"Have fun with it."

Mr J's Blog



Dwain Johnson and Jack Palance

Shane was one of Dad's favorite westerns and one of the reasons that I like the film is the presence of Jack Palance. I've being saying for years that Palance reminded me of Dad. Now that we have the digital technology, I can prove it!


No wonder he liked horses

Tom Mix

We've been told that on the evening of June 24, 1921 Jensine Johnson went to the movie theater and saw a Tom Mix western. The next day she gave birth to Dwain. That account was about as sentimental as the farmer Johnsons got regarding major life events. Still, I can't help but wonder if Tom didn't get imprinted at least a little bit on Dwain. He loved riding horses and watching westerns all his life.

Mix made eight movies in 1921. I have no way of knowing which one Grandma saw, but here's one of them:


Sounding his barbaric yawp

Final appearance as actor

Mr. J made his final appearance as an actor at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in 1991 when a group of unwitting comedians picked him out of the audience to participate in their comedy sketch. If they were hoping for someone's easygoing grandpa who wouldn't upstage them, they picked the wrong 70-year-old. Details fade, but Mrs. J reports that the comedy troupe was staging a fairy tale and Dwain was conscripted to play the king. His only line was supposed to be a bombastic yell.

Really? A loud yell? From Mr. J? Gosh, do you think he could do it? (See "Louder!" segment of the Stories from a Career page.)

As the picture reveals, Mr. J's barbaric yawp shook the set and blew audience and troupe away. He easily stole the show. Sadly, he was, for reasons unknown, rather uncomfortable and displeased with the experience. Pity, because the audience adored him.

NOTE: Dwain wasn't the only Johnson family member to be vastly underestimated by actors at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. A few years later, Mrs. J was waylaid by a quixotic young actor who thought he could get away with falling to his knee in front of her and passing off Brian Hooker's entire balcony speech as his own improvised inspiration. After he kissed her hand, she mildly and graciously replied, "Thank you, Cyrano" upon which the chagrined thespian grew quite red and bid a hasty retreat. She laughed like hell.


Did you know...?

making props

While in college, Dwain sat with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and author Carl Sandburg for two hours. The legendary writer was visiting Gustavus on a speaking tour but there was a mistake in his itinerary and he arrived two hours early! Dwain was working at the college radio station and was assigned to interview Sandberg. He recalled that not only was Sandberg content to sit and wait but he was fascinated by my father's background in farming. "Here was one of the greatest poets of all time, sitting with me for two hours and all he wanted to do was ask me about farming."


Did you know...?

making props

Mr. J loved to make props. A testament to his enthusiasm can be seen here in the picture above. Not only is he building slapsticks for his daughter's 2002 remount of The Doctor In Spite Of Himself, you can see that the middle finger on his right hand is a bit... short.

Dwain accidentally amputated the end of that finger while building sets one summer at Theatre L'Homme Dieu in Alexandria. His young daughters dubbed the finger "Cutty" and it became a theatrical badge of honor.


DETECTIVE STORY: Predicting the 21st Century

George Floyd

Playwright Sidney Kingsley wrote of his play, Detective Storey, in 1949--

"On the surface, Detective Story is an exciting melodrama about cops... Actually, however, it's an attempt to investigate a basic problem, the case of the tough and violent perfectionist, the "good" fascist on the side of the angels who divides everything into good and bad and wants to destroy everything he considers bad...
When I named my police station the Twenty-first Precinct, I hoped some of the audience might ask themselves whether we will be living in a police state in the twenty-first century, or whether we will be getting the protection of the police in accord with the rules of a free society. My rough cop, McLeod, thinks democracy is not efficient in its war against evildoers. He wants to achieve efficiency by taking the law into his own hands, by making people abide by right as he sees it, or by personally bringing them to account if they do not. Of course, the inefficiency comes from our checks and balances, so that no man is to be trusted with absolute power. The answer to McLeod is that the inefficiency of humankind is a really a higher efficiency, since it permits the human spirit to breathe."


Pauline Ann Walle, 84, died on January 16, 2021, at Arbor Terrace in Rochester, where she had lived for the last several years.

Pauline was born in Duluth, MN, on January 23, 1936, to Michael and Josephine Walle. She was preceded in death by her parents and a brother and sister.

Pauline grew up on Minnesota's Iron Range, and graduated from Duluth East High School. Two junior high years at a boarding school in Old Frontenac, MN, instilled in Pauline a love of the bluffs and valleys of the Mississippi, a love she would carry with her the rest of her life. Explorations of towns and haunts on both sides of the river often showed up in her writing, years later.

After high school, Pauline went on to pursue a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. Following graduation from college, Pauline worked as Women's Editor at the Hibbing Tribune, at the University of Minnesota/Duluth's news service, and started work at the Post-Bulletin in 1962 as Editor of the Society section.

Her role evolved over the years, and she increasingly focused her writing on religion and the arts, along with stories on local residents and regional travel. She was a long-standing member of Christ United Methodist Church in Rochester, and was a loyal member of many local arts organizations.

Her writing extended beyond the newspaper, and in 2010 she and friend Judith Smithson published a book of original poetry and illustrations titled Line Drawings: Poetry and Art on the Nature of Things.

Ranfranz and Vine are handling funeral arrangements, and a private service is planned for a later date. Memorials may be made to the Rochester Symphony, the Rochester Public Library or to a charity of one's choice.