Last week I wrote about milestones. There are plenty of those along our pathway through life. Some are pretty significant and others are just a footnote along the way.

Last week I wrote about milestones. There are plenty of those along our pathway through life. Some are pretty significant and others are just a footnote along the way.

I’m not sure what distinguishes one milestone from another but last weekend, we managed to do something that hasn’t been done at our place in years.

We parked a car in our garage. And it only took about four or five hours of sorting and organizing things to get it done.

The yard work was done and we had spent some hours putting things away and readying for the looming winter weather that was forecast for our area.

Changing the oil on the old snowblower and then firing it up in preparation to the coming snowfall was high on my list. Little did I know that it would start us on the pathway to cleaning up the garage.

After a couple of hours, it started to look like I could, with a bit of planning and some creative stacking, carve out sufficient space in the garage to accommodate the van that my wife drives every day.

When the snow fell on Monday and Tuesday, our vehicle, for the first time in years, was in the garage and out of the snow.

I felt pretty good about getting everything put away before the snow arrived. A small milestone had been noted. Driving the van into the garage was a much bigger milestone. I’d still like to see a mild winter. *   *   *   *   *   *

On Monday of this week, word came out of the Twin Cities that a longtime University of Minnesota professor and himself a student of Minnesota history had died.

Hy Berman became well known as a close friend and advisor to Rudy Perpich. He was a frequent guest on television and radio programs when there was a need for some good historical perspective.

While having somewhat of a high profile, he remained humble and always approachable. His passing was noted this week in a sizeable Star Tribune article and a rare editorial eulogy calling him Minnesota’s historian laureate.

He began teaching at the “U” back in 1961 and by the time I took a class from him in 1973, he was well on his way to becoming somewhat of a local legend.

The class was called “History of American Labor, 1890 to 1930”. It covered a tumultuous time in American history that, despite many remarkable characters and many compelling causes, remains somewhat misunderstood.

I was in Hy Berman’s class at the suggestion of my roommate in Minneapolis back then, David Lundquist. David was majoring in political science and had taken a class from Berman. He was sure I’d find his class worthwhile. That was good advice.

I was coming off an eight -month stint of railroad work and after earning some tuition money, I was going back to school, this time at the “U” in Minneapolis. I had filled out the necessary paperwork to transfer my credits from Mankato State that fall and was all set but I hadn’t registered for classes and the deadline was looming. Getting the classes I wanted seemed a bit of a stretch.

Of course there was no such thing as on-line registration back then and the lines at the registrar’s office at the “U” were notoriously long. Getting the classes you wanted was a gamble that normally could only be avoided by registering early. My not-so-wise approach involved waiting until the last hour of the last day.

I didn’t have to stand in line but it also seemed inevitable that I wouldn’t get into the classes that I wanted. My wish list included Berman’s labor history class. I walked up, wrote down the classes I wanted and in five minutes I wrote out a check for my tuition. It was amazing. I had all three of the classes I had requested.

Even more amazing was finding myself in a classroom with a short, somewhat pudgy, affable and chatty professor with an unusual name.

He was engaging and had high expectations of his students. While three or four of us were undergraduates, the other 20 or so were in graduate school and they were setting the bar very high.

Berman was there everyday before class and couldn’t wait to launch into the stories, the ideas and the discussion. You wanted to be there, too, for every minute of the experience. Sometimes you just had to hang around to hear his answer to someone’s question, even it meant being late for your next class, a long trek across the huge campus.

Hy Berman grew up in what he called “the garment district” in New York City. He was the son of European Jewish immigrants who worked there and became union organizers. With no formal education, he said that they saved money so their son could go to college. He did that and also earned his doctorate and began teaching, first in Brooklyn, then at Michigan State and finally at the “U”, where he found a home.

He taught us about the world his folks lived in and the world that many of our grandparents came from. They were working people, trying to get ahead in life. His humble and approachable teaching style made class enjoyable and inspiring. He asked for a lot from us and we studied hard. It was great fun.

About a month before the end of the quarter, he handed out his “final test”. There were five questions.

“Answer three of them. And let’s see some writing...”

I never worked so hard for a good grade.

Two or three years after taking his class and going to work for the railroad, I stopped by Hy Berman’s office at the “U”. He looked up from his messy desk, shook my hand and promptly asked if I was still working on the railroad. I told him yes. He said, “Good. Employment is good”.

He told me that someday I should go back to school. Of course.

He always had good advice. I’ll do that someday.

Hy Berman was the genuine article. We were lucky to have him here in Minnesota. gave us our final test or he t was interesting to think back this week