Friday, December 28, 2012

All Goode Things Must End

The first time I met Maurie Goode I thought how fitting his name was - he seemed like such a good guy. My opinion of him only solidified over time.
It was 1975. I was working at one of my all-time favorite jobs - office manager of Lariam Associates Recording Studio. One of the reasons it was a favorite job was because it was a one-person (at that time we said "one-gal") office. I loved being in charge of the bookkeeping, secretarial work, scheduling, shipping, receiving, dealing with the public, answering the phones, even getting the boss his coffee.
Radio commercials, voice-overs for TV spots and recording books for the blind were the recording mainstays. If the client didn't already have a particular 'voice' in mind, we might send a voice demo tape to them to listen to and select from. Or, which was more common, the client might just say: "I want a man who sounds country", which is how I met Maurie.
That tall, slim, guy with the salt and pepper hair and laugh lines etched in his face sure looked country when he strode into the office in his plaid shirt and blue jeans. And when he introduced himself, he really sounded country. And nice. Very nice. Friendly; somehow trustworthy. My boss had already told me that Maurie had his own country-western band, Maurie Goode and the Country Gentlemen. Ah, gentleman, that was the word to describe Mr. Goode. He suggested I should come and hear them play sometime.
The Holiday Inn South at Gray's Lake was a happening place in the 70's. Maurie's band had a standing gig there every Thursday night for thirteen years - until the inn was sold. I remember going there alone one night. Some guy asked me to dance and then asked me to join his table of friends. During one of the band's breaks, Maurie came over to say hello to me and then quietly cautioned me against the fellow. Good advice as it turned out. But that is the kind of man Maurie was, and I'm sure has always been.
Now, according to the article in this morning's online edition of the DM Register, Maurie Goode and the Country Gentlemen will be performing for the last time tonight after nearly 50 years together. They'll play their last dance in Maurie's hometown of Indianola. I'm sure the place will be packed.

(In the picture, Maurie is the goode guy in the white hat standing.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Idle Tears or A Cleansing Cry?

So often poetry or songs (which are poetry set to music) come to mind when I am trying to identify what I'm feeling. This picture is of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom 1850-1892 and one of my favorites. Today it is this poem of his in my memory banks:

Tears, Idle Tears

   Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather in the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!

There were numerable times during the years I was caring for my aging mother when she would begin to cry. She always tried to stop herself, saying, "I don't know what I'm crying for." Sometimes it was when we had been remembering something about my sister, Betty, and I had no doubt about her tears for her daughter's early death.
But mostly, it wasn't so easy to define. Now, when I experience those same kinds of days, as I have been this week, Tennyson's words come to mind: "Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean...."

I don't know why I've been feeling like crying. I've wondered if it is a delayed reaction to the Newtown horrors of last week. When I got home last Friday morning and saw the news online, my reaction was "(Expletive), Not another school shooting." And that was before we knew how bad it was.

My depressed feelings may just be a part of the year - SAD (seasonal affective disorder), although I've been fine until this week. Thank goodness today is the solstice and the light begins to return. A month from today I will already be noticing the lengthening of the daylight.

I know my tears are definitely emotional. Even Aristotle had a theory that crying cleansed the mind and reduced distress by releasing emotion. I have been anti-tears for many years - beginning as far back as age 16 when I bade my Grandpa Joe goodbye - crying beside his coffin at visitation, but promising him "I won't cry at your funeral tomorrow." (I remember telling my Mom the same thing before Dad's funeral.) I guess I've long felt that tears were a sign of weakness and I do not want to be perceived as weak.

But maybe Aristotle was right and all I need is a good cleansing cry. It won't take anything to get me started: thinking about the pregnant young mother killed in the 30 vehicle pile-up in yesterday's snow storm on I-35 in Northern Iowa; the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary students and employees; or even looking at those snow covered autumn fields.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears"

My Sophomore English instructor died yesterday. He began his teaching career the same year I started high school, 1957. This picture is from my senior year book. You can't make it out, but the writing says "Best Wishes, Neal N. Brown". I learned from his obituary today the N. stands for Nathan.
Mr. Brown was 27 when he began teaching after a stint in the USMC. He maintained his Marine bearing throughout his life. Small town life in Corning must have agreed with him. He taught at CHS thirty-four years. I don't think there is anyone who does not remember him fondly as a teacher and a friend.

Neal was a guest at our 50th class reunion last year. He had us laughing with his remarks before launching into the "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech he made us memorize and recite when we were in his class. He spoke the entire speech from memory. We applauded him heartily.
The words from William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar play would have to be rearranged for Mr. Brown: "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him." Strike 'not' - Mr. Brown will be highly praised. He is already being so on Facebook pages and online condolences. "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." The good Mr. Brown did over his lifetime will most definitely live after him. (I doubt he ever did anything very evil.)

There are good teachers, bad teachers, mediocre teachers and excellent teachers. Teachers can play many roles in a student's life. Neal was an excellent teacher and role model.

Teachers can be and are heroes. We learned that once again last Friday.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

One Box At A Time

There were a number of reasons this house seemed 'just right' to us when we were house hunting. Not the least of which was that there were rows and rows of shelves on two sides of the garage. And even though we had purged and then some before moving, I still had many boxes of things I wanted to keep as well as a few I hadn't had time to go through.
The way I had it planned, I would get all that remaining stuff sorted out and do something with it in the first few months we lived here. Those shelves on my side of the garage would be neat and orderly - all the boxes labeled, etc., etc., etc. If you can see at the very bottom of the above picture, under the white stack container, there is an envelope. Sticking out of it is a copy of our sale bill with the date, September 6, 2008. It has been more than four years and not only have I not cleaned out any of those boxes, I've added to them!

So here is my plan - just as I've had some success losing a pound a week, I will sort and empty at least one box a week. That should be doable, right? Along the way I will find things I had forgotten about - grist for the blogger mill.
"One box at a time, Ramona, that's all I'm asking of you. Give me the strength to do every week what I have to do. Show me the way to sort through the fray, one box at a time."  (With apologies for paraphrasing one of my Mom's favorite songs, 'One Day At A Time'.)

So here are the first three boxes pictured in the previous shot. (The shoe box was empty. I save them because they make good storage boxes and that one hasn't been used yet.) I have always loved wooden boxes; collecting them over the years. The large one was what Mom used for a hankie box. I remember when she taught me how to iron, beginning with pressing the hankies. When I got done ironing all the ones in that week's laundry, I climbed up on a chair and put them in this box which was on top of her chest of drawers. I thought it was fun and I was such a big girl.

I knew what was inside that box now - Mom had made it into a recipe box. There are recipes in there that I'll never use, but I can't just throw them away because they are in my Mom's handwriting. Which one of her granddaughters want these?
The smaller box is an 'Officer's Club' cigar box. Below the insignia is "Imported and Domestic" 8 cents; 2 for 15. Tucked away are some sea shells, candles w/Candlelight Service drip protectors (from when/where, I know not), a bar of Greengage & Company soap, a couple St. Patrick's Day cards (not shown), and A Bit Of Blarney postcard. On the back of the card is written: "R: If I had a million dollars and a million years, it wouldn't be enough to show you how much I love you. Your Husband, Bud" Aw-w..... 

Individually wrapped in newspapers inside the Georgia-Pacific Copier Paper box was this treasure trove of mostly pottery and ceramics. The antique glass flask at the top right back is something a friend of mine had collected. (You can see the bubbles in the glass.) After she died from cancer at age 50, I wanted something to remember her by. I got this at a garage sale her daughter had.
In the box lid are some cookie presses and a necklace made by the little hands of my grandchildren several years ago. There are a few more pieces of the pottery I made in a class years ago as well as a purchased raku fired pot (back corner, right). That's a 1944 wheat penny in the little pot, front left.
Middle row left is a "Cead Mile Failte" door harp daughter Kari made for me for Christmas in 1990. (After going too deeply into credit card debt for expensive gifts two years previously, she had learned it was better to make gifts and live within her means.)
Next to the door harp is another gift from Kari - a clay statuary piece of the Celtic Goddess Cerridwen designed by Paul Borda for Dryad Design, Ltd. She got this for me at the Women's Spirituality Conference in Mankato in 1998. Behind it, another Kari gift - a Tenmoku Pottery wall vase.
The black 'Tree Pentacle' in the back is another Dryad Design piece by Paul Borda. For as long as I've had this, I hadn't realized there are words around the edge. They read: "Seed, root, stem, bud, flower, leaf, fruit; representing the endless cycle of rebirth."
The black wall sconce next to Cerridwen was made by my son Preston when he was in fifth grade. He thought it was ugly. I think it is beautiful. I love it as well as the brown one behind it and the gray and blue ones in the box lid.
That's it. This week's box is sorted. Well, sorta'. Now what do I do with these treasures I've uncovered? A few of them are going to find places around the house. Most will probably go back into their newspaper protection and back into the box. See, that's the problem I have with going through the boxes of stuff - only a small portion will get disposed of. I'll still have box after box after.... on the shelves.

It might help me stay motivated if I keep this Richard Nixon quote in mind: "When I retire I'm going to spend my evenings by the fireplace going through those boxes. There are things in there that ought to be burned."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

This Ole' House

A couple of months ago I mentioned that I liked listening to a radio station out of Stuart, Iowa because it played so many of the old country western tunes I liked. Well, now I have a new favorite radio station a bit closer to home. The station is KSOI. It broadcasts out of the above Ole' House in Murray, Iowa - a town of about 760 people.
What is different about KSOI is that it is a locally programmed, community based (south central Iowa), non-commercial station. It's mission is to "strengthen localism, education, diversity, entertainment, and public participation." Oh, yeah, and to disseminate emergency information.

This is a map of their coverage area. As you can see, it isn't very broad-ranging. My favorite reason for listening is the diversity of their play lists. Yesterday morning I heard This Ole' House being sung by Willie Nelson. I didn't even know Willie had recorded Stuart Hamblen's tune and Willie is one of my favorite singers! That song was immediately followed by The Beatles', Eleanor Rigby. According to their Facebook page, KSOI 91.9 FM plays every genre of music from Alabama and Taylor Swift to Lady Gaga and Frank Sinatra. I love being surprised by what kind of music plays next.

When I heard This Ole' House, I remembered how much my Grandmother Bessie loved that song. Rosemary Clooney had a hit with it in 1954. Grandma was only 63 then but she related to the words of the song: "Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer, ain't a-gonna to need this house no more. Ain't got time to fix the shingles, ain't got time to fix the floor. Ain't got time to oil the hinges nor to mend the window pane. Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer, I'm a-gettin' ready to meet the saints."
Well, maybe her house did need repair and the acreage was more than she could deal with on her own. She was probably already thinking about selling it when the song was popular because within a couple years she had moved into town. I don't have a picture of the entire house. The above one of me and my big brother was taken in 1945 and shows that lovely porch we used to play on as the adults sat and rocked away.
The new owners added an attached garage and I'm sure did many interior renovations. I always wished I could go through the house to see what it is like now. When Grandma lived there she had a Route # address and the main highway, #34, passed by. After new 34 was built, the old highway became Hull Street. I wonder what she would think about the address of her old home bearing the name (Hull) of her ancestors.

As far as Grandma "meeting the saints" - any woman who had this much fun playing with her grand kids still had plenty of life left in her. She lived to over 96 years of age. Any time Grandma Lynam babysat us, it was a surety that we were going to have fun.

I'll probably be hearing more old tunes on my new favorite radio station which will bring back even more memories. If you're in the area, give them a listen at 91.9 FM.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shimmy, Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop

The subconscious mind is a marvelous mystery. Why? is the question I most often ask myself when that entity serves up yet another riddle. This morning it was the song Shimmy, Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop going round and round - which I was remembering as Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Thank goodness for Google which gave me the correct title so I could then look up the lyrics, but couldn't answer my real question which was "Why that song, this day?"
Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko-Ko-Bop was a hit song by Little Anthony and the Imperials released in November, 1959 when I was a junior in high school. I even went back in my diary and found the date when it had been "Tonight's Song" - Thursday, February 11, 1960 - thinking maybe there was something significant about that date which I needed reminding of. Nope. Nada. Pink, *date line, Dear Diary only informed me that I was working on my make-up lessons after being out of school for a week with either scarlatina or strep throat (which I had at least once a year as a youngster). 
You can find the lyrics for Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko-Ko-Bop here. It was one of those fun doo-wop songs. I much preferred their first hit song, Tears On My Pillow.

I'll never know why that song was in my head this morning. Maybe it was just so I would learn this bit of information: When I googled Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop - the way I was remembering the song - what I found was that it was based on a child's hand-clapping game, Down Down Baby.

The lyrics cited here are the essential lyrics of the rhyme, and are the lyrics that were featured in a 1980s segment of the US version of Sesame Street.

Down, down, baby
Down, down the roller coaster (accompanied by the hand making a horizontal wave motion)
Sweet, sweet, baby (accompanied by both arms crossing the chest)
I'll never let you go

Shimmy, Shimmy cocoa pop
Shimmy, Shimmy pow
Shimmy, Shimmy cocoa pop
Shimmy, Shimmy pow

Grandma, grandma sick in bed
She called the doctor and the doctor said
Let's get the rhythm of the head, ding dong (rock the head to each side once in time with "ding-dong")
Let's get the rhythm of the head, ding dong (rock the head to each side once in time with "ding-dong")

Let's get the rhythm of the hands (followed by two hand claps)
Let's get the rhythm of the hands (followed by two hand claps)

Let's get the rhythm of the feet (stomp the right foot, then the left)
Let's get the rhythm of the feet (stomp the right foot, then the left)

Let's get the rhythm of the hot dog (place hands on hips and twirl)
Let's get the rhythm of the hot dog (place hands on hips and twirl)

Put it all together and what do you get?
Ding dong (accompanied by head rock), (followed by two claps), (followed by two stomps), hotdog (accompanied by hip twirl)
Put it all backwards and what do you get?
Hotdog (accompanied by hip twirl), (followed by two stomps), (followed by two claps), ding dong (accompanied by head rock)

I never played hand-clapping games as a child, though I think they look like they would have been fun. Just yesterday Bud and I were once again talking about how, whenever we wonder about something, we just look it up and I remarked, "Think how dumb we'd be without the internet." Yep, it can tell me anything except why I was asking the question in the first place.

Shimmy, shimmy, ko-ko bop, shimmy, shimmy bop. Sittin' in a native hut, all alone and blue. Sittin' in a native hut, wonderin' what to do........

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Johnny Staccato - Coincidentally

Today's blog is brought to you via the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary 'Word of the Day'; connections (everything is connected); coincidences; and memories.
Tutelary (having the guardianship of a person or thing) is today's 'Word of the Day'. One of the examples is: "You can see a similar restlessness in the range of C.K.'s influences....Indie film pioneer John Cassavetes may be another tutelary spirit." - From a review by Adam Wilson in, September 25, 2012"
Seeing the name John Cassavetes reminded me of how much I liked him as an actor. He starred in the TV series Johnny Staccato (September 10, 1959-March 24, 1960) just when I was an impressionable teenager. My diary entry for September 10, 1959 includes: "Watched premiere of Johnny Staccato tonight." I failed to record my impression of it. Chances are I didn't get to watch it too often - it aired opposite ABC's The Real McCoys and CBS's Johnny Ringo (which I also really liked). I think we usually watched the ABC show - Dad pretty much ruled the TV viewing.

So when I looked up John Cassavetes to remind myself not only of the TV series but also some of his other parts and the films he directed, guess what? Today was the date of his birth in 1929 (December 9, 1929-February 3, 1989). How's that for coincidence?
I remembered really liking Cassavetes as an actor and being disappointed when he more or less gave up acting to become a writer/producer/director of independent films. One of his films, A Woman Under The Influence (1974), starred his wife, Gena Rowlands (the two shown above). Rowlands was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress and Cassavetes for Best Director for the film. (I am also a big fan of Gena Rowlands.)
Another memory staccato brings back: It must have been the year I first learned the word which roughly means disconnected, abrupt, disjointed. I remembered using it in the Ruffled Feathers column I wrote for the school paper: "Didja ever notice the different staccatoes of people going down stairs?"

On a totally unconnected subject, but still in the realm of coincidences - also this morning, through a Facebook thread, I saw a picture (below) from Tourism Ireland's FB page. Regular readers might remember my post Maam Cross (January, 2010) and the picture of the Connemara Mare (above) I wanted to bring home with me from Ireland.

It is nice to see via the Tourism Ireland's FB photos that little mare is still going strong. Or perhaps this is one of her progeny. After all, my trip was 18 years ago. Here's to coincidences and connections.

Friday, December 7, 2012

"It's beginning to look a lot like......"

Daughter Kari has been pinning a lot of seasonal ideas on her Pinterest board, but this is one of her own creations. She scored several of these pieces while antiquing in Ocean Shores last month. I admire her creativity as well as her good taste.

I'm all decorated for the holidays as well. This morning I pulled out the 32" fiber optic, gold tinsel tree and plugged it in. Add to that a bowl of apples and a "Welcome To The Naughty List" gift bag and I'm almost done.
For those who don't know already, I don't do well this time of year. I haven't liked Christmas since I was about 13. The older I got, the more of an overwhelming obligatory time it became.

OK. The decorating is done. A bow-wrapped glass block with a set of twinkle lights inside and a bag for the proverbial coal, that's it.
Actually, I do better with the season now that I no longer buy gifts for everyone. We will still get together with family members which is the best part for me.

Several years ago Bud received this shirt for a Christmas present. I always thought they gave it to the wrong grand-parent. I'm much more a bah humbug person than he is.

I found this gift list suggestion by Oren Arnold which comes close to my idea of gift giving: "To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect."

To that I will add the same thing I've asked for the past many, many years: Peace on Earth.

 Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What's In A Name?

I've written about nicknames before - how I've always been a Ramona and not a Mona. But reading the obituaries this morning started me thinking about nicknames again. This is the way the obituary started: "Elizabeth (originally "Betsy" and later, "Liz")....."  It got me thinking about how some people do change their names as they go through life. In this woman's case, perhaps her family called her Betsy as a child - which I do think is more a girl's name - and she decided to be Liz as she got older. To me Liz is more a woman's name - more worldly or sophisticated; more adult.
A few years ago I met a woman whose name was Thea. I assumed it was short for Dorothea or Theodora or even Theodosia. Nope. Her name was Cynthia, which she had gone by for many years. Then one day she decided she was a Thea. She suggested I should change my name - not to Mona, but to Rae. As in "Re - a drop of golden sun?" (Think Sound of Music.) Do I look like a Rae? Was she suggesting I would start acting younger, more hip, more fun, if I were a Rae?
I have a niece who started calling me Aunt Jamona when she was very young. I believe it was because she couldn't say (or remember) Aunt Ramona but because of the breakfast foods in their house, she could say Aunt Jemima which got translated as Aunt Jamona.

And that little nickname remembrance is how my blog became more about Aunt Jemima and less about what I started out to write. This is the way Aunt Jemima appeared until about 1957. The woman who portrayed the character for the Quaker Oats Company was Nancy Green. Her story is rather interesting. If you like, you can read about it here.

 My Grandma Ridnour collected salt and pepper shakers. In her collection she had a set like this one.

And I am almost certain we had a syrup pitcher like this one for our Aunt Jemima syrup.

No matter how old little Lorrie Anne gets, she is still going to call me Aunt Jamona. So I guess I do have a nickname after all. For an interesting article about 'what's in a name?' there's this one by Sam Sommers.

And lastly something I remember my Dad used to say when trying to teach us right from wrong: "Your name is all you've got."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Do You Want A Gun?"

I was researching family history and ran across a little teaser article on the same page (11) as my Great-great Grandmother Susana Means obituary in the February 15, 1911 Adams County Union-Republican. The article was headlined Highest Grade Guns and read: "Elsewhere in this issue is an advertisement of particular interest to all our men and boy readers. Wallaces' Farmer, of Des Moines, Iowa, offer the very highest grade of shot-guns and rifles for a little help. Any hustling boy can easily earn his own gun. Mention the Union-Republican when writing them."
What? Wallaces Farmer gave away guns? I searched through the issue until I found the advertisement on page 4:

If click on the ad, it is fairly legible. The gist of it is that the magazine was offering free guns in exchange for boys soliciting their friends, neighbors, relatives to subscribe to Wallaces Farmer Magazine at a special 'club rate' of 75 cents a year. (Regular subscription price was $1.00 a year.) The Stevens 22 caliber, visible loading, 15 shot, repeating rifle was priced at $8.00, but it was free to a boy "with some real American hustle and grit" for only 37 new subscriptions.
How many boys and young men read that and dreamed of having their own gun? Thinking how easy it would be to find 37 people willing to subscribe? And how many of them actually settled for the Stevens "Crack Shot" single shot rifle for only 8 new subscriptions or the Stevens "Favorite" single shot rifle for 12 new subscriptions?
The last paragraph of the ad states: "We also offer watches, footballs, baseballs, skates and many other articles. Send for complete list and full particulars." I can just hear a couple boys bragging about all they would hunt as soon as they got their guns. But the one youngster who might have succeeded was the quiet kid who kept his plans to himself; immediately sent off his letter of inquiry and then forged ahead to solicit new subscriptions.

This cover shot is from the February 1912 Wallaces' Farmer Magazine. The magazine began publication in 1898. Three generations of the Wallace family owned and published the paper. It was just one of the farm magazines my own family subscribed to which I remember from my childhood. (But in the 40's-50's & 60's I don't remember any offers of free guns.)

I do remember a sign like this on the fence at the end of our lane: "This farm protected by Wallaces Farmer Protective Service. $50 Reward." Reward for what? If you read the fine print it is: "for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone stealing from this property." I don't know if the protection service came with a subscription to the newspaper or if it was something you had to pay extra for. How many rascals bent upon thievery did a sign like this scare away? And $50 Reward? I guess that would have been quite a bit back then.

When I read the ad about earning a single shot rifle, I began wondering about the little 22 single shot Bud has that was his Dad's. Could he have earned it from Wallaces Farmer? But his gun is a model M-49 made by the Ithaca Gun Co. and wasn't manufactured until 1961.

Stevens Arms operated from 1864 until 1920 when it was bought by Savage Arms. Stevens company introduced the .22 Long Rifle. After 1920 they made training rifles for the military. The Stevens brand was discontinued by Savage around 1950.
Above is a 1907 Stevens 22 cal., visible loading, repeating rifle, the picture of which I found in Google images. It was in a blog by 'der Wandersmann' who is also a photographer. His was the only photo I found of a gun old enough to illustrate my blog. I hope he doesn't mind my using it. I found his blog about fire arms very interesting and his photography impressive.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Beautiful Mystery

Even if Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series wasn't one of my favourites and even if I hadn't been waiting for my turn to read the latest (#8), I would have picked this book up just because of the beautiful cover.
Armand Gamache and his second-in-command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, have been summoned to Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, a monastery hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, because the renowned choir director has been murdered. Gamache finds a small community of two dozen monks, almost evenly divided against one another over whether or not to release another recording of their beautiful Gregorian chants after the first one was such a popular and financial success.
Solving the mystery was just the first story-line in The Beautiful Mystery. The second, and more interesting to me, is what is going to happen to Jean-Guy as he continues his fight against his addiction to the pain killers he got hooked on while recovering from the wounds he received in the previous book. Especially now that Gamache's boss, who wants to discredit the inspector in order to get rid of him, has his evil hooks in Jean-Guy. This is the biggest problem with reading a series - I have to WAIT for the next book to come out.

The first time I looked at this book it didn't come home with me. I took a second look and decided to give The House of Velvet and Glass a try. Sibyl Allston is a young woman living in her father's elegant townhouse in Boston's Back Bay. She is trying to come to grips with the loss of her mother and sister on the Titanic by attending seances with others who lost loved ones in the sinking and hope to contact their spirits or receive some 'message' from them.

When I began writing about the books I had read it was in an effort to keep track of them and their authors and to perhaps rate them in some way. I am not a reviewer even though it seems I have gotten into trying to review what I have read. It has become somewhat of a chore. I had planned to do something different beginning in the new year, but I have decided, "Why wait? Why not start now?" So, though I haven't worked out details yet, after today, I think I will just list the books I've read, their author, and some type of rating system - either 1 thru 5 or A to F.

I will give this second novel of Katherine Howe's a 3 and say that I hope to read her first novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, when I can find a copy of it.

The Light Between Oceans is M.L. Stedman's first novel. I'm giving it a 4. It is the first book in a long time that has kept me awake to finish reading. (Which means I got about five hours of sleep last night.) The book is about a lighthouse keeper and his family who live on Janus Rock about one hundred miles off the coast of Western Australia. The time period is after WWI. It is not a mystery. It is a beautiful book of human drama and the choices we make. Okay, maybe a 5......

Thursday, November 29, 2012


I don't remember what grade Roman Numerals were taught in, but I do know I learned how to read them before I got to that grade. That was one of the advantages of the one room schools - listening in as the upper grades 'recited'.
Roman numerals fascinated me. It was revealing to learn there was another way to write numbers. After I published yesterday's blog, I realized it was my 600th post. Had I realized it ahead of time, I would probably have tried to write something significant for the occasion. But as my main reason for beginning my blog was to share my memories and old family pictures with my children and grandchildren, I'm glad yesterday's 600th blog was about another memory of my childhood.
Do elementary students still learn to read Roman Numerals? Could they tell today's post is DCI? 601?  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Which Twin Has The Toni?

I decided to let my hair grow at the end of summer so a couple of months ago I had a salon permanent. How different that was from the perms we had as youngsters! Home permanent kits were "in" during the 1950's - just in time for my sister and me to have the curls we weren't born with. (We weren't twins, of course. I was almost two years older than Betty (on the right), but Mom did often dress us alike.)

It was the boys in our family who were born with natural curl. That just never seemed fair to us. In this picture at the top, Betty (9), Ron (15), Les (1) and Ramona (11).

Before permanents Mom always fixed my hair in 'finger' curls. I don't know how she got the curls to stay in place for any length of time. Probably just long enough to snap a picture or two.

She also set our hair in rags which we had to sleep in. The curls would last longer that way. I never understood how rag curls worked. Even after watching a video on line I'm not sure how it is done.

It seemed like we would have our perms in late summer, just before school started in the fall. We always went down to Grandma Ridnour's where Aunt Lois would give us our (usually) Toni. I think Grandma's kitchen was turned into a beauty salon because she had a kitchen sink with the spray attachment which made the process easier. By the end of the school year, the overly curly perm had relaxed back into nearly straight hair. Betty almost always had bangs, while I rarely did.

As you can see in this picture - not much curl left. Which was preferable to me. I didn't like the overly curly, just-permed look. Getting a perm was torture; first having the curlers rolled as tightly as possible, then having that burning, gagging, lotion applied. I remember Mom and/or Aunt Lois giving me a towel to hold over my face to catch any drips, but that also trapped the ammonia fumes.

Toni was the most popular home permanent. Their magazine ads showed identical twins - one with the expensive $15.00 salon perm and the other with the $2.00 home perm. You were supposed to guess which twin had the Toni, which was hard to do since they both looked the same. And after you had purchased the first Toni which included the curlers, you could then buy a 'refill' kit (lotion, neutralizer and end papers) for $1.00.
There were other home perm brands. Richard Hudnut advertised a special perm just for children, as did Lilt with their "Party Curl". But I believe those brands were a little more expensive, so we got the Toni. When I was a little older, Bobbi came out with the "Roller Perm" which was advertised as the home perm for a softer, more casual curl. That was the perm I wanted, of course. No more Curlylocks for me! It took some talking, but I finally convinced Mom to let me have a Bobbi instead of a Toni.
The earliest salon permanents used machines something like this 1934 model. I remember when we moved to the Odell place west of Brooks there was a room upstairs with a lot of stuff left in it. One item was a machine which looked a lot like this. My first thought was that it was something used for torture. That probably wasn't too far off as guesses went. I don't even remember my first 'salon' permanent. I know it was after I graduated and got a job and had my own money to spend. And it was long after machines like this one were used!

I even got to the point where I could give myself a home perm - with just a little help. Bud's Mom was so surprised after we were married and I told her Bud had given me a perm. "He did?!" she exclaimed. "Well, he applied the lotion for me after I put the curlers in." I guess she just couldn't see her son as a beautician.

Most of the home permanent brands have gone by the wayside. They are a thing of the past. About the only brand still available is Ogilvie if you can find a store which carries it. The price ranges from $5.89 to $11.99; curlers extra.

I doubt I'll ever have a home permanent again. But I'll never forget being a kid and holding that towel over my face and just wanting the whole ordeal to be over.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey Day in Review

Thanksgiving Eve we caught  part of My Life As A Turkey, which received an Emmy for Outstanding Nature Programming. It looks as though I can watch the entire program here, which I think I will do. The bit I saw looked very interesting.

The program is based on the book Illumination In The Flatwoods written by Joe Hutto. It details his experience raising a flock of wild turkeys from incubation to adulthood - not raising them as feeding and watering them in a coop or pen - but raising them as a dedicated mother.

It hasn't been that long since seeing wild turkeys in SW Iowa was a novelty and cause for some excitement. I remember when I was driving the school bus in 1984 and saw a flock of turkeys along the road. I stopped the bus just so the school kids and I could watch the turkeys for a few minutes.

Now I can see turkeys on the edge of the town where we live just by looking out my window. These two pictures were taken March 12, 2010 through the window on the back of the house. The turkeys were much closer to the deck until they saw me and started moving away.

Not only was yesterday Thanksgiving, it was also the one year anniversary of the death of Bud's Mother, Lottie. She used to talk about how much she enjoyed the turkeys she raised when she was a girl. I know she would have loved that PBS program. One or more of her turkeys were 'pets'. I imagine it was hard for her when it came time to sell them. (Or eat them!)
Lottie talked about the live turkeys that were given away each year during Corning's combination Turkey Day and Bargain Day. The chance for a free turkey two days before Thanksgiving always drew a large crowd. And the advertised bargains tempted those hopeful turkey winners into starting their holiday shopping while they were in town - sort of a precursor to the current mania for Black Friday bargains. She remembered when she was nine years old and sixty live turkeys were tossed off the downtown roof tops. If  you caught one, it was yours. Fights broke out when two people caught the same bird - kind of like those NFL players I watched yesterday fighting over a football pass.

They were still giving away live birds on Turkey Day when I was a child. Forty live turkeys purchased from a farmer near Afton were given away in 1948. The method of winning one had changed to 'the luck of the draw', however. Each time you purchased something from a participating merchant, you were eligible to put your name into the drawing which was usually held on main street near the bank.

I don't know just when the turkeys for Turkey Day went from being live to being frozen. I do know that two days after my 13th birthday, November 20, 1956, "Today was the turkey drawing. We got a turkey! Dad put it in the locker." That is the only time I remember our family winning a turkey on Turkey Day.

(These last two pictures of turkeys in our back yard were taken on Mother's Day this year.)