A PHC Archive

A free, unofficial, crowd-sourced archive. It's a... Prairie Home Companion companion.

June 11, 1983      World Theater, St Paul, MN

    see all from: 1983 | World Theater | St Paul | MN


Jethro BurnsButch Thompson TrioCranberry Lake Jug Band Garrison KeillorLieberman Fogel & Bay. Sally Rogers Claudia Schmidt

Songs, tunes, and poems

Ray Schmidt's truck ( Garrison Keillor )
Panama (Butch Thompson Trio  )
Honeysuckle Rose (Butch Thompson Trio  )
Poor Butterfly ( Jethro Burns , Butch Thompson Trio  )
St Louis Blues ( Jethro Burns , Butch Thompson Trio  )
Humoresque ( Jethro Burns , Butch Thompson Trio  )
A bagel is not a donut ( Jethro Burns , Butch Thompson Trio  )
Whispering ( Jethro Burns , Butch Thompson Trio  )
Boodle-am boo (Cranberry Lake Jug Band  )
Relativity (Cranberry Lake Jug Band  )
It ain't right (Cranberry Lake Jug Band  )
Working in the coal mines ( Sally Rogers )
Logs to burn ( Sally Rogers )
Walking down the tracks ( Sally Rogers )
The swing band bunch (Lieberman Fogel & Bay  )
It don't mean a thing (Lieberman Fogel & Bay  )
Days of Wine and Roses (Lieberman Fogel & Bay  )
Straighten up and fly right (Lieberman Fogel & Bay  )

Sketches, Sponsors, People, Places

Ajua! Hot Sauce
Bertha's Kitty Boutique
Bob's Bank
Bunsen, Clint
Celebco Meals with Wheels
Chatterbox Cafe
Krebsbach, Nancy
Magandanz, Scott
Powdermilk Biscuits
Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery

'The News from Lake Wobegon'

Well it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my hometown. Bud has finished plowing after the big snowfall weeks ago. Has finished plowing out the alleys in Lake Wobegon- there's always a problem. People don't know exactly where they are, and there's some place in there between the houses. And Father Emil, he’s just fine. Pastor Inkvuist went on a field trip down to the cities with Luther League members and came back with all of them- I think the purpose of the trip.

I don't know, the big news for me was not this last week, but actually the week before, when the class of 1983 voted on their class gift. It was wonderful tradition been done at that school for years and years. I wonder if it's done anywhere else but in Lake Wobegon where each graduating class presents a gift to the school. It's a lovely idea. You know when you leave, even though you want to go you still you don't pretend it was nothing. You don't just shake the dust off your sneakers and get out as fast as you can- you leave something behind.

They had a lot of money to spend on it- It's just has been the most lucrative class in the history of that school. They just earned money hand over fist selling popcorn and candy at the Leonard’s football and basketball games and selling magazine subscriptions and salve and light bulbs and everything. They just- class of 83- They just had the most fun earning money and they had a couple $1000. Including several hundred that they earned at that car wash up at Jack’s Auto Repair this last fall, the one that featured the incredible water fight between the two teams, one of them with three garden hoses and one of them with only one but the team with one- that one garden Hose was hooked up to a deep spring well.

And the water that it shot out was cold enough so to shrink your skin by about 6 sizes right away. The team with the three hoses made a lot of good lateral movements you know with their water buckets, but whenever the one hose hit em, they showed a lot of vertical mobility. I remember hearing some of those boys scream- who I don't think had screamed since they were little children. A lot of girls that age are fairly regular screamers, and they have kind of musical screams. But to hear a kid, a boy, give out with a scream who without any practice you know is like somebody grabbed at a chalkboard with their fingernails. Like the time the Olsen boy went down to Jack’s and screwed a kazoo onto the air hose. Had a kind of a bass and a soprano at the same time. A Bullfrog singing opera.

Their class advisor- Mrs Hoffert- ducked for cover, she just stuck her head out a couple of times to say “Children. It's time that we start acting like grown ups.” But of course, that was the point of it, wasn't it? That their childhood was running out and they had to get in a few last licks -get in one last great water fight and then just before Christmas they got in one last good food fight in the cafeteria, turned the tables on the sides and got down behind the barricades. Lobbed the custard and the macaroni and cheese back and forth. Fired the brussels sprouts.

But I tell you, they did themselves proud when it came to voting on a class gift. As I recall our class- our gift was a large plaster bust of Shakespeare with a brass plate on the front of it. It was the idea of one of our English teachers who knew where she could get one cheaply. And it was cheap, in fact. The bust cost less than the brass plaque, which said “Gift of the Class of 1960” on it. And then when they drilled holes in the base of the bust to put the plaque on it cost even more’n that to fix Shakespeare and to glue him back together.

It was a- we meant well, but it was the sort of gift that the recipient kinda looks at and says “oh... Thank you”- puts on a shelf somewhere. And it was put on a shelf in the library where it's been all these years and generations of students have applied makeup to it so that Shakespeare looks like a cocktail waitress.

Well, the class of 83 met week before last to vote on their class gift and they had ideas of buying some sort of gift like that. Somebody nominated stained glass windows for the library and somebody nominated a marble drinking fountain with a brass plaque on it. Then Nancy Krepsbach stood up and she moved that they spend the money on an oil portrait of Mrs. Hoffert who is retiring this year.

It seemed so odd- she seemed so young when I was in school, but she's retiring. Mrs Hoffert was there- she stood up and said, “oh Nancy” Nancy had been a prize student of hers. She said, “Oh, Nancy”, she said “I'm just that someone would think of that is an honor enough for me”, she said. “I have to tell you I'm not worthy of that sort of recognition”, she said “for me just having had the opportunity to teach and to have worked with so many young people over the years and not only as a teacher, but also I'd like to think as a friend- has been reward enough for me, but I thank you.” And she sat down. Mrs Hoffert did. Sort of expecting, I think that they would vote in the oil portrait by acclamation.

But then the Magendanz boy stood up, coach Magendanz, his son, who's real anxious to get out of school and to get away from his father’s disappointment that he never was any good at football. Scott, Magandanz stood up and he said “Let's buy a computer.”

Mrs Hoffert stood up, then she said, “oh Scott”, she said, “I don't think that would be a very appropriate or meaningful gift for this class to give”, she said. “Compared to an oil portrait, just to take one example that's already been mentioned right, I think a computer would be sort of a cold and a lifeless gift to give, don't you?”

No he didn't. Some of them did. They held out for the stained glass window and they said “a computer?? It's just a piece of equipment. Might as well buy wastebaskets or erasers. I like this marble drinking fountain that would last for hundreds of years. That would be a beautiful gift to give- not a computer,” but they voted in a computer. Vote was 26 to 18. They also voted to get it right away so as to get some use out of it themselves. ‘Cause school doesn't have one. Mr Halverson mentioned it to the school board in August, just kind to kind of feel them out a little bit on the subject. And the school board said absolutely not. That's a frill. They don't need that we got along without one of those. Absolutely not. We're not going to get one. Negatory on the computer.

So the class of 83 bought it and it arrived on Thursday. Clint Bunson had to go down to the cities to see his periodontist, so he brought it up with him and he brought it in right after the lunch hour. And they set it in the library table. One big box and three little boxes. Over the objections of Miss Jurassic, who said “I don't want that thing and hear all that beeping in that whirring and clicking. People in here to read books that just going to bother them.”

They set it up on a library table and they opened it up and they took it out and there it was. Gigantic thing, a screen on it, a little keyboard. And this other thing. Instruction manual Mr Halverson, some of the boys were studying the instruction manual. Getting lost and having to go back to the beginning. After about half an hour they managed to figure out to put Jack A and Jack B into socket A and socket B.

And they turned it on so there was a light on the screen. And then a little voice piped up from down near the floor. And said “You put the program in the disk drive.” And they looked down. There was one of the third graders who had come over from next door- come over from library, period. Little kid there, he sat up at the chair at the computer and he put this little black disc into a slot and he hit a couple of keys. And then on the screen flashed a message it said “welcome to the mysterious Kingdom of algebra. What is your name?” and he typed it in. James Helgesen. Are you a knight? A Squire, a sorcerer or a peon?


Welcome Sir James Helguson. You will proceed to vector A and await further instructions on your sacred quest. He was at that machine for about half an hour on his sacred quest- Sir James was. With about 20 kids in a wedge right behind him, about 20 heads in about 6 cubic feet. They just sort of congealed in there behind him and nobody said a word- nobody complained. Nobody said, don't breathe on me. Stop kicking me. They just all were absolutely quiet watching on this screen as Sir James fought his way from the planes of arithmetic in pure numbers up the slopes of symbolic thought into the forests of variable equations. Until finally the bell rang, and Sir James Helgeson’s teacher snaked her arm in through the crowd and grabbed a hold of the Brave Knight's neck and dragged him out.

But as soon as the brave Knight’s rear end was off that seat while somebody else was in there. And they were there the rest of the day until school was over. And then after school was over and after the sun had set, they didn't even bother to turn on the lights. They just sat there with the glow of the screen lighting up their faces- all watching it. Until finally Bill the janitor, after he had dry mopped every room in the building and washed off the blackboards and mopped the laboratories. Finally came up to the library and he pulled the plug on him and they said “no, Oh no. Look just a little longer?”

“No” he said “out” he said, “don't use the lavatories, don't step where it's wet. Out.”

They said “oh please just a few more minutes. We'll lock up, really, Trust us. Please please please please please please.”

He had to say out about 35 times “out. No out. Go out.” Before they finally dragged themselves away.

Amazing to see kids have to be dragged away from school like that. Usually there's no problem evacuating that building. And then when they got home and talked to their parents and told them about it.

“You did what? you did, not either. a computer? Are you kidding at school?”

“Yes I did. I programmed a computer. All by myself. I made it count up to 1,000,000 forwards and backwards simultaneously.”

“John, come here and listen to this. You did what?”

And here sat a child eating the same meatloaf as always, and yet a child who seemed different somehow. A child who had ventured off into the unknown and who had crossed that great divide and gone off and done something that their parents couldn't do. A child who had programmed a computer to count up to 1,000,000 forwards and backwards simultaneously. Amazing. Brilliant child. Brilliant child.

“Lord, I don't know what I would even do with- Well, I don't either. Why I remember when... Yes, I remember when they were two. I never knew that they'd well, no. I didn't either. I don't think that I could have. No I don't think I could have either. They're unlike us. They're different. “

But that's OK. Because we know how we turned out. They're a new story. Exciting.

That's the news from Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, where all those children are above average. They come from strong women and some good-looking fathers.

Other mentions/discussions during the show

Parents talking to their children about "that." Jethro isn't weird, just different. Vegetarian cat food.

Related/contemporary press articles

Fond Du Lac Commonwealth Reporter Jun 5 1983

Notes and References

1983.06.11 Berkshire Eagle / Berto: re-broadcast on January 23, 1988.

Archival contributors: Frank Berto

Do you have a copyright claim?