Russ Ringsak

He's in the Hall of Fame

February 7, 2011

In response to our recent story of the storm linemen a woman sent this perfect letter:

The ice storm you mentioned occurred during the evening of March 3-4, 1991.

The next morning was absolutely beautiful here in Rochester, New York; looked like we lived in a crystal forest. Living without electricity for two weeks, kids missing school, folks not working, the loss of thousands of trees - made for a miserable time. Yet after 20 years, we remember the beauty of the ice. That, and the incredible effort made by hundreds of linemen from across the country who came to restore our power. They will always be our heroes.

We have, over the last 25 years, missed a lot of miserable weather. This might be from learning to not ask for trouble and it might also be from pure dumb luck. But of the serious storms we have run into I'll have to say we were lucky to see that lady's amazing crystal forest.

* * * *

The hatless man in the center of the photo below is Roy Holdren of Bloomington, Minnesota, who is in the Hall of Fame in Ohio. Not the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, nor in Canton at the Baseball Hall of Fame nor the Pro Football Hall of Fame; nor the Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron nor the Polka Hall of Fame in Cleveland nor the Classical Music Hall of Fame in Cincinnati. Nor the Ohio Harness Racing Hall of Fame in Columbus. It's the other Hall in Columbus, the Craver's, also known at the White Castle Hall of Fame.

The Craver's Hall of Fame has had 6629 applicants since 2001 and of those only 67 have been chosen, making it harder to get into than the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, according to Roy. After scoring this one he's hoping the other one will be easier.

He's not the only Hall of Famer in the photo: the guitarist to his right, on the other side of the drummer, is Dan Lund, a member of the Minnesota Rock and Country Hall of Fame. And the guy sitting to Dan's right at the steel guitar is the legendary Joe Savage, who is probably also in a Hall of Fame somewhere and is too shy to admit it. The band is called Buffalope, for reasons no one seems to understand. Lee's Liquors is just a real long center-field home run from the new ball park in downtown Minneapolis.

Buffalope in Action at Lee's Liquors
Buffalope in Action at Lee's Liquors
Here's the application Roy sent:

Roy and Mary Holdren
Bloomington , MN

My wife and I have been spending Valentine's Day at White Castle since shortly after we married in 1993. It has become a tradition we enjoy very much as the restaurants go out of their way to make it memorable with candlelight, tablecloths, and even waiters. Often we dress in our best outfits and, though I have yet to do it, I intend to rent a limo at some point.

In 2001 I hired a wonderful harp player to serenade us at the Bloomington, MN restaurant while we enjoyed our White Castles. I had to pull a few strings as the harpist had another Valentine's Day booking that night and could only play early in the evening.
I called the WC manager and moved our reservation up to 5:30, earlier than they were even making reservations. I told my wife it was the only reservation I could get and enjoyed the look on her face when they seated us at the table next to the harpist. As a musician I have to say the acoustics were great! The manager even contacted a local TV station and we ended up on the news that evening. It was an enjoyable and unforgettable night.

They were flown to Columbus and treated like rock stars. Waiting for them in their fancy hotel room was a crate full of swag, including books, candles, magnets and two personalized sweaters. They were taken to a fine restaurant and given a tour of the headquarters and of the factory where White Castle fabricates stainless steel kitchens, not only for their own stores but for the larger market as well. He said he's never seen employees as content with their jobs or as motivated; he also said the chain uses nothing but A-graded beef, as opposed to most of the rest (we won't name them) who use grades B and on down.

They were guests of honor that night at a big high tone feast at the Ohio Historical Society, along with the other new inductees. It was a lavish event that even included a hired clown. He found out that his was the shortest entry letter.

His own favorite Castle meal is two cheeseburgers with mustard and ketchup, one turkey and cheese sandwich, and an order of onion chips well done. The Turkeycheese sandwich is now gone, missed by many, and a Turkeycheese Facebook page has so far failed to bring it back. So Roy is coping without it and says the onion chips are still to die for.

He met the first rate harp player who was the key to his Hall of Fame induction in a sound engineering class; the guy had brought it in for them to record. Roy's business card says he is an audio engineer, songwriter, vocalist, drummer, guitarist. The email address is: It will take you to a complete biography. Not that I'm trying to launch his career here or anything.

And for all his skills and talents he still has time to maintain a respectable t-shirt collection. Here's a fine example from the wardrobe:

Roy Holdren
Roy Holdren

* * * *
Our two thousand mile storm is vast and cold and even the TV isn't showing it for its awesome crystalline beauty. Our truck has been parked for weeks in the yard here and seemed content to lay low, idling two hours a day whilst otherwise tied to an umbilical electric core warmer. But the fuel gelled up two Sundays ago after it had run for ten minutes and it took six hours to get a professional truck starter to come over from Wisconsin to replace the fuel filters and resuscitate the beast. It's been starting ever since and I won't even mention how much that service call cost but it was probably less than if I had tried it myself and botched it.

When I first got into the trucking business in 1977 I left that engine running all winter, day and night. An old driver told me he had one that was so touchy that "-- if I parked it on a street in the middle of August and a girl walked by on the sidewalk with an ice cream cone, that sumbitch wouldn't start." They've made progress but it's still not a given that they will always roar into life at the turn of a key.

And when we backed into the alley behind the Fitzgerald Theater two weeks ago I found I couldn't even turn the key on the trailer padlocks. Once again, even after all my precautions, the locks on the trailer were frozen. Solid. Couldn't even get a key into the slot. I got there early and was still fighting it when the crew showed up. One of them had a cigarette lighter. Melted the ice in the key channel but even then you couldn't turn it. Low level high intensity foul language plus more heat and thinly distilled mystery fluids finally prevailed. I was stewed.

It was the final straw, holding up a crew like that, and after I put the trailer away I went to the Cat-Key locksmith and ordered some U.S.made Medeco high strength shielded padlocks with huge keys and tempered innards that will, I believe, fight off the road poisons that penetrate the casings and slag up those Asian lockworks.

The upcoming trip to Bemidji through caustic road brine and gutter acids should show if they really deserve their top dollar status or not. And it also dawned on me that I should be carrying a lighter and how could it have taken so crazy long to figure that out. Haven't owned one in decades but there are still smokers around, legal and whatever, and Zippos haven't changed much. The internet showed me a 1941 reissue just like my Dad carried in North Africa and Italy in WWII and I had his initials engraved on it and now have it in my pocket.

I liked it so much I ordered a couple of fancier ones and suddenly had a new hobby. Not real expensive either. You can learn amusing tricks. My brother in law the beet grower in North Dakota hunts in the mountains of British Columbia and I got a very cool big horn sheep Zippo for him. Here it is:

Big Horn Zippo
Big Horn Zippo

* * * *
We've been on the northern edge of the monster that buried everything from Oklahoma to the northeast coastline and we have been above freezing here for not one single precious minute of the entire month of January and all the way back into middle December. And still aren't. But we do have 28 of 31 days worth of snow.

I've kept the feeders supplied and watched the birds wait out a heavy snowfall and then bob and peck down through the new snow bonnet to the seeds. And these guys have it good compared their relatives out there in the deep woods.

Sometimes a deer will pick its way through the yard and I'll think of it out there sleeping on the ground and scraping around for any organic bit of anything at all and wonder how it can find enough fuel to keep the body temperature up and to run and leap and cover all that territory. Those things look delicate but they are tough as hammers. And I wonder how in tarnation the Indian ancestors could have made it through these horrendous ice storms, or even through just an ordinary winter.

You go outside at night and see those lights way up high on the stack of that big power plant a couple miles down the river. It ought to have songs written about it just for keepin on keepin on, savin our butts from freezin right off.

That in addition to its primary purpose, which is to provide aerial nesting cages for the peregrine falcons who live way up there and sometimes come whistling down at 220 miles an hour to pick off some innocent dove. Gotta be a song in there somewhere.

©R.Ringsak 2011

russring at visi dot com

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