With the increase in COVID-19 cases locally, statewide and nationally, there have been fewer opportunities to get out, live a semi-normal life, or even to research local history. Like other older people who have spent a lifetime adapting to deadlines and schedules decided in large part by other people, my general instructions have been to stay at home and rest. Even a short period of that gets boring. To keep from spreading germs, visiting with others was out of the question. We could talk on the phone or, if wearing a mask, greet each other across a parking lot, wave to each other across the church sanctuary or write letters. It becomes depressing when the highlight of your day might be clearing the ice off the car’s windshield and going for a few groceries or paying bills. Yes, there are times when you do need to check the calendar to find out what day it is.
With those thoughts in mind, I had to smile when a radio announcement on both Langdon’s station and a nearby one from Canada described the first additional “new” disease as COVID fatigue. This new variation claimed to have infected more American and Canadian citizens than the original coronavirus. This time around the diseases would not need medical tests, there were no real medications advised, and no vaccine was being developed to bring our lives back to normal. Advice, of course, was plentiful and generally boiled down to individual ingenuity and “deal with it”.
Last March people had anticipated the virus running its course in a short period of time and that had not happened. The groups that sang nightly from their balconies or decorated their homes with hearts and flowers had grown weary in well-doing and were worn out by the loneliness of isolation. Having called or written to all their known friends and relatives, many around the world were now getting the phone bills or realizing their handwriting was no longer legible. As the weeks passed more and more people failed to respond to the reaching-out efforts, and the whole procedure began to get timeworn and costly.
Then after years of campaigning, name calling and fault finding a second similar disease appeared known world-wide as election fatigue. Many who had pinned their hopes on the election in the United States, which also had world-wide ramifications, were sick and tired of publicity, debates, predictions, etc. - a double whammy so to speak. In my case after weeks of telling caller after caller that I do not do surveys, there came a day when I did not rush to push the requested number on the dial in a speedy fashion and was told that the robot calling me did not recognize me as a human being. For a change “IT” hung up on me! However, old habits die hard. This column began initially to remind readers of long ago names and events which had affected people living in Cavalier County. When we entered the pandemic phase of our local history, stories from the trenches of local happenings somehow became an added focus. Some good news follows.
As this is written both the Langdon-Edmore-Munich and Cavalier football teams are headed to state. The teams have worked hard and have fans all across our area who may or may not have been in the stands but have been cheering them on. Some are watching them perform on television, and many others are listening to them on the radio---day after day or night after night. For a few years there have been some fireworks at the LEM games but not attending in person or living beyond the nearby trees, I only heard the “boom”. With leaves gone from the trees, the display was visible this week and an enjoyable treat at the end of their home field season. There may be exciting news next week from the volleyball girls who also want a chance to win on the regional and state levels.
Good news on pandemic levels is hard to find or to hold on to but the efforts of businesses, the health district, the schools, churches and the general public have been very encouraging. Wearing a mask in summer was bearable but does tend to have your glasses steam up and frost over now that the temperature has dropped. A special thank you to the people I meet when I venture out who greet me by name. It is nice to be recognized and remembered. With some vision problems when the people I see are wearing masks, hats, jackets, beards and different color hair or hair styles, I want to apologize for not recognizing many of you by name. If you wave or call out a greeting, I like to respond. But if my glasses are steamed up, I often may not actually see you. Please do not be offended if I ask you your name.
Lockdown and curbside services are things we adjusted to in the spring, and social distancing has become a way of life. I have appreciated in-person worship even with limits on how many could attend and am sure no one has been turned away, because several local churches have space for social distancing and have not served food or had large activities that would draw a crowd. Some have added additional services for small groups who joke about everyone sitting at their own table. The only local church on the radio is Langdon Presbyterian. Several others have Facebook services which reach only people on that service and two or three locally have live streaming. Last Sunday I did try all of the local churches who offer that option and was not able to watch any of the services at the time announced. Some may be limited to Facebook users or have other subscription fees. United Lutheran had a broadcast later with a devotional message and some inspiring music by Becky Tollefson. Funerals are offering a web service which is a special way to reach out to the community in a time of need.
Frank Jennings, living in the SeaTac area of Washington, has spent time this summer visiting favorite places he and his late wife, Sandy, have enjoyed through the years and sharing videos of those travels. For All Saints Day he sent a youtube interview from the church he and Sandy called home for the last 60 years. Prince of Peace Lutheran Church was a small and friendly congregation when they first attended as new residents in the Seattle area. The video is labeled “Ask Frank” and includes names and stories of people some will remember. Visitors from Langdon often found their way to this church which is no longer small but still friendly and inspiring.
While searching for church services on Sunday two additional stories were in the news, and hopefully at least one or both will have been seen by Long Ago readers. The first was not an obituary but rather a tribute to Ken Towers by writers from the Grand Forks Herald. The obituary would be available in later newspaper issues. I never met Towers in person since his days of playing for the winning Alsen basketball team and coaching the Langdon basketball team as earlier glory days were both while I lived in Colorado. However, I knew about him from his later coaching (and winning) days in Grand Forks and possibly even ate at one of his restaurants in the last 40 years. His sisters and other relatives often had good news to share about Kenny and his busy life.
A second story was about Canadian Alex Trebec, who most of us will remember as the host of the game show Jeopardy for the last 36 years. I also remember him for helping to popularize the Geography Bee program for school children. Watching Jeopardy was a must in a lot of Langdon households. Friends and neighbors hurried home day after day so they would not miss their game. Some kept score on how many of the answers they knew and what they would have won if they had been called to be on the show. Trebec died of pancreatic cancer and had been a spokesperson for that cause as well.
While life in isolation times seems frustrating and lonely, I do keep on reading and re-reading books I enjoy. For example, I am still finding gems in the Agatha Christie collection at the library. And I keep an eye on whether the school buses are running. Two of my aunts, one on the farm and the other in Langdon, lived on school bus routes. When people would ask how they were doing, they often would respond with “just saw the school bus go by so things are going well….”