The Project – Part One

For months now (maybe even a year) – I have been contemplating a project.  For many, this project may not seem like much, but for a fella like me (livin’ a life of “chaos in paradise”), this has been quite the undertaking.

It all started  when the END OF ONE ERA ushered in the BEGNING OF A NEW ERA.  Then, a vehicle upgrade (well, actually a “downgrade” in size), and an pending vacation trip made the project even more of a necessity!

cartopping the canoeIt all started (in earnest) in the fall of 2013.

I had been “car-topping” my canoe for transportation to and from my paddling adventures, but getting the canoe up on top of the car (or van) and back down has proven to be a little more of a hassle (and scratch/dent inducing) endeavor than I had envisioned.  Then, I up(down)graded my vehicle from a 2000 Saturn SL1 to a 2005 Toyota Corolla.  The vehicles are comparable in length, but the roofline is noticeably shorter, and thus, even less stable to “cartop” than the Saturn.  (I suppose I could “make it work” if I had to, but between the scratch/dent issue and the shorter roofline, I elected not to risk it.)

What I did was start researching alternate methods of transporting the canoe.  I started looking at trailers that would haul canoes.

There are many different options available.  If money was no object, I could have had a readymade trailer delivered within a week – but, money IS an object.  So, it was back to the drawing board.  What became pretty apparent to me was that MANY people (particularly kayakers, but many canoers too) BUILD their OWN trailer – and in typical “Father of Five” fashion, I became ferociously obsessed with researching these trailers and the idea of building my own.

I think I identified (and visited) every website that documented the building, modifying, customizing, or rebuilding of a trailer for use as a canoe hauler.

To help me organize the ideas I stumbled upon, I turned to another online resource I had previously ignored… Pinterest.  I created something called a “pin-board” to collect the ideas I liked best.  (If you are interested, feel free to visit my “Canoe Trailer Pin-Board”  by following the link.).

The basic design (and sort of “foundation” for my project) looked something like the photo on the right.

(Thank to Jack from for permission to use photo)

My “ideal” canoe trailer would have the following features…
· It would be inexpensive
· It would be small and lightweight (but long enough to haul a 17’ canoe)
· It would need to have the ability to carry gear (either in the canoe or in/on the trailer)
· It would need to have the ability to use it for other purposes (aka – “convertible”)
· It would need to be storable
· To make it storable, I needed it to (easily) break down or fold up
· To make it usable, I needed it to (easily) be set up or unfold out of storage

Immediately, the Harbor Freight trailers became the obvious solution.  They have four models to choose from.  A “lightweight” and a “heavy duty” in a 40x48 “stick” trailer or a 48x96 “fold up” trailer.  Regardless of the deck size, I wanted to go with the heavier duty trailer.  The lightweight trailers have an 8” wheel and the heavy duty trailers have a 12” wheel.  The larger wheel is more suited for longer hauls.   

After several months (most of the LONG Minnesota winter of 2013-2014) and several discussions with / input from my good buddy “Backside of Forty” (of which mostly centered around the 40x48 vs 48x96 debate) I found myself more often than not drifting towards the 40x48 option.  Honestly, neither was the ideal solution.  It ultimately came down to price, size, and convertibility.

Once I felt as if I exhausted all “research” possibilities, I took the ideas I liked best, and combined them into a “hybrid” trailer.  I drew out (to scale) what I thought the trailer would look like.    
Convertable Canoe Trailer Convertable Canoe Trailer

As you can see, I chose the 40x48 stick trailer.  I would build it with two length options – one extraordinarily long (for the canoe) and one that is much more typical.   

I planned on keeping the trailer deck 40x48.  This way I can…
  • Build rails for the small trailer.
  • Build a storage box to fit a 40x48 floor. 
  • Buy and install (with the option to remove) a car top carrier. 
  • Build an “oversized” deck (that would rest three feet out the front on the tongue, and hang over the rear of the trailer by 1 foot) giving me the equivalent of a 48x96 flatbed (and could even build rails for a 48x96 trailer too!).
This would allow me to…

  • Use the trailer to haul JUST the canoe, or…
  • Use the trailer to haul the canoe AND a storage box / cartop carrier, or…
  • Use the trailer to haul a storage box / cartop carrier WITHOUT the canoe, or…
  • Use the trailer to haul as EITHER a 40x48 or 48x96 inch flatbed WITHOUT
    the canoe or the storage box / cartop carrier.

I can also remove all “accessories” (tongue, storage boxes, canoe framework, and rails), and be left with a very small, short and narrow trailer that can lean up against my garage wall, and snug between the studs.  The tongue(s) / rails / oversized flatbed could all be hung on the garage wall.

Yup.  This plan suited my needs!!  So, with all my plans in place, I began saving my “allowance”. 
It would only be a matter of time before I started!! 

Father's Day Fun!

I could not think of a better way to recognize “Father’s Day” than to dedicate this fun little post to MY dad! The “Father of the Father of Five”.

It’s a “spin off” to my previous post (Graduation 2014 - #2 of 5) in which I eluded to something I wanted to share that was related to graduation, but not really about the graduation.

You will (undoubtedly) see how it’s connected!


This is my dad. The “Father of The Father of Five”.

The “FoFoF” graduated from Roosevelt High School in June of 1955. This is his senior class photo.

On the day of his graduation, his parents took his photograph standing next to his car. When he graduated, he was driving a 1946 Ford Sedan.

(BONUS photo at the very bottom of this post!)

This is his high school.
Roosevelt High School - Minneapolis, Mn

The Father of the Father of Five. Graduation day, June 1955. Standing next to his 1946 Ford Sedan.

This is me. The “Father of Five

I graduated from the Academy of the Holy Angels in June of 1987. This is my senior class photo.

On the day of my graduation, my parents took my photograph standing next to my car. When I graduated I was driving a 1976 Ford Granada.

This was my high school.
Academy of the Holy Angels - Richfield, Mn

The Father of Five.  Graduation Day June 1987.  Standing next to his 1976 Ford Granada.

This is my son. #2 of 5.

#2 of 5 graduated from Jordan High School in June of 2014. This is his senior class photo.

On the day of his graduation, we took his photograph standing next to his car. When he graduated, he was (and still is) driving a 2000 Buick Century.

This was #2 of 5's high school.
Jordan High School - Jordan, Mn

#2 of 5.  Graduation day - June 7 2014.  Standing next to his 2000 Buick Century.


As promised (and...  for just a little bit of ADDED FATHER'S DAY FUN), here is a photo I found of Roosevelt High School's 1955 Homerooms #325 and #328B.

You may (or may not) recognize one of the faces in the crowd.
I may (or may not) have made the identification just a little bit easier!  (wink)

Graduation 2014 - #2 of 5

Last weekend marked the passing of another one of life’s big events – for me as a father (and my wife as a mother, and us together as parents), as well as for #2 of 5 who takes ANOTHER big step a much larger world.  (As you may or may not recall, #2 of 5 took another one of those steps just a couple of months ago.



#2 of 5 has graduated High School. 

For those of you counting, that’s “two down, three to go”. 

It’s been said before, and it merits repeating – time has a way of escaping if you are not paying attention.  My advise for you fathers out there reading this is to slow down.  Slow WAY down.  Enjoy the moments while you are in them, because if you don’t – in the blink of an eye – you will be standing at your child’s graduation wondering just where the time went.  Trust me on this one.

I can not even begin to believe the concept that it’s been seven years since #1 of 5 graduated.


A little background on #2 of 5.

#2 of 5 attended St. John the Baptist School from Kindergarten through sixth grade (including two years of “Wee-Angels” preschool), then attended Jordan Middle School for seventh and eight grade.  He moved on and completed his secondary education at Jordan High School for ninth through twelfth grades.  He is (as of right now) currently enrolled, and begins his post-secondary education at Normandale Community College in the Fall!  I am very excited for him!

#2 of 5 is a very bright young man, who’s view of the world is one of equal treatment, and equal justice for all.  While he did not graduate with “high honors”, I could not be prouder of him for the many important life lessons he picked up along the way.  He has honed and calibrated his moral and ethical compass – and while I may not agree 100% with the direction the needle may point (but, it’s a good 98% that I can agree on) I have no doubt that the direction that compass is taking him in is both good, and the right direction.  

Be sure to visit #2 of 5’s dedicated page here on FOF. 
You will learn a lot more about this fine young man! 


Scheduled before the graduation ceremony was St. John the Baptist Church’s Graduation send off mass. 

The send off mass is the regularly scheduled Saturday evening mass (the time coincides well with the graduation ceremony), where graduating seniors join the entry procession, receive a special blessing by the congregation, follow the exit procession, and are provided a light lunch after mass in Louis Hall (the Church basement and kitchen area).   

One other special thing St. John’s does for the graduation mass is to break out this class’s First Communion Alter Cloth.  (The green and white quilt over the main alter in the photo).

This Alter Cloth is a quilt of “squares” made by these students as a project for their First Communion.  Each student is to use felt, cloth, fabric paint, and the like to craft an image related to first communion.   Then, each of the quilt squares are sewn together to make the Alter Cloth.

This Alter Cloth is used on their First Communion (in second grade), their Confirmation (in tenth grade) and their Graduation send off mass (in twelfth grade).


We used the Church’s Gathering Area before mass to get some family photos (which I won’t bore you with here).  #2 of 5 (who has little to no patience for being photographed) did surprisingly well.  After “a few” (~ahem~) photographs, we attended mass held by Fr. Timothy Yanta (our beloved Parish Priest) which was followed by the enjoyable Luncheon in Louis Hall.  The idea of the luncheon is perfect (and I could not be more grateful for the Church doing it).  There is only a short window of time between the end of the mass and the beginning of the graduation ceremony.  Trying to coordinate a meal for our family between the two would have been difficult (at best).  The ladies of the church did a GREAT job, and lunch was delicious!  Their meal went a long way towards us being able to enjoy the graduation without the distraction of hunger!

With all the festivities at St. John’s complete, it was time to head to the High School and get this kid graduated! 


The Graduation ceremony was to be held at the Jordan High School athletic field, but due to a significant rainfall during the day, it was held in the Gymnasium instead.  Seating was at a premium because it was held in the gym. 

Each family was allotted four tickets to the “main floor” and the bleacher seating was available for the remainder of the families.  This led us to a small dilemma.  We had five immediate family members attending (myself, the Mother of Five, #3 of 5, #4 of 5, and #5 of 5).  We also had both sets of grandparents attending.  Given the totality of the circumstances, the Mother of Five and I discussed it, and ultimately decided on giving our “main floor” tickets to #2 of 5’s grandparents.     

A couple of items in particular stood out on the stage. 

Two bouquets of white roses were present along with the diplomas.  Each bouquet of roses represented a member of #2 of 5’s graduating class who’s presence at the graduation was in heavenly spirit.   

Chloe Fruth who lost her battle with cancer during their Sophomore year, and Mickenzy Segler who was involved in a fatal automobile accident during their Senior year.

The ceremony itself was very nice.  Both the band and the choir preformed throughout the ceremony.  The festivities kicked off with the VFW holding a “posting of the colors” (displaying the United States flag) ceremony.  This was followed with the opening remarks and a congratulatory address.

At one point during the ceremony, the school staff acknowledged the students who have selflessly joined the armed forces, listing each student, and the branch in which they joined.  Once each of these students were acknowledged, the crowd erupted in thunderous applause and a standing ovation.  It was one of the most moving displays I have seen!

IMG_0900A few more acknowledgements followed (Outstanding Seniors and Best Citizen Awards) before the Awarding of the Diplomas began.   

The moment finally arrived.  #2 of 5’s name was called, and he began his walk to the podium to receive his diploma.    

Soon thereafter, the end of the list of graduates was reached. 

There was one last speech by one of the seniors (titled the “Graduate message”) before the Graduates proceeded out of the gymnasium and into the gathering area.

The gathering area was quite crowded, but we were able to find a less chaotic corner for a post-graduation photo session. 

Picture 055    Picture 046

#2 of 5 (and each of the graduates) were given a bouquet of three white roses.  I am not sure if they were asked to or not, but #2 of 5 had planned on giving one of three flowers to each of his grandmothers, and (I suspect) the final rose had him torn a bit.  I think he wanted to give it to his mother, but I also think he also wanted to give it to his girlfriend.

The Mother of Five (in what I think is a really cool move) preemptively told #2 of 5 that she thought it would be very nice gesture if he were to give his girlfriend the rose (thus removing any feelings of conflict or guilt he may be feeling). 

#2 of 5 did present his last and final Graduation Rose to his girlfriend.  I tried to capture the moment in a picture, but missed it by about two seconds.  I still got a photo just after it happened.  There is a tremendous smile on this young lady’s face – and I have no doubt she enjoyed receiving the rose as much as the Mother of Five and I enjoyed watching #2 of 5 give it to her! 

Call me sentimental if you want, but this was one of my favorite moments of the evening!!

(I would have loved to have posted a photo of #2 of 5 and his girlfriend, or the “tremendous smile” photo, but I want to respect her privacy – having never really made a “debut” here on FOF yet, I am not really sure how she would feel about it.)  

With the ceremony over, gown turned in, and diploma in hand, (the newly graduated) #2 of 5 headed out with his class to the All Night Senior Party! 

I understand that he arrived back home around 4am (or so) before collapsing in exhaustion.  I fully expected I would not see #2 of 5 “return to the living” until somewhere around 3pm – but while working outside (being careful not to wake him) - #2 of 5 came bounding out of the house around 11:30 am.

He answered a couple of my questions about the All night party, before climbing into his car, and driving off into the next chapter of his life…

I have another follow up post to this one – it’s related to graduation – but not just THIS graduation. 
It’s become a bit of a family tradition.

I will update THIS LINK once the post is complete.


The Life of a Father of Five’s anniversary just rolled right on past me again. 

It’s hard to believe that I have maintained this hobby / project / endeavor for over eight years now.   As I have stated in previous “anniversary” posts, FoF is not the same thing it was back in 2006.  Back then, I had so much to say.  So many stories to tell.  The kids were young, and there were so many thing we did that I felt compelled to share.  Very few days passed without me posting something ANYTHING about something ANYTHING .

Time went on, and many of the stories I told that were once “new and exciting” to share were duplicated over and over (things like summer camp, hunting trips, school events, etc) – and the kids have all gotten older.  Old enough to express their “viewpoints” on my talking about them in this forum.  Old enough that I felt obligated to respect their wishes (at least to a certain degree).

As FoF transitioned, a noticeable trend (or trends) starting taking shape.  FoF began to change.
·         Post QUANTITY has diminished…  (significantly)… 
·         On the other hand, QUALITY has increased… (or so I like to think)…  

FoF has, and will remain a big part of who I am.  While I continue to struggle with “quantity” of time I can commit, and the “quality” of the work is certainly questionable, I will continue to hold on to this little creative outlet, and do my best to modify, adjust, and adapt what FoF means to me, and to the others who regularly stop on by and/or those who just happen to stumble on by.  

Like so many previous anniversary posts – I HAVE to give a shout out to a number of AMAZING people I have met along the way.  People who influence me in ways that they likely do not realize.  When I first met these folks, they were strangers to me.  Strangers with names like (in no particular order) A Family Runs Through It, AtHomeDaddy, Backside of Forty, Postulates and Pasttimes, MotherOf8,  My Family and Other Animals just to name a few.  (Forgive me if you are not named.  There are too many to list!)

Through our mutual interests (like blogging, families, and parenthood) many of the fellow bloggers I have met through FoF have transitioned into friends.  I have come to know some of these folks on a much different level.  A much more personal level.  Their support and friendship along the way has become quite real, and very significant in my life.  I am unable to truly express my level of gratitude for the niches they have etched into my life.

Taking His Next Step Into a Larger World

Today, #2 of 5 continued his full fledged sprint towards independence and adulthood by jumping another one of life’s hurdles along the way.  Vehicle Ownership! 

5 Knowing full well that I had two teenaged males at (or approaching) driving age, not too long ago I upgraded my previous vehicle to something a little newer.  When I did that, I “handed down” my previous vehicle to my two teenaged drivers.  Since that time #2 of 5 and #3 of 5 have been sharing the hand–me-down 2000 Saturn SL-1 (my previous vehicle). 

I have been completely impressed with how well the two of them have cooperated and found a balance between each other’s needs, and how they helped each other out when it came to use of the car and cooperation with each other.  I cannot recall having heard even one argument over “who gets the car” during the time they have shared it. 

Understandably though, we expect #2 of 5’s vehicular needs to change drastically in June when he graduates high school and transitions into the life of a live-at-home college student.  Recently, he has been expressing his interest (and concerns) with obtaining his own “set of wheels”.  The Mother of Five and I have assured him that he is at just the right age and position in his life to start setting a goal for, and looking into options for “vehicle ownership”.  That’s when an opportunity presented itself. 

A friend of my father-in-law had a vehicle he was no longer using sitting in his garage.  When he mentioned to my Father-in-law that he felt it was time to sell the car, #2 of 5 came to mind.  #2 of 5’s grandfather made it a point to tell him about the possibility, and provided him the contact information.

New and Former owners - shaking hands!#2 of 5 got in contact with my Father in Law’s friend, arranged to see and test drive the vehicle, and agreed to purchase the vehicle.

“Technically”, #2 of 5 had enough funds to write a check right “then and there” for the car – but, I had other plans in mind.  Having never established ANY sort of credit, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to teach him about the importance of RESPONSIBLE use of credit, and how to build a strong foundation for a good credit rating in the future.  The Mother of Five and I have helped #2 of 5 (carefully) navigate the (sometimes treacherous) waters of obtaining his very first “personal loan”. 


Transfering ownership at the DMVOnce the financing was arranged, and a casher’s check was drafted, it was time to make it official!  #2 of 5 got back in touch with the seller, and arranged a date to transfer his money for the title of his very first car!

We met the seller at the Department of Motor Vehicles, paid him, transferred the title, and renewed the registration.

The previous owner handed my son the keys – and congratulated him on a job well done buying his very first vehicle!

My heart swelled with pride.


Who is that in the car behind me?
With the sale complete, we headed out to “show off” the new wheels.  (There he is, in the car behind me, on our way.)

Of course, being the “broker” of this deal, we had to stop off and Grandma and Grandpa’s house to thank them for pointing him in the right direction, and show them the fruit of his labors. 

I don’t totally know why, but on the way to my in-laws, I was VERY nervous about #2 of 5 driving his new car.  I was as worked up as I was the time he took MY car out (alone) for the very first time. 


Truthfully, I had nothing to worry about.  I have heard from several people what a good driver he has been, and now behind the wheel of his OWN car, bought with his OWN money – I have no doubt he will be even more careful – but sometimes the worry overpowers the common sense in my own brain.

Once we stopped off at my in-laws, we started heading home.  Between my in-laws home and our home is my parents home.  So, of course, we stopped by there too!   

Grandman and Grandpa Mémère and Grandpa

(The Mother of Five’s folks on the left and my folks on the right – both very proud of #2 of 5!)
Aren't grandparents the best things in the world?!?!

With the car purchased and now “shown off” to the grandparents, #2 of 5 was chomping at the bit to head out to do his OWN thing (in is OWN car) – but not before I “had to” take a few pictures of my young man and his new car! 

May I please introduce you to #2 of 5 with his very own
2000 Buick Century
V6 – 3.1L – 4 door – “Jasper Green Pearl” with 115XXX miles on it

Proud new owner Proud new owner!

Father and son - a PROUD fatherhood moment!

Yup, there is no doubt.  I sure am proud of the young man #2 of 5 is becoming more and more each and every day. 

I was told (and dismissed) just how much I would miss the early years while my children were growing up, and now that they are almost there – I truly wonder where the time went.

Don’t tell him so, but often – while thinking back to that little boy he once was brings tears to my eyes.  Tears mixed with joy and pride for who he has become, and with sorrow for wishing I could have the little boy back – even just for a few hours.

A Moment in Time - Captured

It was a Friday night.  I had just ended an extended overtime shift, and the Mother of Five had worked late.  The kids were all out working, at sporting events, or socializing with friends with the exception of #5 of 5, so we took advantage of only have one child and decided to make a run to McDonalds for take-home dinner and a Redbox movie. 

Once we placed our order, the Mother of Five and #5 of 5 headed over to the Redbox to peruse the theatric selections while I took up a position near the counter to watch for our order to be complete.  My position placed me in a vantage point that allowed me to oversee the full extent of the dining area (something I often find myself doing).   

Since it was a Friday night, the lobby was noticeably busy.   There were several groups in the lobby - Groups of teens enjoying themselves in the typical “boisterous” manner, a couple of families with younger children fluttering about in semi-controlled chaos (something I am intimately familiar with), and a number of staff members buzzing about here and there like a drone of worker bees.  It was sort of what I would expect to see on a typical Friday night at McDonalds – with one exception…   

There, in a far corner of the lobby, I noticed a couple.  An elderly couple - preparing to leave.     

They were not just what I would call “elderly”.  If I had to put an estimate on their ages, I would (with confidence) put them well into their 80’s.  As this couple was preparing to leave I noticed the gentleman had put his winter coat on, and was now helping his wife (who appeared to be the noticeably older and much frailer of the two) put on her coat.  (Ok, I am making an assumption on their marital status.)

It’s the typical sort of “chivalrous” move – he held up her jacket by the shoulders from behind her as she daintily (actually, it was more like “frailly”) maneuvered herself backwards into the jacket.  If you looked close enough (as I did) you could see the pain and discomfort this simple act was causing her.  Then, without speaking a word, the man came around and faced the woman.  He gingerly zipped and buttoned up her coat and then carefully wrapped her scarf around her neck to prepare her for the harsh Minnesota weather awaiting them outside. 

This was such a remarkable scene to observe.  The loving care and compassion in his eyes and the complete trust and gratitude in her eyes were simply beyond my ability to describe.   I was nearly hypnotized standing there, just watching the wordless interaction between these two. 

I don’t know if it was out of sadness I felt for this couple in the sunset of their lives, the heart melting warmth I felt for the display of love between these two, or for the much needed reminder that there are still many good people doing small but meaningful acts for one another that caused tears to well in my eyes.  What I do know is that this whole incident (which lasted for only a short moment in time) will remain a moment captured in my memory for much, much longer.  

To Diploma, or not to Diploma?

The other day, a “viral” link showed up in my Facebook feed.  Quite honestly, I pass most of these “viral links” by, but given my (Catholic School) educational upbringing, this one intrigued me.

The viral link??  20 Signs You Grew-up in a Catholic School

It is well known to my regular readers (and those that know me well) that I did grow up in a Catholic School.  Twelve years of Catholic School (to be exact).  So, naturally I visited the link.

I found myself laughing at several of the “signs”!  I would say (other than the ones that spoke specific to the female gender) that most of the observations were familiar to me in some way, shape, or form.  They took me back to a different time and place and I must admit - I TRULY enjoyed reading through these observations.  Once I finished reading through the actual content, I started perusing the comments left by others.

One comment in particular resonated with me.  “Lisa” left a comment about a particular “Catholic School” experience that insulted her and her parents.

I don’t know this commenter whatsoever, and in no way do I wish to diminish or belittle her personal experience.  She is certainly entitled to feel and react to her circumstance in her own way and I feel badly for how her story ended.  The reason her comment resonated so much with me was that I had a nearly identical experience!

Let me take you back…

Academey of the Holy Angels, Richfield Minnesota - Front LawnIt was a warm summer afternoon in June of 1987 on the stunningly beautiful front lawn of the Academy of the Holy Angeles campus in Richfield, Minnesota. 

I was surrounded by my some of my closest friends and classmates – folks I had spent the better part of the past four years with.  We were on full formal display in front of our beloved family, friends, and the school staff who invested so much of their lives trying to educate us. 

This day represented the culmination of four years of hard work.  The finally to what we were repeatedly told were the “best years of our lives”.  

It was all about pomp, circumstance, and tradition.  Alphabetically, we were each called the front podium to be congratulated by a “receiving line” of school administration.  After a couple of handshakes and congratulations we were all handed a decorative blue binder that would “eventually” contain the physical manifestation, proof, and recognition for all that we have accomplished. 


Knowing full well that they had little left to use as consequences against us, in order to ensure our compliance, cooperation, and behavior at the graduation ceremony the school kept our diplomas in the office until after the ceremony.  Upon successful completion of the ceremony (without incident) we were told we could exchange our caps and gowns for our diplomas.

Once the ceremony was complete (and with only a minor act of civil disobedience – the obligatory ”tossing of the caps” which we were asked us not to do) we reunited with our families in the audience as High School Graduates, and began saying farewell to our friends and fellow classmates (now, officially “fellow alumni”).

Just a few of the actual photos of friends and family from that day!

FoF and Lisa FoF and Tony FoF and Grandma Betty FoF and Joe

Having fulfilled my obligations to family and friends, I climbed the front steps of the school, and made my way down that hallowed hall to the office (the same hall had walked so many times as a student – but now with high hopes that this would be my final trip). I finally reached the office - eager to FINALLY get my hands on my big pay-off.  I gave the office staff my cap and gown – and in exchange, they handed me a manila envelope with my name on it!

It’s here!  It’s finally here!!

Unpaid Tuition NoticeIn what could only be described as a “Gollum’esque” move, I squirreled my way out of the office with “my precious” in hand, clumsily opening the envelope.  Then, in a moment of shock, I stopped dead in my tracks.  I thought my eyes were deceiving me. 

There was NO DIPLOMA in the envelope!!

Contained in the space that my diploma SHOULD HAVE BEEN was a small note.  The note served to inform me that since my parents had not completed paying my tuition for the school year, that I would NOT be receiving any diploma until such time that any outstanding balance is paid in full.

I remember being slightly confused and pondered what this really meant.

Did my lackluster efforts (and subsequent grades) really “earn” me a diploma, or (as a last ditch effort to get rid of me once and for all) did my parents just offer to “buy” one for me?  Did I really graduate with my classmates from the class of ’87 or am I now to be considered a graduate of the class of ‘88?  If I am to be a graduate of the class of ’88, can I still be an “honorary” member of the class of ’87?  Which reunion do I visit?

Yearbook photo - No DiplomaIt was all too overwhelming for me… I knew that I did not have all the answers, so I began “asking” (some might have even identified it as “joking” or “bragging”) about my unsubstantiated status as a graduate with my fellow classmates!  Quite a number of fellow classmates got a chuckle out of the situation.

Before long, while making my way back out to break the “news” to my family, someone who had heard of my predicament stopped me and asked for a photograph.  I smiled, opened my empty diploma holder, and struck a pose.  Little did I know where that photo would end up.

I suppose you can imagine my surprise when (several months later) the annual yearbook came out (they were delivered post-graduation in order to include all the graduation hoopla), and there it was, recorded forever in posterity – for any and all to view (enjoy?) – with my empty diploma holder in hand!    


Diploma with (saved) unpaid tuition notice! Several weeks after the graduation ceremony, I returned to those hallowed halls of my Alma Mater with my parents’ tuition check in hand.  Quite proudly, I marched in and presented payment to the office staff.  Upon payment, I was unceremoniously presented an envelope.  This one contained my official high school diploma (and, yes… I did check before leaving!)

Even if it felt as if I walked into school and “bought” my diploma, I was FINALLY (and triumphantly) able to proclaim that I was, indeed, a high school graduate!! (Even if I had to walk in an pay for it!)

The Christmas Altar

When I was a little boy my grandparents - Mémère & Pépère (well, actually I am pretty certain it was more Mémère) did some very specific holiday decorating.  One of the things she did each year that seemed so unique, was to decorate her windows.  Window decorating is not that uncommon, but the method Mémère used to decorate her windows was!  I don’t remember seeing anyone else doing it then, and I have not seen anyone do it since.  (Maybe advancements in window technology makes it no longer practical or even possible).

(BTW -  Mémère is pronounced "Mem-May” and Pépère is pronounced “Pep-Pay”)

My Mémère used to build mini Christmas villages between her sash windows and the storm windows.  She had miniature cardboard buildings, cotton “snow”, glitter, a Santa in his sleigh with reindeer, and even used lick-and-stick stars on the windows.  Basically, she created Dioramas of Christmas scenes between the windows. 

Quite interestingly, while researching this post, I was not able to locate any images that were similar to what Mémère used to do with her windows.  I am hoping maybe my mom has a few photos of Mémère’s windows… 


One of the other Christmas decorating traditions she had was her “Christmas Altar”.

Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar

The Christmas Altar is a tiered ceramic “structure” with several holes in it.  The holes hold glass “candles”.  I call them “candles” because the interior of the altar contains a light source and the glass “candles” collect, defuse and project the light from inside.  The altar is topped with a Sacred Heart of Jesus statue, and two guardian angels (one on his left and one on his right).  Each guardian angel also holds one of the glass candles. 

In the center of the altar, is a hand painted relief of the Holy Eucharist over a chalice.  Below that is a hand painted relief of the Last Supper.  On either side of the Last Supper are several hand painted pillars and a relief of a torch with a glass candle where the flame would normally be located. 

Often, while staying at Mémère’s house before Christmas, she would pull out and together we would set up her Christmas Altar.  I have many fond memories of being together while helping her set up the Altar.  At one point somewhere in my youth, Mémère told me that she wanted the altar to be mine one day.

Pépère passed away in 1981, and Mémère joined him two years later in 1983.  After Mémère passed (when I was 14 years old) the altar came to our house.  Between 1983 and 2013, the altar was set up only a handful of times.  Most of those years, the altar was kept in the solitude of my parent’s crawl space

This year, while decorating for Christmas, my parents brought the altar out and decided it was time to “officially” deliver to me.  It arrived in (and will remain in) the original packing box.  The info located on the box helped me track down what little info I could about the “Christmas Altar”.  Since I found so little info, I decided to share the knowledge I have learned (and a few images) with the world.   

Below, are a series of photographs of the Christmas Altar.  Packaging, clean up (and a minor “improvement”), and some close up photographs to document as much as I can about the altar.   

Here is how the altar arrived.  The box is marked Fragile.
(The contents are certainly all that – and more!

Noma Industries, Inc.  S.H.Clausin & Co Minneapolis, MN Noma Industries, Inc to S. H. Clausin & Co. Jewlers Minneapolis, MN

Daytons Christmas BoxThe Altar is still packed in the original box that Mémère (and subsequently) my parents kept it packed in.  Inside the box is the altar and a very old “Dayton’s” box that Mémère kept the glass candles in.

According to the package, the Altar was manufactured by Noma Industries, Inc – then shipped to S.H. Clausin & Co. – both located in Minneapolis.

I have done a bit of internet research on both Noma and S.H. Clausin. 

Noma is no longer a “business” but is still considered a registered trademark for holiday lighting products.   The Jewlers Circular

S.H. Clausin & Co. appears to have been a jewelry (and gift?) shop.  I did not find a lot of info available on the shop, but I did locate a help wanted ad to fill an open “Material and Tool Man” position from the April 30th 1919 edition of “The Jewelers’ Circular”  

Since I was already researching Noma and S.H. Clausin – I turned my focus to the actual altar.  I started searching terms like Noma and Ceramic and Altar – and over time (and a number of search combinations) I was able to piece together some tidbits of additional info about the Altar.

In addition to Holiday lighting, Noma made several other items. 
Of interest – it seems that they had a large production of “Chalkware” items. 

According to Wikipedia - Chalkware is items either made of sculpted gypsum or cast from plaster moulds and painted with watercolors - most typically made in one of two periods: the first beginning in the late 18th century and ending by the beginning of the 20th century, the second being during the Great Depression.

If you do a few internet searches, you will find links and photos to several Noma chalkware figurines, music boxes, statutes, and the like – including a few (very few) of these religious “altars”!

What little info I did find was that it appears Noma made these altars between the 1920’s-1930’s through the 1950’s.  I wish I had a specific date on MY altar, but alas – I do not.

I have also found them referred to as a Noma Glolite Altar, Noma Glolite Chalkware, Glolite Altar, Glolite Last Supper Altar and similar combinations of those key words.  

Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar

 Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar

So far, I have seen a couple of different versions – some have the extended sides (and angel figurines) like mine does, but most other ones are a bit smaller.  These versions are missing the side extensions (where the torches and guardian angels are located).

Examples below were located on Ebay and Etsy.

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I have yet to see a photograph of a Noma Chalkware Altar with the red tipped glass candles like mine has.  I do not know if that is original, or if the red tips are something Mémère did to modify (improve?) the original design of the altar.

Here you can see a close up of the solid glass “candles”.  The first set are shorter and thicker.  These are the candles that fill the holes in the bottom and second to bottom tiers.  Then, the four thinner and taller candles (with the cork spacers) fill the top tier.  Finally, the two longest and thinnest candles (these are about 6” in length) go through the guardian angel figurines and then down through the alter into the light chamber.  

20131211_142038 20131211_142057 20131211_142103


One of the things I also remember was Mémère never wanting it lit for extended periods.  If my memory serves me right (and that is often “questionable, at best”) she was worried about the altar overheating or being a fire hazard.

I looked very carefully at the altar and decided I was going to “upgrade” the traditional incandescent bulb (and all the heat it generates) with a newer (and slightly brighter) CFL (curly) light bulb.  CFL’s run much cooler.  While I had it apart, I took the time to give the alter a deep cleaning (with all the TLC I could give).    

20131211_141850 20131211_141818

(Above Left) – The base bolts are sunk right into the chalkware of the altar. 
(Above Right) – The number 334 was written inside of the altar.  Is that a model number?  A serial number?

20131211_141840 20131211_141921 

(Above Left) The old 25w incandescent bulb.  I did not get a photo, but this bulb was replaced by a CFL bulb.  CFL’s are know to run much cooler than their incandescent counterparts.
(Above Right) – Just a view looking up to the top of the altar from underneath (with the base removed) 

Here is the assembled Altar, both unlit in the daylight and with the new and improved lighting in the dark.

Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar  Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar

And finally, here are some additional photos (close up) of the Altar lit up in the dark…

Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar  Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper AltarNoma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar Noma Industries Chalkware lighted Last Supper Altar

While cleaning and setting up the “Christmas Altar”, I was able to feel Mémère’s presence with me.  It was so comforting.  Just handling the altar again, flooded me with many fond memories.

Mémère’s “Christmas Altar” has joined a very specific version of A Christmas Carol as being my most cherished Christmas treasures of all time – and as long as I am able to, I will set it up and and enjoy knowing that Mémère is watching over me and my family!

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