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A Treasured Autograph Book From Days Gone By

Inside the book cover written in pencil in my best 12-year-old penmanship: Linda Lampsa, Rte. 1, Box 91, Gilbert, Minnesota. Our family had gone on a car trip, in our ’50s green Chevrolet, all the way to Deer River to visit an old friend. And my parents had bought me my very own autograph book at a shop in nearby Grand Rapids.
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That was 55 years back in time, but the memory is clear still, coming back to me upon finding the treasure among my souvenirs.
How well I remember asking friends and relatives if they would sign my book. It went with me every day on the school bus, and when people came over to visit, they would get asked too. Back then I was painfully shy, and I got even quieter when asking people for their autographs — especially if it was a boy I had a crush on, of which there were many.
In those days the messages were so harmless: “When you get married and have twins, don’t come to borrow my safety pins. My pants will fall off.” This one was signed by a classmate, Phyllis Biondich Lahti, who would die of cancer just eight years later in her early 20s. And a similar greeting was on the first page from a girl I rode the school bus with. She passed away this year, and her nephew told me she had succumbed to Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I would take the autograph book with me to camp just down Highway 4 from our Lakeland home. How lonely I would be, and would write letters home, though I’d be home before the letters reached their destination. There in the autograph book was a message from my new-found friend Charlene Riemath, now Char Luoma of Britt. In her best handwriting she had penned, “If I was a bunny and had a tail of fluff, I’d sit on your dresser and be your powder puff,” followed by “I saw you in the ocean, I saw you in the sea. I saw you in the bathtub — oops, pardon me!” And a message to a “real swell camper” from an Eveleth girl named Cheryll (with two l’s) Baliman, now Intihar, followed by a message from my little brother, in his oversized 8-year-old handwriting, “When you get married and have twins, don’t come to my house for diapers ’cause all I got is pins.” Then a page on which my sixth grade teacher, Miss Kummer, had written a lovely note that ended with, “God love you.”
And leave it to my best buddy, Karen Haenke Guimont, to write this sentimental note: “I live by a lake. Drop in sometime.” And from my Lakeland neighbor Ricky Fuglie — two years my senior and the secret object of my affections — came this: “Roses are red, violets are blue. If you went to college, they’d call it P.U.” Not exactly a love note, but I would read it many times over, thinking he surely must have shared the feelings I had. Ricky, a very nice guy, died this year. He was just 69. His sister Karen Fuglie was in my class and had also written in my autograph book: “I (picture of “auto”) cry, I “auto” laugh, I “auto” sign your “auto”graph.” From another neighbor, Jerry Nokleby — how good-looking and grownup he was — came this message that set my young heart a-flutter: “To a good neighbor and real swell girl.” In a note in my book, my cousin Bob Lampson of St. Louis, Mo., had written in 1961, “Robert Lampson, most trusted name since 1934.” He’s 80 now, drove a cab in St. Louis more than 50 years, and we still keep in touch.
Near the end of the book, I found treasured messages from my parents. On Aug. 13, 1960, Mother had written, “I hope we will always be friends and I do wish you the best of luck now and in the future. Be good to yourself. Love, Mom.” And from my Pop, in his bold, flowing penmanship: “Thomas Lampsa to Linda Lampsa on her graduation to 7th grade.” Precious memories, recorded in an autograph book from long ago. They will be kept in the heart always.

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