Friday, June 5, 2015

Seward's Clear View of the Milky Way

Patricia Tennesen has followed up her previous message to me:
Something people who live in small towns perhaps fail to realize is the beauty of their stars. In San Diego, even in 1962, it was difficult to see many stars at night due to the abundance of city lights. When summer arrived in Seward in 1962, I recall allowing my brother to make the wish on the first star reciting the very well known poem before making his wish. We both looked up at the most bountiful sky we had ever seen and made his wish together. 
He wanted roads for his Tonka trucks and tractors. Good roads that angry little boys could not create and quiet older sisters had tried to create using sticks of wood. He wanted manly roads with hills and bridges, overpasses and underpasses. 
My brother woke me up prior to the chickens the next morning, telling me,  Hurry, get up, we have new roads." 
We ran out before the sun was fully up to see roads carved into our mostly dirt lot including hills and a small creek with a wooded bridge passing over it and fancy curved overpasses. These roads were beyond our wildest dreams and had us asking everyone in the three houses that had been moved onto the site who had built the roads for his toy trucks to drive on. 
No one claimed responsibility. When we asked our father, he denied it. When we asked why the roads had went a particular way which seemed odd to us, he said, "Not sure, maybe zoning laws." We were left to wonder.
I left Seward in 1968. Since then, I never have seen the Milky Way as I saw it many times in Seward. 

I remember lying on my back on the practice-field plateau east of the football field and looking at the sky. The Milky Way stretched out clearly above me -- thousands of stars. 

I don't know if that view still can be seen in Seward. Perhaps there are too many "city lights" there now. That practice field was essentially a place outside of the town. 

And I remember playing with toy trucks when I was in third grade. I'd go over to Toby Beck's house to play with his toy trucks. In a previous post, I wrote:

Toby had a lot of toy trucks. I think he collected them. He always asked for and received more toy trucks on his birthday, Christmas, etc. In general, I thought that playing with toy trucks was rather lame, but his trucks were really cool, because they were Tonkas.
This photograph matches my memory of a typical truck that we played with.

 Vintage Tonka trucks are worth a lot of money now.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Internet's Insatiable Interest in Freshman Beanie Caps

In the last couple of days, I've been thinking a lot about why my article about Concordia College's freshman beanie caps has received more than a quarter of a million page views during the past six years.

During the past week (May  27 - June 4) my blog has received 1,144 page views, of which 475 (42%) were on my beanie article.

Did some computer programmer create an application with an endless loop that visits that webpage almost a hundred times a day?

Is my article being used, without my knowledge, as part of some international spam operation?

One simple possibility is that a surprisingly enormous number of people search the Internet for articles about freshman beanie caps. I did a Google search for "freshman beanie caps", and I found that my article was listed as #30. In other words, there are 29 webpages about freshman beanie caps that get even more page views than my article gets.

Perhaps collecting vintage beanie caps is a big business.


UPDATE (July 19): My brother Peter is a computer expert, and he suggested that the beanie article gets a lot of page views because it includes a photograph of black-and-white saddle shoes. Very few people care about beanie caps, but lots of women still search the Internet for information about saddle shoes. I think Peter's suggestion is the explanation.


During that same week, my blog received page views from the following countries:

USA = 327

France = 136

Germany = 108

Belgium = 98

United Kingdom = 52

Russia = 33

Czech Republic = 15

Australia = 9

Greece = 9

Thailand = 9

Since those numbers add up to 787, there must have been a lot of countries, with numbers less than 9, that Blogger did not list in order for the grand total to be 1,144. (Or else Blogger cannot identify the country of origin for many page views.)

Blogger does not tell me which particular countries accounted for the page views specifically on my beanie article.


My articles that received the most page views in the last week:

Concordia College Freshman Beanie Caps = 475

Campus Buildings That Are Gone = 84

The Trampoline in St John's Basement = 43

Reinhold Marxhausen's Sound-Making Sculptures = 28

The Meaning of the Movie "Footloose" = 19

Pledging Allegiance to the Christian Flag = 15

The Meaning of the Movie "Doubt" = 11


My two articles explaining movies have received a lot of total page views:

The Meaning of the Movie "Doubt" = 1,268  total page views

The Meaning of the Movie "Footloose" = 1,027 total page views


I have another blog devoted entirely to the movie Dirty Dancing. The last time I posted an article on that blog was in January 2009. During the past month, that blog averaged about 56 page views a day.

In its entire existence, that blog has received 63,884 page views.

The blog's most viewed article, Robbie Gould's Philosophy, has received 11,640 page views.

Monday, June 1, 2015

My Blog's Most-Read Articles

Even though I've neglected this blog for two years, it still gets a lot of page views.

* May 24 = 178 page views

* May 25 = 254 page views

* May 26 = 215 page views

* May 27 = 213 page views

* May 28 = 162 page views

* May 29 = 98 page views

* May 30 = 177 page views

* June 1 (at 6:30 p.m.) = 241 page views

The main reason I still get so many page views is an article I wrote about freshman beanie caps in May 2009. That article currently averages almost a hundred page views a day -- and has accumulated more than a quarter-million page views in the past six years!

If this is some kind of nefarious manipulation of the Internet, I cannot imagine its purpose.

Blogger provides me statistics on page views. Below is a list of my webpages that have been visited most often. In a few of the cases, Blogger provided the number of views I got in the last week -- from May 25 through June 1, 2015.

Concordia College Freshman Beanie Caps = 259,970 page views
 613 page views in the last week.  
Reinhold Marxhausen's Sound-Making Sculptures = 4,717 page views
22 page views in the last week.
Campus Buildings That Are Gone = 4,348 page views
113 page views in the last week.
The Trampoline in St. John's Basement = 4,182 page views
58 page views in the last week.
The Gospel According to Peanuts - 3 = 1,925 page views

The Students of St John School, 1952-53 = 1,532 page views

Pledging Allegiance to the Christian Flag = 1,358 page views
16 page views in the last week.
Bohemians = 1,272 page views
7 page views in the last week.
The Meaning of the Movie "Doubt" = 1,262 page views
11 page views in the last week.
Someone has left this comment:  
No one has commented on this yet? I think this is a great, well-thought out, well explained commentary. Great job.
Moving from the Old Library to the New Library = 1,169 page views

The Meaning of the Movie "Footloose" = 1,010 page views
15 page views in the last week. 
Someone has left this comment:  
This is the most insightful and thorough analysis of this movie I have ever encountered. Thank you for taking the time to create this.
Mike Sylwester's Last Will and Testament = 895 page views

Audio-Visual Equipment = 676 page views

The Settlement of German Lutherans in Seward County = 599 page views

Mark Lemke, RIP = 430 page views

The Weller Family's Move from Indiana to Nebraska = 422 page views

St John Hi Lights, May 1968 -- Part 2 = 397 page views

James Blomenberg, RIP = 387 page views

Deep Reasons for St John's Enrollment Collapse = 282 page views

Memories of Kathy Lange Brakke = 270 page views

Exercising to the song "Chicken Fat"

Recently our television was on in another room, and I was suprised to hear a few seconds of the song Chicken Fat. (Since then, I've read that the Apple computer company included the sound bite in a television advertisement, but I never have seen the advertisement.)  

Here is another video, featuring pretty, exercise-astute cheerleaders. 

As I remember, Mr. Peter made our fifth-grade class do this exercise routine on the school's basketball court a few times every week. We could not do it every day, because it made our muscles so sore. 

We were told that President Kennedy encouraged all elementary schools to institute this exercise routine, because American kids were too flabby. President Kennedy valued vigour in children.

The routine is longer -- almost seven minutes -- than I remembered it.

Now I recognize the unforgettable voice as belonging to Robert Preston, famous for playing the role of The Music Man

While browsing through Google for information about Chicken Fat, I came across an amusing blog written by "Retro Mimi", who diets using Weight Watchers recipes from the 1970s. She writes about herself:

I am a Pittsburgh girl with a passionate love for potatoes and carbs and butter. 
For some reason, I recreate long-forgotten Weight Watchers recipes from the 1970's in my own kitchen. Sometimes they are surprisingly tasty. Most of the time they are dreadful. Often my house smells like boiled celery. I get way too excited about buying vintage Pyrex and unmolding gelatine. 

I am a Weight Watchers lifetime member. I am the daughter of a Weight Watchers lifetime member. I am obsessed with all things Weight Watcher.
I am taking over the culinary world... one envelope of Knox Gelatin at a time. 
It all started with one cookbook... Once upon a time, a friend gave me a copy of the "1972 Weight Watchers Revised Program Cookbook" (WWRPC). Coincidentally, 1972 was also the year my mom joined WW and lost a great deal of weight after I was born. I became fascinated by this book, and I started wondering what it would be like to follow the same plan that Jean Nidetch and my mom followed almost 40 years ago. The rest is history. 
Anyway, Retro Mini wrote this article about the exercise song Chicken Fat.  
If you are like me and grew up in the 60's or 70's, you were probably tortured by this song at some point in your life.
Sung by Robert Preston (The Music Man), and sent to every school in the U.S. as part of a Youth Fitness Program in the 60's, it is guaranteed to get you moving.
Plus---once you hear it, you will NEVER GET IT OUT OF YOUR HEAD.
We had a copy of this record at our house, and I still remember doing the "Chicken Fat" workout with my mom and grandmother on a regular basis. We had such a great time yelling, "Give that chicken fat back to the chicken and don't be chicken again!"
I have posted the entire "Chicken Fat" song for your retro fitness enjoyment. Now get up, get moving and flap those wings!   
Am I the only weirdo that remembers this?
A lot of people commented on Retro Mimi's Chicken Fat article, and I followed links to another blog article written by someone named Noreen Braman.  
The President Kennedy and Chicken Fat Song Connection
Anyone who was in school during the 60s remembers the President's Physical Fitness program, instituted by President Kennedy, and the tests you took to prove how American Strong you were. For me, it was the chin up that was my demise, my flabby arms unable to lift me up more than once, and I am not even sure I did it once.
The program had a television commercial that I have been desperately searching for. It featured a depiction of a human as a head on a TV screen that barked orders to a robot. Where it should be taken, etc. At one point, the robot just wanders off, leaving the TV head person to just keep shouting at the robot whose name I seem to remember was "Z-12." The moral of the story? Use your body, or someday you won't have one anymore. It was an idea that resurfaces in the the Pixar animated film, "Wall E" where bloated, obese humans have every need met by robots and machinery. Cautionary tales meant to inspire us to take care of our bodies and the planet.
I remembered the President's Physical Fitness challenge with a wistful nostalgia, a noble idea that never quite got me to improve my chin-up performance, but did serve as a source of reward for those more athletically inclined, including my own children when they were in grammar school. What I never remembered, until now, was that this program also came with an evil, menacing, demeaning piece of music that has been recently resurrected by a commercial for Apple. 
It appears that the "Chicken Fat" song, which became the soundtrack of my adolescent nightmares, was actually titled "The Youth Fitness Song" and it was commissioned by the President's Council on Physical Fitness. Written by Meredith Wilson ("The Music Man") and recorded by "Music Man" star, Robert Preston. My brain, which has been screaming since I first heard this song playing in the commercial, is now on full about-to-meltdown red alert. Say it isn't so!
Oh yes, we've got trouble, right here in EVERY CITY IN AMERICA. Sure, Apple shortens the torture, it almost sounds catchy. But listen to it, preserved for posterity on the JFK Library website. 
And if you want to sing along, here, via Lyrics Playground, are the words. Every torturous verse. 

Former St John student writing novel about Seward

Below is an e-mail and attached photograph that I have received:


Hello There,

I  accidentally came upon your Blog about Seward Nebraska. It was along time ago and we were there for a short time as the Atlas F Missiles were being built in the state. We stayed in a motel for what seemed like forever until housing could be located. We found our way to a house that had been moved on to the land at 1542 N Columbia.

In 2011, I was in Omaha to run the half marathon and took a drive over to Seward and was immediately brought back to that time in 1962-63 when we lived in Seward and I attended Saint John's school. 

2011 had been a difficult year as I had just lost my job during the financial crises of the time. I was lost and quite sure that my world was coming to an end. So much so that although we had paid the entrance fee and had our reservations before I discovered that my company was closing my office down, I was not able to train. So depressed that I could not lace up my shoes to train. I preferred sitting, staring at the wall to running along the coast of California. I ended up walking half of the 13 miles in Omaha.

As I returned to Seward and recalled the fun my brother and had living there, my mind was suddenly alive with thoughts. I think my husband was convinced that I was going nuts. I began telling him stories about our time there. We had went from a urban location to what at that time was the middle of a corn field. Our mother hated it, but my brother and I thought it was heaven on earth as we were free to explore our surroundings.

Seeing Seward again inspired me to return to school to study creative writing which I did and now and for the past three years have been writing a fictional novel based on our time in Seward. Please note "fictional." My life did not end, it has thrived and the loss of my job turned out to be a blessing.

I have since been back to Seward in June of 2014 with one of our daughters and stayed at the Liberty House, attended one of the concerts in the Clam and walked the trails that were once train tracks behind our house. This was when we were finally able to figure out which house was the one that we had lived in and the owners were kind enough to allow me a peek inside. I returned again in October of 2015 to meet Ted Koosler at Chapters books and walk the neighborhoods.

Seward is such a wonderful place to raise a family. I am jealous of those who are able to spend a life time there. I will attach a photo of me bundled up in front of our house. It is very poor quality but it is what I have.

Thanks for the blog and what you do for the community, 

Patricia [née Riney] Tennesen

[Mike writing now]

Thanks for your interesting letter about your unusual relationship to Seward.

Your letter reminded me of a strange memory of my own about missiles in Seward. I was a boy -- this might have been in about 1962 - 1963 -- watching a basketball game with some of my friends in the campus's basketball court. A couple of young men (maybe in their twenties) came in and sat in the bleachers near where I was sitting. 

We struck up a conversation, and they told me that they were driving a truck that was transporting a missile (or some missiles) to Alaska. They decided to take a break from their drive, and so they stopped in Seward, heard about the basketball game, and decided to stop by and watch.

My friends and I did not believe this strange story, but the young men insisted casually that it all was the truth. 

"Why would we lie about it?" they asked. 

"Aren't you supposed to keep that kind of thing top-secret?" we asked. 

"Who are you going to tell?" they asked back.

I remember that we continued to talk until the game. I don't remember any more of the conversation. They watched the game until the end, and the Bulldogs won. Then they left. 

I never have forgotten that incident.I wonder if it has something to do with "Atlas F missiles being built in the state".