Helen Kogel’s Secret War

Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 1:59 pm
By: Doug Lund

Imagine Moses tapping you on the shoulder saying to follow him up Mount Sinai and bring along your hammer and chisel because he has a really important job requiring your engraving skills. This is Moses, for Heaven’s sake, so you obey without question and soon find yourself involved in the most important, history changing, event the world has ever known and when it’s over, Moses says to you, “Now don’t ever tell anyone that you had a hand in chipping out these tablets of stone.. understand?”

Okay, that’s a little far fetched but it’s not far from the experience of a young female U.S. Army corporal from Woonsocket, South Dakota who just happened to find herself on the staff of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II, when plans were being made for the D Day invasion in 1944.

helen young in uniform

Helen Kogel grew up with five brothers and two sisters on the farm homesteaded by her grandfather near Woonsocket. She loved and respected her family but she also wanted more for herself than to be a farm wife so after high school, she went to business college..then, in part because eligible men were kinda scarce due to the war, she and a friend decided to join the WAC’s (Woman’s Army Corps). After basic training, her superiors soon recognized Helen’s skills and, after a stint as a recruiter, she volunteered and was selected to serve on General Eisenhower’s staff in London working as a secretary-typist. After a four day ocean voyage aboard the Queen Mary, she arrived in England during the height of the blitz..set up in a hotel room with a few other girls ..then taken to a secret location where for the next two months she sat in a closed room up to nine hours a day typing Ike’s orders for “Operation Overlord”…the detailed plans for the invasion of Normandy (D-Day.) and the liberation of Europe.

Ike and his generals going over plans for the invasion. Plans likely typed up by Corporal Helen Kogel of Woonsocket, South Dakota

Ike and his generals going over plans for the invasion. Plans likely typed up by Corporal Helen Kogel of Woonsocket, South Dakota

She’d been ordered to forget everything she typed but that, of course, was impossible. Instead, she concentrated on doing her work absolutely mistake-free to avoid slow-downs. At the end of each session, a Military Policeman would gather up all carbon copies and typewriter ribbons and toss them in the burning fireplace..then escort all of the female staffers back to their hotel on Barclay Square where they’d try to sleep. A difficult proposition as V2 German buzz bombs exploded around the city leaving them to wonder if the next one might have their name on it.

During those eight weeks, Corporal Kogel had seen and saluted the General many times but never met or spoken to him. That all changed when finally the invasion transcribing was complete and she was invited to hand the papers over to Ike in person. He asked, “Corporal do you know what you’ve typed here?” She said, “Yes sir. These are the battle plans that you will use for the invasion of France.” He stressed the importance of secrecy and then did something that caught Helen totally off guard. He said, “You have a brother, Jerry, over here don’t you?” “Yes,” she said. “I haven’t seen him in three years.” That’s when he produced a weekend pass and told her to go and visit him.  (Jerry Kogel survived the war serving with General George Patton’s Tank Corps.)

Although it was dangerous to venture out in London, Helen and 14 others did take a tour of Windsor Castle and while exploring the portrait room… in walks King George VI along with the queen and princess daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. Seeing Kogel in uniform the king approached her and asked her name and what she did. The 23 year old girl from Woonsocket, South Dakota later said didn’t know whether to genuflect, bow or kiss his ring..instead she just shook his hand and identified herself saying she served on General Eisenhower’s staff. The king then gestured to his eldest daughter and asked if she knew her. He said Elizabeth is going to be driving some of your officers around. Helen looked at the future Queen of England and said, “Oh, I hope to see you around some time.”

The royal family and British Prime Minister during World War II

The royal family and British Prime Minister during World War II

Not long afterward, the group stopped at Number 10 Downing Street and were surprised when the housekeeper invited the tour group in for tea. Before long, the living room door opened and in walked the British Prime Minister who grabbed a beverage and scone then left without saying a word. Later when Helen wrote her mother about the experience she couldn’t help but tease how she had tea and scones with Winston Churchill.

She knew the number of  ships, planes, weapons, personnel and major objectives. She even knew the allied plan to fool the Nazi’s by taking the long way across the channel.  The only thing Cpl. Helen Kogel didn’t know about the invasion was the exact date it would happen and didn’t find out until she heard the roar of planes overhead flying east in the early morning hours of June 6th, 1944.  Even after it was obvious the invasion was underway, Helen never breathed a word about her role in it to anyone including her fellow WAC’s on staff. They were all sworn to secrecy and that was that.

General Eisenhower wanted to move his headquarters to France as soon as possible so Helen needed to send a  telegram home to let her family know she’d soon have a new address; Paris! That’s when her luck dodging buzz bombs ran out. One struck the telegraph office. She woke up covered in dust and glass being  shaken by someone telling her she’d be okay. Years later, Helen told an interviewer that she still had nightmares about that day; hearing the V-1 whistling above..then going quiet and the explosion which followed. “I was lucky to have gotten out alive,” she remembered.

The move to France was on the exact same route as so many thousands of others had made weeks earlier but without the bullets and bombs. Cpl. Kogel and her 29 female colleagues crossed the English Channel aboard a Navy transport ship then had to climb down a rope ladder into a landing craft which took them as close as possible to Utah beach then dropped the ramp requiring everyone to wade ashore in waist high water.

Sgt. Noel Denton whom Helen met and fell in love with on Utah beach.

Sgt. Noel Denton whom Helen met and fell in love with on Utah beach.

It was while waiting in the mess line along the beach..still dripping wet..that she met her future husband, Sergeant, Noel Denton, who offered to retrieve the WAC’s personal bags. With the sound of battle in the background, Helen and the staff spent 6 weeks camped on that beach in a special holding area; sneaking a few moments with Noel at every opportunity. Finally Paris was liberated and Cpl. Kogel rejoined the General’s staff and remained there until the end of the war.

Helen had promised her father that she wouldn’t get married while in the service so, after Noel was also discharged and had been rehired to his former job with Southern Bell in Atlanta, he made tracks for South Dakota to ask for Helen’s hand. The two were married in the Woonsocket Catholic Church; a marriage that lasted 36 happy years until Noel’s untimely death of a heart attack in 1982.

Helen in later life surrounded by images of her past. In spite of tragedies, one of her favorite sayings was "I'm a very lucky woman..a very lucky woman."

Helen in later life surrounded by images of her past. In spite of tragedies, one of her favorite sayings was “I’m a very lucky woman..a very lucky woman.”

In all that time. Helen never told a single sole including her beloved Noel about her contribution to history during the war.

To deal with..not only Noel’s passing..but the accidental death of their adopted son, Jon, a few months earlier, Helen immersed herself in volunteer work receiving countless honors and awards for her efforts with the Red Cross, March of Dimes, United Way and just about any organization that needed someone to get a job done. That included serving for many years as both post and district commander of the Riverdale Georgia Chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

But, it wasn’t until the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994 when a friend asked if any women were involved in the invasion, that Helen finally broke her silence. When the friend heard her amazing story she couldn’t wait to call the local TV station and from that day until Helen’s passing last December in Fayetteville, Georgia at the age of 91, she spoke to hundreds  of groups from school kids to veterans and gave dozens of media interviews leaving everyone a bit slack jawed not only for the vital role she played in Operation Overlord but in keeping mum about it for a half century.

Corporal Helen Kogel was one of thousands of U.S. Military personnel to march in Paris on Victory in Europe Day.

Corporal Helen Kogel was one of thousands of U.S. Military personnel to march in Paris on Victory in Europe Day.

October 05.indd

 

I managed to get in touch with Helen’s nephew, David Kogel who still lives in Woonsocket. I was curious if his aunt was actually that good at keeping secrets. “Oh, Yeah,” David told me. “None of us heard about it until 1994 and we were all amazed.”

David Kogel  Helen's nephew.

David Kogel Helen’s nephew.

David says he’s not surprised that Helen would join the WAC’s adding that five of the Kogel siblings were in the service at the same time. “Patriotism runs pretty deep in our family, I guess” he said. And that includes David himself who served in the Army infantry during the thick of it in Vietnam. He’s a long time member of the Woonsocket Post 29 and, like his aunt Helen, has served in a number of elected positions including post commander. Also like her, David Kogel works tirelessly volunteering on behalf of veterans and other causes including the American Cancer Society.

“Any idea why Helen kept her secret well beyond what anyone would consider a reasonable time?” I asked. “Well, she said she was afraid that the FBI might still be keeping tabs on her and could end up throwing her in jail,” David laughed.

I’m sure glad she finally got over that fear.     Me too.

Helen gets special recognition from President Obama at the National VFW convention in Phoenix.

Helen gets special recognition from President Obama at the National VFW convention in Phoenix.

helen obama kiss

 

 

 

 

Headin’ Down The Trail For Home

Posted: Monday, April 14, 2014 at 11:29 pm
By: Doug Lund

Greetings from the Lone Star state as the wandering foursome wind down their two week “swang” through Texas with a night on the town in Austin and a stop at Donn’s Depot to hear fellow South Dakotan, Chris Gage perform on stage. UPDATE: Great evening, Chris sounded fantastic. He even did a couple old Red Willow Band songs for us.)

Below is Texas Motor Speedway, where we were heading off to in the rain last time I blogged. It was so magnificent, we went there twice.

Cold and rainy..waiting for the thumbs up or down on the race.

Cold and rainy..waiting for the thumbs up or down on the race.

 

An optimistic selfie from our seats at the fourth turn.

An optimistic selfie from our seats at the fourth turn.

After sitting in the stands for about three hours, watching track dryers fail to get the job done, we all got word that the race was postponed till Monday. So, after inching our way back to the motel in a world class traffic jam, we returned the next day for the actual race.

That's Joanie's hand waving for her favorite driver Tony Stewart who led early but faded to tenth.

That’s Joanie’s hand waving for her favorite driver Tony Stewart who led early but faded to tenth.

 

It turned out to be a nice day for racing Monday.

It turned out to be a nice day for racing Monday.

We all agreed it was a great experience but really kind of a boring because there wasn’t much action.  The day was soured too by the huge traffic jam that followed. Trying to inch our way through agonizingly slow traffic to our motel in Waco was so frustrating that we finally just had to laugh.

We made up for it the next day on a toll road to San Antonio where the speed limit was 85 which, of course, means 90. So we really loosened Big Red’s reins and arrived in short order to our beautiful hotel..The DruryPlaza..right on the famous Riverwalk.

The view from our suite

The view from our suite

 

What a suite bunch.

What a suite bunch.

It was built as the Alamo National Bank in the Art Deco era and beautifully restored into the hotel.

texas trip san antonio 012

 

The weather was spectacular; perfect for a riverboat cruise.

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The tower built for the 1968 worlds fair as seen from the river boat.

The tower built for the 1968 worlds fair as seen from the river boat.

Just a lovely view. In fact our room had a painting of this very vista.

Just a lovely view. In fact our room had a painting of this very vista.

 

A fellow passenger volunteered to take our picture.

A fellow passenger volunteered to take our picture.

Those familiar with Drury Inns know that guests receive three free cocktails daily as well as a huge hot buffet during happy hour and for breakfast.

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We made sure to take advantage in order to justify the room rates which were a bit spendy  but with four of us in one suite it wasn’t too bad if you don’t mind the noise. I didn’t notice it but others mentioned I might have snored slightly.

Speaking of spendy, Linda and I decided to splurge for dinner one evening and found a place right downtown called The Palms. It’s just what Linda wanted; an outside table, a delicious Texas steak and red wine. Perfection.

Texas trip Linda steak dinner

The  filet looks a little rare to my liking but it tasted great. Heck, I even tried muscles on this trip.I

The filet looks a little rare to my liking but it tasted great. Heck, I even tried mussels on this trip.

We figured that walking is over rated so we boarded the double decker bus with hop on hop off privileges and took the San Antonio City tour. Great fun. Well, take a look.

First stop was the old market where Joanie and Denny tried on hats.

First stop was the old market where Joanie and Denny tried on hats.

 

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Drinks at La Margarita came with entertainment. At a price, of course.

Drinks at La Margarita came with entertainment. At a price, of course.

 

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Seeing the Alamo tucked in among all the big buildings comes as kind of a shock to some.

Linda has 7 brothers and sisters..three of whom live in the Austin area..so we’ve been making sure they don’t have a chance to escape seeing us. Our first stop was in Lyndon B. Johnson’s backyard; Horseshoe Bay, Texas. A man made lake near MarbleFalls that uses water from the Colorado River to power generators at a few dams and provides lots and lots of incredible water side real estate for filthy rich oil barons.     Tom and Cynthia Tucker (Cyn is Linda’s sister) are residents but are also the exception. They live on pensions from careers in electronics and nursing not big oil.

Tom and Cynthia's patio view. Spent a lot of time chatting and imbibing here.

Tom and Cynthia’s patio view. Spent a lot of time chatting and imbibing here.

They don’t live directly on the water but do have a pontoon boat docked at the Marina which Captain Tucker took us aboard for a memorable ride around the huge man made lake for a look-see at all the high falootin mega million dollar homes bought and paid for every time you fill ‘er up at the gas pump.

Captain Tom Tucker at the helm appears to have been caught in mid yawn but I think he's just providing informative narration to  his South Dakota passengers.

Captain Tom Tucker at the helm appears to have been caught in mid yawn but I think he’s just providing informative narration to his South Dakota passengers.

texas trip san antonio 094

(                                             That’s Cynthia on the left and Joanie on the right.)

 

We docked across the lake where Linda's brother Chad and his wife Lisa have a home.  We were joined for cocktails by Linda's other sister, Shelle and      nephew, Jordon. Just a  terrific afternoon.

We docked across the lake where Linda’s brother Chad and his wife Lisa have a home. We were joined for cocktails by Linda’s other sister, Shelle and nephew, Jordon. Just a terrific afternoon.

 

Chad and Boz with Chad's wife Lisa in the background.

Chad and Boz with Chad’s wife Lisa in the background.

So far, Big Red..our 14 year old Lincoln has performed admirably. We did have a gearshift lever issue which was quickly repaired at no charge by one of Tom’s buddies.

There was sad news during our journey when we learned of my cousin Bob Gruseth’s passing from Alzheimer’s complications. He was a good man who, for some reason known only to his maker, was robbed of so much..but not all..of the personality that made him special. He’ll be missed.

I hope you have good friends and family in your life that are always glad to see you come, spend a little time, eat, drink and be merry who will shed a tear when you drive off into the sunset.

texas trip packing big red s.f.

Being welcome and being missed. What better legacy could you ask for?

 

 

Stormin’ Texas

Posted: Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 10:15 am
By: Doug Lund

 

Girls in the backseat..boys in the front. We're old but the refrain from the rear is the same as childhood:  "Are we there yet?"

Girls in the backseat..boys in the front. We’re old but the refrain from the rear is the same as childhood: “Are we there yet?”

I have to admit, it was with a bit of snickering smugness that the four of us breezed out of Sioux Falls on Thursday rejoicing in our good fortune at having beat the big blizzard by a matter of hours as we pointed Big Red south where they actually know how to do spring right with warm temperatures, gentle breezes and air perfumed with the aroma of blooming azaleas and bluebonnets.We drove through rain and chilly conditions through Nebraska and Kansas..had a brief spurt of the 70’s in Missouri but before we could get out of the car to appreciate the warmth..we were in Oklahoma on the heels of a cold front and we haven’t seen sixty degrees since.

Anybody else wanna drive??? (sound of crickets chirping)

Anybody else wanna drive??? (sound of crickets chirping)

Denny, Joanie, Linda and I are not only sharing close quarters in our big car but, for the first time in our many travels, we’re sharing a big room together too. It wasn’t really part of the plan but it turns out that when our friend, Chad Fredericksen, (Mitchell native who lives in Dallas) offered to book our hotel..the pickin’s were slimmer than anticipated because not only is the big NASCAR race in the area..but so is the Final Four at Jerry Jones shrine stadium but also a huge music festival going on in Downtown Dallas so we were glad to have any place to rest our weary heads.  We’ve always bragged about how close our relationship has become over the years. So far, we have determined that none of us can claim we do not snore and, we’re not afraid to kick somebody out of the bathroom if they’re getting in the way of an emergency evacuation.

As I write this, it’s Sunday morning. It’s raining here in the Dallas area jeopardizing one of the main reasons for making this trip: The Duck Commander 500 Nascar race at Texas Motor Speedway. I’m going to finish up here with a few photos of our journey so far and then take advantage an opening and take a shower before we make the 20 mile drive over to the track, find our seats in the grandstand, then sit there like a bunch of slugs in the cold  (48 degrees) drinking 8 dollar beer watching the sputtering skies and rooting for the fastest blow dryer trucks; the only vehicles making circles on the speedway. I’ll let you know how things turn out. So far, there’s only been a smattering of sarcasm, self pity and swearing because of our situation; mostly from Joanie and me. Denny and Linda are more “make-the-best-of-it-personalities.”

Well, the first thing ya know ol Jed's a millionaire.

Well, the first thing ya know ol Jed’s a millionaire.

We roll into Dallas in Sunshine and meet up with our hose, Chad and his kids, Hadley and Hoden at the golf course.

We roll into Dallas in Sunshine and meet up with our host, Chad and his kids, Hadlee and Holden at the golf course.

A little chilly but, hey, we're enjoying a grown up beverage outside.

A little chilly but, hey, we’re enjoying a grown up beverage outside.
Chad and his lovely wife, Julie, have a beautiful home along a golf course.  Julie is from Texas, Chad's folks..you might know..have Chef Louie's in Mitchell for years.

Chad and his lovely wife, Julie, have a beautiful home along a golf course. Julie is from Texas, Chad’s folks..you might know..have Chef Louie’s in Mitchell for years.

I didn't get a picture but right inside the front door is a music room that contains a 1911 Steinway concert grand piano. It made my version of chopsticks sound spectacular!
I didn’t get a picture but right inside the front door is a music room that contains a 1911 Steinway concert grand piano. It made my version of chopsticks sound spectacular!

Chad took us sightseeing on Friday to all the usual sights in the area with lots of food stops including a fabulous pizza lunch at Grimaldis. Baked in coal fired ovens. Delicious.

Chad took us sightseeing on Friday to all the usual sights in the area with lots of food stops including a fabulous pizza lunch at Grimaldis. Baked in coal fired ovens. Delicious.

Holden took a shine to us all which, according to his parents, is rare so we're flattered.

Holden took a shine to us all which, according to his parents, is rare so we’re flattered.

Hadlee especially bonded with Linda.

Hadlee especially bonded with Linda.

 

Hadlee went to a Wizard of Oz birthday party in a pair of the most realistic pair of ruby slippers I've ever seen.

Hadlee went to a Wizard of Oz birthday party in a pair of the most realistic pair of ruby slippers I’ve ever seen.

If the pizza was a little slice of heaven for the rest of us, a stop at the Cheesecake Factory for dessert was like having a personal conversation with God.

If the pizza was a little slice of heaven for the rest of us, a stop at the Cheesecake Factory for dessert was like having a personal conversation with God for Joanie.

Headed over to Ft. Worth for a taste of the Ol' West. Tried to get Linda to mount a longhorn for a photo op...she refused.

Headed over to Ft. Worth for a taste of the Ol’ West. Tried to get Linda to mount a longhorn for a photo op…she refused.

Texas 016

Whether or not the sun may shine..there’s always solice in good friends and wine.

 

 

 

The Aroma Of Easter

Posted: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 8:46 am
By: Doug Lund

In anticipation of our upcoming road trip to Texas, I’ve made a sizeable investment in Big Red. (For those new to Lund at Large, Big Red is our 14 year old Lincoln that is crowding 200 thousand miles but still looks and runs fine. Well..sorta.) For years, Big Red has growled at us for no reason. Just walk by the car parked in the garage and Red will let out a deep grrrrrrrr sound. We eventually got used to it and found the element of surprise for passengers to be quite entertaining. I eventually figured out the noise was coming from an air compressor recharging the air assisted rear shock absorbers which help give Lincolns that fabulous ride. But lately, Red was growling constantly so after a little investigation on the interweb, it was clear that the airbags had sprung a leak and needed replacing to the tune of about 600 dollars. That plus some service work to the engine and cooling system and, well, we should be set for another 100 thousand miles or more.

Anyway, I’ll offer up a couple blogs from our road trip including the NASCAR race and San Antonio’s River Walk and Alamo. I’ll wait until we get home to post the promised story of a Woonsocket, South Dakota farm girl I found out about who became a corporal in the Army during World War II and played a significant role in the D-Day invasion.

In the meantime, I’ve been going through the Lund archives to re-share a favorite memory from Easters past.

eggs

My mom, bless her soul, used to boil up a couple dozen eggs and, after they’d cooled, let her three boys dip them into dishes filled with food coloring.  Then we were told the Easter Bunny would be stopping by sometime during the night to hide them for us to find on Easter morning.
I don’t ever remember seeing that rabbit but he must have been a fair-weather hare because he always opted to conceal the eggs INSIDE our home.
I don’t think my brothers and I ever really bought into the whole Easter Bunny thing. We had enough on our minds trying to figure out the Holy Trinity much less a connection between Jesus’ resurrection…chicken eggs and a rabbit.
Anyway, we played along and on Sunday morning, mom would say, “Time for you boys to get up now and find where those eggs are.”
After a couple years of this, we knew most of the hiding spots:  behind the mantle clock, above the kitchen stove (two were usually there) in the fern plant, behind the telephone, under the doily on the folk’s nightstand etc.
Once we’d gathered them up, Mom would make sure all the eggs were accounted for then we’d get ready for church. (The Easter bunny must have filled her in on the correct number)
One year, though, mom became concerned because the totals didn’t add up. One egg was still missing.
We looked and looked; even Dad joined in the search but no luck.
Eventually, we concluded that the count must have been wrong and we soon forgot all about it.

By the time the month of May rolled around, though, it was hard not to notice a foul aroma coming from the bathroom area. We just blamed Dad at first but it kept getting worse even when the old man hadn’t been home for hours.
Finally, Mom had had enough and said we were going to find the source of that stink if takes all day. So, all five of us wound up walking around the house sniffing the air like a pack of bloodhounds.
Eventually, one of us zeroed-in on the floor lamp by the bathroom hallway.
Sure enough, when the light was turned on the silhouette of an oval-shaped object was clearly visible in the globe.
It was the missing Easter egg that had been fermenting to a nose-curling stench for over a month.

Mom grabbed a section of  newspaper, snatched up the offensive smelling orb and took it directly out to the trash barrel in the alley.
“How come the Easter Bunny didn’t tell you where he hid that last one?” we asked her with a laugh.
“If you think it’s so funny, she said, just wait until next Easter when he doesn’t show up at all.”
Come to think of it that WAS the last time…for us anyway.
He didn’t return until our own children got to spend Easter at Grandma’s house.
After the hunt, though, Mom always made sure to double check the hall lamp.

The Bottle Is All Empty

Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 9:07 am
By: Doug Lund

Whenever I’m out and about, people ask how my old Keloland News sidekick, Steve Hemmingsen, is doing these days. Well, Steve popped over to the house the other day for a visit. We talked and laughed for a couple hours; mostly about the perils of obesity, our latest travels, (a lot of which involve trips back and forth to the doctor’s office) the news of the day and how its reported and old friends who are dead or dying.  Of course, I always encourage Steve to write more and today he sent me a sample of his always interesting prose. He didn’t say I couldn’t or shouldn’t share it with you so for the first time, Lund at Large will have a guest blogger. Take it away, Steve.

sids bldg

I figured it would come to this, the end of an institution. 

Sid’s Crown Liquors in downtown Sioux Falls is closing.  Sid’s marks the end of an egalitarian era in Sioux Falls when it was s city with no real class distinctions.  It was a melting pot.  You would see bankers elbow to elbow with street people.  People buying cigarettes searching their pockets for that last desperate penny, a coin the same color as the nicotine halo on their fingers.  The clerk and the line patiently waiting.  Sid himself greeting customers and bouncing some evil doers before they even got through the door, throwing them out on a first name basis. 

Sid was one of those World War II army radio school leftovers who found a local girl, Judee, and stayed after the war, this man of the world from New Jersey or someplace.  That radio school in its time was quite an attraction, thanks to the WWII draft.  Even Phil Graham who later ran the Washington Post and was a confidant of LBJ passed through when duty called.  Sid Epstein was, of course, Jewish which didn’t matter a lot in those days.  He hit the till for every charity that came along, Jewish or Christian, probably even Muslim.  Once during one of those Middle East flare-ups, Sid told me: “We should just stay out of it.  It’s a fight among cousins.”  You have to add a New Jersey accent to that to get the effect.  He was probably right, but what world power listens to the wisdom of a guy who owns a liquor store. 

sid_bigWhat brought people to Sid’s was…money.  He had the cheapest prices in town, maybe the world.  You could always get 10 percent off if you bought a case of wine or whiskey.  I was practically a rum runner for friends at the lake.  He used to sell side brand beer for less than pop.  One of my favorites was something called “Nude Beer.”  If you scratched the label, the lady lost her clothing.  I never had to pick up one of those bottles on the lawn. 

One of my favorite episodes was a Friday night.  There used to be a gay bar up Phillips Avenue a block or so from KELO, across the street from the one that’s there now…last I heard, anyway…right across a parking lot from Sid’s.  One Friday night after the news I’m stocking up for the lake, waiting in the usual eclectic line.  There’s a guy at the front of the line in full drag.  The guy next to me says: “Hey, I used to go to school with him…her!”  Today, who would notice?  Sid’s son-in-law has been running the place since Sid died five years ago, pretty much run out of business by a liquor store on every corner and in every supermarket.  

Thanks, Steve.  By the way, Steve is returning to his first love, Radio. Well, sort of. He’s started a pod cast on the internet in which he’ll be doing interviews and commentary on a variety of subjects mostly having to do with people and events in and around his beloved Hendricks, Minnesota but I have little doubt he’ll be able to resist the temptation to offer observations and critiques from just about anywhere. The link to his  website and first interview is here. 

Next week..the story of a Woonsocket, South Dakota farm girl I found out about who became a corporal in the Army during World War II and played a significant role in the D-Day invasion.

Spring

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 1:40 pm
By: Doug Lund

I believe it was about a year ago on an unusually warm March day like this one that I snapped a couple photos of our flooded back yard as evidence that another miserable winter had given up the ghost said C’est la vie and I started daring to dream of golf games, convertible rides and fresh corn on the cob for every meal. Ah..but then fate stepped in, as she usually does, throwing a lasso around Winter’s neck just as he was leaving ordering him to return for one final blustery blast in April ordering him to bring along plenty of ice for the party.
So, I’m not getting my hopes up just yet. In fact, fate already fired a warning shot over my bow this morning as I decided to start up the Camaro following her long frigid nap in the garage. The plan was to get her washed and take my bride for a convertible ride on this lovely spring-like day.
But from the moment I turned the key, it was clear I should have listed to Linda’s suggestions throughout the winter that it might be a good idea to go out and start the little car once in a while and warm her up. Because when I deposited my ample ass in the driver’s seat today, rather than hearing the usual mid-summer enthusiastic spin of the engine, the battery and starter had all they could do to muster up enough strength to crank over the motor enough to raise it from the dead. Ah, but once that Chevy Lt1 did catch fire she was rarin’ to go..at least as far as the car wash about six blocks away.

Poor Camaro in desperate need of a wash and, apparently, a new battery.

Poor Camaro in desperate need of a wash and, apparently, a new battery.

Now, I had forgotten over the long winter that the Camaro has, over the years, become sensitive to water. That is, water splashing up from beneath the car comes in contact with something that tends to short out that magnificent motor killing it dead as Lazarus which is precisely what happened when I entered the automatic vehicle wash bay at Food and Fuel right after depositing 7 dollars worth of quarters I fished out of the change jar at home which made my sweat pants so heavy I had to hold them up with one hand to keep them from falling to my ankles.
I knew the car would restart after a few minutes drying but the stupid automatic sprayer kept spraying. When it finally stopped I cranked and cranked on the engine but she refused; finally putting a period on her denial with the sound of a few clicks. So it was up to me to try push her back out of the bay by hand over the hump and get it parked someplace. I couldn’t very well leave it blocking the entrance on such a nice day when people were lining up to wash their cars. I managed to get it shoved clear and decided to call Linda, who was shopping, to bring the jumper cables, but discovered I’d left my phone at home on the charger. I had to borrow one in the convenience store because I didn’t have any quarters left. Went out to put the hood up so people wouldn’t wonder why I was parked so goofy. Gave the starter one more try and she roared to life. Damn..now what? No phone to call Linda off.    She was nice about though when she came to my unnecessary rescue. I’m making it up to her by going to the casino..which will probably cost me the price of a few dozen car washes.
And people wonder why I don’t go out much.
I do hope we have nice weather next month, Linda and I are traveling with the Graves to Texas to a Nascar race and to visit family and friends in Dallas and Austin. Linda says I need clothes but it’s the same old deal about finding something decent in my size. I don’t care what anybody says about clothing in the seventies..and people who lived through that decade say a lot..most of it bad..but not me. Of course I was a 42 long and a 36 waist back then and didn’t mind the long collared shirts, sweater vests, flared pants, platform shoes..even some of the loud patterns and colors.

Come on guys, admit it..we wore these with bells on.

Come on guys, admit it..we wore these with bells on.

 

Put a little color in our lives. Better than those tight black 50's throwbacks of today.

Put a little color in our lives. Better than those tight black 50′s throwbacks of today.

That’s just the men’s styles. I know some of you are gagging right now but I thought women’s fashions from hair to clothing were absolutely
fetching. I loved them.

seventies women short skirts sweater vests

 

But there were more. Much more.

Short or Long..gorgeous either way.

Short or Long..gorgeous either way.

Okay, Okay..these folks are either models or athletes and maybe all the guys who wore polyester sports jackets weren’t necessarily “plaid stallions” like former mayor Rick Knobe.

knobe

Or…yours truly during his first TV gig at KSOO TV.  An ill-fitting red and white plaid number that they must have let me wear on the air only a time or two because I have no memory of it other than this photo taken by friend and KSOO/KSFY colleague Pam Horn. That’s my cousin Grouse on the far left.

doug grouse ksfy checked jacket

Okay, now that I think about it and see more personal evidence, maybe the perceived appeal of 70′s fashion has been somewhat distorted by years of excessive exposure to Winstons and Windsor.

Now let’s see, where did I hang those sweat pants. It’s time to reload with quarters and take my honey to the casino. I should probably run the car through the wash first though.

 

Mary’s Day With Dillinger

Posted: Friday, March 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm
By: Doug Lund

I’ve always loved history and every once in a while my TV job allowed me the opportunity to have some close brushes with it. I was reminded of one such case this week on the 80th anniversary of John Dillinger’s unscheduled withdrawal from the Security National Bank at 9th and Dakota in Sioux Falls and my interview with a lady bank employee taken hostage by Dillenger that day and lived to tell the tale.

The old Security National Bank. This photo courtesy "Greetings from Sioux Falls"

The old Security National Bank. This photo from the 60′s  courtesy “Greetings from Sioux Falls”

It was “Public Enemy Number 1’s” first hold-up since escaping from an Indiana jail three days earlier using a hand-carved wooden gun and then stealing the sheriff’s own car to make his get-away. Dillinger high-tailed it to the Twin Cities where he quickly assembled a gang including the infamous killer, Lester Gillis, also known as Baby Face Nelson. They needed cash and sped off in the direction of Sioux Falls in a brand new Packard to get some.

John Dillinger about the time of the Sioux Falls robbery reportedly holding the fake gun he used to escape jail in Indiana.

John Dillinger about the time of the Sioux Falls robbery reportedly holding the fake gun he used to escape jail in Indiana.

I’d known about the Dillinger bank robbery in Sioux Falls long before the historical marker went up on the side of the old Security National building. I think it was Sioux Falls historian, Carol Mashek, who showed me damage to the structure believed caused by wayward Tommy Gun bullets fired by the robbers that day and there were plenty..both inside the bank and out.

One of the reported bullet holes from the Dillinger robbery.

One of the reported bullet holes from the Dillinger robbery. photo: Chad Coppess

What I didn’t know, however, is that one person directly involved in the whole ordeal was still alive and on the 70th anniversary of the robbery was going to receive an honor from the Mayor of Sioux Falls for her heroism so many years ago. When Bill Hoskins of the Old Courthouse Museum asked if I’d like to meet and visit with Mary Lucas Hawkins, I couldn’t wait.

Mary Lucas was born in Estherville, Iowa in 1909. Her dad worked for the railroad and in 1921 his job brought the whole family of nine to Sioux Falls where Mary attended Cathedral High School then Nettleton Business School. By 1934, Mary was putting her business skills to good use working as a bank teller and excited about her upcoming marriage to Dale Hawkins.

Mary Lucas about the time of the robbery.

Mary Lucas about the time of the robbery.

When we sat down to visit in the Old Courthouse Museum three blocks away from the Security National Bank, I asked what she remembered about that morning 7 decades earlier.
“I saw this big green car coming down 9th street. We happened to be looking out the window. I made the remark that it looked like a bunch of bandits.”

She was right and moments later Dillinger and four of his gang members wearing overcoats and brandishing Thompson Machine guns burst into the bank screaming orders. One of the employees managed to trigger the alarm which also set off the bell just outside the building which riled the robbers to no end. Mary said she was sure they were going to kill everyone..especially when Baby Face Nelson jumped up on a table, looked out the window and spotted motorcycle cop, Hale Keith, running to the scene. Nelson fired through the plate glass and put four slugs into Keith who somehow survived.

Baby Face Nelson

Baby Face Nelson

In spite of guns firing and people screaming, cooler heads prevailed and after scooping up some 49 thousand dollars in cash, Dillinger ordered a retreat to the get-away car using five bank tellers, including Mary Lucas, as shields. “They were in the middle and we were around them to keep anybody from shooting at them.” She said.  When the gangsters jumped inside the Packard, the hostages were told to get on the running board and hang on. It wasn’t a real hot pursuit, though because one of the officers in front had managed to put a bullet through the big car’s radiator slowing their escape South out of town. I asked Mary why weren’t the police right behind?  She said, “Well, they tried to but they(Dillinger gang members) were throwing out all these big carpet tacks. Anyone that came along had a flat tire.”  Not to mention that every so often a gangster would hold a machine gun out the window and fire right past the hostages heads at anyone who came close.

This is a 1934 Packard like the one Dillinger used. Nice long running boards for carrying human shields.

This is a 1934 Packard like the one Dillinger used. Nice long running boards for carrying human shields.

Eventually, around what would be 43rd street, the Packard gave out from overheating so the gang forced a farm couple from Canton to pull over and confiscated their Dodge..taking along the loot and some extra cans of gas but leaving the shivering hostages standing by the road. That’s when a fellow drove up in his car. “And he stopped and said, what in the world are you doing out here in this weather with no coats? We promptly told him what happened so he brought us back to the bank.” Mary told me.

It was a much relieved bank president when he saw his girls back safe and sound shaking from cold and fear but alive. Mary says, “And he gave us a shot of something. I don’t know what but it was probably the first drink I ever had.”

Front page news.

Front page news.

Mary Lucas Hawkins got married shortly after the incident and eventually settled with her husband, Dale, in Billings, Montana where they found great success and became highly respected contributors to the arts and philanthropic causes.  Mary died in December of 2009 at the age of 100. She was known as a Grand Dame of Billings for all her service and devotion to so many organizations especially the Western Heritage Center.

Mary Lucas Hawkins 1909-2009

Mary Lucas Hawkins
1909-2009

All possible because she survived that harrowing experience clinging to the window of John Dillinger’s Packard on a chilly March morning in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The FIRST Captain 11

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 4:12 pm
By: Doug Lund

Hardly a day goes by that there’s not news of another celebrity biting the dust. This morning it was Jim Lange who died of a heart attack in California at the age of 81.My first thought wasn’t so much about this St. Paul, Minnesota native whose claim to fame was as the longtime genteel host of “The Dating Game” on television.

capt. lange in tux host

No what initially popped into my head was..had it not been for Jim Lange, there wouldn’t have been a Captain 11.

Back in the early 50’s when television was just getting off the ground, local stations, including WMIN Channel 11 in Minneapolis, were scrambling to find programming to fill all the air time not covered by the networks..which included time in the afternoon when kids got home from school. That gave birth to all kinds of local characters to host kids’ TV shows. They varied from clowns and cowboys to rail engineers and rocket rangers; the latter being the concept for Captain 11.  Young Jim Lange was selected to portray the Captain in 1954  a  uniform was designed and taylor made and a special set constructed with all types of electronic gadgetry surrounding a captain’s chair from which Captain 11 would direct the audience into the past or future with the push of a button and sell Bosco chocolate syrup during the commercials.

That's Lange as the Captain who apparently sat at his time controls rather than stand in front of them.

That’s Lange as the Captain who apparently sat at his time controls rather than stand in front of them.

 

Here's Lange again as the Captain along with Steve Cannon (Longtime grouchy radio host of the Cannon Mess on WCCO) who was Wranger Steve on WMIN and Roger Awsumb was Casey Jones

Here’s Lange again as the Captain along with Steve Cannon (Longtime grouchy radio host of the Cannon Mess on WCCO) who was Wranger Steve on WMIN and Roger Awsumb was Casey Jones

 

They did some personal appearances too but nothing like Dedrick ended up doing.

They did some personal appearances too but nothing like Dedrick ended up doing.

By 1955, it was clear that WMIN’s sister station in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; KELO Channel 11, should have a Captain 11 of its own.  It was “literally” a toss-up between Murray Stewart and Dave Dedrick as to who would fill those Wellingtons. Company president, Joe Floyd, tossed a coin and Dedrick wound up on his way to Minneapolis to be fitted for his first uniform and to undergo basic training with the “other” Captain, Jim Lange.

In all our years on the golf course or just sitting around talking, I don’t recall Dave saying very much at all about that meeting with Lange other than he wasn’t sure the show would last long under the format they were using. And he was right, within a couple years, Jim Lange had moved on to Hollywood and two other guys who were assigned to wear the uniform for WMIN didn’t work out. So that was it.

Chris Wedes replaced Lange

Chris Wedes replaced Lange

 

Jack Rebney replaced Lange

Jack Rebney replaced Wedes

Dedrick was determined to give his Captain 11 staying power and realized the best way to do that was to have an audience in the studio; a “crew” as he called it. How do you do that? Why not invite kids to celebrate their birthday party with Captain 11 on live TV?

Our Captain 11 in one of his first promotional photos.

Our Captain 11 in one of his first promotional photos.

It was ingenious and every weekday at 4,  no matter the weather, the Keloland lobby smelled like Bazooka bubble gum and was filled with the sound of anxious little voices until the studio door opened and they rushed in to find a seat on the bleachers and then hold their breath as that larger than life figure dressed in dazzling blue with the number 11 embroidered in gold on his  pilot’s hat walked up to the giant time converter machine..turned his magnificent face to the camera and when the little red light came he’d salute and say “Captain Eleven reporting for duty.” Then he’d turn to ask that familiar question, “How’s my crew today?” To which the young audience’s answer FINE would explode from their little bodies whether they actually felt fine or not. Ah, but who could be anything but when in the presence of a hero to three generations of kids.

capt montage

And just think..none of it would have happened if a guy named Jim Lange hadn’t accepted that first assignment. It just took another guy named Dedrick to complete the mission.

May you both Rest In Peace.

Heavenly Days

Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 2:08 pm
By: Doug Lund

I sneezed this morning and there was no familiar “God bless you.”

That’s when the realization hit me that my sweet Linda has left me.  Oh, don’t worry, she’ll be back in a fortnight. At least I hope she doesn’t find her stay in the Phoenix area with her sister Renee and our desert daughter, Christy, so appealing that the thought of returning to life back here with snow, cold, and Doug’s dirty underwear in need of laundering too repugnant.

Well, I feel pretty good about writing my blog here at Dunn Bros. Coffee shop this week..only because I know I’m in good company..and I do mean GOOD company. I’m pretty sure the guy sitting next to me is a young minister working on this week’s sermon. I suppose he could be a seminary student but looks too old for that. Perhaps a professor of religion but..no, I think from the way he was counseling a young family sitting off to his right a few minutes ago, he’s a minister all right. I dare not look at what he’s writing on his laptop and have tried to avoid listening in on his numerous phone conversations by putting on my headphones and tuning in to one of the web stations playing free big band jazz music which, I guess, if you put my feet to the fire insisting on knowing, would be my favorite. “Night and Day” is currently in my ear.

Anyway, the reverend is also surrounded by several religious books including a very well worn Bible and he’s intensely taking notes both written and on his computer.

I’d like to strike up a conversation with him.  “Does the Lord speak to you more clearly here in a busy coffee shop than in the solitude of your office too?”  But  I don’t dare ask, of course. I’d need more than coffee for that kind of nerve.

Oh, man, “Time after Time” is playing now. I adore that song especially when performed by a big band.  I started singing the words forgetting I had headphones on and was a tad embarrassed when I apparently broke the silence of our serene surroundings and sensed a few eyes glancing my way.

I wonder if God talks out loud to this guy or just sends thoughts and signs his way leaving the interpretation up to him but clear enough to leave no doubt that his God is as real as the sun, moon and stars and that any and all questions about life and its complications can be answered in the scriptures..or better yet in a clear voice. I’d like to ask him why this old hypocrite is so miserable in his faith or lack of it and as he grows “nearer my God to thee” is not all that convinced that his baptism, confirmation, regular confession of  sin, declaration of faith and holy communion is enough for that golden ticket through the pearly gates.  It’s a question doubters have been asking for generations and, unless the Lord should decide to give me a special audience to clear things up before the big dirt nap, I’ll just have to hope I encounter the Jesus who showed mercy to the repentant thief on the cross..not the Jesus who talked a lot about the wide road to Hell and narrow way to salvation. .

My mysterious padre has broken his silence again..not with me but the guy who sat next to him. Since I had to visit the men’s, I couldn’t help but overhear him preach what he’s been practicing to the fella. Maybe he’s a Jehovah Witness who works neighborhood coffee shops instead of just neighborhoods. Nah.. don’t they usually travel in pairs?

“All the things you are.” A beautiful classic from Jerome Kern. Love it.

Yup, I’m almost certain this chap is a chaplain. He just stepped out to his car and came back with what appears to be a hymnal; a Lutheran hymnal, I think..the red one. He must be closing in on the end of his sermon if he’s picking out the tunes.

I guess I better be going too.  Maybe I should ask where he’ll be preaching on Sunday perhaps  I’ll come for a visit.

Nah..don’t want to bother his studies.

It sure would be nice though if the Lord would send a clear sign my way once in a while..maybe one of his own special envoys.. just to let me know He’s really out there and ready to visit any time.

Ah, Artie Shaw’s “Stardust”..heavenly.

Doug, Come Away From The Dark Side

Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:03 pm
By: Doug Lund

As is often the case, I find myself here at Dunn Brother’s Coffee which has historically been a pretty good source of inspiration when my writing idea light bulb seems to be set on dim. There is no reason for me to think this. Maybe I fancy myself to be one of those cerebral college professor-types donned in a corduroy jacket with leather patches on the elbows sitting alone in the corner amid gunny sacks of beans marked Brazil, Columbia and Guatemala consuming huge quantities of strong coffee staring at the computer keyboard convinced that the next profound words of wisdom that will turn the world on its ear are about to appear on the screen. The truth is, however,  I’m a fraud; not a deep thinker at all..just a procrasting Norskie who likes the coffee in this place. I like it even better since Linda and I got to visit a coffee plantation in Hawaii last Fall. It turns out I didn’t know squat about selecting the best, most flavorful variety. I had been under the apparent misguided assumption that the darker the roast the richer the taste when, in fact, dark roasting a fine coffee bean is akin to ordering a filet mignon well done. On the other hand, light roasting of the beans, according to our Kona Coffee plantation guide, allows the full flavors to come through rather than going up in smoke out the chimney.  Now, as you might expect, in the world of coffee connoisseurs there is a considerable difference of opinion on this point. Many people, including me, have associated a light roast with that Lutheran Church basement, sour tasting, gas station swill that was little more than brown hot water. The experts say, though, that has more to do with cheap beans and brewing methods than to the amount of actual roasting time.

I don’t really want in the middle of a coffee squabble. Drink what you like, for heaven’s sake. I’m just not going back over to the dark side when ordering up a cup.

Oh, I did get recognized here at the coffee shop.  That’s happening less and less these days. Dunn Bros owners, Doris and Emily aren’t here today but another nice lady behind the counter could see beyond my goatee and remembered the fella who used to be on the news. She even instructed her younger co-worker to make sure the half and half container was filled for me. Such celebrity perks still coming my way.

Even though the espresso machine was making a wooshing racket, I couldn’t help but overhear my senior admirer explaining to her junior colleague how that old guy sitting in the booth gnawing on a chicken salad sandwich was actually a pretty big deal on local teevee years ago.

Done my heart good.

Any good news would be very welcome these days. It’s sure been a mixed bag from family in Omaha lately.

No sooner did Linda’s niece, Gigi, finally seem to have cleared the final hurdle in her long battle with breast cancer than Gigi’s little sister, Chauna, is diagnosed with the same disease.
At first it appeared as though Chauna might not have to undergo Chemo…but, after further review, doctors thought differently. Poor thing had her first treatment this week with several more to come. She is such a sweet person of faith who accepts this as a challenge to be overcome.

I just want to kick something.

A few years ago, two of my cousins. also sisters; Leslie and Amy, received that awful diagnosis…breast cancer.  Leslie survived. Amy..who, by the way, was one of the founders of Caribou Coffee, died.

I don’t know what has to be done to eradicate breast cancer but probably more than sports figures wearing pink outfits or racers driving pink cars on a weekend or two to call awareness to the problem. We’re all too aware of it…put that money and a few billion more dollars into finding a cure..NOW.  If Mr. Buffet and Mr. Gates wish to use their billions to leave a legacy. I can think of nothing better than using it to challenge the greatest minds on earth to the greatest medical challenge in history; eradicating cancer in the next ten years.

South Dakota broadcasting legend, Tom Brokaw, is the latest to get the bad news. He’s been diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. Doctors are optimistic about treatment. I hope so.

Damn cancer.

I suppose I shouldn’t curse. I guess it’s for dramatic effect although that’s such a mild curse by today’s standards it has little or no effect at all. It’s even okay to use that expletive and the H.E. double toothpicks word in TV commercials now. You know the credit card ad with Samuel L. Jackson. (Or is it, Laurance Fishburne? I get those two mixed up.)   As for cable networks like A&E, USA, SPIKE, Comedy Central and most of the others..just about any of the George Carlin once-forbidden words you can’t say on TV are being said pretty much bleep-free in prime time now.

But, that’s a  topic for another day.

Well, my free refill is empty and the nice lady who recognized me has left for the day so I dare not expect a third cup..but, hey, this place worked its magic again