The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sub Terra Vita Chronicle #30: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Underground Airways

Sub Terra Vita
By Tim Krenz
January 4, 2016

Chronicle #30: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Underground Airways

What child of the age of the Apollo Program, Skylab, and the shuttle did not dream of becoming an astronaut? One has to fly to space and I loved to imagine it. Then, during my 7th grade year at Osceola Middle School, a fellow Boy Scout's dad, a local pilot named Richard “Dick” Lee, started a Boy Scout Aviation Explorer post in Osceola.

Osceola, WI, with its municipal airport, still has a long history and tradition in flight. Long ago, Champion Industries locally made aircraft. And of course, every fall during fair weekend, the airport on the plain up the hill south of town, hosts the air show of the annual Wheels and Wings Festival. Long ago, in the industrial park, Motor Books International, and its Zenith Books division, published and warehoused excellent books on aircraft, and sold them world-wide. The Aviation Explorer Scouts fit well into the community.

As“Air Explorer” Scouts, and true to the underground, we had our post meetings in the basement of the Lee family home. While enjoying refreshments prepared by Dick's wife, four or five scouts and two scout masters sat around the table in the lower family room in a circle of common interests. We studied the principles of air flow, air pressure, lift, “rules of the road,” communications, air navigation, airplane mechanics, and the details of checklists and pre-flight inspections. We approached these matters in the interest of profession and enthusiasts, both among the young and the older.

One night, my mom asked Dick to drop me off at my home after our meeting. The other kids had left, and I remember that Dick and the assistant scout master, somehow, decided to take a ride. We drove to the airport. I had flown before, in small planes. In fact, once for Wheels and Wings, my dad and I flew with Dick, and I took the yoke in the co-pilot's seat for a nerve-wracking five or ten minutes. But before that night I had never flown after sundown.

The scout masters sat in front, theschool teacher/assistant scout master in the co-pilot's right seat. I sat in the back, on the small seat behind them, in that single engine plane. Dick started the engine. Pulling onto the runway, he checked with the air control system on the radio, and working the throttles, we moved in the dark between the side rows of runway lights that guided Dick's plane. Airflow. Lift. Airborne.

We flew crisscross over the Valley, on a part-moon night, with some clouds, but mostly clear. Out of the backseat windows, I followed our airport's search-light strobe on the tower, spinning around, flashing a green beam once in a while to mark our hometown. The villages below stood out against the blue of the “moon sheen” reflecting the ground and the water on the lakes. Not much housing sprawl had arrived yet, so the area had more defined countryside from the settlements. The towns' lights and the yard lights of the Valley looked in every way like a starry cosmos far below, contrasted with the porch lights of the heaven's above us.

We flew not more than an hour and a half. I felt I exceeded another of my grounded viewpoints lost in the obscurity of flat earth and rolling valley. My head indeed swirled in clouds. Approaching Osceola, Dick used the radio to set things for the landing. I saw the “strobing” lighthouse, calling our clipper ship home on the sea-less wind from some great adventure of a world apart from average. My Underground Airways had flown between the space of the stars, above and below, and I marvel today still content with that journey.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sub Terra Vita: Chronicle #29: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Jackpots and Soda Pops

Sub Terra Vita
By Tim Krenz
December 28, 2015

Chronicle #29: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Jackpots and Soda Pops

In some of the basements of Osceola, the underground awareness began to expand and change in perspective, as the innocent “me-wanderings” of youth touched the shadowed-shade of human experience, and as a lighter reality of powerfully keen perceptions developed for them.

When quite young, the old Catholic church on Chieftain Street had already moved, and the current multi-unit dwelling once held the Knights of Columbus meeting hall. Many community events happened there. Yet, in that basement white-washed in painted wood and as non-descript like the outside, my maternal grandma, Evelyn, and my cousin's other grandma, Mary Belle, played a lot—A LOT—of bingo.

The grandmas took my cousin, Chad, and I with them to the “Bingo-sino” on what seemed endlessly hot, humid, summer weekend evenings. A hall full of people made it warmer and sweatier than the outside; cigarette smoke rolled in the air pushed by the large fans; while the bright fluorescent lights overhead illuminated the bingo cards on rows and rows of light brown laminate tables, at which everyone sat staring at their cards in the voiceless mass silence punctuated by the grandfatherly announcer at the back of the room. Aside from some materials, the cigarette smoke, and no central air conditioning, not much has changed about bingo in the last four or less decades. And few people, then or now, loved bingo like Evelyn and Mary Belle.

Sometimes Chad and I sat and tried to summon bingo gods for the big hit. Mostly, however, Chad and I roamed around the building, with the other children getting loosely babysat at Bingo Church. Outside, the sun stayed away the night time long enough for the skeeters to turn out and make it un-fun to play outdoors. Sometimes the dusk would mingle with a darkness, and a thunder, lightening and rain storm would hit. When tornadoes threatened, the warning whistle at the fire hall on the corner of Chieftain Street and Third Avenue would blare the alarm. All the kids would return to the safest and most sacred place in town that evening. We went back into the Bingo Cellar. Of course, no panic, not even the fiercest straight winds, would dare interrupt the bingo round underway, and no crashing branches outside stopped the rounds that followed to the end of Bingo Night.

Granny and Mary Belle would, inevitably by odds, hit a “BINGO!” and win a small or large jackpot. A partially uniformed cashier would walk over, read the card aloud to the announcer, who would confirm it. If a valid card, the cashier took the winnings out of their apron and paid it out. Everything would reset, and the Bingo Duels resumed.

On those endlessly hot, humid, summer weekend evenings, the grandmas would give Chad and I quarters. We took the big coins to the front of the basement, near the stairwell, and put it into the change slot of the pop machine. One turned the knob on the coin deposit, and the beaver trap contraption inside the cooler would only let one, vigorous, firm yoke pull the glass bottle from its booby-trap tin metal clutch. If one failed to do it properly. . .well, it did not give refunds. Nothing helped us kids endure the droning room like the caffeine and sugary syrup of original cold colas, in bottles that had metal caps, and that needed a bottle opener to drink them.

Evelyn and Mary Belle have both passed away many years now. But I believe in my heart, that grandmas go where they go, to a heaven and the biggest bingo hall of all. Just as firmly: I believe they hit the jackpot every time. “BINGO!”

Monday, January 04, 2016

Sub Terra Vita Chronicle #28—Part VII: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground—The Underground Tools

Sub Terra Vita
By Tim Krenz
December 14, 2015

Chronicle #28—Part VII: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground—The Underground Tools

As a child age five, I received my first real pocket-knife, as a present from my father. The gift, a 1967, Camillus, “Made in the USA,” U.S. military utility folding pocketknife, of stainless steel manufacture, contained four basic tools. A full-length 2.5” blade, a very good can-opener, a leather punch, and a bottle-opener that doubled as a screw-driver on the tip. With a metal fold-over loop on the end, and the letters “US” on its front face, the cover also featured a lattice dimple design in-set on the metal.

I used that jackknife for everything, like making parachutes from garbage bags and kite string. I left it outside often, and it always seemed to rain when I forgot about it. My father would find the knife in the yard. He would always give it back cleaned of dirt, oiled and shiny, with some threats to take it away if I could not take care of it. I learned the value of that tool as kid. I learned some other lessons of tools, too.

Across the driveway where I grew up, we had a hillside of woods above a hollow, and in the field on the other side of those woods my parents planted the vegetable gardens. My grade school friends often traipsed over to my house, and in those woods we built and maintained for several years the coolest, most hidden, and most impregnable of all the forts we built around the village of Osceola.

The trees and exposed roots around which we built the fort twisted and turned, tunneled and covered, and gave us openings and barriers, centered around a natural trench about ten feet long and four feet wide and deep. Borrowing shovels, saws and hammers from my fathers workshops, we dug, trimmed, and pounded any live or dead tree branches and scrap barn wood we found. My pocket-knife served as the prime tool in the details of the construction. I even scared it by using it to pound nails. As we made our fort on the reverse slope of the garden field, we felt confident to defeat Soviet paratroopers who would inevitably drop onto the village right on top of my mothers tomato and cucumber plants. (Of course they would, right?).

About the tools, my father would always know where to find the missing ones. He would, ill-tempered, go to the gang's “secret fort,” and retrieve them, clean, and oil them. I would hear about it, and again, whenever the gang needed tools, we would get them from his shops.

At age 24, at the time of a radical, rather bizarre, and forgettable trip through an underground outside the Valley, I lost my precious knife. My father, true to form, always reminded of it. In the twenty years since, I heard, at last, stories about him and his maternal grandpa, Emil Parent, and how they loved and exchanged pocketknives when my father spent his youth in Farmington south of Osceola during the summers of the Great Depression.

I learned something about my father's youth. I always understood the importance of the knife, as a bond between he and I. This present fall, he found at an auction the exact make and model of my lost pocketknife: A 1967, Camillus. He left me a note with it, almost of sentiment. I had finally learned a prime lesson: Good things in the Underground will usually come back, as a reward in some way, for staying true to one's own honor and memory, and the things we keep will always become more than those mere artifacts to other people.