From the Archives: Garrison Keillor's The News from Lake Wobegon - The Best of 1981

RETURN TO Lake Wobegon!

Everyone has a different Lake Wobegon story that they remember from the live A Prairie Home Companion broadcasts and call in or write to see if a specific story is available.  Well, they haven't been until now.  From the Archives is a deep dive into the archive, unearthing stories season by season and here is the collection featuring the stories from 1981.  Gathered here are all the stories for the full 1981 season covering the winter storms, the blooms of spring, summer picnics and celebrations, to storm winters and the arrival of Christmas.  In January, the Young People's Scripture Drill Tem competes and takes home awards.  On June 13th, we hear the first ever telling of the famous "Living Flag" story, recalling the most recent time Wobegonians attempted to form the American flag with their bodies, in 1936.  And in December, things are so quiet that Mrs. Mueller worries she might have missed the Second Coming!  A lot happens in the course of a year and these 21stories will have you enchanted and yearning for more.

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Mr. Keillor's tales of the fictional Lake Wobegon, Minn, its people and the businesses that "sponsor" the show are the ties that bind the show together.  Listeners share in the ups and (mostly) downs of the Lake Wobegon Whippets baseball team, study the menu of Dorothy's Chatterbox Cafe, wonder how Lake Wobegon's favorite daughter, Barbara Ann Bunson, is doing at the University of Minnesota, cheer the attributes of Powdermilk Biscuits (made from whole wheat grown in the rich botomlands of the Lake Wobegon valley by Norwegian bachelor farmers).  - Country Life 1980
When asked what made A Prairie Home Companion so special, many fans would answer that it was Garrison Keillor's ability to spin a story.  The radio show was first uplinked to the national grid in 1979 and as the show gained a larger audience, Garrison continued to fill out details of all the happenings in Lake Wobegon, his fictional hometown.  It was supposedly always "a quiet week in Lake Wobegon," but it's funny how much can happen during a year of quiet weeks . . . here are more specifics on each of the stories.

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Winter is here and it's getting cold so Clarence and Arlene decide to visit their daughter in Los Angeles.  Diane Norberg is elected Snow Queen at the high school and this causes strife within the Norberg family, especially when she comes home late.
The Scripture Drill Team finished as runner ups in the regional tournament.  Father Emil has the flu and Father Bill will be running mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility so it's going to be much longer.
It's one of those weeks with not much going on so chatter at the Chatterbox Cafe is fairly quiet.  The Luggars busted their big picture window which caused townsfolk to fill in the details of what happened and many thought Mr. Luggar grabbed it and threw it after she was reciting scripture he didn't like.  This leads to stories about Pastor Inqvuist and Clint Bunsen and talk of forgiveness.  It's also the time of year when the Norwegian bachelor farmers come into town.
The town council met and discussed a couple of topics including dogs who have been getting into other people's garbage and the debate about replacing the warming house which has blossomed many romances who write their names on the benches.
The ice is melting and the Sons of Knute automobile is on the ice for their contest to guess the date it sinks and the money raised will be used to replace the bench in front of Skoglund's Five and Dime.  Spring housecleaning is here and it is a major outburst of cleaning as the smells of smoking, dogs and the normal exhaust we all give off get to be too much.  
Lake Wobegon saw a good snowfall last night after a heat wave gave residents spring fever and had them planting their gardens, which you shouldn't do before baseball season.  They were itching to get started as gardening is a competitive sport in this town.  Gardening is a way for people who are new to town become full citizens.
Clarence and Arlene noticed that the odometer was about to turn over.  Father Emil turned 70 and imagined all the children from Our Lady school sang a medley of songs and then he heard the voice of God as all the children were leaving.
It's been an awfully quiet but a few things are going on including the Youth Recreation Center that Father Emil is pushing with a large swimming pool that started a debate on what is needed to occupy chilren's time now vs when we were young.  The Town Council discussed the fire department and how they handled the Howgy farm fire and Mr. Bjornson's big willow tree.
"I think the monologue was around 8 to 10 minutes for a long time.  I never did know how to get into it, and then I came up with that first line, which solved the problem so nicely . . . You can't imagine how liberating that is; to not have to go out on stage and explain why you're going to say this." - Garrison Keillor, 1987

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Weather is good and the beautiful gardens are coming up.  The real reason for having a garden is to have fresh vegetables and fresh sweet corn.  The Whippets begin their season on Memorial Day at Wally Old Hard Hands stadium and the team doesn't seem to have begun spring training yet.  
It's Memorial Day and the Rock Park Cemetery has gorgeous views but Bud wishes the cemetery didn't have so many rocks and uses some dynamite to dig Mrs. Berges plot which caused concern among many residents and remembering the fallen.
The gardens are doing great this week with some lettuce and spinach.  If people knew what fresh greens tasted like, we wouldn't have any grass.  Flag Day is coming and Garrison explains the 'Living Flag,' where everyone lines up to form a human flag.
Fireworks will liven things up since it's been pretty quiet lately.  The volunteer fire department has taken over the fireworks from the Sons of Knute because they had a few accidents with several rockets.  The parade went off without a hitch from the Statue of the Unkown Norwegian with the honor guard, the Sons of Knute, cars and tractors and most of the townsfolk.
It's Toast and Jelly Days and the Mist County Fair is fast approaching.  Mist County Fair was started to keep 4H-ers from attending the girlie shows at the Minnesota State Fair.  The Whippets lost another game and had a team meeting since they have been giving up 7-8 runs in the first inning.  Don't give up as the world is full of Whippets, like the State employees and the Air Traffic Controllers who are on strike.
Children are bored and complaining towards the end of a long summer where the water is green and everything else you see is wheat.  One child lets his imagination go and he sees that the green grass is hair and makes friends with an ant named Jim.
Back to school season is approaching.  The Mist County fair has a new ride called the Giant Hay Mow leap that people want to try.  Gary's sister tells him he was adopted and this promps him to think about what life would have been like if they chose a different baby.
Darryl and Marilyn Tolleruds 6 children were driving them nuts so they skipped a prayer meeting and went out leaving the eldest child in charge.  They watch a horror movie, the cows get out of the pasture and come towards the house scarring the kids who decide to hide in the bathroom until there parents come home.  Darryl and his father get locked in the grainery.  
"What I quickly came to appreciate was the universal truth in Garrison Keillor's rich vein of stories.  That they are set in Lake Wobegon is not incidental, neither is it absolutely necessary.  Those truths, after all, are played out in the Lake Wobegons of our own experience wherever they may occur - whether in prairie hamlets, Sun Belt suburbs, or big-city neighborhoods." - Tom Brokaw

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Carl and Betty Kresback have 11 children and when things get especially crazy, they escape in the camper.  Betty decided to move the camper and popped the clutch and Carl fell out the back, naked, and had to walk up to the Christian Sisters house to try to call for a ride - they gave Carl a blanket but wouldn't let him inside.
It's Halloween in Lake Wobegon, a time when people wald around holding hands and scare each other with just their imagination.  Deborah Olson is the Halloween queen and the story how her Grandma and Grandpa came to settle in Lake Wobegon and why most thought she was a witch and he was crazy.
Weddings were happening and looking at a photo of the Jimmy Tollefson wedding, GK realized that the person he went to school with was the father not the son. and  the mother was
also someone he dated.  Turns out they probably met after GK didn't try out for a play and the part eventually went to Jimmy.   
There are plenty of crazy people in town.  Mrs. Mueller thought it was so quiet that she missed the second coming and didn't get to rise up, Mrs Magandanz had a vision in the middle of the night that she would find The Book of Life, Mr. Halvorson saw 30 ants and believed they were chasing him after one too many at the Sidetrack Tap.
On Christmas Eve, GK went back to LW and just walked about town in the quiet.  He saw Shepherds and Angels heading to the pageant.    The lights were beautiful and looking in the window of Skoglunds he wished for things he saw, wondering what it would be like to have them.  He also wondered what it would be like to be Catholic with all the pomp and circumstance, so different than his church.  It is important to find where your home is. The Bunsens had a family reunion and it was so large that the pingpong table had to be brought up from the basement and used as a table in the living room.  To get there, you had to go through the kitchen and many fell down the stairs as the kitchen floor was slippery with all the grease from the goose that was cooking.
"The longevity of the show, I think, is really due to the sort of audience that finds storytelling appealing.  An audience that has more experiences, older people, but at the same time is more innocent, and can sit, unlike me, and be appealed to directly by the guy on stage and respond to it." - Garrison Keillor, 1987

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