Friday, October 30, 2009

Dick's Latest Creation and a Scary Poem

Every year it's the same. My dear husband puts off carving pumpkins until the last minute, but when he gets to it he throws heart and soul into the project. Personally, I am scared of sharp objects, convinced I'll slice off a finger while handling an Exacto blade, or even a kitchen knife. I have a little hand saw that works pretty well... Anyway, he claims to have thought about this all year. My dopey smiling jack-o-lantern is nothing memorable, but his snowman made from three stacked pumpkins sports charcoal for eyes, nose, mouth and buttons. There's no way to light it, which is a disappointment to me, since lit pumpkins are what I like best. Anyway, he's proud as punch, so I decided to show the world.

Here's a little poem that's quite a tongue twister from my days of teaching English.

Ravin's of a Piute Poet Poe
by C.L. Edson
(Scholastic Magazine, 1963)

Once upon a midnight dreary -- eerie, scary -- I was wary;
I was weary, full of sorry, thinking of my lost Lenore.
Of my cheery, eerie, faery, fiery dearie -- nothing more.
I lay napping when a rapping on the overlapping coping
woke me -- grapping, yapping, groping -- I went hopping,
leaping!, hoping that the rapping on the coping
was my little lost Lenore.
That, on opening the shutter, to admit the latter critter,
in she'd flutter from the gutter, with her bitter eyes aglitter.
So I opened wide the door -- what was there?
The dark wier and the drear moor -- or, I'm a liar!:
The dark mire, the drear moor, the mere door ...
And nothing more.
Then in stepped a stately raven, shaven like the Bard of Avon.
Yes, a shaven, rovin' raven seeking haven at my door.
And that grievin', rovin' raven had been movin' (get me, Steven?!)
For the warm and loving haven of my stove and oven door.
Oven door and ... nothing more!
Ah, distinctly I remember, every ember that December
Turned from amber to burnt umber. (I was burning limber lumber
in my chamber that December and it left an amber ember.)
With each silken sad uncertain flirtin' of a certain curtain,
That old raven, cold and callous, perched upon the bust of Pallas
just above my chamber door -- a lusty, trusty bust thrust
just above my chamber door.
Had that callous cuss shown malice, or sought solace there on Pallas?
You may tell us, Alice Wallace! Tell this soul with nightmares ridden,
Hidden in the shade and broodin', if a maiden out of Eden
Sent this sudden bird invadin' my poor chamber
(and protrudin' half an inch above my door!).
Tell this broodin' soul (he's breedin' bats by so much sodden readin'--
Readin' Snowden's "Ode to Odin"!) ...
Tell this soul with nightmares ridden if -- no kiddin'! --
on a sudden, he shall clasp a radiant maiden born in Aiden
(or in Leyden, or indeed in Baden-Baden) ...
Will he grab this buddin' maiden, gaddin' in forbidden Eden,
Whom the angels named Lenore? And that bird said, "Nevermore!"
"Prophet", cried I, "thing of evil, navel, novel, or boll weavil,
You shall travel! On the level! Scratch the gravel now, and travel --
Leave my hovel, I implore!"
And that raven, never flitting (never knitting, never tatting,
never spouting Nevermore) still is sitting (out this ballad!)
On the solid bust, and pallid -- on the vallid, pallid, bust
Above my chamber door.
And my soul is in the shadow which lies floating on the floor --
Fleeting, floating (yachting, boating) on the fluting of the matting,
Matting of my chamber door!
[And that's all there is, and nothin' more!]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Autumn Scenes My World

Autumn here so far has been dark and wet, the rain stripping the trees of their bright colors, and hampering the farmers from bringing in their corn and soybeans. Sunday there was a break in the rain, so I went out driving around the county looking at the scenery.

There's a little country cemetery on Highway 14 near Evansville. I couldn't resist stopping to read the old stones and take pictures.

This morning the fog was thick, and the streetlight across the way made the sugar maple glow like a lighted jack-o-lantern. I don't have a tripod, so the image is a little blurred, but the mysterious feeling comes through anyway.

Why we decided to build our deck around our maple is beyond me, since it drops little red buds and seed helicopters in spring and in fall leaves carpet the boards. My little plastic lighted pumpkin doesn't look bothered, though.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The End of the 1994 Interview with Grandma

Bernice and Howard Tess, 1960

I finally finished transcribing Grandma Tess's 1994 tape, made for me as a Christmas present. This last section talks about something that can be a problem with researching family history, the issue of names, nicknames, and name changes. So now I'm off to have copies of the memories made, and the scratchy old cassette tape transferred to a digital format.

Bernice continues:
As far as names go, our family changed names quite often it seems. It started out with Mother’s sisters who changed their names off and on during the years. And their families changed their names several times, the girls in the family especially, but not the boys. So when I came along Mother thought nothing of changing my name from Anna Bernice Adams to Bernice Anna Adams. And that only lasted of course t three years, then she walked out on my father, in the first divorce that anyone had ever heard of around the city of Hillyard. That was considered a horrible thing to do in those days and she was a fallen woman so far as her neighbors were concerned. So much so that she took me and we left with McLains, and she went to work as a practical nurse and I was (inaudible). But in the meantime we landed out on the ranch, as I told you before, and my name was once more changed when I was eleven to Smith. And it came from Anna Adams, Anna Bernice Adams, to Bernice Anna Smith.

Carol: That was never done legally, was it?

This was never done legally. But for all intents and purposes I was Bernice Smith again. I never liked the name and I was very unhappy with the change. But I had nothing to say about it. Of course I changed it myself when I got married to my husband Howard. We had a nice short name, Tess, which I always liked. It was easy on the checkbook; you never ran out of room. Easy to spell and easy to remember; easy for other people to remember.

And we had nicknames. Sherry asked about that. Howard was called Howie, much to his distress; he did not like the name. And I was Neecy to my little brother for years. Up until the day he died I think he called me Neecy off and on. Partly to tease me and partly because it was sort of a love bond between us. When he was little he’d cry in his sleep for Neecy, and I always came and he always remembered that.

We were close, perhaps closer than a lot of brother and sisters. We were not half brothers and sister, but all through the years (inaudible). We only lived thirty miles apart. He lived in Racine and we lived in Elkhorn. And he had six children and had a hard time. He (inaudible) school paying for their clothes, and trips out to Elkhorn were expensive. But we’d open up our house on summers and he would come out with the six and his wife Appie, and they would spend two weeks in our house while we were gone on vacation, while they house sat. They had a wonderful time out there and loved it. They loved Elkhorn, and they loved being out close to the country because in Racine they saw nothing but sidewalk and dirty places. So that continued on all through the years. It was a wonderful thing to have a brother, but I always wanted a sister. And in a way Appie filled that spot, but not completely. To have a sister was my dream, but it never came true. Having a brother was the next best thing. We made the most of it.

Oh yes, I must tell you about when we were small, along with the name change. DuRell was christened James Lemuel Durrell. Durrell was his third name. And he went by the name of James and Jimmy, short, until he was two years old. He knew no other name. He didn’t know he had any other name. All of a sudden Mother decided he was going to be DuRell, not James. So we all had quite a time adjusting to that because I likes James better than DuRell and so did most people. But Mother liked DuRell, so he was DuRell. But he had his name changed the same as I did. It’d be very different in this day and age. You couldn’t change around like that, but in those days there were no papers to sign, no Social Security cards, nothing. People didn’t mind if you did things on your own, without going through a lawyer. A lot of people lived that way, so it was very commonplace and we didn’t pay any attention to it.

I’m just about running out of tape so I should make of and of it here. I want to tell everyone what a wonderful life I’ve had, with all its ups and downs. I’ve still lived and loved and a lot of happiness. Some tears, but a lot of joy. I am now 92 years old and this year is 1994. I have a family of five great grandchildren, six grandchildren, my two daughters, and myself. We all live very harmoniously and love each other very much, which is more than can be said of a lot of people. So I figure that I have had a very good life.

I am about to say goodbye to you now Sherry. You’ve been one of my very bright stars, and I want to thank you for the part you’ve taken in my life, and I have enjoyed it very much.

Good-bye for now. It was nice talking to you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween 1957

My parents weren't particularly party people, but in 1957 they dressed up for a Halloween party with high school buddies. What can I say?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Backyard Gold and a Poem

Haze Gold
by Carl Sandburg, from Wind Song

Sun, you may send your haze gold
Filling the fall afternoon
With a flimmer of many gold feathers.
Leaves, you may linger in the fall sunset
Like late lingering butterflies before frost,
Treetops, you may sift the sunset cross-lights
Spreading a loose checkerwork of gold and shadow.
Winter comes soon -- shall we save this, lay it by,
Keep all we can of these haze gold yellows?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Still Transcribing Grandma's 1994 Tape

Today is rainy and cold, so I decided to get back to transcribing the tape Grandma Tess made for a Christmas present for me around 1994. My goal is to transcribe the tape, and also have it transferred to digital format. I want to give CDs to my family for this Christmas. Some parts are hard to understand, since she just had a little portable recorder/player I had gotten for her, but I hope hearing her voice, as well as the voices of her daughters, will be interesting to everyone. This is what I finished typing today. She covers a lot of ground, everything from holidays on the Washington ranch to schools, to fashions, to home remedies, to the Great Depression.

This photo is of my grandmother as a girl, her mother and step father

Carol: Tell me a little bit about your holidays when you were growing up.

Well it varied so greatly; when we were on the farm we couldn’t celebrate very much. We’d have turkey at Thanksgiving time of course, and probably again at Christmas. And we’d have canned, I remember canned plum pudding, and making hard sauce. So we did that, but there weren’t many presents and certainly Christmas trees. We never - there wasn’t a Christmas tree within miles and miles of that place. No pines at all. And nobody had Christmas trees. So we didn’t know what it was to go to a school festival, for instance, and have a tree. Ah...

Carol: That’s all right, go on.

And there weren’t many present because we didn't, well, we didn’t have place to buy them in the first place. And no money to buy them with. So, I remember a ribbon, a pink or blue ribbon. It was almost always blue. I hoped for pink and got blue. but, hair ribbons and paper dolls were the main presents that I would get. Very little compared to today’s children. Practically nothing. Maybe a dress, a homemade dress. But Mother made all my dresses from one pattern. And that was a strait A-line with long sleeves, no belt, button own the back, high neck and long sleeves. I could have a choice, either check gingham, or plain gingham, but blue. And if I had a checked gingham one I would have a blue ribbon, and if I had a plain one I would also have a blue ribbon. Because they were invariably shades of blue. and one time somebody sent me a pink ribbon, in the mail, one of Dr. Smith’s friends, and I was so happy to get that pink ribbon, because I always liked pink, but Mother didn’t care for it. But she let me wear the pink ribbon though. So I wore it 'til it was probably in shreds. I guess that’s why I like pink so well today. I’m always buying pink things. Like my bedroom’s pink and a lot of my clothes are rose or pink. Maybe that’s the reason. I never thought of it before.

Christmases on the farm were lonely. There were no other children around. No programs like there are nowadays. We did finally have one program at school. It wasn’t a Christmas program though. And little as I knew about the organ, I was supposed to play the organ. And it was nearly a disaster because the Christmas tree, a fake one somebody had brought and put on top of the organ. And it kept falling forward over on to me and the organ. And I was trying to hold it with one hand and play with the other. So, that wasn’t a big success. DuRell had something to speak, I remember, and he forgot halfway through, kept saying “Neecy, Neecy, what do I say next? What do I say next?” I couldn’t remember myself so I’d make up whatever I thought was appropriate for the time. But it wasn’t appropriate for the script. So it was rather a mess. I don’t think we ever repeated it.

Well, my first Christmas in Milwaukee was very sad. Because we were at the hotel and we knew nobody, and it was a strange city, we didn’t anyplace to go. We had no money. And we had no idea of where we would be, in the next week even. Dr. Smith had told us that we’d each have to go our ow ways, that he was going to start school at Marquette, and he would live at the YMCA. We would have to get jobs. Mother would have to get a practical nursing job where she could have DuRell with her, and I would have to work for my board and room. And so we were all very downhearted. And we didn’t know how we were going to face a very uncertain future in a strange city, strange state, strange everything.

And we walked the streets I remember looking on shop windows on that Christmas Day. And we ate at a cheap little restaurant, I don’t remember what we had but it wasn’t much. I know that. The only bright spot was a muff, my white muff, that my mother had bought me.

Perhaps I should tell you a little bit about my husband, Howard. He was in the first world war. Went right out of high school into the army. And he spent nearly two years across, was in some of the biggest battles of that war. He was eight years older than myself, so I was only a little girl when he came back. But by the time we met out in Troy, the age difference did not seem great. He was a very good father and a very good husband. quiet. Had a good sense of humor, but was very quiet about it. Never intrusive in any way.

This is my grandfather, Howard Tess, before he left for the war in France.

And I remember several little things that happened. We, he had put all his army clothing and the trinkets that he had brought home were stored in the attic over his mother and father’s house in East Troy. And he didn’t want to be reminded of the war, in any way shape or manner. So he didn’t want me to bring anything back, because to him it was a horrible thing that he wanted to forget. He wanted no memories. But when he was asked to march in a Memorial Day parade, I think it was, all the veterans of World War I were supposed to march - in their uniforms. So we went over to East Troy to collect the uniform. And lo and behold, when we shook it out, army moths fell out, flew out, and the poor uniform was like a sieve. There was no way he could wear it. So he proceeded to march anyway, without his uniform. But I felt badly and I know he felt badly that it was gone. .

Carol: He was an MP wasn’t he? Wasn’t he in the military police?

He was an MP during the first world war, and was never seriously injured, except when he had a case of very very serious mumps. And they went done on him, as the saying is, and he was very frightened and afraid he would never have children. And in fact his mother in law, his step mother and my mother in law assured me that we would never have a family. I was very upset about that, and I wanted children and wanted them badly. And we waited four years, and really I thought the legend was really true. It was happening to us. But in the middle of the fourth year I became pregnant with Ellen. And I don’t think there was ever a happier person on earth than myself and Howard. We were both so overjoyed. And then just two and a half years later, we had her sister, Carol. Our joy was double.

So, first we lived in - Howard was a mason by trade at the time, and they worked only in the winter, because they didn’t have the facilities they have nowadays, where they can work the year round. And to do plastering and brick work in zero weather in Wisconsin was impossible.

The year was 1925, and we were married. And we were in a deep depression. Howard when we were married only had a hundred and some odd dollars in his pocket. Or to his name, I think. And I didn’t anywhere near that much. But we were invited to his step-brother’s in Chicago for our honeymoon. Over a weekend. And his stepbrother was one of the head personnel at WLS. which many of the older folks will remember. He spoke on the new radio every day. Well radio was really just an impossibility. We could not figure out how that voice could go over the air and be carried from Chicago to ourselves. And they told us, much further. But the whole thing was like a dream. I can remember we went, were invited down to a little gathering at the bank to hear the first radio that I had ever heard. And I’ll never forget the feeling, the eerie, magical feeling, that you felt when that little box started talking. Oh, it was a comfort and a joy to a lot of people, all their lives. We saw the beginning of it was we saw the beginning of TV, years later.

TV was another miracle, almost. Unexplainable. And the first TV I ever saw was at my, by that time I was working at the drug store. And one of my bosses’ wives invited us down to watch TV. Well it was a big thrill and a big honor because everybody in town wanted to watch TV and nobody hardly had one. They were very expensive at the time. A novelty.

And it was not a big success however, because it was so snowy they used to call it then, that we could barely see the dancers on the screen. But of course all that changed with the years. In fact very quickly. But we went home shaking our heads and saying it would never amount to anything. That they had gone a step too far this time. And there would anything amount to TV. And look what's happened to it. It’s really a giant.

This was taken at a school near Hanford, Washington. Grandma is the little girl to the right of the teacher, and her mother, my great grandmother, is the woman in the scarf.

Well, I did most of my moving before I was married. It was out of one school and into another. And one batch of friends, and I left and tried to make them in a new place and a new town. I counted one time that I’d gone to six schools in one year. That wasn’t very good for my education. But it was just part of my life.

I forgot when I was telling you about the dresses Mother made when we were on the ranch. To tell you about maybe the most interesting part, which was the way we dressed underneath. First we had little shirts, some of them were sleeveless, but we had to wear them in the winter they had sleeves in hem. And over that was a pantywaist, and then the peculiar part, as I remember now, was our black cotton stockings. They had a tongue on them, as they used to call them. It was a square piece of stocking that was ribbed, and solid, and it came up and was buttoned onto... It had eyelets on it, and it buttoned onto the pantywaist. And never before or since have I seen such a thing, but I wore them all the time when I was on the farm during my childhood. And you wore nothing but black stockings, even the grownup wore nothing but black, because it was considered very forward and indecent to put any color up on your legs. Especially if it looked like your own flesh, that was wicked. Because women wore skirts and tried to cover up their legs; they didn’t show them, which is far far from today. But, over the pantywaist and the long black hosiery that was hooked to it you wore black sateen bloomers. Very cool. They were gathered around the waist and gathered around the knee again. And those you wore summer and winter. They never varied. They were never colored, and they were always very warm and uncomfortable. But we wore them.

Our shoes were more modern in a way, I know I had Mary Janes for Sunday, and sandals to wear out. I wasn’t allowed to go barefoot on the ground because of rattlesnakes. We had a great many rattlesnakes in Washington at that time. They’re probably still there for all I know. They came out from the cliffs and went down to the Columbia River, and if you walked through the sage brush you were sure to see one or two. There were so many of them. So we had to wear something to protect our legs, and never never go barefoot. It was too dangerous.

Carol: Mother, those panties. You didn’t have elastic back then, did you?

No, no. Well we had elastic in our bloomers, yes.

Carol: Oh I thought that was later thing.

No, we had elastic in our bloomers. But we never had elastic in our stockings, I mean, to hold them up or anything. We never had garters. They always buttoned on...

Carol: I could have sworn we had eyes on our underpants.

You had what?

Carol: Our underpants didn’t have elastic, (inaudible) I suppose.

Oh yeah, that could be. I don’t remember that though.

Carol: Well I do, because they came undone when I was at school.

That must have been embarrassing.

Carol: It was.

Well, life was full of many embarrassing moments.

Carol: Then as a flapper you were (inaudible). They used to bind you?

Oh yes. That was when I was first married even. We were still trying to look like a boy. And dresses were very immodest. And you tried to deny you had any. So, we had long strips of cloth, and one end was held securely under your arm and the other end was wrapped. Tight as tight was possible. And then you secured it with a pin or whatever, and that was your brassiere at the time. Nowadays the bras are much more comfortable, I must say. And I think prettier. But the up and down look like a stick was what we had all through my youth. I always prayed that I wouldn’t get too heavy in certain places because I’d be made fun of. But that is not the way nowadays, however.

You asked me once about tricks we played on the farm. And there was a skull when Mother was going with Dr. Smith, who was not a doctor at that time. When we had a housekeeper, and the housekeeper had a little boy who was my age. A little bit older, maybe a year older. And of course I was thrilled to have a playmate, because we didn’t have one. And he was very mischievous. I’d been a very good little girl, until he came into my world. But I worshipped him, and anything he told me to do I did. So, we threw eggs at pigs, and we tormented the sheep and the cattle. We were nasty little people then. We did a lot of things we shouldn’t have done. But I was having the time of my life. It was the first time I’d been allowed to really let loose and be naughty. And I was taking full advantage of it. So when Mother would go away on trips with Mr. Smith, the housekeeper one time went away also. And we were alone for a few hours. And it was such a thrill to be alone. Even the hired man had gone to take naps in the bunkhouse. So we decided that we would have the biggest thrill of all. We would ride the black stallion. He was very vicious, and he was cooped up out in the barn all by himself in a special room. And we were never supposed to go near him, because he was very vicious. But we did. The boy went in and brought him out, and somehow or another we got a saddle on him. Which he didn’t like at all, because he’d never been rode. And we, by the grace of God, got on him, much to his distress. He tried to get rid of us, but we hung on for dear life. He finally gave in a settled down. And we rode to the neighbor, which was about six miles away. And of course we didn’t ride him fast, we just walked. And it took us a long time to get that six miles through sand. Because the sand’s very slippery. You take one step forward and slide back two as the hired man used to say. But we got there just about supper time, and we expected to be invited in to eat. We tied the stallion up outside and he was blowing and snorting and showing his displeasure in every possible way. And, I’m trying to remember the name of the neighbors. I guess it doesn’t matter, but they had six children. And they were homesteaders and very poor. But we didn’t realize how poor, so wen went in the house and expected to be invited to eat. They were setting around the table, and they ere eating clabbered milk. That was their supper. And we were very very upset when we realized what we’d done, and they assured just we had to get right back in a hurry or we would be taken care of .

Ellen: You’d better tell what clabbered milk was.

Oh, oh. Ellen says I’d better explain what clabbered milk is. It’s milk that has soured and left to sit. And it forms a thick clabber substance, almost like custard. And to t hem it was a treat. They would put sugar and nutmeg on it, and eat it like pudding. But they made a whole meal of it. I suppose maybe in a way it was healthy. But they more or less lived on things like that because they didn’t have nay income, hardly, and had six children.

So it was all very sad. They all went to school in my little schoolhouse, and I felt that they were good friends but I hadn't’ realized how they lived. I was very shocked, and I think it brought me to my senses. We went home very slowly and quietly and put the horse away and went to bed. Well then in the morning when we woke up my mother and Dr, Smith were home and housekeeper was back in her room. And Mother said to me what a terrible thing I had done. Did I realize what a naughty girl I’d been? And I said yes that I was very sorry. And she said “well, your friend got a very hard spanking and you should have one too. But I really haven’t got the heart to do it.” So I got out of it scot free. Well not really scot free, but with a explosion which was a lot less then I deserved.

That was only one of the stunts we pulled. But I became my normal self after he left. Everything was back to normal.

But, we were our own doctors, or rather my mother was, on the ranch. Because there were no doctors around. And the nearest one wos many miles away and had to have notice and usually transportation to our place. So Mother had a list of home cures. some of which were pretty drastic. When we had ear aches she would heat up olive oil, and I remember her taking out a teaspoon and pouring a few drops in, and taking a match and heating it that way. And we would get one or two drops in the ear that was aching. And then cotton went in over that. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. It depended on how bad the earache was.

And if they had a cold in the chest, sometimes we had poultice plaster, which was made out of onions. And they were wrapped in towels and put on your chest, tied on, so they wouldn’t slip. And you slept with the onions. It wasn’t very pleasant, but the heat helped.

Let’s see, what else did she do for us. Oh, in spring we had to have sulfur and molasses. And I dreaded that twelve months of the year, when it would come round again. That was horrible. And we had to take caster oil. There was no pleasant pills or things like that there,

Carol: What was sulfur...

Sulfur and molasses?

Carol: What is sulfur? Where did you get it?

Well I suppose they got it when they were in Hanford, at the drugstore. They had sulfur there in big barrels, So I never questioned where it came from. But that was another cure, sulfur and molasses. And in the spring we had to swallow this stuff. We had it on our chest or we swallowed it - both. So, that was terrible. I didn’t know about store-bought remedies. The home ones were not so good.

But even when I was first married, we did, carried over a lot of the home cures, especially for earache. I remember my husband Howard blowing smoke into the children’s ears for earache. And sometimes it helped. If they could lay on that ear with a hot pad or something by morning it would break and the ear would be better.

Carol: Well another thing I was going to ask you about, Mother, is the beauty potions, like washing your hair. Cause I remember Grandma had very long hair. And she didn’t wash it very often. Didn’t she put powder or something it it? How did you wash your hair?

Oh, we used bar soap, just an ordinary bar of soap.

Carol: But you didn’t wash it weekly like we do now.

Oh no, no. That wasn’t considered good for you to wash it once a week. The oil in your hair had to nourish it, and you’d wash it all out if you washed it once a week. But it would be washed once in two weeks.

Carol: What about deodorant?

Well I don’t remember that we ever had any deodorant except talcum powder. We would put talcum powder under our arms. Mother used talcum powder for everything. She used it for face powder, and also for body powder, and shaving, anything at all. It was Cashmere Bouquet. And that was a steady item on our shelf, along with all the other home cures.

So do you have any other questions that you want to ask?

The year must have been about nineteen hundred and twelve, or thirteen. Because I was born in 1902. But we, there was a lot of things that you folks have never heard of that we had to live with in those days. One of them was, what was that...

We didn’t have a dentist near either. So when our teeth started to ache if they were too bad they were pulled, and pulled by hand, by my stepfather to be. Or else, if they weren’t that bad, they were filled with cloves. And otherwise you just suffered, there was no such thing around as aspirins, or painkillers of any kind. So, we took a lot of pain and (inaudible).

But one of the pleasant cures, as we got a little older, was that we got hot toddies when we went to bed when we were sick or had colds. Nowadays you’d probably say we had the flu, but no one ever heard of the flu in those days so all we ever had was a bad cold. And not until most had reached pneumonia was it ever called anything different than a cold. And I presume the flu bug was around then too but we didn’t know about it so we didn’t worry about it. But one of the pleasures as I got a little older was the hot toddies that I would get for in bed, that was hot milk, heated, then a little, maybe a tablespoon of brandy and sugar added to it. And I sipped that slowly. And Mother would tuck me in, and I would sleep like a log. And I always thought that was a very nice part of the medicine, compared to all the other horrible things that she gave us. As we were older my husband always make me hot toddies. When I was sick, or felt badly. If I had any troubles of any kind he’s come up with a nice high glass of hot toddy and give it to me before I went to sleep. So that habit really stayed with me all my years, until of course he died.

Howard died in 1970. And I had no idea that he would leave me that soon.

Carol: How old was he?

He was 74. But he was still working and would not quit. He enjoyed working and did not want to quit. But we had talked it over and decided to both retire at the same time at the end of the year, and go to Arizona for his emphysema, because we thought was his only health problem. But a few minutes later he had a very massive stroke, and departed from me forever, because he never came to, and died that evening. So, that was the story of a life well spent.

Carol said I didn’t say enough about the Depression. It was a horrible time in all of our lives, but at the same time we enjoyed some of it. There was no socializing unless it was at our own home. We didn’t go to dances, or certainly it was Prohibition, although we weren’t drinkers, everybody was not allowed to drink. So you didn’t set in this bar, or you didn’t go to the theater. You stayed in your own home, and if entertaining was done you did it in your own home. And you were invited back to your friends’ houses.

Our meals were very simple. We had an awful lot of wieners and macaroni. But the kids grew very healthy on them. I guess they were not deprived in any sense of the word. One thing we prided ourselves on was that we never went on the relief. Certainly we were poor enough to have done, because one time, one year especially Holtons could not pay their employees. And so Howard went for six months without a pay check. ANd during that time I took roomers in, and I baked cakes and sold them. I printed plaques. We’d set up sometimes 'til midnight painting plaques. And then I sold them around the neighborhood, and when the neighbors were too hard up to buy my plaques I took them to a neighboring town and I sold them there. I got enough for the thirty dollars that we paid for our rent. It was a big house, and I had four steady roomers, and also boarders. And that’s what kept food on our table and fuel in our furnace. And I remember it was a lot of work, but we made a lot of very good friends, and saw a lot more of our neighbors than we ever did in times that followed.

There were plenty of wonderful things that happened during the Depression. You found out just exactly how much your neighbor would do for you and how much he cared for you. and you found out too the ones that wanted to grab everything and did nothing in return, who your true friends were. So there was always some good out of every bad evil thing that happens to you. I remember that part all my life.

Howard and I had been married oh it was about four years when Ellen was born, it was during this time that we were going through this wonderful depression. And it brought to memory the way I met my husband. At the time I was going with another boy, and I had a girlfriend who came out to stay with me over the weekend, and she made me promise that I would find a date for her while she was with me. So I asked the boy I was going with at the time if he would bring somebody else for my friend. So he brought Howard out. And I liked Howard immediately, but he was very shy. He wasn’t the type to put himself forward. And to me that was very charming because most of the boys I had gone with were far from being shy. They were much to bold for my taste. And in the middle of the date the girl and I decided we would change dates. And so we laughingly suggested it to the boys, and they went along with it. And so she pedaled up in front that she wanted to be and Howard and I sat in the back seat. At first it was very simple. We didn’t talk much. But then as we got to know each other a little better we started to talk. I found out that he was so different than the boys I’d been used to and the ones I’d been (inaudible), and literally disgusted with. He was not demanding at all, and he was a complete and perfect gentleman. And I admired that in him because that was a far cry from most of the boys at that time. They were nice enough boys but they had a very good opinion of themselves and and thought you should too, and sometimes they were a little hard to fight off. So, ? it was compounded by the fact that my very best friend and his very best friend were married. And they lived on t he other side of East Troy, so quite by accident we happened to both arrive at the farm for an extended weekend. And we four had a wonderful time and really got to know each other.

And during that time we had one of the biggest snowstorms of several seasons. And we were completely snowed in. Couldn’t get out for several days. So of course we made the most of it and a lot of parties, not drinking, but we popped corn and told ghost stories, and listened to the radio that we could hear. It was not clear like nowadays, but it meant a lot to us. And then finally there was a big dance. And we wanted to go in the very worst way. So Howard and his friend went out and shoveled that road. And it was a dirt road at the time. Didn’t have cement then. They shoveled the snow off it in very huge heaps. They made almost a tunnel to drive through. All the way up the hill and down for several miles, so we’d be at East Troy for the dance. It was a labor of love. From that time on it was a definite thing. We were going together. So that was a rather delightful start for our courtship.

My friend lost a baby the same time that Carol was born. They were only born two days apart. And I can remember getting her Christmas card on the day of her funeral, telling me about the baby and about how we must get together. And I remember setting there with her letter in my hand, the tears running down my cheeks, because we never would be together again the way we were before. We couldn’t even go to the funeral because her husband called up and said not to because it was bitterly cold out and I hadn’t been out of the house for two days. And he said he didn’t want to have to go to two funerals. So Howard assured him that I wouldn’t go. So, I didn’t. But was one real bad thing that happened.

This was taken in East Troy. Grandpa Tess is the second from the left in the top row, and Grandma is the woman in the cap.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Saint Mary of the Oaks

My husband, enjoying the view of Indian Lake

One of the reasons we chose Indian Lake County Park for our hike was that there is a small historic chapel there. This is what the Dane County Historical Society marker near the parking lot says:

St. Mary of the Oaks

On the brow of a hill, one-half mile east overlooking Indian Lake, rests a tiny stone chapel. The structure was built in 1857 by John Endres in fulfillment of a religious vow he made in return for protecting the lives of his family during a diphtheria epidemic.

Aided by his son Peter, Enres hauled several tons of stone to the hilltop with an ox team.

The building has been much venerated by local families for several generations. Family names identified with the care of the chapel are Endres, Ballweg, and Marx.

The chapel was formally dedicated by Archbishop Messmer in 1926

The county built wide wooden steps up the hill to the overlook and chapel, and I was surprised to find the building unlocked. This photo shows the interior. Perhaps four people could stand comfortably inside.

According to a plaque at the top of the hill the chapel is a typical German style, made from stones 18 inches thick. The door, roof, and old wooden cross have been replaced. In 1975 Dane County purchased the land and the chapel and agreed to maintain it for its historical value.

It was a lovely ramble through the fall woods, and the uphill climb made me feel less guilty about not working out at the athletic club. Good for body and soul.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Day at Indian Lake County Park

Yesterday Dick and I decided to take advantage of the Indian Summer day and get outside. We saw a newspaper article about nearby places to enjoy fall colors, and drove out west of Madison, to Indian Lake County Park. At 443 acres, it is Dane County's largest park. Popular with hikers and cross country ski enthusiasts, it has miles of trails. There is also a small German family chapel that I plan to write about tomorrow.

For a Monday afternoon it seemed like there were lots of people hiking around the lake, taking their dogs out for some exercise. This was one of those days I appreciated having time to spend outside, instead of being trapped inside a cement block classroom.

According to a sign posted near the parking lot, the park lies at the edge of the unglaciated (or driftless) area of southwestern Wisconsin. That means there are features of both here - steep slopes of exposed rock that were never scraped smooth by glaciers and the smooth boulders, shallow kettle lakes, drumlins and moraines that indicate ancient rivers of ice.

On one of the trails there was a living hollow tree, open at the bottom and large enough that I could step inside. The tree was open inside to the top, and this photo shows what I saw. It was a little like being at the bottom of a well looking up, though I could not see stars.

The park has diverse plant and animal life. The cool north slopes of rock are covered with paper birch trees, and gnarled oaks line the tops of the ridges. Brambles and aspens indicate the area was logged and farmed. I spotted this great blue heron at the edge of the lake.

It was fairly quiet on our walk, not counting the sound of gulls and Canada Geese on the lake, and the raucous calls of crows in the tree branches.

Though small family farms are becoming less common in Wisconsin, this nicely painted red barn looks charming photographed through the dry prairie grasses.

If you want to take your own hike the park is located at 8183 Highway 19, two miles west of Highway 12.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Six Degrees of Sweetest Day

My paternal great grandmother, Sarah Kingston Donaldson, related to the man who might have created Sweetest Day, the holiday nobody I know celebrates

Cynical as usual, I always assumed thatSweetest Day, the third Saturday in October, was a “holiday” cooked up by the card industry to sell more products. Turns out I have a personal connection to the largely uncelebrated event.

According to Wikipedia, the day is primarily observed in the Great Lakes region of the USA, and a little in the Northeast. Today people who have even heard of it, regard the day as an excuse to do something nice for their sweeties. Think candy, cards, flowers, romance. Turns out originally it was, according to Retail Confectioners International, an “occasion which offers all of us an opportunity to remember not only the sick, aged and orphaned, but also friends, and associates whose helpfulness and kindness we have enjoyed.

So no, Hallmark didn’t make up Sweetest Day. One of my distant relatives did. Maybe.

Sweetest day is thought to have been started by Kingston Candy Company employee in Cleveland named Herbert Birch Kingston. He, if I figure it correctly, is my first cousin, twice removed, on my father’s side. My Irish great great grandparents who emigrated during the Potato Famine were his grandparents. I think. I don’t know anything more, and this information was located using internet sources. Again according to Wikipedia, maybe cousin Kingston didn’t have sole responsibility for starting Sweetest Day. The Cleveland Plain Dealer the event was planned by a committee of twelve confectioners, who sent 20,000 boxes of candy to “newsboys, orphans, old folks and the poor.

However it started, it seems like a nice enough idea to think of people who need a smile with some little remembrance. Of course with most people having bags of Snickers and Reeces Peanutbutter Cups sitting waiting for trick or treaters, maybe I’ll just send an email tomorrow.

Happy Sweetest Day, in advance.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Painting and Poem

acrylic on paper

When the Frost is on the Punkin

James Whitcomb Riley

WHEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then the time a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;
And your cider-makin's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!...
I don't know how to tell it—but ef such a thing could be
As the angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me—
I'd want to 'commodate 'em—all the whole-indurin' flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Poem for Columbus Day

How to Celebrate Columbus Day
Sue De kelver in 2009 Wisconsin Poets Calendar

Tuck an orange in your pocket
to stave off scurvy.

Chart a self-guided course
toward your Inner Islands.

Take a deep, cleansing breath
to set sail then keep breathing.

Remember you've survived
both storms and doldrums.

Don't count on stars
to show you the way.

Repeat this mantra:
My world will never be flat.