Regret weighs heavy with loss of luster and charm

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Posted 4/03/18 (Tue)

Passing Dreams
By Steve Andrist

Back in the day, the weight-of-the-world decision for me was bell bottoms or blue jeans and my biggest worry was whether I could use the family car to go to the dance at the Noonan Community Center.
It was my dad’s job to decide what kind of car he might let me use. Only the luckiest kids had their own cars in those days – the parking lot at the high school was mostly empty. The rest of us bummed rides or begged our dads for the keys.
Ever show up to pick up your date in a Ford LTD or a Dodge Polara?
A Mustang or Charger would have been nice, but anything with four wheels would do, as long as the tank was full enough to get out to your best girl’s farm or over to Noonan and back.
My dad always had Fords or Dodges in those days. Not because he felt they were the best cars on the market, but because Ingwalson’s and Bjella’s were among his best advertisers in The Journal.
Paul Ingwalson sold Fords, and the accompanying Mercurys and Lincolns, and Norman Bjella sold the Dodge-Chrysler-Plymouth line.
I asked once why we never had Chevys with Tuftedal Chevrolet just around the corner.
That’s when I learned my first lesson about small-town economics, even if I didn’t thoroughly understand the “dance with the one who brought you” story.
Ingwalson’s and Bjella’s believed in advertising in the local paper, Tuftedal’s didn’t.
My dad drove Fords and Dodges.
Still, even as a clueless kid, I was captivated by the building where Tuftedal’s sold their Chevys and made countless repairs.
Its sleek white exterior with round front corners, big plate glass showroom windows and glass block accents provided distinctive ‘50s design that was rare for small town North Dakota.
I thought it was pretty cool, even if I rarely stepped foot inside.
Things change.
Not long after the last Silverado rolled out the doors the building began falling into disrepair.
Many times after the dawn of Y2K our daily walks would take us past the building and my bride and I would lament that the charm and luster had been replaced by cracked siding, peeled paint and gathering junk.
Occasionally I would let my mind wander to what could happen if only some deep pockets could find value in restoring that distinctive design.
Of course, the rural population drain was in full force and there were no deep pockets to step in.
In reality, that wanderlust probably never, regrettably, had much chance.
Now, it seems, it’s too late.
The building’s owner has announced he wants to walk away from it, leaving it to public ownership in exchange for the unpaid back taxes. Whether the county will even take it is the next question on the table. Returning it to its once-proud position in the community isn’t even a glimmer in a dreamer’s eye.
Meanwhile, the building where Norman Bjella once sold Chryslers has long since been demolished following a fire, and Paul Ingwalson’s place has been repurposed several times over.
There’s nowhere left to buy Fords, Chryslers, Chevys or anything else.
Things change.
And yet the parking lot at the high school is full.

Set your DVRs
This is likely the last week when you’ll be able to veg at the TV without the intrusion of political name-calling and hatchet-wielding.
A couple weeks back, North Dakota Democrats settled on their slate of candidates for the November general election. This weekend in Grand Forks, Republicans will finalize their slate of candidates.
After that, a bunch of normally kind and considerate North Dakotas will undergo personality changes that bring out the worst as they launch mean-spirited campaign ads aimed at tearing down their opponents, who also are normally kind and considerate.
It’s enough to make you buy DVR service so you can seamlessly skip past the commercials.