Cosmoline is my first attempt at recording a live performance

I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at a live music recording for a while now, ever since I saw my friend John Kurtis Dehn’s band Cosmoline last June. (see June 8 post). I finally got around to catching them again on Friday night at the Wild Tymes Bar and Grill in St. Paul. My friend Becky was on a second camera and we got one song were we both had enough decent shots to piece together a video.

I’d like to try again some time. It’s not great, but I learned a lot and had fun doing it. One thing I learned it that this sort of video is harder to do than it looks.

So here’s “Coal Black Love” by Cosmoline from their album “Give Me Back My Pride”.

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Bury my heart at Keller Golf Course

“Don’t try to cut the corner on #1.”

Monrad Peterson, golf coach of the Spring Lake Park High School golf team in the late ’60s was a man of few words when it came to actually giving advice about golf. But whenever I tee up on the first hole at Keller Golf Course in St. Paul, I always hear his voice — and his words still ring true more than 40 years later.

Friday was a magnificent, sunny, last-70-degree-day-of-the-year kind of a day. If you’re a golfer in Minnesota, this means you either get yourself to a golf course or regret if for six months. Friends Roger Buoen, Bob Jansen and Bob Whereatt joined me for a nice last-gasp round.

13th hole (old #4) is a short but tricky par 3 over a deep valley (photo by Steve Date)

I play Keller infrequently these days, but decided yesterday that I have to change that next year. I’ve played a lot of courses over the years, but Keller is my hands down favorite.

My love for this place comes from a mixture of beauty, golf course design, history and personal experiences.

1. Beauty
This place is gorgeous. You don’t have to be a golfer to see that the clubhouse and views of the lake off to the west, the trees, the rolling hills, interesting holes all add up to a visual feast. The fact that it’s a moderately-priced public course — a Ramsey County course — makes all of that even more amazing.

View of the 12th green - old #3 (photo by Steve Date)

2. Golf Course Design
The original layout, completed in 1929, was done by Paul Coates, the Chief Engineer of Ramsey County (!?!) How was this possible? Imagine that happening today. Hiring a county engineer to design a golf course of any kind, let alone one that would host PGA tournaments — impossible. According to a Golf Digest article, Coates, at his own expense, traveled to many of the great courses of his day for ideas. He also spent a lot of time with legendary golf course architect Donald Ross and picked his brain. I think Paul Coates should get some sort of award for rising to a challenge way above and beyond the call of duty — not to mention his expertise — and knocking this project out of the park.

There are so many interesting — even quirky — holes that it’s the kind of course you could play every day and not get tired of it. By the 1960s, Keller had become a lower-echelon course on the tour, lacking the length and amenities the PGA had become accustomed to, but it was still Minnesota’s chance to host a big-league golf event and we loved it.

An aerial view of Keller from the 1960s hangs in the clubhouse


3. History
No other golf course in Minnesota has the sheer amount of history as Keller (sorry, Hazeltine — you’re still too young and you only host a few major tournaments).
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Keller began hosting a PGA tour stop, The St. Paul Open, in 1930 — its second year of operation. This tournament continued until 1968. Keller was also the site of 2 PGA Championships (again, !?!), a Western Open, 11 LPGA events and a U.S. Publinks Championship.

Keller's hilltop clubhouse and parking lot in the 1930s (photo from Keller clubhouse)

All of the great professionals of the ’30s through the ’60s played there. Back in the days when most of the top players played most of the tournaments, you had a chance to see them all at a relatively minor stop like St. Paul. One could get misty-eyed just reciting the names as you walk around the place — Hagen, Hogan, Snead, Sarazen, Nicklaus, Palmer — and on and on.

A signed photo of Arnold Palmer putting on the 13th (then 4th) green in the 1965 St. Paul Open hangs in the Keller clubhouse

My favorite photo in the Keller clubhouse. Ben Hogan (bottom right corner carrying his hat) leads a group of spectators on the narrow, elevated path in front of the tee on the 16th (then the 7th) hole in the 1940 St. Paul Open.


Keller certainly has its share of stories. I’m not sure how true they all are, but it’s fun to think about them.

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Gene Sarazen supposedly once took 12 strokes on the short par-3 13th (now the 4th) hole, withdrew from the tournament and vowed never to return. That hole does have a funky big tree right in front of the green, but I’ve always liked it.

John McIntyre looks on as Bob Jansen hits a shot over the inconveniently placed oak tree on the 4th hole (#13 in the old days), site of Gene Sarazen's emotional blow up. But a 12? Come on, Gene -- a few of those must have been your fault. (August, 2007 photo by Steve Date)

Notorious gangsters of the ’20s and ’30s often came to St. Paul to get away from the authorities in Chicago. Legend has it that John Dillinger quickly dropped his clubs and jumped a train next to the 3rd (now the 12th) hole when he saw FBI agents coming.

Bob Whereatt does his impression of John Dillinger hitting a shot on the hole where he allegedly hopped a train to escape from the Feds. I didn't know Dillinger was a lefty. (photo by Steve Date)

Roger told me the other day that “Champagne Tony” Lema wrote in his book, Golfer’s Gold, that in the evening after a drink or two, the guys would hit balls from the old 3rd tee across Highway 61 into Keller Lake.

The PGA tour has changed.

Drunk PGA pros sometimes used Hwy 61 and Keller Lake as a driving range (photo by Steve Date)

A few years after the PGA left, the LPGA arrived with the Patty Berg Classic, which ran from 1973 – 1980, named after our local legend who helped found the women’s tour and grew up a few blocks from where I live. It kept Keller alive as a professional venue for a while longer and provided more memories for those of us in the galleries. It was a great course for the women and it was sad when the tournament left for bigger and more modern suburban courses.

4. Personal Experiences
I don’t remember much about that first visit to Keller with my golf team other than Mr. Peterson’s advice and feeling really pumped up about playing a course that the pros played.

Later that summer I went with my friend Steve Erickson to watch the St. Paul Open (by then renamed the Minnesota Golf Classic). I remember walking up to the clubhouse when we got there and the first player I saw was Tom Weiskopf, one of the top pros of that era, standing at the top of the stairs that led down to the locker room. It was the first time I ever saw a pro golfer in person and it was exciting. In those days it was much easier to get close to the players and I remember standing right next to him for a few minutes as he talked with somebody. Then we walked a few yards over to the practice green and listened to Chi Chi Rodriguez cracking wise. It was all very cool.

Roger Buoen also has a lot of memories of watching St. Paul Open/Minnesota Golf Classic as a teen and we always talk about that when we play at Keller together. My favorite story of his also involves Tom Weiskopf. Roger was sitting next to a green when Weiskopf’s group came through. While he was waiting for his turn to putt, he walked over to Roger and made eye contact with him. Roger was, of course, thrilled that this star golfer was going to speak to him. “Can’t putt these shitty greens”, big Tom said. That cracks me up every time I think about it.

Roger and I have a memory for just about every hole at Keller, whether it’s from a St. Paul Open or from playing there in high school ourselves. I vividly recall missing a 6-foot putt on the 2nd hole of a playoff in the regional tournament in 1971, my senior year. That putt kept me out of the state tournament. It was the same green as Weiskopf’s remark to Roger. I guess I couldn’t putt those greens either, shitty or not.

I remember Dan Sikes driving the green on the 1st hole, a dogleg par 4, on his way to a victory in the final PGA tournament at Keller in 1968. He “cut the corner on #1” and it paid off for him.

On Friday, I heard Mr. Peterson’s voice, as usual, and aimed a little farther left. But the ball didn’t obey and headed right over the corner toward the green.

It ended up behind a tree and I made a bogey.

Keller's modest but classic clubhouse where I got my first up-close look at the pros back in the '60s. It was designed by Clarence Wigington, a prominent midwestern architect of the time and one the few Black architects of that era. (photo by Steve Date)


I’ve been thinking about the fact that Keller Golf Course was less than 40 years old when I played it for the first time, but it seemed old to us then. It’s now 81. It’s been a part of me for more than half its life and most of mine.

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When the time comes, I hope somebody scatters some of my ashes around this place so I can become a tiny part of it.

Remnants of Twin Cities streetcar lines remind us

Whenever the subject of streetcars came up in conversation, my Mom would always remind me that I rode on one in Minneapolis. Since the last car ran in June of 1954, I would have been only a year old at most. But she, like anyone else old enough to remember the Twin Cities’ streetcars (please don’t call them trolleys), knew it was important to remember that part of local history and wanted me to know that I had been a witness to it.

A short section of the old Como-Harriet streetcar line operates as a tourist attraction. (photo by Steve Date)

Minneapolis and St. Paul had one of the best public transportation systems in the country for the first half of the 20th century. It began with horse-drawn cars in the 1870s and a brief period of flirtation with cable cars and steam engines in the 1880s.

When electricity finally emerged as the power of choice in the early 1890s, the system blossomed and ridership took off. By the 1920s, an elaborate and extensive web of track covered the Twin Cities metropolitan area. According to the Minnesota Streetcar Museum website, there were 524 miles of track at the peak, stretching all the way from Stillwater to Lake Minnetonka, Anoka to Hastings.

Within the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, more than two-dozen lines were spread out in such a way that most residents had to walk no more that a few blocks to catch a streetcar.

A 1933 map shows the streetcar lines that ran through the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul

Streetcars remained a preferred mode of transportation through the depression and WWII. But in 1949, a group of investors took control of the Twin City Rapid Transit Company (which by now included buses), and the end was in sight. Buses were becoming more cost-effective than rail and driving a car to work had become a big part of the American dream.

The Twin Cities’ streetcars were fairly quickly shut down and sold to other cities for use or sold as scrap metal. On June 19, 1954, the last Minneapolis streetcar ran on the Como-Harriet line.

Thankfully, in 1971, a group of individuals and the Minnesota Transportation Museum had the foresight and the funding to reconstruct about a mile of the track and refurbish some of the cars as a historic tourist attraction — a living museum.

Many people now enjoy riding the historic Como-Harriet streetcars and the volunteer operators love to tell the history of this line and the rest of the streetcar system. It’s a great way to spend a little time as part of a visit to Lakes Harriet and Calhoun.

The current ride stops abruptly on the southeast shore of Lake Calhoun, at the spot where the old Lakewood Cemetery Station used to be. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks about where the track used to go after that as it headed toward downtown Minneapolis.

Current section of track ends abruptly at Lake Cahoun, but it used to continue across 36th street on its way downtown. (photo by Steve Date)

I had forgotten about my Mom telling me about riding the streetcar until this week when I was poking around over by Lake Calhoun, following the old track bed to see where it went. From seeing old photos, I knew there used to be a bridge over 36th Street and then the line continued up the side of Lake Calhoun for a couple of blocks. This is now a beautiful walking path, covered in wood chips, with views through the trees of the lake below.

A view of Lake Calhoun you might have had out the window of a streetcar (photo by Steve Date)

Streetcars emerged from the woods where the walking path is now behind this house at 34th St. near Lake Calhoun and continue up the alley where I'm standing. (photo by Steve Date)


I never really knew where the track used to go after it emerged from the woods at 34th St. Then, I read on the marker at the end of the current line that it ran next to an alley between James and Irving Avenues between 34th and 31st Streets, eventually making its way onto Hennepin Avenue.

Streetcar #1300 (one of the preserve cars in use today at Lake Harriet) lets a passenger off in the alley between Irving and James Avenues at 33rd St. (photo by Bob Schumaker for THE COMO HARRIET STORY, a book by Aaron Isaacs and Fred Rhodes, produced by the Minnesota Transportation Museum, 1997)


The alley between 33rd and 34th Streets as it looks today. (photo by Steve Date)

A very nice book with lots of old photos by by Aaron Isaacs and Fred Rhodes for the Minnesota Transportation Museum (1997)

The Como-Harriet line must have been one of the most scenic routes in the city. Passengers enjoyed views of the lakes, a beautiful cemetery, a residential alley that opened up into the bustle of Hennepin Avenue and then on to downtown Minneapolis. We’re lucky to have a mile of it preserved so we can experience a small taste of what it was like.

I know there are quite a few other remnants around of other lines around town. Now that I’m tuned in to looking for them, I’m looking forward to taking my map and exploring some of the other routes.

As I see the popularity of our new light rail line grow, with plans for more routes to be added, I think about what we once had here and feel sad that it all had to be destroyed before we realized what a great thing it was. But I guess good ideas have a way of coming back around.

Thanks, Mom, for reminding me about my streetcar trip. Even though I don’t remember it, I haven’t forgotten.

Damn Yankees! – Yogi was right even when he was wrong

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over”, according to Yankee legendary malapropster Yogi Berra. But he also said, “It’s like deja vu all over again”, and right now that seems closer to the truth for the Minnesota Twins. It would take either a miracle or a deal with the devil, such as an appearance by the fictional Joe Hardy, for the Twins to get past the Damn Yankees in the American League Divisional Series.

Quite simply, the Twins have not figured out a way to beat the Yankees in the playoffs. You may not want to join me in my pessimism just yet, but realism, at least, certainly seems appropriate and optimism would be downright silly in the Twins’ trip to the Bronx this weekend. So let’s just tip our hats to the Yanks (we can curse them without hating them) and give our Minnesota Twins high fives for a wonderful season in our great new ballpark.

Twins celebrate a walk-off win over the Toronto Blue Jays last Saturday (photo by Steve Date)

Rather than dwelling on the losses of the past two evenings, I prefer to remember my visit to Target Field with my family last Saturday. It was a stunningly beautiful autumn day (if you were sitting in the sun). The home town boys had been on a slide since clinching the AL Central Division title. They needed a win to stir up some mojo for the playoffs.

Wacky hijinx by the kids before the game in the big glove. (Kyle, Emily, Lauren) (photo by Steve Date)

Shortstop Alexi Casilla provided the necessary excitement with a base hit in the bottom of the ninth, driving in two runners for a walk-off win. The celebration on the field and in the stands could have been mistaken for a championship win. It was one of those moments that can make baseball as thrilling as any sport. I feel lucky to have been there.

'. . . and we'll see you tomorrow night!' - the words of 1991 World Series announcer Jack Buck echo in the ears of Twins fans when they see Kirby's statue at Target Field (photo by Steve Date)

The Twins have provided a lot of thrills over the years and I was fortunate enough to have been an in-person witness to two of the best — the Game 7 win in the 1987 World Series and Kirby Puckett’s game winning home run in Game 6 of the 1991 Series, a moment that has been immortalized by Kirby’s Statue at Target Field.

The outfield at Target Field is a work of art. (photo by Steve Date)

As I’ve said before, I love Target Field. I’m glad it was built and I’m happy with the plan the movers and shakers came up to pay for it. To the extent that taxpayers are chipping in, all I can say is that it’s worth every penny. It’s an amazing asset to downtown Minneapolis and to baseball fans all over the upper midwest.

No matter what the outcome of this playoff series, the situation is this: The Twins have a solid team with a bright future, they have a great stadium that is generating a lot of community pride and they’ve moved to the next phase of a team history that doesn’t take a backseat to anyone.

Yogi Berra also said, “When you get to a fork in the road, take it”. The Twins took the fork and will be providing the beauty, excitement and spirit that baseball brings to a community for many years to come.

Yogi missed the mark a bit though, when he said, “The future ain’t what it use to be.” For Minnesota baseball fans, it is — and maybe even better.

So my hat is off to the Minnesota Twins baseball club and the powers that be in government and business, not to mention journalists such as my friend Steve Berg (see earlier post), that had the foresight, creativity and determination to make this happen.

We Minnesota baseball fans now have plenty to look forward to and it has nothing to do with beating those damn Yankees this weekend.

So go Twins! It ain’t over ’til it’s over. New deja vus have to start somewhere.

3 Dates run the Twin Cities Marathon

Yesterday was great. I got a chance to run a marathon with my two daughters. Think about that for a minute. What a wonderful thing.

7:00 AM - It's go time! (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Last April, Emily ran the Charlottesville, Virginia Marathon with her husband, Kyle, his two brothers and their girlfriends. She did very well on a difficult course, posting a 4:19. Younger sister Lauren had also been doing a lot of running over the winter and spring, working her way up to some significant mileage. Dad, on the other hand, had been slowly, but steadily sliding into old age. Although I ran marathons regularly for about 11 years, I had decided in 2002 that I would retire from the sport and put on weight (apparently).

When Emily found out that Kyle had been accepted for a residency position at the Mayo Clinic and they would be moving to Rochester, she called me up and told me she was thinking about entering the Twin Cities Marathon. She asked me if I’d like to run it with her.

Yikes.

I was having trouble running 3 or 4 miles at the time. But of course, I said yes. I would have been a fool to turn down an offer like that.

Lauren and Emily before the marathon (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

When Lauren decided to enter, too, I was thrilled. It would be her first, and I was glad she was going to give it a try.

I wished I had more months to prepare myself and at the same time I couldn’t wait for marathon day to get here. Because Emily lives in Minnesota now, I was able to do some long runs and a couple of races with her (see earlier posts). Lauren was doing her training in Chicago, so I was only getting verbal reports about that. But she did a 5 mile and 10 mile races and then a half-marathon, so I knew she would be ready.

It was a great weekend. It was good to have the whole family (including Kyle) together. We went to the Twins game and the marathon expo on Saturday. The Twins won!

This is what it looks like from the start corral, just before the race begins. (photo by Steve Date)

The three of us ran together for about the first mile and a half. Then Emily took off a little faster than Lauren and I were comfortable with so we ran together for a while. I intended to stay with her longer, but when we went past Alan Page playing his tuba at about the 2.5 mile mark, I ran over to snap a photo of him. After that, I couldn’t find Lauren again in the huge crowd of runners.

Lauren (in center with white shirt) as we ran through the Kenwood neighborhood, just before I lost her. (photo by Steve Date)

Minnesota Viking great and Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page entertains marathon spectators near his home in the Kenwood neighborhood. (photo by Steve Date)

I’ll spare you the details of the actual race, but let’s just say that it was painful. Kyle and Sandy were at mile 7 along with friends Mary and Diane. Then they met us again just before the 18 mile mark.

Emily says goodbye to husband just before the 18 mile mark. (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Emily finished strong, cutting more than 6 minutes from her previous marathon time to finish in 4:13. Lauren ran a wonderful, steady pace throughout and finished her first marathon in a very impressive 4:25. Little did I know she was only about 30 seconds behind me at the end. I wish we could have crossed the finish line together. But it was very cool being with the two of them just after the finish.

Emily waves to Kyle less than a quarter-mile before the finish line.

Very proud Dad with two great daughters. (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

Gotta have the space blankets. (photo by Kyle Cedermark)

It was an amazing day for me. I’m so proud of the girls. I’m so lucky to have been able to share it with them. It was a day I’ll never forget.

Coalwood on my mind

It was five years ago this week that I arrived in Coalwood, West Virginia for the first time. It seems longer ago than that. Sometimes I feel that Coalwood and I have been friends for a very long time.

Brad and Julie Blue (then Julie Ferris) brought a group of Minneapolis teachers to the hills of southern West Virginia to see the town and meet some of the people featured in Homer Hickam’s book called “Rocket Boys”, which was made into the movie “October Sky” in 1999. This trip was the first of a two professional development excursions named Coalwood to the Cape — or “C2C”.

Here's our group at the Dian Lee House B&B in Bluefield, WV. Homer Hickam and rocket boy Billy Rose are in the front row.

We met a lot of great people in Coalwood, but one of the most memorable was Red Carroll, father of Jimmy O’Dell Carroll, one of the rocket boys. In his late 80s at that time, he’d become the town’s greeter and historian. He gave us a long guided tour of all the important sites.

Red Carroll tells us about Cape Coalwood, the place where the boys launched their rockets.

We also visited Big Creek High School in the neighboring town of War, where the rocket boys attended school and where Miss Frieda Riley inspired them to teach themselves how to build bigger and better rockets. Big Creek is a very cool building, preserved from another era. Sadly, it was closed last spring and is scheduled to be demolished in a couple of months (see my post from September 22).

The footbal field was right out the front door at Big Creek High School. Notice the OWL - the school's mascot - atop the school.

We got a chance to spend a day in Coalwood during the quiet time before the October Sky Festival. Peggy Blevins invited us to dinner, Helen Carson gave us a tour of Big Creek H.S., Ms. Katie Jones welcomed us to her church for ice cream, Bill Bolt spoke to us about the old days in the machine shop, and we met Homer Hickam, who spent the evening telling us all about Coalwood and answering all of our questions. At Peggy’s house, we met David Goad, who later was instrumental in helping me do a documentary film about the town.

On later trips, we met Carol and Jim DeHaven, Gene Turpin, Tootsie Spraggins, Bobby and Jack Likens, J.R. Hatmaker and many other residents and former residents. They all added to the fascinating, collective story of Coalwood.

My first October Sky Festival that year was great. The Minneapolis teachers rode into town on a hay wagon in the parade. That was fun. In subsequent years, we would move up to the top of the fire truck — quite an honor, indeed. It was interesting to see several thousand visitors fill the dying little coal town of about 200 residents for that one day. Everyone was happy. Older people who live there said it took them back to the old days, when Coalwood was a bustling company town of 2,500 — every one of them either employed by the coal company or the child of someone who was.

Homer Hickam speaks to the crowd from the Clubhouse porch at the October Sky Festival in 2005.

One of the reasons people come to the festival is to meet Homer Hickam and the Rocket Boys. Roy Lee Cooke, Jimmy “O’Dell” Carroll and Billy Rose attend the fest every year and love chatting with fans of the book and the movie.

O'Dell Carroll, Roy Lee Cooke, Billy Rose, Homer Hickam (L-R behind table) sign Homer's books for fans.

On behalf of the other C2Cers, thank you Brad and Julie Blue for making it possible for several groups of Minneapolis teachers to come to this place for this festival. Because of you, we all have memories that we’ll never forget.

Julie and Brad walking past Homer Hickam's boyhood home in Coalwood.

And thank you to the people of Coalwood and McDowell County, West Virginia. You’ve been a big part of my life for 5 years.

The October Sky Festival is tomorrow. I’m sad that I have to miss my first one since 2005. But having my family together for the weekend and seeing my two kids run a marathon on Sunday will be pretty cool, too.

If you get a chance to go to Coalwood tomorrow, say hi to everyone for me. Tell them I’m thinking about them and hope to see everyone next year.