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Photographer captures scenes, recalls history

Years ago, Brad Johnson sure knew how to shed some light on something.

Or actually, someone.

It happened when he was a teenager. Johnson was a photographer for Bellevue High School and was covering a football game.

Back then, he had to use a bulky Speed Graphic camera, which had a huge flash.

Bellevue had the ball and its star running back was barreling down the sidelines. Johnson couldn’t focus the cumbersome old camera and shoot at the same time, so he focused on a spot 20 yards ahead. As the football player headed for a touchdown, Johnson fired off the flash nearly blinding the running back.

A couple days later, Johnson asked the football player if he’d seen the photograph.

“Yeah,” the player said, adding, “You about killed me with that (flash). I almost dropped the ball.”

Decades later, Johnson was sharing his photographic experiences in the Fremont Area Art Association building. In his talk, the photographer took listeners on a walk through two histories — this nation’s and his own.

Throughout the month, the Omaha artist’s photography has been on display in Gallery 92 West in downtown Fremont. The exhibit, titled “Scapes — Land, Water, Sky,” features 30 of Johnson’s works and is on view through the end of the week. Johnson talked about his photographic journey with art association members and guests at a recent luncheon.

Johnson’s dad, Lawrence, joined the U.S. Air Force and served as an engineer gunner on a B-17 bomber over Germany and France toward the end of World War II.

The photographer’s mom, Aloha Jean, moved to Lincoln when she was 18 years old and worked at the Capitol building.

“She was a fantastic shorthand talent,” he said of her rapid-writing skills. “She scored 99 percent on the testing, which was pretty amazing.”

When the federal government was recruiting staff for the Truman administration, she and a friend went to Washington, D.C. and stayed in barracks near Arlington National Cemetery. They worked for the Veterans Administration.

A highlight of that experience came when she was selected to represent the Cornhusker state and attend a White House garden party with war generals and wounded veterans.

There, she met President Harry Truman and his wife, Bess; and the highly distinguished U.S. Army General Omar Bradley and Admiral Chester Nimitz.

She also met Dwight Eisenhower, an army general who’d become president.

“Now we’re getting closer to home,” said Eisenhower said as he shook young Nebraska woman’s hand. Eisenhower had grown up in Kansas.

Their handshake was photographed and made the newspapers.

Johnson’s parents married in 1949 and his mom later began taking photographs of the couple’s children. She took an up-close, eye-level photo of then-11-month-old Brad.

“Some of the best photos are taken at a low, low camera angle, so my mom must have gotten on the ground to take this,” Johnson said, before quipping, “I call this the attack of the giant baby.”

When Johnson was 2 ½ years old, his dad got orders to go to Japan. There was no base housing so the family lived in a neighborhood. Johnson showed a photograph taken of him and a little Japanese girl.

After three years, the Johnsons went to Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

President John F. Kennedy’s family home was in Hyannis on the cape. Johnson’s dad would fly to the Kennedy compound in Hyannis.

Johnson was a fifth-grader when his teacher gave him a note to take to the school office. He was in the hallway when he saw a teacher crying.

“What’s the matter?” Johnson asked.

“Somebody shot the president,” she said.

That was Nov. 22, 1963 — the day Kennedy was assassinated.

Johnson’s family later relocated in Bellevue, where he noticed a Scott Paper Towel promotion. The company offered to give away a Kodak Hawkeye Instamatic camera in exchange for 20 paper towel wrappers.

By then, Johnson was one of eight children so getting that many paper towel wrappers didn’t take long. The film-cartridge camera came in the mail and he started taking pictures and developing a love for photography.

He graduated from high school and later got a good job doing marketing research. He took computer programming and photography classes. Johnson met his future wife, Terese, in 1975 and they would become the parents of three children. He earned a bachelor’s of science degree in business at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1985.

The only photo contest Johnson ever entered was a Nebraska State Fair competition in 1980. He took a black and white photograph of a tiger, which he printed and processed himself.

He won first place in the animal and nature category.

In 2002, the Johnsons went to Ireland — a year after terrorists crashed airplanes into NYC’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

“I remember the newscasters were saying, ‘Be kind to the Americans because they had a tragedy in their country last year,’” Johnson said.

The Johnsons traveled along Ireland’s coastline and his photographs reflect their journey. Included among the pictures is a scene of a horse and colt in a green pasture. Another photo shows a lone seagull on a large rock surrounded by rippled blue water.

His photos include Sandhill cranes. He has photographs of snow geese flying across a lake at DeSoto Bend. Other photographs depict Yellowstone Falls; Signal Mountain in the Tetons; and clouds in the winter at 188th and Maple streets.

He has photos of vibrant sunsets.

“You never know what you’re going to come across when you take photographs,” he said. “You have to be there on the spot. You have to be able to act quickly.”

The camera Johnson uses today is a little different than the unwieldy one he used in high school. His camera today can take seven photos a second — and probably wouldn’t blind a running football player.


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Izaak Walton hosting children's fishing day

Gary Dather loves far more than simply the Izaak Walton Park itself, he loves everything that the park provides to its members.

From the camaraderie, the conversation and all of the outdoor opportunities, the current chairman of the Izaak Walton Club could speak for hours about all of the memories he’s made on the property during his lifetime.

Many of these memories were made during his time as a child, which is one of the reason’s Dather, who served as Izaak Walton’s president for four years, always emphasizes the importance of getting children involved with the club.

“It’s always so much fun having kids at the park,” Dather said during a Monday interview with the Tribune. “I grew up in this park spending time with my dad, and I know that was special for him and for me too. And it’s special for all of our members to have them there, because Izaak Walton is all about providing nature activities for children.”

From 10 a.m. through 2 p.m. Saturday, the Fremont Izaak Walton Kids’ Back to School Fishing Day is being held on the property, 2560 W. Military Ave. The event was originally held during the summer, however, scorching temperatures didn’t encourage too many people to show up for the day of fishing.

Cooler September temperatures should allow more people to spend some quality time in the great outdoors, he said.

The event, free of charge, is being held for children through the age of 13. The first 25 children in attendance will receive a prize, and there will also be prizes awarded for the biggest fish caught, smallest fish caught, most fish caught and anything caught other than a fish.

“That’s just a fun way to build their self-esteem up so they feel confident when they get going with fishing,” Dather said.

Those with fishing poles are being asked to bring them, but Dather said the club will have some poles available for use. No prior fishing experience is required.

“There will be plenty of people there to help the kids,” he said. “We always have a lot of members who are willing to help. Sometimes it feels like we are running around the place constantly helping them, and that’s just fine because we have so much fun.”

Another perk of the Back to School Fishing Day is that if people become a member of the Izaak Walton Park Saturday, the rest of the year will be half-price on single and family memberships, released information says.

Dather said that children will have the opportunity to catch bass, crappie, blue gills, bullheads and catfish.

“We have a pretty good variety of fish here,” he said.


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Tractor Supply supports local vendors, hosts Farmers Market

The Fremont Tractor Supply Co. offers local residents a wide variety of agricultural and gardening products.

Whether it is a small bag of fertilizer and a shovel for a backyard gardener, or more heavy duty equipment for a local farmer or rancher, the store is in the business of helping people grow food.

With the business usually revolving around providing the tools and products to help grow food, next week the store will also be the place to go to buy food grown locally.

Customers of the Fremont Tractor Supply store are invited to shop crafts, produce and other local goods at the TSC Farmers Market on Saturday, October 7.

“The Farmers Market will be a celebration of the talent and expertise in our community,” Jeff Ingersoll, manager of the Fremont Tractor Supply Co., said.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., local farmers and crafters will showcase and sell their homemade and homegrown goods in front of the Tractor Supply store at 2850 E. 23rd Avenue North.

“Everyone is invited to stop by the Tractor Supply Farmers Market and join us in supporting our neighbors whose handcrafted goods and homegrown produce will be on full display,” said Jeff Ingersoll said. “We are inspired by customers who live the out here lifestyle and we are excited to introduce them to members of the community who share similar interests.

The Farmers Market will include local vendors ABCD Catering, Snap Shots By Kaley Schlueter, and Arts & Eats by the J’s, who will all be on site from 10 a.m to 2 p.m.

For local vendors and farmers looking to participate in the event, they can sign up at TSCEventPartners.com or contact the store at 402-721-6175. Non-profit organizations and food trucks are also encouraged to register.

Tractor Supply Company is the largest rural lifestyle retail store chain in the United States. At July 1, 2017, the Company operated 1,630 Tractor Supply stores in 49 states and an e-commerce website at www.tractorsupply.com.

Tractor Supply stores are focused on supplying the lifestyle needs of recreational farmers and ranchers and others who enjoy the rural lifestyle, as well as tradesmen and small businesses. The store sells a variety of products including equine, livestock, and pet products, hardware, truck, towing, and tool products, lawn and garden items, power equipment, and maintenance products for agricultural and rural use.