Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Imagine…living in this historic home August 31, 2013

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OH, TO STEP INSIDE this stately house, to imagine its grand past and those who once called this place home.

The "Adam's & Quast House," 406 Main Street South, Hutchinson, Minnesota.

The “Adam’s & Quast House,” 406 Main Street South, Hutchinson, Minnesota.

D. A. Adams had this house built along Main Street South in Hutchinson for $8,000 in 1901 as a replica of the Duke of Norfolk’s house on the estate where Adams was raised.

From what I gather, Adams made his money in the insurance business.

According to the most basic of online info I could find:

“The house will be possessed of every modern convenience, and Mr. Adams will certainly have, when completed, a new house in which he can take great comfort,”—Independent Newspaper, December 11, 1902

Ah, yes, I believe that with some touch-up painting, I could be quite comfortable in this elegant house.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Oh, the irony August 30, 2013

Fitness and smoking

ON A RECENT STOP for a treat at the Dairy Queen in downtown Hutchinson, I noticed this impressive new Cornerstone Commons retail and professional office center. Beautiful building.

But I was struck by the irony of two businesses located here, SMOKES4LESS and Snap Fitness. Say again. Yes, polar opposites housed in the same complex at 114 Main Street North.

Then there’s that Dairy Queen directly across the street. I suppose if you work out first, you needn’t feel all that guilty about indulging in a Blizzard afterward. Or if you indulge in a Blizzard before working out at Snap Fitness, you needn’t feel guilty either.

But if you’re like me and you’re passing through town and you get out of your vehicle, consume a Blizzard and then hop back in your vehicle, then the guilt factor may kick in.

Hey, but at least I don’t smoke or chew.

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Luverne: “Go digital or go dark” August 29, 2013

The entry to the historic Palace Theatre in downtown Luverne, Minnesota.

The entry to the historic Palace Theatre in downtown Luverne, Minnesota.

THE DOORS TO THE OLD THEATRE were locked, much to my dismay, on a recent Saturday visit to Luverne in extreme southwestern Minnesota.

Charming exterior art.

Charming exterior art.

If only I could have gotten inside to view the original painted wall panels, stage curtains, pipe organ, and artistic wall and ceiling décor inside the 1915 Palace Theatre.

I am a fan of old theatres and of old buildings in general. But you know that if you’ve followed Minnesota Prairie Roots.

That's ReBorn, in the right corner of the city-owned theatre building at 102 E. Main Street.

The city-owned Palace Theatre at 102 E. Main Street, operated by the nonprofit Blue Mound Area Theatre.

That Luverne appreciates the value of its historic theatre enough to preserve the building, which hosts a variety of cultural and other events, pleases me. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Theatre supporters are currently working to continue one aspect of the building’s use, that of showing movies. Through the “Go Digital or Go Dark” campaign, efforts are underway to raise $75,000 for the purchase of a digital projector. At the end of 2013, film companies will no longer produce 35mm film, necessitating the switch.

Now I’m not a big movie watcher, having last viewed an in-theatre movie several years ago. But I like the option of a local theatre, which my community of 23,000 no longer has. Sad. Truly sad.

I expect the good folks of Luverne would miss their movies, too, should funding not come through for the digital projector.

A notable sign draws the eye to the Palace.

A notable sign draws the eye to the Palace.

A special fundraising event, “A Night at the Palace,” slated for Saturday, September 7, will raise monies specifically for that projector. Click here to learn more.

There’s just one more bit of information you should know about the Palace Theatre. Six years ago, on September 6, the Palace Theatre hosted the world premiere of The War, a Ken Burns documentary on World War II. Luverne is one of four communities featured in the film.

Downtown Luverne, Minnesota.

Downtown Luverne, Minnesota.

Of all the venues which could have been selected for the debut showing, the Palace Theatre was chosen. That, my friends, says a lot for the community of Luverne and the historic theatre.

FYI: To learn about another Luverne theatre in need of funding for a digital projector, click here and read about the Verne Drive-in.

If you wish to donate monies (via PayPal) toward purchasing a digital projector for the Palace Theatre, click here.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Packing his bags for Boston August 28, 2013

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HE FLEW INTO MINNESOTA from Washington state, arriving at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota, with a suitcase and a clock.

His roommate came with an entourage of family and a car filled with belongings.

My friend Dave (not his real name) remembers the moment well. The roommate with all the stuff. And the roommate’s dad who surveyed the dorm room, then locked eyes on that alarm clock.

“Nice clock,” he complimented Dave, who, decades later, laughs about the comment.

My friend’s story pops into my mind as I consider my 19-year-old son’s departure early this morning for Medford, Massachusetts (near Boston), where he’s accepted transfer student admittance to Tufts University.

Will he feel like Dave, the odd man out, arriving via plane with two suitcases, a carry-on bag and his pillow?

The son poses after packing his belongings in his NDSU dorm room in May.

The son poses for a photo after packing his belongings in his North Dakota State University dorm room in May.

After minimal discussion, our family decided that, given the price of gas, food and lodging, it would not be cost effective for us to pack the son’s stuff into our van and drive east 1,400 miles to Medford and then back next spring.

I won’t miss the moving in and out of dorms that I expected would be a part of our lives for the next several years. My husband and I have done that already with our daughters, long graduated from college.

Only ?? miles to Fargo. We've already driven

On the road to Fargo.

And I definitely won’t miss the long road trips along Interstate 94 to Fargo, where our youngest attended North Dakota State University for a year, or the worry about blizzards and closed interstates.

But I will miss seeing my son settled in and the ability to visualize him in his dorm room or anywhere on the Tufts campus. There is a certain sense of security for a mother in both.

Yet, this is not about me. This is about my son, his education, his need to feel challenged, his happiness and his future. The opportunity to attend a noted and respected research university like Tufts, which offers admission to only 50 – 100 transfer student applicants per year, is huge.

The debt load that our boy will bear, however, also will be huge (compared to NDSU), even with a substantial and outstanding financial aid package. Without that needs-based funding, he couldn’t attend Tufts; we are grateful. Still, I worry about how he/we will come up with our expected family contribution toward his education. The annual cost to attend Tufts exceeds our family’s annual gross income.

My youngest brother, a successful Twin Cities attorney, tells me not to worry, that my computer engineering major son will earn good money upon graduation. I expect he’s right. Already the 19-year-old’s base hourly wage at a summer internship was higher than his dad’s base wage after more than 30 years as an automotive machinist. And everything I’ve read points to continued demand for computer engineers in jobs that pay well.

While at NDSU, my son worked and volunteered in the Technology Incubator as part of an Entrepreneurial Scholarship. He is walking away from two major scholarships at NDSU to attend Tufts University.

While at NDSU, my son worked and volunteered in the Technology Incubator as part of an Entrepreneurial Scholarship. He is walking away from two major scholarships at NDSU to attend Tufts University. This summer he lived in Rochester and worked for IBM. His work experience at both places have been great opportunities to grow and learn and build connections for his future.

If anything, I know my son is driven to learn and succeed. He’s already proven that via his academic, computer programming and gaming successes, and his experiences working for two technology companies and more.

But, still, he’s only 19 and my boy, setting off alone for Boston with his bags. And an alarm clock in his smart phone.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A crop dusting photo essay August 27, 2013

Frame 1

Frame 1

I’M NOT NECESSARILY a fan of the end result of crop dusting—some chemical sprayed upon a field with the residue sifting into the air and upon the earth.

Frame 2

Frame 2

But watching a crop dusting plane at work does fascinate me.

Frame 3

Frame 3

On a recent Saturday afternoon, while traveling Minnesota Highway 28 en route to Morris, I was entertained by a crop duster spraying a cornfield near Westport.

Frame 4

Frame 4

Frame 5

Frame 5

Frame 6

Frame 6

Just ahead of the van in which my husband, son and I were traveling, the plane skimmed across the highway before completing a sharp turn to pass back over the roadway and across acres of corn.

Frame 7

Frame 7: How low do you think this plane is flying?

I am no aviation expert, but it seems to me that special skills and a dose of daredevil courage are required to fly a crop duster.

Frame 8: Just the tip of the plane visible above the cornfield.

Frame 8: Just the tail and wings of the plane visible above the cornfield.

Thoughts?

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Creative parenting: Let the painting & mud slinging begin August 26, 2013

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The kids, Braxton, left, Jack and Nevaeh, were thrilled to paint blocks, unlike me.

The kids, Braxton, left, Jack and Nevaeh, were thrilled to paint blocks, unlike me.

I SWEAR SHE would have locked me in the basement.

The sheetrock wall canvas.

The sheetrock wall canvas.

Billie Jo, a former preschool teacher and the mother of two school-aged youngsters, insisted. “You need to paint a brick, Audrey.” She emphasized “Audrey.”

The paint comes from the county recycling center.

The paint comes from the county recycling center.

There was no wiggling my way out of her demand, even if my friend was preoccupied with opening paint cans, stirring paint, handing out brushes, washing kids’ hands and wiping paint spills from the concrete basement floor.

See, I really was busy taking photos, here of Hannah. She's quite the artist who not only paints, but also sews. Plus, she writes poetry.

See, I really was busy taking photos, here of Hannah. She’s quite the artist who not only paints, but also sews. Plus, she writes poetry. Oh, and she made that pony tail holder in her hair.

feet

Painting in bare feet.

Jack creating his masterpiece.

Jack creating his masterpiece.

My excuse of “I’m busy taking pictures” wasn’t sliding by Billie Jo. Nope.

My, ahem, masterpiece.

My, ahem, masterpiece.

So, eventually, I set down my camera and picked up paintbrushes to paint a clutch of lilac hued flowers, my name and the year onto an orange brick painted upon a sheetrock wall. I’ve never pretended to be an artist, except perhaps in photography.

Where the project started, on the cement walls.

Where the project started, on the cement walls.

Prior to the sheetrock dividing wall construction, visitors to Billie Jo and Neal’s south Faribault home created art (a record of their visits) on a cement block wall in a corner of the basement. That area is now covered by totes in a storage room stocked full of board games, art supplies and more.

“Garage sales are great,” Neal says.

Braxton, in near constant motion, took time to paint.

Braxton, in near constant motion, took time to paint.

And so are he and Billie Jo and their kids, Nevaeh (heaven spelled backwards) and Braxton.

They are loving and kind and fabulous and generous and in the paperwork process of adopting, hopefully, two children from Colombia. These will be blessed children to join this fun-loving family. (International adoptions are costly, so if you wish to donate to the cause, email me personally or at audrey at mnprairieroots.com)

I love how they parent, reminding me of bygone times. They have no television, instead choosing board games and crafts and bike rides and storytime at the library and such to define their family togetherness.

My friends stretched a wood plank between their deck and an outdoor play cube for the kids to jump and run and do whatever kids’ imaginations tell them to do. The plank was added when Braxton was in his pirate phase.

Fun times at Billie Jo and Neal's mud party.

Fun times  for Hannah at Billie Jo and Neal’s mud party. The event included mixing of “potions” at the picnic table. Photo courtesy of Billie Jo.

Recently, they hosted a mud party, as in purchasing black dirt, shoveling it into a kids’ swimming pool, mixing in water and letting Nevaeh and Braxton and friends muck around.

Billie Jo tells me that clean-up lasted longer than the party. Here Braxton and Nevaeh pose. Photo courtesy of Billie Jo.

Billie Jo tells me that clean-up lasted longer than the party. Here Braxton and Nevaeh pose. Photo courtesy of Billie Jo.

If I hadn’t been out of town, I would have been there photographing the event. But, if Billie Jo had insisted I join the fun…

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How you can make a difference in one Minnesota kindergarten classroom August 24, 2013

Looking to the front and one side of the school.

Long gone are the days of ink well desks, blackboards and Big Chief tablets.  Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of Little Prairie School, rural Dundas, Minnesota.

MY ELDEST DAUGHTER’S friend, Laura, teaches at Earle Brown Elementary School in the north metro, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Independent School District 286.

I’ve met Laura once. Mostly I “know” Laura because I follow her “These are a Few of my Favorite Things” blog. Click here to reach her blog and you will meet a young woman who is passionate about life, about teaching, about helping others (she’s been on summer mission trips to Africa), about photography, her faith and more.

Laura is the kind of person you would hope would teach your children or grandchildren. She cares. Deeply.

Presidential portraits grace the blackboard by the teacher's desk.

Technology long ago replaced the blackboards of my youth. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

That said, this passionate teacher is looking to buy two iPad minis for her classroom to use in literacy and math centers. Her school district, she says, doesn’t have the monies for such purchases. She needs about $900 and has set up a donation venue at DonorsChoose.org. Click here to reach her Donors page, where you will find more details.

Laura writes in part:

My kindergartners start school already behind academically. Many of them have never set foot in a school environment. Others don’t come to school with clean clothes or proper school supplies. A third of my class doesn’t speak English as their first language.

But the thing is, my kids don’t know they are behind. They don’t realize the challenges they are facing. They are five, and this is life as they know it. They come in my door ready to learn, EXCITED to learn. I want to capitalize on this eagerness and provide them the best environment with the best tools at their fingertips. My goal is to have them leave kindergarten at or above grade level. My goal is for each of my students to know that they matter and they are loved. I want my students to know that they have what it takes to accomplish something in this world.

Can you sense this teacher’s enthusiasm and love for her students? I can. She wants (let’s reread this) her kids “to know that they have what it takes to accomplish something in this world.”

You should also know that the label of “high poverty,” based on the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunches, is attached to Earle Brown Elementary.

Please consider donating. For the sake of those five-year-olds.

Click here to link to Ms. Karsjen’s project and give.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling