From the Archives: The News from Lake Wobegon - The Best of 1984

Is it ever really a quiet week in Lake Wobegon? Not likely. There’s always something brewing. With this three-disc set of monologues from 1984, Garrison Keillor puts his singular spin on the news from the little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve.

“Keillor has a rare gift for celebrating and finding humor in commonplace events, and his affection for his characters and for small-town life shines through. ... Some tales are wildly hilarious, others gently poignant but all are simply wonderful.”
— Publishers Weekly

From the Archives series explores the earliest of stories from America's favorite storyteller, Garrison Keillor.  This collection features 11 long form News from Lake Wobegon from the 1984 broadcast season.  Many of these stories have been unheard of for the past 35 years.  Revisit your favorite small town and be enchanted by the weekly updates about the Tollefsons, the Bunsens, Senator Thorvald, the Lake Wobegon Whippets as well as hearing from a few of Lake Wobegon's favorite proprietors such as Dorothy from The Chatterbox Cafe or Wally at the Sidetrack Tap.  All in all, it's a collection that is sure to captivate your attention with over 3 hours of stories.



Are you searching for a specific story?  Here are the story recaps on this collection:

CD 1
The warm weather this week gave those that didn’t wrap up their October work a chance to get it done. Questions loomed about the 2-3 ft of snow on the roof – would the snow get heavier as it melted. Lots of debate between those that wanted to take up an argument. If the snow truly gets heavier and now you add the weight of an individual up on the roof cleaning it off becomes more worrisome. Falling through the garage is not the best way to lose the debate.
Paul Tollefson came home on Thursday without his wife and it has caused concern especially with his mother. Paul did ask her for some advice for the tough part of the early years of marriage. She told him, “Even when it wasn’t very good, I still knew it was what I wanted.” A lot of men got lucky when they escaped their early fantasies by avoiding the Snow Queen and finding the woman with good humor.
Father Emil doesn’t have these problems. When Pastor Inqkvist looks down at his wife in the pew and when they earlier had a word or two, it is hard for the Pastor to focus.
When Mel came home and saw his son Paul at home, he told him to go home. Mel was in a bad mood because of the Lutheran Men’s Bible Study. He had a go around with his brother-in- law, Louie. Mel felt he was way off-base on his interpretation of scripture and he got into it with Louie. It was quite a row.

The Lake Wobegon Herald Star got cleaned up after the frozen water pipe adventure a week ago. The boards might be warped but it’s ok. Many things that had been dropped on the floor are now rolling back including his lucky marble.

He got to go fishing with the Sons of Knute – fishing for eel pout. The fish fry only calls for the cheeks of the eel pout so you need a good number. The money raised goes to the Shining Star
Scholarship. Carla Krebsbach seems to be a shoe-in so she was feeling a bit cocky especially in the way she spoke with her mother. High School like winter just seemed to go on and on especially for those that weren’t shining stars. The host felt this about himself so he felt the way to solve this was to buy some snappy sweaters. He only had one sweater that fit and brought the topic up at home. The answer was that he had a closet full of clothes (but most were hand-me-downs). His parents liked to quote scripture to emphasize the point. This opens the door to jealousy and wondering why their family can’t be like others.
The house is full of scripture plaques as is the car which does crimp one’s dating style.

It took a while to answer the phone in Lake Wobegon this weekend. Elizabeth the phone operator (the host’s young Sunday School teacher), finally answered and she read him the riot act. She felt that his quoting so much scripture was pure blasphemy. He tried to get himself out of it but Elizabeth would have none of it. He tried to joke his way out of it and after a couple she giggled.
The host’s excuse is that he has a small mind and that he goes for the trivial. When his scoutmaster was trying to teach a lesson, he decided to focus on how his Adam’s apple moved up and down.
When we sang our school song Hail to the Lake Wobegon had many high ideals, he always felt uneasy because the church teaches that they will always fall short.
The Thanatopsis Society put on one lecture every year. It occurred in the Spring and everyone turned out. The lecturer would try to share good ideas but were rather far-reaching.
When it came time for questions, there were very few. In the small town of Lake Wobegon, it is easier to keep the scope to small things.
When new father’s drive back home from the hospital after the birth of his baby, he does focus on the larger picture, the meaning of life. Everyone else just wants to know the statistics.

It feels almost like spring in Lake Wobegon, though we know in Minnesota, we can easily slip back to Winter. Winter has an interesting effect on people’s personality and in Minnesota there is a long time to make us who we are.
Carl Krebsbach didn’t smoke this week and was back on track for giving something up for Lent. He first started smoking when he was invited to a party with the cool high school kids. Donald Diener offered him a cigarette and he took it so he didn’t appear to be dud. Donald gave up smoking 7 years ago and his bragging about it gets irritating.

After that high school party, Carl went off to join the Navy and only came back for his father’s funeral. His father led a tough life so Carl decided to stay in Lake Wobegon and restore the family name by taking up his father’s job of being a handyman. It is hard to rebuild a reputation especially in a small town. Carl spent a lot of time thinking how things may have been different if he made different choices earlier on, even the little things like, eating appetizers before dinner. Just recently, they did have appetizers when Carl’s cousins came over and it seemed to be the right thing to do. Carl forgot to give thanks prior to eating the appetizers and he felt funny about it.

CD 2
In Lake Wobegon, the grass is sprouting along with the shoots of spring flowers. Ella Anderson has been seen cleaning her flower bed. With a bad hip, she stays indoor all of winter. She needs to figure out a standup technique in the garden – no hands and knees for her. Ella had been cooped up with her husband Henry all winter and she really needed some fresh air. Henry does have a few spells that sends his mind back many decades. Ella just goes along with Henry’s stories. They know how to live a sweet life. Ella would love a visitor now and then to help bring her up to date. She even put up a sign in the garden – VISITORS
Loneliness is so dramatic; it makes everything seem so big. If someone comes to visit, things seem manageable. Ella does get a visitor every Monday; Pastor Inqkvist comes to give her a summary of the church service, have a chat and this week he even helped her in the garden.

Vern Huff left home. He has been farming with his dad for years but this year he was going to get the operation the right track. When he started to figure out all that needed to be done, it frightened him and he left. We think he will come back because if he really thinks about it, everyone has huge lists of things to do and they just get by.
The big news though was a car from California was seen on Main Street, which was very unusual. The rumor was that this was a Hollywood producer checking out Lake Wobegon. The story grew pretty big but was squashed the next morning because the man came to the Chatterbox. Mary Margaret Krebsbach was the waitresss and she recognized him as Leo Magandanz. Curiosity brought him back to check up on his old town since he left 50 years ago. That whole branch of the Magandanzes left that year because they fell on hard times and they were too embarrassed. Mary Margaret Krebsbach was the last person to see them as they drove out of town.
Leo went to LA and got a job with a siding company and Leo eventually bought the company and became successful. His advice to Mary Margaret was to travel and expand her life. The two of them spent two days catching up. Leo ended up proposing to her but she said NO for now.

Despite the big tenth anniversary of this show, Lake Wobegon didn’t make a big fuss. It’s the anniversary of something not that distinguished. Merle noticed that there was going to be news coverage of the show anniversary and he tried to get a delegation to go to the city and tell the true story about Lake Wobegon. They ended up changing their minds. 
Questions are being asked if the show will ever leave radio and go to television but the answer is a big no. A television crew went to Lake Wobegon once to capture the Living Flag, making the participants parade up and down the street, which was so tiring. When you are a part of something like this and you are told how great it is, how do you really know?
The Whippets are on a July winning streak and are in second place. The pitchers are doing so well that the outfielders are getting bored. The coaches are worried that the players are
getting big heads. This is concerning because they really are miserable.
The host reminisces about a trip to New York right after high school graduation to look for work. The interviews were short so he had a lot of free time to walk about and enjoy different experiences that have carried him through life.

The weather has been perfect during these dog days of summer. Father Emil came back from his vacation trip to the Civil War battlefields so Father Frank was able to leave. The Catholics in Lake Wobegon didn’t quite know what to do with Father Frank. He was too big of a character with his martinis and golf playing. His last homily was on the Olympics and going for the gold in life, and he ended with a little golf prayer. His goodbye party only had four guests. 
Father Emil has done this tour to the battlefields for twenty-five years. He is quite the authority. The bus comes down out of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and seeing the various fields of battle was quite the site. Not all of the people in the group focused on what was important, which was frustrating. The tour guide was not quite up to muster either. This likely would lead to a sermon about soldiering on.
Carl Krebsbach was a carpenter in town, which was a tough job. Everyone asked for a hand. Instead of being paid as a carpenter, in this small town, his neighbors treated it as a favor.

Frustrating because he just can’t say anything. What do you do if you are the capable one and your neighbor is inept? It’s almost too much to take, so maybe he should move. No support came from his wife, since she was sewing a polyester dress for their daughter and nothing was going right. 

CD 3
The weather in Lake Wobegon turned cold this week, and it was time to put on those storm windows. It is a tough time of year since we know what is to come. Carrying those windows out of the garage, washing them, and hoisting them up ladders was such hard work. The Hoglunds had apple trees in their backyard, and the boys like to throw the rotten ones into the host’s yard. They came at all times of the day trying to hit anyone walking in the yard. He sent his sister out as a trap, and while Donald Hoglund was aiming at his sister, the host threw a rotten pumpkin at his head. He needed to hide in his house for a good while.
One day Donald was standing in front of his big picture window. The host’s brother nailed him but the host’s throw went right through their window and into the den. Mr. Hoglund came out yelling. It really was just one bad pitch.
Back when the host was a kid, they had to make their own violence, while the kids today can just watch it on TV. His parents didn’t have all the parenting books; they just experimented on their children. Kids were sent off to school layered in clothes for the extreme cold and snow. That’s why they were violent; the kids knew what was coming.
As we get older the body feels all the aches and pains of injuries received as a young person. Taking off clothes you feel old, stepping into the tub you feel old, older guys think in the shower rather than sing as they did when they were young. Oh, how things change.

It’s Thanksgiving week and all the children started to come back to Lake Wobegon. Virginia Ingqvist wanted to go on strike but she pulled it together. It was an election year so the dinners in town were relatively quiet. A few folks made some political comments but nothing that a long prayer couldn’t stop. The other plan was to overfeed those with opposing views so they would just fall into a stupor.
Daryl and Marilyn’s family went up to his parents’ house for dinner where it was full of family and Thanksgiving smells. The conversations and squabbles are pretty much the same year to year.
Earlier in the week, Daryl ended up going to the doctor because of a few close calls when he was driving. The doctor told him that at the advanced age of 42 things happen. He just needs to go slower. His judgment was a bit off especially when he emptied out what he thought was glop but it was mincemeat for a Thanksgiving pie. Daryl spent the next hour remaking the not-so-easy mincemeat concoction. It passed the test.

The truly quiet season is just beginning in Lake Wobegon — the snow season. It is also the time when Minnesotans see ice form on the lake and they feel called to walk on it, so in Hennepin County this week, fourteen people fell through. We feel called to test all the laws of physics, including braking on the ice. Do snow tires make sense now, or should we wait till the first storm and then put them on? And do you wait till it’s cold before you put the storm windows on? The Lundbergs chose to wait to put the storms on in the dark — to not be so conspicuous.  Lyle Krebsbach waited just a bit too long to get firewood. Carl, his brother, offered them some firewood, but Lyle declined and said he would take care of it. He went out to his in-law’s house and had to split some wood himself. It sure took the wind out of him. Firewood warms you twice — once you cut it and again when you burn it. Mayor Clint Bunsen also decided to put the TV antenna on the roof. His wife, Irene, got hooked on a soap opera but she could only see it at a neighbor’s. Clint got the message because Irene put her foot down. Up he went with this huge antenna. That part went OK, but the fine-tuning of the picture was quite the effort.




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  • Hi Garrison I’ve been a PHC listener since 1980. Those early shows for hold such fond memories for my husband and myself. We used to make a cassette tape of those shows and listen to them during the week and months afterwards. As technology advanced the CD’s took over and we reluctantly tossed the cassette tapes. I wondered if you have recordings of any shows before 1984? We especially loved the show when you collaborated with Handel and put words to every part of The Water Music Suite. Thanks to a PHC it’s our PreChristmas tribute to that hectic time of year. Do you ever sell CD of the music of those old shows? The News from Lake Wobegone is always good but the musical guests made the show complete.
    Thank you for the decades of stories you’ve told us. We saw you in 1985 in Louisville Ky and again post Covid in southern Indiana Lincoln Amphitheater.
    Mary Lyon


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