It’s real common this time of year for people to act like frosty the snowman and go thumpity, thump, thumping down memory lane ad nauseum. So, here I go too.
I liked all of my aunts but my very favorite was dad’s older sister, Leila. She was married in 1924 and widowed in 1944. By the time I was born, her only son was already grown and gone so she really fawned over my brothers and me. She would often take me to Brookings shopping which was followed by a hamburger at Nick’s and then a movie at the College Theater. It was always fun spending time with Leila at her house where she allowed me to watch as she worked her magic around the kitchen baking cakes and pies or making a special meal just for the two of us. Over a stick of Beemen’s Pepsin Gum..which she always had in her purse..we’d talk about all kinds of things including our Scandinavian heritage and what Dad was like when he was my age. Leila was one of the first in town to have a TV set. It’s where I first saw “I Love Lucy”, “You Bet Your Life” with Groucho Marx and professional wrestling. She would laugh until the tears rolled watching those bouts believing for all the world they were legit and finding it hysterical each time Gorgeous George or the rasslin’ midgets entered the ring.
Leila also had a beautiful cabinet phonograph in her living room. It was filled with 78 rpm records that I would play over and over until they became seared into my mind. Here are some favorites:
Yogi Yorgesseson, who sang novelty songs in a Norwegian brogue that didn’t sound all that much different from my uncles. I still laugh out loud when I hear “I yust go nuts at Christmas” or “Who hid the halibut on the poop (pewwp)deck?”
“Little Toot” was not about a child with gas..but a tiny tugboat who kept getting into trouble as he putt, putt putted around the ship yard. The recurring theme was “Won’t you ever grow up Little Toot?” Then one day when an emergency arose, Toot saved the day and became the pride and joy of his tug boat parents.
“Flick the Fire Engine” (see Little Toot”)
“Bugs Bunny and the Tortoise” The popular Warner Brothers characters in a remake of the famous Tortoise and the Hare fable. This is the only one of Leila’s records that I still have but can’t listen to because I don’t have a phonograph that plays 78’s.
“The Lone Ranger” explained how the famous masked man came to be and how he and Tonto rounded up and captured the feared Butch Cavendish gang.
“Song of the South” with Uncle Remus narrating stories like Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. It scared the snot out of me as a kid for some reason..and wouldn’t be very politically correct today.
When I grew up and started a family of my own, Aunt Leila simply extended her love for children to the next generation; entertaining and spoiling my two daughters even more than me if that’s possible. When my marriage broke up, Aunt Leila offered to come to Sioux Falls and live with the girls and me. She stayed for a year and really helped us through a rough patch. I wish that you all could have an Aunt Leila in your lives whose love is unconditional and who keeps a supply of special records tucked away just for you.