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Remembering an Old Piece of Film: Rebuilding Our Street

Rebuilding our Woodbury street brings back memories of my Grandfather, "sidewalk superintendent"

“Back in the day”, my Grandpa Henry Bernard (born on a farm in Quebec in 1872) spent most of his adult life in Grafton ND.

He came to Grafton area with a first grade education and carpentry as a trade but had a particular gift for figuring out how mechanical things work. For years he was chief engineer of the local flour mill, and long-time volunteer and President of the local fire department and the guy, the Grafton history notes, who drove the first motorized fire truck to Grafton from somewhere.

Both my Grandpa’s had inquiring minds – Grandpa Busch was a farmer with a couple of patents – but he didn’t have easy access to the streets of any big town.

Grandpa Bernard did, and in retirement he loved to “kibitz” or be a “sidewalk superintendent” in his town of several thousand. Most times it was on his bench on the front stoop of their tiny home at 738 Cooper Avenue. Sometimes it was watching the action elsewhere in town.

There exists a wonderful film clip from a day in 1949 which includes him watching a crew lay a concrete section of street in Grafton (here, beginning at about 4:15. He even merits a subtitle!). In the fashion of the day, he was dressed up. He was a common man, but when you went out, you dressed up!

Paving that street in Grafton was the ‘street theater’ of the day!

I think of that vignette because for the last week or so the crews have been in our neighborhood rebuilding our street – the first time in about 20 years.

Such projects are essential nuisances to folks on the street, but a change in routine.

Kibitzing a few days ago, a neighbor and I were wondering why they replaced some sections of curb and not others, so we went to look (cracks were the villains, mostly).

Some unlucky folks had the entryway to their driveway blocked for a few days because their section of curb had to be replaced.

As I write, the street is prepared, and repaving is about to be begin, but early Tuesday morning came another inconvenience. The neighbors across the street – the ones who couldn’t get into their driveway for a few days – had another unfortunate happening.

Early on June 19 came those violent winds, and one of their trees blew over, blocking that driveway again….

Its all better now. The tree was rapidly removed, and life goes on.

We have assorted complaints, of course, but work crews are doing their work very efficiently, and somebody somewhere in our communities did the planning, letting of contracts, etc., etc., etc. None of us had to worry about this planning and implementation.

Yes, we’ll have to pay an assessment, but it’s a small price to pay as part of our community.

And a bonus is the chance to re-view Grandpa Bernard in action at 77 years of age, now 63 years ago.

I wonder what he could have been able to do had he been able to pursue an education.

He died in 1957 when I was 17.

I’ll visit his and Grandma’s and others graves in Grafton and Oakwood ND next Monday.

Thanks for the memories.

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