Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Monday, March 30, 2009

Palm Sunday

Today, April 5, is Palm Sunday. At least that's what the Sunday before Easter used to be called. And on this Sunday, my father always preached about the Lord's triumphant ride into Jerusalem just prior to the events leading up to his betrayal, crucifixion, and Resurrection. His meteoric rise to fame was something in that day. No TV or teleprompters to get his message across. Just crowds in the hot sun on the side of hills around the City.

Christ came into Jerusalem as a King. He was honored, worshipped, adored. Five days later he was dead, killed by the His church with the help of the government, or do I have that backwards.

Makes no difference. My point is that I haven't heard a message on Palm Sunday regarding Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem in over 20 years. No longer does the choir or a soloist sing "The Palms". No longer do soloists sing "The Holy City". I miss that. Two musical pieces that can only be sung on a certain Sunday in the year, are only a memory in elder minds and hearts.

Our Palm Sunday service did not include palms laid down the center aisle, we were told to visualize what it was like for Christ to ride into town on the back of a donkey while people laid those palm fronds as a way before him. We rejoiced at the beginning of the service, then as the service wound down, daddy would let us know that the most difficult week of our Savior was coming and we left knowing what the following week would bring -- both in Church services and in our minds and hearts.

If you haven't read this part of Christ's life recently, do so. You can find it in: Matthew 21:1-11; Jude 19:29-40; and Mark 11:1-11. (that would be in the Bible)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ellie is two

I don't know Ellie very well. Sceduling problems and illness (for me) has not permitted me to spend much time with her. Her other grandmother and I were together last week for a few hours while she (Grinnie) was babysitting while her mom (Cyndi) was having her sixth baby (Jack) and was in the hospital. I told Grinne that I didn't know Ellie very well, and that she didn't know me. She told me, Ellie didn't know her either, and she had been babysitting her for two days! She told me her (Grinnie's) year -- she's taking care of an invalid mother -- didn't permit her much time for any "socializing".

Well, on Saturday, we're celebrating Ellie's second birthday. And I do love that little girl. She really is a cutie. She won't smile for me, but then when I DO see her it's usually right after her nap, and she isn't really awake yet. See? Scheduling problems.

Her birthday was actually last week, but with Jack being born and her mom being in the hospital the celebration was put off. She's now two. Will she remember that we didn't have her birthday party on her birthday? I don't think so.

I hope you all like the picture, taken last week ON HER BIRTHDAY, March 20.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I noticed this afternoon that the trees are starting to bud. Here in Northern KY we have different trees than I remember having in Southern NJ. Here the trees budding are flowering pear, flowering crab apple, and red bud. The dogwoods aren't quite ripe yet.

In S. Jersey I don't recall those trees, except for the dogwoods. What I remember about the first blooms of spring were the forsythia, crocus, daffodils, followed by lilac, dogwood, and lily of the valley. I remember walking in the "woods" down beyond 7th Avenue on our side of the pike, with my mother, and she would point out the trees by name, the wild plants, by name, and it all went over my head. I wish I had paid more attention.

I also noticed that the bulb plants are just about ready to bloom, maybe in a week or so if the warm weather holds.

I know this is short, but I wanted to record something I noticed today while laying in bed looking out the huge window wall and just noticing that the grass is now green and the trees are blooming!

Monday, March 23, 2009

March 1959

Why would I remember March of 1959? Well, it's because the weather was so unusual that year.

I became quite good at predicting the weather because I "read" the signs in the sky. And the day before my 16th birthday I told everyone it was going to snow and we would have at least one snow day from the snow that was coming. No one believed me because the weather that particular day, the day of "the revelation", was absolutely beautiful. Cold, but clear and beautiful.


As we looked out the window of one of the classrooms that faced West, I notice a line of clouds, low on the horizon, and I pointed them out to a few people who knew about "the revelation." Still they laughed.

Well, about 6 P.M. that evening they weren't laughing. It was snowing, and it was snowing hard.

Did we have a snow day? You bet, several in fact. But that was just the beginning the that particular March.

We had snow almost every other day for two weeks, and we didn't see the street (tar) for almost a month. At the end of the month -- when it was spring already -- we had another storm which was not only snow, but it was also ice. At that storm caused us to lose electricity.

We had a gas stove, so the kitchen was warm. And dad had a small kerosene heater, which he put in the living room. So downstairs, except for the bathroom and the two bedrooms was comfortable, if you wore a coat. But upstairs, where my sister and I slept, it was cold. Cold enough so that you could see your breath.

We muddled through that week. There was no school, that week either. And we didn't get back to school until April. It was so much fun, if you liked cold and snow, and what kid doesn't?

The only problem was that we had so many snow days that we lost a lot of school time, and in those days there weren't make-up days like there are now. At least we didn't get out any later in June. We may have missed out three-day spring break (Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Monday), but that was it.

Times have changed, and that really was a very cold winter. Not our normal winter. And people were predicting the beginning of an ice age. So on this global warming thing, I say wait and see. I don't think there's going to be massive flooding because the arctic and Antarctica melt. I think, perhaps, we'll see more cold weather. I mean I think this past winter was pretty cold, not as cold at 1977, but cold, just the same.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

How sweet to hold a newborn baby!

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

(words by Bill Gaither)

This says so much, and I think of my mother who was told she couldn't have children because of physical difficulties she had, but God was so good to her. She loved children. God gave her four children to hold as newborns, and while she would have liked more, the doctor warned her that if she did she could die, and so having more babies was out for her.

I remember vividly, my mom sitting on her bed, a few days after my brother Carl was born, nursing him, and even at the age of 6 (almost 7), I could tell how much she loved that baby, and I could see her pride and joy. And I know my mom was thinking, this is a child I MUST raise to know my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And she told him about the Lord, and she prayed for him (and all her children) until the days before she died.

So, while I was holding this newborn baby, my last grandchild, Jack, I was thinking of the words of the song "Because He Lives", which I love so much.
*Picture is of Cyndi and Jack, 3/18/09, minutes after Jack's birth. Cyndi was really, really happy to be holding her newborn baby.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Family Member

(Top picture baby, bottom picture Jack and Mommy, Cyndi).

Well today, March 18, 2009, we welcomed a new member into our ever growing family.


Jack will probably never see Runnemede, but he will hear about it because I will tell him about the town I loved so much as a child.

Jack is my 15th grandchild. Two are with our Lord. The rest are learning about Jesus and learning to love Him and walk with Him.

I am so thankful for my father's best gift to me -- that of teaching me about God and our Lord and how to walk with my Saviour day by day. I hope to be able to teach Jack some of what my father, who served at Mt. Calvary Union Church in Runnemede for over 50 years, taught me and his congregation.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Second Avenue homes

I love this picture. My dad's arm is around me and I know he was holding me tight so I wouldn't move. His arm is also around Mark, who is so proud of his train engine. Carl and his dimples. He had the best dimples in the world. We all had dimples, but his were deepest of all us children.

Did you notice the toy on the ground just behind us? It's a crane. I remember that toy so well.

What I really love about this picture is that it shows the homes of my friends. First house on the left if Janette and Butchy Britain's house, the next house on the left is the Strike's home (Betty and her mom). Everyday Betty would run down the block to catch the bus to her job at NJ Bell Tel, and every evening she would run back up the block to her home so she could feed her mom. You could set your watch to her comings and goings.

On the right, the first house you see is the Dunne's. In house lived Betty Anne. She was my sister's age, but I loved going to that tiny house and playing there. It was so unique, and Mrs. Dunne and I always talked about her decorating and how did she think the living room would look if we moved a piece of furniture to a different place. What fun for me.

After that on the right is Wallace's house. Linda (my age) and David (my sister's age) lived in that house, along with their mom and dad (Aunt Peg and Uncle Ben). They weren't really our Aunt and Uncle, but we called them that.

It was a TRIPLE house. Two homes downstairs, and one home upstairs. It was a converted school house. Mr. Wallace (Uncle Ben) did a lot of renovating in that place. That was another house I loved to visit. Uncle Ben's mother lived in the other downstairs unit, and Mrs. Dunne's sister whose name escapes me, lived upstairs. That was also unique because it was the only home I'd ever been in that had a sun porch. A real sun porch. Not like our enclosed porch. I can't describe it, except I remember there being a lot of plants in there.

So, that's why I like this picture -- because it evokes so many memories for me.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Discipline Italian style


I have commented on the Italian side of my family. There were many aunts, uncles, and cousins on that side; And they all felt they had the responsibility to discipline all the children of the entire Family. Of course, we thought that was common. Didn't all families have aunts and uncles who were helpful in the area of making sure the children of the Family were well-behaved and courteous?

The picture here represents such a day. The event is told in my niece's BLOG, Conversations with my Father. I do remember that day. My dear uncle Joe -- my mother's brother -- had come over from South Philly to help my mom paint the living room. He was working on the ceiling. My brothers came in, mom probably asked them to do something they didn't feel like doing, and they mouthed off to her.

Uncle Joe was always affable. He whistled while he worked, and when the boys got sassy he just kept whistling and painting. When he finished that particular part of the ceiling, he thought, I suppose, it was time for a break, and he asked the boys to join him on the porch steps.
What happened next can be read in Conversations with my Father. Let me just say Uncle Joe didn't take to kindly to the way in which the boys spoke to my mother and he let them know in no uncertain terms it was not to happen again.

I say this because I was thinking about discipline and how we as children were "trained up in the way we should go" not only by my parents, but by the Aunts and Uncles as well. But with the extra discipline also came an abundance of love.

I never had any doubt when I was growing up that I was dearly loved, not only by my parents but by my Aunt Annie, Uncle Joe, Aunt Fran, etc.

Did we accept the discipline and act on it? Mostly we did. Unfortunately, we didn't always behave as we had been taught and suffered the consequence. I am so thankful to God for the training I received from not only my dad and mom, but also from the extended family of Aunts and Uncles.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Another embarrassment

Another "trick" my dad liked to pull at the most inappropriate times was to break his thumb apart. It was an optical illusion and he was good at making it look authentic. He must have practiced in front of a mirror.

I can't even describe how he did the trick, just to say that if one of his children was trying to impress a friend, dad could be counted on to make us look like idiots.

There were many times when I wanted to crawl under the dining room table!

Today I wonder how he could do that trick with his arthritic hands. I used to be able to do the same thing with my hands, but now that I've got crooked fingers, I can't do it any more at all. Maybe he called on adrenalin or something to get up the courage to bend his thumbs at odd angles to cause his children embarrassment.

As my niece puts it: Isn't that what parents are for? To embarrass their children? To that I say, No! But then she doesn't like broccoli. So I guess I have my "no embarrassment to children" banner to wave, and she has her "down with broccoli" banner to raise.

We, as a family, still have lots of fun with each other.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

More about my father

I was watching something on TV last night and noticed something that reminded me of a "trick" my father liked to perform. Of course, he wouldn't do this "trick" if we begged him. Oh, no! He would save the "trick" for a time when it would be most embarrassing for his children.

My father had several flashlights -- I've written about that before -- and several of them were penlights -- you know the kind of light the doctor shines in your mouth to see your throat more clearly.

My father would take that penlight and hold it behind his earlobe, light the penlight, and his earlobe would turn bright red. He thought that was funny. So did we, most of the time.

But...not when you're in your second year of college and invite a fellow math major home for dinner. Not, not at that time. At that time, it's just plain embarrassing.

MTF -- I thought of a few more and I'll add them from time to time.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Another picture

This is Alan and me the day after we got back from Bermuda (our honeymoon). Boy were we tan! And do you believe how skinny we both were?

We got married on August 27, 1966 in Runnemede, at that small church, and we squeezed a lot of people into that little building for the "Day of Infamy" as my father put it.

Daddy had broken his toe the day before the wedding and he was hobbling down the aisle with me, and he kept whispering to me, "This is a day of infamy." Did that mean he didn't like Alan? I don't think so. He just didn't want me to ever get married and move away, that's all. And I think he was trying to make me laugh or calm me or something. Although his hobbling down the aisle with that broken toe was enough to get me started giggling.

I giggle when I'm nervous. Always have. I used to sing in a girls quartet at church, and had to swallow the giggles everytime we sang. Same with recitals -- violin or piano. I would giggle.

I remember when I tried out for All State Chorus (NJ). I giggled through the whole try-out, and needless to say, didn't make chorus. Oh, well. At least I tried. My college interview? I giggled the whole time, and finally explained to the Dean who was interviewing me that I had this giggling thing that happened when I was nervous. He understood. I was accepted at the college.

But back to the picture. I love this picture of us. We're wearing our Bermuda hats. I think Alan still has his. He never throws anything away. I know I don't still have mine, though. I only have one hat, and it's not from Bermuda.


Friday, March 6, 2009

My brothers play "Ramar of the Jungle"

Ramar of the Jungle was a TV program which aired in the mid-50s which was about a doctor whose parents were missionaries in Africa, and the adventures he had after he became a research scientist and doctor and returned to the land where he grew up. The series had only 52 episodes in the two years it was on TV, and with reruns it was one of our family favorites, especially my brothers'.

Well, my brother, Mark, recounts in the BLOG, Conversations with my father, which my niece, Lori, started a couple of weeks ago, about a time when he and my brother, Carl, were playing Ramar and they were hacking their way through the jungle -- using real knives -- and they got to the kitchen doorway, which they saw as a obstacle in their quest of the jungle, and started hacking at the door frame. Ouch!

I was supposed to be baby sitting those little monsters while my mom and dad were at prayer meeting. I think I was 10 at the time, not much older than that, and probably younger. All I know is that as soon as I saw what they had done, I ran over to the church and got my mom who came right home.

I don't want to go into details about what happened to those boys when my mother and father saw the destruction. Let me just say, it was quite a while before they could sit down again.

The worst part of the whole thing was that the house we lived in was not OURS, it was church property, something that the 4 and 5-year-old boys didn't really understand.

I think the lesson they learned was that you can't destroy that which doesn't belong to you, and then they were shown exactly what little in that whole house did actually belong to them, which was not much.

And, yes, the last time I was in the house, in 2001, the notches in the door frame were still there, painted over, but it was well notched!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mom's squirrel coat

I think I mentioned Mom's squirrel coat before. Well, I finally found a picture of it. That's her (mom) wearing that coat. I loved that coat. She gave it to me when I left home. I wore it until I finally had to get rid of it because it started shedding and I was leaving a trail of squirrel hair behind me wherever I went while wearing the thing.

I have to say, my mom looked much better in that coat than I ever did.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Reminders of the past

Pictures of my past evoke all kinds of reminders and remembrances. This picture of my sister, brothers, and myself just gets my mind wandering to that time so long ago -- well, over 55 years ago.

Here we are all decked out in our Sunday dress, and my brother, Mark, is the one that is holding the train engine. I think he had this thing for trains and fire engines. I have a wonderful picture of him in one of those pedal fire engines that were popular in the 50s, and he is smiling like he owned the world, and I'm sure he did when he saw that on Christmas morning and then was allowed to ride up and down the street in it all day long. No matter he was freezing and his nose was running, he was having a blast.

It must have been cold on this day as well because we're wearing our winter coats. I loved that coat. It had a fur collar -- not real fur, but it was soft, but fuzzy. And I loved it. Deb is wearing a hand-me-down from me. I almost wore that coat she's wearing out. And it looks like it's a little small on her. I'm sure that was the last winter anyone wore that coat. It was a dark green with some red threads randomly running through it. Also you can see our "Mary Janes" on our feet. How Deb and I adored those shoes which we religiously "polished" on Saturday night so they'd be shiny for Sunday morning.

To polish patent leather Mary Janes you dabbed a little vasoline on a cotton ball and rubbed the vaseline into the leather. It shined up so well you could see your face in it.

You can see the view UP the street. Down the street was in the direction of the pike. Also down the street was down hill, whereas, from the pick to the end of our street was a very slight upgrade, which wasn't really noticeable unless you were in a bicycle race and had to peddle really hard to get ahead.

The houses you can barely see on the street are still there. And the tree we're standing in front of is still in front of the house. That was our "picture" tree. It seems that so many of our pictures were taken in front of that tree. It's a sycamore tree, just like the kind of tree Zacheus climbed so he could see Jesus. He would have had a difficult time getting up that tree, though, because Zacheus was short, and the lowest branch was at least 14 feet above the ground.

I printed out these pictures today so I could put them in my childhood album. Alan was looking at them and I commented on how cute I was when I was a kid. Too bad that cuteness went away when I hit teenage years and I got my teenage nose which was all out of proportion for my face, and I got my teenage lips that were huge, and I got pimples, which always makes one attractive.

Do they (pimples) ever go away? I still get zits from time to time and I'm 66. Well, this is just a little bit about Runnemede. And for your Runnemede residents who are looking at the picture, that Second Avenue, the east end.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Has anyone noticed...

It's staying lighter later every day? Yipee!!!!!!


Who knew?

I'm back to sayings we heard when we were growing up.

I recently received a book -- well, I bought it -- which was recommended by a friend of mine who grew up in Philadelphia. This book -- Gravy Wars -- is about what went on in kitchens in South Philadelphia Italian homes in past and recent years. It brought back so many memories.

When I bought the book I didn't realize it was a recipe book with little stories connected to the recipes (sort of like Runnemede Remembered Recipes -- the BLOG I started before I knew about the book). I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the book and looking at the recipes.

I found that the yummies were part and parcel of my past -- my own mom's cooking, and the vignettes with each recipes were very similar to what I experienced in my own "South Philly Italian" family.

Well, in the back of this book there are sayings that the author of Gravy Wars (Lorraine Ranalli) heard in her own home where she grew up.

What I'm getting to, is who knew that the word scooch was from my South Philly heritage. Scooch means pest or literally "pain in the rear end". Of course in Italian it isn't spelled that way, but the dialect from my past pronounced it that way. (Italian is scocciare.)

Listed below are a few other sayings we had around our house (mainly when the Family got together) when I was growing up in Runnemede. The actual Italian spelling is in parenthesis.

Ageeta' (acido) -- heartburn -- also used when someone is aggravating you, like "You're giving me ageeta'."

Bragiole (braciola) -- a thin steak wrapped around a bread stuffing, cooking in sauce/gravy (red, not brown)

Capeesh (capisce) -- Do you understand? Always asked as a question.

Foch-a-bell (facciabella) -- beautiful face. I had completely forgotten this saying. Aunt Annie would say this to me when she saw me, but when I wasn't pretty any more (a teeneager) she stopped saying it to me.

Grazzi (grazie) -- Thank you. By the way, grazzi is pronounced grat zi.

Ma Don (madonna) - mother of God -- when I found out what this literally meant, I stopped saying it. The "O" is a long "O". My mom never used this saying, but several of my cousins did.

Manja (mangia) -- eat

Pie-san (paesano) -- fellow townsman, but used to designate any person you knew who was of Italian heritage.

Salood (salute) -- my dad would often use this and would raise his water glass to the table. It's a toast that means "to your health"

Scuzi (scusi) -- excuse me. One "Z" pronounced "z", two "Z"s prounced "tz", like in pizza.

Stewnod (stonato) -- forgetful, dopey

Zoop (zuppa) -- soup -- Who new it was an "Italian" word. I always thought soup was pronounced zoop in our house because one of the children had called it that when they were small and it stuck.