Sunday, November 25, 2018

"What Would You Like To Be When You Grow Up?"



September 1958 ".... I Pledge Allegiance.... "

I remember feeling very small and insignificant as I entered my new classroom on that chilly fall morning. Second grade would be much harder than first, at least that's what my older brother assured me.
As I sat at my new desk at the very front of the classroom, I was immediately aware that it was too small for me -- or was my chair too tall? All I knew for sure was that my feet did not touch the floor, and I wasn't about to tell anyone.

I looked above the blackboard to the familiar printed alphabet, A through Z. Beneath it was the script we would be expected to learn this year. My eyes followed the letters that extended the full length of the room, so perfectly formed.... how would I ever learn to write like that? My brother was right, second grade would be very hard.

My teacher took a Bible from off her desk and stood before us.
"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all ye lands..." Psalm 100 --
I remember it as if it was yesterday. We would fold our hands, bow our heads and pray for our class and for the day ahead.
"Please stand and push your chairs under your desks."
That was the only part I didn't look forward to. The boy seated behind me seemed to have such difficulty pushing his chair in without making the most ear-piercing, screeching sound, sending a chill from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. The teacher would give him one of "those looks" and continue.
"Place your right hand over your heart, and now in unison.... 'I pledge allegiance to the flag.... of the United States of America...'"

As I looked around at my classmates reciting in unison, and up at that familiar red, white and blue flag, my little heart would feel a flutter of exhilaration. Was it pride, or an overflow of thankfulness? Now we not only had the blessing of God, maker of heaven and earth on our day, but were reminded once again that we were a part of a very great nation, a nation under God.
Somehow I began to feel less insignificant. It was a very secure feeling, a feeling that gave me confidence, to do my very best -- to learn that script and whatever else was in store for a big second grader.

The second grade classroom was surrounded by pictures of some very important people. Not ordinary people -- presidents of the United States. There was our very first president, George Washington, he was also a very brave military leader, and Abraham Lincoln.... I knew he was the sixteenth -- he was assassinated by a man named John Wilkes Booth. Then there was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was in office that year, 1958. His wife's name was Mamie. She had bangs and so did I, so my Dad nick-named me 'Mamie'. Little did I know that the name would follow me for the rest of my life.

"... And what would you like to be when you grow up?" was the question often asked during those first years of school. Hands would dart up quickly, desperate to be the first to be called on. "Fireman! Policeman!" most of the boys would blurt out. On occasion one who had not been called on would be asked, "And how about you? What would you like to be when you grow up?"
".... President of the United States."
There would be a hush. Everyone would look over at this classmate and finally let out an "...OOOH!"
Because we all knew that presidents were very special people, and very few people would ever become president.


November 22, 1963... Sixth grade.


The announcement came over the public address system in my sixth grade classroom that our president, John F. Kennedy had been shot. There was a hush -- some tears and commotion in the hallways. My two best friends and I walked quickly home from school shaken by the news.
I ran in to break the news to my parents, but they already knew. Their eyes stared in disbelief at the black and white images on the television set; a motorcade through downtown Dallas, a slow moving Lincoln convertible transporting a smiling waving JFK, suddenly hunched over in the first lady's lap, stricken by a gunman's bullet.
Then came word from newsman Walter Cronkite — “The president has died,” he said, before slowly removing his black framed glasses and becoming visibly choked up. Our nation mourned, the entire world mourned with us. The president of the United Stated, the most prestigious office one could aspire to, the office that sets the tone of our land and the course of our nations future -- open for all the world to observe. Someone killed our president.

Something died in the soul of our nation that day. Whether a Republican or a Democrat, it didn't matter -- our president was dead.
.
In office
January 20, 1961-November 22, 1963



Today is the 52nd anniversary of JFK's assassination.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Twelve Years Ago Today—A Hero to Remember



This is not my usual light-hearted "nostalgic" post—though the hero I will be writing about is a Baby boomer.
This memory is one I must write about today, October 25th.
(Mary Hardy-our hero, receiving an award from Smithfield Township)

It was a day much like today—autumn, sun shining, leaves covering the ground, though the trees not completely bare. Normally, a day I would consider to be among the most beautiful of all the days of the year. But this day began for me at 3am with a phone call—that call we all dread—a police dispatcher on the other end of the line.
Of all scenario's I could imagine—the one that was about to unfold, was set aside in my mind as one I could never face.
I went to bed at 11 o'clock and woke up at 1am realizing my husband Ed was still at our office two miles away. He had taken his motorcycle and gone in to fix the computer system that was down. He said it might be a long night—it had to be up and running by morning. Our employees were in the middle of a big job that had to ship the following day.
I was wakened again at 3am to the sound of a Medevac helicopter. It sounded like it was about a mile away, "Oh my God, he's not home...is this it?" I just found myself praying, "...have mercy on my husband, if this is for him, please spare his life!"

Within a short time the phone rang—the state police dispatcher,
"Is this Mrs.Walsh? Your husband has been involved in a motorcycle accident. He has some head injuries and is being Medevaced to the Lehigh Valley Trauma Center. I'm sending some officers to your house, can you give me directions?"

Within minutes two state police officers were walking toward my front door; one holding Ed's helmet and the other his back-pack and the shirt he had been wearing, shredded, in pieces. My son Chris had come upstairs and when he saw them coming started crying, holding me. "We have to be strong for each other," he said. For the first time I started to panic.

The officers told me he had a leg injury and head injury but could not tell me how serious it was. They also had no idea how the accident happened. There was no deer, no car, he had not hit a tree; but there was glass all over the road. They were going to investigate and get back to me.

I went to see Ed in the hospital and amazingly, his injuries were not life threatening. He did, however, break his neck; but thank God it was in such a place that it did not kill him or paralyze him. He had a puncture wound to his shoulder, 50 stitches on his right knee, several broken fingers and dislocated toes. His right side was hit pretty badly, but no broken legs.

While Ed was in the hospital he got a call from a lady, also named Mary. She was so interested in knowing how he was and how badly he was injured. He remembered very little about the accident and she told him this amazing story.

She said she runs a little drive through coffee shop a few miles from here. Every morning at 2:30 she picks up bagels for the business and opens at 4am. She said she was driving down the road which was very dark, very dimly lit and saw what she thought were garbage bags, perhaps dragged into the road by a bear. She slowed down to avoid hitting them and realized it was someone lying face down in the middle of the road with pieces of a wrecked motorcycle all around him. She pulled off the road, put on her 4 way flashers, called 911 but realized if this person stayed there he was going to be run over by a car.
As she got out of her car a truck drove by dragging a piece of the bike underneath. He stopped his truck, removed the piece from beneath it—and kept going. She said she went through thinking about how you're never supposed to move an injured person—would she be sued—but then determined she HAD to get him off the road.
She tried to talk to him, explained that he had been involved a motorcycle accident and she had to get him off the road. He told her he didn't own a bike—but his leg was injured. Somehow she had him lean on her and use his good leg to help her get him off the road. This was all happening while about ten cars flew by, none stopping to help her.
The ambulance arrived, took over and the police told her to "move on," not realizing what she had just been through. She was so traumatized she couldn't drive.

That's not the whole story...

The police determined that this was a hit and run. The glass all over the road at the scene of the accident was from a car. Ed had hit the car and smashed through the glass with his head.
Ed did recall riding down the road that night and seeing a car coming in the opposite direction—no blinker—begin to make a left hand turn right in front of him. He tried to slow down, but knew he was going to crash into him—and it was going to be bad. He was going close to 40 mph, slower than usual since it was late and he was tired and watching for deer that often crossed the road in that area. The police believe the car that hit him was yellow because there's yellow paint on parts of the bike.

Ed's bike—before


Ed's bike—after the accident

When I talked to Mary on the phone the following day she said, "I believe in God, but I don't pray very much, so please pray that we find this person! Anyone who could leave a person to die or get run over like that should go to jail!"

It is now twelve years since the accident that dreadful night. We are very thankful that Ed has healed from most of his injuries—following the initial surgeries. 

To this day, the person who left Ed for dead has never been found.


But, as Mary wrote in the letter she sends to Ed each year at this time,


"Pray for the person who did this to you, because he needs all the prayers you can offer. He will have to answer to a higher power one day and answer for what he did."

Mary was honored by our township with an award for her heroic deed that night. She literally put her life on the line to save my husband's life.


Mary Hardy and Ed Walsh


How do you thank a person like this?
One way is to tell this story to at least one person on this day each year—
and the deed will never be forgotten.
.....And I guess I've done that!

God bless you, Mary Hardy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Remember when permanents were....PERMANENT?

Home permanents had come a long way by the 50's. But not quite far enough!
This ad promotion from the 50's featured identical twins, with identical looking hair styles. One was done professionally, the other was done at home.

In his role as radio announcer for the long-running mystery series, Casey, Crime Photographer, sponsored by Toni, Bill Cullen would often deliver the commercial as if he was a character in the program. He would ask his radio audience..

"...which girl has the Toni?"


From my one experience as a child, I don't think either one of them did!

But before I take you back to the first time I saw my father cry— lets go back to 1909 and the day Karl Nessler's wife Katharine Laible had her very first home permanent. Her husband Karl had been working several years perfecting a method to curl hair using chemical treatments, electrical heating devices and brass rollers each weighing about two pounds. It was a complex system, using countering weights suspended from an overhead chandelier and mounted on a stand to prevent the hot rollers from touching the scalp. The process took at least six hours. History records him using a mixture of cow urine and water.
(urban legend? Perhaps!)
Now it's hard for me to imagine Katharine willingly subjecting herself to this process. But it is even more unbelievable that she allowed her husband to give her a
second permanent after the first one completely burned her hair off, scalding her scalp.
.....He didn't quite have it down the second time either–she lost all of her hair again.


He did eventually perfect the method and his electric permanent wave machine was patented in London in 1909 and went into widespread use.

Unlike Karl Nessler's wife, I had only one permanent as a young girl.
By the time it was my turn, Toni had produced a product that women could use at home for $2 (compared to $15 if done professionally at a hair salon)
The cow urine was gone-but it had its own distinct smell—not a big improvement.


In April of 1957 my mother was in the hospital after delivering her seventh child, my brother Chris—son #6. At that time mothers were kept in the hospital for at least a week following the delivery of a baby. A live-in baby sitter was hired to help take care of the other six children at home. My Dad thought it would be nice to surprise my mom on Easter Sunday morning with a visit from all of her children. We were not allowed in the hospital, but we could stand outside on the lawn and wave up to her at her window.

The babysitter, a very capable elderly woman, thought it would be nice to surprise my dad and give his little girl her very first home permanent. Wouldn't she look nice waving up at the window with all those curls?
The picture was not quite as dreamy as she envisioned. When the curlers were removed my head was covered with a mass of frizz and gnarled, kinky curls. When my dad arrived home he took one look at me, covered my head with a towel and escorted me next door. Mrs. McGrady was a nurse and she could fix just about anything.

"Marge! Can you do something?!

"I'll try Wally! I'll try!"



She did try. I remember standing in front of her full length mirror and watching her brush, and brush, and brush— and watching those PERMANENT curls pop right back up to where they were, springing about six inches off the top of my head.

My dad waited outside the door. But sorry to say I looked exactly the same when I walked out.

(ok...it's not an actual photo. There were no pictures taken of me that day)
I'm sure I'm not the only 50's Baby Boomer who had a bad perm experience!
We learned to do one thing when we caught a whiff of that pungent Toni solution—

.....RUN!

Update:  May 21, 2013
I have never seen this photo before today.  It is a photo from that day.  I think that my Easter hat is covering the rest of the FRIZZ!




Monday, September 3, 2018

The Original Amateur Hour—American Idol of the 60's





--> Maybe it was our age, thirteen at the time—perhaps it was the transformation that had taken place in our young impressionable psyches that Sunday night in February as we sat glued to our television sets—totally enraptured by a new group from Liverpool that Ed Sullivan had on his show—or just an overwhelming delusion; but for whatever reason, my young friends and I (along with thousands of other baby boomers at that time) had dreams of stardom.
Let’s face it, we were dreamers!

One hot summer day my friend Leslie sat reading one of her hundreds of comic books and came across an ad in the back for a Record Making Machine. The pages in the back of comic books in the 60's were filled with amazing products. (—that is, until they actually arrived in your mail box) But this ad was so convincing and just what we needed for our group at the brink of stardom!
(..well that may be a bit of an exaggeration. The truth is, we had made one public appearance— we sang at our graduation from elementary school to Jr.High.)
Our group was made up of four girls; Leslie and I and two friends from school, Ingrid and Judy. Ingrid and I played piano and we all sang.


We decided to send for the “machine.” When we emptied our pockets and put our money together we came up short; so we did just what we always did when we were short of cash—loaded up a wagon with empty soda bottles and headed up the street to the small mom and pop store on the corner.
The store sold a little bit of everything; fresh fruit and vegetables, cold cuts, canned goods and of course—soda. We walked home with just enough change to make up the difference.
We were set—only weeks away from being able to record our songs! We mailed in the money with the order form—now all we had to do was wait….and wait.

We had never seen a UPS truck—overnight delivery was something you might see on the Jetsons—fiction. We relied totally on the US Mail and if the ad said 4-6 weeks for delivery, it meant just that. That gave us a lot of time to imagine just how wonderful this product was going to be!

If this isn't the ad, it was one very much like it...looks amazing doesn't it?
Thanks Erik!

“A name! We need a name for our group to put on the record label!”
So we did what we always did when we needed information—opened the encyclopedia!

(Original artwork-all rights reserved)

This was equivalent in the 60’s to an Image search today.





Encyclopedia G—gems.
There were two full pages of beautiful colored gems, listed alphabetically. We looked over both pages.
"There's already a famous group named the Saphires and the Rubies—we’ll have to pick another gem. Hey—The Peridots!” (excuse me while I laugh out loud…)
A record making machine—perfect! We could just envision the label—The Peridots!

After watching The Original Amateur Hour one Saturday before our package arrived, Leslie and I came to the realization that our group could win the competition—at least we could get on the show.
“If that man could get on the show for playing his comb—and a girl for ringing cow bells—we could win for sure!”
Most contestants left the show just as they came, as amateurs; but stars were discovered. Ventriloquist Paul Winchell and pop singers Teresa Brewer, Gladys Knight, and Pat Boone were all discovered on the Ted Mack show.


I sat down at my dad’s typewriter and typed a letter to Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour requesting an audition and within two weeks—to my utter shock— received a response. We were given a date to appear in the studio at New York’s Radio City.
We had three weeks to prepare.

“Cool! We’re going to audition for Ted Mack’s! We’ve got to start practicing—every day after school!" And we did—working on the same two songs every rehearsal.
The first song was the one we sang at our graduation called “Turn Around.” It was a song originally used in a Kodak commercial in the 60's and we fell in love with it.

Where are you going, my little one, little one?
Where are you going, my baby my own?
Turn around and your two,
Turn around and you're four,
Turn around and you're a young girl
going out of the door.

Where are you going, my little one, little one?
Little dirnd'ls and petticoats,
Where have you gone?
Turn around and you're tiny
Turn around and you're grown
Turn around and you're a young wife
with babes of your own.
The second song we practiced was an original written by me. It was called Togetherness and I will spare you the words—but it was a song about falling in love...of course.

Two weeks before the date of the audition we realized—“We need matching outfits!
All the groups on the show wear matching outfits!"
We decided on collarless navy blue shirts with white trim—a surfer style in the 60’s. With our white pleated skirts and white tennis shoes—we must have looked like... the surfing cheerleaders!

And one final detail—“We need a ride to New York City!”

That’s where my dad came in. He was great—if this was something we wanted to do and felt we could compete, he would be happy to get us there.
(Oh...another minor detail...my dad had never heard us sing)

-->
We headed for New York City on a Friday. New York was about a forty minute ride from where we lived in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.

Four thirteen year old girls in a VW with my dad—on their way to a rehearsal for a television show.
God bless him!

We arrived with just enough time to go to the ladies room and get ready. We opened the door in time to catch the tail end of a practice by a group of young girls auditioning before us. They were dancing and singing dressed in these flashy sequined, amazing matching outfits.
There was nothing amateur about them—they were fantastic!
And here we were dressed like— the surfing cheerleaders.

-->
We decided to save our best song for last hoping we’d sing two songs—B-A-D decision.
The judges called us in. Ingrid played piano and Leslie, Judy and I sang Turn Around.
We were just preparing to sing our best song when…
OK girlsthank you for coming
If we decide to have you on the show you will receive a letter within a week or so!
….NEXT!

Well.. the letter never did arrive , but we did get a package in the mail the following week. It wasn’t a big package. Certainly not big enough to contain a machine!
But it was—our Record Making Machine. It consisted of a small attachment that hooked onto the arm of a record player. There were some blanks that looked like records and a small megaphone. After trying it once—following the two lines of instructions, realizing we'd been had— we dumped it in the garbage; concluding that we wouldn’t be needing a Record Making Machine after all.
We couldn’t even pass for amateurs!

A few days later....
"Hey, take a look at this neat little typewriter! We could send for it and type our stories on it and...."
(.....Our other dream was to become authors)

And as all Baby boomer know—sometimes dreams really do come true!


*As I think back now about this silly, embarrassing memory I realize again that ours was a gentler, kinder world. The "contestant humiliation element," was non existent as it is on the newer talent search shows.

....Can you just imagine what Simon would have thought of the Peridots?!We didn't make it to Ted Mack's but at least I got an A- on the story!

~Mamie






Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Family Camping-Are We Having Fun yet?


Family Camping....what a romantic idea! Bonding—building teamwork-facing challenges together–getting close to God's creation....economical... well...

Preparations for our first camping trip as a family in 1964— destination Lake George, N.Y.— were almost as exciting as the actual trip. Very characteristic of my dad, (Mr.Sawdust) we were going to do this right! One Saturday he escorted my six brothers and me to a large Army-Navy surplus store in Manhattan, a forty minute drive from our home in Upper Montclair, NJ. These stores were equivalent in the 60's to the sports outfitters of today. Each of us was fully equipped with a comfy flannel lined sleeping bag, a denim duffel bag, a compass, a whistle and a flashlight. Every purchase was multiplied nine times-the clerk was loving it! We filed out of the store wearing matching tee shirts and white sailor caps. ...Now if that wasn't a classic scene for the makings of a great family musical!
We had collapsible canvas water buckets, even a portable toilet with a curtain for the utmost privacy. All we had to do was dig the hole.
After careful consideration, figuring how much room the nine of us (..and the dog) would need for sleeping, Dad purchased a tent that would house a circus. Tents back then were not made of lightweight nylon. They were made of heavy canvas so this tent was not only huge but weighed a ton! I remember the center pole was about nine feet tall when the two hardwood poles were assembled. But not to worry—dad and the boys had built a car top carrier that was so big it would easily transport all we had purchased that day...and much more. It extended the entire length of the top of the Dodge wagon. My dad's excitement was contagious! By the time we returned home that night I felt like I had already been on vacation.
The actual camping trip turned out to be much more exciting than that trip to the city for supplies; in fact, it was far more exciting than Dad could have possibly anticipated. That "great family musical" was about to become a hair raising drama.
Dad was always proud to have the family together, crowded into the big Dodge station wagon, along with the family dog. Our basset hound, Boots accompanied us on this trip, claiming his spot behind the driver’s seat. He’d position his stubby hind legs on the edge of the back seat and drop a paw over Dad’s shoulder. Hanging his head out the window, he’d let his long, pendulous ears flap in the breeze. He would rest his head on Dad’s shoulder when the ride became wearisome.
“How many kids have you got there?” attendants would inquire curiously as we stopped for gas. “Seven! Six boys and one girl!” he’d reply. “She must be treated like a queen,” they’d inevitably respond.
It is remarkable how many times I heard that growing up. I guess it was, in fact, true. Taking my place in the middle of six boys, with the understanding that any mistreatment of the one daughter would result in an unhappy situation, made me feel like somewhat of a princess in a strong fortress. I’m sure my “special” position was resented at times, especially on nights when Dad found an interesting movie on television. I would sit up on his lap eating popcorn, slide down from time to time and run up the stairs. “Now, you boys go to bed! We’re downstairs eating popcorn.” I’d skip eagerly back down the stairs.
They loved that, I’m sure.
Yes, we were well equipped, no doubt, but totally unprepared for the violent storm that blew up and threatened to relocate our enormous tent in the middle of the night. I can still see my Dad leaning the weight of his entire body against the massive wooden center pole, in an attempt to keep it standing. The large canvas tarp that had been attached to the pole at the peak of the tent was being hoisted by the winds. Lightning flashes revealed our frightened faces as we sat clutching pots and pans to catch the dripping water.
Thoroughly exhausted from the night, we left the soggy camp site for a site-seeing drive the following morning. The day was damp and chilly and it actually felt good to be back in the crowded station wagon—dog and all. Dad still had his sailor’s cap on, pipe in his mouth, clenched securely between his teeth. He was no doubt a bit shaken by the storm, but didn’t show it. He was still ….on vacation! We drove until lunchtime. “Well, what do you say we head back to….wait a minute—I know where we are! We’ve got to stop up ahead. We’re at the Ausable Chasm!” There was that whisper of suspense in his voice.

Note: See the USA the Easy Way put out by Reader’s Digest describes the Ausable Chasm as follows:

“Here sheer walls of rock rise some 200 feet above the rushing waters of the Ausable River. A tour of the chasm includes a 3/4 mile hike on dangling suspension bridges and winding walkways, past plunging waterfalls and raging rapids, culminating in a boat ride through the swirling waters.


We received a few instructions. I was to keep the dog on his leash, Mom had my youngest brother Chris close by her side. Bruce, Jeff, little Wally and Carl were to follow Dad. We climbed carefully down some boulders, wet and slick with moss, not an easy feat for a basset hound. We could hear the deafening roar of the mighty rapids, rushing furiously due to last nights storm. Soon we could see for ourselves why Dad had made the stop.
It was breathtaking!

This great photo of the Ausable Chasm
by Bryce Koechlin, (AddVision Studios) is as I remember it!

As we stood together looking warily down into the chasm, I recall my Dad’s words, “I seriously doubt a man could fall in there and come out alive. Let’s head back.” With that, he turned to leave. Seconds later, my brother Bruce, who had been mesmerized by the water, was falling headlong down into the rapids. It was one of those moments in time when you are awakened with a jolt from a terrible dream, so relieved—but this was not a dream.
“BRUCE FELL IN!!” I screamed, straining to be heard above the water.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Dad made his way to the edge and jumped in. I could see Bruce’s arms flailing out of the water as he was tossed around and pulled under by the rapids. Within seconds, my mother made her way to the edge, jumped in and was pulled down the river as well. I grabbed as many little hands as I could and walked along the chasm, hoping to see all three, remembering all too well my Dad’s ominous words. Would they come out alive?
What a wonderful sight it was to see my Dad, sailor cap still on his head, and—I kid you not—pipe in his mouth, standing beyond the rapids in an alcove of rocks, embracing Bruce and Mom.
It was a very tearful, thankful, crowded ride back in the station wagon. Bruce cried the loudest however. Thankful, yes, he had not lost his life, but a comparable tragedy to him — he had lost his harmonica.
We sat quietly at the picnic table in the stillness of evening, humbled by the day. “Do you see this frail little mantle in this lantern?” Dad asked. We gazed in to see the delicate mantle providing the only light in the campsite. “That is how frail our life is. In one second, it can be taken away!”
We were dirty. We were tired. We were sick of being on vacation. But the following morning we filed into the nearest church we could find, just to say, “thank you” that we would all be heading home.



This picture of Boots and me was taken while swimming
in lake George-the day before the incident at the Ausable chasm.
*No wonder my teacher thought I was telling tales when I returned in the fall and turned in my “What I Did on My summer Vacation” essay....and hard to believe there would be a second family camping adventure.



Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mom's Cadillac






...It was big—it was real big. Shiny black with a white hard top—rounded fins in the back, rounded trunk—1953, a few years before the lines on the Cadillac became sleek and the fins sharp. It was very classy—but it was just too big.


Mom had learned to drive only the year before. Having grown up and lived in New York City until their move to New Jersey after getting married, she never had the need or desire to drive a car. When the older children were young, milk was delivered to the doorstep, our pediatrician came to the house, even groceries were delivered. But now, with growing children and a home in the country to manage, learning to drive became essential. She learned quickly, and before long was on the road, usually with a carload of kids. "Mr. Sawdust' was now bringing in a substantial income, and he wanted his Jeannie to ride in style.

As I said, the car was just too big for Mom. Maybe it was from where I was sitting in the back but it did appear that Mom looked through that great big steering wheel, rather than over it. She was a good driver, but as you might imagine this required her utmost concentration. And I do believe the car was as wide as it was long. Children in the back were merely 'assumed', because they couldn't be seen in the rear view mirror.

Seat belts had not even entered anyone's mind at the time, and our outings were very "relaxed." A little brother with a bottle hanging from his mouth would ride standing next to Mom, and another would occupy himself with a truck or two on the floor in the back seat. Of course there were not as many cars on the roads and not as many accidents, and we were young and oblivious to such things. I'm afraid we were not the only ones who were oblivious.

I had discovered the joys of an open window at high speeds. I loved leaning my head out and feeling the wind whip my pony tail just like a galloping horse. I'd pull it back in when I started to lose my breath. Then I discovered something even more exciting than that. I would very carefully stand up on the back seat, sit out the open window, hanging on to the roof for dear life. The view was wonderful from up there. I remember doing it several times and feeling quite safe. Apparently an off-duty policeman traveling behind us one afternoon, didn't have the same "safe" feeling. He was blinking his lights and motioning for my Mom to pull off the road. It took a while for her to realize he was behind her. When she finally pulled off the road, he ran over to the car and yelled, "Hey lady, do you want to lose that little girl?" Funny how his exact words have stuck in my mind to this day! Maybe it was that "Now I've seen everything" look that accompanied his words. He allowed me to sit up there just long enough for Mom to turn around and take a good look. She was stunned! I slipped down onto the seat and listened to the frantic conversation, but suddenly was hit with the realization that my Dad would be the next one to find out. This was not a good thought!

Only a few months earlier I had received a spanking from him that was still fresh in my mind. My dad rarely spanked me. It had to be a life threatening situation for him to do so. That casual stroll I took one afternoon with my two best friends, gathering flowers along the busy road in front of our house, was in his mind one of those situations. What would he do when he heard about this?

Funny thing, I don't remember ever receiving a spanking for my little joy rides. Certainly I was in much more danger than picking flowers along the roadside. Now I'm wondering if my Mom ever really told my Dad. I know he knew about it years later.

Maybe she decided not to tell him….for a little while.

….I'll have to ask her about that.

Update-August 12, 2013


 
My beautiful mother passed away March 23, 2012-a profound loss to me and my entire family.  This picture was taken at a car show in 2010 where mom discovered a Cadillac very similar to the one that she owned way back in the 50's!  She was so delighted, remembering the car and all the "fun" we had riding together!  I regret that I was not able to be with  her on that day-she spent the afternoon with her granddaughter Emily and great granddaughter Bella.  They had a delightful time!

(original artwork-all rights reserved)

Saturday, July 7, 2018

"Quick Henry —the FLIT!"

(original artwork-all rights reserved)
…now my mom was probably among the most loving and caring of moms that ever lived; but I remember her doing something that would probably be grounds for child endangerment today!

Living in the country with seven children who were in and out of the house all day long on hot summer days—the screen door practically swung on its hinges. Flies were plentiful as I recall but were not welcome in our house. So my mom—along with other caring mom’s of the day, had her FLIT can ready for action!

She would pump the handle and spray directly at flies that landed on the kitchen table, or directly into the air—wherever she saw those little flying menaces.

In her defense, the advertising of the day was
very convincing.


Remember.. this was the same era when testimonial ads convinced my parents that Camel cigarettes were actually good for you!


Long before the Cat in the Hat ever made his appearance (..very interesting story there of the origin of the book) , Theodore Seuss Geisel (Dr.Seuss) created very convincing ads for FLIT.


They are priceless!

This ad campaign actually began during the depression— my mother grew up hearing "Quick Henry the FLIT!"which became a common catchphrase.
So my mother, like thousands of other mothers in the 50's thought she was doing something "good" for her family.

..I have to wonder what I did for the "good" of my children that they will write about in the future!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Growing up as a kid in the 50's was..."romantic"!

...not in the sense you might think of when I say..."romantic." For example—my kindergarten teacher's name was Miss Bowers. She was up there in years but I did not know it at the time because she smiled a lot and dressed so colorfully. Our bus driver's name was "Mr.Pickle." (I assumed he was old because he was bald) At the end of second grade, Mr.Pickle asked Miss Bowers to marry him. She said "yes" and she became Mrs.Pickle—the kindergarten teacher.

...see what I mean?

But back to kindergarten...early in the spring that year, my older brother Bruce went to his Saturday Cub Scout meeting dressed in his little blue uniform, yellow scarf around his neck, held secure by a little metal ring with a wolf engraved in it— (boy was he proud of that!)

While he was there, he found an injured bird hobbling in the grass. It was a gorgeous red bird with black wings—a Scarlet Tanager. Its wing was injured and it was unable to fly—easy prey for any lurking cat.

I remember him returning home with the bird in a Buster Brown shoe box. He named the bird "Flair" and over the next month Flair became a part of our family. Each morning we would wait at the end of our driveway for the school bus. Flair sat perched on top of Bruce's head. Mr.Pickle would stop, throw open the bus door and smile from ear to ear—delighted at the sight! Flair spent the school day on Bruce's shoulder, patiently watching as he worked. Now today I'm sure there would be a dozen reasons why Flair would not be allowed in school—"fleas...bird flue...the other children do not have a bird like Flair to bring to school..." but in the 50's Flair was more than welcome!
After school Bruce sat and watched his afternoon shows—Claude Kirschner and his Terrytoon Circus-cartoon show...the Mousekateers with Annette and Cubby. Flair sat on top of the television set perched on the rabbit ear antenna until they were over.



Weeks went by. Bruce hoped Flair's wing would heal and he would be able to fly again someday —until that day actually came. Each day we would take turns running across the yard with Flair perched on our hand, to see if he would try to fly. One day my brother Jeff took his turn and Flair took off! Bruce was not happy. He wanted to be the one to see Flair off. Flair sat high in a tree top looking down at us, then up toward the sky—hesitant, as if contemplating what to do. Then he was off! Though we always looked for him, we never saw him again.

I'll bet there are a number of Baby Boomers today who remember the year a Scarlet Tanager rode the bus to school with them and attended third grade.


....now tell me that's not a romantic thought!



(my dad with Flair-we all loved him!)


Update February 7, 2017

Thought it would be interesting to post an update on the little Cub Scout-Bruce Kunkel.
From the time he could hold a pencil, we knew that he was an artist. If you Google his name "Bruce Kunkel-Gibson Guitar" you will be able to see some of the stunning guitars he has created over the years at the Gibson Custom Shop in Nashville.
Here is just one of his many creations:




Saturday, May 5, 2018

The 50's-When Dogs Were Our Heroes-II



(Story continued from HERE)

The beautiful hand painted sign at the end of the driveway was different now. Our family name was painted over and replaced with the words "For Sale." The moving van was almost packed—the final pieces of furniture being carried out the front door—all of my Dad's treasures, built by him —especially for this house.

In order to fully understand the impact of this move on our family, you need to picture living in a rural neighborhood in the 5o's. There were about a half dozen homes, each situated on an acre of land; acres of woods and fields were left undisturbed behind the yards where we spent our days exploring—building forts, hiking bridle paths. Moms stayed home and neighbor mothers knew us almost as well as our own mothers.

We had tremendous freedom as children to go where we wanted. We were free to visit friends a mile from the house, out of our parent's sight much of the time. There was little traffic and child abductions were unheard of at the time. It's amazing what we've learned to accept as a "normal" part of life.

My two little friends next door were like sisters to me and I loved their mother as I did my own.

It was a tough decision, but my dad (Mr.Sawdust) was leaving his job as a salesman for AMF, for a new job in Pennsylvania. This was the only home I had ever known—my parent's "dream house"—a ten room colonial built by my Dad. When I said goodbye to my two little friends next door, I realized that this was the first time I had ever said goodbye to anyone.

Our home in NJ built by Mr.Sawdust in the early 50's

Our new house outside of Lancaster was situated in the middle of three cornfields—the ramifications of that fact not fully "appreciated" until the spring planting when the manure was spread generously on all three fields! But now it was fall. Chestnut Hill could be seen looming in the distance out our dining room window. Dad thought it was beautiful—to me it appeared dark and scary.

It was a long walk to the bus stop the next morning—our first day in the new school— around two cornfields now brown and dormant. The first day of school is always awkward, no matter how well adjusted a child might be, but starting school in a new state, not knowing anyone borders on terrifying!

The second day was cold with an early frost, Flash at our heels wanting to see us off. Perhaps he slipped out the door—dad and mom distracted by all the commotion of us getting ready to leave.
However it happened, Flash was determined to watch out for his "kids."

Four brothers and I stood eagerly watching for bus number nine. As was his custom back in Morristown, Flash chased a squirrel across the road— but this road was bustling with traffic.
A tanker truck screeched to a halt, but too late—we heard a thud—Flash was under his front tire.
He looked up at us, tail wagging, and then closed his eyes.

We screamed all the way home, and within minutes stood banging on the front door— my parents inside, only hoping we were all accounted for.

"Flash is DEAD!" we cried pounding our fists on the door.

We huddled together and cried and cried and cried. For the first time in my life, I was seeing my Dad cry too.

I remember a feeling finally settling over us and over the house that day. It left us with a message Dad conveyed to us often with few words, at serious times as a family—certainly this had been one. Yes, we had left our familiar and beautiful home, our friends, and here we were, in a strange new place; a place without the years of memories and good times attached. Yet, all nine of us were safe together. We still had what was most important—our family.

Dad did not leave the house at all that day, except for the unpleasant task of burying Flash. He carried him over his shoulder, up to a spot on Chestnut Hill and returned home that night exhausted.

Dear Mrs. Bechtel,
Please excuse Mary for being absent on Monday. Our German Shepherd was hit by a truck and killed. Mary was very upset.Sincerely,Mary's Mom

"Mary, come up to my desk."
I walked to the front of my new third grade class—all eyes on me —and saw my mother's note on the teacher's desk.

"Class, Mary's dog was hit by a car yesterday and she stayed home from school. That was no excuse to miss school!
You may sit down now, Mary.
Now, let's get our red pencils out-we are going to correct papers."

In that one moment of time, I learned more than I would learn the rest of that year. I knew that this teacher could teach me nothing; and the day before—that tragic day in the life of my family, had taught me more about life than she had learned in her 40+ years.

Not long ago my mother shared a letter with me, written by my dad to our family following that difficult year. It was attached to the front of a large family photo album he was putting together.The fact that I had never seen it, confirmed to me that although I was quite young, the impression left on me was real- and that some of the greatest lessons in life are not taught by words.

Dear Children,

It seems to me that I should have something to tell you.

This writing will probably outlast me, though I'm entering the primary class of middle age, and I can imagine a time when you may gather together, in later years, and say, "I remember when Dad was putting this book together."

I hope you do remember--but there's more to this book than a collection of pictures. What we have here is a sort of record of love and understanding. That "times," for the moment (a very long moment!) were not so good for us--and our greatest consolation was each other.

This is no attempt to write a history of our family. I do not wish to. But we have learned so many things which should never be forgotten:

1) We have learned the valuelessness of material things.
2) We have learned the pleasure of time spent together.
3) You have come to know the greatness of your mother.
4)You have learned the meaning of "the tie that binds" and the closeness of family.
5) You have found some of the compensation that comes from and hour of creative effort.

These are not small factors in a person's life. Remember them, and increase their importance in your minds as years go by.

Trust in man, even though it pays you little. The occasional friend you gain through such a trust is worth it. Don't judge your friends. If a friend must be judged he is not a friend. Like a rose, "a friend is a friend is a friend." A friend comes into your life, and continues through your life--not by your design or his. Each man is allotted only a very few true friends in his entire life. Cherish each one, whatever else you do.

A good friend, like everything else, is a gift of God. Just as a man is alone without a sincere trust in God, so then is a man alone because he has no God given friends.

You have always been loved greatly by your mother and myself--and this love will increase as the years go by. But this love is not enough. You must have the love and friendship of others, outside the family. Keep your hearts open, smile with your eyes, as well as your mouth. Speak only the truth, even if it hurts you.....................

Most important, through all her days, love your Mother. God wants it that way.


FLASH...a once in a lifetime pet!


We knew we would never replace Flash-that would be impossible!
But three years later my dad wanted another dog—

and it had to be....... a Basset Hound!

...but that's another story.