A boy kicking a football barefoot

I am posting some excerpts from my memoir about growing up in Minnesota, titled Minnesota Boy: Growing Up in Mid-America, Mid-20th Century. This post is about the wonder of childhood, in all its little details.

Portrait of a boy
Portrait of a boy

See below an announcement about the book and then five of 82 sections (3, 2, 51, 39, 73) appropriate for this theme.

The Announcement:

Lee Foster Literary Book Minnesota Boy: Growing Up in Mid-America, Mid-20th Century Published

Lee Foster’s literary memoir about growing up in Minnesota has been re-published and released as Minnesota Boy: Growing Up in Mid-America, Mid-20th Century.Front Cover Minnesota Boy Lee Foster-300

The book was originally published in 1970 with the title Just 25 Cents and Three Wheaties Boxtops. Foster wrote the volume in the late 1960s when he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Stanford, studying writing and American Literature under Wallace Stegner, eventually receiving an MA Degree and completing ABD (All But Dissertation) on his PhD. Stegner liked the book and assisted Foster to get it agented and published. Stegner went on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1972.

Minnesota Boy conveys the experience of growing up in a Minnesota mid-America that produced the sensibilities of people like Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale, Garrison Keillor, and Bob Dylan.

The book is not a standard chapter-by-chapter memoir. Rather, it is a collection of imagined conversations and recollections of what life was like in that Eisenhower Era 1950s, just as the times morphed into the Vietnam War and Protest 1960s. The book has 82 literary selections and 67 photos.

Minnesota Boy addresses a perennial and enduring question: What is it like growing up in America? The answer depends partly on the time and place.


The book informs about the strong hunting and fishing outdoor culture, Catholic religion sinner-can-be-saved ethic, egalitarian and inclusive all-children-are-equal spirit, progress-through-education-and-hard-work ideal, and optimism-about-a-better-future mindset that pervaded life in Mankato, Minnesota, in the 1950s. There was always, however, a nervous background worry about Nuclear Annihilation.

Black-and-white photos created by Foster in the 1960s, as he was beginning his writing/photography career, catalogue visually the now-vanished world of the child and family in that era in a Minnesota America. Visual details in the photos now have substantial archival value, with captions such as “My father’s fishing tackle box,” “Artifacts from a boy’s life in Minnesota,” “The garage at my family’s house,” and “A confessional at Saints Peter & Paul Church.”

The printed book ($14.95) and the ebook ($3.99) are available wherever books/ebooks are sold. ISBN for the print book is 978-0976084327 and for the ebook 978-0976084334.

The Amazon link is at


and on Lee Foster’s Amazon Author Page among his 19 books at


Bookstores and libraries can order the printed book through Ingram and the ebook through Smashwords.

This popular memoir book received a positive response from consumers on the day it was launched. The book ranked in sales as #65,318 of all the millions of books on Amazon, and #80 among books in a category Biographies/Memoirs.

For further information, contact:

Lee Foster
Foster Travel Publishing
1623 Martin Luther King
Berkeley, CA 94709
[email protected]

Here are five of 82 sections (3, 2, 51, 39, 73) appropriate for this theme.

The wonder of childhood


What had become of his

diamond kites whose skeletons hung wasting from the highest elms

dreams stored like odds and ends in an old cigar box

treehouse perched high in the air on precarious branches

bean shooters with which he planned to survive in the Amazon jungles

small two-way mirror procured with 25 cents and three Wheaties box tops

cotton candy that sugared his face at the Shriners’ Ringling Brothers’ Circus

peep sight pellet gun whose every shot counted because he had to pump it up by hand

baby shoes cast in bronze on the mantle of the fireplace

smoke smell of raked leaves burning on hazed October nights

“I like Cheerios because….” in 25 words or less

fiberglass canoe whose green mark he left on rocks in the rapids when the river was low

jar of almond boxelder bugs, black with orange stripes

junk drawer full of junk, never to be cleaned up

fielder’s mitt suitable for an aspiring Little League shortstop

ashes on Ash Wednesday, dust to dust once x’ed on his forehead by a priest with long white hair and black hat, who resembled the forefather smiling out at breakfast from the round box of Quaker Oats

Details of a boy's life
Details of a boy’s life

long reverberating gong when the Ted Williams bat hit the steel clothesline pole where the wasps lived

enduring small mark in the swing set cement, the handprint that fit his hand less and less as the years passed?


Was he the white frame houses with black-bordered windows, the dusty high banks of unimproved gravel roads leading straight along section lines?

Was he the twisted slack rivers rolling mindlessly on, the stinking split black mud of the riverbanks baking in the harsh silence of the summer sun at noon?

Was he the tired cornstalks in harvested fields waiting for snow, the winter gusts blowing through a house even after the doors and windows were locked?


Where were his

victories in hard-fought games of king-on-the-hill

wide-wheel red bike with two seats and large saddlebag baskets suitable for camping trips

pearl-handle jackknife that stuck in a tree after two flips

father’s discarded heavy duck hunting jacket

salami sandwiches, cheesies, and red apples eaten while waiting long after¬noons for crappies to take his minnow

Fourth of July “snake” pellets that grew into enormous shapes

apple butter on waffles, grapefruit already sectioned, sunflower seeds some¬one else cracked

buck euchre cards with the missing 10 spot

paper chase games

homemade hand-ferruled broadhead arrows for a 45-pound recurve bow

punk sticks for burning patterns on paper

whittled soap chessmen

complete set of gum baseball cards

plaster of Paris animal heads—wolf, bear, and lion—made for Scout Pack 27’s Jamboree at Camp Norseland

chemistry sets that never included the directions for making gunpowder

small patches of tomatoes, radishes, carrots, and onions, struggling along when the gardener was inattentive to weeds

wind chimes of tinkling glass bottles

tightrope-walking gyroscope that defied all the natural laws the boy could comprehend

collections of eyes shaped in his mind from pine board knots

strange creatures, whose faces he formed from rows of walnut halves

numerous walks down the long meadow of a lithograph on the living room wall

waxed steel traps for mink and coon

homemade ice cream that he churned and churned

large magnifying glass that focused the sun to set paper afire in a few seconds

glass telephone line insulators shot off by Kit Carsons and Annie Oakleys

Mohawk haircut

name carved near the river deep in a cave that no one had ever explored before?


If he jumped from the top of the steps, could he fly?

Could he paint the flowers another color?

What if he dropped a half-gallon bottle of milk from the Empire State Building?

Would his bicycle become a motorcycle with the addition of a few stiff play¬ing cards held near the spokes with a clothespin?

What if a speeding car were suddenly shoved into reverse? Would the pis¬tons shoot out the hood?

How much should he allow for drop if he shot his .22 at the moon?


Could he find his

campfires where a good friend’s talk, like the flames, disappeared into the night

A boy kicking a football barefoot
A boy kicking a football barefoot

annual Soap Box Derby cart, remembering that someone always went out of control in the last heat

joy that day he was tall enough to reach the bottom of the ladder on the town’s water tower

fast bike rides down the Slough Street hill

free Saturday movies at Franklin School with all the Roadrunner cartoons

monarch butterflies on a twig in a jar with holes punched in the top so they could breathe

quarters that fairies left under his pillow with each missing tooth

grebes that dove under water between the time a shot from his 12 gauge left the barrel and hit the water

autographed yearbooks full of bizarre sayings

camera world of blue and purple dots that floated through the air after the burst of a tungsten flash

multicolored college pennants

cat’s cradles of increasing intricacy

creatures, some monstrous, some friendly, all changeable at his whim, cast by the shadow of his hands on a wall in the oblique angled sunlight of late after¬noon

amazing birds that Grandpa drew without ever lifting pencil from paper

SOS signals mirror-flashed, even when not in distress, to old friends on the next hill, who misread the code

strips of penny photographs that later turned brown

candied May Baskets—leave them before a friend’s door, ring the bell, and run

small dog that lived to chase, but never catch, its image on moving hubcaps

kaleidoscope twisted into wonders never seen by any boy’s eye before

rainbow soap bubbles that burst the moment he tried to capture them?



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