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Neighbors: 'Banana Man' misses his van

They called him the "Banana Man." That's because Michael Peterson, Fargo, drove a car that was the color of a banana. In 1981, Mike bought a 1975 Ford van in Fargo that had been owned by a Grand Forks company. The van was yellow. But someone pain...

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Mike " Banana Man" Peterson with his birthday cake. The year is unknown. Special to The Forum

They called him the "Banana Man."

That's because Michael Peterson, Fargo, drove a car that was the color of a banana.

In 1981, Mike bought a 1975 Ford van in Fargo that had been owned by a Grand Forks company.

The van was yellow. But someone painted black stripes on it to cover the company's name on its sides.

So it was that people called him the "Banana Man" as he drove around Fargo-Moorhead. And he went along with it, printing "Banana" on the van's side.

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Mike is a lifelong Fargo resident. He was a member of Fargo North High School's first graduation class in 1966.

He thinks he owned the van for 10 years and probably longer. But for sure, as long he drove it, he knew kids and adults alike would say, "Here comes the Banana Man."

Mike says he took "many good friends on trips in the van for parties, camping and fishing."

The van came to an end about 2008 when it was cut up for parts. "I miss my van and the many friends who also are gone," Mike says.

Goosepiles, chili

Now to memories of school days in the 1940s.

They come from Kay Syvrud, Hawley, Minn., who tells of being in first grade in 1944 in the old yellow brick two-story Hawley grade school on a man-made hill they called the "school hill."

The kids loved the hill because they made icy slides on it and played "Goosepile," in which the "goose" had to lie at the bottom of the slide and stay there while the rest of kids slid down to make a bigger and bigger "Goosepile."

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When springtime brought warm weather, the kids switched to roller-skating on the hill's sidewalks.

This column has often mentioned penmanship classes. In Kay's school, the kids practiced it at least 30 to 45 minutes each day, using the Palmer method, which involved large sweeping rounded letters. "I can still do the Palmer method today," Kay says. "My mother was a championship Palmer method writer and her penmanship was beautiful."

Another memory: the school's enclosed fire escape slide. "Thankfully we never had to use it for a fire," Kay says, "but we really used it in summertime when we could climb barefooted to the darkness at the top and then sit on a waxed bread wrapper and whiz down the slippery slide. I can still feel the thrill of sliding so fast we usually came shooting out at the bottom and could not land on our feet but rather ended up on our backsides or our backs on the gravel."

Kay also says that part of the kids' week during World War II was spent collecting money for the Red Cross and milkweed silk to be made into parachutes for the military.

"Another vivid memory," she says, "is of our walks through an underground tunnel that connected the grade school to the high school.

"We walked the tunnel to go to 'Hot Lunch' in the high school where we joyfully ate the meals prepared by our two wonderful cooks, Tillie and Lillie, who served us hamburger gravy on real mashed potatoes along with a good scoop of buttered corn. We could have as many slices of buttered white bread as we wanted, also.

"We also liked the chili with its whole tomato chunks and the scalloped potatoes with big pieces of ham. Hamburger hot dish was a favorite, also.

"Not such a favorite was the days we had hot rice in hot milk with cinnamon and sugar mixed ... but we always had lots of buttered bread! And there were big homemade cookies or cupcakes or a piece of cake for dessert, or a dish of canned peaches or pears."

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Neighbors thinks school kids today would eat those old hot lunches up - especially chili by Tillie and Lillie.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, N.D. 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com

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