Monday, January 26, 2015

Duluth's 2015 Winter Dance Party!

Everyone's invited...
To join the Armory Arts & Music Center on Saturday, January 31st for an evening of song and dance in celebration of the 56th Anniversary of the historic Duluth Armory Winter Dance Party.

Dance to the music of Buddy Holly and contemporaries while raising awareness about the important restoration and revitalization work underway at the HISTORIC DULUTH ARMORY.

DANCING!!! APPETIZERS - CASH BAR - SILENT AUCTION -  BEST 50's COSTUME PRIZE
TICKETS AVAILABLE ONLINE NOW

My friend, the late Lew Latto, was the MC for the original event 56 years ago at the Armory when Buddy Holly et al were there... along with me, Bob Dylan and a lot of area teens. As you all know, Holly's plane crashed and he and others died 3 days after leaving Duluth. 
The Day the music died...

 Read more on my blog HERE and HERE    Jim

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A child’s-eye view of World War II...

By Jim Heffernan
What follows is a column I wrote for the Duluth News Tribune on one of the anniversaries of the end of World War II in Europe. I’d forgotten about the column until this month when a copy of it was found among the effects of an elderly Duluthian by her daughter, and passed on to me. This year (August) will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. I reprint the column here because its descriptions of my memories of World War II are the same today as they were when I wrote it. Here’s the column.

Engraving of Kilroy on the WWII Memorial in Washington DC
It’s (the anniversary of) V-E Day. I don’t remember May 8, 1945, specifically but I remember the war. I was born the autumn Hitler invaded Poland and was a kindergartner when the Germans surrendered. But I remember a lot about the war.

I remember no sugar, no jam and jelly. I remember red and blue (rationing) “points” which my folks had to use along with money to buy certain groceries. I remember being taken to movies and seeing newsreels of the fighting and bombing and being scared by it.

I remember asking my mother if I would ever have to go to war. “No,” I remember her comforting answer. I remember the shortage of gasoline and tires, prompting my father to sell the family car and go without. My father had served in the Army during the First World War and was too old for the second. Like many others who couldn’t serve, I remember he did what he could on the home front. He was involved in Civil Defense and had a big white helmet that I liked to try on, although it was very heavy on my head.

I remember blackouts in Duluth – rehearsals for the local population in case the Germans or the Japanese ever decided to bomb the city’s ore docks. (I didn’t understand then but later realized they played a key role in the American war effort.) I remember a lot of men worked in places called “the shipyards.”

I remember fighting with other kids in the neighborhood over who lived on the American side of the street and who lived on the Japanese side. I lived on the American side.

I remember gold stars on little flags hanging in the windows of people’s homes and knowing they represented “boys” who were in the service. I remember thinking they were “men” and being confused. I remember when service men from our church got killed in the war and how bad everyone felt.

I remember how badly I wanted a scooter and how hard they and other toys were to get because all of the metal was going into the war effort. Then I remember getting a scooter made all of wood – frame, wheels and all – and how the wheels wouldn’t stop squeaking.

I remember wanting a sailor suit and how mad I was when I got one but it had short pants. I remember having friends whose fathers were in the war and hearing stories about how they were stabbing Japanese with bayonets in jungles. I remember that much of our playtime involved playing war and shooting and getting shot. “Bang, you’re dead, you dirty, rotten Nazi.”

I remember “Kilroy Was Here.” I never understood it and still don’t.

I remember the swastika and Hitler and that they were evil. Once I saw a swastika embossed on an old book in our attic (published long before it was adopted by the German Third Reich), and I remember defacing the book with color crayons. I remember Mussolini and Tojo.

I remember President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower. I remember Roosevelt dying and hearing that President Truman would now be our president and hearing that he wouldn’t be as good as Roosevelt no matter what. I remember Gabriel Heatter (a radio news commentator in that era).

And I remember that the war was suddenly over and we could get jam for our bread.

Years later I realized that the war had been fought for me. I was one of the babies of the next generation who Winston Churchill cocked his ear and listened to and said he could hear crying.

Even today when I see World War II vets marching in parades in their Legion or VFW uniforms I stop and think, “Hey, those guys fought a war for me.” And I appreciate it. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Looking back... my 1949 JC Higgins

Looking back to 2014...
Jim Heffernan on his 1949 J. C. Higgins bike (October 2014)
As some of you know, I celebrated a monumental birthday in October of 2014. I and my Denfeld classmates all turned a magical age and we got together in September to have a 75th birthday party reunion. Fun! When my actual birthday rolled around in October, my family helped me celebrate also. They brought out my pristine 1949 J.C. Higgins bike from my youth and I posed on it for posterity. Up until we moved from our last home, I actually rode it around the neighborhood a bit. It was an original fat-tired bike. Now, of course, the tires of fat-tired bikes are even bigger. Since our move, the bike is in storage and only brought out of the cobwebs for special times... like this. So here I am pictured here on my old J.C. Higgins.

Friday, November 21, 2014

IMMIGRATION OVERHAUL CAN HIT CLOSE TO HOME...

By Jim Heffernan

My wife and I recently attended a Grandparents Day program in a Twin Cities suburb at the elementary school of our 10-year-old granddaughter.

The fourth-grade children put on a program – including a flag ceremony and a solemn, hand-over-the-heart, recital of the Pledge of Allegiance -- in the school gymnasium before moving, grandparents in tow, to classrooms to meet teachers and look over school projects prepared for the occasion.

As we joined our granddaughter following the program, she brought with her a classmate and asked if we would serve as the classmate’s grandparents for the day because the other girl’s grandparents couldn’t attend. Of course we were happy to be surrogate grandparents for the bright, cheerful, pretty little girl.

As the session in the classroom played out, the two girls showed us some of their school projects at their table, after which they had been told to escort grandparents around the room, viewing their small library, a computer in the corner and art projects festooning a wall.

Since my wife and I were there for both our own granddaughter and her friend, I joined the friend for the tour of the room and my wife went with our real granddaughter.

Chatting with the girl a bit as she showed me around, she told me her real grandparents couldn’t attend because they live in Mexico City. Responding, I asked the child about her own family and she proudly stated that her mother had “walked across the desert” to get to America. I didn’t pursue it, nor could I forget it.

I couldn’t help but think about that little girl when President Obama addressed the nation outlining his planned immigration overhaul. And I think of her, too, when I hear Republicans in Congress rail against Obama and his plans for protecting some 4 million undocumented people whose children are United States citizens because they were born in this country.

It made me wonder if my surrogate granddaughter for a day is a United States citizen because she was born here, and if her mother is not. It made personal for me just what the president has done to protect certain families from being broken apart.

What does a 10-year-old child know of political forces swirling around the president over whether he was overstepping his bounds in protecting some immigrants? But a child would clearly understand if her mother was arrested and deported. She’d likely have to leave this country too. As a result of Obama’s action, I feel confident that if this girl showing me around her classroom needs that kind of protection, she’ll now have it.

In her school program, she’ll have pledged allegiance to the flag of a country I am more proud of because of what the president did. Or, as Obama put it in his speech, deporting millions is “not who we are.”

Let’s hope not.