Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Watch night services

It's almost the end of the year.  What do I remember about New Year's Eve and New Year's day?  Well, from the time I can remember anything I remember what we called "Watch night service". 

"Watch night service" was a church event where the women would provide a pot luck, not to be eaten until after the 12:00 a.m. church bells rang on New Year's Eve.  I never knew about the ball dropping in NYC until I got into high school because I was always at the church on New Year's Eve, not home watching TV. 

I loved that time of getting together with other church people, including any children that came, and especially if I was able to stay awake, the after midnight prayer time (praying in the new year) fun, food, fellowship.  The food especially.  All those cookies.   All those chips.  All those other goodies.  Yum.

The prayer time started at midnight after my father rang the church bell for about one minute.  We had a short service of singing prior to the bell ringing.  Early in my life while I was happy to be in the prayer time, it wasn't a part of my life, so I just sat with my head bowed and my eyes closed until the praying time was over and we could go to the fellowship hall and eat and have fun playing games with each other.  If there was snow outside, we certainly had fun throwing snowballs at each other. 

I don't recall when the praying became the central focus of my New Year's Eve, but I know it was before I got married.  New Year's Eve for my husband and I is still a time of prayer for our country, family, and friends.  So if  you fit in one of those categories, expect to get prayed for this New Year's Eve.

Finally, I wish there were some pictures floating around of this service.  Mom and dad didn't have any, so I guess the pictures will have to remain in my mind (and heart) for me to see.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Inspections and registration

Yesterday I wrote something about my first car, at least I think I did.  It was 3 a.m. when I wrote my last BLOG. Who writes BLOGs at 3 a.m.?  Only the sleep impaired.

I was thinking about that car some more and realized that I had to take it in for inspection every time I got my registration renewed.  The car always failed inspection.  The "little old lady's" car had definite balance problems.  This "little old lady" also has balance problems due to new hardware in her knees.

I don't know and never did find out what caused my auto to always fail on wheel alignment/balance.  I would go right from the inspection station to a gas station that could do the alignment and would drive straight back to Woodbury to get the car re-inspected, and fail again and again.  Finally, after seeing me and my certification from the gas station three times in one day, they would finally let me through.  I guess they figured it was a junker and I was doing the best I could.

Only the old gray lady wasn't a junker.  She was a really nice car.  Wish I had a picture of her.

Do they still have inspection stations in NJ?  Here in KY they don't inspect autos.  And in Ohio, when we lived there, the inspection system lasted for only three or four years and was set up only in certain cities concerned with air pollution.  We never failed those inspections. 

You all would love Ohio's system of registration, to which we were indoctrinated after the NJ system, and that is they send you a notice that your registration is up for renewal and could you please send the state $35 (back then, don't know what it is now) and they would send you a registration card for one year.  No inspection until the mid-80s.

Here in KY we get a registration renewal notice each year and we have to go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and pay an exorbitant amount of money to register any vehicles we own.  They base what you owe for registration on the blue book value of your car.  We usually pay around $400 per year to register our autos, and it does go down a few dollars a year for depreciation, but not enough.  Also included in that registration -- I call it a tax -- is the public school fee, which is a little over $100 per vehicle, and other taxes about which I haven't a clue.  Am I happy about how KY registration is conducted?  It is certainly better than sitting in car in a line that make me cough because of the emissions from the autos in front of me.  Now I just park the car and go into the building and pay the bill.  And I usually don't have to sit or stand in a line.

This is the year for both Alan and I to get our licenses renewed -- they do that every five years here in KY.  We have to pass an eye test and that's it.  Alan will get his license renewed even though he isn't supposed to drive.  I will get my license renewed even though I shouldn't drive.  I'm slowing down, much to the chagrin of the folks behind me. 

So, that's my tome about auto registrations and inspections. 


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

As I try to sleep

I find over and over when I lay down to sleep I remember things and when I sit down to BLOG about them I forget them, so bear with me.

I was thinking about my first automobile.  I was 21 when I bought it.  It was the first car we had in our family.  Daddy wouldn't have a car because he thought they were "murder weapons".  He rode a bike.

The auto was a 1951 Pontiac, straight eight automatic, gray.  I did have to "crank it up" every time I got in it.  The crank was a small button on the dash and it was hard to press in to get the car started, but it eventually fired each and every time.  I loved that car.  I drove that car before I was married, and I have to say that Alan, my husband, murdered it.  What did a kid who grew up in Kenya where there were no speed limits know about driving an elderly automobile no more than 55 mph as I had and the little old lady that had it before I did probably drove it even slower.

I am just realizing that when I get rid of my current car the person who buys it will say, a little old lady owned it.  Thing is, this little old lady doesn't drive slow except in town.  I push the envelope wherever I can. 

Back to my car.  Alan and I traded that car in just before we got married and bought a Chevelle.  That was not an automatic, and I had to learn how to drive a shift car.  My husband-to-be took me to Airport circle, pulled into GEX parking lot, and told me to drive.  That car only lasted three years before Alan's coveting and my learning to drive a stick shift, pushed us to buy a snazzier car.  I have always been the one who has said we should keep cars rather than getting a new one -- that is until recently when I began to see the value in not pouring money into a car when buying a new car would give us a few years of no repair bills.  Alan has taken good care of our autos, getting them greased, oiled, and whatever else needs to be done on time and now we have a five year old car that only has 22,000 miles on it.  We don't go anywhere except long-distance trips twice a year, if that.

So, that's the tale of my first car.  Not too interesting, I admit, but it was one of the things I was thinking about as sleep overtook me.


Monday, November 26, 2012


As I was preparing Thanksgiving dinner this year I thought about an item that has become almost obsolete, unless one is a professional chef.  I'm referring to an apron.

An apron was a mandatory item of outer wear for a woman when I was growing up.  My first sewing project was an apron.  My mother made aprons every few years for the women in her Sunday school class (for Christmas).  My mother always wore an apron in the kitchen, but never in the other rooms or our tiny house.  After all it was kitchen attire, not dining room, or any other room attire. 

I don't recall seeing her put on her apron, but she was wearing it every time I saw her in the kitchen.  And mostly she wore an all-over apron like the one pictured.  In fact, my mom had this exact pattern for making her own aprons, and mostly she made them out of scrap materials.  Mom didn't quilt, she made aprons.  After all an apron was always an appropriate gift to give to a woman for any occasion.  My mother also wore her apron when she was in the basement doing laundry, or in the back yard hanging clothes.  She wore the short coverall pictured above in her garden.

I didn't like to wear an apron, and thus never got into the habit of putting one on when I cooked.  Not even when I was first married and had many aprons in my hope chest from which to choose, did I wear one.

I don't know exactly when aprons became almost obsolete, but I'm glad that there is now a resurgence in the use of this attire and not just for professional chefs. 

Martha Stewart, I'm not, but guess what?  This Thanksgiving I did wear an apron.  YES, I still have some really old aprons in my kitchen linen drawer!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Storms along the coast

I remember a northeaster that occurred in 1962.  It wiped out several towns along the south Jersey coast.  The government wasn't much help back then because it wasn't expected as it is now.  I'm not sure what I think about all that aid.  In one respect it can be good, on the other hand those of us not fortunate enough to have a home by the sea -- a personal dream of mine, by the way -- have to pay for the rebuilding.

I recall the various towns rehabbing the beaches after that '62 storm.  I remember the Corps of Engineers pouring tons of sand and water mixed onto the beaches to extend them to their former width.  So I imagine the government paid for that rebuilding.  Nothing like what FEMA is doing these days.

I remember another hurricane that occurred in 1944.  I was 1-1/2 and mom, dad, and I were in the kitchen.  Dad said to mom, "There goes a tree."  He went out on the back porch to survey the damage.  The tree miss the house, barely.  Then soon after he came back in he heard another thump and let us know that another tree had hit the dirt, so to speak.  It, too, missed the house, garage, and church building.

I remember the light in the kitchen coming from kerosene lamps.  I remember sitting on my mother's lap in front of the oven which was being used to warm us.  November can be a cold month.  After that my next memory is the day my sister came home with mommy from the hospital-- I was three --  and life was back to normal for 18 months before my first brother was born.  Then there was a brand new normal!


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Remember when?

Sometimes when I can't sleep at night I think about the days when I was a child.  And tonight was such a night.  First I couldn't sleep because I couldn't remember certain street names in Runnemede.  Then I couldn't sleep because I was uncomfortable in the bed.  Then I couldn't sleep because I had an idea for this BLOG.

So, now, it's 3:30 a.m. and I'm writing what I was thinking about remembering back when...

I was wondering if any of you who read this BLOG remember "skating" down West Third Avenue, toward the Pike between Read Avenue and the railroad tracks during the winter?  No skates, just shoes.  In the middle of the street.

You see, there were very few cars on the streets of Runnemede to worry about back then.

I can even remember sitting on the curb with Linda Lott watching cars come down East Clements Bridge Road, heading toward the Pike.  Sometimes we would wait for what seemed like forever.  We even had a lemonade stand one summer on my side of Clements Bridge Road and only a few cars passed us and even fewer bought our lemonade.

I remember riding my bike to school (when I attended Bingham) and enjoying the lack of need to pedal when I came home from school either for lunch or when school was out for the day.  I would just let go of the handle bars and lean back and enjoy the ride.  Yes, I was quite the dare-devil back then.  Being small for my age didn't stop me from doing some things which I would consider quite foolish now, but I do like to see children riding bikes at break-neck speed without using the handlebars.  I know their parents down enjoy that sight, but I do. 

I remember skating (using the kind of skates that you had to use a skate-key on) and hoping my skates would stay on and not pop off.  Some half-years my shoes were such that they [the skates] stayed on and other half-years they wouldn't stay on at all.  I say half-years because I got two pairs of school shoes per year, so I would have each pair for half a year and beside riding my bike skating was a favorite thing for me to do.  I would pretend that my roller skates were ice skates and do "tricks" like the ice-skaters did on TV.  We didn't get much ice in the winter and you can't ice-skate on snow.

Which takes me back to "skating" down West Third Avenue between Read and the railroad.  You see, there was ice in the middle of the street from where the snow had melted and then frozen again and by the time we were out of school, it was frozen because the sun had set far enough that it was in shadow.

How times have changed.  You can hardly sit on the porch at 116 E. Second Avenue (our homestead) without a car whizzing by every few minutes, far more frequently than they were passing us on Clements Bridge back in the early 50s.


Friday, October 19, 2012


What?  What kind of title is that for a BLOG about growing up in a small town in South Jersey?

I shall tell you.

The first time I was introduced to communism was in second grade.  At my class at Downing School we were taught to get under our desks if we saw a bright light outside that was not attached to a thunder storm.  And we practiced diving under our desks.  We did this periodically throughout the year. 

Why?  Well, the Russians had "the bomb" and might use it on us and we had to be prepared.  The communists were out to get us and they were our enemies.

We were taught that the communists' children were in school at age two and that when a communist met a non-communist and they were having a discussion of any kind the communist would talk over the non-communist and but-in constantly so as to throw their opponent off their train of thought. 

We were taught that our homes would belong to the "state", meaning the communist government. 

Then in 7th grade we read 1984 -- which was quite the scarey novel for a pre-teen. 

So when I was watching the recent debates I was thinking, wow, the debaters sure to interrupt each other an awful lot, some more than others, and I was reminded of the days when we were reminded of what to look for in a communist state.  Dodn't get into a snit, folks.  I'm not accusing either candidate of being communist.  I'm just saying what I was taught in school.

Other things our teachers told us about communist Russia was that food supplies were low and what was available was very expensive.  The very expensive part I can relate to.  The land and farms were owned my the government, and even though the government now owned the farms, at least the people who had owned them previously were permitted to farm their own land for very low wages.

We were told that prices on most commodities (gasoline, heating oil, etc.) were very high even though Russia had plenty of resources right in their own country and they were selling the things their own people needed to other countries, thus pushing the prices higher.

The communist government took over whole companies including the auto companies, the trains, the banks, etc.

There were other things we were to look out for, but I can't remember them, maybe because they
haven't come up yet in our own nation.

How is this country leaning?  Yes, it is the best and most wonderful country in the world, and I don't want to live anywhere else.  But I see things I don't like that are happening in our country.  Things I learned about as a child and hoped then would not ever happen here in our country.

Maybe these things I mentioned in this particular BLOG don't seem real to some of you, but think about  these examples and be aware of what is going on around you.


PS:  I imagine I'll get quite a few comments on this BLOG. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Brain drain

I was recalling this afternoon that most of my posts have centered around church life.  I guess that's because my young life was either spent in school or church, at least that's how it seemed to me at the time.  And being a PK (preacher's kid) of course I would be spending quite a bit of my time in church whether being engaged in church things or just accompanying my father to his study -- which I loved to visit, and from which the smell still lingers.  You know, that smell that an old attic evokes, or a musty basement, or a baby's aroma after a bath? 

So with that introduction, I shall tell you what I was thinking about.  I was thinking about the young ladies trio (or was it a quartet) that I participated in during my teenage years.  We practiced quite a bit.  I recall myself and Kathie K. getting the giggles and trying to compose ourselves before we sang (nerves, I think).  Once we started singing we were okay.  Unfortunately, I can't remember who else we sang with. 

Which leads to something else I discovered today.  After 46 years of marriage, my husband I work really well together.  I can't remember some things and he can't remember some things, but together we can remember the whole thing!  Unfortunately, he wasn't around during the trio/quartet days!


Friday, October 5, 2012

Senior Trip

When I was a senior at Triton, it was decided that I would not be going on the class senior trip to Washington, DC.  Reason?  We (we being my mom and dad and I) couldn't afford it.  Mom and dad had barely two nickles to rub against each other and I had used up my meager savings from my summer of work at Mr. Softee's office. 

Since I couldn't go on the trip, I had assumed, wrongly, of course, that I would be able to stay home and begin reading the books I was required to read by early September for my college English class.  Well, that was a wrong assumption.  The few of us who were unable to go on the trip were required to show up and assemble in the auditorium for our "day of fun". 

This day consisted of field hockey,  calisthenics, gymnastics, and any other torture the phys ed teachers could think of.  We didn't have math or English or foreign language, or anything academic, just a day of physical abuse.  As you can tell, I'm still bitter about it.

Now, I liked gym and I especially liked gymnastics -- all of it.  But when combined with hours of other physical activity, well..

I woke the next morning and couldn't move.  My dad called the school and told them I wouldn't be there for the second day of senior trip activities for those who stayed behind, instead he was taking me to the doctor.  Well, that doctor happened to be a chiropractor and he adjusted me which only added to my pain.  When we got home,  Dad sent me back to bed because he was tired or hearing my moans and groans.  Mom got a hot pad out of the linen closet and made me put that on various places that hurt.

On day three of the senior trip, my father called the school and after telling them I wouldn't be in for the rest of the week; and he wrote a letter to the principal telling him that he didn't appreciate the way the kids left behind were treated.  Of course, I avoided the principal for the rest of the year because I was so embarrassed. 

At any rate, I know the classmates that went to DC had a great time.  Me?  Not so much.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Time with Debbie

Spending time with my sister keeps this BLOG activated.  We talk about things we remember from "when".  (Remember when?)

So we remembered several things that I don't think I have written about.  Mostly we talked about my mom, because as we age, my sister resembles my mom more and more.  And her attitude toward life is much like my mother.  She (Debbie) is a server, just as my mother was.  Me?  I like being served, selfish person that I am.

I recalled mom's cleaning house, including my sister and I in the task.  Of course, Debbie did a much better job than I, I'd rather be reading or practicing piano than cleaning.  And every Saturday night, mom got down on her hands and knees and scrubbed the kitchen floor, the cellar steps, and the bathroom floor.  I am so thankful for Swiffer!

We also talked about our attributes, good and bad.  I have to admit that I'm really not as smart as some people think.  All my knowledge comes because I work at learning things.  I read a lot, and it sticks with me -- I guess that's a plus.  But when I was in school all my good grades were earned by long hours with the books.  So, yes, I was "smart", but it took a lot of work.  My sister and brothers didn't have the desire to work to get good grades, they just got what they got.

This conversation about our school grades and teachers liking us or not liking us led to Sunday School and learning Scripture.  I am convinced that if a child learned a Bible verse s/he can recite that verse for the rest of their life.  It's in their brain, and if they recall it, they can say it, and recalling the verse is not that difficult.  Deb wasn't quite as sure.  I do know that I can still recite the verses I learned in Sunday School and at Good News Club.  And didn't we just love taking those pictures off the flannel graph board so we could recite the verse with words missing, thus learning it. 

We talked about home remedies, how dad would fix us up with his homeopathic pills, and ask us as soon as we swallowed the pills if we felt better already.  All I know is that we rarely saw a doctor either at his office or at our home, and we siblings are all alive and well.  I don't know how healthy we all are, but we are alive.

We talked about our inferiorities.  I think I have more than she, but she thinks she has more than I.  I am basically a shy person.  I know, I know, nobody believes that.  Well, it's true.  If I don't know a person, I basically shy away from them.  Once I get to know somebody my personality comes out.  Debbie?  She's always able to talk to strangers.  I can't do that.  My mom could do that.  I suppose it's something that a pastor's wife needs.

Finally, we talked about the church in Runnemede, and I mentioned that I played the piano at the 100th anniversary celebration.  Well, that started her thinking that I should play the piano at her church in Mt. Airy on Sunday.  So, I did.  No problem as usual.  I played church piano for so many years that it comes naturally to me and I hardly use the music, but it's good to have, just in case.

I left her place a week after I arrived.  I didn't want to leave.  I would love to live in Mt. Airy.  It's a small town like Runnemede, and they have done a lot to get Main Street into shape.  It's so nice to walk (or drive) it and look in the windows.  I would love to be there sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas just to window shop (and antique shop).


Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day

The only thing I remember about Labor Day in Runnemede is that it was the day before school opened.  I loved that day because it meant summer was over and I would be back in school doing reading, writing, and arithmetic, and other subjects.  It seemed to me as a child that summer went on forever (because I liked school).

Now, it seems as if summer began yesterday and the season of summer is over.  Where I now live it ends for children in mid-August.  Our pool closes two weeks after Labor Day, which is nice for the adults in our community -- no children in the pool, not that I mind the kiddos.  I rather like their frolicking, but some of the seasoned citizens that live here do mind them and stay home when there are children splashing and cavorting. 

So, now maybe the fuddy-duddies will come to the pool just for the "fun" of it.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Red, Yellow, Green, Blue

I was talking to my daughter today and she let me know that there is a contagious disease that is affecting a lot of children in her area of Indiana.  It is foot, mouth, and hand disease.  NOT hoof and mouth disease -- that's in cattle.

Symptoms are fever, ulcers in the mouth, rash on hands and feet.  But it is contagious after symptoms are gone for up to two weeks.  So parents think their child is over the disease and let them go to school or swimming, and bingo, another child gets the disease.  It is contagious!

I remember when I was a child what having a contagious disease meant to the family.  That's why I titled this "Red, Yellow, Green, Blue". 

When one member of a family had a contagious disease -- most of which (diseases) don't exist any more -- the whole family was QUARANTINED.  That meant unless it was an emergency, no one in the house was to associate with anyone outside the house.  The Runnemede health department put a poster on your front door telling the world that your family was infected and they should stay away.  I remember standing on my porch and "playing" with Linda, who was down on the sidewalk.  I think we were playing catch or something -- not catch the disease, catch the ball.

So, if I remember this correctly,  a red sign was measles, a yellow sign was chicken-pox, a blue sign I definitely know was mumps, and a green sign was whooping cough.  I might have the measles and chicken-pox colors mixed up because I was only five when I started the measles quarantine at the Drexler household.  In fact, I also started the chicken-pox quarantine at our house.  My brother, Carl, was only six months old when I got it, and we were worried about him if he got the disease -- which he did -- a mild case.

Mumps -- I didn't get the mumps, but my brothers and sister did.  I had to stay home, and the books I had brought home with me could not be brought back to the school room.  I was in 5th grade at the time.

I guess you're wondering how you got rid of the post on the front door.  Your doctor would call the health department and tell them to take the sign down.  I remember after the mumps we waited for almost a week for them to come.  Meanwhile I was missing school, and not at all happy about that.

So, now they know that shingles comes from the chicken-pox virus, which if you've had chicken-pox you are eligible to get this awful, painful disease, which ruined our first trip out West (see yesterday's BLOG).  My dear husband had a bad case of it and we didn't even know it for almost a week, except that he was hurting so bad.  Since it was so hot, we thought it was a bad case of prickly heat.  I didn't get shingles, but quickly got the shot to help prevent me from getting them.

I hope the shot works.  It has so far.


Monday, August 20, 2012


I think my mom would have loved to travel given the opportunity to do so.  I know when her sister, Anne, went out west, mom anticipated the post cards that seemed to come to the house fairly regularly.  I still have those post cards, tied in a ribbon, just as mom saved them.  And, yes, I've read them.

Well, Alan and I just went out West, again.  The first time we tried a road trip of such a length, Alan got sick and spent a good deal of the time in one hospital or another.  It was the beginning of trips we were to take where he would end up in a hospital or ship's infirmary every single time, until this trip.

Yes, we actually made it around the circle and my dear husband didn't even feel ill.  Me?  We won't go there, but I didn't end up in a hospital.

We tried to keep the drive-time each day at around six hours.  We didn't always accomplish that, but we tried.  Now, drive-time is not time from hotel to hotel.  It's time in the car, driving.  I did all the driving, except for one day.  I decided Alan should try to drive.  There was little traffic on the freeway, and he really wanted to drive.  Alan can't feel anything in the bottoms of his feet so depressing the accelerator and brake are sudden.  Anyway, he took the wheel.  Fifteen minutes later I was back at being the driver.

He ran off the edge of the road -- you know when you're doing that on a freeway because of the rumble strip along the edge.  He ran off the edge of the road 8 times in 15 minutes.  Too many run-offs for me, so I told him to stop the car.  After that he counted how many times I went off to the right or left.  Once in six hours.

We started in Hannibal, Missouri.  Mark Twain's town.  Becky Thatcher's town.  Huckleberry Finn's town.  Tom Sawyer's town.  It is NOT a tourist trip.  In fact nothing is flaunted in Hannibal, MO.  It has a nice main street, little traffic, one or two good restaurants, a couple of candy stores, and typical Midwest homes.  It was enjoyable, but I had my fill after a few hours.

We then drove to Estes Park, Colorado so that Alan could attend his school reunion.  He had a wonderful time getting together with people he hadn't seen in 50 years.  Yes, that's correct.  50 years.
Estes Park is beautiful and the mountains are -- well, they're mountains.  Not like the Smokies.  These are MOUNTAINS.  Until you've seen the Rockies, you can't imagine high mountains.  We stayed at 7,000 feet.  The air was a little thin and walking was a matter of huffing and puffing from one place to the next. 

From Estes Park we went down to Pegosa Springs, Colorado, still in Rocky Mountain country.  Pegosa Springs is a town well visited by the characters of Louis L'Amour's novels and I wanted to go there and on to Mesa Verde, Durango, Dolores, and other towns mentioned in L'Amour's novels.

From Pegosa Springs we went down to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I liked this place the most.  Mountains?  Yes.  Different coloring though.  And Old Albuquerque was very interesting.  We hired a pedalcar driver and he told us some of the history of Albuquerque.  As he passed the buildings he pointed out which was a brothel, which was a saloon (there was a difference I suppose), which was a school, etc.  There were a lot of brothels and saloons in old Albuquerque, in the days of the cowboys and cattle herds. 

I hope to have pictures to put up on Facebook of the trip, which had nothing to do with Runnemede, but this is my BLOG and I can insert personal items from time to time if I want to.


I remembered something.

I sometimes think I'm losing my mind, really!

I can't remember things, like where I put my glasses -- oops!  I'm wearing them.  I'm so forgetful that I can't remember to remove them (my glasses) when I go to bed.  I sleep on my back since two surgeries in rapid succession and often fall asleep reading, or listening to the radio.

But...I did remember something today.  Something in the recesses of my mind came to the front and I caught it.

I had a friend -- a playmate -- and her birthday was August 19th, yesterday if you're checking the date on this post.  She was born in August, so she got to go to school before I was permitted to attend.  I had to wait a year.

I know I've related this story before.  After about the third day of her attendance in kindergarten -- we had full-day kindergarten back then -- I decided I was old enough and smart enough to go to school and beside I was lonely.  My playmate was in school and I was on the outside wanting to be in.  I walked right into the school and started to look for my friend.

I was found before she was found and asked to leave the building -- gently, of course.  I said I wanted to go to school and the principal (Mrs. French) told me that I would be in school next year.  I can just see me stamping my foot and telling her, "But I want to go to school now!"

Linda's birthday was August 19th and that reminded me of all the fun times we had a children playing in a play house her dad built, sliding down a sliding board her dad built, learning our stringed instruments together -- piano and viola/violin. 

Linda was always ahead of me in school but we still had Saturdays for several years before we realized that one year DID make a difference and we sort of remained friends until she went to college and I stayed behind to finish high-school.

Happy birthday friend.  You beat me to 70.  You look great and I suppose you don't feel quite 70, while I surpass you finally, because I feel 80.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

What did we do?

What did we do to keep cool before all homes were cooled with central air, or before that window air conditioners? 

What did we do before we could head to the library on the pretense that we were going to read, when in fact we just wanted to keep cool?

What did we do before there were malls in which to roam about, which were air conditioned?

How did we survive the 4/60 air conditioning coolant we had in our autos back then (four windows, 60 mph)?

I'll tell you what we did.

The church where dad was pastor had a basement.  It wasn't air conditioned, but it was much cooler than outdoors or upstairs or in our house, so we did indoor things down there.  DVBS was held in the basement as well, so we didn't swelter in the late June heat.

We sat on the front porch and prayed for a breeze which made us feel cool.

We dipped a wash cloth in cold water and wrapped it around our neck.

We didn't move once we found a "cooler" position in which to sit or sleep.

That's what we did.

 I am so thankful that we have an air conditioned home and an air conditioned automobile.  I am so pleased that I can drive to an air-conditioned restaurant in my air-conditioned car, which sits in my cooler-than-the-driveway garage, and which cools very nicely by the time I am ready to back out of the garage.

I'd be interested to know what you all did to keep cool back in the days before A/C was a common commodity.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012


It's the middle of the summer and some people have already taken a vacation and others are going to go somewhere in the few weeks left before school starts -- which isn't the end of summer, at least not where we now live.

When I was growing up, one week vacations were a rarity, at least in my neighborhood. 

My family rarely had a vacation.  My father was absent from the pulpit one Sunday a year and that was to speak at a Bible conference in North Jersey.  He left the family at home, and the vacation we had was a week without daddy, and that wasn't a vacation, certainly, for my mother.

During that week, however, we went to the shore with Uncle Joe and Aunt Annie for one day of fun in the sun; or we went to visit Aunt Annie at her house in Springfield, PA for a couple of days.  My sister and I absolutely loved the room in which we were placed.  It had a double bed in it, but it had VENETIAN BLINDS. 

I know lots of you are saying, "So what?"  Well, we had a blast with those blinds (we had shades in our house).  We would raise them and lower them, or change the slant of the blind to allow us to get the most light in the room.  And...

The room had a DORMER.  That was our little playhouse.  We played with our dolls in that part of the room and we didn't really want to go outdoors to play, even though it was pretty warm in that upstairs bedroom.

My mother and brothers had the room across the hall, which was larger, but didn't have the dormer.

One year someone gifted our family (without my father who was at the Bible Conference in northern NJ) to a week at a Bible camp in Maryland -- they sent me to the girls' camp.  I hated it.  I was sure no one liked me because I was there for only a week and the others in my cabin were all there for the whole summer.  I finally had my mom pull me from the camp about the fifth day, when there was only one left.

The two years I was a camp counselor I paid close attention to the girls who might feel left out or who were very homesick and I tried to make them happy.

After I married, because my husband and I had so little money, we spent our vacations at "home" with my mom and dad, taking a day to go to the shore, or taking the train into Philly to visit the sites there.  One year we lost my son.  He was five.  But, he found a policeman, and was reunited with us quickly.

One year we were invited to spend a week with Alan's aunt at Lewes Beach, DE.  That was a great vacation.  Very sandy.  She and I canned green beans and Alan took the children to the beach.  That was okay with me, since I was able to take enought canned goods home to keep us fed for quite a bit

Are you thinking you don't get a vacation?  Take day trips.  They add up, and they are inexpensive.  There are so many free things to do no matter where you live.

This is a picture of the family in 1978, two years after we started traveling from Cincinnati to Runnemede at least one time a year, encountering massive traffic jams on the PA Turnpike (nothing has changed there) and I won't even go to the Schuylkill Expwy traffic, although it wasn't as bad back in the late 70s and early 80s as it is now.

Phil was 9, Cyndi (between Alan and me) was 5, and Becky was 7.  Aren't the kiddies cute?



Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's hot

I've been thinking about the heat we are suffering through, and how it was when I was growing up.  You all know, of course, that we had no air conditioning.  My father didn't like it.  He tried it once (after I had married and moved out and got used to having it in my own home) and after only one day he decided it was too cold in his favorite room, and the cool air didn't filtrate into the bedroom, which he only used between midnight and 8:00 a.m.

So, how did we manage back then?  I'm not sure.  I remember a few days of egg frying heat, but it seems to me that we coped by not doing anything but sitting in the shade on the front porch, and waving a fan in front of our faces.

I personally have never liked the heat.  In fact, you could say that I hate the heat.  I love winter.  Cold weather.  Icicles.  Snow.  Tires crunching on a snow-covered street.  Yes, I'm ditzy.  I do like winter.

I also remember many hot days when I was growing up and I would just go into my bedroom, pull down the shades, make the room dark, and take a nap.  In some countries they call it a siesta.  I do know I made sure my summer piano lessons were at 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. because it was a cooler time of the day and I had to walk 8 blocks to get there.  That tip was given to me by my friend Linda, who also took piano lessons from the same teacher.  Yes, I had to get up early on those mornings, but it was worth it.

Our town had no pool.  The Lake was closed a couple of seasons after it opened.  There was a pool in Haddonfield where you could swim all day for 50 cents, but it was a four mile walk (or bike-ride).  I think by the time I discovered the Haddonfield pool, I was too grown up to ride a bicycle.  I guess I believed that only kids rode bikes.

So, the heat we have now is bad.  If I didn't live in an airconditioned home I would, I'm afraid, be certifiably crazy. 

Out here in northern Kentucky, we had over 100-degree temperatures all last week, and the weather folks told us it was going to cool down.  Well, it cooled down to 90-degree temperatures. Tomorrow it supposed to rain and we're only supposed to get up to 88.  Folks, to me, that still too hot. 

The thing that bums me out is that I haven't been able to enjoy my sun room, which isn't air conditioned, since mid-May. 

I have noticed that it's getting darker each day, which means the temperature is lowering earlier each day and it's getting warmer later each day, so there is coolness coming.  Hang tough, you all.  (You all is as southern as I get.)


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mother's other garden

I just lost the whole composition.  I don't know what I did.  It just deleted.  Bummer.

So, I start over.

Here I go and hope that I don't mess this up.

I have written several times about my mother's garden -- her flower garden. 

I actually have a very small garden, which I am permitted to have as long as I put it in the mulched area in front of my condo.  It has mint and lavender in it.  That's it.  Two tea-making plants.

Mom had another garden, however.  It was between the garage which was in back of the house, and the church.  Some kind soul in the church had put up a fence around an area 20 x 20, next to the garage, and it got sun almost all day.

Someone would till the remains of last year's garden and mom would get started.  She would rake that tilled soil until it was smooth, very few lumps.

Then she and I would plant marigolds all around inside edge of the fence.  She would take her finger and make a 'trench' into which I would put the seeds -- seeds she had saved from the prior year's marigolds.  That would be Day 1.  Day one was the day of protection.   Mom told me that marigolds kept certain bugs away from the garden.

Day 2 would be the day we would go out and plant the lettuce.  I love, love, love garden lettuce.  My daughter, Becky, recented bought me two bags filled with her garden lettuce and it was enough for five dinner salads for Alan and me.  And that reminded me of mom's other garden.

Also into her "other garden" would go tomato plants and old broomstick stakes for holding up the plants as they grew and grew and grew.  We had enough tomatoes on her plants each summer to put up jars and jars of tomatoes which she would use for stewed tomatoes, a favorite of my father's, and spaghetti sauce.  I recall that several years she started her own tomato plants from seeds she had save from the previous year's crop -- Jersey Tomatoes.  The best!

She also planted zuchinni, which I didn't really enjoy until I was a teenager and my taste buds changed to liking everything.  Cucumbers, from which she jarred up pickles of the bread and butter variety.  I vaguely recall watermelon, but I think that was a trial run and it ran over a lot of the garden and mom wasn't thrilled.  We gave away a lot of watermelon that year.  She also planted beans and one year she planted corn.  I think we got six ears per year.  Not exactly the bumper crop she was hoping for.  And all the seeds were saved from the prior year's crop.  She also had a large crop of sweet basil, chives, and scallions.

So, that's mom's other garden.  And lest you readers think that was the only garden in the neighborhood, it wasn't.  I was born in the waning years of World War II and victory gardens were the norm, and that vegetable growing thing continued until I was in my late teens all over Runnemede.

Finally, I have to tell you that I would eat tomatoes right off the vine -- no washing, just a wipe on my overalls.  What parent today would permit their child to do that today?  They might get sick.  I guess eating dirt was normal back then.  The apples from the neighbor's apple tree got the same treatment.  We picked them off the ground, wiped the surface dirt off and bit in --  we ate those apples worms and all.

I'm don't remember many stomach aches either.


Instant Messaging System circa 1950

I have a friend who actually talks to her children on their cell phones, even if they are in the house.

I remember when I was a little one, before I was nine or ten, my dad had the upstairs room that was over the kitchen which he used as his office/study.  Mom and the kids were downstairs doing their thing while dad was upstairs studying -- for his sermons.

Mom and dad had an instant messaging system rigged up and it went like this: 

Mom would get the broom out of the corner by the chimney (in the kitchen) and she would use the broom handle and tap three times on the floor and dad would know that dinner was ready.  He would come down, usually on the first tap.  Sometimes, however, he must have been engrossed in what he was studying, and he didn't appear at the dinner table which had four hungry kids waiting for him, so mom would rap again on the ceiling, five times.

I don't think she had to make the request more than twice for him to get down to the dinner table.

She also used the broom handle at other times -- if she really needed dad to do some disciplining, she would rap and rap and rap until he came down to take care of that nasty business.  Believe me, you never wanted mom to rap on the ceiling to get dad down for a discipline problem.  No, you certainly didn't. 

Visualize this:  Four children hanging on their mother's arms so she couldn't get that broom handle to rap against the ceiling. 

So, my question is:  which works better -- the old rapping method or the new phone method, or texting, I guess would be another present-day method?

Well, I think that if you are a child and want to avoid daddy's discipline, mom couldn't sneak in a text message using a broom.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

At the zoo.

I've been trying for a few weeks to get a BLOG up and I hope this works today.

"At the zoo, the great big zoo, I dearly love to watch the little monkeys.
Some are hanging by their tails from a bar, some are riding on a rail in a car.
Sometime I am wondering what do monkeys think of people while the people watch the monkeys at the zoo."

Every Monday morning (I think it was Monday) at 10:00 a.m. (I'm 99 percent sure that was the time) all work would stop in our classroom and the radio would go on.  The above poem was set to music and was the beginning of a program entitled "At the Zoo", a program sent over the airwaves especially for school children by the Philadelphia Zoo. 

We loved this program, at least most of us did, because it was a break from the tedium of sums, long division, or the dreaded sentence diagramming.

Each week the zoo would highlight one of its animals and I don't this for sure, but since I was a teacher and later learned some things, I imagine the teachers all had some sort of guide put out by the zoo so they could follow up the program with a discussion about that special animal.

Why did I remember this?  My oldest daughter came to visit me this past weekend and she and her husband and children visited the zoo, got really sun burnt (like we used to on the days we went to the zoo), but had a wonderful day watching monkeys and other animals at the zoo.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

We knew it was Spring.

We knew it was Spring when mom gave up her Sunday afternoon nap.  In our house we all had to take a nap on Sunday afternoon, or at least pretend to be taking one. 

Why would mom ever give up her nap?  Of course she was tired.  But...

The call of the wild was stronger.  The wild woods, that is.  Actually, the not so wild woods.

There used to be a small patch of woods on Central Avenue between Fifth and Seventh Avenues on the east side of the street.  Mom loved going there in the Spring and Summer to see what wild plants she could collect for her garden.  She'd carry a bucket with a small bit of water in it, and a spade and off she'd go usually with two or more children in tow. 

I loved walking in those woods.  Mom would point out a wild flower and start digging, carefully, very carefully, getting as big a root ball as she could.  She also loved birds and would point out the various birds that inhabited the woods to us.  She got so excited when she saw a yellow-winged black bird, or a Baltimore oriole, or a blue bird -- birds that didn't "grow" in her garden.

Mom watched the clock to make sure we got back home before evening church and in time for us to get washed up.  Dinner was always after church on Sunday nights and I have to say, by the time we got home from church we were ready for it.  Let's face it, 9:00 p.m. is a very late time for a youngster to have something to eat after the luncheon of left overs from Saturday night dinner.  Mom did give us a couple of butter cookies (Nabisco brand, not home-made), or graham crackers and a glass of milk to hold us over. 

Mom didn't plant her "gifts" on Sunday she left them in the bucket overnight and was out in the yard early in the morning before we children got out of bed and planting her new plants.  And she treated them as babies for a couple of weeks, making sure they took hold.

I wish I had some pictures of Mom's gardens through the years.  I remember them as being so pretty.  Unfortunately mom didn't transfer her green thumb to this daughter.  I am probably the only person in the world that can kill mint.  But that's a story for another day.


March is Red Cross Month

I heard that statement on the radio the other day and it reminded me that , yes, March WAS Red Cross Month.  Do you remember?

It was pushed in school and each day of the month after attendance was taken we were asked if we wanted to put our pennies, nickles, or dimes into the little box for the Red Cross.  If we gave a dime or more we got this little pin-like thing to wear telling the world we had contributed to the Red Cross.

I so wanted one of those pins so I saved my pennies for almost a month and finally had enough to get my pin.  How about you? 

The most vivid recall I have of doing this is in first/second grade when I had Mrs. Marcantonio (Miss Bachelor).  I tried to get the pin at the beginning of the month by contributing two cents.  That's when I found out the minimum needed to get that pin.  I wish I had kept one of them.  I collected a couple over the years during Red Cross Month.


Monday, March 19, 2012


The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come...  That is from Song of Solomon 2:12

It is not yet officially Spring, yet the flowers are appearing, more every day, and the birds of singing and building their nests. 

I know this year Winter passed away very quickly.  Or, did it come at all?  We had no below zero overnights this year and rarely had high temperatures in the 20s or teens.  Here in Northern Kentucky we had no winter.  If I read the weather forecasts for Runnemede correctly, except for that freak October 31 snowstorm in 2011, the hometown winter was non-existent this year as well.

And now, even though it is still winter, we are having summer temperatures.  Alan has turned on the air conditioner, he says, to keep his computer cooled off because it was overheating.  I say, it's because he's warm.  Now, I am cold.  I would open the windows, but Alan's allergies would be worse than they are right now. 

So, I enjoy my sunporch and listen to the singing of the birds and watch as they fly from tree to tree, limb to limb. I even have a nest being built in my azalea bush out front.

Why do I bring up Spring?  I guess I don't really remember a winter in which we didn't have some snow (in Runnemede) when I was growing up.  Maybe we did, I just don't remember it.  What I do remember about Spring, though, was my mother's annual trip with her sister Anne to the Flower Show in Philadelphia.  She would bring home some seeds, one new rose bush, and probably some other plant, and then she would plant them.  That was her start of gardening for each year. 

I'm pretty sure she went to the Flower Show on March 21 or later in March each year.   Then the tending, mulching, weed pulling, watering, and watching the plants like a mother watches her new baby would begin.  Every morning that wasn't rainy, she'd be outside tending her new "babies" and her older "children" and you could see the pleasure on her face as she tended these gifts from God to her.

I always imagined at the end of her life that she met her Lord in her garden to be taken to be with Him in heaven.  Not exactly Scriptural, but it's how I envisioned her passing.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Shops along the pike

I was thinking the other night about the Hobby Shop that was next door to the Borough Hall (the old one between 4th & 5th Aves.).  Dad and Mark and I liked to make models -- dad loved to build model ships and Mark (my brother) and I preferred working on airplanes.

I have to admit that sometimes we got frustrated, especially dad because the ships had a lot more small parts than the planes.

I think about the only thing the Hobby Shop had to sell was models and glue, the kind of glue that was later to become the halucingenetic of choice of kids in the early 60s.  Airplane glue was the common name and it was "ingested" by sniffing. 

I was also wondering how many of the shop owners along the Pike and other places in town were able to eke out a living and keep from going under.  I know Leap's Supermarket was often very crowded, and it really was the only grocery store in town that wasn't a deli.  It was also during these years the only store that had a frozen food section.  Frozen foods were a new commodity in the 40s and early 50s.  The deli located next to the Post Office (the old one on the corner of the Pike and Clements Bridge) was always, and I mean a-l-w-a-y-s busy.  You HAD to take a number.  There was another grocery store, sparsely furnished and really an over sized deli, around the northeast corner of the Pike.  That store was always empty, or I just hit it right.  I was my mom's "personal shopper". 

Some of the stores were:

Palumbo's Bridals -- never busy.
Marsten's Jewelers -- never busy.
Freddie's -- always busy
The Barber Shop -- always busy
Jake's 5 & 10, when it was on the Pike busy, when he lost his lease his little shop in his home, not busy.
The optometrist -- well appointment(ed) -- took the place of Jake's
The shoe store -- served the town well
The taylor shop -- Dad used this shop often.  Mom didn't really have time for mending.
Webber's bakery -- best cream donuts anywhere, ditto with the cinnamon buns -- ran out of baked goods by noon.
Runnemede Supply -- what can I say -- it was the only hardware store in the area for many years.

Most of these stores lasted until the late 50s, early 60s.  Then there seemed to be a downward trend in stores along the pike.  Closures because shop owners were getting old and retiring or passing away seemed to be a monthly event. 

One more thing -- I also remember when you didn't need an appointment to see the doctor.  You just went to Dr. Fessman's office, or Dr. Palmisano's office, walked in and waited your turn.  We went to Dr. Fessman's because he was closest until he died suddenly, then we stayed in town and used Dr. Palmisano until my mom died, and that was a lot of years.  In later years, of course, you needed an appointment. 

Oh, yeah, Dr. Fessman was known to show up at our house when we children got some contagious disease to put the "notice" on the door warning other Runnemedians(?) that there was a nasty disease in our house and they should stay away.


Thursday, March 8, 2012


We met with a couple from our church last night and we were talking about the "old" days -- the 40s and 50s.  We are the same ages (he and his wife, Alan and I), and the subject of coal furnaces came up.  That reminded me...

When I was a little girl -- before the early 50s -- we had a coal furnace.  I love that heater, although I'm sure my dad and mom didn't. 

I loved it because the floors were always warm -- big pipes in the basement pushing the hot air into the few registers we had upstairs.  My favorite register was the one in the kitchen and I'll get back to that topic shortly.

I figure dad didn't love the coal furnace because early in the morning he had to shovel coal into the main part of the furnace, after getting hot ashes dumped into the holding bind under the main heating area, then he had to wait until the fire died down a bit to empty the holding area into a large metal bucket which he had to wait again for said bucket to cool down, then he had to dump the ashes in the metal can (garbage can not used for garbage only for ashes) out in the back yard which was half-way up the stairs to a door that exited out to the back yard.  Then he had to go through that procedure at least twice a day -- once mid-day, and once just before he went to bed.  He didn't add any coal at that time but banked the coal so there wouldn't be a fire.

He never complained.  Perhaps it was something he enjoyed doing -- let's just say my dad was not a handiman and perhaps that made him feel more useful around the house?

Mom didn't like it because of (1) the dust that collected daily on all the furniture.  NOTE:  I usually notice the dust every 7-10 days, we could write messages to each other on our furniture from the dust that settled on the furniture on a daily basis back then; and (2) the day the coal arrived and was deposited into the coal bin (a small section of the basement that was baracaded off from the rest of the basement) there was a bit of coal dust that collected on all surfaces in the basement, which meant mom and I would sweep and dust the basement wearing our bandanas, our face masks, and carrying our sprinklers (bottles with a cap that had holes in it) to keep down the dust.  We were quite swarthy when we finished down there.  I think it was a quarterly event.

Now, back to the register in the kitchen.  It was between the stove and the chimney, and I used to sit on it to get warm, or I would stand on it and watch my dresses balloon out when the hot air came up.  That kept me warm also.

I am sure you are wondering why I would write about this.  Well, I was thinking as we reached 70 degrees late last week -- around March 1 -- dad would be been delighted because it would be warm enough to do without heat -- we'd just get warm under the down quilts we had. 

I bought a new, warm, down-filled coat for this winter with a hood, figuring I would need it.  I haven't worn it once -- the winter has been warm. 

I know dad and mom would be rejoicing over a warm winter, first heater was coal, and dad wouldn't have to shovel as much; second heater was oil, and the oil bill wouldn't be as much; and the last heat was gas, I think they had a gas heater last.  Anyway, as my husband is rejoicing over the lower heating bills, so mom and dad who lived on a very, very tight budget would have been happy.


This item has not been proofread.  Please forgive mistakes.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Coming and going

Christmas and New Year have come and gone.  I didn't write about a Runnemede Christmas because there are several postings already on this BLOG about Christmas in my home in Runnemede.

However, I must mention my later Christmases in Runnemede -- when I was in college.  Alan was in Kenya at the time and I wanted to celebrate Christmas the same time as he did (8 hour time difference), so I figured he was opening his gifts in Kenya at 8 a.m. in the morning which was midnight our time.  So I made sure I opened my gifts at midnight.  I found out just this Christmas that Alan opened his presents on Christmas Eve, so I should have been opening my presents on Christmas Eve in the afternoon.

My dear family HAD to go along with this because -- well, just because they did.

Then in 1963 when Alan returned from Kenya. our first Christmas as a couple in the same town was one of the best Christmases I can remember.  Alan really went overboard and bought me a lot of presents.  Jewelry from Israel -- which he visited on his way home from Kenya -- a new jacket, which I wore out; a sweater; a hat and scarf and mittens; and if I remember a few other trinkets, like a couple of new charms for my charm bracelet. 

Alan set a precedent he couldn't keep up -- after that first Christmas, while I expected the same treatment the next Christmas, it wasn't to be.  Alan was a student at Rutgers and he was flat broke.  We both were.  The following Christmas his parents had returned from Kenya and we spent Christmas with them in Laurel Springs, instead of in Runnemede.  And that was my last Christmas in Runnemede because we were married the following summer.

That Christmas (1965) was pretty nice.  I had a job at Strawbridges in the evenings and I was working for a Philadelphia law firm during the day, so I was pretty much raking in the money which I spent lavishly.

For me the giving of gifts is the best part of Christmas.  I don't care what I get, or if I get anything at all, I get such pleasure out of giving presents to my husband, and in later years, and presently, giving gifts to my children and grandchildren.

And yes, I spend too much money.  But hey, it's just once a year.

The only thing I miss now days at Christmas is the ability to walk to the center of (a) town and window shop.  There is no main street in the town in which I live, just a bunch of strip malls on the  Pike.  And, oh, yes, I really miss the Christmas display at Wanamakers (I wrote about those trips in an earlier BLOG).

Hope you all had a great Christmas and that 2012 will be a great year for all.