Langdon Long Ago

Tired of Winter

Posted 2/28/19

By Rita Maisel

Notes received today talk of temperatures in the 60-70 range (above zero), and after reading whatever I wrote them last week, last month or maybe even last year, advise that soon it will be spring……wishful thinking for those who live in North Dakota.

The basketball games have been great and much enjoyed unless it happened to be a day with three or four games in a row to listen to, and then I suspect I am not the only one listening at home who nodded off and realized when I woke up it would be a day or two before I could learn who had won that game since the finale came during a nap. Most of us listen to Jake or Ryan and are grateful for the service they provide which allows us to stay home and not have to go out in sub-zero weather.

Dressing to brave the cold is an event needing careful planning.  How many layers will fit under the jacket? How much snow will I need to wade through to get to the car?   You gauge that by looking out and then being thankful for a neighbor who ends up doing the shoveling and snowblowing. When you reach the car (hopefully plugged in), will the door open and the motor start? Yes, some do have automatic starters, but both my car and body are beyond remote control. If there are tracks to the street, it is probably safe to start out. Langdon does have mountains although ours are snow mountains that magically appear at the corners you need to see around to get onto a main street or highway. The consolation in all this is that most of the people you meet have mastered all the same steps to get to where they needed to be.

There is a memory of seeing yellow school buses pictured in magazines or school books, but long-ago Langdon school children had never ridden on them. It would be twenty years later before some of my students had to be walked daily to a bus or our class was allowed to ride a bus for a field trip. Langdon Public School closed several times when I attended there – generally because of coal shortages during the war and not because of busing problems since we had no buses. In the 1940s there was one stormy day that we walked to school along with other students and found a sign on the door saying it was a storm day so, storm or not, we turned around and walked back home. As readers may recall my mother worked at the courthouse which never closed for storms. Most of their employees lived in town and walked to work each day, home for noon lunch and then back to work until evening. The same was true for the people working in downtown businesses and stores.

In the town of Langdon there were no storm days for church since very few drove to get there, and most had a pastor living nearby.  If you could walk over the snowbanks you went to Sunday School and church. Rural churches could be reached with a horse-drawn jumper by farm families, and if the pastor lived near the church there were services. Several rural churches had barns, and I seem to remember stories that the barns were built to accommodate the horses driven to their services. There may be a picture in the Mt. Carmel Centennial book of the large horse barn built by that congregation. While I could see neighbor’s homes last Sunday on all sides, blowing snow and radio reports indicated it was not a day to be out on the road so it was not a surprise to get a call from the pastor that church would not be held.

Earlier last week when school had been delayed or called off, there were several phone calls mentioning that the caller had not been outdoors for days. This has been one of the longest winters they can remember, and forecasters tell us more is on the way. So, a call of a different nature was a real treat. Would I like to attend a performance of “Nunsense”? Of course. Someone had sent me a gift to buy a Valentine treat, and I had saved it for just such an event. In spite of cold and swirling snow, we ventured down to the Roxy and an atmosphere of warmth and laughter. The play was exceptionally well done by nine local actresses and Lisa as their accompanist. Years ago, a group from Cavalier put on the same musical at the Langdon Elementary Gym but neither the story line nor the music seemed familiar. It all seemed new and was a fun evening. In retrospect there were two songs that must have been popular about the time of the first production as some remembered both “Nunsense” and “Holier Than Thou”.

The Langdon community is very fortunate to have talented people among us willing to work hard to produce the musical. As we talked about this some remembered other plays, movies or musicals featuring nuns – a popular subject for many activities. Nunsense was an off-Broadway play for many years before it began touring and was produced by creative groups in other cities and countries. A popular movie around the same time was “Sister Act” which won Whoopi Goldberg an Oscar. As I thought about this I could remember Ingrid Bergman in “The Bells of St. Mary’s” and possibly the Sister Kenny film which introduced movie audiences to treatment for polio and the ways its crippled survivors were treated. With television we had Sally Field as “The Flying Nun” and several mystery series (both books and television shows) solved by not only nuns but priests, rabbis, pastors and others.

The name Nunsense came from a line of greeting cards which featured nuns in habits offering comments on many things as well as advice. The cartoonist wrote that he had been inspired by Lucy in the Peanuts cartoon who had set up a booth offering to give people advice. He went on to flesh out the characters for the original script which became the musical. A long list of later celebrities starred in “Nunsense” roles during their years of off-Broadway musicals. Watch for some of our local talent to reappear in future productions.

One of the memories I have of long winters growing up in Langdon was that we had very little fruit in the stores. There would be a push in the fall to buy a box of apples or maybe oranges around Christmas. The stores sold lemons used in winter for the hot lemonade that was supposed to cure flu or colds, but most of our fruit or juice came in cans. During the war metal was in short supply so canned items were also rationed. A cousin who spent his long career in the Army happened to be stationed in Virginia or maybe Tennessee and one Christmas sent us a box of rare fruits. They were a treat for our family and included fruits our family had never seen before like tangerines, kumaquats (have not had them since!), figs, winter pears and so on. This year I am noticing more out of season fruit available in Langdon than we have had in the past, and some of it does make the winter seem less boring. Last week it was mangos, blueberries and avocados (all on sale). I can remember eating none of them in winter as a child! Or it might be pineapple (not yet canned), strawberries, kiwi, 14 kinds of apples, winter melons, holiday grapes, and an almost endless list of new varieties. A few years ago when buying yarn I wondered if the manufacturer had grown up in an orchard as the yarn colors went from grape to lime to lemonade to strawberry, mango, papaya, persimmon, and dozens of other “flavors” I had never eaten. The first time I saw a mango I had no idea what it would be like but bought it because of its name. It took a teenager to tell me how to eat it, and I found it delicious. This endless winter might be the first time you eat something you never had before, and if it is a fruit it might add the extra vitamins you need to stay healthy.

The only other suggestion I could offer for making cold days leave us faster would be a good book and the spring titles are starting to come in to the library – just in time for a spot on your Reading Bingo card.