Aerial View, St. Mary’s Hospital

This is a postcard from Great Grandpa Phil’s collection; it was sent to him and Great Grandma Lottie by the Hodinka family, John, Helen, and daughter Charlene, from a vacation in Minnesota. It’s postmarked Rochester, MN, August 27, 1966. John Hodinka — “Sonny” — was my grandmother’s cousin; he passed away last Wednesday, September 22 at the age of 81.

Charlene tells me that her grandfather on Helen’s side had a cousin there. Her mother’s aunt corresponded regularly with the folks in Rochester, but they had never met, so this trip was part vacation, part family reunion.

At one point during the vacation, Sonny somehow wound up on a horse, with explicit instructions not to let up on the reins. Of course, he did, and the horse wound up riding in circles, with Sonny unable to get the horse to stop. Another rider had to sidle up to them to bring Sonny and his mount to a stop. Bear in mind that we’re talking about a man who made sixteen jumps into Italy with the 82nd Airborne Division.

For young Charlene, the highlight of the trip was a tour of the Hormel plant, where she was able to observe how ham is made. “Poor little piggies,” she says. “They hung them upside down (on hooks) and a knife stabbed each one in the stomach. The things you remember…. I got pig blood on my white sneaker.” She didn’t remember if Sonny had anything to say about it, but I think he would have found the humor in the situation.

So long, Sonny. I miss you already.

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