Number one son, Mark, here ….
Number one son, Mark, here this week. I’m filling in for Dad as he enjoys
Minnesota Twins spring training in
I started my writing process by asking Dean how many words Dad usually writes for column. Dean said he had no idea of how many words, he just knew it fit perfectly in the space every week. From a newspaper standpoint, Dean made sense. The main point of writing is to fill a spot on a page. For many years, Dad wrote with a steel typewriter and somehow it always fit perfectly on the page every week. Dad has written almost 3,000 columns and probably a million and a half words since starting in the 1960s. He must be figuring out this whole writing and publishing thing.
As you read this, the 40th anniversary of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team’s gold medal performance has passed. That’s right, the big win over the Soviets was closer to the flag raising on Iwo Jima –which happened on almost the same February date–than it is to this moment.
We used the movie Miracle and a trip to the Simek Ice Center to teach a few middle school students how history is remembered in more than just big numbers and names. It lives in our memories and hopefully passes on to others through the stories we tell, write, or even sing. One of the students comes from a family of great builders. He brought the lesson home when he pointed out his grandfather built the ice arena where he was skating.
I was the same age as these kids when the Miracle on Ice happened. Watching Badger hockey games on WHRM was a weekend highlight in my youth. It had me tuned in the first night as the United States took Sweden. Tuesdays are production day at the TRG and I remember calling my parents a few times with game highlights, including Bill Baker’s goal in the final minute.
The opening ceremony was the next day and US wins started happening every few days. It all led to the cold war colossal game against the Soviet Union.
Like any generational moment, we remember little personal details of the moment. The game was played on a Friday afternoon. The country saw it on tape delay in the evening.
Mom was making a rare treat - pizza meatloaf - and we were talking and cooking while the local news update provided a break from the games. The 13-inch black and white screen TV sat on the dishwasher. I was wiping a kettle with a white and red striped towel. If you remember the era, you remember tape delayed sportscasts. I’m guessing it was Randy Allen or Cal Ahlers who led the report by saying, “if you don’t want to see the score, turn down the sound and leave the room.” Then, he revealed the miracle score USA 4, Soviet Union 3.
The actual gold medal game was on Sunday morning against Finland. This time, the broadcast was live. I’m not sure what my 10-year-old reasoning was, but it was not enough to convince my parents to skip Sunday school and church that day. We got home at the third period, just in time to see the final U.S. rally.
As I was putting the finishing touches on the Miracle slides, a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune caught my eye. The story appeared on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. The story told about Eva Moreimi and her efforts to remember the legacy of her parents. Moreimi’s mother, Ica Kellner, was sent to Auschwitz in 1944.
In her determination to survive, Ica began recording the whispered recipes for favorite dishes the women shared as they were starved. The very effort to write those recipes down on stolen scraps of paper was an instant death sentence.
Somehow, she survived and kept her collection of recipes together. Moreimi’s story weaves in by remembering a mother who loved to bake on Saturday mornings. Ica would draw from that collection of recipes and teach the recipe and story of the woman it came from to her daughter. The recipes are now preserved at the national Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. The story and some of the recipes are in a great book, Hidden Recipes, a Holocaust Memoir.
I mentioned the significance of this year’s Holocaust remembrance date to a fifth grade teacher and we decided to share the big picture and Ica’s herorics to her class.
The numbers are massive–a population the size of modern Dallas, Texas passed through Auschwitz–leaving 7,000 survivors. In all, six million Jews died, and millions more died as Nazi scapegoats. Society must remember those numbers forever. More importantly, as individuals we must learn and pass on stories of people like Ica, and the women who shared their recipes.
As I related Ica’s story to the kids, the teacher asked if my family had any heirloom recipes. I told them our Poor Soup story and could have told them dozens more about Spanky’s breads and hash browns. The lesson I learned that morning was I couldn’t talk about something so important without a memory of the mother who taught me those lessons one pizza meatloaf at a time.