The best Christmas present of all came early this year

One of the nice things about being part of a ginormous extended family is you never know what will turn up in the way of ancestral artifacts. Turns out my Great Uncle Ken shot some video at my grandparents’ house back in 1996, and he recently made a DVD copy for my dad.

My grandparents on my dad's side, Ervin and Anna Isch.

My grandparents on my dad’s side, Ervin and Anna Isch.

So over the weekend our younger kids got a chance  to see their great grandpa – who died in 1998 — telling stories rather than just grinning at them from a photograph.

It also raised an intriguing question: What was it that people in this area saw in the sky back when Ken, now around 80 years old, was a boy?

In the video he poses the question to his older siblings and their spouses, wondering just what it was that “made people think the world was coming to an end?”

It was hard to make out individual responses, because everybody in the room started talking at once. (Also, my dad began talking over the soundtrack to add his two cents, which is that it was an unusual but not unprecedented case of dislocated northern lights.)

Whatever it was, nobody who’d seen the sky that night had forgotten about it more than 60 years later.

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