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Ghosts

Among nine hundred-plus entries here, there is a group called “Ghosts of Christmas Past.” These are people significant to Howard Tabor, writer of a local history column in the Daily Plantagenet and general chronicler of the community. Actually, these ghosts are mostly very real people (included under their own or slightly fictitious names) who have been important in my life, one way or another. These brief references are a paltry way to thank them posthumously for helping me become a real person.

#1 Cliff Pherson, owner-operator of a gas station and garage and surrogate father for the kids who hung out there. Cliff’s character is based on my father Roy C. Ramsey.

#2 William A. Simmons and his wife Lillian. Cliff Pherson had an account with stock broker William A. Simmons. I learned a lot from Willie but met his wife Lillian just once for an afternoon of tea.

#3 Marilla Thurston Missbach was a neighbor and friend from my youth, influential in more ways than I can enumerate here.

#4 Anson Curtiss Tennant is in many ways the central figure of the entire project, the young man who became an architect and was my surrogate in designing the Agincourt Public Library of 1915.

#5 Hamish Brookes owned a used book store above Vandervort’s Bakery. One afternoon, on an errand to get a loaf of bread, Howard Tabor chanced to make Mr Brookes’s acquaintance and discovered the world of books.

#6a/b “Slick” and Frannie Fielding were Howard’s neighbors when he came back to Agincourt for a job at the newspaper. He lived in the apartment above theirs at The Franklin.

#7a/b Alec and Margaret Parks were very real and very English. We became acquainted in the course of another research project and they subsequently made a two-week visit to Fargo that warranted being included here. Both are now deceased.

#8 Phyllis Tabor, with Ella Rose, her twin, were pioneer aviatrices (is that the plural of aviatrix?) and also happen to have been Howard’s great-aunts. He had a special relationship with Aunt Phyllis, who shows up in other settings.

#9 Ray Benson was retired from the Merchant Marine and a neighbor of Rosalie Oakes, mother of Rowan Oakes. Rowan is married to Howard. Ray sounds a great deal like my cranky former neighbor Ray Jackson.

#10 Ernest “Red” Anhauser was the village atheist, a watchmaker at Salmagundi, Agincourt’s jewelers and purveyors of fine china. He, too, needed a second entry. “Red” has many characteristics of Cecil Elliott, a former colleague at N.D.S.U.

#11 “Veterans” is as close as I can get to understanding Agincourt’s many contributions to war. At some point, there’ll be a specific character who can stand for all those listed on the memorials in The Square.

#12 Brother Crucible is yet another attempt to tell the complex story of religious institutions in the community’s history. I don’t know him but I’d like to.

#13 Robina Lyle is very real, the public health nurse in my elementary school, a character so legendary in my own community’s history that an elementary school is named for her.

#14 Michael Corbett was someone of my acquaintance in about the 5th or 6th grade. He beat the shit out of me during recess until it ceased to be any fun and then moved on to another target.

#15 Henry “Whitey” Malone is a thinly veiled version of myself.

#16 Abel Kane deserved a second entry. Every town has its infidelities. Abel Kane is one of Agincourt’s.

#17 Harold Russell Holt (a.k.a. Hal) was a retired engineer who became director of the Fennimore County History Center. A second article about his passing was written before the “Ghost” series began.

#18 Sandor Szolnay guided the Men’s Department at deBijenkorf. Sandor is a hybrid character, a blend of the Hungarian baker I knew in Argo (who came there following the 1956 Hungarian uprising) and the nameless Hungarian tailor at Capper & Capper, who adjusted the cut of my first suit.

#19 Seamus Tierney was the founder of professional theatre in Agincourt. If he sounds familiar, you catch on pretty quick.

#20 Fred D. Shellabarger doesn’t yet have a place in Agincourt. But he is a fond memory from my own beginnings in architecture and was, in hindsight, a strong influence on its trajectory. I could not have known how that experience would connect with my later life.

#21 Edmund FitzGerald Flynn, Agincourt’s thirteenth mayor and husband of Amity Burroughs Flynn, died in office. Some people were not upset about this.

#22 Fern Pirtle was someone I knew in the 1960s. I hope she won’t mind being recast as a Black woman.

#00 Howard A. Tabor is my avatar in the Agincourt story, a writer for the Plantagenet and my contemporary. He and I talk a lot. One evening during a blizzard he met the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Incidentally, Howard’s middle initial stood for Alan, a family name; he changed it to just “A” so that it could also stand for his great-uncle Anson.

Other names are likely to be added here as the story develops.

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