Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Monday, December 31, 2007

Crossing the Bridge

When I was a teenager and until I left the Runnemede area, something I really enjoyed doing was walking across the Ben Franklin Bridge. That's not me on the walkway. Of course, this was before I encountered a fear of heights. Now, if I were to try to walk across any bridge, I'd be on my hands and knees crawling. But "back in the day" I enjoyed the 15-minute walk across the bridge. It connected Philadelphia with Camden, and I would walk from work at 12th and Market to 6th and Race and go across the Bridge to Camden, then hop on a 21 or 31 bus to get me to Runnemede.
I don't know whether the walk way is still open, but I found this picture and thought you might like to know that I did walk this bridge, many times, as did Alan, and my dad. Actually, I think it was a cheap date to say, "Hey, let's walk the bridge."

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The in-between activities

We're in a time between Christmas and New Year's. As a child, this could have been very boring for us, but I don't recalled ever being bored. Oh, I suppose I was, I just don't remember it.

Don't forget, TV was a new concept, and after Kookla, Fran, and Ollie, Howdy Doody, and Willie the Worm there was nothing else on TV to amuse a kid until late afternoon. And since I was 10 when we got our first TV, the previous shows held little interest for me, and by the time I was 10 my Christmas gift receipts had changed from toys to clothes or books.

One thing I remember doing is going to visit my friends, or them coming to visit me, and comparing gifts. This wasn't as difficult as it could have been because we lived in the post-world-war II economy where men worked in factories, moms stayed home, and people weren't trying to surpass the neighbors with stuff. Most of my friends were as poor as we were, so we liked to see how the other person fared. I had more gift-giving relatives that some of my friends, so I did a little better, but the gifts were small, and really monetarily we probably all got about the same amount of things. I mean a 10-cent hankie counted as one gift, as did a jar of olives. You can see where I'm going with that, right? If you count all the olives in a jar, I, by far, had more gifts than anyone else on the block! And by the time I was 10, and was receiving books, that took away any boredom at all, because I'd just read my new book(s) and I'd be off in another time and place.

Another thing I recall is something Mom and I did on almost a daily basis -- that was to look at the many, many Christmas cards the family had received. We'd ooh and aah over the ones that had foil beneath the picture so that the stars shone more brightly, or the ones that had ribbons on the side, or the ones that were intricately cut out. Some were covered with glitter. Back then almost all cards were unique, like Hallmark cards are today.

We'd look at those cards, reminding ourselves who had thought enough to send the family a card. Often times it had money in it and that was a good thing, because Mom and Dad would give us a very small cut -- like a dime -- but a dime here and a dime there adds up to lots of pickles. That's another story. Anyway, the cards in my youthful eye were so special, and mom and I would talk about what we were going to do with them after New Year's. You see, I knew, that after the Christmas things were put away we would either be pasting those cards "as is" in a scrapbook, or we'd be cutting them apart for "parts" to be used in our own card-making efforts.

So, today is the day I will be looking through the cards Alan and I received this year, and I will be cutting out parts of those cards that I will use to put in my own scrapbook. I shall share those parts with my little friends who like to make Christmas cards, hopefully, next year as the next Christmas season comes upon us.

This year I made many cards and I taught a class of children how to make cards. They had a great time, and some of the things they used on their cards -- many were very imaginative -- were those pieces and bits I had cut out from previous years' cards.

Tomorrow is New Years' Eve. No church service here. I wonder if Mt. Calvary still has a New Year's Eve service. I've told the tale of our New Year's Eve services before. A new year is beginning and we need to reflect and be thankful for what God has given us this past year, knowing that His blessings are great and we have a lot to look forward to from Him in the coming year.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Charm bracelets

When I was growing up, the eighth grade graduation was most important. Why am I bringing this up? Well, Alan and I were watching I remember Mama, a really old (as old as I) black and white movie and it was very important in the lives of Mama's children to graduate from 8th grade.

When I graduated from 8th grade -- we had a wonderful ceremony and the girls all had to wear white dresses. That's me, in the picture in my white dress. Mom tried to spruce it up with those frills on the bodice. I disliked that dress immensely. The shoes, I loved. The dress wasn't new -- it was a hand-me-down, and it wasn't really white -- it had yellowed. But that's not the point. The point is, 8th grade graduation was a big deal. Why? Well, back then mandatory high-school attendance wasn't -- you could drop out at 16 and no one cared. Of course, you had two years to go after 8th grade, but several of my class members opted not to go back to school after graduation.
Anyway, as in the movie, gifts were given to the graduates by family and friends. I do not recall getting any gifts when I graduated from high school, because it just wasn't done, I guess.
Anyway, one gift I remember fondly is a bracelet -- sterling silver -- that had a heart on it with my initials monogrammed on it. I added many charms to that bracelet, but alas, it's gone. Where? I don't know. I just know that when we moved to Cincinnati from NJ is was among the mission.
I spent the better part of today searching through EBAY thinking maybe the stealer of that bracelet is wanting to get rid of it and has put it out for purchase. I looked at over 2,000 bracelets, silver charm, vintage, and found one that many of the same charms, but not the same bracelet.
What charms did I put on that bracelet when I was in my teen years? Silly things, really. A typewriter with a movable carriage, a piano (grand) with a lid that lifted up, a violin, a treble clef, a telephone (rotary dial that moved), a globe, an abacus, a protractor, a slide rule, a map of NJ, a graduation cap, a tennis racket. And one more charm, which was given to me by my mother-in-law the first Christmas she gave me something. She said when she saw it she just knew I had to have it. What was it? It was a screw with a ball attached to it. Huh? A screwball. Yes, that's what she said. Not being daunted I attached it to that bracelet and told anyone who would listen about that screwball charm!
I wonder where that bracelet is now? I have another charm bracelet that was started for me by my husband, and there are charms on it that are from as far back as1963 -- that would make them 44-plus years old. They are mostly charms from places we've been -- although there's another charm bracelet in my jewelry box that has many "place" charms. I guess the one my husband started in '63 is more from our early marriage years.
Enough remembering for today. Back at ya next week.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

South Jersey

You know you're from South Jersey if...

It's an irreverent look at the things we experienced, mostly, in the late 50s and through the 60s by living in South Jersey.

The Jersey Devil was always part of campfire stories at the camp in the woods. Never saw it myself though. Guess I went to the wrong woods. For those of you not from South Jersey -- the woods are also known as the forest. But because the forest is so small, they call it the woods.

I love the line that says that you know you're from South Jersey if you get yourself some jersey corn and tomatoes and make a meal of it. I still do that. Only the corn and tomatoes are raised in Indiana. They're good, but after getting some really good tomatoes and corn a couple of summers ago, they can't compare to Jersey's home-grown produce. It must be the soil. And, you've gotta add a little basil to the whole mix, along with salt and pepper.

And yes, we do pronounce coffee funny, at least I'm told I do, caw fee? And water as well. I remember when we first moved here to Cincinnati (just north of where we live now) and I asked for water to drink. The waitress didn't know what I was talking about. I repeated it. Still she hadn't a clue. Finally, I spelled it. "Ah," said she, "Wah ter." "Yeh," said I. Then she said, "Please?" With the question mark after it -- like she was asking me to say "Please" for the water I ordered. Come to find out, that "Please?" out here means "huh?" in south jersey.

Anyway, if you get a chance browse through the South Jersey list. And then, you younger folks can ask (aks) me if the postings are true.

One thing not on the list and I'm reluctant to put it on because I've corrected so many people who actually live there, but, you know you're from south Jersey when you say "pitcher" when you mean "picture."

'Nuf said.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bug juice and tasty kakes

Okay, so what do we call kool aid? Bug juice. Remember that? When I was growing up, during DVBS we had a "food" break -- bug juice and cookies. The "bug juice" was some sort of kool aid, never grape, because that could be misconstrued to be communion juice. And one year one of the kind ladies in the church made home-brewed root beer. Boy was it yeasty. It tasted vaguely like root beer, but mostly like yeast.

Going to camp we also had the privilege of drinking "bug juice" -- also Kool Aid, always the red variety. Red sugar water with a bit of cherry flavor. YummmmM!

But TastyKakes -- now they were a great treat. Nothing can compare to TastyKakes and pies. The best TastyKakes were the butterscotch krimpets, followed by the chocolate iced cup cakes (not creme filled). The best pies were lemon and peach (in my opinion). And they only cost 10 cents each. What a treat. (Alan's favorite TastyKake has always been the peanut butter tandy.

I have not misspelled cake -- TastyKake is spelled with a "K", not a "C". Keeping in with their trademark, they also spell "krimpets" with a "K" rather than a "C".

Monday, December 24, 2007

Bad language

I'm not talking about bad grammar, I'm talking about four-letter words.

I was trying to find pictures of Runnemede on the WWW and there were a couple of personal websites that Google found that supposedly had pictures of Runnemede. Well, I never found the pictures.

These sites were both placed on the Web by 20-something people. And, I'm wondering if the only things they learned to spell were four-letter words -- none of which are part of my vocabulary ( at least not my public vocabulary).

I'm wondering if "kids" -- yes, I'll call them "kids" know any other words. I mean the content of these sites was just -- well, I didn't get the connection to Runnemede at all, except the address of the owners was Runnemede, NJ.

Do young people today think they are sophisticated or hep or cool if they can use every vulgar word that isn't in the dictionary? It doesn't say much for the English composition classes they are required to take in high school, now does it?

Back in olden days (40s, 50s, and most of the 60s) no one would consider writing those kinds of words for the world to see, unless they were an over-rated, overpaid author known for writing junk novels. Ms. McGargy would be turning over in her grave if she read any those renderings.

Ms. McGargy was the high-school English teacher extraordinaire at Triton -- the high school that is in Runnemede and to which Runnemede students walk and supposedly learn English composition. Ms. McGargy could tell if you had your homework done just by looking at you. I guess there was a look of guilt on your face if you didn't get it finished. I don't know, but she was always right. She was a great teacher of English grammar and composition.

Separating garbage

Well, folks, we separated our garbage back in the 40s and 50s -- and that was before the EPA!

We had to separate our trash/garbage. We had two trash cans, one barrel (for trash that we could burn), and a can for ashes. Mom would cull out the garbage, without coffee grounds, after our meals, and that garbage would be put in one can, which was picked up by a different set of garbage collectors than the trash collectors. The paper products were taken out to the barrel for burning, and the metal and glass garbage was put in its own trash can, which was picked up once a week and thrown into a truck.

The food garbage had to be separated from all the other trash because in those days there were pig farms just across the town border in Westville. And believe me, if you were down-wind of those pig farms you knew it. The garbage collectors would just pick up the can and toss the contents into the back of a dump truck (phew it stunk) and that was carted down to the pig farms for the pigs to eat.

The pigs ate our garbage, yes they did. And back then we had to worry about trichinosis from pork products because who knew what was in the garbage those pigs and hogs were eating?

One night there was a fire -- we could see the glow in the western sky -- and one of the largest farms went up in smoke that night. They lost most of their pigs.

Another sort of our garbage/trash was that the ashes from the furnace were placed in an open metal container and those ashes were tossed into still another truck -- in case there were some live coals I suppose, it was not the same truck as the trash truck -- just in case some people didn't burn their own paper in their back yards.

Trash was picked up on Monday and Friday -- we put out all three receptacles on Sunday night and Thursday night.

After the sewer system was installed in the early 50s the town passed an ordinance that there would be no more in-yard burning of leaves or paper or anything else. So, we didn't have the trash barrel for burning anymore.

Just through you'd want to know that being good to the earth that God gave us, by sorting our trash/garbage is not a new concept, it's been around since, well, at least for 65 years, and I would imagine much longer than I've lived.

Coffee grounds -- mom used coffee grounds as fertilizer for her rose bushes. Sometimes she'd wash the grounds down the kitchen sink drain -- apparently coffee grounds were like Drano. We never had a stopped up kitchen drain.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

In ten minutes

In ten minutes from the start of my writing this BLOG it will be Christmas Eve 2007. Yeah! There's something so quiet about Christmas Eve. Even with all the hustle and bustle of final gift wrapping, keeping the gifts a surprise for the children, last minute baking, last minute shopping, etc., Christmas Eve is still quiet -- at least to me it is.

The quiet really hits around 6 p.m. Before that, it's much like any other day -- except traffic is worse and the stores are more crowded. But by 6 p.m., yep, it get quiet.

I noticed that when I was a kid, too. It's like the world is anticipating something, and so it become quiet while waiting for what they are anticipating to appear or take place.

I remember on several clear Christmas Eve evenings going into the back yard and looking up into the sky hoping that I, little old me, would see a host of angels telling me to "Fear not". Wouldn't that have been the coolest thing?

I remember Christmas Eves when we were just about ready to get into bed, and "hark" there would be carolers regaling us with their songs of comfort and joy. Then the quiet descended once again.

So, now, it's down to five minutes, and then the quiet will either begin or wait until after 6 p.m., but it will come. Christmas Eve quiet. Listen for it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My father -- again

Dad as you know was a preacher/teacher. He loved God's Word, to the point that if he were engrossed in a passage of Scripture, the house could burn down around him and he wouldn't notice.

Dad spent one day a month taking communion to the elderly, or those who were unable to get to church on the first Sunday of the month -- that was communion Sunday. He had the neatest "kit". It was made of leather, like a doctors bag, but not as large. It contained a jar with a lid on it for the "wine" (Welch's grape juice), four small sipping glasses, a small silver tray for the Matzo (the bread to be broken), and a napkin in which to wrap the Matzo until it was broken onto the plate. Dad carried The Word in his pocket (well, really in his head, but he always opened The Book and recited the Lord's Supper passages).

Children were not permitted to participate in the partaking of the Lord's Supper until they were 11 and had passed all the questions asked by the pastor, deacons, and trustees, about their belief in Christ, and then were baptized. After being baptized, one could take the Lord's Supper on the first Sunday of the month.

Dad would prepare for this service by filling the cups in putting them into the cup holders -- he did this early on Sunday morning. And he would get three matzos and place them in a folded napkin on a silver tray, and then carry all these items over to the church and set them up on the table in front of the podium. He'd drape the whole thing with a white, freshly pressed table cloth. That way, people coming to church that day knew it was communion Sunday.

The deacons would head down front and dad would give them the trays of "bread" to be passed out, then after they returned to the front of the church with the trays, dad would serve the deacons, saying, "This is my body, which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of me." And then he would say, "Eat ye all of it," at which point we would all chew on our small bit of matzo. Then the cup would be passed around. The juice was put in tiny, almost thimble-sized cups and each person took one cup, and held it. When all the cups were passed out, the men would walk back to the front of the church, and dad would pass out the cup to the deacons, saying, "This is my blood which was shed for you." "As long as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, you shall show the Lord's death until He comes." Then, "Drink ye all of it."

Then we'd sing the Doxology and leave.

Won't it be wonderful when we are at our Lord's table and he is serving us this supper in person?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Shoes and pocketbooks

My sister and I love shoes. Now that we're getting up in years, however, we're stuck with "old lady" type shoes -- no heels, loafer-type shoes. Ugly shoes. Very ugly shoes.

When we were growing up we -- Deb and I -- loved to play with my mother's shoes. Her high-heeled shoes. And, my dear mother let us! Can you believe that? We would walk around with our shoes inside her shoes, until our shoes got too big to fit in her shoes, then we'd walk around in her shoes with the back flapping with each step we took.

We never fell off those shoes either. My mom had beautiful shoes -- or so I thought. And if I had those shoes today, many would think they were beautiful still. They had style. Most had an open toe, but those were only worn in warm weather -- weather above 50 degrees.

Mom had rubber boots that had a heel in them just right for wearing with her high-heeled shoes. I wish I could find a picture of those goulashes. And she also had a pair of boots that had no heel at all. There was a hole and the high-heel would fit in that hole. The rest of the foot was protected by the rubber boot.

Dad had pull on rubber goulashes that fit really snug against his shoes. For winter he had a pair of boots that went over his shoes and the latches were metal. It's hard to described those latches. No Velcro in those days.

Deb and I also loved (still do) pocketbooks -- now called purses. Mom had quite a collection and she let us play with them as well. I always had a handbag thrown around my neck. You know, I just didn't feel dressed without it. Same with Deb. Now, the purses had no money in them -- we did have play money, though, and that had to do.

Yes, back in those days, they made play money -- coins were made out of tin and had a 1 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent, or 25 cent embossing on them, depending on which coin you were fortunate enough to own. We also had play bills, well, I shouldn't say WE had play bills, but they were available. Not Monopoly money, but green money.

So where am I with this rambling? Well, my sister and I loved to play dress up using my mother's shoes and handbags. My mom was very compliant and let us wear her shoes, even her dress ones. We learned early how to polish shoes so that they'd be presentable for Sunday.

Back in those days -- the 40s and 50s -- there was a paint on polish -- my dad preferred the paste polish, but mom liked the paint-on polish, because it was easier and took only a few minutes to apply and the shoes were like new.

I suppose you all know that Vaseline is the way to polish patent leather, right? I was looking at a picture of me and my sister, and we're both wearing patent leather ankle-strap Mary Janes. Yes, the shoes had both the ankle strap and the mary-jane strap -- two for the price of one?

Enough of shoes and bags. Back to dreamworld.

Front Porches

I have always loved a front porch. This is the front porch on which I spent much of my time when I was a child. It's not very large, but it held, for me and my imagination, all kinds of pleasure. I could cuddle up in one corner, spread out a baby blanket and pretend I was having a picnic. I could also sit in that corner with my Lincoln Logs or my Bricks and build houses. I could sit on a chair in another part of the porch and read.
The porch was my favorite place. It was always cool in the summer, even on the hottest days. I was protected in the winter from ice and snow, and even though it was cold, it was a place to play without having to get snow in my boots.
The front walk was always the walk down "the aisle" when I played "Here Comes the Bride."
My first purchased home (the first house my husband and I bought) had a wide porch -- really very large. My children and I played out there a lot, and we watched thunder storms from the porch. We read books on the porch. It, too, was cool in the summer, and a place for the children to play outside in the winter.
The next home, the place in which we lived for almost 30 years had no porch at all. It had a large step in the front, and I could put a chair on the step and "pretend" I had a front porch, but alas, that was not the same. In the back, there was a larger step -- a patio waiting to happen? I would sit out there as well -- that's where deer would come close and almost eat out of the palm of my hand. But it wasn't a front porch.
Now, in my final home before I leave this earth -- I've determined that I'm never moving again -- I have a porch -- a veranda -- a lanai -- a sun room -- a deck -- a patio -- I don't care what anybody calls it -- it's a porch and even with our winter fully upon us, I can sit out there and read or scrapbook or just close my eyes and recall what it was like to be young and have a front porch.

I think I've worn out the Runnemede thing

Runnemede was such a nice place to grow up. I wonder if it still is. Now, it's crowded with traffic on many of its streets. The two main streets, when I was growing up, and across which I traveled many times, are now so full of traffic that getting across them without going to a traffic light (which in the case of Clements Bridge Road is a good three blocks) is almost impossible.

The last time I was in town -- in 2005 -- there were few stores left on the main street. In an effort to spruce up the town, the intersection of Clements Bridge and the Black Horse Pike buildings were given a face-lift, but really I saw little of the small town ambiance I loved when I was a child.

Now there is a Mall just over the town border in Deptford, and that has caused a lot of the traffic problems. Plus with that mall came Walmart, K-Mart, Best Buy, and other larger stores -- no in the mall, but near the mall. So what is there in Runnemede that needs to be sold.

Other than the Phily (misspelled on purpose?) diner, there is little in the town to say -- hey, I can walk to get anything I want or need, like there used to be.

But, then, I live within walking distance of Krogers, the library, several fast-food places, and I drive. But hey, I'm handicapped (officially) and walking more than 100 feet is a chore for me. So, I can't blame the current Runnemede folks, who undoubtedly are as proud of their town as I was when I was living there, for the traffic or the lack of neat stores and Christmas window displays, now can I?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The countdown continues

It's four days until Christmas. What were we doing back in the 40s and 50s at this point? I suppose mom and dad were scurrying here and there. I know that if Sunday was more than four days before Christmas Day we (the whole family and church members) were getting ready for the Christmas program, and gift giving, and cookie exchange at church.

I loved the gift exchange because my mother would usually let me hand out HER gifts to HER friends and Sunday school students. I felt so special doing that. After all, I had curled the ribbon on the packages (see earlier post).

If Christmas was just before Sunday -- the Sunday before when we had the pageant was over -- dad would be getting ready to give his Luke 2 sermon, interspersed with Matthew 1. I learned the "Peanuts" passage very early in my life.

I can recall the excitement of Christmas. Everyday something new was going on. Most days it was a steady stream of parishioners bringing us goodies to eat. One family could be counted on to bring us two large boxes of groceries -- not the usual groceries, either. Things like olives -- large jars of olives, which we all loved. Salmon, canned. A large canned ham. Gerkins -- not my favorite pickle, but dad loved them. Lots of jelly and cheese. I remember one year my Sunday school teacher gave me a whole jar of olives all for myself. I loved her as long as she lived for her thoughtful gift. Have I mentioned that one of my grandsons loves to get olives for a gift?

Another family would stop by and bring gifts for us children -- a scarf for me and one for my sister. We always got the same present. Probably socks for my brothers. They hated getting socks for Christmas. In fact, one line I recall my brother Mark uttering many times is: "Socks, again?" He didn't like getting socks.

Still another family would drop in and bring us cookies. Polish cookies! The best ever. German cookies -- a close second to the Polish cookies. And the every popular candy-cane cookies.

And we always got boxes of chocolates. Not just one box, but boxes.

I guess maybe the excitement was due to a sugar high. Who ever heard of a sugar high back then? Sugar wasn't a bad thing. Nor was chocolate. I still believe chocolate is a wonderful vegetable, don't you?

I did learn in my early teens, though, that sugar did not agree with me, and I would get terrible migraines if I ate too much sugar or chocolate. So, I cut way back on my sweet intake. I still got headaches, but I could always pinpoint the reason to something I had eaten the day prior to the pain. Finally, when I was in my 30s I gave up sugar altogether and chocolate as well.

In my 50s I weaned myself back onto sugar and chocolate -- just a little bit. I still get headaches if I each too much chocolate, and milk chocolate is still a killer. I won't touch milk chocolate. Chocolate milk is okay, but not milk chocolate!

My mom got terrible headaches, too. So does my sister. Are migraines hereditary? I don't know. But I do know they are a royal pain!!!!

Dad, of course, had his medicines to hand out to us, if we got a headache. He seemed to think they were helpful, and maybe they were. He was big on homeopathy. He would ask us two seconds after we took the pills, "Are you feeling better now?" Huh? I haven't even swallowed the things yet and you're asking me if I feel better? Please. But that was my father.

I recalled this lead up to Christmas Eve/Christmas Day as a time when the tree would be finalized -- it had been put up probably a week before Christmas, and we decorated it in dribs and drabs. Mom wouldn't let us touch her special ornaments that she placed around the home. And, with four small children, her decorating was done late at night. We would find something new on a shelf or on the table in the morning after one of her late-night decorating sprees.

Her table was always beautiful. And she had a linen table cloth that she used only at Christmas time. She loved candles, too. So do I. They added something special to the fresh greens that lined the center of the table.

So, we're getting close to the big day. But do we remember what the big day is really for? As a child, I knew it was Jesus' birth we were celebrating. But the excitement for me back then was not Jesus' birth, but all the folderoll of the season. Now, I reflect on the excitement, and for me at this point in my life, yes there is excitement in giving, but the real excitement is in realizing what God the Father did when He sent His only begotten Son to be the Saviour of the world. Sent Him as a baby, and had Him grow up and become a man like all other humans. He was human, but he was God. Isn't that something to be excited about?

I'm out of Runnemede again

Okay, so this BLOG is not about Runnemede, unless something strikes me as I'm writing this.

We had a present for one of my grandchildren -- a 6-year-old boy -- at least we thought we did. He is a very good reader (4th grade level at this point) and we bought him a book entitled: The Dangerous Book for Boys. It has a lot of science things in it, and things about bugs, and caves, and military maneuvers, etc. I browsed through it and thought it was appropriate. Alan read it and thought it was too mature because there were things in this book for boys that he had a hard time ingesting. So, now, it's December 21 (almost) and I have to go out to get another gift for my grandson. Arrgh!

I'm not looking forward to the crowded conditions I know I'll find tomorrow. Maybe Kroger's will have something appropriate. I certainly hope so. If not...

I wonder if my mom and dad ever had this problem. This close to Christmas and oops! a gift that is not appropriate had to be replaced with something else requiring one of them to run to Jake's 5 and 10, or into Philly, to get something else. I certainly hope not.

Curling Ribbon

Today my daughter asked me to list all the Christmas traditions we had when I was a child. I guess I've been all over the place with BLOGging the traditions we enjoyed, but I don't want to be repetitive again (pun intended).

Mom did a lot of the wrapping. Daddy only wrapped those presents that were specifically from him (not from him and mom), and I've already talked about how perfectly he wrapped gifts.

Anyway, mom wrapped all the gifts, but left the best part for me and my siblings. At least I considered it the best part of the wrapping. The wrapping paper was often used -- we were very careful when we unwrapped our gifts because the paper was used again and again. Mom even ironed it!

Back in the 40s and 50s paper ribbon (now called curling ribbon) was extremely popular. I mean silk and satin ribbon was as well, but it was more expensive than the paper ribbon. Department stores had whole departments that sold only ribbon. But I digress.

Mom bought the paper ribbon and she would wrap it around the gift, then asked for one of our small fingers to hold down the ribbon at the place she was going to tie it. Then she'd curl the ribbon around our finger and pull, and then we would pull our finger out of the way and the ribbon was tight.

But we weren't finished yet. We had to curl the ribbon. I know you all know what that means, but I'll explain anyway. It's when you take the flat part of the scissor blade to the back of the ribbon, hold the ribbon taught, and pull against the ribbon. It curls.

This was brought to my remembrance today as I curled ribbon myself, and held my finger down while I tried to get the ribbon tied tightly. There is a little slack, but mostly the ribbon was tight.

After all the gifts were wrapped and the ribbon curled, mom would put on the name tags. No adhesive backed tags in those days. They all had a small hole punched in one end, with a small piece of twine strung through to attach to the package. If we ran out of ribbon, mom would just scotch-tape the tag in place. After the gifts were tagged, they were placed under the tree, or on the shelf of the small buffet that was in the bay window (now residing in my back hall).

Those gifts weren't just for us children -- we really only got one or two gifts from mom and dad -- usually just one. They were for church members, Sunday school students, and her sisters and brother and their children. The pile really was quite high.

Mom and dad had a Christmas account -- they had those back in the "old" days. You would deposit as little as $1 a week, and after 50 weeks, you would withdraw your "savings" plus interest (about 3 percent) and you would have a wad to spend on Christmas. Mom and dad put away $2 a week for Christmas gifts. That was a lot of money back then. One hundred dollars would buy enough gifts (nice ones) for everyone on mom's list. I know that Betsy Wetsy cost only $5 back then.

That's another tale -- I wanted a Betsy Wetsy doll in the worst way, but I wanted a boy doll. I had enough girl dolls. So mom bought the Betsy Wetsy and made a boy outfit for it. It was a green tam hat, with matching overalls, and she made a shirt out of a piece of pillowcase. She was so talented at the sewing machine. No patterns, either.

She wrapped it, and after it was wrapped I was permitted to "curl" the ribbon -- not knowing that the ribbon I was curling was for my own present!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Records

I was sitting in the living room with my brothers and sister listening to Christmas records. Dad would not let anyone touch the records. He had sole control of what we heard.

I think my favorite -- no, I can't say that, I didn't have just one favorite.

I truly did love, though, 'Twas the Night before Christmas sung by the Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. You can listen to it by going to the link. I taught that song to my own children and to the children who were in the choir at Bible Baptist Christian School -- where I taught for a few years.

Then another favorite record we listened to was A Christmas Carol. Remember we didn't have TV back then, so our imagination provided the visuals. This, I believe, was a two-record -- four sided set. And Lionel Barrymore played Scrooge.

There were the Christmas Carol albums -- one by George Beverly Shea -- a very young GBS, but we loved it. And of course, dad's favorite -- the Messiah.

Another favorite of mine -- a record which I believe my brother Mark now holds -- is Why the Chimes Rang. It's a real tear-jerker. See And try to read it without tearing up. I called my sister while I was writing this epistle and asked her if she remembered this story, because I couldn't remember the name of it, and I knew if I could find it on the web, I'd attach it, so you all could enjoy the story as I did when I was a girl. I called her at 10:50 p.m. I knew she'd be awake. She didn't remember, so that was little help.

Then I asked my husband. He hadn't a clue. Then it came to me -- I had been searching on "bells" and the word was "chimes". Once I keyed in the correct search term, I found the story very easily. So at 11:10 p.m. I called my dear sister back and told her I had found the story. Nice to be able to talk to her even that late at night.

There is one other story, and I don't think we had a record of this, but my mom or dad would read it to us almost every year. It was The Littlest Match Girl. I read it to my own children, and cried every time I read it to them. And now, I'm reading it to my grandchildren -- and yes, I still cry when I read it.

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

Okay, I remember another Christmas play. One I was in. I was six or seven. I was a shepherd, watching my flock? I had a blanket over my head wrapped to look like an old-fashioned shepherd. I remember the costume was made out of receiving blankets, and my mom made it.

I remember, vividly, that while the three wise men were coming onto the platform to do their thing, one of them stepped on my hand -- I had been seated watching the baby Jesus -- waiting for the wise men (I know out of time sequence, but it was a short play, not a two-year deal), and someone stepped on my hand! The wisemen were played by the "big boys".

Did I yell? Did I scream? No. I just kept on my acting face while the pain traveled up my arm. I was a good little trooper.

Nothing was broken, but I did have a sore hand for a few days :)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Church closed

NEVER!!! When I was growing up, no matter what the circumstance or weather, church was open, ALWAYS!

Last night I watched the crawl across the bottom of the TV screen during the 11 o'clock news. Church after church was closed on Sunday. Why? Well, the weather prognosticators -- who had been so very wrong so far with the "storm" in which we were engulfed -- had suggested that another four inches of snow was coming. So, I suppose panicked pastors and elders all over the tri-state (KY, IN, OH) decided it would be too dangerous for parishoners to attend church on Sunday, based on man's guess at what the weather was going to be. How sad.

Growing up we had snowstorms -- church was open. My mother died on a Sunday, church was open and dad preached at both services. We had cold weather. Church was open. We had no heat, church was open. No matter what, church was open. Was attendance normal -- no, but at least the doors were open and those who decided that getting to church was important to them were there.

One of my fellow BLOGgers wrote an essay on Christmas songs and how she (as well as I) dislike the way Christmas has gone the way of the world. Well, so have churches. It's so sad. I would never have imagined church being closed due to a prophetic weather condition -- and one that most pastors and other deciders should realize rarely are correct. Why not wait and see? Praise God some churches did. Not ALL churches were closed due to inclement weather -- which, by the way, wasn't that bad -- a tad cold, a bit blustery, but not slippery.

I might add that today nobody walks to church anymore. When I was growing up and until I left home, most folks walked to church. But isn't walking just as dangerous as driving in bad weather? Perhaps worse.

I think it's wonderful that people want to protect me and others from the dangers of driving in inclement weather, but what about God. Don't you think we could ask him for protection so we could get to church to worship Him -- He who sent his Son for our salvation?

Oh, yes, none of the Malls or stores were closed today! And, the parking lots are full!

Elderly people

I remember most of the people in Runnemede that were in our church when I was a youngster as elderly, even though they were mostly the same age or even younger than my parents. If they were over 25 they were OLD.

Here's a rabbit -- why is it after I got married I felt it was okay to call Mrs. so-and-so by her first name whereas before I was married I felt very uncomfortable, or even rude, to call Mrs. So-and-so other than Mrs. So-and-so?

Back to the elderly. Dad's church did have many older people -- by that I mean they were older than my mom and dad and since mom was 35 when she had me, those people whom I'm considering elderly were at least 45 -- most, though were in their 60s.

I loved those ladies (mostly they were widows). Mrs. Mahorter lived across the street. I've mentioned her before. She always welcomed my knock at her door and often gave me a cookie or a piece of candy. And she taught me to read clouds, and played that game with me for hours and hours, day after day. I never tired of finding dogs in the clouds.

Mrs. Cairns was the grandmother of three of my friends so I know she had to be an elder woman. She made great cookies also. She was also a favorite baby-sitter.

Grandmom Aspling lived five blocks away, and I'd walk over there at least once a week because I loved her house and she was a great cookie maker as well. I knew where to get fed! She let me help her clean. Now, cleaning is not my idea of fun. Never has been, but with Grandmom Aspling it was fun. I'd go home and tell my mom how Grandmom had let me help her wash her kitchen floor, and mom picked up on that and let me help her. It just wasn't the same -- not fun helping mom clean the kitchen floor. Why do you suppose that is?

One more, not so elderly lady (she was my mom's age) -- Aunt Blanche. Aunt Blanche was the BEST Sunday school teacher. She taught me more Bible verses than anyone else ever did. She also had Good News Club at her home, which I attended for many years. Best thing about Aunt Blanche was that if you sat next to her in church she always gave you (meaning I didn't always beat out others for that seat) a package of Life Savers. Is there anything better than that? Aunt Blanche's husband, Uncle El, took the teenagers in the back of his pick-up truck to Friday night teen get togethers at Camp Haluwasa (a Christian camp), where we would sing, have Bible drills (I was the champion for several years), play ping-pong, and get a Bible lesson. It was such fun.

These ladies all loved the Lord and taught me verses and life lessons. I thank God for them. They are all with Him now and I shall see them again. Can't wait!

Knock before entering

I was taught as a child that if the door was closed to a room you were to knock and wait for a response -- count to five if no response, then knock again. Count to five again if there was no response and enter. Now, why is this important? I don't know, I guess I was thinking about this because last weekend as I was dressing for the day in my bedroom with the door closed my grandson (he's 6) knocked on the door and then didn't wait and walked in. Fortunately, I had most of my clothes on -- a few seconds earlier and he would have been scared out of his wits at what he saw!

I remember as a child going up (or down) the street and knocking on a neighbor's door, waiting and then announcing who I was and going inside the house that went with the door upon which I was knocking. One day I didn't do that, because I had seen my mom just walk in to our neighbors house without knocking. Apparently, unbeknownst (that's a Drexler-ism) to me, they had an agreement that mom could just walk in. So, I just walked into our neighbors house and scared the poor owner half to death. Well, not really half to death, but I did scare her.

Mom let me know in no uncertain terms that what I did was naughty, not nice, and I was never, ever to do that again.

I don't know about you all, but I just think there's something homey about knowing someone well enough that you can just go right on in to their home without having to knock first.

Now days, though, we live in a "lock down" mode and I guess it would be difficult for someone to just walk into someone else's home, unless that someone else knew you were coming and left the door unlocked just for you. I do that. I leave the door unlocked and tell those I'm expecting to just walk on in.

I just think that's friendly.

Today is Saturday

Today is Saturday. Saturday's of long ago meant a great dinner -- because Sunday was a non-cook day for mom and we had leftovers. Saturday's dinner was usually some sort of roast -- beef, lamb, veal, pork, and the roast was large enough and mom made enough mashed potatoes and veggies so that she could just put it all in one pot and pop it in the oven on low while we were at church.

Saturday night was also bath night. It was also the night we got the Sunday comics. Part of the Sunday paper came on Saturday night -- only the daily news and sports parts came on Sunday, so we could read the comics on Saturday night -- this was also known as the "Saturday night fights". Who was going to get the comics first? Who was not going to get them before bath and bedtime and who was going to have to wait until Monday? THERE WAS NO READING OF THE COMICS ON SUNDAYS!!!!!!

Anyway, that's what I remember from my pre-teen years. After I hit 15 things sort of went the way of the world and we did more "worldly" things on Sundays like read the comics, drink soda, maybe even play tennis. There were still no stores open on Sundays. That didn't happen until I was in my early 20s.

So, what's different between those Saturdays and this Saturday? Well, for one thing I'm retired, so I don't have to get up early. We have two bathrooms, so I don't have to wait for dad to finish in the bathroom. I don't take baths anymore, let alone weekly. I shower daily. As for the Sunday paper? I cut that out after I found out that my husband wouldn't throw away any papers until he had read them, and there was a five-year stretch there when he wasn't reading, but rather saving newspapers. Enough was enough and I cancelled the subscription.

Today is Saturday and it snowed, and I wrapped a few Christmas presents. Oh, the mess! I don't recall such a mess in my mother's home when she was in the process of wrapping gifts. Maybe I was asleep. But since I'm not finished wrapping the grandchildren's gifts, the mess is still very prominent in the library and my office -- get it? The mess is so large it takes up two rooms. Also, I couldn't believe that I only wrapped six gifts in two hours this afternoon. After that I fizzled out in the gift wrapping department, and went on to do other things -- cooking dinner, moving the piles of trash, cleaning the kitchen AGAIN.

Why is it that the kitchen has to be cleaned so often? It seems I no sooner get it cleared up, and bang, it needs to be cleaned and cleared again (or is it cleared and cleaned?). One of today's tasks was to put away Christmas dishes that I got out a couple of weeks ago and which I now know I will not be using this season. This required me getting on the step stool (fearfully) and putting them back in the cabinet on the top shelf, of course.

I'm still looking at snow, even though it rained most of the day, and they say we'll get more snow tomorrow. I hope so. It does look pretty. See? I included a picture -- not of Runnemede but of today's snow in northern Kentucky.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mt. Calvary Union Church

The 100th anniversary of Mt. Calvary Union Church is coming up in two years. My father pastored there for over 50 years.

I wrote a commentary for the church to use for this event. This was written a couple of years ago -- my memory was much fresher then. I included all the pictures I had from the years mom and dad were in that church -- only about 40 of them.

I have pasted in what I wrote back in 2005 -- THIS IS REALLY LONG. The pictures are in an album and not scanned into my computer, so until I get a chance to scan the pictures into the computer, the dialog that goes with the pictures will not be included at this time.

Here goes:

I was only one year old when Dad became pastor. The first thing I do remember is a hurricane that came through that November. Yes, I do remember that. There were two large cherry trees in the back yard in the corner by the garage, and they both came down in that storm. We lost of lot of trees in the neighborhood that time. We also lost electricity, and we had a couple of kerosene lanterns for light. It’s amazing what God lets us remember, isn’t it?

I remember the broken windows in the front of the house from kids hitting the ball too far while they were playing in the school yard.

I remember the church basement being just the room where the kitchen is (not a kitchen at that time) and the room where the furnace is. The rest of the basement was unfinished. When the Sunday school expanded, they finished the basement. When they did that they put in plumbing for the upstairs bathroom, made a small study for the pastor, and put in the folding doors. The back room upstairs was always used for prayer meeting lesson then people would divide into groups. Later they all stayed together. There was always a meeting after prayer meeting == deacons or trustees or mission committee or Sunday school teachers.

I remember that the church had lots of missionaries and when I was growing up we had missionaries visit the church probably once a month. Some missionaries I remember that the church helped to support are: The Hahns (of course), Mary Teagarten, China Inland Mission (general fund), Mr. Zodiatis (Am. Bd of Mission to the Greeks), Anthony Zioli, Sr, Howard and Fran Boyll – missionaries to Appalachia in Bristol, TN, Haluwasa (Uncle Bill can tell you about that), Lois Wheatley (RN) and her husband Dr. (can’t remember his name) to Colombia, I believe. Sunday Breakfast Association. I know there were many others. There were missionaries in Pakistan whose names I don’t recall, but they visited our church at least twice when they were home on furlough. I also think we help build up the Laurel Springs mission homes, and whenever new missionaries came there to stay they spoke at our church.

I also remember when we went from cesspools to sewers. I was in third grade, so that would have been 1950-51. The diggers would leave their soda bottles after finishing their drinks and I would collect them and cash them in. Ten cents was big bucks back then. That’s also near the time when the church went from clapboard to the grey asbestos siding that you will see in most of the pictures. It’s also the time the church put in the blacktop driveway along the side of the church, put in sidewalks in the front from the main walk to the downstairs door, and from the downstairs door to the street. That door downstairs is not original to the church. I think I’m in the right time frame for that. I remember skating in my metal screw-on skates around and around those walks because they were new and so smooth. I could really fly!

We had a lot of weddings in the church, which I loved, of course, even as a very little girl, I loved the weddings. I wish I could remember all the names, but most prominent is my mind are the “Wilson girls.” There were 5 sisters, and all but Patty, who was the youngest, went to West Jersey Nursing School. They were Jean, Doris, Virginia, Joanna, and Patty. I spent many Sunday’s at The Wilson's home which was in Gloucester playing with Patty. Anyway, Jean was engaged to be married, but her fiancĂ© was killed in the Korean war. Doris married shortly after that, then Virginia, then Joanna, who married David Moser. The Mosers were in the church until they either moved away or died. The youngest Moser, Judy, played the piano in church as an alternative to either me or Gail Crompton.

When I was a teenager we had a rather large and active youth ‘program.’ We didn’t call it a program. Uncle Bill Mnduka, Mrs. Kenders, and Elwood Wentzel, Sr. were our transportation and those dear people drove us all over the place to attend multi-church youth activities. Uncle “El” had a pick-up and, yes, we’d dangerously pile in the back and he’d take us to Haluwasa for Friday night get togethers. Mrs. Kenders helped with that. Uncle Bill took us to Youtharama in Philadelphia, and I’m sure he drove us other places as well. There was a monthly skating party for the area church youth at Delwood Skating rink down in Glassboro. We went to Christian Cinema somewhere in Philly from time-to-time as well.

All this time, of course, we had several musical groups led and coached and taught by Mr. Walter Prichard. I learned more music theory from him that I did at my structured classes when I was taking piano/organ/violin lessons. We had a small orchestra. Let me see if I can remember all the teens who participated in that:
Mark Drexler – trumpet
Bobby Bowers – trombone
Kathy Kenders – viola and French horn
Judi Drexler – piano, organ, violin
Stanley Lentz – clarinet
Jane Lentz – flute
Mr. Prichard – trumpet
Gayle Crompton -- piano

We also had our brass trio (Mark, Bobby, Mr. P) and when they played I liked to suck on a lemon just to irritate my brother, who just couldn’t play when I did that.

We had a girls trio and/or quartet. Our big problem was not singing. We did great in rehearsals, just when we got in front of an audience we seemed to get the giggles. Once we settled down, though, I think we did a good job.

We had some great VBS weeks. VBS went from 9 to noon for two weeks, Monday through Friday, and then on Friday night we had a closing program. I remember we had a lot of kids attend. Most years I didn’t want to go, but had to because I was the ‘preacher’s kid’. I wanted to be in bed and not getting up early to go to VBS. Even then I liked to sleep in! My father taught us a couple of new songs each year. We had prizes for Bible activities we had to do at home. They had really nice crafts to make. And, of course, the Bible.

Dad had a boy’s class on Sunday evenings before the evening service. I remember the Kenders boys (David and Dick) were in that class as well. So was Don Turner. I'm pretty sure Ralph Aspling and Don Bodden were also in that group.

One family that attended the church was the Cairns. The Cairns (Jim Cairns was the father of the girls Jean and Nancy) lived in Haddon Heights. Jim’s mother (I only knew her as Mrs. Cairns) lived in Runnemede on 6th avenue with her unmarried daughter, Edith. After old Mrs. Cairns died, the family moved on. Mrs. Mahorter, one of the older members (about the age a grandparent would have been for me) lived in the house just across the street from the parsonage, next to the school. She had an apple tree in the backyard, which fruit we enjoyed in season. They were green apples and wormy, but we loved them. I remember her so fondly. She babysat us when Mom and Dad had something that was kids-free. And she was the one person in the church that taught me to look at clouds and see pictures.

In the 50s and 60s every May we had a mother/daughter banquet. It was quite well attended and young ladies couldn’t wait to get to be 9 years old so they could attend. I guess the moms figured if a girl was 9 she would behave as a young lady should. We usually went to a diner in Collingswood. I don’t remember the name of it. It was really special, too, because we got to “dress up.”

The back porch of the parsonage wasn't always enclosed. When it was, I guess I was about 5, it gave us an extra room -- it became the playroom.

On year the adult class had a picnic. It was held at Whale Beach, where several members of the church at that time had summer homes. The Thorns, The Shillingfords, and the Rowands. All those homes were washed away in the spring storm of 1962. I remember that day. We had SAND sandwiches. It was cold and windy and the sand was blowing, thus the SANDwiches. My mom had made cream cheese and olive sandwiches which normally I really like, but that day they were very, very gritty.

I remember that each July the church would have a Sunday school picnic. We went to Lake Oberst for several years, then switched over to Lake Palatine. Finally, the picnics were held at homes of people in the church. We had so many kids in our Sunday school back in the 50s that we had to hire a bus to get us all to the picnic -- cars were still a luxury.

That is the end of what I wrote about what I remembered about church, based on the pictures I had. If any of you remember more, put them in the comments section and I'll add them in.

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Sunday night the church my granddaughter Toria attends had the children's Christmas program. Toria had a lead in the play. It was a tearful event for me. The tears were not tears of sadness, just tears of blessed remembrance.
This is a picture of my father (on left) and Mr. Bowers (on right). I think I mentioned Mr. Bowers before. He loved the Lord with all his heart and he talked about his Saviour all the time. When dad would call on him to pray, we knew it we would be late getting out of church. Mr. Bowers couldn't not talk to his Lord for less than 20 minutes. And it was a conversation -- before conversational prayer was popular. He talked to God as if he was sitting right next to him on the pew. Anyway, whenever dad would asked for a hymn selection from anyone in the congregation who had a favorite, Mr. Bowers ALWAYS requested Great is Thy Faithfulness -- all three verses.
Now to a child, who doesn't give a hoot about the beauty of the words of a hymn, and their only thought of what a good church song or hymn is, is based on rhythm/tempo and melody -- forget the words, GITF was boring. So inaudible groans would arise from the "kids" row whenever Mr. Bowers suggested we sing Hymn No. 12 -- Great is Thy Faithfulness.
Now, the words mean something, and the song often brings tears to my eyes because of the meaning of the words.
Well, my grand daughter, Toria's, solo was Great is Thy Faithfulness. She did a wonderful job singing that old song, her voice was precious, and her ability to stay on tune was amazing. Not one bad note did she sing. Well, of course, I cried.
Then at the end of the play I noticed how much she looked like her mother did at that age (11 going on 12) and was in a Christmas play at church. That did it -- again -- the waterworks turned on.
All in all, though, it was a beautiful play and the children did a wonderful job, and even though it was tearful for me, God blessed me immensely.

A Special Cousin

I had an e-mail from my cousin Betty Boyll (now Curtis) recently. She's another cousin I was able to hook up with through my aggressive Internet searches.

On the left is Betty about three years ago. She hasn't changed much over the years. On the right is her mom and dad -- Aunt Fran (my mother's sister) and Uncle Howard as they were in the early 80s.

Betty and I reconnected a few years ago, and each meeting has been special for me. We remember so many of the same things. She had her second child before I had my first, and somewhere in my boxes of pictures, there is a picture of her with Dawn (her daughter), and me with Phil (my son), or maybe she's holding her son (David). I can't remember, but I can visualize the picture in my mind. If I ever find it -- and I know it's scanned in somewhere -- I'll post it, but don't die holding your breath waiting for that to happen, okay?

Betty and I remember our moms' cooking -- they cooked alike. Guess they learned from the same person -- that would be my grandmother Santa Sbaraglia. And we talked about styles of our teenage years. Going to college. Getting married. Having children. The aches and pains of getting older. And each time we get together we pick up where we left off. She's such a neat lady. And she plays the piano at her church.

Betty is special because she is living on her own, and she seems to be enjoying her life as it is now. She recently purchased a condo -- it's really a nice place -- and she has it decorated beautifully.

I often wish we lived geographically closer so I could "drop in" from time to time. But I have to plan trips to visit her, and vice versa, and more often than not, something comes up that interferes with the "best laid plans".

She's in my mind, heart, and prayers often. Oh, yeah, did I mention she talks southern? She grew up in Tennessee -- that's where Aunt Fran and Uncle Howard had their mission. Such a sweet lady.

Another oddity my father had

I found several of my father's pen knives today. He had a few. I was fortunate enough to scrounge four of them to keep for my grandsons. Today I wrote to one of my daughters and asked her if she thinks her eldest is responsible enough to treasure one of his great-grandfather's pen-knives.

Here's the oddity -- not the fact that he couldn't resist a new pen-knife. He loved them. The more gadgets, the better. Unfortunately for me, I only got the basic models! But the oddity was that he would sharpen those blades periodically, so that the blade of the knife would cut paper like a scissors with no effort other than pushing the blade through the top of the paper to PROVE that he had, in fact, sharpened/honed it properly.

My father didn't whittle. Why he liked pen knives I haven't a clue, but he must have. Maybe it was like the pen thing. A new pen was invented (ball points came after fountain pens, then came felt-tips, then came gel pens) he had to have the new product in ALL colors. He didn't use ball points but he did own them. He had BIC sticks galore. He had BIC clicks galore. He gave them away when people came to visit him. And I still have people tell me that they remember my father because he gave them a pen when they visited him. Don't think he only gave away pens, he gave away Bibles, books, and tracts.

On the dining room table, which became dad's desk late in his life, he had a loving cup which was an award his father won playing tennis at Wannetah Tennis Club in August of 1901. I own that cup now. And it's doing what it did when it was on the dining room table -- it's holding pens and pencils on my desk -- well on dad's old desk, or should I say library table. That's another rabbit to chase.

I coveted that table for years and years and years. The oak library table has one drawer, not very large, so it's not really a good desk if you want space for paper, scissors, stapler, etc. But it's a great surface for my laptop, scanner, and printer AND ta-ta-ta-ta! the loving cup and pens. I'm sad to say that none of the old pens my dad gave me are in that cup. As you will recall I mentioned that I lost them when we moved over here to Northern Kentucky. Actually, I think I left them in my desk when I left Answers in Genesis. That was at a time when I was having trouble remembering things, more than I have now.

So, once again, another small remembrance of my father, and a long rabbit chase. I hope you were able to stay awake and finish the tale.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Baking cookies at Christmas time

I really don't remember baking cookies with my mother, but I must have because somewhere along the line I learned how to do it. I vaguely remember her using her cookie press to make decorative cookies, but I was never permitted to help with that job. Maybe I just ate the raw cookie dough, which is not something I enjoy in my elderly years. No, not even chocolate chip cookie dough.

I remember her making candy-cane cookies out of sugar cookie dough. She would cut the batch in half and pour a few drops of red food coloring in part of the batch. The other remained plain. Then she would scoop out a small ball of the red, and a small ball of the plain. Then she would roll them out into a long, rope-like piece of dough, Then she would twist the two colors together, cut them to about 8 inches, curve the top to look like a candy cane, and then bake them. I loved those cookes, yet cookies that weren't candy canes, but made from the same dough had no appeal to me. I wonder why that was, and still is?

I was baking cookies with my grandson, David, today. Well, I made the dough (simple sugar cookie dough), rolled it out, and then let him cut out tree-shaped cookies and then sprinkle them with red, green, and multi-colored sprinkles. I couldn't find my silver balls and mini-choco-chips to put on the trees, so we just went with simple sprinkles. It was enough for him to enjoy and since I won't be eating the sugar cookies, and he and his siblings will, it's okay.

I guess my mom didn't do much cookie making because the church women were so generous in sharing their makings with our family.

I was watching something on TV last night, the family was enjoying cookies and milk, and it brought to mind another item that I loved about Grandma Aspling's dinners -- her ruby-glass drinking glasses. Milk looked so wonderful in those glasses, and because it looked so neat, the milk even tasted better than in the old pimento-chesse glasses we had at home. When I grew up, and was able, I bought a dozen of those red glasses. And, my children loved drinking milk out of them as well.

Times change, though. The ruby glasses are gone, replaced with the biggest clear glasses I could find -- saves on getting up and getting refills. My husband likes to carry around a half-liter plastic mug filled with icewater. Personally, I don't like to drink anything out of plastic. But, Alan carries that mug every where he goes, even if he knows there will be water available at the destination. And, nine times out of ten it spills in the car and gets ME wet. It never seems to pour over to his side of the car.

Once again, I got away from the theme of the remembrance -- cookies. Just as well. I don't need to eat cookies!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas Presents

It just isn't the same. I mean, today I ordered 10 presents on-line in less than 10 minutes. Done! No walking from store to store, no looking at the pretty displays in windows, no slipping and sliding on the ice, no sticking out my tongue to collect snowflakes, just sit down, go to or, and bit-a-bang, the shopping is done.

I have to say, I am enjoying the MEMORY of shopping. My knees hate shopping now days. Today especially they would rebel -- as they have been all morning -- because it's cold and damp. Even the high-doses of pain relievers I take doesn't help much on a day like today. So, I shop on-line in the comfort of the nearly warm office and the only thing that hurts is my arthritic pinkie!

I envy you young folks who can walk, enjoy walking (I used to), and can get a kick out of shopping -- I even used to love window shopping, especially since that's all I could afford. Now window shopping on-line just isn't the same. So much to look at -- or make that TOO MUCH to look at.

Now begins the wrapping -- which I really have NEVER, EVER enjoyed doing -- as I mentioned before. My wrappings look like a 6-year-old threw up a piece of wrapping paper around a gift. It's the best I can do. No sharp corners like my father's picture-perfect present wrapping. But, I will move on and get that done, AFTER...Christmas card addressing -- that's the next hurdle in my long list of obstacles to my sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the pleasantness of Christmas.

I do love Christmas. I love the Lord, my Savior, and if it weren't for His love for me, there would be no Christmas, would there? I love the tradition and the hymns of Christmas. I love the message of the true Christmas -- Christ Mass. I enjoy the cold weather -- even though it cramps my style so to speak (the knees don't like the cold). I love the snow, and in my mind's eye I can see myself falling backward and making snow angels again. Notice I said in my mind's eye. If I got down to make a snow angel I would never get up without a fork lift or crane.

I still enjoy the pageantry of Christmas -- grandchildren's programs, church cantata, etc. And, in those I can participate as an onlooker and remember what it was like when I was a real participant.

It's a blah day!

Why is it that children do not remember "blah" days. I don't, do you? I remember sick days, contagious disease days, slow-moving days, but "blah" days? No, I don't recall any. Maybe it wasn't a word back then. Remember, I'm old -- elderly -- so my jaded memories of growing up may be just that -- jaded -- no blahs.

Today, again, we had snow -- just a little -- more ice, actually than snow, but it added to the Christmas "feel" of the day. However, now the snow/sleet/ice/rain has moved on to West Virginia, and all we're left with is a cloudy, blah day.

What is "blah" anyway? Unadorned, cooked broccoli is blah. Honeymoon salad is blah (lettuce alone). Nothing to do is blah -- I have plenty to do, just don't want to do any of the "plenty" I have to do. Being away from children and siblings is blah. I guess I'm on a "I miss my sister" jag again. Why is that? When we were growing up I wanted her to go away and leave me alone, never to return. Now, I can't seem to get enough of her presence, her voice, her encouragement, her love. Wow!

I'm writing this and trying very hard to think of one, just one, blah time back in Runnemede when I was growing up. Surely there is one. Even laying in bed, being sick wasn't blah -- mom would get out the scrapbook I was working on -- not like today's scrapbooks, let me tell you. My scrapbook was a pad of paper, plain, no lines, and into this book I had pasted with that wonderful paste we had back then that tasted good, pictures from cards mom had saved and that she would let me cut up to include in the scrapbook. She also was a magazine saver, so when I was sick, she'd dig out her Better Homes and Gardens magazines (old ones) and let me cut out pictures of gardens or food or whatever I wanted to paste in my scrapbook.

Now, why am I all of a sudden remembering that scrapbook -- long lost memory in the recesses of my mind? I don't know. I guess it's because all I want for Christmas this year, really, is a scrapbook filled with drawings that my grandchildren have made. I gave my daughter, Becky, a large album to fill with these drawings and really, that's all I want. I love their drawings -- the grandchildren's that is -- but my refrigerator just isn't big enough to hold them all. Remember I have 12 grandchildren -- 10 of which can draw if they want to, or are forced to, I guess.

Actually, my grandchildren must get their great grandmother's talent for drawing. My oldest grandchild, Shandon, does beautiful work, he's great on perspective, and likes to draw entire towns. Toria is a great scrapbooker and her scrapbooks (picture albums) show how talented she is in this respect. Jonah is just learning to write and draw, but his work shows great promise. Adam? I'm not sure about his work yet. I think with Adam, he MUST draw, so he puts something on the paper -- he makes really good circles -- something I can't do, so he does have talent, if only it could be harnessed.

Rosie, David, and Rachel like to draw as well, and Rosie's work has greatly improved since she's been in school, as has David's. Rachel is a good color-er.

Annie and Grace are wonderful artists. They have an intuitive artistic eye and can see what they want to do and do it. Annie is very precise, and Grace -- well Grace just is talented. Dan likes to draw fast, and I have to admit, while he has improved in the past couple of years, I still have a difficult time deciphering what he has drawn, which is okay. He has a good eye for the abstract.

I didn't mention the babies -- Elliana and Matthew -- well, because their "art" work is mostly non-existent at this point.

Art work -- blah day? Not connected, but then most of these BLOGs end up on a different trail than the one originally taken.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow

That's a line from "White Christmas" -- the movie -- the song is called "Snow", I think.

Anyway, I did watch White Christmas -- a favorite movie of mine at this time of year. Also, since we had SNOW yesterday -- enough to stick, make a mess of my windshield, and cause a sheet of ice to remain on my sidewalk and driveway, basically making me home-bound until I can get some salt to the ice, or until it warms up, I thought I'd remember snowy days in Runnemede.

Before I go there, yesterday I went out to Indiana, in the snow, and caught snowflakes on my tongue with my granddaughter. She didn't get the thrill out of that activity as I did. Everyone needs to catch snowflakes on their tongue, don't they?

What do I remember about snowy days? Well,
I remember this blue, pointed top hat, ugly as can be, but apparently in style in the 40s, and I remember being bundled up in snow pants, several pairs of socks, rubber boots, mittens, and a scarf. Going out in the snow, as a four or five-year-old, and that first step having my boots filled with snow. Brrr! Did I go inside? No. Dad was pulling me on the sled -- we had one that had two runners and wooden slats to sit on, with a steer bar in the front. No plastic slider for us. We had the real thing! (See the picture?)

I remember finally being told to go inside, apparently I was turning blue. I remember dumping the snow out of my rubber boots, trying to wiggle my toes, to make sure they were still attached.

Then, I remember in high school, the year was 1959, I believe. We had more snow that winter than any I could remember. We had so much snow that winter that the street in front of our house was buried for three months, including all of March. The worst storm of the year was in late March. It knocked out the electricity, and it got so cold in my bedroom that you could see your breath -- and that was with a small kerosene stove in the space. Dad, of course, was not happy, as he really loved the old coal furnace we had when I was younger -- before the church elders decided that an oil heater was a better investment for the house.

Gone were the days of warm floors -- which we had with the coal furnace. And gone was the possibility of keeping warm without electricity. A week without electricity in the winter was not fun, but we coped.

I remember my father going down into the basement, stoking the fire late at night, putting more coal in the furnace, to get us through the night, and then first thing in the morning, filling the bed of the furnace with more fresh coal to keep us warm during the day. The coal bin was in the front of the basement, under the porch, actually, and the coal delivery truck would put a chute through the window, and pour coal into the "bin" from which dad would get the coal to fill the heater.

He never complained about doing that chore, either. We had a warm basement, a warm first floor, and even the attic room I shared with my sister was warm, as were the floors. I loved the warm floors which for some reason we had with coal heat but not with oil heat. Perhaps it was because the ducts from the coal heater were so much larger than the ducts from the oil heater. The coal furnace had 12-inch ducts which fed the hot air into the various "registers" of which several were actually in the walls, not in the floor. The "register" (that's what they called the openings where the heat came from) to the attic was actually in the chimney.

My current home has "registers" in the ceiling, which in the summer is fine, because cool air sinks, but in the winter, the hot air stays up near the ceiling -- remember hot air rises? And we have high ceilings, which means it doesn't get too warm in our current home in the winter, which is okay, because we just wear sweaters or flannel shirts, etc. to keep warm. Not a problem.

Today, the day after our first snow, is sunny, and the sun porch is warm -- it's only 20 degrees outside, but the porch is up to 80. It will cool off as the sun goes down, but right now it's nice and toasty.

And I remember our back porch in Runnemede, after it was enclosed, as being that way. We played out there most of the time, and dad had a portable electric heater which he turned on at night. He set up the electric trains on the porch -- his toy? -- in early November, and they stayed up until late January. I guess that was when mom had had enough of us wanting to play with the trains even in the cold weather, and also, the platform on which dad put the trains took up about half of the porch, thus limiting our actual play space. I remember a couple of years we set up the Christmas tree out there, but most years the tree was in the dining room bay window.

I guess I've reminisced enough about snow. To my friend Stacia, should she read this, we never were able to make a snowman out of 2 inches of snow, but we did make snowmen in the back yard, and used the coal from the bin for the eyes and mouth. Mom provided a carrot for the nose, and a scarf for the neck. I sort of remember using that pointed hat for the head of our snowmen. What I don't remember is that our snowmen ever looked really good, more like a Charley Brown snowman -- large bottom, no middle, and small head, low enough for a five or six-year-old to reach.

Monday, December 3, 2007

School Christmas Programs

Attending two Christmas Pageants (for grandchildren, who, of course, were the stars of the shows) yesterday took me back to when I was a child doing that sort of thing. I remember the butterflies in my stomach when my line(s) would come up, and wondered if my calm, cool, grandchildren were feeling anything akin to that. I remember getting the giggles whenever I was nervous -- usually when I was singing with someone. And, I remember the school plays each year. These were in addition to the church pageant, for which we practice during release time.

Practice in school would begin shortly after Thanksgiving and we would take time each afternoon (instead of recess) to rehearse our little one-act plays and our songs that the class would sing. Why is it there is always one child who sings the loudest and is tone deaf?

Anyway, I was also thinking about how the classroom was set up for these performances.

First, each class had 5 rows of 6 desks screwed into the floor, so they were unmovable -- like the one pictured here. I saw on E-Bay today they are going from anywhere from 99 cents to $125.00. I guess it depends on where your value is.

Anyway, in second grade, the teacher's desk was BEHIND all these desks, leave a nice open area in the front of the room for practicing. I think Mrs. Marcantonio liked to be behind us so she could see us, and we wouldn't know whether she was watching us or not.

So, we practiced everyday. Then about three days before Christmas break each class would hold its class play and parents and friends were invited. I liked to see what my classmates' parents looked like, and I knew that my mom was the prettiest of all. I would compare her looks with the other moms and she always came out on top.

The teacher would set up chairs around the room so that the parents could sit and watch our one-act play and listen to us sing (no piano in second grade, just a pitch-pipe to get us started -- which never was started on the right note, as the loudest tone-deaf kid set the tone for the songs). I remember that was the year we learned "Up on the House Top". Was it written in 1950? Also, that was the year of "Jolly Old St. Nicholas".

We were to dress in red and green (Christmas colors). And while we sang secular songs, we always sang "While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night", "Silent Night", and "Joy to the World." I recall the play that year was about a kid who didn't get what s/he wanted for Christmas because s/he has been naughty not nice, but in the end Santa relented and s/he got what s/he asked for.

I don't think I was still waiting up at night waiting for those jingling bells by the time I was in second grade. Who knows, I could have been.

I guess the most vivid picture in my mind of the Christmas plays is my mom sitting along side of the room between Mrs. Lott and Mrs. Hansen, and I was thinking, she was the prettiest of all the moms. So proud!