Mike Kueber's Blog

October 7, 2014

Really listening

Filed under: Culture,Relationships,Self-improvement — Mike Kueber @ 1:18 am
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Last month when I was visiting with a friend in my hometown of Aneta, ND, she mentioned a high school chum who regularly returns to Aneta for its summer festival in June. This chum lives an outwardly successful life in a large urban area, yet still seems to enjoy returning to the small-town rural charm of Aneta and reconnecting with the people she grew up with. But something in their conversations has begun to bother my friend.

It seems that my friend and her chum usually bump into each other before or after Aneta’s small parade on Saturday, and invariably they have a warm and friendly chat for a few minutes before moving on. At first, these conversations were very satisfying, with the polished urban person asking appropriate questions and apparently enjoying the conversation. But lately my friend has realized that her chum asks the same questions every year, not unlike the movie Groundhog’s Day.

Although the repeated questions might not be immediately insulting, my friend has gradually become insulted because she has concluded that her chum is merely deploying her social graces in answering the appropriate questions and is not actually listening to or remembering her answers.

I think my friend is right.

One of my happy-hour friends complains that I often ask him the same question on multiple occasions, and I have to confess that this happens when I am making conversation with him instead of being hugely interested in what his answer is.

Don Imus has the same problem. Several times I’ve noticed him ask a guest something that I recalled he asked the same guest several weeks ago, and occasionally the guest will even point that out. Obviously, Don was making conversation in the earlier interview and didn’t particularly care what the guest’s response was (even though Imus takes great pride in asserting that, unlike other media interviewers, he actually listens to the answers and then lets those answers dictate the direction of the interview).

So, is this a teaching moment? I’m not sure. Obviously, it would be nice to be sincerely interested in your conversation, consistent with that old saying, “Be here now.” But sometimes a person is engaged in casual conversation that is not significant.

Do I want to waste my scarce brain cells remembering that? I vote yes, and I’m going to redouble my efforts here.

June 27, 2014

My summer vacation

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Retirement — Mike Kueber @ 4:48 am
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When you are a kid returning to school after summer, your teacher may traditionally ask you for a report on what you did during your vacation. That report would typically describe a trip that exposed you to fun and interesting things. My recent summer vacation to Aneta, like those vacations to Aneta before it, was focused not on fun and interesting things, but rather fun and interesting people.

My greatest interest in returning to Aneta annually is to observe how people are aging from one year to the next. And I’m not referring to the aging of their bodies, but rather how they are mentally adjusting to getting older. That is a problem that we all must deal with, and I attempt to gather a variety of “best practices.”

In addition to studying the aging issue, I also love to observe the different personalities with a detachment that comes from knowing that I don’t have to live with those personalities for more than a few days. Two unique characters presented themselves to me on my last full day in Aneta:

  1. A friend complained that his academic career was held back because he was always horrible at standardized tests. Instead of taking the politically-correct position that standardized tests are bad, I took a different tack that my friend, as a former basketball player, might understand – I suggested that the inability to do well on a standardized test is analogous to a basketball player being unable to make free throws – i.e., it doesn’t completely define that person, but it hinders that person’s utility in some situations.
  2. Another friend, who was in the process of trying to court a beautiful woman in a neighboring town, was upset that the woman had been told by someone from our town that my friend was “driven” and “particular.” I could tell that my friend was concerned that this description was not a good thing for his courting prospects, and he was highly interested in finding out who had slandered him. Because my friend is widely acknowledged as driven and particular, I decided not to advise him that truth is generally a defense to slander. And I also didn’t tell him that if the woman noticed that this description concerned him, she would have all the confirmation that she needed. I probably should have told him to admit that he is aware of these issues and is working on them.

Traveling to my hometown every summer takes a lot of energy, but the grounding and centering that it affords me is priceless.

June 23, 2013

Paul Lee – reflections from another perspective

Filed under: Biography,Culture,History,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 4:04 am
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Paul Lee was an old friend from Aneta who died on April 13, 2013 at the age of 64.  While I was visiting Aneta last week for the city’s annual turkey bar-b-que, I came across a letter-to-the-editor in the Aneta Star reflecting on Paul’s life.  The letter was written by Paul’s younger cousin, Greg Lee, who grew up with Paul in Aneta before moving away while Paul stayed at home.

Greg’s letter seemed to have two themes – (1) Paul was an incredibly talented young athlete, and (2) because Paul clung to his youthful athletic stardom, he failed to realize his potential.  The letter concluded with a lengthy quote from Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 song, Glory Days.  The song’s lyrics describe a high school baseball star who wasted everyone’s time by incessantly telling boring stories of his glory days and who never amounted to anything.

According to Wikipedia, Springsteen wrote the lyrics to Glory Days based on a real-life encounter with a former high school friend.  Springsteen was not an accomplished athlete in high school (see the video on You Tube; he throws a baseball like a girl in the 60s) and he admits to hating high school, so the song seems an obvious attempt to mock the athletes who were popular and successful in high school.  Springsteen would do well to remember that Envy is one of the seven deadly sins.

As Greg’s letter indicated, Paul loved to talk about his glory days, and all of Paul’s friends will agree on that point.  But, although Springsteen was clearly mocking high school athletes, I’m sure Greg did not intend to be critical of Paul.  Rather, that part of the letter was probably intended to be a cautionary tale.

But if the letter contained cautionary words of wisdom for small-town kids, you might wonder if Paul would have agreed.  Fortunately, I know the answer.  A few years ago, while perched on a barstool in Aneta’s Whitetail Bar, I enjoyed a long conversation with Paul about glory days before I broached the subject of Springsteen’s song Glory Days.

Paul thought Springsteen’s song had it all wrong.  Most people, according to Paul, have a brief opportunity to do something really dramatic and memorable, and that opportunity is most likely to occur with high school sports.  That is when everyone’s attention is focused and everyone wants the same thing.  Paul mocked the frustrated high school athletes who later attempt to find glory by competitively running a 10k or endlessly practicing golf.  As he said, who cares then?

But everyone cares about athletic success in high school.  It is a defining moment that lasts forever.  I just watched a movie about high school football in Texas – Friday Night Lights – and the most inspirational point of the movie occurs near the end when the coach gives a stirring halftime speech – “I want you to put each other in your hearts forever because forever is about to happen here in just a few minutes.”  Paul understood and appreciated the way Texans feel about high school football (Odessa Permian HS) and college football (UT Longhorns).

First Lady Barbara Bush once noted at a college commencement address that material success in life is relatively unimportant.  As evidence of that, she said you’ll never hear of individuals on their death bed lamenting that they failed to achieve one more promotion up the corporate ladder.  That would be chasing fool’s gold.  But you can’t say the same thing about making or missing an important free throw in a District Championship game.  That result will stick with you forever.

On a different level, Springsteen’s criticism of nostalgic reminiscences seems petty.  I am reminded of the sage advice given by cowboy philosopher Gus McCrae to Lorena Wood in Lonesome Dove:

  • “Lorie darlin’, life in San Francisco, you see, is still just life. If you want any one thing too badly, it’s likely to turn out to be a disappointment. The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things, like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like myself.”

Nostalgic reminiscing provides a simple, accessible joy to people who are not preoccupied with future objectives.  Intense, never-ending ambition is fine for some people, but it is not for everyone.  The crux of the matter is whether reminiscing prevents an individual from achieving things in life.  People who believe that are guilty, I believe, of the logical fallacy that correlation implies causation (cum hoc ergo propter hoc, which is Latin for “with this, therefore because of this.”)  I think it is more accurate to conclude that individuals who aren’t predisposed to forward thinking are more likely to enjoy looking back.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

The solution is simple – Glory Days are worth remembering, but shouldn’t be shared with those who aren’t interested in them.

Returning to Greg Lee’s letter, he said that Paul had big ideas and plans that went beyond Aneta and North Dakota, and that, although Paul failed to leave Aneta, Greg was inspired by Paul’s dreams and left Aneta.  This comment reminds me of some additional wisdom by Gus McCrae, who scolded Woodrow Call for disparaging a woman who didn’t get out of Lonesome Dove and instead died there:

  • It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living. I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you live.”

Gus’s point was that an individual can lead a satisfying life, regardless of where.  I believe Paul’s life in Aneta, not in San Francisco or New York, was satisfying.  He managed the family farm and started three successful businesses, even though he never made it to Yankee Stadium.  He once told me that if my brother Kelly, Jim Kleven, and he could attend a game in Yankee Stadium, they might as well die and go directly to heaven because they would have nothing more to look forward to in this life.  That sounds like a man with sound priorities and one who is comfortable in his own skin.  He lived his dream, not someone else’s.

Coincidentally, Time magazine had an article this week on the exploding interest in cremation, with almost 50% of the deceased people in America currently being cremated.  One of the explanations proffered by the article is that, because of the baby boomers’ geographical mobility, they don’t have a single hometown to be buried in.  Rather, they are born in one place, educated in another, work in several, and finally retire to die somewhere else.  That is not true of Paul.  He was a son of Aneta, and the people of Aneta will favorably remember him for many ears.

RIP, Paul.

p.s., although Paul didn’t agree with the Glory Days lyrics, he was a Springsteen fan.  My brother Kelly informed me that Paul’s three favorite songs were Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark (1984) along with the Doors’ Light My Fire (1967) and Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody to Love (1967).

I had a friend was a big baseball player back in high school

He could throw that speedball by you

Make you look like a fool boy

Saw him the other night at this roadside bar

I was walking in, he was walking out

We went back inside sat down had a few drinks

but all he kept talking about was

Chorus:

Glory days well they’ll pass you by

Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye

Glory days, glory days

Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight

and I’m going to drink till I get my fill

And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it

but I probably will

Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture

a little of the glory of, well time slips away

and leaves you with nothing mister but

boring stories of glory days

June 13, 2011

June hiatus/sojourn

Filed under: Entertainment — Mike Kueber @ 9:09 pm
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I’m leaving tomorrow for my annual trip to North Dakota for Aneta’s annual Turkey Bar-B-Que, so my blog will be on hiatus for a week or so.

February 8, 2011

Death of a small town – Marathon, Texas

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:49 am
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An article in the Texas Tribune yesterday reported on the fight of small-town Marathon, TX to survive.    Forty years ago, my hometown of Aneta, ND went through an eerily similar fight and lost.  We had less than 200 kids attending grades 1-12.  Marathon has only 50.  My graduating class had nine kids, and I was the salutatarian; Marathon has only one graduate, the valedictorian.

The survival of the local school is usually the last line of defense against a town’s eventual extinction.  When I was a kid in Aneta, declining enrollment was already leading to school consolidation, with winners and losers.  The larger towns were winners because their school annexed additional tax base in return for accepting responsibility for a few more students.  The smaller towns were the losers because they lost jobs and their kids had to be bussed to a neighboring (competing) town.  But the ultimate winners were the kids who were able to attend a suddenly thriving new school with a much enlarged curriculum and extra-curricular activities. 

Much credit should be given to local politicos who are able to get past community pride and think about their primary responsibility – the kids’ education.  My Aneta school board fought against being annexed for more than a decade.  In fact, it was unsuccessful in attempting to annex other schools in the same predicament.  Eventually, before Aneta reached the emaciated level of Marathon, the board gave up and consolidated with our basketball enemy McVille, and the kids were better off for it.  Not only was their curriculum expanded, they could play football for the first time in decades.  Kids in my generation at Aneta were never given the opportunity to play high school football, and some still resent that. 

Towns like Marathon should accept the facts.  Don’t treat you kids like pawns to stave off the inevitable decline of your town.

October 8, 2010

My Kueber heritage in North Dakota

Filed under: History — Mike Kueber @ 4:03 am
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In Texas, a person has a claim to fame if his family immigrated to Texas before it became a state in 1846.  After studying my Kueber heritage in North Dakota, I am proud to say that my ancestors started farming in Rugh Township, North Dakota before it became a state in 1889, and Kuebers are still farming there today.     

The first Kueber in America was my great-great-grandfather John George Kueber (ne Johann Georg Kuber), and he apparently squeezed a lot of living in his life.  John was born on New Years Eve 1833 in Rieneck, Bavaria, Germany, and he emigrated to NYC on May 12, 1877 on the German Steam Ship Rhein.  He brought with him his wife Maria and five children, including my great-grandfather Jacob Kueber (ne Jakob Kuber), who was five-years old at the time.  John was a baker in Rieneck (as was his father Andreas and grandfather Georg), and in America he became a farmer.  He also had three more kids with his first Maria, who died during childbirth in 1883. 

Because women were in short supply in Minnesota, John looked to Germany for a replacement wife.  According to some reports, he went to Germany and returned with a second wife, Ottilia.  According to other reports, he wrote for a wife and used a photo of his oldest, 21-year-old son Aloysius Luis (Louie) to hide the fact that he was almost 50 years old.  In any event, Ottilia arrived in Minnesota and married John, while Louie left home in a huff and never talked to his dad again.  Ottilia graced John with eight more children. 

John homesteaded twice in Minnesota, but was unsuccessful and he lost his land by foreclosure in 1892.  After the bankruptcy, he took his younger, second family to Oregon and later Washington, while the older, first family stayed in the Minnesota area.  John had financial difficulties in Washington, too, and shortly before he died of a heart attack in 1900, he wrote to Louie for money, and Louie refused. 

Louie had moved to Rugh Township, ND in 1885 as soon as the territory was opened to homesteading.  (The Scandinavians in the area were moving into Ora Township to the south, while the Germans and Pennsylvania Dutch settled in Rugh Township.)   Louie’s younger brother, my great-grandfather Jacob, followed Louie to Rugh Township and married Marie Catherine Bichler in 1898.  Jacob farmed in Rugh Township his entire (albeit abbreviated) life and died of stomach cancer on June 2, 1912.  He and Marie had six children, and their oldest son was my grandfather Aloysius John Kueber. 

Grandpa Kueber’s age was always easy to remember because he was born on December 3, 1900.  My dad’s mom was Caroline Hillesland, born June 30, 1905, and she died August 27, 1932.  Caroline and Al were married in 1927 and had two children – my dad and Uncle Jerry.  (I think Caroline died while in childbirth for my namesake uncle, Alyn Jerome.)  After Caroline’s death, Grandpa Kueber (with two small kids) quickly married Agnes Lian on September 2, 1933, and they had five more kids – Don, Dick, Mary Ann, Robert, and Alice.  Grandpa and Grandma Kueber farmed in Rugh Township until they retired in 1964 and moved to the West Coast, where four of their seven kids had already moved. 

Uncle Dick led the migration to California.  He was the quintessential entrepreneur and after his discharge from the Marines at Camp Pendleton, he started a gas station and a misc.-rental company in the tri-city area – Oceanside, Carlsbad, and Vista.  Both businesses thrived, and soon two brothers and a brother-in-law moved to CA and started similar businesses in the area.  Grandpa and Grandma bought a house with a swimming pool in Oceanside, CA, and I still remember them telling glamorous stories about highways in CA where, if you missed your exit, you had to drive for ten miles to find your next exit.  They also told of star-sightings, like Wishbone from Rawhide fame, who lived close by.  The streets weren’t paved with gold, but California sounded mighty inviting.

My dad, Bernard James (Sunny) Kueber, was the only Kueber kid who still stayed back in North Dakota (other than Aunt Alice, who was still a senior in high school), so he got first dibs to take over the farm.  Dad had enlisted in the Army right out of high school and served in Japan in 1946-47.  After his discharge, he worked on Grandpa’s farm and then married my mom, Esther Fern Sotvik, on November 21, 1951.  In 1955, Dad moved his young family of three boys to town (Aneta, population @400) and took a job as Chief of the city’s one-man police force.  The job paid $100 a week, and Dad rented a nice house in a nice neighborhood in Aneta from Mom’s parents for $100 a month.  In 1964, with Grandpa’s retirement, Dad gave up this career with limited growth potential and moved his family, now with four young boys, to the Kueber family farm. 

What was the Kueber farm like when we moved there in 1964?  Well, the 800-farm comprised one full section (1 square mile) and an adjoining quarter (one-half mile squared).  There were about 500 tillable acres, 100 acres of pasture, 170 acres of slough, and 30 acres of creek.  It was situated right in the middle of four small towns – Aneta, McVille, Northwood, and Petersburg.  And these small towns were situated right in the middle of four ND regional metropolises – Grand Forks, Fargo, Devils Lake, and Jamestown.  As we commonly said back then, “It’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there.” 

Dad got a loan from the Federal Land Bank and bought the farm for $80,000, or $100 an acre.  I thought that was the market price, but one of my uncles later told me that that was the maximum amount that the Land Bank would loan on the land.  The land came with an old one and a half story house, a nice small barn, a chicken coop, a three-stall garage, a shop (previously a one-room school house), a tractor shed, a wooden granary, and two steel bins.

Dad also got a loan to buy farm equipment and livestock, most of which he bought at my grandpa’s auction sale.  That sale is my first recollection of being on the farm.  I remember Dad having a friend bid on the one item that Dad wanted more than any other – Grandpa’s 4010 John Deere tractor.  The rationale for the substitute bidder was that Dad bidding on the tractor would unfairly suppress the price because many farmers would not want to bid against a popular young farmer just starting out.  I think Dad eventually got the tractor for about $4,000.  To save money, Dad didn’t buy a combine or a baler.  Instead, he would have custom combiners/balers perform those tasks every year.  [November 7, 2010 edit – I just recalled that the Kueber farm used low-tech hay stacking the first few years on the farm, with us kids walking on the hay in the stack-frame to stomp it down.  Only later did we shift to labor-intensive rectangular bales and eventually to minimal-labor round bales.] 

Dad liked to diversify and rotate the 500-acre grain operation.  Although the most profitable crop was durum wheat (which is made into pasta), the federal government usually limited the number acres that could be planted to wheat.  The remaining acres were planted to oats, barley, and flax (later sunflowers, corn, and sugar beets).  Flax was an exotic, pricey crop, but was vulnerable to frost; whereas oats and barely weren’t worth much, but could be use to feed the animals, too.

Yes, we had animals on the farm.  The barn was set up for 12 milking cows, plus an area for their calves.  The milk was immediately separated into cream and skim milk, and then every few days we would bring the cream to Aneta’s creamery, where it would be converted into butter.  The skim milk was considered to be almost a waste product, which was given to calves and pigs.  The calves were born in the spring and sold the next spring.  Because we rarely raised a calf to slaughtering size and always had slaughter-ready pigs, our family lived off pork instead of beef.  Just about every Sunday Mom would make a pork roast.  (I never understood why one was called pork roast and the other reversed the words and was called roast beef.)  We also raised chickens, primary for eggs, but I occasionally remember seeing Dad chop off the heads of chickens for eating.  Once I even saw someone wring a chicken’s neck, but I still don’t understand how that works.

We had two decorative livestock on the farm – horses and geese.  Dad grew up when kids would daily ride a horse to the township school, and he never lost his love for horses.  While he was Aneta’s top cop, he stabled a beautiful Palomino at a place on the outskirts of town, and I remember seeing Dad and his Palomino compete in a bunch of horse shows.  I don’t know what happened to the Palomino, but when we moved to the farm, Dad bought Grandpa’s team of two matching horses, and there was a special place in the barn for them.  Grandpa would use the team occasionally (like at Christmas, when he drove them to town with a sled and pretended to be Santa Claus and his sleigh for the kids), but I don’t recall Dad using the team.  For a few years, we had a Shetland pony, too.

The geese weren’t necessarily decorative, but we rarely ate them.  I’m sure the area foxes ate twice as many as we did.  To scare us kids from bothering the geese, Mom and Dad told us that the flapping wings of a goose were so powerful that they could break a person’s arm, and we believed them.

The only livestock we were missing were sheep.  A neighboring relative (George Bothen) had sheep, and I recall that we had some for a while, but I suspect my dad had a Texan’s prejudice against them.  Although Dad had never been to Texas, he had seen enough John Wayne movies to become an honorary Texan.         

And of course we had dogs and more cats than you could count.  We brought one dog from the city, but the black lab called Pal didn’t survive the transition.  He didn’t understand that baby pigs weren’t big rats that needed to be killed.  One morning we went to the barn and found that he had killed all twelve baby pigs.  The sad day got sadder because Dad had to shoot Pal.     

As you can imagine, there was always a lot of work to do on the farm.  The work included plowing and cultivating the tillable land, picking rocks, fixing fence, milking cows, cleaning the barn gutters (i.e., shoveling shit), mowing and raking hay, and hauling hay bales.  And my dad was brought up to believe that it was his responsibility to keep his four boys busy even if there wasn’t any work to do.  The make-work included sweeping the garage and shop whenever we ran out of work real work.  I was the only boy who worked at home all through high school; my three brothers each worked occasionally as hired hands for neighbors. 

After working the farm for almost 20 years later, in 1983, Mom and Dad moved to town, and my brother Greg and his wife Janis moved to the Kueber farm.  As of 2010, Greg and Janis are still there.  That has been no mean feat considering the difficult times that have afflicted the farming business.  It’s sad to think about all the family farmers who were forced to get jobs in the cities, but such is life.  As Margaret Mitchell said, the family farms are gone with the wind.   

P.S., much of my family history was gleaned from an incredible website maintained by Gary Kueber of New Orleans, LA.  Please see http://www.kueber.us/index.htm.

July 28, 2010

For the times they are a-changin’, but are they?

When Bob Dylan sang about the changing times in the 60s, he gave words of warning to a variety of people: 

  • Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen; and keep your eyes wide the chance won’t come again; and don’t speak too soon for the wheel’s still in spin.
  • Come senators, congressmen please heed the call; don’t stand in the doorway don’t block up the hall; for he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled.
  • Come mothers and fathers throughout the land; and don’t criticize what you can’t understand; your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.

Dylan was prophesizing that the world was fundamentally going somewhere it had never been before and that traditional thinking was no longer relevant.  But was he right, or was his singing analogous to a Wall Street speculator inaccurately declaring that the economic cycle of booms and busts was no longer relevant?  I suggest that the answer can be found in my hometown mayor’s speech at the dedication of Aneta’s new city auditorium in 1927.  (Please be aware that Aneta was a small town in North Dakota with a few hundred people, and my parents, who were both born in Aneta a few months after this dedication, still rode horses to school.)

Mayor Henry Haroldson:

“….  We have felt the need for this building for a long time.  Man is a social being and our community will develop in proportion to the social standard that is adopted by the people of our community.  If we could learn and understand the things that are for our good and work in harmony to attain that goal, we would soon find that we are living in a real progressive community.

We are living in a most mechanical age.  In fact, so much so that we ourselves have become mechanical.  We even salute our friends with a mechanical ‘hello.’  Not that alone, but we have become a restless people, we want to travel far, much faster than our fathers did and yet we have less time to spare than they did.

I can remember in my childhood days when my transportation was by foot or lumber wagon.  We would get up on a Sunday morning, do our chores, and the entire family would go to church, be back home for dinner and in the afternoon visit friends, having a real social time, going back to work on Monday with a feeling of satisfaction.

Today it is so different, we think in distance.  We get up on a Sunday morning, grab a lunch and start for some lake or picnic a hundred miles away and if we don’t like the crowd we crank up the old jitney, and start for some other place fifty miles or more away, returning at night all tired out from the drive.  Then, if we think of a neighbor whom we should have visited, we go to our phone, call up the friend to ascertain how sick he is and how fast his pulse beats.

We somehow have lost the spirit of neighborly friendship that is needed to build a community and my hopes are that through the use of this community building we may be able to re-establish some of that friendly spirit, that we can meet here from time to time and learn to understand each other better.  Much trouble and many court cases would be avoided if people had a better understanding of each other.  How often don’t we make the expression that so and so is a good sort of fellow after we have learned to know him?  If we know more people better, we would know more good fellows.”

….

The auditorium is built – it is here, we have completed the easy part in connection therewith.  I know you think I am going to say that the hard part is going to be to pay for it.  I do not feel that this is our largest undertaking.  The hard task as I see it will be to put it into such use that it will serve the community in the purpose for which it is built.  This building is like life itself; you cannot get more out of it than you put into it.  It you expect it to bring a good return and render good service to the community, you must put into it good, honest efforts.

What I found striking about Mayor Haroldson’s speech was how, 80 years later, we still worry about the same things.  And I’m not talking about too many lawsuits and government debt.  I’m talking about people making social connections and living in harmony, all while making material advancements.  This is a never-ending struggle, and each generation, each person should attempt to learn from the past, not reject the past as irrelevant.