Turn, turn, turn

Harry Welty

All Kansans (except  for the border ruffians) were Jayhawks before KU appropriated the bird to become its mascot.

Changed my mind. I’ll do tainted elections another day.

One day back in 2014 my Pandora channel was preset to the Byrds when an old favorite got queued up. It prompted a post “Turn Turn Turn” not long after I rejoined the Duluth School Board after a decade long hiatus and a proverbial battle against City Hall. The song took me back to the southern end of Tornado Alley which I’ve never fully let go of after spending my first 12 years as a Jayhawk.

Don’t bother reading the original post. It’s a mess. I’d loved the Byrd’s rendition of Mr. Tambourine Man by Duluth’s Bob Dylan but the homage to Seeger was a step up from that. It was figuratively and literally Biblical.

I moved to Minnesota at the end of sixth grade in an era of 7-9 junior high schools. Nostalgia for the good old days and I were not strangers until I moved on to senior high. Each summer my family stopped in Topeka for a couple days usually at the beginning of a major summer odyssey. My Dad took advantage of his teacher’s summer off to take his three kids through great swaths of the 50 states. Its because of this that I tell everyone that I’ve been everywhere for 10 minutes. I was only left Hawaii, a tough drive, to pick up on my own.

Our Topeka stops were short. My Dad’s Mother, “Nana,” remained but had to buy a new house when the home her father built was blown to smithereens by a tornado. See: Gone with the Wind on Snowbizz.com.

My Mother’s father, George Robb, sold his home shortly after our departure and moved to the “Presbyterian Manor.” I often tried to check in with my old next door neighbor of five years Becky P. I’d always been a little in awe of the tomboy and smartest kid in the class. She taught me how to play catch. I only rarely caught her on our visits back. I managed a meeting on my first trip back but it was awkward.

Asked if I wanted to go to a private dance party with her I gave a hesitant “sure.” As I would later gravitate to the new kids in my high school upon leaving Junior High, Becky had already moved on from our elementary school classmates to hobnob with a higher class of kids in Boswell Junior. I’d been scheduled to attend my mother’s old school just before we moved north. I even got a tour of it my last week in elementary school.

But this private dance in a basement with a Wurlitzer spinning discs and strangers who were not at all interested in me was excruciating. After ten or fifteen minutes I found Becky and told her I was going to leave. I’m sure she said all the right things to encourage me to stay and was exceedingly glad to be done with me.            

At the beginning of my senior year in high school I found myself with Becky P and Brian M. together. Brian was the oldest son of my parents close college friends. His father had been my dentist. He was the calmest and most reassuring man ever to place drills in a little kid’s mouth.

I was nothing out of the ordinary in high school but both Brian and Becky were the class presidents of their respective high schools. Becky attended the venerable Topeka High where my mother’s mother was a center on the girl’s basketball team. Brian, whose father had made their suburban home a shrine to Abraham Lincoln, attended a new baby boom high school in the burbs. I felt very pleased with myself for having brought the two of them together. I didn’t mind one bit how well they hit it off.

I’m sure we had an intense late adolescent discussion but all I recall was their intense fascination with the Byrd’s hit "Turn Turn Turn." I’d been a grudging Sunday school student at Westminster Presbyterian. Of the many student ribbons dangling from the ceiling with Bible passages memorized by children I had but one - the Lords Prayer. I said it before bedtime at my Dad’s insistence. I never even managed the Psalm 23. Without a melody I had no interest in memorization.

But the two school presidents had been better Sunday school students than I. They knew the lyrics came from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. That’s one of the Old Testament’s “wisdom books.” Jewish tradition attributes its authorship to King Solomon who got to build the First Temple because his father King Trump…er…David, was forbidden to build it because he was a sexaholic.  

To every thing turn, turn, turn There is a season turn, turn, turn And a time to every purpose under HeavenA time to be born, a time to die A time to plant, a time to reap A time to kill, a time to heal A time to laugh, a time to weep

The lyric "Turn Turn Turn" was peace monger Seeger’s invention. The litany of the Seasons was the Bible’s. I love how Peace-nicks have managed to use the good book to indict the religiously pious who have always relied on the Bible to justify slavery and warfare. And yet these lyrics are not entirely beatific. There is a “A time to kill……”            

No longer pining for Kansas I was amused to learn that Brian disappointed all the girl’s at his high school by inviting his fellow president from Topeka High, Becky P to be his date at the Senior Prom. To every season turn, turn, turn. PS. There eventually came a time for even me to dance. I was asked out to a Sadie Hawkins Day Dance in 10th grade. You might enjoy my old column “Shall we Dance” at Snowbizz.com.

Harry has been rereading 22 years worth of Reader columns in preparation for a book as he keeps his options open for a campaign for Congress. You may find evidence of his head exploding at lincolndemocrat.com.