There comes a time when it is easier to remember what happened years ago than to remember where in the heck you just set down your glasses or your car keys, or you call your grandchildren by the wrong name.

            Joey B. was at that age years before he should have been; but then, his memory failed him even the middle of a story,especially where names were concerned. When he couldn’t think of a name, he would start scratching the top of his head ala Stan Laurel. I found out just recently that Joey B and his memory was responsible for me thinking that Dick Van Dyke was kind of standoffish.

            Van Dyke was playing the lead in a touring company of THE MUSIC MAN. He got to the theater early for the first sound check and went downstairs to the stagehands’ room to introduce himself the hands. I was busy on stage so I wasn’t in the room at the time.

             Dick introduced himself and wanted to learn the names of the hands. As was his custom, Joey B. broke in and started his own conversation with Van Dyke.

            ‘Hey, I remember you. You had that show on TV. The one with that funny guy and that funny woman — always cracking jokes. And you had a wife that was pretty funny too. Can’t think of the name of that show though.’ He began to scratch the top of his head.

            Van Dyke tried to help him out. ‘It was called THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.’

            ‘NO! NO! Joey B. said in his best gruff voice. ‘That ain’t it.’ Now really stumped, he took off his glasses with his right hand and rubbed his eye. ‘I’ll remember it. I’ll remember.’

            At which point, Van Dyke threw up his arms, turned around and went back upstairs. Naturally, the hands that were present burst out laughing. Dick spent a lot of time in his dressing room during the run and seemed to avoid the stagehands. I can’t blame him after hearing the story of his meeting with Joey B. and his memory, and all these years I thought he was stuck up.  


Recently, the Bulletin Board had a lot of stories about people trying to think of the first thing they remembered. Here’s my story.       

How far back?

The Old Hand of Oakdale: “I guess my earliest memory was that of a corpse and a casket. In my mind, I still have a vivid picture of trying to reach up to grab the edge of the casket so I could pull myself into it. What led up to it and what occurred after was told to me by my mother years later.

“I was about 2, the only grandchild at the time — old enough to walk and talk, young enough so I couldn’t understand the concept of death. My favorite uncle, Gilbert, and the youngest in my mother’s family, was just 16 when he died of Sleeping Sickness.

“It was back in the day when wakes were often held in the home of the deceased. Gilbert was laid out in an open casket in his parents’ living room for three days and nights: three days of people paying their respects, bringing food and beverages, sitting around playing cards and talking to old friends and relatives, which on my mother’s side pretty much consisted of everyone in Mendota — both the village and the township and some of Eagan Town. The wake ended each night when the parish priest led the rosary. The visitors left, but most came back the next day.

“Mom and I stayed at her folks’ house during that time. I slept in a bed with my mother. Dad was coming in for the funeral from Lake Michigan, where he was working on the ice pack. On the first night, I managed to sneak out of the bed and go downstairs to where Uncle Gibby was ‘sleeping.’ Luckily, my mother noticed that I wasn’t in the bed and found me before I caused any trouble or somehow managed to achieve my goal.

“In spite of my mother trying to speak quietly and explain why I had to sleep with her and not Uncle Gibby, I did manage to wake everybody up with my loud screams demanding to sleep with Uncle Gibby.

“My earliest memory.”

Published in Bulletin Board  11/4/16

And that’s a wrap for today.

Oh, just found my glasses. They were on top of my head. Should have looked there first.




  1. Lovely story! I always liked Dick Van Dyke. What a talented dancer and goof-ball. I watched something recently where at 90-something, he was still dancing around and seemed bright and alert.

    • He is so talented and so athletic. What surprised me when i worked him, he’s not too tall and at that time of his life he was so skinny. I wish Joey B. had behaved. I think Van Dyke would have been fun to be around.

  2. I had to laugh at your first paragraph – you’re describing me!! I always liked Van Dyke too, I sometimes catch him on the ME TV Channel for Diagnosis Murder.

  3. Was that Joe Burmeister, Don? Your story was great as always. Have you ever missed a cue while writing up there in the booth? It reminded me of doing an episode of “Coach” where I was Jerry Van Dyke’s nephew or something. Short scene but of course it pays better and that’s why we come out here eventually. Anyway, the scene is a family reunion and the set is filled with people milling about, and the cameras are catching an exchange here and then one there, and we’re in front of the audience shooting, and suddenly a roar goes up. I turn around ant they’d talked Dick into walking through the scene just as a relative. Jerry laughed, but the audience went absolutely crazy. That’s when I realized what an icon he was. Nice guy.

    • That was Burmaster! Only Joe.
      I wish you could remember the name of that COACH episode. Never really watched that series; but I’d love to look it up.
      You asked if I ever missed a cue. I can’t remember ever missing one, but I do remember being late on one. It was Met Opera Week at Northrup. I was working the night gang at the Opera and the regular Guthrie shows plus rehearsal for one coming up. Getting by on about three hours sleep
      During a performance of the G’s LeRonde, I got the warn to Black Out. The scene ended with Helen Carey and Jeff Chandler getting in bed. Between the warn and the Go I dozed off. The SM hollered GO a couple times before I hit the button.
      I don’t think I was more than few beats late on the cue but to Jeff it seemed a lot longer. On stage Helen kept whispering to him that he had to continue the love making.
      Seconds after the BO, Jeff was on the backstage horn screaming at me for trying to change his life style. I could hear Helen laughing in the background.

  4. I forgot I even wrote that post. Just kidding, things from years ago, It’s what happened earlier today that’s slips my mind. And back at you, pardner. Have a very happy Christmas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s