Those 70ish girls…With it

When we first arrived at the Gathering and were looking for the right entrance, I heard my cousin, Val, say to no one in particular, “Oh, there’s the Arizona flag. This must be the right place.”

With Bobby Brost 2 gatherings ago.

Val was walking next to Gus behind my brother, Billy, and me. I had listened to her talk to herself all the way from the car, which we had parked quite a ways down the street. “Mary drives safely,” she said. “She puts her hands at 2 and 10 on the steering wheel.”

“Have you ever really listened to Valerie?” I asked Billy. “She’s really funny.”

Our Moms and Gus several years ago.

We had passed the door to the room where the Gathering was taking place and were backtracking when I realized we had left the cheesecake that Valerie and I had gone all the way to Walmart that morning to purchase, in the car. We’d worried all morning if we had done the right thing by leaving it in the car while we got ready. “Will it be too warm? Does cheesecake melt?” I finally walked outside and determined the car temp would be cool enough. “That’s good, Val said. ” We would have had to tip it sideways if we put it in the little refrigerator, and that might mess it up if it fell out when we opened the door. Would we be going to the Gathering if we weren’t still with it?” She asked as she laid down on the bed.

I thought that was an interesting question. Who would say, “You girls can’t go. You’re no longer with it!” Someone other than us would have to make the decision if we were with it enough. That’s a daunting thought for sure.

Billy and Valerie when they were a little more “with it”

I had the best time with Billy, Gus, and Val. Though I don’t look like it, I’m the youngest of the four of us. Some days I’m with it and some days I’m without it. I hope the decision maker catches Val and me on a good day because we would sure like to go to the Gathering again next year.

That is a daunting question, Cuz MG. Maybe we should nominate someone to officially decide if we are “with it“ enough to attend next year’s Mesa Gathering. We have a lawyer cousin who could draw up the legal papers and delegate psychological healthcare providers to determine if we are able to go in 2024. Or we could both vouch for each other. After all, wasn’t that pretty smart that I identified the Arizona flag flying over our hotel? And I had pretty good spatial thinking predicting that our Walmart cheesecake wouldn’t fit in the hotel room mini fridge. I also observed your outstanding driving skills.

You were pretty much ahead of Bill, Gus and I during our treks to the casino, restaurants and the Gathering clubhouse, walking briskly along to get to the doors before us. I remember your head above the others bouncing along a few feet in front of us as you raced to check out that Mexican restaurant the night after the Gathering. You were energetic and fast! Of course we had a great sugar rush from all the desserts and cheesecake we had eaten that afternoon; we were full of energy, not to mention, we hadn’t gotten a full night’s sleep, which you admitted made you silly. And Bill was the lucky recipient of the remaining Krispy Kreme donuts as we left the Mesa party. Surely we could eat a couple more donuts in the morning. MG and I secured the box of donuts in our room. Mary ate one later mentioning how worth it those calories were.

In the lobby the next morning at breakfast, Mary returned from her 5:00 am drive and thankfully avoided a Silver Alert driving back to the hotel. I sat in the lobby sampling the hotel continental layout but those donuts kept creeping into my feeble thoughts. Still I was with it enough to text Bill back when he asked what we were doing. Mary brought the donuts down to the lobby after she got back and chatted with me about her trip to the casino. The large cardboard Krispy Kreme donut box sat beside us as we had tea and coffee. When Gus came down, he asked a gentleman trying to enjoy his breakfast alone at the table next to us if the man would mind if Gus set the donut box on his table. The man didn’t mind. “Thanks, sir.” The man was officially on donut patrol. So we filled out a bday card for our sweet cousin in South Dakota and chatted. Next Bill came down and MG said, “I thought you would’ve looked better for all the time it took you to get ready.” Bill kinda ignored her asking me, “Did my sister just put me down?” Then Bill noticed the donuts. Mary turned around to the donut patrol man and said, “Sir, you’re in charge of our donuts. They were free. Would you like one?”

“No thanks, “ Sir replied, “How’d you get them for free?” He looked curious.

Bill explained that we were at a reunion and they were left over. “We didn’t find them by the side of the road or steal them or anything like that!” Sir didn’t want one.

I was beginning to feel less with it and spaced out. (Mary mentioned that she, too, often got distracted though she will probably deny saying that.) . I recall Mary mentioning that Gus wanted his jackknife from the car and Jesus is Calling in the car. Mary said, “Yeah, I will go get it and Jesus is calling.”

Shocked, Val, who had been distracted, said, “Wait. What? Jesus is calling? Huh? I didn’t know you were that close, Gus.”

After a quick laugh and a joke Mary told, after a couple funny videos Gus shared, Bill reached over and got a donut. We all left to get packed up and ready for the drive to the airport. The donuts went back up to the room. When Mary and I packed up, we each took a chocolate frosted donut in a plastic bag and crammed them into our purses. I left a note atop the box for the hotel maid, “Free Donuts. They’re still good. Enjoy.”

Hours later, my crème filled, chocolate-frosted smashed donut tasted like nourishment from sweetness heaven, as I sat down to indulge and wait for my flight. The trip had been a blast, a great success, and we four would all happily remember it, and take the memories with us, as well as a few extra calories.

Billy chatting with Ken Poppe. Mick Penticoff and Jim Arnieri (Patti Dykstra Arnieri’s husband. are in the Background

Those 70ish girls…Ruth and Edith..Gathering reminiscing

By Lav and MG

Many, many years ago, Ruth came from Sweden to our little town of Murdo to marry Carl Nyquist. Maybe Ruth’s maiden name was Carlson as that was her spinster sister, Edith’s last name. Ruth brought Edith with her. They were very close sisters.

Lav and I might not get all the details of this story correct, but we’ll do our best.

Anyway, Carl owned a farm North of Murdo where he and Ruth settled into married life and raised their only child, Mildred, who we always knew as Sugar. Sugar went to school with and was great friends with Lav’s mom, Ella, and my mom, Loretta.

The Nyquists eventually moved to a little house in Murdo. It was white with red trim. Edith always wore red rimmed glasses. Probably just a coincidence. There are many funny stories about Edith and Ruth who referred to herself as Zee (meaning I or me in her delightful Swedish accent.)

We all loved the Nyquists, but we confess that we got a real kick out of their accents and often told stories about funny things they said or did. Billy recently recounted a story about Ruth and sister Edith from long ago when he worked at Sandersons General Store with another young man. Billy and Roy Hauck were in the back of the store restocking and didn’t see the sisters walk through the big front door. They suddenly looked up to see them saunter in, purses on their arms, dressed up for a “town trip”. Roy looked over at Bill and said, “Get ready for another harrowing experience.”

At the Mesa Gathering Patti Dykstra Arnieri told another story from when her parents and Nyquists attended a movie back in the day. Ruth and Carl were sitting behind Patti’s parents at the movie in Draper. Evidently the bad guy was doing something. Ruth said, “Oh, you tink he get avay vit it Cahl?” Carl replied, “Nooo, he von’t get avay vit it.”

Once, when Sugar was in town, Mom invited the 3 ladies to lunch. Mom had just learned how to make tacos which were kind of a new thing to Murdo. I think Pierre may have had a Taco John’s by then. When Mom excitedly announced she had made tacos, Ruth announced, “Zee don’t like Taaacos.”

This story was contributed by Gus. Sugar told him about her mother turning on the gas stove before walking across the room to get a match. By the time she got back to the stove and lit it, the flame was high with a loud, “POOF!” Ruth looked at the rather horrified Sugar and said, “It do dat!”

My Mom, Ella told a story of their sweet Murdo friend nicknamed Sugar, Mildred Nyquist, standing up to Loretta during WWII when a Murdo group had an apartment together in California. Billy was just a baby when his Dad was away in the Army overseas. Loretta, a new mother, couldn’t keep up with all the cloth diapers. She got behind and the smell of dirty and wet diapers was getting overpowering.  Sugar was a calm gal, but she stood up to Loretta and wasn’t going to mince words. She let Loretta have it, telling her in no uncertain terms, she had better take care of all the cloth diapers, do laundry and get to work. Loretta was seething. She had a new baby, plus  she was recovering from a cesarean operation. Her frustration boiled over, and she had an immediate response for Sugar’s complaint. When Sugar was away at work, Loretta took an especially stinky cloth diaper and put it under Sugar’s pillow on her bed covering up the pillow with the blanket and bedspread, returning the bed as though nothing had been disturbed. I never heard the end result. However, I think Sugar was the one boiling mad after that trick and probably let Loretta know what she thought quickly returning the nasty diaper to her. The Sanderson girls were strong, lifelong friends with Sugar until her passing.

Loretta Sanderson and Sugar Nyquist before the diaper incident.
Sugar Nyquist and George Parker on their wedding day.
George and Sugar 50 years later. Sugar had her mother, Ruth’s pretty skin.
Sisters Elna Miller, Ella Lecky, Loretta Gustafson, and their friend, Sugar Parker
Sugar with Billy and Liz Francis
Sugar with her big kitty

Those 70ish girls…Blogging for dummies – or a lesson before the Gathering Pt.3 by Lav

We had said previous to our trip to Mesa for the Gathering, that MG would help Lav with the technical parts of writing a blog. So Lav brought her iPad and during some free time at the hotel in Mesa, MG offered her help, her expertise and a lesson in using the site she used to write the blog. It started out simply.

When Lav had written some blog drafts then tried to post them in the past, things didn’t always go smoothly especially when Lav tried to add pictures or video. MG helped and made the drafts look more polished and slick in their final format. Even small videos done separately flowed smoothly into one connected video when viewed on the blog. Lav meant well, trying to assist Cuz MG who was an accomplished blogger with some 5 plus years of experience and millions of followers. Actually Lav was having a lot of fun writing about silly things and their South Dakota trip to the All School Reunion, and other subjects. So on the morning that MG helped Lav during their down time prior to the Gathering, everything was starting out with helpful attitudes. They were ready to improve Lav’s skills and knowledge, they thought. Lav needed help. Lav told MG, “I know I come off as a dummy, but I’m really smart. Techie stuff makes me transform in a bad way. It’s not easy for me.”

It couldn’t have been coffee nerves. Lav drinks tea.

“You go here to WP and see this plus symbol on the top left? Go there then you can add photos from Media Library but first here at Images. Then Add New and Insert. Pick a photo size, see this little icon?” MG started.

Beads of perspiration broke out on Lav’s forehead almost immediately underneath her bangs. MG remained calm, cool, cucumber-like and super relaxed as she sat on the edge of her bed as she spoke. She showed Lav on the screen the tabs, the tools, the drop down whatever they were, tiny icons. MG proceeded slowly, patiently. She was the ideal tech teacher. She was a queen of bloggers. Lav was so happy. However, this sentence kept running across her vision: you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But Lav liked dogs. She was ready to learn.

Lav’s armpits were getting sweaty but she listened and took notes, fast and furiously. MG continued pointing and explaining, “Go here to images and your pictures will appear…hmm, why are we seeing those? Oh, yeah, here they are, see?” MG showed Lav the screen.

“Now let me see your phone.” Lav’s hand wobbled a bit as she handed MG her phone. “Where’s your WP App?” Lav thought, “what app.”

Lav replied, “I don’t know. I always just go to my favorites and click on WP then click on that draft writing deal and start typing a blog idea.”

“Well, don’t you have the App? I think you need the app.”

Lav paused, “I’m gonna do an Aunt Elna. I gotta lie down.” She started to twitch but stretched out on her bed.

“Okay, just pick your photo size and the Add, Insert. There’s another plus symbol on this side. Next you can go to Publish and next to that video upload or dot, dot, dot to remove it. Post settings, set feature image which has to be in Draft- WP library. Then you can share your post on Facebook POST. Got it?”

Lav let out a short moaning sound. “I get kinda confused and mixed up even when Ken helps me with technology and he is good at it, like you”

“You seem a bit anxious and agitated. Now let’s get the App put on your phone. Oops, I can’t get in; you have Face ID.” She handed Lav her cellphone. Lav got it opened up and MG added info and asked Lav how she adds Apps. Lav couldn’t think straight but googled the WP app and MG got it added, like magic. “Now see if you can get into the app. There it is! See that symbol? You have it. Using the App will be easier and we can coordinate our two devices better.”

It all looked good. Lav saw the app with the bright green squiggle sign on her screen, She had the app now. This would be great. The lesson was about over. She had her cryptic notes and she wasn’t feeling as nervous. Things were looking brighter. There was light at the end of the lesson.

“Hey, let’s go get a drink and snacks before we get ready for the Gathering,” MG said. “Next I’ll show you how I want to enter the Gathering and you take a video of me.”

Lav knew how to take videos. She could handle that. This day was really tech filled. How had we ever lived without cell phones, computers, iPads, laptops, and all this technology? Answer: simply, much more simply.

Those 70ish girls…Pt. 2 – Airport Anxiety

The Gathering Pt. 2 – Airport Anxiety by Valerie Halla

One of the perks from attending these “Reunions” with my cousins and Gus, is that I hear new stories and jokes. The best part is being with Gus, Mary and Bill because they’re a boatload of fun and we deeply love our family, especially our late Grandma and Grandpa Sanderson and Murdo history. Oh, and we laugh a lot when we’re together, big snorting, teary eyed laughs and giggles. The Side Stories that come along with our visits get us off track, however, these stories are tops.

As we get older, it becomes more difficult to travel and navigating around airports is a challenge. After an hour drive through traffic, I got to San Jose airport and checked my bag being told to remove my iPad from my luggage. Everyone knows the battery can leak – except me – but I could carry it onboard the plane. Next I went through security and the alarm kept going off. The nice TSA officer had me take off my earrings, then my necklace, and the beeping continued . His assistant came next to help. They had me remove my Apple Watch, but alarm was still beeping. The gal finally had me remove my big boots which had metal buckles and it worked. I was free! I passed. I got my jewelry and boots back and got my purse, cell and iPad off the belt thingy. Then I was off to find my gate and sit waiting for the cattle call to line up with strangers and wait some more. (There’s a ton of walking involved at airports so I advise going into training shortly before your planned flight.)

The flight was fine as I sat crammed in the middle seat between two ladies and one chatted about books since I sat reading mine. She was entertaining plus an ex- flight attendant so she spoke of her many trips to interesting countries. It helped pass the time. We got to Phoenix and already had lost an hour but I was happy to just deplane without a heavy bag to lug as I waited for others to pull theirs from the overhead compartments trying desperately to not conk anyone on the head.

More walking, fast paced walking. Many folks pass you if you’re not at an Olympic style speed. I retrieved my bag downstairs after waiting by the wrong carousel for ten minutes. I did spot a Starbees right next to the carousel and went there to buy a hot tea and revive my energy. MG texted as she deplaned in another terminal. I also tried texting and calling Bill and Gus as they drove from Ontario, California.

I texted Mary to meet me at Starbees by Carousel 4 in my terminal and that I didn’t want to be the first one to get lost. (I was having airport anxiety, with occasional panic attacks, followed by hot flashes.)

We were on our phones talking when she strolled down the aisle from her terminal into baggage claim. I saw her and we both said, “I see you!” Some people saw us and laughed. I saw her cute red plaid bag at first bouncing along on her shoulder and her darling face and black curly hairdo. The first thing she said was, “I’m scared. I just realized that I am the youngest one of the four of us here!”

I replied, “You’ll have to do most of the work, but it’ll be okay. Come have a cup of tea and something to eat and we will talk. My treat.” So we ordered and sat at a small table and caught up on our last few weeks with MG shedding the stress and work she has done selling a house, moving out in a surprise weekend vs a week, having furniture delivery delayed and just getting in vacation mode again. We laughed a lot and enjoyed our tea and breakfast sandwiches and got ready to meet the guys in about 90 minutes out on the sidewalk at Sky Harbor after a quick trip to the restroom. Our boots looked great and as we know, those boots were made for walking. Thanks, Nancy Sinatra.

MG- *** can you tell your great story about losing your brief case or files and having a guy named CM return them to you? I can’t do justice to it but it fit our situation because we kept looking at cars coming through that tunnel and thinking they were Bill and Gus picking us up!

Years ago, I took a late night flight from Milwaukee to Dallas and didn’t realize until the next morning that I didn’t make it home with my briefcase. I waited until I got to work the next morning before calling the airlines, assuming I had left it on the airplane. While I was trying to get through to the airline, another call came through from a guy who said he was riding the shuttle to the parking lot when he spotted a briefcase laying on the seat. My card was inside, so he decided the best thing to do was to call me and tell me he had it. As a matter of fact, he said he was going to be driving right past my office, and if I would meet him out front in about 10 minutes, he would drop it off to me. I was all kinds of grateful until he said, “My name is Charles Manson.”

I held my hand over the phone and whispered to my coworker, Carol, “Isn’t Charles Manson in prison?” She nodded, yes.

I grabbed Carol by the arm and informed her that she was coming with me to wait for Charles Manson to bring me my briefcase. I pulled $5 from my wallet to give the guy for his trouble.

Soon, a guy drove up, and I waved for him to stop. He rolled his window down, and I shoved the $5 in his face. He seemed offended. I said, “Do you have my briefcase?” He didn’t answer. He just looked at me, so I asked him if he was Charles Manson. He said, “No, lady!” And then he rolled up his window and sped off. I must have looked confused when Charles Manson drove up right behind the other guy and handed me my briefcase. He didn’t want the $5 either. He didn’t seem a bit weird and didn’t have spooky eyes like Charles Manson, the murderer. He probably thought I looked all kinds of weird, though.

Those 70ish girls…The Gathering… Memories of Mack’s Cafe

By Mary Francis McNinch

Some of my favorite stories told at the Mesa Gathering were about Mack’s Cafe in Murdo, SD.

Karen Haugland Poppe regaled us with her memories of the iconic Cafe located uptown in Murdo, SD. It was on the NE corner across from the Murdo Show House and next to the Gem Hotel. In the years her parents, Nels and Doris Haugland, owned it, Mack’s provided a lot of great food and good times. It was the place all the farmers and ranchers and later highway construction workers came for breakfast and left with ample sack lunches all made with food prepared from scratch by Doris beginning in the very early morning hours of each day. My own memory of the caramel covered or frosted cinnamon rolls Mom would bring the girls who cleaned the rooms at her Chalet Motel make my mouth water. When I mentioned the delicious ham and beans Doris made, my cousin Valerie who had been wolfing down a plate of sweet desserts at the Gathering and was not paying close attention to the conversation piped up and said, “There’s ham and beans!?” Sadly, they were only another mouth-watering memory.

Doris would make hot beef sandwiches with a mound of mashed potatoes covered in rich brown gravy and some of the best meatloaf you could ever eat.

“What’s on the menu besides fly specks and ketchup?” Ben Dykstra, a local rancher, would ask as he sat down in one of the booths.

Karen told us things I didn’t know…like how her mother made sure those who didn’t have a good meal to eat on all the holidays got free food from Mack’s before her own family ate. Doris and Nels had a family of 6 and the 4 kids worked without pay. Karen said one year she complained that she wanted a job that paid. Her mother said, “Then go and get one.” She went to work at the Murdo Coyote Newspaper office. She said, “I went home covered in ink, but I had money in my pocket.”

Doris started her day a few hours before dawn, but the locals like my parents and numerous other couples would crank up the juke box and party after hours on the weekends. I remember Mom saying, “Marge Bork played The Orange Blossom Special a million times.” (One of Mom’s Lorettaisms was, “I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate.”)

When Mom and Dad were building our new house next to Mowell’s, Grandma Sanderson, who was very hard of hearing called Mom and asked her what she was going to feed the men building the house for noon dinner. Mom said, “I’m sending them to Mack’s Cafe.” Grandma said, “Yes, and coffee.”

My mom, Loretta. The higher the hairdo, the better. Mom and Doris were best of friends.
I can’t find a photo of Doris, but these ladies danced to the Orange Blossom Special… Harriet Parish, Marce Lillibridge, Florence Murphy, Marge Bork, Evie Johnson, and my mom, Loretta

We talked about Slim, who worked at Mack’s and helped himself to packs of cigarettes, which he rolled up into the sleeve of his white T shirt. He didn’t much care for my Aunt Elna, and when she asked him to pass a note on to my mother, he told mom it came from the old bag.

Mack’s Cafe was where all the kids were welcome to fill up the booths and nurse a Coke after the movie until closing time. Sometimes, we pooled our money and ordered some delicious French fries. I always ate a Bing Candy Bar with my Coke.

Lots of my friends worked there. Marlene Rada Baker worked all through high school. Josephine Jost worked there, too. I had to work at Mom’s motel, but that’s another story. I remember Linda Kerns and so many others. I was in the Café one day, and Bill Jackson was sipping his coffee and said to the waitress, “This weather is like your leg…I’d like to see it clear up.” The waitress was his wife, Alice. She just filled his cup and moved onto the next customer without even smiling. She took the pencil from behind her ear and wrote down an order. She was a petite lady with red hair done in a perfect candlestick hairdo. Everyone wore a crisp white uniform and an apron.

Marlene Rada Baker and me at the 1991 reunion. (not positive of the year)
Linda Kerns sweeping up

I have such fond memories of that wonderful place. I’m sure anyone who lived in Murdo from the 1950’s through the 70’s have their own special memories of Mack’s Cafe.

2 year old me, Mary Francis standing in front of Mack’s Cafe

Karen Haugland Poppe did her parents proud. She managed another iconic SD place called Wall Drug for 40 years… no ink.

Those 70ish girls…What’s the difference?

We went to the “Gathering” in Mesa. A gathering is like a reunion only different. I was trying to explain it to my husband, Kip, on the way home from the airport, but I gave up after this conversation…

Kip: So how many people attended?

Me: Probably around 50.

Kip: Wow! Who all came?

Me: Almost everyone who came retired in Mesa. You’ve never met these people.

Kip: I didn’t know that many of your relatives were still alive and wintered in Arizona.


My cousin Valerie Halla, my brother, Billy Francis, and our patriarch, Gus, and I all traveled to Mesa. Val flew from San Jose, CA, I flew from Dallas, and Bill, (who lives in LA), drove to Ontario, CA, to get Gus, and then drove on to Phoenix and picked Val and me up at the airport.

“The Gathering” is a very important event. Val…will you explain how it evolved from the  Jones County Picnic?

The Gathering Pt. 1

By Val Halla

You’re so right, Cuz. A Reunion is different from a gathering and an After Party is another story. Actually Kip is on the right track…sorta kinda… because many of our relatives have passed away plus friends.  That makes it even more special because even though our friends and family are gone, the Gathering still goes on.

My husband stayed home to work and care for our dog. His friend at work asked where I was and Ken said, “Valerie is at a Jones County Reunion in Arizona.”

“Wasn’t she just at a Jones County Reunion last summer?”

Ken said, “This is different but I am not sure how.”

I’m not really sure either. But it’s different. The one last summer was an All School Reunion. So how it evolved from the Jones County Picnic was I think because Bob Bowers started it and he lived in CA. I remember attending one in Long Beach. The snowbirds who left chilly South Dakota flocked together in CA and eventually found Mesa, AZ a better fit than over priced CA. Birds of a feather flock together so they formed a strong bond and kept the Picnic/Gathering going.  (It’s no longer called a Picnic because we are too old to sit on a blanket on the ground with the ants.)

Mary and I prepared for weeks before going to the Gathering. We were excited and it’s always fun being with Bill and Gus. Mary and I coordinated what we would wear and what accessories we would need. We also discussed makeup, paying close attention to our lipstick color. We had to have our hair done a certain way. We made a trip to Walmart (surprise) to buy a new curling iron and cheesecake to take to the gathering. Mary even took two showers and washed her hair twice. She wore spectacular earrings and a necklace with a crown charm. I wore the same thing I’d worn three years ago adding a different necklace and dangling crystal earrings this time. The boots were a major decision but we both wore them with long flowing skirts and black tops. She added a jeans jacket and I wore my old rust colored suede jacket.  After a few hours, we were ready even though still a bit unsure how we looked. Bill called to see if we were all set to go.

“When will you two gals be ready to go?”

Mary: “We need about five more minutes to do our makeup “

Bill: “That should take at least 20 more minutes.”

CONCLUSION TO PT 1:  Aunt Loretta’s wisdom…”It’s good enough for who it’s for.” That gave us the confidence to go. We looked good. We felt even better. We were ready. Mary drove the four of us to the clubhouse for the Gathering. That is, she drove us AFTER she found the right car. We only had to backtrack once because we forgot the Walmart cheesecake, which was a big hit.

This is Mary (MG) again. I see it taking several blogs to cover the Gathering. We still have dozens of other people’s stories to tell. Hopefully, we won’t have to change our outfits again.

Mary, Billy, Val, and Gus… Wednesday dinner before the Thursday Gathering.

Those 70ish Girls…The Beatles – Ed Sullivan Show,live%20performance%20on%20U.S.%20soil.

Where were you 59 years ago today? (Were you even born yet?)

I was at Suzanne and Cynthia Bork’s house in Murdo, SD. I was  12 years old. We were playing Monopoly in the kitchen when we heard the Beatles being introduced on Ed Sullivan’s “Really Big Shooo!”

I thought their hair was ridiculous!

Paul, Ringo, George, and John

Those 70ish girls…My name is not mud

My Name is Not Mud

by Valerie Halla

I often joke around that I got married just to get a cool new name. Val Halla is a great name, just ask a Viking, if you can dig up one.

A lot of people think that there’s not much in a name, but I disagree. If you’re a parent, you might have agonized over choosing a perfect name for your brand new baby. It’s sometimes easy to just choose a family name, or choose a celebrity name, or give the kiddos your own and your spouse’s names. Choosing a name for a tiny baby, which he/she will carry for a lifetime, is an immensely important decision. It’s a big responsibility


Teachimg school for 34 years, I became interested in names. I once had four Michael’s in my third grade class. That was a challenge to call correctly for Michael B. or Michael C. Kids become quite upset if you call them by the wrong name. They seem downright offended. As a teacher, a seating chart was invaluable. I have had a Beyoncé, an Itsy, a Golden, a Harvest, Sky, Violet, and a Tyler and a Taylor.

Today I tested a kindergartener named Tiger. He was polite, sweet and didn’t growl.

And our US Presidents have also had unique names. I loved the name Ulysses Simpson Grant and years ago named a dog Ulysses. Good old U. S. Grant.

U.S. Grant

A President named Dwight David Eisenhower who was already famous as a WWII General. His mother didn’t want a son whose name could be changed to a nickname, so she chose Dwight. I have often wondered who started calling him Ike. I like Ike.


I could go on about names and even started a bit on middle names, with Dwight David and Ulysses Simpson. I am proud of my middle name chosen by my Mom with a shorter version from her sister’s middle name Jeanette. My middle name is Jean. My Grandma wrote many letters to us over the years and referred to me as V.J. in each letter. I liked that. Names are important. Names are a strong part of us.

I thought her name was Grammy.

Those 70ish girls…The basket case

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you about something for a while, now,” Kip said.

“That sounds rather ominous,” I said. “Are you not feeling well? Are you sick? Please tell me you’re okay! I need a driver. I can’t drive this rig out on the open highway! Someone could get seriously injured! Think of the dogs.”

“What are you talking about?” Asked Kip.

“What are you talking about?” I volleyed.

Kip would have walked over and sat on the couch if we had one, but because we don’t, he pulled out a chair and sat down on it, while I stood there and became increasingly concerned about where this conversation was going.

“You have to get over your need to put everything we own in a basket,” he proclaimed. “You have begun to put little baskets inside of bigger baskets. You can’t walk by a basket in a store without standing there for what feels to me like an eternity, trying to decide where you can put another basket and what you can put in it! And while we’re on the subject, what is the purpose of using paper plates if you have to put them inside a paper plate holder basket thingy?”

“But they’re all so cute,” I said.

“Babies are cute, baskets are beginning to irritate the heck out of me. I was looking for my wallet the other day and guess where I found it?”

“Well,” (I volleyed, again). “It was either in my handbag or in that cute little ‘container’ I found on sale at Tractor Supply.”

“A basket by any other name is still a basket,” he countered.

“I like baskets because I can pick them up with all of their contents and easily dust under them…I knew I had lost the argument before the words were even out of my mouth.”

Nellie, Rylie and me in the Jeep waiting for Kip.

Those 70ish girls…Moving on down the road

Moving On Down the Road

by Baba Wawa

Now that I am in my 60’s plus a few years, and semi-retired, I think back but also forward to all the famous people I have interviewed and will. The most famous networks and newspapers have covered my stories. I have been featured in the La La Land Times, the New Yolk Times, the Washington Poopsy, and the Wall Street Urinal. I have graciously interviewed Kim Carcrashing, Merrilee Sweep, Brad Pitstop and Bom Trady among others. And who can forget the cooking series where I made peanut butter with butter crackers, prepped the frozen turkey for Thanksgiving and made an omelette with condiments atop it all? I bet Yram cannot forget. Or maybe she’s trying.

Days here in Happy Down in the Valley are peaceful, quiet and slow. Some interesting news: FLASH – I heard about Yram’s friends having a hectic time of it lately. Klip and May recently sold their house and moved into what’s called an RV which is kinda like a trailer on wheels. They moved because they didn’t remember to put out their garbage and recycling cans. Their trash piled up and the sanitation department passed them by. It rained a lot where they lived and their names were mud, literally. The pizza boxes, frozen turkey burger wrapping, empty cans, pie tins, and ice cream containers piled up. Did I say empty cans? They became frantic and rented a Uhaul to store and carry all their stuff, but I am suspicious. I think their trash is in the Uhaul. They could be hiding a lot of junk in there. Why are they pulling up stakes and driving on down the road to a Turkey RV Park? Plus, their RV (which stands for “rent a vacation”) hasn’t got those comfy captains leather plush chairs. No, they use lawn chairs and kitchen chairs and rocking chairs while driving, but at least they buckle up. It seems they are leaving town in a big hurry. Are they crazy? Can their situation get any better or worse?

Klip upgraded to a lawn chair. It has a handy dandy can holder.

Actually, Klip and May do have a great idea living in their RV and the dogs love it. They don’t have any more yard work, nor as much maintenance and the housework is minimal. They can pick up and leave whenever they get that wanderlust feeling, not to mention mooching…uh…visiting the relatives and old friends. I know Klip will find the best diners where they can eat biscuits and gravy, hash browns, eggs fit for a king, and bear claws and pastries galore. Did I mention pastries? Their bills will diminish for sure because living in an RV is much cheaper. It’s like being on a perpetual vacation. Can you imagine not having any utility bills? Even though the gas will be expensive, they can just stay a few months in one park until their nearby dumpster gets full, then move their home on wheels. However, the best part is that the garbage collector won’t miss them and they won’t miss him! What a life.

Maybe RV stands for Rich and Valuable. I will keep you posted. Baba signing off from my mini and very small mansion here in Happy Down in the Valley.

Klip, May (MG) and Co. On the way to Happy Down in the RV.
Please hold me, Mommy. Baba is mean, isn’t she?