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Column: Fritz's Christmas story is one that bears repeating

WORTHINGTON -- Christmas is a time for twice-told and thrice-told tales. Oh, and even more. How many times through the passing of 20 centuries do you guess the story of the birth of Christ in the stable at Bethlehem has been told? This would be a total beyond comprehension.

I have not seen many movies more than one time. The other night TCM had a 70th anniversary showing of, "Casablanca." I was astonished by a man saying he has watched "Casablanca" 30 times, or more.

Through the passing Christmas seasons I have watched "It's a Wonderful Life" several times, although I believe not even 10 times. I have watched "Wonderful Life" more times than I have watched any other movie. These days I am alert for showings of, "A Christmas Story."

Of course I know the plot of "Christmas Story." When I see the film now, I study the details and backgrounds, from the coats and caps the kids wear, to the cars, to the box of Oxydol in the kitchen, to the puffs and eruptions of the coal-burning furnace. "Christmas Story" is a marvelous re-creation of the 1940s. Oh -- and if Ralphie ever came to me for support in his campaign for a Red Ryder B.B. gun, I would say, "Kid, you'll shoot your eye out."

Incidentally, those Red Ryder B.B. guns undoubtedly were popular through the local region. The Red Ryder comic strip was included in the first edition of the Daily Globe and it was a popular Globe feature through many years.

One of my personal favorite stories from the Christmas season is the story of Walter Mondale and the Worthington Christmas decorations. This is among the thrice-told tales.

Walter Mondale -- Minnesota attorney general, U.S. senator from Minnesota, 42nd vice president of the United States, 1984 Democratic candidate for president of the United States, U.S. ambassador to Japan -- Walter Mondale once said:

"I spent my boyhood years in all the major metropolitan areas of southern Minnesota -- Ceylon, Heron Lake, Elmore. All of them." Mondale's 85th birthday will be Jan. 5.

In those years when Ralphie was campaigning for his B.B. gun, Walter, son of the Rev. Theodore and Claribel Mondale, was living at Heron Lake. His father was pastor of the United Methodist church that stands still at the corner of 11th Street and Fourth Avenue. The vice president-to-be was attending classes day by day in Heron Lake's marvelous old castle school.

Part of Highway 60 between Heron Lake and Worthington was still a gravel road in that time. Walter's memory is of his family climbing in their vintage automobile in dark nights of Christmas seasons, just as Ralphie's family climbed in their car to find a Christmas tree. The Mondales rolled along with a plume of gravel dust lifting behind them to do some Christmas shopping at Worthington. They turned down Humiston Avenue and parked along 10th Street to shop the five-and-dimes -- Hasle's, the C&L -- and the big department stores, Wolff's, Habichts, Silverberg's.

Walter -- Fritz -- has a vivid memory of Worthington's Christmas decorations. He recalls them with wonder, for they were a wonder indeed.

Worthington bought thick ropes of evergreen boughs woven and wired together. It was given to the park department and city street crews to raise the ropes and to secure them. The evergreen decorations were raised above and across 10th Street from curb to curb. Through the ropes were strung cords of red, green, yellow and blue lights. A wreath of evergreens was hung from the center of each long strand. There were 12 of them, four in each block from Second Avenue to Fifth Avenue. In addition, ropes of evergreen were twined around the poles of the downtown street lights. Tenth Street became a Street of Christmas.

There were few in all of Worthington who did not make at least one evening visit to their downtown in the Christmas season. And, like the Mondales, there were people from towns all through the area who joined the crowds. There was actually a scent of evergreen in the air. The hundreds of colored bulbs cast a special glow over the scene.

Like everyone, the boy in the crowd who would become America's vice president was enchanted.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column runs each Saturday.