Thursday, August 30, 2007

Labor Day is Memorial Day

I’ll explain the picture in a moment. There’s still a little kid inside of me that dreads Labor Day. That’s because it always meant the start of another school year. However now it signals the end of summer, which is far too brief.

For years I always got my holidays confused, Labor Day and Memorial Day, not sure which unofficially started and ended summer. I’d actually like to see them switched. It doesn’t’ seem right that we pay tribute to our workers with a day off and then send them back, to begin the final leg of the year. I do enjoy the tribute to our veterans on Memorial Day, but some how feel it would be more appropriate towards the end of summer.

This year it feels a little more like Memorial Day around Labor Day because we recently lost a Fond du Lac area soldier in the war in Iraq. Captain Derek Dobogai was one of 14 soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in northern Iraq. I didn’t know him, but have spoken to a couple of his acquaintances including one of his best friends Adam Mueller. He has my sympathy.

No matter how you feel about the war you have to admire those who are willing to put their lives on the line. You know it’s interesting how we view war and how those who serve in wars do.

One of my first jobs out of college was as a dispatcher for the public safety department in my hometown of Manistique, Michigan. A majority of the police officers I worked with had military service. Most had served in Vietnam, one in Korea. They didn’t talk openly about their experiences. If they did it was in passing. One of the officers, who doubled as an EMT, was a medic in the Korean War. Another, who served in Vietnam, tried to make a joke of it when he talked about his experiences. It usually came off as nervous and awkward. If they wanted to talk about it they would.

A couple of my friends went into the military. One drowned in a training accident. Another became a first-rate soldier. I didn’t lose any friends or relatives that I know of to war. I’m lucky that way, so far. My two nephews are 9 and 12 years old this year. I hope if they ever have to serve in the military they come through unscathed.

For Derek Dobogai’s family Labor Day is Memorial Day. His funeral service is on Monday.

If you’d like to sign his guest book here’s the address:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Barney's Grocery

We recently ran a poll on the website asking people how the closing of the Pick ‘N Save grocery store on West Scott Street in Fond du Lac would affect them. One of those who saw the poll e-mailed and suggested that we should have included an option that the question was stupid. Fair enough, I’m one of those who will be impacted by the decision to close the store. That’s not the reason for the poll however. Quite a few people commented to me that they too will now have to shop elsewhere. Roundy’s closed the Copps Foods store a couple years ago and I enjoyed shopping there as well. A lot of people are anticipating the opening of Festival Foods.

When I was a teenager two of the first three jobs I had involved working at grocery stores in my hometown of Manistique, Michigan. One was at the A & P store, which had a line of stores across the country that has since closed. Their store brand was the Ann Page line of groceries. The other job was at a Mom and Pop store known as Barney’s Grocery.

Working at Barney’s is still one of my fondest memories. It was a small store on Oak Street a stone’s throw from a Catholic School and only a couple blocks down from an Elementary School. Barney Johnson was the proprietor. He was probably in his late 60s to early 70s when I worked a couple days a week for him stocking shelves.

Barney’s was a good old-fashioned neighborhood grocery store. For the kids it was where you could pick up penny candies, though by that time most candy bars and candies ran you more. He had all the latest candy. I remember going through a caramel candy bar phase. Remember the Marathon Bar? Of course Barney was no fool he carried a line of grocery products and beer and wine for adults.

Somewhere along the line Barney got his 15 minutes of fame. He was written up in the local weekly paper (The Pioneer Tribune) because he’d been offering penny candies for more than 40 years and served generations of children. Imagine the patience needed for those momentous decisions kids with a few pennies and dimes agonized over in his store?

Eventually time marched on and Barney passed away. Thankfully the store fell into the hands of Jim Sangraw, another nice guy, who for years was also connected with the local golf course as well. I went to school with one of his kids. He kept Barney’s name on the sign outside the store.

Sadly the store went the way of many Mom and Pop operations and is no longer doing business. We lived a block down from Barney’s and it was part of my tween and teen years. I asked about it a few years back and some one told me that the people who owned it were basically using it for storage. A sad end to a sweet story!

8/26/07-P.S. Since originally writing this blog. I've found out through relatives and the Pioneer Tribune that the old Barney's Grocery store has been remodeled and is now being used as the local headquarters for Habitat for Humanity.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Oh Blog!

I probably will live to regret this, but here goes any way. During a recent blog I wrote that I have to start writing them on more of a regular basis. Of course by comparison I’m leagues ahead of my colleagues at KFIZ. One likes the Internet so much he hasn’t written one in over a year. Another who pushed us to write blogs to show listeners more of our personalities hasn’t penned one in nearly a year.

I like reading their thoughts, but haven’t been treated to any fresh ones in about three months, at the very least. I think this blogging thing is a good thing. It’s like buying a DVD of a movie, enjoying the film, and then finding out the cheapskates didn’t include any extras except the trailers you’d see in the movie theater any way.

Okay I got that out of my system now on to something different. There’s a benefit coming up for Kellan Henning this Saturday (August 18) at Taylor Park in Rosendale. There are activities for kids and adults from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Kellan was bicycling last month when he was hit by a car. He’s undergone a number of surgeries and his folks could use the help with medical bills. There are a lot of deserving benefits out there and I hate to just shed light on one, but there you go.

I liked Tommy Thompson as a Governor and felt some pride when he got a cabinet post in the Bush Administration, but to tell you the truth couldn’t really see him as a presidential candidate. The teflon coating isn’t holding up as well as it did years ago and I was fearful that as the campaign trail wore on we’d find out more about him than we really wanted to know.

As a reporter and fellow human being I’ve been disappointed with the way press conferences have been staged in the Utah Mine disaster. By the time they get up to the mikes and cameras officials have already informed the families of the progress they’ve made. So why prolong their agony and everybody elses with technical mumbo jumbo. Is there any sign of life, any thread of hope, have our prayers been answered?

Last, but not least. Ashland, Kentucky’s “Duct Tape Bandit.” What was he thinking?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Candles In a Coal Mine

One tragedy seems to replace another in a week-by-week succession this year. Okay that’s a shoot from the hip generality, but something that was brought up by a young lady just getting her feet wet in my profession.

After hearing about the I-35W Bridge collapse in Minnesota she wondered if we were reaching an apocalyptic stage in the world given similar collapses and steam venting over the last few months. I told her no it’s just that a lot of our nation’s infrastructure went through a building boom in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s and now it’s aging. Little did I know from talking to local officials how right I was.

Still it gets you to thinking about the collection of tragedies during the past few years. As I write there’s a search for six missing coal miners in Utah. We can hope and pray that turns out okay.

During the first day I was reporting on the bridge collapse my mind kept wondering back to a movie I saw a few months ago on television “The Mothman Prophecies.” It’s a sci-fi movie about a reporter investigating Mothman sightings and visions. Richard Gere is the reporter who has visions about a disaster along a river. It turns out to be a bridge collapse in which 37 people are killed. It was based in part on the real-life 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge that claimed 46 lives. Isn’t it ironic that the Minnesota I-35W Bridge was built that same year?

I talked about bridges in one of my earlier blogs. One I didn’t mention is the Siphon Bridge in Manistique, Michigan. That’s my hometown. Supposedly the bridge was once in a Ripley’s Believe It or Not newspaper segment. It’s supposedly engineered so that water helps support the weight of the bridge. You can look it up: .

We’ve got a little less than five months left in 2007. I’m wondering what catastrophe is next. That’s sort of like tempting fate asking and hopefully the answer can wait until 2008. I think we’ve seen enough this year. Meanwhile let’s light a collective candle for the families of those missing miners.