Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Musings of a Baby Boomer upon touring a museum exhibit in Moorhead November 15, 2012

I’M WONDERING IF the rest of you baby boomers out there feel as I do, that youthful years have vanished, poof, just like that.

I need only look in the mirror to see the patches of ever spreading gray (time for a dye, again), the lines and creases and sagging skin to realize that Age has crept into my life to the point that I no longer can deny her presence.

Age has also shoved me into the corner of those who are overwhelmed by technology. It’s like the boxing gloves never come off as I resist, rather than embrace, technological changes. No Facebook or Twitter for me. No PayPal or paying bills online. And what is a smart phone and an iPad?

I am not joking, people. I need to enroll in a Technology 101 course or persuade the 18-year-old son, who is pursuing a degree in computer engineering, to tutor me.

Interestingly enough, this musing relates to a recent tour of  The Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County exhibit, “The BOOM 1945-1960 in Clay County,” at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.

While I was only a few years old at the end of that boom period, much of what I saw in that exhibit, including the outhouse, looked pretty darned familiar:

These books are shelved in a mock boom era one-room schoolhouse display. I own that exact Dick and Jane book.  I love Dick, Jane, Sally, Tim, Spot and Puff. They taught me to read. Oh, I mean my teacher taught me to read via that book series.

Fun with Dick and Jane book. Check.

So familiar to me, desks just like I sat in through my years at Vesta Elementary School. The blackboard, though, is not correct. Ours was black, not green.

Rows of school desks. Check.

I remember the floral print plastic curtains which once hung in the tiny wood-frame house where I grew up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. Today I collect vintage tablecloths like the one draping the table here. And, yes, I use them. Come to dinner at my house and you’ll find one gracing the table. I love retro.

A floral print curtain and floral print tablecloth. Check.

Tucked behind the close-up of the vintage plate, you’ll spy eyeglasses. I’ve worn prescription eyeglasses since age four, including the cat eye style and dark brown framed ones.

Dark-framed eyeglasses and vintage tableware. Check.

Popular Baby Boomer toys, ones my children, born between 1986 and 1994, also played with. Some toys truly are timeless, although I expect the View-Master isn’t. I played with Mr. Potato Head in the background, but he was not a favorite.

An Etch a Sketch, View-Master reels and Tinker Toys, all among my favorite childhood toys. Check, check and check.

There was not a piece of technology in sight save the old grainy black-and-white television.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


17 Responses to “Musings of a Baby Boomer upon touring a museum exhibit in Moorhead”

  1. Ahhh….I totally recognize ALL of that stuff! I learned to read with Dick and Jane and I, too, had cat eye glasses although mine were blue! And the toys—we had all of those—–thanks for the trip down memory lane today! Let me go get my walker and Geritol.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You took me down memory lane with that last sentence. I’ve already used a walker, several years ago when I had total right hip replacement surgery due to severe osteoarthritis. And, yes, I was a little young for that type of surgery, but could not live with the debilitating pain any longer.

      Now I think I’ll go dig out my copy of Fun with Dick and Jane and savor my youth.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    That place would be on my “must see” list if we get to that town……glad you did and wrote all this down for me/us!!!! “Poof” doesn’t even describe how I’m feeling about time passing these days!!! Whatever happened to those “lazy, hazy crazy days of summer” or any other season, for that matter????!!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, whatever happened? The Boomer exhibit, I should note, is currently the featured exhibit, meaning, if I understand correctly, it’s only temporary and exhibits in this part of the museum change. But the Hjemkomst exhibit is permanent.

  3. Jackie Says:

    Born in late 1960, I’ve always struggled with, “am I a boomer, or not” Well after reading your post, I think I can safely categorize myself as a bonafide Boomer… I remember all of those things! The “kitchen” was not our kitchen at home, but it was definitely my grandma’s. Loved Dick & Jane, I still think the kids of today should be learning to read from those books….oh those were the days!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You’re welcome to join us official Boomers if you wish. Absolutely.

      That formal dining scene was not ours either. We had a Formica table and chairs and red and white checked linoleum tile on the kitchen floor and most definitely no dining room in the “old house.” My mom had two vintage tablecloths which she pulled out on the holidays. Now I have those in my collection.

  4. Katie saw an etch-a-sketch the other day and said, “I’ve never seen one so big!” She’d seen tiny ones that have been around for a few years, but the big ones were nowhere to be seen for a few years there. Crazy.

  5. westerner54 Says:

    Do you remember the biography series that had titles like Clara Barton: Girl Nurse, Thomas Edison: Boy Inventor? How I’d love to get my hands on some of those…need to start looking! And I so clearly remember that Dick and Jane book with Jane ice skating on the cover. I thought she was just swell.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I can’t say as I really remember the biography series although a tiny brain cell says, yes, Audrey, you should recall these. We had teachers who, in later elementary years, read classics like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the Black Beauty series, the Little House series and more to us after lunch each day. I have such fond memories of listening to those books read and that is likely one of the reasons I love to read. Loved the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries and still consider mysteries my favorite genre.

  6. It all looks familiar to me, too. Especially the toys. I not only had a Mr. Potato Head, I think I was one of the few children who also had a Carrot Head (or did I dream that?). Our house was “modern” with a formica top kitchen table and sleek teak furniture in the formal rooms. My first glasses, age 9, were super cool brown cat eyes. So fashionable!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      We were cool in those cat eye glasses, weren’t we?

      I have not heard of a Carrot Head. But that does not mean it did not exist.

  7. Janet Says:

    My family had the dinnerware set (white with aqua…fourth photo down). I think we got it at the local Finast supermarket. Thanks for posting this. I’m as with-it, techno wise, as I have to be. Otherwise, I’m definitely living in the past, and very happy, thank you very much! : )

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Janet, isn’t it fun to see something like that from your past. Does your family still have this dinnerware?

      Thanks for stopping by. I always appreciate learning more about items I photograph, here the dinnerware source.

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