2013-03-21 / Columns

News & Reviews

By Edward F. Keller, D.D.S.
1732 Golf Drive Bismarck, ND 58503

Lent: Cigarettes, Fish and Dancing

When I was a little boy on my Strasburg, N.D. farm in the 1930s, Lent was a severe religious observance. Meatless days and fasting lured fish sales people from afar to Linton streets. They came with truckloads of frozen, unscaled,unwrapped, unboxed fish… just naked and frozen “straight from the lake,” they said. The trucks parked on Linton’s Main Street and people chose the fish they wanted. Mother scaled them in a pan… scales flying every which way. She sliced them open and removed as many bones as she could manage, but not all of them. Eating fish was a hard job. This was the only time my mother ever allowed me to complain at the table. I hated the needle-like bones as they stuck in my teeth and tickled my throat on the way down. “Got to be careful, but fish is good food,” she said.

Also, and at least for the first week of Lent, cigarette and tobacco sales declined. Giving up smoking for Lent was a popular resolution. Some quitters just quit buying them… and then at their weakest moment “bummed a fag” from a friend who didn’t trust himself to quit smoking for Lent.

Dancers suffered itchy feet during Lent. The Strasburg Blue Room suspended their weekly Friday night dances. This made the annual Easter Monday dance at the Blue Room very special. For that dance large crowds invaded the Blue Room, from as far away as their then-cars could go… from Napoleon, Zeeland, Linton, Wishek, Ashley and the farms around Strasburg… men 25ยข, women free. Chief accomplished accordionist, John Schwab, had not lost an ounce of his miraculous finger acrobatics during the Lent lay-off… as he earned his $5.00 per night.

Lent observations were reviewed from the pulpit the Sunday before Lent.

Till next time.

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