All My Ancestors

8 December 2008

Family Interviews at Thanksgiving

Filed under: Holidays, How to, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Unruh Family by allmyanc

The day after Thanksgiving I did what we genealogists recommend and support.

I interviewed my aunt.

A little background.  My aunt is only 4 1/2 years older than I.  She was born when  my mother was 14 and their brother was 16.  My grandmother was 40.  Needless to say, she and I have always been more of the same generation than different ones.

My mother (her sister) and grandparents (her parents) all died in 1998–Annus Horribilus as Queen Elizabeth II deemed her 1992.  My uncle (her brother) died last year.  So in some ways, it’s just us now.  We try to get together every Thanksgiving and this year I decided I would try interviewing her.  I really didn’t think she’d go along with it and I thought it might be redundant since we shared so many of the same experiences.  But I wanted to give it a try.

I started working on family history about 25 years ago, and part of the impetus was the stories that my grandmother told me.  I felt like I had done a pretty good job of asking my questions and writing down what they told me.  But the longer I’ve worked on a timeline for my grandparents’ lives, and examined photos, and tried to put the bits and pieces together, I’ve found I still have questions.  So I decided to interview my one remaining source, Aunt Cheri.

I used some of the questions in “My Memories” from Holly T. Hansen and Jennifer Hunt Johnson’s “Capture the Memories” series as a starter.  I was surprised at how pleased my aunt seemed that I was asking to interview her.  She sat up a little straighter and though typically a rather shy person, spoke eagerly and forthrightly.  I captured our conversation on an Olympus digital recorder–I have yet to transfer it to my computer, but editing will be done with Audacity, a free program I’ve used before.  We stopped after about an hour, planning to come back to it.  I should also say that I offered to send this book home with her so she could answer the questions in private, but she indicated she’d rather do it by talking.

One of the things I found out was that my grandad and his dad were perhaps WPA or CCC workers, something I never knew.  This came up when I asked her about how her family handled money.  The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl formed my granddad, her father.  But I’d never known about the work off the farm–I asked her if she had any idea how they’d managed to hold onto their land out in Beaver County, Oklahoma.  My grandmother had told me lots of stories about the window sills filled with silt and hanging wet sheets over the windows.  My granddad’s father had asthma so this was bound to be so hard on him.  [Read Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time for a fascinating account of this time and place.]  I never heard Granddad talk about this time, though I did find that he kept fritzing when I told him I was reading the newspapers from the time and place.  I remember finding that they were behind in their taxes a year or two, which in retrospect, was appalling to him.  I should have been gentler with my approach and I might have gotten a little more information from him, not to mention being a little more comforting about the importance of the long view.  My grandparents always had enough money when I knew them–Granddad was a very savvy money manager and never bought anything on credit.

Perhaps as important as the information I gained was the confirmation that interviewing relatives is important, even those with whom you have spent a great deal of time and who are “your” generation.  I hope I get to do extend this interview and now I have plans to “corner” my younger brothers.

Just a confirmation of how important it is to talk to the living.

1 Comment »

1 September 2008

Labor Days

Filed under: Grandmother O, Holidays, Oklahoma, Perryton by allmyanc

After reading couple of posts online about “jobs I’ve had in my life,” I decided it would be a good topic for today.  (I can’t find my camera to post a picture of an heirloom for the Carnival of Genealogy!)

In childhood and junior high, I thought I wanted to be a nurse.  I had a great-aunt who had gone to school to be an LVN as an adult and I admired her a lot.  I still can make hospital corners on a bed thanks to her–one of life’s really useful skills.  ;-)  I also read a lot of Cherry Ames as a child–then I hit chemistry class as a high school sophomore.  That did it–I knew the nursing curriculum was not for me.  Looking back on it, I should have recognized that the appeal for me of Cherry’s adventures probably had more to do with her solving mysteries than with her nursing skills.

The first regular paying job I remember was working at one of two of the dry cleaners in my hometown during the summer.  My mom was working there and the owner had a daughter my age so it was familiar.  I didn’t work much but I do remember being very tired after standing on cement floors all day–Mom had to get really stern one day after I’d come home from work, fallen asleep, and didn’t want to get up to go to the basement for the tornado coming our way.  The dry-cleaners had a drive-up window where I took in items to be cleaned and dispensed the spic and span ones.  The worst “take-ins” were floor to ceiling drapes from the house of some heavy smokers and the laundry of one of the harvest crews in town.  ick!  The other thing I remember from this job is that I folded shirts on a machine–the first step was to button the front and put the neck down into a cutout that had 3 knobs in it.  After the shirt was “installed” and smoothed, I hit the button that made the 3 knobs move out to make a triangle of the shirt collar.  One man in town had shirts with necks so large the machine wouldn’t touch the collar, so we had to improvise for his.  It seemed like magic to me each time I then hit the lever that made the rest of the shirt fold up and I put it in the plastic bag.  At least I didn’t have to iron them!

Another job I had about this time was helping my Grandmother Osborne clean her house–looking back on it, it’s sort of an interesting proposition.  She wasn’t a warm and fuzzy grandmother, but I find my myself wishing I’d paid more attention.  One of my jobs was to help her wash down the walls around the chair where my grandfather sat smoking unfiltered Old Golds.  The walls were actually sticky and yellow.  We also took down, washed, ironed, and re-hung the curtains.  I don’t remember much else, but I do remember that she would write me a check for my “labors.”  I wasn’t used to being paid for helping out around the house, but I think that was my grandmother’s way of telling me she appreciated my help and that what women did was important as well.  I wish I had a copy of those checks–I’d still like to know if she had her own account and just how she and my grandfather handled the household funds.

When I got to college, I worked in the college print shop.  That was probably one of my favorite jobs of all time.  We worked in a really old building, and this was the early 1970s, before the days of ubiquitous photocopying machines.  So nearly everything that was printed at the college went through our shop.  We often knew the scoop before the rest of the campus because we didn’t fail to take a look at what we were printing.  :-)  I didn’t actually run one of the presses, but I think I could have.  Rather I was responsible for burning the plates, which sometimes included taping in negatives of photos–doing the layout.  I had a desk with a top over it to shield the lightbox a bit and I wielded my exacto knife with precision.  Then there was the folding machine–which my friend got her hair caught in one day–and the huge paper cutter that could cut reams of paper at once.  I started out making $.90 an hour and then somehow the student rate was raised to a whole $1.00.  It paid enough to keep me in Diet Dr. Pepper and Tab, as I recall, and the occasional dinner out at El Charrito ($.98 for the enchilada dinner on Wednesdays).

My other college job was being editor of the yearbook.  For being selected for this position, I got free tuition for up to 18 hours a semester.  I’m sure my folks appreciated that break in their tuition payments.

Summers and Christmas breaks I sometimes worked at Corner Drug in my hometown–doing inventory, cleaning out files, wrapping packages, doing extra duty on the floor during the last frenzied days of Christmas shopping.  My most useful skill from these days is that I know how to make a ribbon rose, the trademark of packages from Corner Drug in those days.

My first professional job was teaching junior high school.  The year after I graduated from college, 1973, I worked at a graduate assistant while earning my masters degree.  I taught a 7:30 am class then then went on to my junior high school day.  I usually had classes after school–how did I do that?  Much younger!  I taught 7th grade speech and I was glad for the job–I worked out in what we called the t-building (“T” for temporary) and those were the only classrooms that were air-conditioned.  The last hour of the day, I had to go back into the main building and teach yearbook.  I loved doing the yearbook but it was hot in that second-floor classroom.  This was also the year I took on my first debt–I went to the credit union to get a loan to buy a washer and dryer.  The house where I was living had hook-ups and I hated going to the laundromat.

I got married the summer after my first year of teaching, and midway through my second year, my husband and I moved to a small town in western Oklahoma.  He pastored the church and I languished–I was way too unprepared for the expectations of being “the preacher’s wife.”  The only question I remember being asked by the board when we interviewed was whether I played the piano.  I did not–probably the only wife of a Nazarene minister not to do so, but, trust me, being a minister’s wife had never been one of my goals.  I thought I was marrying a history teacher/bus driver.

Part of what helped me during that time is that I worked part time at a flower shop.  This was a small town but it had a large hospital that drew people from the panhandles of Okahoma, Texas and southwestern Kansas.  Until my boss put in his shop, there’d only been one florist in town.  So we were the new kids in town.  We were very busy.  I remember being ankle deep in clippings from corsages and bouquets on Mother’s Day.  The other thing I remember about working there is that there was a significant Seventh Day Adventist population in the area.  Their faith discouraged them from buying and selling on their sabbath, so about 1 hour before closing time on Saturdays, the phone would start ringing.  They allowed as much of their sabbath to pass as possible before they placed their orders.  Then we had to scurry to get them done and out the door before being closed for Sunday.  Other memories of this time include our boss getting married and our having to do the flowers–talk about pressure!!

We moved back to Oklahoma City after about a year when I got an offer to apply for a teaching position at our alma mater.  I got the job with the proviso that I would start graduate school and earn a PhD, which I readily agreed to.  The next few years are a blur–we lived in the men’s dorm where my husband was the resident counselor, we had a son, and I continued teaching fulltime and going to school.  I had no idea what I was doing in grad school–I could certainly do the classwork, but I had a hard time grasping a vision of what I was doing beyond meeting the requirement for teaching at the college.  Time moved on, we bought a house, re-did it, had another son, my husband finished grad school, sometimes commuting 150 miles 3 times a week, and I grew restless, thinking I was never going to finish my dissertation.  I had no problem finishing my coursework but not having the discipline of class meetings to write, I soon began to feel like I wasn’t going to make it.  I took a sabbatical from teaching and determined I was going to finish–therapy also helped.  :-)  I was an avoidant personality–oh, really?  I remember taking my 6 year old to school one morning during this time and noticing that he was distressed.  When I inquired, asking him what was wrong, he replied, “I don’t know what I’m going to do my dissertation on.”  yikes!!  I assured him that not everyone in the world had to do a dissertation, and resolved to be a little less transparent about my struggle.  (Just this week he started his own graduate program!)

I was stuggling, too, at the college.  Women were not very high on the list of valuable human beings at that place–it was very paternalistic, reflecting its religious roots.  I was growing more and more dissatisfied with the whole conservative religion thing–I’d traveled to Russia as a sponsor of a mission trip with abut 50 college students and was treated like an underling–told to go to a meeting with the students when the rest of the (male) sponsors went out on the town in Budapest.  I’d been able to move into working in the degree completion program for adults and that had helped me some, but I just didn’t see staying at the college for the rest of my life–as I did when I started.

So, with a newly minted PhD, finally, and a great deal of disagreement from my husband, I quit my job there.  I worked as a GA again, this time in the school of library and information studies at the University of Oklahoma.  It was small-time wages but I felt like I had to re-tool.  My library studies classes merged nicely with my communication studies.  I was offered the assistant dean’s job in the library school, which I accepted.  Commuting 35 miles to Norman everyday was not great, but my mantra was “I am the mother of teen-aged sons; time alone in the car is not the worst part of my day.”  I got a cell phone for emergency calls, most of which entailed some variation of “What’s for supper, Mom?”

I worked at OU 3 years–then I decided I wanted to work in a library–what I’d gone back to school for.  I actually didn’t get a couple of jobs I thought were shoo-ins for me.  I had this great academic background but no academic libraries seemed interested.  Just as well.  I hired on in the large public library system in town and became manager of the Downtown agency about a year and a half after I started.  I learned a whole lot during that process–we built a new building, installed the internet, went through a couple of directors, and about 9.5 years later, I knew it was time for another change.  I’d gotten too old to dread going to work each day, to work for a person who was a nit-picker and who was never going to give me the support and freedom I needed to do my job.  Besides, I found myself at the same age my mother was when she was diagnosed with the cancer that finally took her life, and I knew that I didn’t want to spend the next 10 years of my life there if my life-path happened to follow my mother’s.

For the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t working.  The first six months were great, but then I began to become the hermit that I am prone to be.  My friend at the library at the state historical society asked me if I wanted to work a few days a week, and I agreed.  I’ve worked there about 2 years as a library-tech–and it’s been great.  It’s the sort of job you don’t have to take home with you.  I’ve recently been “promoted” to replace the librarian who has left–I’ll have some supervisory duties and work 4 days a week.  Part of me wishes I could have just kept the tech position, but this is the library that got me started in my genealogical adventures and where my volunteer time convinced me I wanted to go back to school to earn an MLIS.  So maybe this is my give-back time.  We’ll see.

That’s my history of labor–it’s fascinating to look back and see how fortunate I’ve been to be able to nearly always work in a job that I love–that involves information and communication and research of some sort.  And, as I always told my seniors at the college and a few people since–it’s not the degree, it’s the skills.  Market your skills.

1 Comment »

26 May 2008

Memorial Day 2008: 2nd Lt. Lloyd G. Crabtree

Filed under: Cooper Family, Grandmother O, Holidays, Texas by allmyanc

Uncle Lloyd's card

This is my great Uncle Lloyd. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to get acquainted with him in the last years of his life. I’d always heard about Uncle Lloyd who’d done a stint in a prison camp during the war. But he and Aunt Marge lived in Houston and then retired to Oregon so I didn’t get to see them all that much when I was growing up. Aunt Marge was my (paternal) Grandmother Osborne’s youngest sister, and she was married to Uncle Lloyd.

Uncle Lloyd was the only survivor of his B-17 bomber group. They were on their 4th mission, flying over Holland when they were shot down.

Recently, Footnote.com put up Missing Crew Reports as part of their holdings. I searched on Uncle Lloyd’s name, not knowing what to expect, but up came the report for his crew. All the names are there as well as Uncle Lloyd’s account of the 11 January 1944 incident. Perhaps the most poignant portion of this packet of materials is the “Individual Casualty Questionnaire” that Uncle Lloyd had to complete for each of his crew. He had to write “I think he was killed by enemy gunfire in ship” 9 times, once on each form for each crew member. Once it is crossed out and replaced by “He probably was killed when ship crashed.” This last was about the navigator who had opened his chute by mistake in the nose of the plane and couldn’t be persuaded to jump when it was time to go.

This packet of materials was evidently sent to him about 2 years after he returned home. His letter is dated 15 March 1946 from Blanco, Texas. He and Aunt Marge went to the Hill Country of Texas to a sheep ranch for some recovery time. Aunt Marge has written about the healing time they spent there in her own memoirs.

In 1979, Uncle Lloyd responded to another grand-niece’s request for an interview of a combat veteran. It was the impetus that let Uncle Lloyd finally talk to us about his war experiences. He eventually wrote Every Twenty-Nine Seconds which tells of his experiences during World War II. He said one of the first things he recalled was being in the nose of the B-17 before daylight. There were about 6 of the big birds ahead of his on the runway awaiting take off, and they were supposed to clear the runway every twenty-nine seconds. He tells about seeing the Zuider Zee as he was floating down out of his “ship,” and the Dutch woman whose thatched roof he landed on giving him gingerbread and milk before some of Goering’s Youths took him into custody.

He included some correspondence he had with some of the crew members’ family members and with a Dutch researcher. The researcher asked Uncle Lloyd if he would go again. Here’s his reply:

As terrible as it was, it was the price that we had to pay to keep America free. Yes, I would go again. If we had not gone, this present generation would probably not be allowed to ask questions to search for the truth.

The freedom to ask those questions was really really important to Uncle Lloyd. He was a gentle, funny, loving man. This Memorial Day I’ve been thinking about him a lot.

7 Comments »

25 January 2008

Games

I’m late this week doing Miriam’s “assignment.” I think I spent too much time worrying about the prompt from last week–about diversity. From reading her blog, it looks like I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t particularly comfortable writing about my family’s views on social diversity and civil rights. It’s not a pretty picture and I like to think I’ve moved past those opinions.

So I am writing about games because we played lots of them.

*Did you have a regular game night or family night?

No. Our family of 5 didn’t play games all that much, but when we got together with other family members, we always played cards (with grandparents) or dominoes or Monopoly (with cousins).

*What games (board, card, dice, or acting out) did your family enjoy? Was there a favorite you played time after time?

I wish I had a dime for every game of Pitch, Gin, and Spades I’ve played. We had such fun–my husband had never played cards and when he got acquainted with my grandparents, he learned to play. My grandmother thought he was unnaturally lucky and would throw salt at him or back around his chair to make him think she could break his luck. The rest of us were usually collapsed on the table with laughter and my husband was just amazed that my grandmother could be that crazy.

We also played Yahtzee a lot, Aggravation (marbles), Sorry, and also dominoes. I remember learning to play Clue and playing it obsessively one South Dakota summer with my friend Lois. We’ve also played our share of Trivial Pursuit. This past Thanksgiving, we played a game called Apples to Apples which was great fun–I gave it to a couple of people for Christmas.

*Did your family have a family or game room? What was it like? What kind of game equipment did it have (foosball, pool table, etc.)?

No game room. We just set up the card tables in the living room or den–my brother has made an Aggravation board, and he’s also made this cool 8 sided, felt covered topper for a card table for cards or dominoes.

*Do you have any funny stories or a particular memory (good or bad) that stands out of game-playing time?

See the story about my grandmother and my husband above.

*Were there any games you disliked? Why?

To this day, I don’t like to play Monopoly because of bad memories. The great aunt and uncle we lived near by had one daughter and 8 grandkids. Those grandkids knew how to rumble, and when they came to visit, I inevitably got roped into playing Monopoly with the boys (there were only 2 girls in the bunch) and my brothers. I was sure they were cheating–which, translated, probably meant I was losing. Later, my husband and sons played Monopoly–I wouldn’t play–and the same level of emotion often “erupted” from that game. So I avoid it. Let’s face it–I work for non-profits.

*Were there any games that were not allowed to be played? Why?

The only thing I can remember is that my grandmother went through phases of thinking it wasn’t “ok” to play cards. It sort of depended on what preacher she’d heard recently. As she got older, and also as we begged her, she would play with gusto.

My husband had never played cards nor had he played any game with dice. He said his mother would make a spinner for any game that required the throw of dice to move ahead. He soon mastered both cards and dice. Don’t tell his mom.

*Did your parents have a regular night when they would play games or cards with friends or extended family?

No, though I do have a very early memory of going to some people’s house who were high-school friends of my parents. They played cards, but I only remember that happening once.

*Did you ever have game nights with groups, clubs, or neighbors on a regular basis?

No.

*Was game playing associated with certain annual events, like holidays, birthdays, or vacation times?

Our game playing tends to be centered around the holidays when we were all together. The past few years, it is Thanksgiving.

*What kinds of snacks and beverages were enjoyed during game playing?

The times we played with grandparents, we often had popcorn. (See my story about popping corn with my grandfather and friend here.) My granddad was also particularly fond of ice cream, to “cool your belly.” My sisters-in-law usually have some yummy snacks–almonds, M&Ms, and those butter-soaked crackers with chocolate chips melted on top and sprinkled with nuts.

*Were there prizes awarded to game winners or even to losers? What kinds? Did everyone chip in towards purchasing the prizes?

No prizes. Just bragging rights.

*Did your family or you ever do jigsaw puzzles? What’s the largest–in terms of number of puzzle pieces–jigsaw puzzle you’ve completed?

We don’t do this so much any more but we used to. I remember having one one year that was too big to fit on the card-table. One of the doctor’s office I go to often has a jig-saw puzzle out on a table–I often find myself working on it and thinking about the times we used to do them as a family.

*What did you do with completed puzzles? Did you display them or simply put them away?

They went back in the box and probably then to the thrift shop.

*What about puzzles such as crosswords, cryptograms, or others found in puzzle books? Are you a Sudoku fiend?

My mom and I used to race to see who could get to the crossword puzzle in the newspaper first. And it was a standing joke in our family that Dad knew the most esoteric things. When I asked my own husband some question about a long-ago political party, and he knew the answer was “Locofoco,” I knew the torch had been passed.

One of my brothers likes crosswords and the other likes cryptograms. One of my sons does Sudoku–I’ve avoided them as I’m afraid of getting another obsession.

*Did you ever go to an arcade and play pinball machines or other arcade-style games? Or did you ever shoot pool?

There were pinball machines at the bowling alley in the little town where I grew up, and the bowling alley was one of the approved places to go. I liked playing pinball. I don’t remember playing pool until I went to college, and then it was at the home of the dean of the fairly conservative college I attended. fun!

*Do you remember seeing your first video game, either in an arcade or on a television (Pong, Atari or early Nintendo games)?

I remember playing Pong on an early Apple personal computer. We had one in the department where I taught–it was out for anyone to play so we could “get over” any anxiety we had about computers. What a good idea. :-)

*What kinds of video games did you like to play, if any? Do you play any now (gaming station or handheld)?

I quit playing video games a long time ago–I used to play Mario Brothers–on my computer. Those games have long out-stripped my abilities. This past Christmas holiday, I was laying in bed, listening to my now adult sons out in the living room playing Wii–they were having a good time and I was having a good time listening to them.

*What was your first computer game? Do you ever play computer games now, either on your computer or online?

I think my first computer game was probably Pong. I do occasionally play Bejeweled, Text-Twist, Freecell, Solitaire, and Zuma–mostly games my son installed on my computer and got me hooked on. I don’t play online. Too chicken.

*What about the present? Does your family or do you personally play games or do puzzles? Do you participate in game nights with others, such as poker or Bunco?

We tend to play games only at holidays when we’re all together. My oldest son and I occasionally do crosswords–

*Here are some other game ideas to write about: lawn games (horseshoes, croquet, badminton); kid games (marbles, jacks); betting, casino games, and bingo; party games (pinata, pin the tail on the donkey), etc.

I loved playing jacks as a kid. I can still smell the heat coming off the building and sidewalk where we sat in second grade playing game after game of jacks at recess. I was pretty good–I think I had fairly good hand-eye coordination. I can remember playing horseshoes occasionally in South Dakota–I could never get the hang of it. I did master shuffleboard–the best minister at our little church when I was a teen put a shuffleboard game and a ping-pong table in the church basement. I wonder how I kept from letting loose with the swear words then?

*What do you know about your parents’, grandparents’, or perhaps even great-grandparents’ game playing? Do you remember them saying anything about games they played when they were young?

My maternal grandparents played cards. And they also talked about playing baseball and basketball at their country school. My grandmother was supposedly pretty good–or maybe it was just my granddad’s romantic memories. He always talked about how good she was. Somehow I don’t think my paternal grandparents would have played games–but I just don’t know.

*Do you have any photos of either your present or your childhood families playing games? What about ancestral photos?

I have lots of pics of us playing cards and various other games. Here’s one from last Thanksgiving–Aggravation on the homemade board. Sadly, no ancestral photos.

Aggravation

1 Comment »

31 October 2007

Popcorn Balls

Filed under: Holidays, Oklahoma, Unruh Family by allmyanc

Today’s newspaper has a cover story in the Life section about popcorn balls, tying it to Halloween and fall. One of my favorite memories is making popcorn balls with my granddad.

My mom’s parents lived in South Dakota in an old house that I suspect was built about 1880. The kitchen had a sloping floor because it had been built with a cistern underneath–the cistern was no longer used but the floor still sloped. My grandmother said she saw a fireball roll across the kitchen floor one evening during a lightening storm, and my dad said the second year of my brother’s life he (dad) was always soaked in milk because he sat “downhill” from him at mealtimes. That kitchen also had at least 2 and sometimes 3 pantries–depending on which state of re-modeling the kitchen was in–they stored such disparate things as the shotguns and rifles we used for hunting, the ironing board, and every check-stub my granddad ever wrote.

The evenings were long in South Dakota–I was usually either re-reading the Zane Grey series of westerns my grandmother had bought on subscription for my aunt, or I was trying to watch the snowy television that got one channel.

Sometimes Granddad decided we needed a treat–he had a real sweet tooth, which, of course, was just fine with us grandkids. He believed in lots of ice cream to “cool your belly.” That was no mean fete when the ranch was 17 miles from town–we usually had a small cone from the dairy stand next door to the grocery store, and then we wrapped the frozen 1/2 gallons of ice cream from the store in triple layers of newspaper tied with string to transport them home. But sometimes the treat of choice was popcorn balls.

Making popcorn balls with Granddad (as was anything when Granddad was involved) was a real procedure. First we had to fire up the old O’Keefe and Merritt range that ran on propane. We had to find just the right pan to pop the corn in, adjust for the precise ratio of corn and oil, and then we had to find the exact balance between shaking the pan and letting it sit so the maximum number of kernels would pop.

Even after this careful attention, some unpopped kernels made it through, so we had to sort those out. We usually made 3 or 4 batches of popcorn, and we put them in the big enamel dishpan on the table that sat in the middle of the kitchen. Us kids were usually tasked with sorting while Granddad got the syrup started.

The recipe must have been in his head because I never saw a piece of paper. He watched it carefully, adjusting the gas flame and analyzing the boil and then dropping a sample into a cup of cold water. He’d stick his finger into the water and roll the sample around–if it formed a ball then it was ready–he seemed to be able to look at the bubbles in the pan, though, and know. I doubt he ever saw a candy thermometer. All this time, he’s narrating what he’s doing and telling us what he’s looking for. I listened, but my own popcorn balls still require a recipe. And a thermometer.

If we were lucky, we could rustle up some nuts to put into the mix–sometimes Granny had some pecans or peanuts squirreled away and those went into the dishpan mix as well. He gave it a final stir to be sure we’d gotten all the “old maids” out–see below for my theory on why he called them that. Maybe he added a shake or two of salt. Then, while telling us how important it was to pour the hot syrup carefully so we didn’t get burned but also so it coated all the popped corn, Granddad began pouring in the boiling clear sweet syrup. He’d turn the dishpan with one hand and pour the syrup in a very thin stream with the other. Sometimes he’d tell us to go ahead and start stirring–how we avoided getting burned I’ll never know, but I don’t remember any serious accidents.

Then it was time to eat. Most of the popcorn never made it into a ball–we just ate it “loose.” It was delicious everytime. We’d eat our fill and then peel the stray bits of syrup off the sides of the dishpan. I remember later after he and Granny had moved from South Dakota down to stay with my aunt in Oklahoma where I was going to college, a college friend and I persuaded Grandad to help us make some popcorn at my aunt’s. Grandad couldn’t hear very well as he aged, but when my friend asked me why he called the unpopped kernals “old maids,” and in a hushed tone, I ventured a guess, we were met with a “Now, girls…” from Granddad. I reminded him that he didn’t hear so well and he reminded me to be nice. My friend and I still have a laugh over that one.

Recently I met a woman who told me that one of her favorite childhood memories was going to my great-aunt’s house at Halloween because my Aunt Edna always had delicious popcorn balls. This was out in the Oklahoma panhandle, where the trick-or-treating took some chauffeuring as the farm houses weren’t all that close together. Aunt Edna was my granddad’s sister–must have been one of their family traditions.

2 Comments »

24 December 2006

“….of Christmases long, long ago.”

Christmas 1964

This is my brothers and me at the house where our great Aunt Lorene (of bladder training fame) was working as caretaker for an elderly woman in Beaver County, Oklahoma, probably about 1964. Check out the wallpaper in the background.This picture re-appeared out of my grandmother’s things–it was probably one my mom had sent her and she had it enlarged and framed which is how I found it.

The gifts aligned in front brought back all sorts of memories. The basket of apples, the horse and the clock, which also helped me date the picture, reminded me of Mom and Aunt Lorene “decorating” the room for the boys that had been built on the back of the house we moved into when we moved back from South Dakota. The year I was in the 6th grade, and that Thad was in the 5th, and that Mike went to kindergarten, we lived in an apartment above our grandmother’s country store in Canning, South Dakota. When we decided not to buy land there and stay, we moved back to Perryton to the small house my folks had lived in right after they married and that I’d come home to after being born. It was two bedrooms, and now it was too small for we three, so a room and (I think) another bathroom had been built on the back for the boys.

This mean bedspreads and curtains had to be made, so Mom and Aunt Lorene sprang into action–I don’t know if Aunt Lorene already had the fabric–it’s possible, but it was red with insets of horses and apple trees–hence the things under the Christmas tree. It was certainly a different time–I’m not sure 8 and 12 year old boys would go for that now. (Maybe they didn’t then, but they certainly didn’t say so.)

It looks like Mike and Thad have also been the recipients of an ear of corn with a harmonica implanted. I think the transistor radio was Thad’s, though I’m pretty sure I coveted it. And the walkie talkie-was undoubtedly theirs as well. The game of Concentration was undoubtedly a family game–I remember playing it a lot–it took forever to set up, but it was fun. I really didn’t have much call to use a muff in that part of the county, but I liked having it as a fashion statement, along with those glasses, don’tchaknow? Don’t think I wore the hat much–it would have mussed that great hair. I think there’s also a photo album of some sort and a some sort of Christmas ornament. Mike’s truck is red–to match their room, no doubt.

I wish I could seee the boys’ boots better–those and the Levis and the buzz cuts were constants for them. I sort of remember getting that lavendar outfit–out of some sort of polyester, as I recall, which was great since it meant no ironing–”wash and wear” we called it. And I’m pretty sure there was an argument about the hemline.

Youngest brother Mike recently told my sons that he’s looking at me like that because I’d just hit him and he didn’t know why–hmmmmm. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have done that.

Here’s hoping for the generation of some great family memories for you and yours this holiday–and that someone’s taking pictures.

No Comments »

25 November 2006

Thanksgiving in Houston

Filed under: Holidays, Osborne Family by allmyanc

Despite several false starts, hubbo and I finally made it to Houston to my brother’s where the rest of the clan had gathered for Thanksgiving. We didn’t get there until about 4:00 Thanksgiving Day, but it was worth that long awful drive to Houston. Both of my brothers and all of our descendants, plus a few friends were gathered. I had to go, even if it was only for a few hours. Here we are:

Thanksgiving

No Comments »

6 November 2006

As the Holidays Approach

Filed under: Ephemera, General, Holidays, How to by allmyanc

I’m not sure that anyone really reads this blog, but if you’re out there, let me encourage you to use the opportunities that may come to you during the holidays to learn more about your family’s health history. About Genealogy has a good story, with a link to a free piece of software to help you at http://genealogy.about.com/od/health_history/a/medical.htm.

You doctor will be thrilled to have this info and it may even improve your quality (and quantity) of life.  There are good tips on what to look for as well as what to do if most of your family is deceased or you don’t have access to the information.

No Comments »

2 July 2006

July 4 Rodeo

Filed under: Holidays, South Dakota by allmyanc

I think most families had picnics or barbeques for July 4. My dad always said he worked outside all day and he wasn’t interested in eating out there, too. He had a point–it was usually 110 degrees and not many shade trees in the Texas panhandle.

But I was lucky enough to be in South Dakota staying with my grandparents on July 4 most summers. We still didn’t have a picnic, but we did get to go to the rodeo in Ft. Pierre. Ft. Pierre was just across the really big old metal bridge over the Missouri River from Pierre, but it seemed further away than that because it was such a different place. It was a fairly rough town–lots of bars and cowboys and such. Sometimes my cousin Willie rode the bulls in the rodeo, and then eventually he was one of the clowns. I don’t think they call them clowns any more, but that’s how far removed from rodeos my life is these days. Do they call them bull fighters?

The rodeo was the highlight of the summer, though. Usually we got to go to town and buy some new cowboy duds. My fave was the summer I got to buy red jeans and a red checked, ruffled shirt. I tried every year to wear the boots that were in the upstairs closet at my grandmother’s, but they were just too big. And while my brother got boots, I couldn’t talk my grandad into buying me some. I don’t think I actually tried too hard as it wasn’t all that cool for girls in the early and mid 1960s to wear cowboy boots.

That rodeo has been held every year since 1832, according to this website. I wouldn’t doubt it. Ft. Pierre has been there for a very long time–early fur traders were there by the late 1700s and by 1830, there was a trading post there. Of course, before that, the Sioux were there–one of the confrontations that Lewis and Clark had in 1804 with the American Indians on their journey west happened here.

But much of that history I’ve learned since then. At that time, I knew that Casey Tibbs was from Ft. Pierre and that he was the ultimate rodeo cowboy. I assume we saw him ride in the early 50s, thought I don’t specifically remember. What I do remember is that some guy flicked his cigarette ashes in the cuff of my little brother’s jeans and they caught on fire.

And I have this picture from Casey Tibbs’ funeral in 1990. It’s from an article in the Rapid City newspaper. The man standing beside the casket is my great Uncle Velcie, a cowboy in his own right (his last name ought to be AnderTon–a common mistake). Uncle Velcie broke horses for a living, but he also worked on the Oahe Dam when they were damming up the wide Missouri. Then there was the time he broke and trained 20 mules to a hitch, driving them from the Black Hills to Death Valley. That was in 1966 when he was about 57–not much older than I am now and I’m pretty sure I’m not up to it. He was still working cattle in his 80s.

Uncle Velcie and Casy Tibbs

I loved going to the rodeo. I’ve heard lots of people say they’ve never been or only been to 1 or two. My husband had never been until I took him to the National Finals here in Oklahoma City before they left town. He cheered for the animals–and I’d never really looked at it from that perspective before. But I loved the grand entry at the beginning, and at the Ft. Pierre event, there was what I remember as a really great fireworks show at the end. We must have been really dusty and smelly at the end of that long evening and probably slept the 17 miles home to my grandparents’ home, but I just remember what fun it was and how much I looked forward to it every year. And I’m glad to say I’ve known some real cowboys.

No Comments »