Bells and Whistles: Small Town Sounds: Adjusting to Life in My Home Town

Following is my column that appeared in the Tuesday, Devils Lake Journal, in Devils Lake, North Dakota.

Growing up in Devils Lake, I was accustomed to regularly hearing the sound of church bells and music and the blare of the six o’clock whistle. However, when I first returned to live here, these sounds took me by surprise.

The Journal office is located across the street from St. Joseph Catholic Church, and I find their music soothing when things get hectic here, which is pretty much a daily occurrence. However, during the first week back in DL when the 6:00 o’clock whistle blew it kind of freaked both kit cat Queen Jenni and me out. Jenni’s eyes got wide, and her head swiveled around in an almost freakish Linda Blair/Exorcist way! Now Jenni, like me, has become accustomed to the whistle, and sometimes we don’t even hear it.
It got me thinking – why does the whistle blow at 6:00 p.m.? Is it to alert us to the dinner/supper hour? Now I have to digress and discuss these meal terms, which are not always used here in the same way as in some big cities. In Denver and D.C., most people refer to the mid-day meal as lunch and the evening meal as dinner. Although my friend Barb back in Denver sometimes called dinner supper – maybe because she grew up on a cattle ranch in Colorado. My Dad, aka Pops/Fast Eddie, said that when he was growing up on the farm, dinner referred to the noon meal and supper the evening meal. He said lunch was an afternoon meal or snack that his Mom – my Grandma – would deliver to the family out working in the field.

I googled small town sirens and whistles and came across a recent article in the Rapid City Journal, where in Freeman SD a current citizen and former New York resident challenged the town’s practice of sounding whistles at noon, one and six p.m. That does sound like a bit much. And why both noon and one? Does anyone really need to be reminded twice to eat your lunch/dinner? I certainly don’t! But honestly, the man was living in New York City for pete sake! I lived in a Denver suburb on a moderately busy street, and ambulance, fire or police sirens blared at least couple times a day as their vehicles raced down the street!

I usually write this column on Friday afternoons, so another week is coming to a close. One of my favorite parts of my job is writing this column, and it’s refreshing to learn that some of you like what I write! Thanks to those who have told me you enjoy my column, including reader Norma, who also informed me, after I mentioned maple nut ice cream in a recent column, she thought Vinings had the best in town. Well, Norma, I did try it, and it’s pretty darn good!

The Jager Bunch (June 12th column)

When I was growing up my sister and I liked to watch “The Brady Bunch,” which I’m sure most people know was a 70s television show featuring Mike and Carol Brady blending their family of three boys and three girls. Returning to live in the same town and state as your family after so many years away is a blending operation of a different sort.
I have not lived near my family for many years. When I lived in Denver and Washington, D.C., I tried to come back and visit at least a few times a year. During lean financial years, it was sometimes only once a year. Now I live in the same town as not only my parents, but my brother and his family. In addition, my sister and her family live in Grand Forks. I am thoroughly enjoying spending so much time with my family after such a long fun-with-family drought!

I live just a few blocks from my parents house, so I often walk over there in the evening for dinner – that’s called supper by some of you – including my Dad/Pops. You might have seen Pops in the paper last Friday for the Journal’s “Meet Your Neighbor” segment on Ed “Fast Eddie” Jager. We try to do these neighbor segments in the paper on a regular basis, and last week it was my turn to produce one. When Friday morning rolled around, and I still had no “neighbor” I tried to persuade my niece into being my subject, however, she claimed she was not properly coiffed that day. So I ambushed my good sport Pops in the parking lot, as he had given my niece a ride to work. And speaking of “The Brady Bunch” my mom’s name is Marcia. It’s enjoyable to be with her here this spring since we both enjoy planting flowers. We both also enjoy cats, so now I have a babysitter for my kit kat Queen Jenni when I go out of town.

I am saddened by the family no longer with us that I am not able to spend some time with since my return, including my nephew Levi, who would have been a senior in high school this past school year. It would have been fun to share that experience with him and be here for his graduation, which no doubt would have included his favorite – chocolate – and lots of it! Levi had the best laugh, which I can still vividly hear in my head, and he would get a mean case of the giggles when something struck him as funny! I also would have enjoyed visiting my grandmother, who turned 100 last summer and just passed away last fall. We did have one heck of a family birthday party for her last July, including an awesome fresh fish fry, thanks to my fishermen chef brothers! My Grandma B., as we called her, had a dry sense of humor, and was always good for some great one-line zingers. A couple of years ago, I asked my Grandma what the secret was to her longevity. She paused and said quietly “well I guess I’ve been a good girl.”

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2 Responses to Bells and Whistles: Small Town Sounds: Adjusting to Life in My Home Town

  1. Laurene says:

    I think there is a book in there somewhere.

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