Monday, September 22, 2014

Map Nostalgia

When my daughter Kari visited us last summer she got me hooked on working a daily jigsaw puzzle. I had already been doing a daily crossword puzzle thanks to my younger brother Les; adding a jigsaw puzzle to the morning routine seemed a natural extension. Besides, I have always loved working jigsaw puzzles. I just don't like them taking up space on the dining table until I get that last piece put in. Doing them on the computer is so much faster. I can do several a day if I want.
This map of France was one of the puzzles online this morning. It wasn't the puzzle of the day, - that one was a cartoon-like "Eat Healthy" puzzle. So I chose to work this one instead.

As soon as I saw it I had a visceral reaction - the colors, the print fonts, the little depictions of various cities. Once I got the puzzle completed I tried to figure out why it spoke to me so. Then I saw the photo credit: American Geographical Society, Around the World Program. And when I googled that all these vintage booklets showed up on ebay and amazon - even on etsy. "Ah-ha!", I thought. "We must have had these in grade school." However, the "exciting new way to become acquainted with the many lands and peoples of our wonderful world" didn't become a reality until February, 1957. So my nostalgic feelings didn't come from my grade school years - I graduated from 8th grade in May of '57.

Those sentimental yearnings upon seeing the map of France puzzle could have been related to the hundreds of times I put together a similar United States puzzle when I was young. I remember Grandma & Grandpa Ridnour having this puzzle which is where I began learning my states and capitals before we had our own puzzle just like it. Perhaps that early introduction to maps accounts for my love of them.

Neither of our vehicles is equipped with a GPS navigational system. Even if they were, I would not rely on them. When I travel I use an official state highway map - the paper kind. We also travel with a current Atlas just in case a state map isn't available - or if we want to see the big picture.
Not only do maps show the highways, they provide a multitude of other information - mileage charts, state parks and attractions, emergency phone numbers, locations of welcome centers and insets of larger cities - to name a few.

They even become memorabilia. This map of Kentucky is from our first 'big' vacation - back when the only way we could afford to travel was to tent camp. And even though we have newer maps obtained on later trips to or through Kentucky (including this past spring), this map brings back some wonderful memories.

Almost always, upon entering a different state, our first stop will be at a welcome center. Even if we have a map of that state in the car, we will get a new one. In a couple of days we will be leaving on another cross country road trip to Oregon to see Kari and Ken. We'll be there in time to help celebrate their new home at their open house. Along the way I'll feed my esurient passion for maps.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Freedom Is Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose

This was going to be a post about my time on Nantucket when I found this picture last week because it was taken there thirty-nine years ago today - September 7, 1975. I vaguely remembered already blogging about that trip but figured I could find something new to say about it. You can find the original post, That Old Cape Magic, here.

Instead, the obituaries in today's Des Moines Sunday Register brought to mind different memories from that time in 1975.

In August that year I had interviewed for a new job. I had become disenchanted with my position as Director of Public Relations and Alumni Affairs at the Des Moines Osteopathic College. So when the owners of Charlie's Showplace, Larry and Mariam McKeever offered me the position as office manager at their recording studio, Lariam House, I gratefully changed jobs. It was one of my all time favorite places of employment.
Office manager suggests I may have had several underlings to direct; in reality it was pretty much a one-woman office, which was always my preference in jobs. The management had more to do with scheduling recording sessions and talent for commercials as well as seeing to it that reel-to-reel and cassette tapes got dubbed and into the mail on time.

Besides Larry and myself there was one other full time employee - Gary Engard. It was his obituary I read in today's Register. He died at his home in Seattle August 12. He was 76 years old. Funny, I might have said he was younger than me. I always thought he had such a child-like, younger brother, air about him, even though I'm sure I knew he was a bit older.
There will be an open house celebration of his life in Des Moines next Sunday. My immediate reaction to reading that was to make plans to go. But I doubt if there would be anyone there I still know; Larry and Mariam are both deceased and I didn't know Gary's family, only that they lived in Urbandale. I didn't even know his wife was from Des Moines until I read his obit. I assumed he met her after he moved to Seattle.

I learned more about Gary from his obituary than I knew about him from working with him for three years. He wasn't exactly shy he just didn't talk about himself much. Except for his years as a bush pilot in Alaska - I did hear stories about those experiences. And I'll never forget him wearing his mukluks into the office when it was cold and snowy. He told us an Eskimo woman had made them for him.
His were the real deal and he was proud of them.

I did know that he had been a floor director at KRNT (now KCCI) when it was a new TV station. I did not know he and a partner had started the Alaska Television Network. His career in Seattle seems to have followed along the lines of broadcast engineering.

Things I do remember about Gary besides his boyish demeanor - he was always willing to take on any task Larry asked of him even when he doubted his own abilities to fulfill said tasks. He worked nights, weekends, early mornings, whatever it took.
He smoked a pipe.

He bought a new Datsun B210 Hatchback which was not considered a very sexy car at that time. That didn't bother him. He happily bragged about its excellent gas mileage.

He was a friend when you needed one.

I never saw Gary again after I moved back home to SW Iowa in May of '78. I heard that he had moved to Seattle and wondered, "Why there? Why not back to the Alaska he loved so much?"

One other memory I have was of his favorite song - Janis Joplin's rendition of Kris Kristofferson's Me and Bobby McGee. I suppose I had heard the song before but Gary is the one I will always associate with it. We even had a discussion about that line, Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. 

This is my celebration of your life, Gary Engard. May you rest in peace.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

I'm In A Renaissance Faire State Of Mind

"I know what I'm needin' and I don't want to waste more time..." Billy Joel sang about his New York State of Mind. Well, with some of my kids going to different Renaissance Faires today, I'm in a Renaissance Faire memories state of mind. (Kari & Ken are attending the "Pirate Invasion Weekend at the Oregon Renaissance Festival of Hillsboro while Doug and Shelly will be at the Des Moines Renaissance Faire at Sleepy Hollow. I'm so jealous. But since I won't be going in real time, I'll attend by visiting memories of past faires.....
......Beginning with the first time I even heard about a Renaissance Faire. My sister-in-law, Ruthie, was excitedly telling me about the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. I think she and Ron had just been there. Honestly, I couldn't have been less interested. I thought it sounded boring. Silly me.
It would be many years before Kari and I, along with friends living in the area at that time, attended the KC Festival at their Bonner Springs location.

My first renfair was with Kari at the Salisbury House in Des Moines. It was held in the back courtyard of this stately home South of Grand. The Weeks family had their 1920's home constructed to match the King's House, a 15th Century Manor home they had seen in England. While the first one was a very small faire, it evolved and grew once it moved to Water Works Park.

I enjoyed several years of Salisbury Faires in Water Works Park. It was great taking my little granddaughters along and introducing them to the magic. They had as much fun dressing in costume as Kari, Doug and I did.

Although as I recall Alyssa, or maybe it was Dominique, didn't care much for the whip cracking troll pictured here with Kari. Kari sure had fun with him, though. She had recently purchased her own bull whip and had been practicing so they had a contest as to which one could crack the whip the loudest.

Eventually the Salisbury Faire was discontinued but another renfest was held for a few years at the state fair campgrounds. It wasn't huge, but it was fun. Just the right size to take a younger Zach and Katrina to. I remember Zach being put in the stocks after having Katrina placed in them. Des Moines finally has a permanent fair grounds at Sleepy Hollow south east of the state fair grounds. Bud and I have been there a couple times. It seems to be a good location unless it rains.

Douglas, Kathryn, Ramona, Deise and Kari. All dressed up with Someplace to go

My favorite Renaissance Faire has to be the Minnesota Renaissance Festival at Shakopee. I've lost track of how many times I've been there - always with Kari - first when she lived in the Twin Cities and later when we drove to get there or I met her when she flew in from Portland. This photo is of the year we took two of my granddaughters along. So many good, good memories of that faire!

Of course shopping is a favorite part of attending the faires. Over the years I have collected my share of treasures, especially the bodhran. Now if I could just learn to play it even one tenth as well as my son-in-law does! The bodice dagger on the left is also a favorite. It has a topaz stone set in the top. The other little knife is one I bought for Bud so I guess it would have to be a boot dagger.
The potion bottle holds some special oil while the leather medicine bag contains .... well, you're not supposed to tell what is in your medicine bag or it loses its power. The silver bracelet is the one I bought at that first Salisbury Faire; the silver ring at another one and the necklace at yet another. This is just a small sample of the jewelry, tee shirts, and other mementos I've come home with from all the faires over the years.

Possibly my favorite memory is captured in this picture of Duggan at his first renfest in Minnesota. He was dressed the part of a Celt but what he hadn't expected and what was so moving was how he felt thrown back in time. A true Son of Somerled.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Apple Orchard Memories

Even if the grocery ad wasn't telling me "New Crop Washington Royal Gala" apples were in and on sale for 88 cents a pound, I would know it was "that time of year". It's the difference in the light; not only where the sun is coming up and setting but the shorter days and longer nights.

It is the beginning of my favorite season of the year, Autumn. I even love the way the word sounds - like a sigh, Ahh-tum. Some of my favorite childhood memories involved trips to the apple orchard - going with my parents and grandparents to an orchard somewhere in southern Iowa or northern Missouri and coming home with bushels of apples, as well as a gallon or two of apple cider. I remember the orchard owners offering samples of the cider and thinking how good it was. Then on the way home Grandma Delphia showing us how she ate an apple - everything but the stem! Even the seeds! (The only other person I've known to eat an apple that way is my husband.)

When my grandchildren were little I tried sharing the same kind of experiences with them, taking them to apple orchards and pumpkin patches.

Zachary, Alyssa, Katrina and Toffee
Not only were the orchards a place to buy apples, they were a source of family entertainment. I remember taking these three to the Happy Apple Orchard between Cumming and Norwalk when they were around the ages pictured above. It was probably the first time I had seen 'train' cars made out of steel drums being pulled by a lawn tractor. We also enjoyed a hay rack ride out through the apple trees and along side a pond.

My favorite adult apple orchard adventure took place about twenty years ago when I was living in West Des Moines. Very early in the morning (six a.m.) one fine autumn day, I picked up my friend Kristina. She came to the car with a large thermos of coffee which lasted us the hour and a half down I-35 and across 34 to my Mom's house. Mom had more coffee brewed and the Oatie Cakes ready to go on the griddle. Kristina laughed as she challenged me to a contest to see who could eat the most pancakes. She won, though I won't say how many we ate that morning. Mom's Oatie Cakes are still my favorite pancakes and became  a favorite of Kristina's and her brother David, too. He serves them at his north woods cabin in Wisconsin.

A hearty breakfast with Mom was just the start of our day. Once the dishes were done we headed toward Griswold and our first stop, the Glen Robin Orchard. At that time the orchard was already sixty plus years old having been established by R.F. Chambers in 1930.  It continues today with new owners and under the name 3 Bee Farms specializing in apples and honey as well as other produce and pumpkins and agritourism.

Before leaving Griswold we stopped at a grocery store for bread, cheese and other lunchables. We planned to eat our picnic at Cold Springs State Park but just north of Griswold we happened upon Cocklin's Fish Farm which is where this picture was taken. I believe the fish farm was a county park at that time as well as being an RV campgrounds and fishing farm. We didn't do any fishing but we did enjoy our lunch at one of their picnic tables under the shade of a venerable oak tree before driving on to Cold Springs State Park.

We also drove out to the Hitchcock House west of Lewis. I had read about the sandstone house built by the Reverend George B. Hitchcock in 1859 - how it had been used as a stop on the Underground Railroad - and was hoping to see the secret room in the basement where runaway slaves had hidden out. Unfortunately the house that day still looked much like this picture; it had yet to undergo restoration and become the National Historic Landmark it is today. We walked around and peeked through the windows but didn't enter.

That perfect autumn day ended with us driving Mom back home followed by our trip back to our homes in West Des Moines. But just the mention of Glen Robin orchard reminds me of one more memory.

I wonder if my little brother remembers this one or if my memory of what year it was is off and he was already in school? My memory is of Mom & Dad making a trip to the Glen Robin orchard for apples after we had the '55 Plymouth which we got in '57. It involved Dad's 'lead foot' and a speeding ticket on the way home. I'm sure Mom had been telling him to "slow down". Those apples were always referred to as "the most expensive bushel of apples Dad ever bought".
I'm feeling like a trip to an apple orchard is in order.