The WABAC Machine

Do you remember Mr. Peabody’s WABAC (pronounced “way back”) machine on the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon shows from the 1950’s and 60’s?  Mr. Peabody, a dog, always gave “his boy,” Sherman, history lessons by going back in time using the WABAC machine.  I never did well in history classes later, probably because of this initial exposure to Mr. Peabody’s warped views.

I’m about to climb into the WABAC machine myself (without Mr. Peabody and his bad puns)  and visit the hometown of my parents and grandparents, Young America, Minnesota.  I’ve done a few posts about Young America:  Getting There; An Angel in the Attic.  You can click on either of those links if you haven’t read them before.  Then just click your browser’s back button to return to this post.  I honestly don’t remember how long it’s been since I was last back in YA, but a good guess would be 40 years.  Might it be fun to go back?  I’ll find out the answer to that question next week when I’ll be back up in my home state of Minnesota.  Every time I hear one of Garrison Keillor’s monologues about Lake Wobegon, MN, it reminds me of Young America.  If you think a lake named Wobegon is sad sounding, how about the lake in YA, Mud Lake?  Now that’s sad, but hey, the muskrats really like it.

As I recall, from the road that led into my Grandparents property, you could see Mud Lake way off in the distance.  First you’d see the old horse that the proprietor of a beauty salon kept in a small pasture.  Down from there were the railroad tracks where we spent hours walking, looking for wild strawberries and trouble.  Any then well beyond all that, the lake…and that’s how it looked best, from a distance.

I’ve made arrangements to view a collection of photos donated to the Norwood-Young America Heritage Center by a childhood friend of my dad’s.  I’m not sure what I’ll find, but I’m treating it like a treasure hunt, and even the hunt should be fun.  I’ll be walking the town too, hoping to catch a glimpse of the 1950’s, when as kids my brothers and I visited there, roamed all over and had such fun. 

Our Grandparents were the greatest.  I suppose they had their flaws, but we didn’t see them.  Grampa was a bit gruff at times, and there was always his old barber’s strap hanging from a peg in the kitchen…a constant threat to unruly kids.   But how many kids got to watch their Grampa or Grandma chop a chicken’s head off?  How many got to see how chicken soup was made?  I don’t mean dumping Campbell’s from the can into a pot and turning on the burner.  I’m talking about killing the chicken, gutting it, and plucking the feathers.  I’m talking egg noodles from scratch.  Finally, I’m not talking, I’m smelling and then eating soup, wow!  The aroma in the big, eat-in kitchen, wonderful; I haven’t smelled anything like it since.  The broth actually tasted like chicken, not like salty water.  I tried for years to make chicken soup like hers, but never even came close.

Just to do a 360 look around that old kitchen in my memory is fun.  There was a dry sink and hand pump (used to pump water from a cistern), a door out onto the screened porch, a big tall sideboard on which the old, chiming clock sat.  Then one of the old wooden phones hanging on the wall.  In the early years they still had a party line and their own ring.  Next the door to the pantry, a real walk-in pantry with big glass jars full of home-made cookies.  From the window in the pantry you could see the “out house.”  Then the big old iron stove and next to it, the fridge.  Funny, the thing that comes to mind about the stove was watching Grampa boil his glass syringe in a small pot, so that he could give himself an insulin shot, something that terrified me.  Moving on past the fridge, a window through which you could see out to the hatchery, then the door out to the back porch, really the front porch, followed by the coat hooks, the barber’s strap and a door to a narrow side room.  In that side room, old toys used by my dad and his siblings were stored, so after the pantry it was one of our favorite rooms.  Finally the opening to the short hall that led past the cellar door to the living room.

Of course I won’t see any of that on my trip next week, but having the memory is better.  The picture of the week:

That’s Gramma and Grampa Boehmke in the garden in Young America. 

It’s said that “you can’t go back.”  I’ll let you know about that in the next post.
Thanks for reading.


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