the rationale that the benefits will "trickle down". Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway netted a $29 billion windfall. US stock exchange listed corporations care first and foremost about their stock price, so windfalls are commonly used to buy back their own stock and thus boost the share price - which benefits ... stockholders and those employees who receive stock grants. (And of course Wall Street itself. If you have an IRA, you'll probably do pretty well for awhile.) I've worked for large corporations and while many do token philanthropy, it is mainly for the PR "image" or "marketing" reasons. I guess we should be thankful for any corporate largesse, but corporations really are not people, and their interests are self-serving. Individuals are the principle source of charitable giving (72%) with corporations (5%). (If you want a deep dive into the impact of the tax bill on corporate America, see the Wharton School's analyses, industry by industry - short story $1.2 trillion in tax savings.)

Windfall corporate profits may indeed be used to expand the enterprise - but in this day and age, not usually in the way you might think. For large corporations, expansion is more often through "M&A", mergers and acquisitions. These mergers do not usually result in increased employment but often result in reductions due to eliminating duplicated functions. So I am skeptical that "trickle down economics" will provide much benefit to workers - rather the trickle will get about as far down as the boardroom. It's been tried before. It would be a nice outcome if this would drive a wage increase for the worker-bees, but this has not been the trend even as the unemployment rate is nearing 4% and corporations are awash in cash ($1.8 trillion according to Moody's). They could easily have improved workers lot without this windfall if they had wanted to. Some companies quickly tried to gain good will by announcing pay raises or bonuses. Walmart raised minimum wages to $11/hour which means if you work full-time, you can gross upwards of $20,000/year. Dozens of companies offered $1000 bonuses - a one time expense - pardon my cynicism.

The bill does provide tax benefits targeted for small-business in the form of pass through income rules that treat business income as if it were wages and allowing a 20% deduction off the top. A good plan might be to turn yourself into a small business - an LLC, or sole proprietorship.

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin

P.S.  By the way, don't forget to file your 2017 return today.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Red Brick School

A hundred years ago, the educational experiences of one generation very much mirrored the previous. Not so now.

My mother grew up on an Iowa farm and each fall, the school-age children were held out of school for a couple weeks to help with corn picking. This was done by hand, the only tool being a glove with a hook on the palm to assist in the husking. Each cob was snapped from the stalk, husked and thrown into a wagon with a high side to block overthrows. Hard, brutal work, generally under a blazing sun, done largely by school kids. My mother had no fond memories of this annual school vacation. Completely outside my experience.

On the other hand, my father attended the very same school I did for grades 1-8. And that 1920's school vs. the 1950's school was not that dissimilar. Perhaps the subject matter leaned more toward the classics in the 20's and most of the teachers were men, while in the 50's the teachers were exclusively women. The playground equipment of the 50's was better.

District 30 was a four-room school, 8 grades, 2 grades per room. There was no kindergarten. This is outside the comprehension of anyone not of retirement age. (Even more incomprehensible - my wife attended a 1-room country school in first grade). The red brick school housed grades 1-2 and 3-4 on the first level, 5-6 and 7-8 on the second. Bathrooms, furnace room and some storage areas were in the basement. A wide stairway with a well worn banister led to the second level. A terrifying fire escape went out a door on the south wall of the 2nd story 7th-8th classroom and down the west side of the building. I dreaded fire drills. A small room on the 2nd floor between the two classrooms served as the "library", with maybe 6 shelves of books, one shelf a set of encyclopedias. The most memorable part of this trove were a set of blue bound biographies of famous Americans, from the presidents to sports heroes to Revolutionary War notables - Francis Marion - The Swamp Fox, Kit Carson, Wilbur & Orville Wright, Jim Thorpe, ...  I read them all and every other book on those shelves.

My walk to school also little differed from my father's. Out the back door, across the alley, past Gust & Tina Nelson's garage and down their drive and into the school. 3 minutes tops. Of course all the "country" kids had to ride the bus, faithfully and safely driven by Lionel MacIver.

I remember all of my grade school teachers. The who is clear, but the when is a bit fuzzy. Apologies for my memory issues.

My first grade teacher was Mrs. Anderson. She had a broken leg and she was pregnant.  Not sure if I realized the pregnant part. Since there was no kindergarten, we had to be eased into this all-day school thing. Each first grader brought a woven rug to school to lay on during our 15 minute afternoon "nap" - a break for Mrs. Anderson I suspect. And each morning there was a "milk break" for which we paid 5¢/week for that daily 1/2 pt container of white milk. Chocolate milk options were after my time.

Mrs. Lachelt took over for Mrs. Anderson's maternity leave - I think.  (This is hearsay, as I cannot verify it, but I believe in her early years of teaching she had to keep the fact of her marriage a secret as only "single ladies" could be hired as teachers.)

In second grade - might have been 3rd - the influx of the baby boomer generation had caused an overflow condition. There were too many kids enrolled to contain 2 classes in one room. So a storage room in the basement, next to the bathrooms & the coal chute and butting against the furnace room was converted into a classroom. Mrs. Bagne was the teacher down in that dungeon-like, hot, no egress, non-OSHA style room.  I think there was one hinged basement window - and no egress except up the stairs to the back door. (Anyone remember that hole-in the-wall classroom?)

Third & Fourth grade Mrs. Vincent. Fifth & Sixth grade Mrs. Squire. Mrs. Schmeckpepper filled in at some point in those years, I think for Mrs. Squire maternity leave. Seventh and eighth grades Mrs. Skoglund. I remember she drove from Kensington. And the star substitute teacher that every kid was happy to see - Mrs. Starr. (She read to us from books like "The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle".)

In 8th grade, because the option was available to send Lowry kids to the big school in Glenwood (or Starbuck), there were only 3 of us left to fill the 8th grade class. My father decried the disloyalty of the locals who consented to have their children bussed away. But 3 people in your class - really? Limited social opportunities unless you were willing to fraternize with 7th graders.

We actually looked forward to lunch. In general, school lunch reputations rank right there with congress. The Lowry School lunch building was a separate white-sided structure just west of the back entrance to the school. It had a long serving counter separating the room into kitchen & eating area.  You had to sprint the 30 foot open air gap from the back door to the lunchroom door. Lunch was 20¢/day, $1/week.

But this school lunch was not the stuff of most lunch programs. The difference was Olga. Olga Dingwall was the cook and a great one. She worked magic with those USDA supplies. Home made bread & buns. None of that store-bought paste. The older grades rotated kids into "lunch duty" responsibilities, helping out before, during and after the noon meal  ...  an hour's release from class! For me, hopefully art class.

There was a janitor but darned if I can remember who it was. Anyone remember.

There was no PE instructor. We created our own exercise program out on the playground. No music or art teacher either. All teachers were expected to be able to play the piano and for art we had our box of 8 crayons to create a Memorial Day poster. Science labs dealt with things like mixing vinegar and baking soda or snuffing out a match in an oatmeal box with a small hole in the lid and banging on the bottom to produce air currents, a.k.a. smoke signals. But we were superbly drilled on readin'-ritin' & rithmetic. And spelling tests every week. Teachers were our spell-check.

Not exactly Groton. But the numerous Lowry School grads I know have represented themselves in the world pretty well.

Lowry grads - I am hoping some of you "Lowry Group Oldtimers" will add some of your memories of the red-brick District 30. I'd appreciate it if you would at least add a comment naming your teachers, either before or after my time.

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


I am a self-confessed nerd. I prefer the "single-minded expert" rather than the "lacking social skills and boringly studious" definition. Nerds are usually associated with computer technology or technology in general. This is certainly a significant subset and I have more than a toe dipped in that pool. But there is more than one breed of nerd. I happen to also be a baseball nerd. Can you name the World Series winners from the beginning of the modern era, 1903 (Boston Americans) to the 2017 champions (Houston Astros), remembering there were 2 years without a World Series? The Civil War. Can you name all the major battles and generals? US presidents? How fast can you name them off? All interesting subjects for me to write about, perhaps not for you to read about.

I also am an English language nerd. I own Lynn Truss' book. I have read Steven Pinker's "The Language Instinct" & "The Stuff of Thought". I know Noam Chomsky has posited a "universal grammar" common to all language. I have taken an online class on the "History of the English Language". I have watched PBS' "Story of English" series. I know that languages are constantly changing, American English perhaps more than any other. Here's a sample of what passed for English in Chaucer's time ..

"The firste vertue, sone, if thou wilt lere,
Is to restreine and kepen wel thy tonge."
[Editor note: Good advice in any language]

And there's the language legend that the English tongue fumbled on "flutterby" and transposed it to "butterfly". And "pot to carry" became apothecary. There are endless fascinations.

So you see I get into this. This is in complete disregard of a warning that appeared in a review of Bryan A. Garner's book, "A Dictionary of Modern American Usage (aka ADMAU). From Mr. Garner's bio: "I realized early that my primary intellectual interest was the English language and discovering Partridge's 'Usage & Abusage', I was enthralled." The reviewer's comment on this admission was that Garner failed to acknowledge the significant social cost for an adolescent whose passion is the English language. Swirlies and so forth.

Nevertheless, it is what it is. We obsessives self-mockingly refer to ourselves as "Snoots".  David Foster Wallace (more on DFW later), defines Snoot as "someone who knows what dysphemism means and doesn't mind letting you know it. We know we know and how few other Americans do and we judge them accordingly. We are the few, the proud, the more or less constantly appalled."

Snoots tend be inordinately represented in universities, largely older white male, trending toward the bow-tie. Think William Safire or John Houseman in Paper Chase.

Cringe-worthy cases in point:
  • "True facts" - perhaps these days, it's not so strange sounding
  • "Irregardless" - really
  • "Invaluable" - as opposed to valuable I presume
  • "Surrounded on all sides"
  • "Merge together"
  • "Beyond the pail"
  • "I thought to myself"
  • ".. died in an apartment Dr. Kervorkian was leasing after inhaling carbon monoxide"
  • "There are many reasons why lawyers lie, some better than others.

Makes you dig your nails into your palms?  OK, maybe not. (And why is "trough" pronounced troff and "through" pronounced thru?)

So, there's the context. I confess to Snootitude - but ... I almost always manage to suppress its anti-social urges.

I recently discovered the essay "Authority & Usage", one in a collection of essays titled "Consider the Lobster" by David Foster Wallace*. Authority & Usage is couched in the form of a review of Garner's ADMAU. The review runs 62 pages. David Foster Wallace considers Garner a "genius". The review delves into highly technical academic approaches to language analytics: Prescriptiveness vs. Descriptiveness,  Democratic Spirit in writing,  ... well beyond the interest level of mere mortals. But there is plenty there to interest the common man, even if you're not a Snoot.

The ADMAU itself is like a standard dictionary in that you look up words, not for meaning but usage. And while it is a serious academic "writing prescription", it also injects humor, be it of the nerd variety. Every Snoot should own a copy. Garner provides word use guidance but also adds commentary. e.g.
  •    "There are, of course, many ways writers can get it wrong. So they do."
  •    "You'll find more cliches in modern writing than you can shake a stick at."
  •    "While you can use contractions to good advantage, you may stumble if you contract recklessly. ... generally avoid 'it'd' ... 'who're'."
The ADMAU is a tome of academia and supports the dialect of the ruling class, the powerful, the prestigious: SWE - Standard Written English - which is the purview of your common Snoot and enforced in college writing classes. There are, of course,  many US English dialects and in fact you are likely fluent in more than one: Black-English, Latino-English, Rural South, Ozark, Boston Brahmin, Boston Blue Collar, Bronx, Maine Yankee, Appalachian, Cajun, Upper Midwest, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain, East Texas, Medical School (jargon), Adolescent South-Park, Twitter, Computereze (jargon), Starbuck's barista (jargon), Sports (jargon),  etc ... There may be as many sub-dialects as US communities. People naturally switch between dialects in different situations. You probably don't even notice you're doing it. Many jargons (IMHO) exist primarily to obfuscate and make your particular domain of expertise look difficult and closed to intruders. Who dreamt up ctl-alt-del? And is it dreamt or dreamed?

There's a difference between meaningful and grammatical. English is actually extremely flexible. Most any word order sentence understood can be. "Did you see the car keys of me?" wouldn't pass any Snoot-test but the meaning comes across. A bear attack announced as "That ursine monster does essay to sup upon my person" would pass a grammar test but might fail a survival test.

"Correctness" can be in the ear of the behearer. Winston Churchill famously objected to the ending a sentence with a preposition law: "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put." 

One final topic, perhaps a precarious one, "Political Correctness". PC is covered extensively in the DFW review. Personally, I applaud eliminating terms that are racist or patently offensive to groups of people. You well know those I mean. Skunk words. Long overdue. But to demand a term like "disabled" become "differently-abled" or "economically disadvantaged" replace "poor" seems patronizing, intended principally to demonstrate the speaker's "high moral position" rather than true concern. Terms like these identify real problems in our country and need to be addressed seriously. This language politics changes the focus from the real problems onto language about them and can block (my opinion) actions to address these societal issues. When you spend your time arguing about language, it's easy for opponents of change to maintain the status quo. And that's all I've got to say about that.

So if your are menaced by a "Snoot Curse", take the advice of one of my sage friends. Treat offenders as a "hidden jewels", sent to you by God to improve your character - and bite your lip.

There, Their, They're - you'll be just fine.

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin

Constructive comments, including grammar corrections, are welcome, but snide Snoot inspired remarks will be suppressed.

* David Foster Wallace was an author, university teacher of English & Creative Writing - and a genius. As with too many so afflicted, he suffered deep depression and died by his own hand in 2008.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


Weird Jobs Part 2


The grease and the sleep deprivation of the Twinkie factory finally got to me and I quit and took a job at Fairview Hospital. Fairview is just across Riverside Avenue from Augsburg so the commute was a walk.

Hospital workers have a pecking order.  As you might expect, doctors are at the pinnacle. They bark orders and expect the rest of the world to scurry. Nurses actually run the place so they are next. Orderlies are down the hierarchy and then come janitorial, but at the very bottom are the laundry workers. My new job. I worked a couple afternoons and on weekends. (Of course, well below laundry workers are medical students.)

The Fairview laundry room is in the bowels of the hospital and the soiled linen, scrubs, surgery drapes and anything washable reached the "receiving room" by laundry chutes, similar to what we had on the 2nd floor of our 2-story house in Lowry - a chute that gravity fed laundry straight to the basement.

The laundry room was a large space, about 40' x 20' and 20 feet or so high. Arriving for work on a Saturday at 6:00 AM, this room was filled to the ceiling with bags of laundry, the bags the size of a duffel. 15,000 cubic feet of dirty laundry.

There were 2 of us to deal with this mountain, Ricky & I. Ricky had seniority so to my dismay, he controlled the radio. But he was cheerful and talkative so that made the day more tolerable. The job was analogous to a coal-miner's. We mined the bags and loaded the dirty laundry into carts which sat on a floor scale. "Normal" laundry loads were 40 lbs. Blue-toned surgery linen were 35 lb loads.  There were no surgical masks or rubber gloves on this job. Lots of the linen was soiled with what you might imagine coming from hospital rooms & surgery theaters - and some things you might not. Surgery linen tended to be a bit "skanky". It now seems to me a miracle I survived without succumbing to some pernicious disease.

We rolled the 2 loaded carts across the hallway to the laundry room where we stuffed the cart contents into 2 industrial washing machines. Visualize Tokyo subway loading. The 40 lbs. of linen filled that washer tightly. We added the prerequisite detergents and kicked off the wash - which basically boiled the linen.

We then retreated to the "receiving" room to fill 2 more carts. The second trip across the hall and each subsequent required pulling the washed linen - hot-hot-hot - from the washer and loading it into dryers. Then pulling the dried linen into carts and handing the cart off to women operating manglers to finish the process. Repeat, repeat, repeat ... (For Fortran programmers , Do until ..)

By 10 AM, we could just about see the floor. That's when the trucks from Fairview Southdale showed up and refilled the room. Fairview deemed it more economical to operate one laundry for both hospitals so they ferried Southdale dirty laundry to the Minneapolis hospital and returned with clean laundry. The arrival of these trucks sent me into despondency. I was living the Greek Myth of Sisyphus, rolled back to 6 AM. By 2:30 the room was empty except for the scattering of drops from above that was pretty much constant and I got to go home to a hot shower.

This job, more so than the Twinkie factory, convinced me I had to finish my college degree. At least Hostess let you eat free pies. I could never have survived an assembly line job.

Copyright © 2018 Dave Hoplin