Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Friday, November 30, 2007

More on my father

My niece reminded me of something my father did with his grandchildren...

You know many grandparents take their grandchildren to The Dollar Store, or the Teddy Bear store, or Chucky Cheese's. Well, my dad took his grandchildren to the stationery store -- you know Staples or Office Depot. His favorite supply store was Jersey Business Supply in Somerdale. My father had a thing for pens, pencils, and paper. Unfortunately, that love was handed down to his daughter.

I love the smell of office-supply stores. I love to find new pens. I love to use automatic pencils. Back in my youth there was only one kind -- Esterbrook. I had two of those Esterbrook automatic pencils but when we moved to our home in Northern Kentucky, they disappeared. And they are irreplaceable. They are not made any more and buying them at an antique store is not an option.

I love to buy paper -- now it's paper for my scrapbooks. I love to buy files, things to carry files in, paper to put in the files, new-style duo-tang folders, etc. Just like dad.

He kept a stock of pens and pencils on his "desk" at the dining room table and was always willing to hand one of these "prized" articles to visitors -- meaning his children and grandchildren.

When we moved him to NC we had boxes and boxes of unused pens and pencils to divide among ourselves, leaving him enough to last him for what could have been another 10 years of life, if he lived as long as Uncle Harry.

He also had great pencil sharpeners -- not the crank kind, the kind that you stick the pencil in and turn the pencil against the blade. He found a kind where you could replace the blade when it wore out. He always had very, very sharp pencils and I have one of his Bibles in which he wrote with pencil. So fine, so small, yet readable.

I have one of those sharpeners and it is still functioning. I don't have any replacement blades, but so far I haven't need one.

He also loved fountain pens. He wasn't partial to ball-points or felt-tips, although he had many in his "pen collection." He liked the kind of fountain pens that you had to fill yourself. I think it was the thickness and weight of the pen that he enjoyed. I know my arthritic hands -- like his -- prefer a heavier, thicker pen -- easier to write with.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Idiosyncrasies ... my dad had a few, as I stated in a earlier post, then promptly chased a rabbit toward his years as a pastor.

I just thought my father was normal, but apparently, not everyone did. Not that they were ready to take him to Lakeland (the nearby-mental institution) or anything, just that he was a collector of wierd things. Another time, another topic -- his collections.

Dad had a routine, which wasn't necessarily wierd, but he stuck to that routine no matter what. In all the years I lived at home he NEVER took a vacation. For him a vacation was going to a Bible Conference and teaching, and, I supposed, because we couldn't afford to accompany him, it was a break from four rambunctious children.

Anyway, dad would get up and go through his morning ritual of shower/bath, shaving, leaving the bathroom in is underwear to get to his bedroom where he got dressed. The bathroom always smelled of Aqua Velva after shave and was steamy when he left it. There were times when I would be in pain waiting for him to get finished with his pre-dressing rituals because I had to go to the bathroom so badly. No matter what, it took him 1/2 hour to finish -- everyday, 365 days a year.

Once he dressed, in his three-piece suit with suspenders and tie, he would get himself some toast and coffee. He often made the coffee -- we had a drip coffee pot -- and he would put an egg and a pinch of salt in the water and this was supposed to make the coffee taste better.

After he ate this small breakfast, he'd go to the post office to get the mail. Runnemede did have a postman or two which delivered mail to your home, but dad preferred going to the post office, because, I suppose, he could get mail twice a day, rather than once. The mail was put into the boxes in the early morning then again in the late afternoon.

After he got the mail he would come home, go through the mail, then head over to the church. He had an office/library in the church and there he would study until lunch time.

At this time my memory gets fuzzy and I don't know whether it's because in the afternoons I was usually out either playing with a friend or at school, but I don't recall any afternoon activities.

Dinner was promptly at 6 p.m. We had to finish by 6:45 p.m. because that's when Lowell Thomas came on the radio and dad listened to that newscaster every evening. We had a drop-leaf table in the kitchen and he sat at one end of the table -- the end nearest the radio. To his right was Debbie, then mom, opposite dadwas Carl who sat on a stool, then around the bend opposite my mom was Mark, and I was next to my dad, on Mark's right, dad's left.

Oft times dad would stir his coffee and touch my hand with the hot spoon, as a tease. And then he would dip the spoon in the coffee and give me a sip. The touch with the spoon was so I would know that it was hot enough, but not too hot. Wierd?

After dinner dad and we children listened to the radio -- we heard The Lone Ranger, Superman, Amos and Andy, My Little Margie, A Date with Judy, Our Miss Brooks, or The Shadow depending on which day of the week it was. Then it was off to bed for us children.

In the morning, the whole routine would start again.

Addressing Christmas Cards

Being a pastor's wife, my dear mother HAD to send out lots of Christmas cards. Each person in the church, whether they were members or just attendees had to get one. Mom had a book, it was small, maybe 4 x 6 inches, and she kept all her addresses in that book. When one needed to be changed, she usually just snipped off the part of the envelope that showed her where the person had moved to and she put that in that book. So, the little book was rather sloppy -- full of addresses, telephone numbers, and pieces of papers with new addresses on them.

Sitting at the dining room table, she would spend hours addressing those cards, and she always included a special message in each one. Me? I just found several boxes that I bought last year after Christmas to be used this Christmas, and I will sit in front of the TV and just sign Alan and Judi Hahn, and then address them.

The difference in postage between now and then is unbelievable. Cards, unsealed, were 4 cents a piece. Today, however, you can't send an unsealed letter for a lesser price, and the cost of one card is up to what? 42cents? I can't keep up. All I know is, I have a partial roll of stamps (with no price written on them) and since I bought the roll the price of letters has gone up two cents, so I have two cent stamps to add to the rolled stamps.

I know mom didn't really like doing this chore. It took her hours, and she worked on them late at night, so she wouldn't be interfered with by us children. Since I stayed up later than my siblings I was able to watch her struggle with this yearly chore and sign, gratefully, when the task was completed.

Life with Father -- a continuing saga

This is a picture of my father taken in the late 70s.
Have any of you seen the movie, "Life with Father?" Well, get a copy and watch it. Then think Carl Drexler (the elder). My father was eccentric, and that's putting it nicely. In some instances he was just plain weird. But I loved him and his weirdness. His eccentricities gave us something to talk about, and when he got really old, we didn't think anything of them, as I'm sure those who didn't really know him, did.

My father was a wonderful Bible teacher. Even though as a PK (preacher's kid) I disliked immensely being forced to be in church day and night on Sunday and then every other time the doors opened, and I more often than not didn't pay close attention to what my father was preaching, I did get snippets of his teaching, and boy do I miss them.

In the 40 years I've been away from my father's teaching I still have not found a teacher such as he (except for my cousin David, who lives in Tennessee and a 5-hour drive on Sunday morning is not an option). He could quote verses including reference on any topic you gave him. He studied The Word avaricely, daily, and into the night. He read every commentary that was printed, and then critiqued each entry as to whether it was good or bad.

His favorite version was King James (original) and he had criticisms of every other text in some way or other. Oh, he had copies of all the other versions. I think he also liked the Douay version (French) which is what the Plymouth Brethren used.

My father never wrote an article. But he taught men and women at the Bible in a school he and his friend Mr. Wheatley started -- Grace Bible Institute -- and which met in a church in Somerville, NJ. He taught there until we moved him to NC when his health failed.

When he was talking about the Lord and His Word his face would light up. I do believe he had the entire Bible memorized, but he never bragged on that or told anyone that.

We learned Scripture when we were growing up, for which I am very thankful. And Dad and Mom were the prime movers and shakers of getting God's Word into our minds and hearts.

I know this particular "Life" episode doesn't address the original premise -- eccentricity -- of my father, but I do chase rabbits from time to time, and this rabbit was really what I think of when I think of my father. Not his eccentricities, but his love for God and His Word.

Chef Boy-ar-dee

Mom was so glad when they bought out Chef-boy-ar-dee spaghetti in a can. We had already been introduced to mac and cheese in a can, which, with my childhood pallate was very enjoyable. The macaroni was so squishy, and the cheese so creamy. But when the Chef introduced his spaghetti, mom thought she would give it to us for lunch.

Remember, my mother was Italian, learned to cook from an Italian immigrant, and we had palates that enjoyed real Italian spaghetti (not that the Chef wasn't really Italian). But that stuff, ew!

I dug in (at lunch) when I was in third grade, I think it was -- I know it was a day I had to ride my bike home for lunch, so it had to be at least third grade. Expecting it to be as good as the mushy mac and cheese of which I was so fond, and plugh! I spit it out. Not Italian. Not good. Not even when doused with Parmesan cheese. Nothing could change my mind about that canned spaghetti.

I think my brothers liked it when it became spaghetti-o's, and I know my kids didn't mind the spaghetti-o's when they were really little, like babies. But since I learned to cook from my mom, they, too, really didn't enjoy the flavor -- or non-flavor -- of the canned spaghetti.

Do any of my family like that stuff? I'd be interested in knowing if you do, and what about it you enjoy -- Just comment to me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Junk drawer

Do you have a junk drawer? Doesn't everyone? The answer is: No. I used to have a junk drawer, now it seems most of my drawers are junk drawers -- I'm talking about that boxy thing that fits in a cabinet and has a knob on it to pull on so you can see what is inside the drawer -- not drawers, like pants.

Anyway, we had a junk drawer in our kitchen. Mind you the kitchen had a grand total of 4 drawers. One was rather large which held mom's cooking utensils like her whisk, her bread knife, the knife sharpener -- things like that. One contained the stainless steel flatware, just enough service for six people. In order to eat the next meal we had to wash the dishes/flatware. And one held mom's dishtowels and pot-holders. The other drawer, a nice-sized drawer, was THE JUNK DRAWER.

Now, what do you think that junk drawer contained? I used to love to rummage through it. Let's see what I remember. Remember, I'm elderly and my remembering skills aren't what they used to be.

It contained -- drum roll please --

dad's hammer -- large, heavy, never used

dad's screw driver -- standard head, never used

string -- used occasionally when mom needed to truss a turkey or wrap a box for the post office

miscellaneous nails and tacks -- used more often than the hammer and screw driver

green stamps -- trading stamps used to get gifts -- you needed about a million stamps to get a potholder, but mom collected them anyway. The A&P gave them to you when you bought food. You got one stamp for every 10 cents you spent (today it would be one stamp for every dollar, but things were must less expensive back then). These stamps floated around the drawer, got bent, and every once in a while, mom would get them all out and we would wet a sponge and paste them into the book(s) and hope we had enough for that pot-holder she was collecting for. Actually, I'm not sure about the pot-holder, but I don't remember what she actually got with her stamps. Does anyone?
Every so often mom would clear out the junk drawer and find small toys, puzzle pieces, game parts, etc. But mostly when we didn't know what do to with an item, we threw it into the junk drawer. And, if we couldn't find an item, we'd look in the junk drawer, rarely finding what we were looking for at that time.
I guess times really haven't changed that much, have they?

The Diner

THE DINER was not always a Runnemede landmark. We used to have to go to Bellmawr (The Club Diner), which was a two-mile walk or a 25 cent bus ride if we want to enjoy that type of relaxations. But when THE DINER came to town, my mom's cooking habits changed drastically. Dad liked the diner. Mom no longer had to make breakfast because Dad would go to the post office, pick up the mail, and then head over to THE DINER and get his usual. They all knew him there. And, all this happened after I left home. I only got to enjoy THE DINER when I came home for a short visit.
I can't remember what THE DINER was called before it was revamped (was it the Runnemede diner?) and became Phily Diner (notice that Philly is spelled wrong -- and that has always bothered me). The food didn't change, though. It was still good and the menu, my-my.
Mom's favorite was chicken francaise, dad -- he'd eat anything that didn't have tomato sauce on it -- at the time when the meals were eaten at the diner, his belly could no longer handle tomato sauce, which was a shame because the Phily Diner makes the best veal Parmesan. I always opted for seafood, because we had moved to the Midwest and Red Lobster just doesn't cut it for real seafood. My favorite was stuffed trout, when it was available.
Just so you can see what is available at a NJ diner (all diners have basically the same menu) I've attached the link to the menu at Phily Diner -- are you salivating yet?


Well, that's what this BLOG is all about, isn't it?
I've received several e-mails in recent weeks that remind me of those days in Runnemede. So, I've been thinking about some of the things I remember that really aren't generic to Runnemede like those big sycamore trees out front of the house or uneven sidewalks or no-traffic streets where you could safely ride a bike WITHOUT a helmet. I mean we never heard of helmets -- even motorcyclists rarely wore them unless they were in some race at a race-track.

There were no car seats for children, the small ones were held on mom's lap in the front seat. I don't believe the infant mortality rate from being in a car accident was that high that we had to remove our children from the loving arms of their mother to be put into an uncomfortable (has to be) infant seat where the poor child's head sags to one side or another or when the sleep falls forward so as to cut off the air supply.

Notice the picture of the telephone. In those days we had ONE telephone centrally located in the house so that by the 4th ring -- if you fell down the steps from the attic (mine and my sister's abode) -- you could answer it. Today in our 7 room house we have six telephones, and no matter where I am in the house, the phone isn't, when it rings.
Notice, no push buttons. We had to push the circle thing (dial) around to the finger guard for each number we dialed. Because push-button phones didn't really become common until I was in my 30s, I still dial numbers in my head using the old dial pushing method. Everytime I call my friend Cathy in NJ I do that because I had dialed (with the dial, not the buttons) her number for so many years prior to our getting the push-button phones.

Our first phone number was Beaverbrook 2-2224J -- Only you didn't have direct dial in those days. All calls were placed through the operator ("Number please"). We had a party line. Neat, I suppose if one was nosey. The only time I picked up and wanted to use the phone and some other party was one there, I nastily said it was my turn and they should hang up so I could make my call. Dad heard about it, then my bottom heard about my sassiness!

Our second number was a Timbercreek number, but I can't remember what came next. Then our last number was Yellowstone 1, 4193, which at the end was changed to 939-4193. When I was in my mid-teens they came up with area codes, and by that time we all had direct dial -- no more operated assisted calls.
Long distance calls were very expensive, but if you called after 9 p.m. they were cheaper. Every call we made to Philadelphia cost at least 25 cents -- for a very short call. So, unless it was business related -- dad called Philly for church supplies -- we always called after 9 because the rates were lower. Nothing like $15 per month for all the long-distance calls you can make was available back then.

Our phone was located in the small hallway that led to the bedrooms. I remember as a teenager pulling the phone around the corner into my mom's bedroom and sitting on the floor in there with the door shut so no one would hear what I was saying. Privacy was almost non-existent in that small house.
Also pictured is an aluminum Christmas tree. I remember when these became available. We never had one, but I'm pretty sure it was Aunt Blanche Wentzel who had one. I thought it was the prettiest thing, much nicer than the small, weed-like tree we had. They had a light that focused on the tree and had a spinner with four colors on the spinner (lower right-hand corner) so that the tree would actually change colors as the spinner passed by another color -- red, blue, green, yellow. Of course, those aluminum trees had an advantage, they never caught on fire. The light/spinner thing? That's another story. If they overheated, they could produce a lot of smoke.
The same year the aluminum trees came out, the same material was used to make pins for women's lapels. Mostly they were supposed to be birds. I thought they were so pretty. Mom got a couple of them from people in the church. I just loved to look at them. I wonder whatever happened to those things?

After Thanksgiving

Well, Thanksgiving is over. Bummer. I really do love that holiday. This year wasn't so pleasant, but I'm grateful that Alan was able to be home from the hospital. His first day home, he wasn't feeling very well, and so I stayed home with him, rather than visiting my son and his family as planned. We had wonderful tuna-fish sandwiches. I had bought a good loaf of French bread the day before, and it was just the right hardness. So the tuna sandwiches really were very good. My son and my daughter both brought us turkey and fixings the next day, so we did have turkey to enjoy. Alan told me he didn't care about having turkey because that's about all he had in the hospital -- that's true. Every time I filled out his menu it was either turkey or fish, and fish wasn't an option for him.

Now, with Thanksgiving over, it's time for the rat-race to begin.

I remember this time of year so vividly. We had so little money, and each year before I was able to earn money, I was given $2 to buy 4 or 5 presents (depending on the year, as my youngest brother wasn't around in my early years). So, I would journey up and down the pike, in and out of the few stores which I've mentioned and mentioned and mentioned, but once again -- Pitt's Drug Store, Jake's 5&10, and Joe's Ice Cream Shop -- they were the three stores that had things that cost less than $2. Mostly I went to Jake's.

I remember each year for at least five years I gave my dad a monogrammed handkerchief and my mother a flowered handkerchief. My sister probably got pencils or crayons, and my brother(s) most likely received a small match-box like toy or some plastic soldiers. I had to sneak the gifts into the house, and then wrap them myself.

I still don't wrap a pretty present. You know those self-making bows? Well, when I make them they look like a three-year old threw up a ball of ribbon. Not good at that. The corners of any paper-wrapped package are always loose.

Dad was a perfectionist when it came to wrapping gifts, and he had those corners so tight, and he only needed a small piece of scotch tape to hold it together. I, on the other hand need half a roll to wrap one present!

Imagine me sitting on the floor of my mom's closet (which wasn't more than 2 feet by 3 feet) wrapping gifts and not allowing anyone to see what I was doing. That's how it was done. But, I think I mentioned that I loved that closet. It's where I played house, built houses out of Lincoln Logs and the precurser to Legos (wooden bricks). I colored in that closet. I probably even slept in there, although I don't really remember sleeping in there.

One thing I do remember...Mom and Dad always made me feel good that I had given them ANOTHER hankie, like it was the best gift anyone had every given them. Maybe that's why I gave them those hankies year after year after year.

By the way, I still have most of those hankies I gave my mom -- UNUSED!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Comments on this BLOG

I really don't appreciate getting comments from people that have nothing to do with this BLOG. One case in point: I received a comment from some debt consolidation company as a comment on my "Suicide Hill" BLOG. It had nothing to do with Suicide Hill, nor did it comment on what I'd written, it just told me I needed to consolidate my debts.

So, if you hackers are reading this, don't comment on my BLOG unless you have something to say about what I wrote, and know personally what I'm talking about.

Thank you.

Thanksgiving Day parade (Macy's)

When I was growing up, for the first 10 years of my life, we didn't have a television. Well, come one folks, it wasn't invented until after I was born, and dad waited and waited and waited for years before he got one.

Another Thanksgiving tradition, sort of, that took place was watching the Macy's parade. Back then it didn't start as early as it does now, because there were fewer football games on TV and the time block for the parade was later in the morning. When we got home from church we would watch the parade in black and white. While we loved it in black and white, it certainly can't compare to seeing it in "living" color, as we do now.

I kept up that tradition with my own children, two of which, still have that as a Thanksgiving tradition in their own homes.

When we lived in New York (Brooklyn) on year we went to the parade. Crowded. But what a difference to see it up close and personal. You know, it was cold that day, cloudy, raw. I think I prefer watching it on TV.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My bedroom

When I was growing up, until I was a senior in high school (at least I think it was my senior year) I shared a room with my sister. In fact, it wasn't until I was in 9th grade that I even got my own bed. We shared a bed for all those years.
This is the bed, and the girls are my granddaughters, Grace and Annie. They now share that bed. Anyway, my sister and I shared a room until I was 18.
There was a room next to our room (in the attic) which WAS the attic -- that's what we called it. It was unheated, and it stored all those things that didn't make it to the basement. I nagged and nagged and promised to clean out the room all by myself, if only mom and dad would let me have the room to myself. They acquiesced, finally, and I cleared it out. Put my bed in there, my desk, and a chair.
Now there was no closet in that room, so I hung my clothes on hooks on the wall, and put a sign over that part of the room labeled "Judi's closet". There was also a clothes rack (with clothing bags on it) which I tucked in one of the corners.
In order to allow some heat to come into that room, the door was taken off, and a curtain was put across the doorway which I opened up during the day and after I had changed for bed so that some heat would flow into the room. I had a big down quilt so in the winter I was quite warm. In the summer, of course, attics get very hot. Dad got a fan for the window and that drew out the heat during the day, then at night we'd reverse it and bring in the cooler air. I survived several years in that room, and the best part was that it was MY OWN. After I left, I think my brother took it over.
I do know, however, that whenever Alan and I came back home for a day or two we would have that room for ourselves -- he on a cot, me on my bed. Not exactly The Ritz, but it was home.

Coming home

"Over the river and through the woods," etc. We learned that song at Thanksgiving, as well. Of course in Runnemede, in my mind, the river was the Delaware River (not very picturesque), and the woods, were the small patch of woods down on Central Avenue near 8th Avenue, and never the twain would meet, so that song meant little me..

But, I do remember coming home. After I married, and left my permanency in Runnemede, I always enjoyed coming home, at least until the last couple of visits home, which were the difficult, constant care visits, and then clearing dad out of the house in Runnemede in which he had lived for over 55 years. But that has nothing to do with this episode about coming home.

After I married, of course, we always came home for Thanksgiving. I remember our second Thanksgiving after we were married. Alan and I arrived -- we drove down from Rutgers in New Brunswick -- and Aunt Annie was already there. Well, when I got in the house I smelled no good smells, and I was a bit concerned. It turns out that someone had given mom a fresh turkey, but by the time she was able to use it for Thanksgiving -- a mere four days from the arrival of the bird -- it had spoiled and had to be pitched.

Well, Aunt Annie and I hopped in my car and started searching for something, anything, for dinner. I mean mom had all the trimmings, but no bird or roast or ham -- no meat.

Back in the late 60s, stores weren't open on holidays like they are now. I mean if my turkey turns out bad, I can just go out to Kroger and get an entire meal, and pick it up fresh cooked, even on the day of Thanksgiving. But back then... Well, Aunt Annie and I started down the pike. I knew where there was a Wa-Wa and I thought minimally we could stock up on turkey TV dinners and pick out the turkey to go with all the fixings mom already had. No such luck. They had no TV dinners. The A&P and Shoprite weren't open. In fact, only Wa-Wa was open. So we were unable to get any meat anywhere.

Well, true to form, Aunt Annie got the giggles about the whole situation, as did I, and we laughed all the way home -- back up the pike -- and were laughing when we got in the house. Mom wasn't amused, and certainly dad wasn't, but Aunt Anne and I thought the whole situation was hilarious.

We didn't have turkey that year, but we did have a good time, and it gave us something to remember. I don't recall where my brothers and sister were that year.

That's just one of the "going home" events I can remember, but this time of year reminds me of going home -- over the river (Ohio) and through the woods (most of western Pennsylvania) to mother's house we would go -- all three children, me and Alan -- and we'd spend a few days at "HOME" either at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or in the summer. Sometime during each year from 1966 until dad left Runnemede in 1998 we went HOME.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving week

I'm thinking back to the week of Thanksgiving, back when...

Three days of school -- yeah!

Since Monday is almost over, that means only two days of school left this week.

Oh, right, I'm in the real world, not back in Runnemede in 1952.

But, I enjoyed the whole week of Thanksgiving when I was growing up. I think anticipation was a great part of the enjoyment. Anticipating a wonderful dinner. Anticipating olives. Anticipating ginger ale. Anticipating pumpkin pie (or any pie). Anticipating pickles. Anticipating mom's cole slaw. Anticipating turkey SKIN. The skin was the best anticipation.
Anticipating seeing my cousins and aunts and uncles. Anticipating daddy's Thanksgiving prayer. Anticipating snow.

In school we were hard at work making leaf place mats -- you know grab some fallen leaves that are still in decent shape, pull out two sheets of wax paper, put the leaves between the two sheets of wax paper, and then iron the wax paper sheets together. There you have it -- a place mat. We were also making multi-colored construction paper turkeys. Pilgrim hats. And of course, we were being told about the first Thanksgiving, and learning to sing "We Gather Together." All this in school. And yes, we were taught in our public school in the 50s that the first Thanksgiving was a good experience for the new people on the block -- that would be the immigrants that came to America around 1620, and the Indians that lived here already. And the event was a sharing event with both sides sharing what they had with each other and being grateful for just being alive. It was a religious feast, I believe.

Then the anticipation was over and it was Thanksgiving morning, which was always cold, cold, cold. We would get up, get dressed for church, go to church, and then come home to the wonderful aroma of cooking turkey. How antsy we were! We wanted to eat NOW! Of course, it was usually around 2:00 p.m. by the time everything was ready to be chomped on. And the relatives would begin to arrive, either just prior to our eating or just after we ate, and then in the evening the cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, and parents would enjoy another meal of leftovers.

The day after Thanksgiving wasn't a shopping day for us. It was a day to play, yeah. It was also, I think, the day Santa came to town.

My brother reminded me of the years when Santa came to visit us on Christmas Eve in a fire engine and gave each of us children a gift. But I digress. This is, reminder to self, supposed to be about Thanksgiving week.

Saturday was the end of the week, and soon we'd be back in school, starting our rehearsals for the Christmas program at school.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Suicide Hill

There is, or was, a place in Runnemede called suicide hill. The rumor was that before the "hill" became a "hill" it was a cliff, and someone jumped off it -- killed himself, thus getting the name suicide hill. How the hill got to be "hill" from "cliff" I do not know.

Anyway we would go up to suicide hill, at the bottom of which was the town dump. The hill was really quite steep, but we would run down the hill, or slide down it on flattened cardboard boxes, and then climb up it, only to slide down again. Funny thing, I never sled down that hill. I wonder why? At least I don't recall sliding down it on a sled. Maybe it was too steep and too long and we figured we'd end up on the turnpike or something, I don't know. My brother tells me that we used to get tires from the dump and use them to slide back down the hill on. That's his remembrance, not mine, but I don't doubt that we (or he) did that.

It was a pleasant walk to get to the hill, most of the way was to cut through people's yards, something we did all the time. Do people do that anymore? Or have we become so polite that we wouldn't think of cutting through someone's yard? I don't know. I just remember that to get to any place in Runnemede, we did a lot of walking through people's yards.

I would guess it was about a half mile from our house, maybe a little further than that. It was at the end of a dead-end street, and from the top of the hill you could see more than the dump. You had a great vista of neighboring towns such as Bellmawr and Barrington.

I suppose somewhere between our home and the bottom of the hill, the town dipped, or the walk was downhill, but I don't recall many hills that had to be walked up in Runnemede at all. I know that Third Avenue on the west side of the pike had a rather steep hill and it was great to ride home from school on my bike, but I must have had really strong legs because I don't remember that the uphill climb on the bike was that bad. Now days I get exhausted just climbing the ramp from the parking lot to the lobby level at Christ Hospital. And Clements Bridge Road, the road that ran behind the house, or in front of the church, had a steep enough hill that they held the annual Soap Box Derby on it, until the late 50s. Traffic was then something to be contended with and the derbies were stopped.

Times changed though and now the dump is a Holiday Inn. When the NJ Turnpike was put in, the dump was leveled, the hill was still there, but as years passed progress hit the small town and a Holiday Inn was built on the dump property.

If I ever return to Runnemede, I think I'll take a drive to the top of the hill -- or where the top of the hill used to be and see if there is still a view of Bellmawr and Barrington from that point.


I know you're wondering what "art" has to do with growing up in Runnemede. Well, let me weave a tale in words, something I can't do with a paint brush, as much as I would like to be able to do that.

I wonder if my brothers and sister remember how talented my mother was in the area of drawing? Me, I can't draw a straight line with a ruler, or a circle with a compass. But my mom could draw so well. I loved to ask her to draw something, and she would take pencil and paper (always pencil) and draw such wonderful things. Flowers that looked so real (my flowers tend to look like scribbles), houses that had depth -- my drawings of houses are always flat. She could even draw pictures of people, that actually looked like the people she was drawing.

I know I've mentioned how I practiced writing (cursive). Well, believe it or not, I also practiced drawing, but it never went anywhere. Mom would show me how to draw a profile. Her profile drawings had depth, shadows, etc., my profile drawings looked like, oh, I don't know, but they didn't look like profiles.

Anyway, you nieces and nephews, brothers, sister, children, grandchildren, if any of you have any artistic talent at all you might have gotten from my mother, Rose.

Cousins - part deux

I think I'll add to the cousins' post with one about David Evangelista. Alan and I visited him and his wife, Linda, last Thanksgiving. And since Thanksgiving is this week, it brought back such pleasant memories.

This is a picture of David and Linda at our condo rental in Crossville, Tennessee last Thanksgiving. What a blessed week it was. On Sunday we went to church -- David is a pastor in Crossville. I actually cried because his teaching was so much like my father's teaching used to be.

They joined us for lunch after the morning church service and I made a thick vegetable soup and served it with lunch meat, good Italian bread, and various cheeses. I also made an apple/pear pie for dessert. Why do I even mention the food? It seems my whole life centers around food, which it doesn't really. I haven't done much cooking since last Thanksgiving, actually.

Anyway, we also went to their home for Thanksgiving. I made another pie, sweet-potato casserole, and I think cole slaw. Linda made the turkey, stuff, and all the other food. And we did have a lot to eat, and it was the best turkey I've had in years. It seems that when someone else does the cooking it tastes so much better than when I cook it. Maybe there's a tiredness factor in there. If one if too tired to really enjoy what they prepared, maybe that's why someone else's cooking tastes so good.

David is still funny -- I remember when I was a teenager, he was always making us all laugh, but then my sister and I talked about that, and we really remember the chuckles. It seems the family was a bunch of gigglers, and when David was around, the giggling was almost raucous.

He was in seminary at the time, and I think his fourth daughter has just been born. He had five girls -- no boys. But that's okay. All his daughters are beautiful women, and they were cute little girls. I have a couple of pictures of the older daughters, faded black and whites.

Anyway, that's one of the cousins. The link to my mother is this: Grandmother Sbaraglia -- my mother's mother -- had five children. The oldest was Daisy. Daisy married Maurice Evangelista and had 8 (?) children, the next to the youngest was David. David is 10 years older than I. So of the Evangelista children, David is just one of them about whom I could write -- and I did.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Music, music, music

Put another nickle in, in the Nickelodeon, all I want is lovin' you and music, music, music.

The lyrics of the songs I heard as a child are, well, just plain silly. I was on my way to the hospital to visit Alan today and we have satellite music in the car (for about one more month and then it automatically turns off because we don't want to pay for it). Anyway, I have it tuned to 50s music, since I remember the 50s fondly.

Well, as I'm turning out of the driveway today, the first song that comes up is "Abba dabba honeymoon." Talk about silly songs. It was very popular in 1951. The words go something like this:

Abba, dabba, dabba, dabba, dabba, dabba, dabba, said the monkey to the chimp. Abba, dabba, dabba, dabba, dabba, dabba, dabba said the chimpy to the monk. All day long they chattered away. All day long they were happy and gay. Singing and swinging in a honkey-tonkey way. Abba, dabba, dabba, in monkey talk means chimp I love but you. Abba, dabba, dabba in chimpy talk, means dear I love you too. So the big baboon one night in June, he married her and very soon, they went upon their abba dabba honeymoon.

It has a catchy tune, too. But see how silly those words are. Then as I'm coming home from the hospital, the first song up is "Only You" which started me crying. I cried all the way home because all I could think about was Alan being my "one and only." Dumb song -- here I go again, just thinking of the stupid song, tears well up.

Then I started thinking about some of the other stupid, silly, very popular songs in the 50s. One was Goodnight, Irene. Well, one night there were some kids over on the school ground and they were singing that song over and over (were they drunk? maybe) and my father was fit to be tied (that's one of those sayings I should have put in the "sayings" BLOG) because they wouldn't shut up and kept singing that over and over and over. The words are very edifying, too.

Irene, goodnight. Irene, goodnight. Goodnight, Irene. Goodnight, Irene. I'll see you in my dreams.' That's it. Over and over and over and over and over. Hour after hour. No wonder daddy was going nuts.

Lest we forget the best of the best: Mr. Sandman, or, Lipstick on your collar. or my personal favorite: 16 tons.

I'll leave you with these tidbits for now. I guess you could Google "songs of the 50s" and find many, many more great, edifying songs (Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?).


Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm still here

Just wanted you all to know that I'm still here and I have been remiss in posting anything due to Alan's hospitalization. I talked with my brother, Mark, the other night, and he reminded me of a few things, all of which I have commented on, but one. I will write something tonight about his topic. I'll keep you in the dark until then.

I remember one hospital visit when I was a child -- I had my tonsils out. Back in those days they had a children's ward which had probably 20 or more beds in it, and when you had your tonsils out you were kept in the hospital for a couple of days before they let you come home. Not at all like these days when you go in and snip-snip, out come the tonsils, and you're sent home to recuperate.

Now, I'm having trouble with our insurance company wanting to keep up with paying for the care of Alan because they don't think it's necessary. Never mind what his doctors say. The insurance company knows it all, right?

Sorry to be so negative. Just thought you'd want to know that "back in the day" you were kept in the hospital as long as they thought it was necessary.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A note from my sister

Deb wrote: I really liked Authors. I wasn't a reader like you, but I knew all the authors' names because of that game. Speaking of Chinese checkers. Whenever we had dinner with Aunt Annie, either at our house or hers, between dinner and dessert she would play Chinese checkers with us kids. The reason I love that game so much and played it with my kids, was because Aunt Annie always got to giggling when we played. And if you remember once she started giggling, laughter followed and our sides hurt from laughing so long and so hard. I remember Aunt Annie loved to laugh, she and Markie together would have us in stitches.

My comment: This remark came about because of my reference to playing Chinese checkers with myself. I really don't think I played many games with Aunt Annie and the "little" kids. My selfish, superior, older self wouldn't allow that. At least I don't remember playing many games with her. But I do remember the laughter and I talked about that in one of my former BLOGs when daddy would take forever with his prayer at Thanksgiving dinner.

Deb also wrote: Mommy sure did keep a clean house when we were kids, I don't know how she did it with all of us, Church responsibilities, gardening, canning, cooking, etc. And she always had time for the LORD. She always found time to read her Bible and to spend time in prayer. Oh, to be more like Mommy.

My comment: She and I had been talking about how we used to clean before arthritis took hold and how we clean today. Notice the different in the type -- clean means really, really clean. Today clean (not bold) means it looks clean, but is it really? Fortunately, even though I have arthritis and have a difficult time walking. If I can get moving, I can bend over. I can still touch my palms to the floor, so cleaning a floor can be done with a bit of elbow grease. But my preference is Swiffer wet. I get the corners with a Mr. Clean eraser and around the commode with the eraser as well. I have a cleaning brush (usually used for cleaning the toilet) that I use exclusively for brushing around the pot and then wipe it up with a rag. Is that too much information?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Christmas Eve revisited

I have talked a little bit about our Christmas Eve -- Christmas Eve in Runnemede always included the midnight church service at the Lutheran Church. I was never allowed to stay up that late, so I didn't go, but dad did.

In 1955 we finally got a TV and then dad watched all the church services on TV -- which is about all that was on on Christmas Eve in the early days of TV. He was especially interested in the Vatican service. I always thought it was boring.

Anyway, we feasted, sort of, on Christmas Eve. I didn't realize until recently -- from watching the Food Network on TV -- that the meal mom served was an Italian tradition for Christmas Eve. Seven fishes? Well, we didn't have seven fish dishes, but we had several.

I think mom took some lessons from Grandmom Aspling (not my real grandmother, but a wonderful lady who I called Grandmom -- both my real grandmothers had gone to be with the Lord). Anyway Mrs. Aspling was Swedish, and they (the Swedes) are famous for smorgasbords, right? Well, mom prepared a meal in the Swedish tradition, only the food was definitely Italian, with a couple of German dishes (for my dad) thrown in.

I especially remember pickled herring, sausage, mashed potatoes, pickled beets, baked flounder, peas and onions in cream sauce, cole slaw, olives, Jewish pickles, sliced fresh Italian bread, real butter (I could pig out on bread and butter, if the butter was real and the bread fresh), and then a plethora of cookies, thanks to the good people of Mt. Calvary Union Church.

I don't think we children ever got a taste for the German dishes, at least I didn't. The feast began at 6 o'clock -- that was as long as my father was willing to wait to eat, I suppose. He liked his dinner at 6 o'clock on the dot, and that's when we always ate, including Christmas Eve.

The meal was served in the dining room -- we rarely ate (in my early years) in the dining room, but rather squeezed around the kitchen table for our meals. It wasn't until TV came into the house that we started to regularly eat at the dining room table, so dad could watch the news. And, I guess, because the children were getting bigger physically, and we really didn't fit around the kitchen table anymore.

Another Christmas Eve tradition we enjoyed was carolling. This was limited to our teenage years. And some years it was so wonderfully snowy, but we went carolling anyway. Mostly we walked around the town and visited the church people. We then retired to the church for cocoa and cookies.

Another tradition that my Uncle Joe started was to come visit us and take us into Haddonfield to view the various light displays -- the way houses were decorated. At that time Haddonfield was the place in NJ where rich people lived. Now I look at those beautiful homes, and they are still beautiful, but they really aren't that large, compared to what folks are building these days.
We didn't ride around looking at the lights on Christmas Eve, but on Christmas night, because most years Aunt Annie and Uncle Joe Egitto, and Uncle Joe Sbaraglia and their respective families would visit later on Christmas day.

I vividly remember one Christmas -- mom had made a turkey with all the trimmings. Aunt Anne and Uncle Joe has arrived, and we were sitting down to eat. Deb and I were given dolls -- NEW dolls, not rehabbed dolls from the Doll Hospital -- and I wouldn't put that doll down, not even to eat dinner. Aunt Anne commented on that fact. I must have worn that doll out, because I don't have it. I still have one Doll Hospital doll, and my daughter has what was my bride doll (mom made the gown out of satin and the veil out of lace).

I remember the excitement of Christmas morning and receiving the few gifts I did receive.

Silent night describes Christmas Eve in Runnemede -- all is calm, all is bright. The nativity scene -- which I never mentioned -- was set up at the Town Hall -- sharing space with Santa's house.

It just always seemed so quiet to me on Christmas Eve.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Between Christmas and New Year's Day

School was out -- the one toy we received was either worn out or getting there and boredom, I'm sure was setting in.

I remember playing a lot of board games at this time of year. I even played myself in Chinese checkers to see which of four tries I could get to finish first. I had no color preference, therefore, it didn't matter which color "won". It was just a test for me to see how I could out-maneuver anyone else I was playing. I mean some people play chess that way, but I played Chinese checkers that way.

We were not allowed to play cards -- gamblers played cards -- so I never learned any of those "wicked" games that gamblers play. However, did you know that Rook is much like euchre? And Yatzee is like poker?

We were allowed to play Old Maids and Authors. Dull and boring as they were. I think we played "Go Fish", but I don't have any clear memory of doing that. I wasn't a card player even with the games we were permitted to play. In fact, games are not my forte. I hate to lose and therefore, I don't like to play games unless I know for sure that I am going to win.

But back to between Christmas and New Year's Day. One of the big "events" of that time period was our annual trip to Philadelphia to Uncle Joe's and Aunt Rita's. Now, Aunt Rita was the best cook in the family, of that I am sure. No one can ever convince me otherwise. Her spaghetti sauce was the best of anyone's in the family. So our saliva glands were working overtime by the time we arrived at the Sbaraglia's (Uncle Joe came over from Philly to pick us up in his car, and toted us to his home, then he'd take us back home after dinner). And when we walked into their home -- the aroma -- oh, my goodness -- it was wonderful. Garlic, sausage, tomato sauce, roast chicken, garlic bread -- all those smells mingled together was just wonderful. And, fortunately Aunt Rita was ready for us and we didn't have to wait long to sit down and eat.

On these occasions, Uncle Joe said "grace" so we didn't have to wait for Dad to yank our chain with his "I know you're hungry, and I'm gonna make you wait a little longer to eat" prayers that lasted as long as he could think of something to be grateful for. And then we could dig in.

I think I enjoyed this meal as much as I enjoyed our Thanksgiving feasts, maybe more.

I finally got Aunt Rita's recipe and made it. Yum! Only problem, my 65-year-old stomach doesn't tolerate tomato sauce anymore. But now I know how to make it, and the "agita" it gives me is "worth the trip."

Friday, November 2, 2007

Pickled beets

Jogging away from the Christmas theme for this meandering, I'm going to talk about a favorite dish of my father's.

Please know that Italian cooking REQUIRES a salad of some sort (anti pasta?) after the meal and that usually meant honeymoon salad (lettuce alone) at our house with an oil/vinegar dressing. Well, dad was not particularly fond of honeymoon salad, although he did always have some, but he loved pickled beets.

I don't think anyone else besides me and dad liked pickled beets. My mom never made them with onions. In fact, I didn't know until buffets became popular that pickled beets were supposed to have onions in them. My mom's recipe was very simple. I can of sliced beets (or if someone gave us some fresh beets, she'd cook them up and pickle them into jars), 1/4 cup of white vinegar -- has to be white, not wine or balsamic -- and some salt. That's it. No sugar -- the sugar is in the beets.

Well, there was this dish -- the pickled beet dish. And pickled beets were ALWAYS served in this dish. I have the dish, and my son would want me to put up a picture on this BLOG, but too bad. You'll just have to come visit me if you want to see the pickled beet dish.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Why this Christmas theme?

I guess I should explain why I'm so hung up on Christmas right now. Well, Halloween is FINALLY over. I do not like that holiday. And, I don't think my mom liked it either. It seems we were at odds, year after year, as to what costume I or any of the children would wear. And it was left up to mom to think of something, other than a sheet over the head with two holes for the eyes.

But right now, I'm preparing for Christmas, as I usually do as soon as Halloween is out of the way. While I do nothing for Halloween, except hit the stores the day after and get reduced-priced candy, I'm concepting Christmas.

I explained concepting before, I'm sure, so I won't go through that again. But today is the first day of Christmas as far as I'm concerned. And I have gotten my Christmas craft supplies all lined up and am ready.

I remember making paper chains when I was a child, and mom taught me how to make snowflakes out of paper napkins. But the crafts today are little more sophisticated.

Every year mom would spend hours writing out Christmas cards. That was something I decided I wasn't going to do after I got married, especially if a phone call would do. So, until we moved to our current abode, I didn't do cards. But Alan wanted to get on the Community Board and so we decided that we should send Christmas cards to all residents. That started 5 years ago. As of today, most of my cards are addressed, and ready to go. In addition to the community cards, this year I'm going to make cards for a selected few people.

Now, don't get upset if you're not one of the selected. If you're reading this, you probably don't qualify, because Christmas greetings to you can be sent via e-mail.

Back on track -- After Christmas, Mom would take all the cards we received, then we children would make scrapbooks out of the pretty ones. Some had gold foil or silver foil behind the front of the card. Those cards would definitely go in the book. Back in the day, ribbons were a common embellishment on cards. Those cards would go into a scrapbook. Also, anything with glitter got put in the book.

So, I decided to sort of follow in mom's footstep and I am planning card days with my grandchildren, if time permits, and we will make cards because the last two years, I have cut out and saved those pretty cards that I thought would make good recycled cards.

The ability to e-mail many of my cousins has saved me postage and I can e-mail them Christmas greetings, but several of my cousins do not have e-mail, so for them I am making a card. No Christmas letter, though. That I have never done, and while I should never say "never", I never plan to do one. I enjoy reading them, but it seems like so much work.

Just read my BLOG.

Christmas in Town

I know I've addressed this before, and I will address it again because you just don't know how I miss this.

Santa arrived in Runnemede on a fire engine the day after Thanksgiving, and he was driven to his "throne" which for several years was in front of the firehouse -- when the fire house was located on The Pike. Then, he was moved to in front of the Municipal Building between 4th and 5th Avenues on the Pike.

I went to visit Santa, not because I believed he would get me anything, but because I would get a free candy cane. I tried to go a couple of times each season, but Santa was too smart for that and ALWAYS knew I had been there before. So much for anonimity. Remember a few days ago I mentioned my popularity -- here was one instance when it wasn't good to be popular!

Santa's "house" had music playing all day long, and I could just sit there and listen to the Christmas music, but it was cold in Runnemede in December, so I opted out of that activity.

Back to our small town. I wish I could remember which year Marston's Jewelry store opened up, but that was one of my favorite windows, not that I'd ever get any of the jewelry on display in those windows. As I walked back toward home from the Santa house (when it was at the Municipal Building) I would pass this store and just gaze. At that time there was a grocery store (with wooden floors) across the street, and on the same side of the Pike (that would be the southwest side of Third Avenue and the Pike). And while they had lots of windows, there wasn't really much they could do with food to make it festive. I moved on to Joe's (the ice-cream store) and then on to Leap's Supermarket (which later became Binkley's 5 & 10). He had lots of windows, too, and at least there was a tree in one of them, and they had colored lights all around the inside. As I walked down the Pike toward Clements Bridge Road, where I would cross over to our side of the Pike, there was the post-office. I crossed the pike there, and there was a store, which became a vacuum cleaner store, but at the time I was a kid, I'm pretty sure it was the Firestone store (it sold tires and other car supplies).

Now at this point, I had a choice, I could head east on Clements Bridge for two blocks and cut through the church yard to home, or I could go north on the Pike to Second Avenue, then head east two blocks to home. Mostly I headed north on the Pike so I could see some more windows.

As I ambled forth, I passed Dinks -- that was sort of a general store. There was a restaurant next door, maybe it was called "Weber's". Then came Brogan's hardware store. He had neat "gifts" on display in his windows, then came the bakery (maybe that was "Weber's"), and then came the taylor -- Mr. DeCeccio? And then came Pitt's drug store -- he has beautiful gifts on display in his window -- perfume sets (remember Evening in Paris?), wallets, key chains, hankies). Who'd have thought a drug store would carry such nice gifts.

Moving onward, I crossed First Avenue, and on the corner across from Pitt's was a shoe store, then came Jake's 5 & 10. Great store, not well decorated window. Then came the firehouse, which might or might not have had Santa, but while it was one the pike, before it was rebuilt on Second Avenue, they played music over loud speakers during the season. Then, I'd cut through the Gulf Station driveway, and head east on Second to home.

I missed a few shops that were on the Pike between 2nd and 3rd, but one was a bar, and one was a barber shop. The other store, was something different every year, it seems like. I don't think any business ever set up in that shop (the building is still there) ever lasted for more than a few years.

The Pike was also decorated with something on the electric poles, but my mind is dim and I don't remember what they were. Maybe it was lights strung across the Pike?

Christmas #1 - THE TREE

I do have fond memories of Christmas, but they are dim. I don't know whether to include Christmas Eve in with this BLOG or make it a separate one, or interweave it into others. Needless to say I will have more than one remembrance of Christmas.

I think this one will be about THE TREE. THE TREE never went up more than two days before Christmas, and usually on the 23rd, not Christmas Eve. Dad went to the Lutheran Church on Christmas Eve because they had a service, and our church did not (unless Christmas Eve happened to be on a Sunday). I recall mom urging "Carl" to put up the tree, but "Carl" had better things to do, I suppose, than to put up a free. "Carl" (my father) was really not handy with tools and using them even to put up a tree was a chore for him.

So, THE TREE went up around the 23rd, and that day also mom got out her special decorations, like she had a couple of beautiful ceramic angels. Dad would check out the lights -- no bubble lights on our tree, though. I remember the Fishers (members of our church) had bubble lights, and I used to love to go visit them just to watch those things bubble up. But we had no bubble lights, just plain colored lights (red, blue, green, yellow/orange, and white). And if one went out, all went out.

Mom would make decorations for the front and back door, cutting her yew plants in the front of the house and using those greens for her decoration, tying it with a big red bow. That also went up on the 23rd.

THE TREE was decorated with dad's family ornaments, of which I still have a few that survived, as they were all glass, not plastic. THE TREE also had tinsel. Now that was something I wasn't allowed to help with. Dad was very particular about tinsel, and it had to hang just right. My concept of tinsel was to throw it on the tree and wherever it landed, was okay. So, as soon as my dad saw me do that, the tinsel was swiped out of my hand and Judith was told to sit down and watch.

THE TREE was topped with a tin star, if I recall correctly. And dad would make sure either a white or yellow light was just below it so it was sort of lit. THE TREE was always put in the bay window on the side near the kitchen.

What few gifts we received were placed under the tree on Christmas Eve to be opened on Christmas morning.