THE DEAN/DAINS/DAYNE(S) GENEALOGY
“Everybody Called Him Cedric”
Excerpts from the book “Everybody Called Him Cedric” written in 1970
As you step off the elevator of the second floor of the WCCO Building at 625 Second Avenue
South in Minneapolis and into the lobby of Radio Station WCCO, your eyes focus first on a
photograph of Cedric Adams. The photo reveals Cedric's warm, enfolding smile and his
penetrating eyes as they look intently at you out of huge, horn-rimmed glasses. You are struck by
the heavy eyebrows and the thick, black hair which has receded only slightly.
The words beneath the picture starkly state:
May 27, 1902 - February 18, 1961
WCCO Radio 1931-1961
Long before these thirty years with WCCO, however, there is the life story of an only child born
to Ray and Josephine Adams in Adrian, Minnesota. Adrian is a town of 1,200 near the Iowa
border in southwestern Minnesota. Ray Adams worked at the Adrian Bank. In 1904 - when
Cedric was two years old, the Adams moved seven miles west to Magnolia. Magnolia was
Cedric’s home for ten years where he shared the small-town life with his beloved parents.
As you drive into Magnolia signs at the east and west ends of the town greet you:
Welcome to Magnolia
Cedric Adams’ Home Town
Please Drive Carefully We Love Our Children
Cedric as an accomplished communicator had honed his senses of seeing, hearing, tasting,
touching, and smelling. Note how many of his senses were involved when he wrote about "other
things I haven't thought about for years."
Among them were "the fancy-handled buttonhook that was part of my mother's dresser set. Those
chimes that were made out of thin pieces of glass suspended on threads and made music when
the wind swayed the glass. That medicinal smell that old Doc Sullivan always had about his
person. The green-visored white caps that kids always got free in the spring with a flour ad
printed across the front. The horse-chawed hitching posts that used to line the Main Street in
Magnolia. The soap ad that always asked, ”Have you a little fairy in your home?”. The isinglass
doors on the old base-burner whose ruddy glow gave the finest welcome in a home you could
possibly have. The lumps on my long underwear used to make underneath my black-ribbed
stockings when I had to fold it around the ankles in wintertime."
Or perhaps there are other flashbacks that you would like to recall or hear about from Cedric
such as "the huge coffee grinders with two big wheels and the bell-shaped top into which the
coffee beans were poured by the grocer for grinding. Candy hearts with such stirring messages as
“Oh, You Kid!” printed on them. Doorbells with a handle on them you had to turn to make the
bell function. The thrill you got when you moved into the third grade and got a desk with an
inkwell in it. When the small-time editor met all trains and asked every departing townsman
where he was going and when he would return. The huge ash pile that collected at the back of
every house during the winter. Familiar, aren't they?"
Cedric's life in Magnolia from two until twelve was much like that of the average middle-class
boy$ of the first decade of the twentieth century. He played hard. He wore bib overalls. He had
to dress up in knickers and long stockings for Sunday School and on holidays. He wore button
shoes with brass toe guards. In the winter he hooked his sled to the bobsleds of the farmers
coming into town. He skated at Elk's Slough. He was the typical boy of the first two decades of
the twentieth century.
Magnolia natives still remember Cedric as a boy with an impish grin and twinkling eyes. He
always had a winning personality. Old-timer Ben Davis, who used to run the livery barn and
then the garage, laughed when he told me how one time Cedric climbed up on a house roof
where a man was shingling. The man probably thought that a good object lesson would be to
nail Cedric's coat to the roof - which he did. Davis also remembers that Cedric's first job was
sweeping out the hardware store owned by John McLeish. For this, he earned fifty cents a week.
This willingness to work set the pattern for his whole life.
Cedric's eighth grade report card from the Magnolia Public School in 1913 showed his early
interest and bent in the verbal arts. He excelled in spelling, reading, writing, and grammar. And
his grades in geography and history were also in the middle 90's in the days when grading was
numerical. His lowest grade was a respectable 88 in arithmetic.
Cedric’s father died the summer of 1914. On August 14, 1914, -The Nobles County Review
published in Adrian, Minnesota, reported that “Mrs. Josephine Adams left last Thursday for
Minneapolis, where she will make her future home. Her son, Cedric, will stay here with relatives
until school starts, when he will join her.”
There were "characters" in Magnolia whom Cedric remembered well. He had a chance to meet
these and his other-friends again in his hometown when the dream which nearly all of us have
had was realized for Cedric on May 15, 1953. Many of us have imagined the day when we
would be honored by the home folks - the day "local boy or girl makes good." Cedric's honored
day in Magnolia was festive and as formal as the folks could make it. On that day there was a
coronation of the Duke and Duchess of Magnolia - of Cedric and Niecy. Before receiving their
crowns they were invested in royal robes and received the plaudits of their "subjects." Then they
were given an official proclamation signed by the mayor. A few days after the coronation,
Claire Dispanet, proprietor of the Magnolia Steak House, had a large handbill printed. It
”ALL HAIL TO 'SIR CEDRIC’ THE DUKE OF MAGNOLIA”
Among other complimentary words, the handbill read: "A man can win all kinds of honors and
wealth. He can meet kings and princes, he can make a lot of money, but the real honor that few
men achieve is to hold the admiration and affection, yes and the love of the 'home folks.' That
you have, 'Sir Cedric.' We're proud of you. We're not being flowery or full of blarney when we
say you're pretty much in the hero class for the folks of Magnolia. Every time you went a bit
further up the ladder to fame everybody said 'isn't that swell.' Not any jealousy about it, either,
Sir Cedric. Everybody took off their hats to you because you won success under your own
power. We're happy that you never forgot the town of Magnolia, where you spent your boyhood.
We're happy, too, that even though you knew all the 'greats' in the world of business, news and
entertainment you have never lost that 'folksy', down-to-earth touch."
Cedric and Niecy's coronation as the Duke and Duchess of Magnolia was as regal as the tiny
hometown could make it. The couple wore what one reporter described as "ermine-or-rabbit-
trimmed" robes as Ben Davis drove them in the royal buggy to the schoolhouse. There they
received their crowns. Not surprisingly, Cedric was misty-eyed as the memories of the past
flooded over him.
The Dean Family Remembers
No history of the Dean Family in Magnolia would be complete without telling the story of Cedric
Adams, Magnolia's outstanding citizen. In 1904, when Cedric was two, he moved from Adrian to
Magnolia, some seven miles to the west. This author has several class school pictures that show
Cedric and his buddy, my father, James Dean. The first was taken in the first or second grade.
The other one was taken in the fourth or fifth grade. Cedric left Magnolia in 1912 after the death
of his father, but he never left in spirit. He wrote of Magnolia in his Minneapolis Star and
Tribune newspaper columns and in his books. This author remembers when I was young of
going to Edgerton to listen to him transmit his WCCO radio broadcast live.
Cedric Adams died 18 February 1961 in Austin MN of a heart attack at age 58. He became a
radio newscaster in 1930 and held down a regular 10 p.m. news spot on WCCO for many years.
In the later years he also was a newscaster for WCCO-TV. At one time he had 54 radio and eight
television shows per week, while doing seven newspaper columns. Fan mail averaged 250
letters a day. Cedric Adams was born May 27, 1902 in Adrian MN. As a child of 2 he moved
with his father, a banker, and mother to Magnolia. When Cedric was 12, the family moved to
Minneapolis. In 1950, Cedric was feted as King for a Day in Magnolia. In 1953, Cedric was
crowned Duke of Magnolia. The Magnolia boys got together a beautiful team and an old
buggy and Cedric climbed in that and Mrs. Adams was there too. Then they paraded along main
street. They had a program at the high school and they had royal robes for both Cedric and his
wife. Cedric was always the Duke of Magnolia and Mrs. Adams was the Duchess. Upon
hearing of his death, Harry Dean, Jimmy Dean, Albert Matthiesen, Eldor Olson, and nearly
everyone spent a day in reminiscence. They were happy that Cedric had never forgotten
Magnolia, proud that every time he returned to the town of his boyhood, he still remembered
everyone by their first name. Signs were put up in 1948 at the entrances to Magnolia on Highway
16, declaring it as Magnolia: Cedric Adams Home Town.
Cedric Adams Tribute to Magnolia
From the Cedric Adams Album - “Celebrating 25 Years with Radio and Newspaper”
Ive kidded a lot about my home town of Magnolia and my birth place, Adrian, eight miles to the
east, but, believe me, I wouldn't swap that small town background for all the gold in Ft. Knox.
Youngsters who have missed the privilege of playing in a lumber yard, in a Farmer's Elevator, a
stock yard or along the railroad siding, have suffered a genuine childhood loss.
The two-room schoolhouse with the first four grades on the lower floor and the next four grades
on the second floor is a precious memory indeed. An event it was to get out of the fourth grade
and upstairs with the big kids. I can still remember the seats we had in the Magnolia school, the
big hot air registers, the recitation benches up in front, the teacher's desk on an elevated platform,
the noise the chalk made on the blackboards, the paper chains we made as kids, the interwoven
mats we made of paper strips, the privilege of passing the wastepaper basket just before school
was out, swapping sandwiches from our lunch pail, the chill of the cloakroom, the ice-crusted
overshoes that lined the floor in the winter time-yes, a thousand memories come back from those
reading and writing and 'rithmetic days.
Childhood is an esteemed thing for all of us. And have you ever noticed how easy it is to recall
events and scenes from childhood? Ask me what happened in 1936 or in 1949 and you've
stumped me, but I can remember almost every detail of my schoolhouse.
Following are a few of the columns in the Minneapolis Star written by Cedric in which he related
his experiences in growing up in Magnolia.
CEDRIC ADAMS REMEMBERS MAGNOLIA
Excerpts from In This Corner, start ed in 1935, from the Minneapolis Star - Tribune
Death of Tom Dean
Would you mind if I turned sentimentalist today "for just a paragraph or two? I heard last night
that old Tom Dean, the village blacksmith down in Magnolia, my hometown had died and I'd like
to pay a little tribute to him. If "Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree" didnt mean anything to
you, then this won't either. But old Tom meant a lot to Magnolia and me. Just last Sunday in our
little Flashbacks, I mentioned the smell of burning hoofs. It was in Tom's blacksmith shop that I
first sniffed that odor. As a youngster I watched him pump the forge. He used to thrill me as the
sparks flew off his emery wheel. Horseshoes by the dozens hung from the crossbeams in his
shop. Many a time I watched him pound out a red hot shoe on the anvil. He was always grimy,
but people loved him. Tom outgrew his job as smithy. He became a machinist. And one of the
best in the state. Way back in 1913 he made a complete car in his blacksmith shop for an uncle
of mine. The car ran for 17 years. And the motor today is probably running a corn sheller down
there. Tom was a prolific fellow. The last I heard he had 11 children. The Deans had lean days,
too. Bread and molasses was often a good lunch for them. And the kids were usually a little
soiled. I couldnt help but picture Toms funeral last night. He wasnt much of a churchgoer,
but the funeral was probably held in the little Methodist church just a block from his shop. I
know that farmers for miles around attended. Some in overalls, some in black suits. Some in
stiff collars that were homestarched. A quartet probably sang Beautiful Isle of Somewhere
and Nearer, My God to Thee. Oh yes, and Rock of Ages. And the whole Dean family sat
in the front pews. And then they drove to the snowy cemetery. All of Magnolia grieved. And so
We had what was called the stockyards in Magnolia, a sort of corral or enclosure into which
farmers herded their cattle, hogs, and sheep fro shipment to market. The pens were adjacent to
the railroad and were always on our itinerary for two or three Saturdays during the spring. Wed
climb up on top of the pens where we could gaze down on the crowded animals below and watch
the men from the farms occasionally whack a stubbornly rebellious heifer over the rump to get
her into the pen or up the chute and into the cattle car on the tracks. There was little or no
conversation among us we were all busy thinking. I can remember some of the things that
turned over in my mind: the future of the sad-eyed cows below, their long, bumpy journey in the
jammed cattle cars, the sudden stopping and starting of the freight train, their wonderment at this
abrupt change from a green pasture to cruel imprisonment, and then sudden death. I thought
about the sure-footed brakeman as he grabbed one rung of the steel ladder at the end of the
freight car and swung gracefully aboard to complete the switching of the car into the rest of the
train. The engineer in his blue denim jacket and overalls and his striped cap with ling visor came
into my thoughts. Did he have kids our age? How did he get to be an engineer?
I had another kind of day-dream that provided a lot of excitement. Jimmy Dean, who was the
blacksmiths son, and I made a couple of racing cars, not the pushmobile type, these were
pedaled. Jimmys father Tom, gave us a lot of help in his blacksmith shop in getting together
the sprocket wheels and the chains, but we did most of the body and wheel work ourselves. Each
car had a different design, but both were low, underslung, racy. A great spirit of competition
developed between Jimmy and me. We ran the cars on the sidewalks and most of the time wed
ride along side by side. Then thered be that moment when the sidewalk would no longer be a
sidewalk, it would be a race track or speedway. Jimmy would become, was it Bob Berman and
his Blitzen Benz, and Id become Barney Oldfield. Wed lean over the side of the car, peer at
the rival, take our corners dangerously.
I hadnt participated in any kind of Christmas program since I was a kid in Magnolia. At that
time Christmas programs seemed quite futile to me. We had them in what we called The Opera
House. If one were to examine all the offerings made from the stage of that building it would
be pretty difficult to find any operas among the attractions. The Town Hall would have been a
much more appropriate name for the edifice. Civic pride probably entered into the picture and
everybody always referred to the building as the Opera House. There was a strange odor in it
too. A kind of musty odor. It never had been thoroughly cleaned. The seats were of a
collapsible kind that you could haul up on the stage if the Modern Woodmen wanted to hold a
dance. And that was when the kids enjoyed the Opera House most. The floor was always
slippery and we used to run and slide sometimes he length of the hall. Well, that was where we
used to hold our Christmas programs. The ladies in charge were pretty shrewd girls, too. Every
kid in town had to have a part in the program. That was to insure attendance. Public speaking,
in those days, had had very little emphasis in the Magnolia curriculum. I remember Elsie Dean,
the blacksmiths daughter, would get up and sort of roll her dress in between her fingers and
look down at the floor and knock her knees together and then pause. Fortunately, there was
always a prompter in the first row who had the book from which our recitations had been taken.
After this prompter had given Elsie the first word of her poem, Elsie sailed right in to a
whirlwind finish. It was a little sing-songy, but Elsie was giving it her all.
Then there was Charlie Kleine. Charlie was a farm boy who lived right at the edge of town.
Charlies pants always had a peculiar fit. I suppose it was due largely to that fact that they were
made over from his fathers old ones. The legs seemed to fit all right, but Charlies mother
used to have quite a time in re-shaping the seat. The word droopy hadnt achieved prominence
then, otherwise Im sure Charlie would have had a nickname. He used to do a pretty fair job on
his recitation though. His voice was clear, his pitch good, and he needed very little help from the
woman with the book in the front row. He gave the impression, however, that hed be darned
glad when he got to the last line of the last verse. I think thats why he rushed it a little.
A young Norwegian boy named Olaf Helling made the rest of us envious when he recited his
piece. Ole was big for his age. He used to work on the railroad section gang in the summertime,
which will give you some idea. Ole couldnt see much sense in a kid his size reciting poetry,
even though it was about Christmas. Ole wasnt poetry minded. He knew he had to take part in
the program to get a bag of Christmas candy at the end of the exercises, so he plunged in with a
cocky attitude. He feet were apart, his hand folded behind his back, his chin up. He never
looked at the audience, he looked through it.
Well, up until last Wednesday it had never been very clear in my mind why we, as youngsters,
had to go through the torture of those Christmas programs every year. I know now. They were
staged primarily for Elsie Deans mother and father, for Charlie Kleines parents, for Mr. and
Mrs. Helling. Elsie Dean was an Elsie Janis as far as her folks were concerned. Charlie Kleine
was a Maurice Evans in the making. Ole Hellings father was picturing his son in Washington.
The program my boys were in opened with a choir number. Some 25 boys came marching down
the aisle dressed in little vestments with red ascot ties at the neck. They sang Silent Night.
Frankly, it got me. Clear, boyish voices. Heads tipped back for the high notes. I got a lump in
my throat as big as a grapefruit. Had to wipe my eyes four of five times. My middle one sings
worse than I do, but he was a Nelson Eddy to me that day.
I regret that its taken 30 years to give me this understanding. Today I doff my hat to the
teachers and the instructors and the coaches who create and produce Christmas programs. I think
it was Bernard Shaw who once wrote, I tell you theres a wall 10 feet thick and 10 miles high
between parent and child. Well, that wall is thinner and lower after you watch your own
youngster in a Christmas program, no matter how miserable the performanceI wonder what
ever happened to Elsie Dean.
My Home Town
Three small voices shouted similar protests this week, protests I cant ignore. Gist of them went
something like this: Whats the matter with you, boy, have you gone Big Shot on us? You did
a column and a half on What Is Minneapolis? Have you forgotten your old home town? How
about a column at least on What Is Magnolia? We feel neglected. And we hope youll
consider our request. That I will. Ill do it, not only for Magnolia, but for every home town
which Magnolia symbolizes.
My home town is the musty smell of the State Bank, the Methodist Church, the Post Office Its
the long line of freshly washed clothes flapping in the Monday morning breeze. Its the wild
cucumber vine that shaded the back porch. Its the play tents pitched in back yards, the neighbor
mowing his lawn in his undershirt, the rows of radishes and onions and lettuce and peas and
beans and sweet corn in everybodys garden. Its the kids playing run-sheep-run. Its the
homemade trapeze hanging from an elm limb and a hammock stretched in the shade between two
Its the Ladies Aid meeting in the church and the Royal Neighbors at a quilting bee and the
Modern Woodmen meeting on the second floor of the opera house for their secret initiation. Its
the Lady Ann and chocolate kings and coconut bars and gingersnap cookies in their metal boxes
enticing customers in the general store. Its the farmers in the spring coming to town in their
knee-high rubber boots. Its the lightning rods protecting nearly every other home and barn.
Its kids riding in coaster wagons with the tongue of the wagon bent back, a knee pushed up
against the front of the wagon and the other leg outside pumping like mad.
A home town is sweet peas climbing a trellis, and peonies and dahlias and hollyhocks abloom.
Its the blacksmith bent over an emery wheel sharpening a plow share. Its a horseshoe game a
block off Main Street. Its the column of white smoke coming out of chimneys on a nippy
January morning. Its the rattle of empty cream cans in the farmers car as he drives back
home. Its the smell of hemp rope in the hardware store and kids learning to walk on stilts and
men gossiping in the barber shop as they wait for their Saturday night shave.
Its the twinkling of street lights that hang in the middle of each intersection and little girls
looking for the right piece of glass for their game of hop scotch, and the excitement of a Sunday
afternoon ballgame between your home town and the town nine miles to the west. Its the drug
store with its huge ceiling fan cooling the chocolate ice cream soda patrons. Its the lawn swing
that creaked and toppled over in the slightest wind. Its the auction when the family next door
moves away and the tears of life long friends who had to part.
Its the cluttering of townsfolk as they gather in the post office for the five oclock mail. Its
the curiosity of a new family moving into town and the Sunday School picnic in a farmers grove
just west of town with its homemade potato salad in varying shades of yellow, its row of
homemade cakes and a dozen freezers of homemade ice cream. Its the band of gypsies with
their scrawny horses and unkempt kids in covered wagons. Its kids wandering through a
pasture on the way to the swimming hole, undressing as they approached.
Its the mobs of people from miles around in town for the Saturday night show and dance
following in the hall or pavilion. Its that walk out the railroad track of a Sunday afternoon,
skipping over ties, throwing rocks at telephone poles, looking for violets along the tracks. Its
watching father, with a screen protector over his head and a smoke in his hand, tending the bees
in the back yard. Its playing hide and seek in the lumber yard, and climbing barefoot in the bins
of wheat in the Farmers Elevator.
Its the jostling and whispering and pulling small pranks during a Sunday School class. Its
walking in middle of the road and whistling as loud as you can all the way home after dark. Its
the periodic drill of the volunteer fire department, the star of the town marshal, the complete
disarray in the local newspaper office. Its the memory of the days when the telephone operator
was always referred to as central. Its the softness of cistern water, and the dishes on the
sideboard and in the china closet.
Its the confusion of having 25 relatives in for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Its lugging a
five gallon can of kerosene with a potato in the snout home from the store. Your home town is
where a nine oclock curfew frequently wakes up a third of the residents. Its blue flies buzzing
against an attic window and corn fields a block from main street and woodsheds as neatly kept as
living rooms or pantries.
Yes, your home town is these little things and many more. Its your first source of pride, the
fountain from which flow so many of our dearest and choicest memories. No, Magnolia, I
hadnt forgotten you, nor will I ever. You aint big, but youre precious!
Reading Habits (Note - This is a Spoof)
(Written in response to a request from John Sherman, the drama and music critic for the
newspaper, for a paragraph of two on the book Cedric read as a boy that made The Most
Lasting Impression, to be run in a Sundays Tribune Special, along with some other
To understand my early reading habits you first must have a picture of my boyhood in Magnolia.
I went to school with Jimmy and Harry Dean, Mike and Ole Helling, the Kienast boys and a
kid named Kenneth Pemberton. Jimmy and Harry were the blacksmiths boys; the Helling
boys father worked for the railroad; the Kienast boys were from a farm south of town and
Kenneth Pembertons father was the rural mail man. While those kids were busy making darts
and pushmobiles and drowning gophers in their holes and playing mumbletypeg, do you know
where I was? I was in the Magnolia public library. Its the building with the two lions out in
front if youre ever down that way. My mother always said that my penchant for the Magnolia
public library was due to Annie Wallace, a girl about my age who used to spend a lot of time
there too. Mother was wrong. Come to think of it, that Annie wasnt such a bad dish. It was
Annie who was really responsible for what we call the museum in the Magnolia public library.
Guys like John D. Rockefeller or Andy Mellon had never heard of the Magnolia public library.
As a matter of fact, you could drive 12 or 15 miles north, up around Lismore, and you could find
people who had never heard of Magnolia. As a result, Rockefeller or Mellon or the Ford
Foundation had done little or nothing for our library. We had a periodical room, a reference
room, a reading room, and the two lions out front and that was about it until Annie Wallace
started the museum.
The kids I mentioned earlier - The Deans, the Hellings, the Kienasts and Pemberton and I and
some of the girls in town, including Annie, on a Sunday afternoon took long walks along the
railroad tracks. Sometimes wed head west towards Luverne, or on occasions wed head east
towards Adrian. While the rest of them were picking up rocks off the tracks and heaving them at
the insulators (we called them monkies) atop the telephone poles, Annie and I lagged behind.
Annie picked up any pretty rocks she saw granite stones or quartz, any specimen with an
unusual grain in it. Now and then Annie would find a peculiarly shaped stone and hold it out in
her white, soft hand and say to me, Do you know who that looks like? And Id tell her I
didnt. Then shed giggle and say softly, You. Im sure she didnt say it to hurt me. I think
she was just teasing. Well, Annie would gather maybe 25 or 30 of those odd stones on a Sunday.
Shed take them home, wash and polish them and then on Monday morning shed stop by the
Magnolia public library and in a room down in the basement shed lay them out in old dishes her
mother had given her and then label each rock. That was the beginning of our museum.
Annie made another valuable contribution to the museum. Annies fathers name was Nick. He
was quite a gardener, but the only thing he ever raised was gourds. Not a radish or a cucumber or
a potato or a bean nothing but gourds. I never could figure that out. He didnt even use them
for drinking cups. And Im sure they never went into anything like preserves or jelly or pie
filling. Every fall, though, Annie wandered through her fathers gourd patch and shed find
maybe a half dozen of the homeliest gourds in the whole patch. And they were homely! They
looked like the necks on old, very old turkeys you know, mottled and wrinkled and crooked.
Annie washed the gourds and then took them down to the museum in the Magnolia public
library. They may be there today for all I know. On Sunday, Annie and I ducked the others and
we walked north of town, maybe two or three miles. You know what Annie stumbled onto? An
old neck yoke. It was in the ditch alongside the road. She made me lug it back. She put that in
the museum. If its still there, its probably the only one in that whole area. You may think that
Im far afield here. Im really not. I wanted you to know the background of my Magnolia
public library chum. She was more than a chum. She was a pal.
Now, while the Dean-Helling-Kienast-Pemberton group were doing what reading they did in
their boyhood, they were spending their leisure time on such books as The Rover Boys Afloat
or Tom Swift in Caves of Ice or perhaps one of Horatio Algers volumes like Paul and the
Peddler, or Phil the Fiddler, or Sink or Swim, or Poor but Proud. And where was the
Adams boy? I was in the Magnolia public library with the classics! I remember so well the
winters. School let out a 4. Id hurry home and empty the ashes out of the kitchen range and the
hard coal burner. Then Id lug two buckets of hard coal and one of soft from the woodshed into
the kitchen and chop up enough kindling for the kitchen fire in the morning. Those were my
chores. Then Id rush back to the Magnolia public library and bury myself with the classics.
Youve asked a pretty pointed question Sherman. What book, when I was a boy, made The
Most Lasting Impression on me? Do you think its fair to me to select one author out of a
group like Pascal, Whitman, Chaucer, Hume, Luther, Descartes, Cellini, Macaulay, T. Carlyle,
Homer or a dozen or two more and say that one book by that particular man made The Most
Lasting Impression on me? Ill tell you what Ill do Ill name the book just to show you
Im no coward. It was Plutarchs Lives. And Ill tell you why.
Ill wager that fast Book Set you run around with has forgotten that it was Plutarchs Lives
that gave us the story of Cleopatra and her asp. Ill bet you another thing. Ill bet you always
thought it was Anthony and Cleopatra. Right? Well, Mr. Smart One, it was Antony and
Cleopatra. Unfortunately the book started me on a very nasty habit. I started reading
Plutarchs Lives from the back. And you know, to this day, I never pick up a magazine
without starting to read it from the back. It was on the last two pages of Plutarchs Lives ,
(which , of course, was the beginning for me) that I found the account of Cleopatras visit to
Caesar and how she wanted to be buried with Antony, how Cleo was 39, Antony 53, how she had
reigned 22 years as queen and 14 as Antonys partner. But it was the asp business that intrigued
me. Remember how she later wrote to Caesar and asked to be buried with Antony? First he was
going to go to her himself, but he finally sent a couple of messengers
They found Cleo lying on a bed of gold and set out in all her royal ornaments - dead. Some think
the asp was brought in with some figs and covered with leaves and when Cleo saw it, she stuck
out her bare arm to be bitten. Others say she kept the asp in a vase and that she vexed it with a
golden spindle till it seized her arm. It was also said she carried poison in a hollow bodkin, about
which she wound her hair. But there were two faint puncture marks on her arm. Caesar liked
that theory best. Anyway, he buried her with Antony in royal splendor and magnificence. Do
you see how tame Tom Swift in Caves of Ice was for me and how much fun Annie and I had
in the Magnolia public library? Run along now, Sherman, and twist your own arm for awhile.
His Home in Magnolia
I had the legend, "George. Washington Slept Here, brought home to me in a personal and very
minor way this week. Somebody sent me a tear-sheet from the Announcer, a Luverne, Minn.,
publication. Luverne is the County Seat of Rock County, the gateway to Magnolia from the west.
Tucked in the want ad section of the paper was this advertisement: "For Rent the house that
Cedric Adams lived in. Completely furnished, semi-modern, two-bedroom bungalow in Magnolia.
Will give year's lease. Available on or before Sept. l. See Jerry Davis, Magnolia." May I draw
from memory today and say just a word about that house to any prospects that might be considering
it. I lived in the house from age 2 until I was 12, so I know it well. And I still love it. I haven't
been in it for 43 years, but I imagine the changes through those years have been few.
The house is located on the main highway that runs from Worthington through Adrian, Magnolia,
Luverne, Beaver Creek and on into Sioux Falls. It's just a block from Main Street, so the shopping
center is within easy walking distance.
Note Cedric goes into describing the house and lot in detail from here, covering a full page.
I Remember Mamma
Shes been gone a dozen years, but my memory of her will linger always. Mamma as a girl was
very pretty. A wavy-haired brunet with hazel eyes and an hour glass figure, she was at her best in
a picture hat, elbow length gloves, a circular skirt that touched her ankles. She was a smiley one
too. There was always laughter in her eyes, a kind of bubbling quality to her speech. She wasnt
the effervescent type. What she said always had meaning. Father was a small town banker and
mamma helped him in the bank. She had been a business girl before she was married. Worked
for one of the elder Daytons in a store in Worthington, Minn. She didnt want to give up all of
her business career after she was married which was why she enjoyed doing some of the
bookkeeping and a little of the teller work at the bank. Farmers who came in with deposits or
checks to cash always remained at the teller window a little longer than really was necessary
because they enjoyed talking with her. She seemed to carry on a kind of harmless flirtation with
them. It was an act, but they didnt recognize it as such.
Mamma was a born organizer. She did a lot with the Ladies Aid. If I remember correctly, she
put herself in charge. ..Shed tell Mrs. Helling and Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Rolph and Mrs.
Kienast and Mrs. Phinney what to do..
Note Cedric goes on to tell about his mother and his other relatives.
Weekend Visit to Magnolia
This weekend I visited Magnolia, my old home, for the first time in, I guess, 20 years. Magnolia
is a typical small town. Its down in the heart of rich Rock County, its population now is 201,
its probably like your home town if you came from one of the smaller communities. Well, I got
the surprise of surprises. And you will too, if you ever go back to yours. Magnolia has gone, of
all things, streamlined. On the way into Rock County, we spotted dozens of threshing rigs. Even
that scene has changed. Remember how in August the old steam threshing engine with its
billows of black smoke, its nearby water wagon and coal tender used to supply the power for the
separator? It was one of the most picturesque of all rural scenes. The old steam engine is no
more. Tractors supply the power. More economical, I suppose, but not half so pretty.
My boys had never seen a threshing crew at work so we drove into a farmyard where they were
threshing wheat. There in the yard was the same old wash bench that the field hands use before
every meal. The roller towel was still tacked to a tree. The buckets of water and the wash basin
were about the same. Guess what was missing? It was the bar of black tar soap. You know
what threshing hands are using now? The same white toilet soap that the movie stars use and
endorse. Thats what I mean by streamlining.
Just outside of Magnolia there used to be a spring alongside the road. It came out of the hillside
and somebody had put a cast iron pipe in to catch the water. The spring still flows. But that too
has been streamlined. The WPA has made a sort of rock garden out of the old spring. Fancy
slabs of rock have been symmetrically cemented around it, gravel paths lead from the paved
highway down to the spring. More practical, perhaps, but the natural beauty has gone.
Even old Tom Dean, the blacksmith at Magnolia has come under the modern influence. The tub,
the forge, the blowers, made famous in The Village Smithy piece, have gone from Toms
shop. In fact, Tom no longer calls it a blacksmith shop. Its Deans Machine Shop now. Tom
says theres hardly a horse left in Magnolia now and so with the shoeing business gone he had to
change too. Now its piston re-boring and welding and that sort of thing. And with the change,
Tom even discarded his old leather apron and his grimy overalls with his streamlining. He was
dressed in fresh denim.
Small town celebrations have changed a lot. Remember the Field and Festival Days of awhile
back? I recall the old merry-go-round that was brought in and run by a steam engine. Thats
gone. The climax in the old days to all municipal celebrations was the balloon ascension where
they filled a huge canvas bag with gas generated from a fire they build beneath the bag. And
once filled, the bag was released with its rider attached to a little seat at the bottom of the huge
bag. No such daring now.
Aunt Sarah, who is now 87, has gone streamline with the rest of her surroundings. The roller
towel that hung next to the cistern pump in the kitchen has been taken down. A roll of paper
toweling has taken its place. An electric range is doing the work of the old wood-burning stove.
Her milk and cream come in bottles instead of little pails and theyre kept in the electric
refrigerator instead of down on the basement floor.
Another thing I missed. Do you remember on the old gravel roads how cars or teams used to
clatter the boards and crossing a bridge was almost a thrill? Those old iron bridges and all gone
now. White concrete has supplanted them. Pretty, sure. But no fun. The noon train has lost
most of its glamour. It used to be one of those short steam engines with a long smokestack, a
shiny brass bell, a baggage car, and two coaches. Bright yellow coaches. Its a diesel now with
homely stripes across the front, a harsh whistle, one car. The shiny blue serge of the train crew
has been changed to a striped denim outfit now. The old saloon (Note- this was Carlsons
Saloon) in Magnolia has been changed into a residence. And this town of 201 now has its
cocktail lounge with overstuffed seats and venetian blinds.
These are just a few of the changes. So, if youre planning a return trip to your hometown, get
yourself set for some startling surprises. Whatever you do, dont long for the scenes of your
childhood because I dont think youll find them there any more.