Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Canning season

Here in Northern Kentucky, except for apples and pumpkins, canning season is over. I used to can veggies and fruits and make jams and jellies, but I found freezing was easier on the back, and store-bought jelly is pretty cheap. On the other hand, nothing, and I mean nothing, tastes as good as home-made ketchup or home-made tomato sauce, made with fresh tomatoes, not canned tomatoes. But since I'm "elderly" my body doesn't tolerate this activity. So, I now am relegated to using canned tomatoes to make my spaghetti sauce. Also, the heat of the kitchen is not something I get along with either. Those hot flashes are enough for me, without adding more heat to my life. But, I digress.

When I was a child, mom canned. Every summer, she canned. And she stored the jars of food she canned under the cellar steps where there was this really neat closet which my dad had me convinced had a false back which opened and led to a tunnel that connected to the church. Yeah, right! And there was a wonderful jelly cabinet, which my sister is concepting restoring, where mom stored the rest of her yield.

Now, folks, there was no such thing as air conditioning in those days. We had fans. I think the large department stores in Philly had a/c, but our homes did not. And canning was a hot, steamy process.

Mom would first boil the jars to sterilize them. Meanwhile she was stewing up tomatoes or peaches or green beans or pickles or apples with her special seasonings. She did make up spaghetti sauce, she just canned the tomatoes whole. I think she did that because daddy loved stewed tomatoes, especially the Italian way (no peppers) and if she opened a can of tomatoes she could get double duty from it. Make the stewed tomatoes, used the left over and make spaghetti sauce.

I know she made jelly, and would melt the wax in another pan that was all dented and good for nothing, except melting wax. The wax was carefully poured on top of the jelly mixture. Now, most folks use sure-jell when they make jelly, but "back in the day" we just cooked down the fruit and sugar until it thickened naturally, and then poured it into the jars.

My first canning job was to make sure the jars which had been sterilized were turned right-side-up just before the fruit or vegetable was put into the jar, and then to plop the lid on and tighten the screwy part. When the seal took, the dot in the middle bent downward. If the seal didn't set, then we had to eat those veggies real soon.

I think my favorite thing mom made was peach jam -- or peach-pit jam. She would can the peaches in sugar water, and then boil the pits, which still had some bits and pieces of peaches on them (no freestones were used), and those bits and pieces would boil off the pits and when you took the pits out of the mess and added sugar, cooked it down a little longer, you had wonderful peach jam.

One time someone gave us a large bag of oranges, brought back from someone's Florida trip, and mom made marmelaide with them. That's how I learned to make marmelaide, which I did quite often when I was doing my own canning.

I recalled a couple of years she made grape jelly -- what a mess. That had to be pressed through a sieve -- my job, sort of like Lucy stomping the grapes in that famous episode of I love Lucy except the stomping was done with a wooden spoon and a sieve and you pushed the juice and bits of cooked fruit through that into a pan, then added the sugar, then boiled it again until it started to thicken, then you put it in a jar, covered it with wax, and you had grape jelly. Daddy loved it.

Grape jelly was never my favorite because it always went with peanut butter, and I have to say I never in my life liked PB&J.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


No one would ever think my diminutive mother, Rose Drexler, could yell. She didn't weigh squat -- her highest weight was about the time of my wedding, and she weighed only 95 pounds at that time. I think her average weight was about 85 pounds throughout her adult life. As you can see, she was a tiny thing, and her bones were like a bird's -- delicate.
Anyway, mom was normally a soft-spoken person. She was kind, and everyone who knew her loved her.
But one day...
My brothers were acting up, being boys, and were not inclined to pay attention to my mother or anyone else but themselves. Well, all of a sudden we thought an atom bomb had exploded and we all took cover. Actually, it was my mother yelling at the boys to settle down, which because they were under the table (having taken cover with me and my sister in the same place) they did.
Dear, dear mother. What she put up with when we children were rambunctious.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Family sayings

I guess all families have sayings that are part of their families talk around the table and elsewhere.

With out family, it starts with prayer. When I was little, and my brothers and sister were little, we said "grace" at each meal. The little prayer we said, depending on whose turn it was went like this: "Thank you Jesus for this food, Amen." In school we learned and actually said as a class: "God is great, God is good, and we thank him for this food. Amen." (We also said the "Lord's Prayer" everyday until I went to high school and the US Supreme Court said it was illegal.) Dad's favorite was: "Come Lord Jesus, and be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed. Amen." Of course, as I've already told you, that one wasn't good enough for Thanksgiving! I guess he was hungrier at home, than at Thanksgiving.

You know how people say, "God bless you" when you sneeze? Well, dad always said, "Dio ti benedica" (that's Italian) and he pronounced it: dee ah duh benna deech. One day when I was working at Answers in Genesis, a co-worker, who was a former missionary to Italy and who spent many of his formative years in Italy because his dad was employed there, said, "You're from south Italy?" I said, "Abruzzi," which on the southern coast. He said I had it exactly right. Well, dad had learned it from my Grandmother, Santa, mom's mother. So, we, or at least I, picked it up.

When we had a belly ache, or heartburn, we'd say the "agita" was bothering us. I saw a movie about Italian-Americans and the mom was always complaining about "agita" in that movie. I thought, ah, another word from my youth!

Dad would hide on his hands and knees behind the door way that led into the kitchen, and when we came out of the kitchen he would jump out and yell, "hood-gee, bood-gee" -- haven't a clue how to spell that one. It was a game he played with us. We knew it was coming, too, but he always surprised us with it because he didn't always do that.

Another saying that my dad was famous for was "such crust" meaning, "Well, I never..."

Mom's favorite, I think was, "Stupid, stupid, stupid" -- three stupids in a row. I guess that was supposed to accentuate the stupidity of something she or we did that wasn't exactly smart.
The last time my mom said that was when she was just a few days away from going to be with our Lord. Now, she had no strength whatsoever, and probably weighed no more than 70 pounds at the time. She sat on the edge of the bed. And then promptly slid onto the floor. Well, my sister-in-law, Sue, and I were in the room at the time, and we got to giggling, because as soon as mom slid onto the floor, she said, "Stupid, stupid, stupid." Even at her reduced weight, both Sue and I, because we were laughing (which we really shouldn't have been, I suppose) had a very difficult time lifting mom back onto the bed. As I sit here writing this and recalling that I'm chuckling out loud. Maybe it's that happy when we're miserable thing?

Another favorite expression of my mom's and mine was "That was a stupid ending." We would say that when a movie we were watching on TV didn't end the way we wanted it to, or when a movie ended and we were both crying because it was such a sad or beautiful ending. My daughter and I shortened it to "stupid movie" anytime we are moved to tears during a movie.

I have an expression, which I can't credit my mother or father with, but a movie is rated by how many hankies are needed during the viewing of it. If I cry once, it's a one-hankie. Some movies, like Out of Africa are 15-hankie movies.

In the 50s an expression we all used was "George", not "by george, just George. I think it was used instead of saying "That's great." Something was "george" if it was good.

Thought of another one: "blast, dash-darn, confound" an expression used instead of a four-letter word that starts with a "d" and ends with an "n" and has "am" in the middle. A good expression to use when you hit your thumb with a hammer, or can't find something in the junk drawer (another good topic for this BLOG), or you slip on the ice and fall down, etc.

Another one: Fit to be tied. Done know what it really means except that when one is "fit to be tied" they are full of angst, not angry really, but frustrated because they are tied up and can't get relief from the problem that causes them to be "fit to be tied."

Here's another one -- F H B -- yes, three letters. They stand for "family hold back". Dad used to say that when someone was taking too many cookies, or too much salad, or if one of us wanted more than we should, or if there just wasn't enough to go around unless we all held back a bit. I used that expression on my husband the other night. He hadn't a clue what I was talking about. I had put out for eating whenever Christmas cookies and candies. Not a good thing to do, but it is Christmas after all. Alan asked if he could have any of the sweets and I said he could but he needed to FHB on them. I explained that he could have four cookies not a handful, and he could take three or four pieces of candy, not a handful. Moderation -- that's what it means -- do what you're doing in moderation!

It's the middle of December and I'm adding to this post (2007). I was visiting my daughter the other day, and I had a card-making learning session for about 12 home-schoolers. Well, when we finally finished, I said to my daughter -- "Boy, this table is really verschimmelt, isn't it?" The word verschimmelt just popped out -- it means messed up, cluttered, things in disarray. My dad used it all the time when the dining room table was messed up, or my hair wasn't combed. You get the picture. So, add verschimmelt to the list of family sayings. This is a German-spelling for a word that was as close as I could get to what we always pronounced as fur shimmled. It means, if you believe this, moldy! Not how we used it. I'll keep searching through the German dictionary and see if I can find something else that comes close.

And while we're in the German vein -- what about mach schnell -- dad would use those words when we were dragging out feet -- it means get a move on it!

Two other "germanic" expressions my father used from time to time. One I could find in a German dictionary, the other I couldn't find anything that even remotely resembled the word, so I won't list it until I can find something that is close. One of the other expressions we grew up with was schlecht which had to do with junk food. Well, in German is has to do with evil, or no good and is used as an adjective. The adverb schlecht just means badly. So in tell us not to eat so much schlecht I guess dad was telling us to not eat so much junk.

There was another word dad used to denote the stuff that comes out of ones nose -- snot, boogers -- he called it bachtse -- not sure of that spelling since I can't find anything that even remotely resembles that word by looking up snot or boogers. If and when I get the correct word, I'll let you know.

My husband reminded me of another saying. We were watching two really old movies on TV and one was The White Cliffs of Dover -- don't watch it without at least a box of kleenexes. The beginning is actually quite humorous. Anyway, one of my father's favorite sayings was: The poor guy when referring to someone who was being harassed or annoyed or made fun of. You kids remember that?

More Germanic words I remember: scheusslich (hoosh lick) is the spelling the German translator gave me, and is as close as I can get to the way dad pronounced it, and it means appalling, dreadful. I thought it meant we were sloppy or doing something in an manner that was unbecoming, but the dictionary says otherwise. If we were doing our homework in a sloppy manner, he'd tell us not to be so scheusslich. Or if we were running around the dining room table, knocking things over, he tell us to not be so scheusslich.

A word used similarly is betrueblich which sounded like strueblich, which to us meant we needed to comb our hair. We weren't properly groomed. But the German dictionary says it means deplorable. I guess that's close enough. Dad would say we looked very strueblich and he meant we looked deplorable.

On my trip to Florida two expressions came out of my mouth and my cousin's mouth and then I remembered we used them prolifically when I was growing up. The first is capichi --we pronounced it cap eesch (accent on the second syllable) and it means, do you understand?

The second word was stupido meaning you're stupid or you did a stupid thing. I always thought it was Spanish, but then I realized it was part of my vocabulary before I had highschool Spanish.

Hold your horses -- another saying that dad and mom used when we children would get rambunctious and start running around the dining room table, chasing each other in order to influct harm. Hold your horses means slow it down, stop and think what you're doing.

Save the pieces -- I heard this saying at my granddaughter's birthday party and it clicked. My son-in-law was putting together one of the toys she received and was pounding the wheels of the toy shopping cart into place and his grandmother (Grinny Kuhlman) said, "Save the pieces." In other words, be careful what you do, and don't make so much noise doing it. I remember my mom and dad using that expression from time to time. This led to a conversation with Mrs. Kuhlman who insists it's a Kentucky saying. I insist it's Pennsylvania Dutch. Who knows? It isn't listed in the PD Idiom Dictionary or the Appalachian Sayings Dictionary.

If I think of more, I'll edit this BLOG. This particular edition has now been edited 9times.


I was a happy child. Who wouldn't be happy living in a small town where "everybody knows your name?" I was popular (in my own eyes) because most people in town knew my father, ergo, I was popular because I was his child, therefore, most people knew me.

My mom and dad didn't have any children for seven years after they were married. So, when I arrived (and not too distantly thereafter my siblings) they were thrilled, and, of course, I was treated like a princess -- a poor princess, but a princess nonetheless.

I was special. I lived in a special town -- not a well-known town -- a sleepy town typical of the towns you read about -- main street, churches, tree-lined streets, most people riding bicycles, etc. As I've mentioned, I loved living in that small town. And, I really feel like my children missed something because we only lived in a small town for three years and they were very, very young and don't remember.

As I've mentioned, our extended family -- our relatives -- were mostly Italian -- noisy, boisterous, loving Italians. We were always laughing and seemingly happy. I was always glad to be in the presence of my cousins and aunts and uncles. We had fun even if all we were doing was talking.

Aunt Annie would get to giggling, then it would go down the line, and soon we'd all be rollicking with laughter (where did that expression come from?)

My cousin Betty never failed to make me chuckle. One time we were visiting Aunt Annie, with whom Betty lived, and I was taking a shower, fell in the tub, and cracked a couple of ribs. Well, you know how painful that is, even if you're stationary. Well, Betty started with the talking, and the laughter followed. It really hurt to laugh with broken ribs, and finally I told her to stop talking because talking led to laughter and laughter to pain.

My cousin David was another one who made us (the whole family) laugh. I guess it was his own happiness that caused that. He was always laughing.

Finally, I remember one time we were visiting my cousin Hannah's house for a swim party -- she had a "cement pond" in her back yard -- well, her back yard was a "cement pond." And she said something that I will never forget. She said, "Italians are happiest when they're miserable."

So you see, we're happy when we're happy, but we're also happy when we're not happy. It's in the genes.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Begging for money

No, not in Philadelphia like my father. (See previous post)

I'm not the "good little girl" my teachers thought I was, believe me, I'm a sinner like everyone else.

I learned early how to get spending money, well, not that early, I was in high school.

Anyway, here's what I did.

Dad was always asleep when I left for school/college, so he was a soft touch. I mean who wants to be waked at 7 a.m. by a teenager? So each day that I needed money for whatever, I'd go into mom and dad's bedroom and ask dad if he would give me some money because I needed it for something for school. He would always say, "Take what you need." I did, and maybe a little extra, too.

Not something I'm proud of, taking what I didn't need, but how else was I going to get the money I did need to get my school things?

I got an allowance, but that stopped when I went to high school since I was able to "work" for a living by then by typing things for people. I never made enough at that to enjoy high school, though, and by college, all the money I earned at Strawbridge's (another department store in Philadelphia where I worked the toy department) went for college tuition and books and transportation and clothes.

I'm confessing this to you so you can be alert for things your children might try with you, not that any of my precious grandchildren would be that sneaky!

Christmas -- again -- Wanamaker's

The weather here is cool and I'm getting antsy to get out my snowmen and start the annual decorating that goes with Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know I have to wait a few more weeks, but I am getting antsy.

There is a wonderful website out there and I'll add it at the end of this episode.

In 1955 my father took me to Wanamaker's at 13th & Market in Philadelphia. Dad didn't take me into Philly very often, but when he did it was, well, let me tell you...

First, we'd get on a bus -- no perfume this time. I remember one time when I went into Philly with dad, someone was smoking on the bus (which as the sign on the bus stated it was illegal and punishable by a fine). Well, this person would just not put out that cigarette. So dad, a non-smoker, went up to him, and took the cigarette from him and said, "Let me show you how to do that." And put the cig in his mouth, inhaled, then quickly exhaled all that smoke into that smoker's face. The guy got the picture. He put out the cigarette.

But that was on another trip, not the first one to Wanamaker's Christmas show in '55.

Whenever dad took me to Philadelphia he did three things. First, we went to 8th and Chestnut to go to Pinebrook Book Store where he would stock up on Bibles, or books, or whatever he thought he needed for the ministryand have them shipped to the house. Then we would hustle back up to Market Street, walk west on Market toward 13th. Always, and I mean always, I knew what was coming, and I was helpless to stop it. This was AFTER the bribe of a big, luscious Philadelphia pretzel (also describe on the website at the bottom) with mustard.

He would grab hold of my hand and since he always carried an umbrella with him, he would stop dead in this tracks, pretend he was a blind man, and start singing, Abide with me (always Abide with me), holding a cup in his hand. Where he got the cup from, I don't know, but he had one. And, right there on Market Street with all those people walking byhe would do his thing. I was always so embarrassed. You'd think I would have learned not to go into Philly with dad, but the good outweighed the bad, so I went with him.

Anyway, we'd end up at Wanamaker's where there is a marvelous pipe organ, and we'd get there in time for the 1:00 p.m. concert. We'd stand in the atrium and listen to those pipes, then dad would go up the stairs to the 5th floor, where the console of the organ was housed, and visit with the organist. That remembrance is so vivid to me. Dad loved the organ.

Well, in 1955, Wanamaker's started a new tradition, which it continues to this day, even though now, Wanamaker's is Lord and Taylor. They made a Christmas show with water fountains and lights and music. And every hour, on the hour, they'd run this show, beginning the day after Thanksgiving, until the day before Christmas. It was wonderful. I went every year until I married and moved away from Runnemede.

I was fortunate to be able to take my own children to see the show at least once after that.

Words really can't describe the anticipation and the excitement and then the wonder of that show, and no matter how many times I saw it, and no matter that I had the program memorized by the time I was 16, it was still awesome, totally awesome.

See: Be sure to visit all the links. You'll enjoy it.

Mom's gourmet pizza

I was watching something on the cooking channel last night and the advertisement was for a home-made pizza that children would love make with English muffins.

My mom topped that and we really thought we were getting a great treat.

We rarely had left-over spaghetti sauce at our house since I think spaghetti was our favorite meal. And boy could mom stretch one pound of ground beef so we each got at least two nice-sized meatballs. Anyway, when she did have leftover sauce we knew we were in for a really good lunch treat the next day or soon after.

Mom would take almost stale Italian bread, slice it pretty thin, then sprinkle it with EVOO (olive oil), put some sauce on top of that, and put a slice of American cheese on top of that, then sprinkle it with oregano or basil. Then she'd pop the slices (having put them on a cookie sheet) into the oven and heat them up for about 15 minutes at, I would assume 350, since that seemed to be everyone's favorite temperature for baking everything. And out popped our great, gourmet pizza. Beat anything you could get at a pizza parlor, which by the way were only available in South Philly or at the shore.

Now, there's a pizza parlor on as many corners as there are McD's, but let me tell you, today's pizza is nothing like the pizza we got when we were young either from Mom or at the shore. Nobody makes pizza like that.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I think I addressed this before, but I was thinking about it AGAIN. I do not like dentists and I never have, but did you know that when I was a child there was a dental clinic on wheels that came to school every year, and we were marched out to this bus-type vehicle which was a dental office and given free teeth exams. It was another one of those free health things the schools provided back then. I wonder if they still do that?

Anyway, I had good teeth until third or fourth grade and then I got that dreaded note to take home to my parents urging them to get my teeth taken care of. You see, the check-up was free, but the dental work wasn't.

So, my mom packed herself and me onto a bus into Philly, which of course made me sick. Then we got to this dentist, and he hurt me, boy did he hurt me. The more I yelled the harder he drilled, saying I was being a baby, etc. Well, an 8-year-old is a baby isn't it? Anyway, he didn't finish in one day and I was ordered to go back and get the other teeth fixed.

Well, the night before the next dental appointment we had peach ice cream and I got sick to my stomach from it. I was throwing up all night, so mom, against her better judgment cancelled the dental appointment. I think she thought I was faking the sickness or something.

I didn't get out of the appointment that easily, though. We went the following week, and this dentist finished his torture of me and fixing my teeth.

I am so thankful I have good teeth. Right now I know I have to get to a dentist, but until the pain gets so bad I can't stand it, I'll NOT go.

I've been hearing a commercial on local radio of a dentist who knows of people like me, people who haven't been to a dentist in years and who, because of a bad childhood experience, won't go to a dentist until their teeth are beyond repair, and he would like me to give him a try.

Who knows? Maybe one of these days I will. Nah!


I had nine teachers in my years in Runnemede elementary schools. My sister and brothers had some of the same teachers, and those poor kids had to follow in my footsteps. I say that because I had the incentive and desire to get all A's or excellents on my report card. My siblings didn't have those tendencies, and thus, they were maligned and belittled because they didn't measure up to Judith! (I cut off the "th" in the sixth grade and became Judi). I had good handwriting because I practiced. I had good math skills because I worked at it, and actually enjoyed ciphering. I had excellent reading skills, because as I mentioned, I loved to read.

I truly believe my brother Carl was dyslexic -- not something anybody knew about in the 50s -- because he wrote backwards, and he would read really well if he looked in a mirror, something I could never do. He enjoys reading now, and has overcome any disability he had as a child.

Anyway, in kindergarten I has Mrs. Gardner, a very nice lady who was in the system for years after I left. In first grade, I had Mrs. Welch for two days and then I was pushed into the second grade classroom (along with the rest of the good reading group of 8) because of "overcrowding." That teacher for the rest of the year was Mrs. Marcantonio (she was Miss Bachelor when I first started in her class). She's the teacher that didn't like that I colored houses and picket fences white, thus sending me to the principal's office for the first and only time in my life.

In second grade, and I can't remember the arrangement of that class, except that I did get put back in with some of the others that stayed in the first grade classroom, the teacher was Mrs. Gledhill. She was older, but motherly, and I liked her. She let me clap erasers -- a job I loved to do. She set up classroom chores such as eraser clapping, board washing, plant watering, paper collecting, and I got to do the erasers.

In third grade I was sent over to Bingham because of overcrowding again, but this time they sent those of us who lived closest to Downing over there. There were 8 of us and we stayed at Bingham until 8th grade. Anyway, in third grade I had Mrs. Barr. I had been warned about her by some of the moms in our church, whose children were in her class. I, however, loved her. She was pretty, and we got along quite well. I guess the moms who had problems with her had problems because their children weren't exemplary students.

In fourth grade, my teacher was Mrs. Kline. All I can say about her is, she had no control over the classroom at all. She was afraid to discipline or punish and the kids took advantage of that.

In fifth grade I had "pre-historic" Jackson. She was an older woman and she got that nickname because she taught us evolution as truth -- something my father was not happy about and which caused him to go to the school and almost pull me out. He told her I would not answer the questions as she wanted them answered, but I would answer the questions on tests as the Bible taught. I still got an "A" in social studies even though I didn't agree with her evolutionary teaching.

In sixth grade I had Mrs. Cunningham. She was motherly, and as I was getting into puberty at that time, it was helpful.

In seventh grade I had Mr. Latieri -- a newby -- first-year teacher -- a cut up and I didn't like him at all. I was "sick" a lot that year. I still got A's. I was so disappointed that I had been assigned to his class because I had been anticipating all summer that I would get Mrs. Brookfield for my teacher. She went to our church and I figured that would be a good deal for me. My whole class was assigned to Mr. Latieri, not just me. In retrospect, he was okay, I just couldn't get used to a male teacher.

Then finally, in eighth grade, I was back at Downing (across the street) as all eighth grades were in that school. We ruled the school. I loved 8th grade. I did really well academically, but my mouth was always going. So my teacher, Mrs. Aikley pulled me aside one day and told me I would get no awards at graduation because I couldn't "control" myself. Oh, well. I knew I was best, so it didn't matter to me.

Graduation was something else. I had the ugliest dress. That's a tale for another day, though.

Please know that I'm not bragging about getting A's. I had my comeuppance in high school and college, but I loved school and wanted to excel, so I did.

School trips

I know, I know, what's the big deal about school trips? They still have those, right? Well, for a kid with no transportation to anything that couldn't be reached by bus, subway, or trolley, it was a big deal. And, as a small child, it was even a bigger deal because mom was tied up with three other little ones, and dad, was, well, he was busy. So for me, school trips -- one per year -- were a big deal.

I'm not bitter, but I did miss the one in kindergarten -- we had full-day kindergarten in those days. I got the measles, well before the scheduled date of the trip -- which was to the Philadelphia Zoo. But, because of quarantine laws back then, if any member of our family had that contagious disease, even if you were cleared of it, you were still held hostage in the house with that yellow sign posted on the door (yellow was for measles). So, I didn't have measles any more. Unfortunately, I gave the dreaded diseases to my sister and brother, and thus I was not permitted to go on the school trip to the zoo.

First grade? Another trip to the zoo, but I couldn't go that time either -- chicken pox -- red sign on the door. I was over the pox, but, again, sister and brother had them, so I was also confined to quarters.

Second grade -- finally -- I got to go to the zoo. Of course, I got sick on the bus. Remember? Bus sickness and I go hand in hand. It hasn't changed over the years. I went on a blue-hair bus trip with 30 other people from our neighborhood a few years ago, and yep, I got sick on the bus. I was miserable. I didn't actually throw up, but my stomach was really agitated.

Anyway, I went to the zoo with the second grade class. I decided I didn't want to stay there because I was sure it was near Aunt Stella's house, and I wanted to go visit her, so I wandered off in search of her home. I knew it was near the elevated subway system, and I could see the "El" from the zoo, so I figured she must live nearby -- which, of course, she didn't. They found me and boy, was I in trouble. My poor mom was frantic when they called her and told her I was missing. Dad didn't appreciate it either, and when I got home I got spanked for not staying with the class.

I loved the zoo, though. I think the Philly Zoo was one of the nicest zoos. I haven't been there for over 30 years, so I couldn't say what it's like today. I do know that the Cincinnati Zoo is very nice, the Brooklyn zoo is small, but nice. The Little Rock zoo is horrible. Enough about zoos. I know when I went to the zoo as a child, I always had a dollar to spend, and the little shops had some cute items for a dollar. I would browse and choose carefully. One year it was a coin purse. Another year it was a puzzle.

In third grade we graduated from zoo to Benjamin Franklin Museum. Oh boy, did I love that place. That guy that put his hand on the ball with electric sparks in it, and his hair would stand on end. How did they do that? But the best part of the Franklin museum was the planetarium. I stayed there as long as I was permitted to do so, getting back in line again and again so I could just watch the stars. I loved that place.

In 8th grade, I finally made it to be on the safety patrol, so I got to go to Washington, DC. Of course, I got sick on the bus again, and missed the first day of touring. The second day, of touring we went to several of the outdoor monuments, again on the bus, but my stomach stayed where it belonged. The ride home, amazingly was fine. I was distracted by one of the boys on the bus, can't even remember his name.

Also, in 8th grade, we got to go to New York City. No bus problems on that trip, and the highlight for me was the tour of the UN. Now, I don't care for the UN or its policies or take-over of the world, but I did like the tour of the building.

I know that when we got to the age of being allowed to go to the Franklin Museum, we didn't have to stay with anyone else, we were given free reign. Back in those days you didn't have to worry about kidnapping.

Our little town of Runnemede had neat schools, mostly Christian teachers (except for pre-historic Jackson -- another tale that involved my dad -- and I'm glad they thought enough of us to allow us to take those trips. I'm also glad they didn't cost much so I could go.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Clements

This is a sad tale. When I was in third grade one of my classmates didn't come to school one day and we were told that he had been killed in an automobile accident over the weekend. In those days there was no grief counselling, and we didn't get out of school early so we could come to grips with our grief with our parents' counsel.

Danny Clements was a neat kid. He was a little chunky, but he was good at ball and I always wanted to be on his team because his team usually won (on the school playground). He and I (and others) would have contests to see who could swing the highest.

Danny and his family (his mother, his father, his sister, Barbara) lived near us on Central Avenue.

It seems that they were on their way home from somewhere, can't remember where, but it was on Sunday night that the accident occurred. His father and sister were also killed. His mom lived for quite a while. She was in the hospital for a long time, I recall, and she was a semi-invalid the rest of her life.

She (and the family) were part of our church family. We looked out for her after she came home from the hospital. I would go over and bring her things from my mom. She was always pleasant, but sad.

I really didn't know until I got home that Danny wasn't the only one who died that night.

My dad conducted the funeral for the three members of the family who died. I don't recall attending it.

So tragedy can occur at any age, I suppose. And this was just another time my dad shook his head and said "murder weapons, that's what cars are, murder weapons."

My husband

Some have asked why I don't talk about my husband on this BLOG. Well, folks, I met him when I was 17, and wasn't in Runnemede long after that. Most of this is about my life growing up and he wasn't a part of that.

I must say, though, that my husband was given to me by God and God doesn't make mistakes, even though at times I've wondered about that. God gave me a man who loves me and supports me and is kind to me. We have been married for 41 years and so he is more a part of my life than my early years were, but that isn't what this BLOG is about.

Perhaps someday I'll start a BLOG about his family and he can add to it, or at least tell me what to write.

Alan and I are both first children, both strong-willed, and both intellectual in different ways. I am rash and "go for it", he is a slow-thinker, and ponders every decision, which as you can imagine drives me nuts.

Case in point: we recently had to purchase a new car. If it had been me, I would have just gone to the Hyundai dealer and bought the cheapest thing on the lot -- or at least the cheapest thing that suited my need. Since I have difficulty getting in and out of a car, and I have knee problems, I had two priorities: one was that the car had to have grab bars on both sides just inside the door so I could hoist myself into the car, and the other was that when I moved my foot from gas to brake, I didn't have to hoist my leg, and could just neatly move my foot from one pedal to another. So, I found that all Hyundais were suitable for me. But we didn't stop there. Oh, no. We went to Honda -- the pedal problem (we were getting ride of our Honda because of my knees, but maybe they had changed something since 1998); then we went to Chevrolet, same difficulty -- no ease with the pedals; then we went to Mazda -- I sort of like the look of it, but the pedals were still a problem, and grab bars weren't standard. We went to Toyota also. Too expensive.

You need to know that my husband is quite ill presently and how he got the energy to do all this I don't know, but he did. I would have stopped when I found a car I liked. After all, we did research it all on-line. Sorry, not good enough.

Anyway, we got the cheapest Hyundai and realized as soon as we drove it from the lot that it wouldn't work, it was too bumpy and Alan was in agony the whole time he was in the passenger seat. The trial run we gave the car didn't seem as bumpy as the car did in the dark of night.

So, since the paperwork hadn't been completed (thankfully) when we drove the car home, we returned early the next morning and upgraded to a higher priced Hyundai so my husband would be able to accompany me on occasion. The new car is for driving around town, which is mostly my job.

Anyway, I am thankful mostly for my husband's tenacity. And he is cuddly as a teddy bear!

More pictures and descriptions

Two pictures same people. The one on the left was taken in 1939, the one on the right was taken in 1958. Aunt Fran is the shortest lady, then mom is next to her. Uncle Joe is the only man in the picture, and Aunt Annie is the tallest lady.

How I loved my Aunts and Uncles. We all did. They treated us like their own.

This is a picture of my grandmother, Santa Sbaraglia, with her son, my Uncle Joe, my mom's only brother. He was a twin, but the other twin died soon after birth. And next to Uncle Joe is Aunt Daisy (Evangelista), my mother's oldest sister. This is the only picture I have of Aunt Daisy.
I never knew my grandmother, she died before I was born. But my cousins have told me some things about her -- that would be the Evangelista children -- and I'm grateful for their remembrances.

School holidays

When I was growing up, we had different holidays from school than children do now days. For instance, we always had the first weekend in November off so that teachers could go to the state teachers convention -- that would be on Thursday and Friday. We always had election day off, every year (that would be the Tuesday after the first Monday in November), because the schools were the polling place. We had Columbus Day -- October 12th off. We had Washington's birthday (February 22) and Lincoln's Birthday (February 12) off -- no President's day for us -- we enjoyed two--count 'em-- holidays in February! We enjoyed the same four-day Thanksgiving weekend that is still celebrated. Our Christmas vacation -- it was called CHRISTMAS VACATION BACK THEN -- was from Christmas Eve day until the day after New Year's Day (unless they happened on a weekend). We loved it when Christmas Eve was on Wednesday because we did get an extra day off at the New Year's end, no sense going to school on just Friday of a week.

We had Good Friday off and Easter Monday off -- Easter Monday was a ACLU holiday and so it was a school holiday. No spring break for us, though. It was a long stretch between Christmas and summer. We also got off Memorial Day (May 30).

You see there were no MONDAY holidays, unless the date corresponded with a Monday back in those days.

Later, when I went to high school, we were closed for Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana as well. Most kids didn't come to school on November 1 (All Saints Day), and the first day of lent closed down the schools as well.

School started the Monday after labor day and ended around June 15 -- we had two weeks of school in June. The eighth graders got an extra week off at the end of their 8th grade year for graduation activities. It was something to look forward to.

I remember in 7th grade signing all those books, and getting autographs from all the graduates who came back to school the day after graduation, the girls wearing their beautiful white dresses, and the boys wearing the uncomfortable suits with ties. When I was in 8th grade, graduation week seemed like a right that after 9 years in public school we earned.

Where's the choo-choo?

This is a picture of my mom, dad, me (standing) and Deb (being held). This was taken in 1946. I was three.
My dad played with me a lot when I was little and before there were four of us, then his attention got divided and I wasn't his sole playmate any longer. I suppose I was jealous, but I don't remember that. Who does? Well, I guess if I went to see a shrink and that person delved deeply enough he/she would discover deep-seated resentment between me and my father. Since that will never happen, just know that the time I spent playing with my father was precious to me.
One of our favorite games was: "Where's the choo-choo?" As I mentioned before the railroad ran through the town about two blocks from where we lived, and you could see, yes see, it coming -- those were the days of steam engines and the smoke that billowed from the smokestack on the train was visible for a good mile or more. So, we could see it coming before we could hear the whistle, which blew at 8th avenue, 3rd avenue, Clements Bridge, and Evesham Rd. They were the only through streets in town, so while there were no rail guards at the railroad, the train did blast its' whistle.
Well, when we saw that smoke, dad would lift me into a wagon, or if it was in winter, put me on the sled, and down the street we'd go, all the while I was asking, "Where's the choo-choo, huh?" Annoying, I suppose, but he encouraged me. You see, I think of "Where's the choo-choo, huh" akin to the annoying, "Are we there yet?" Anyway, dear daddy would take me down the street and we'd get a close as was allowed to the tracks and watch the train go by and wave at the engineer and and passengers that were in the passenger car. The train went down to Grenloch and started, I believe over in Camden. It was mostly a freight train, though.
There were times when daddy and I would just stand there and count cars.
Speaking of choo-choos -- I had a friend, Patty Wilson, who lived in Gloucester, NJ and her home backed on a railroad track. We would sit on her back step and count the cars on trains as they passed her home. I loved that house, by the way, it had neat nooks and crannies. The most cars on a train that we counted was 114. Why do I remember that?
When my son was a baby we moved to Gloucester and lived in a HUD community while we were waiting for my husband's military orders to come in. I used to walk Phil (my boy) to a park that was just behind Patty's house, and we too would watch the train. They didn't run as frequently as they ran in the 50s, but Phil seemed to enjoy that as well. I'm sure he doesn't remember that since he was under a year old when we did that.
So, that's the story of "Where's the choo-choo?" Lest you think daddy was wasting time or a trip to the choo-choo, we always stopped at the post office on the way back!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


When I was going into 5th grade there was a polio epidemic. Not much was know about polio at that time and there was no cure yet. Jonas Salk had not finalized his vaccine. I remember that summer -- that would be 1953 -- my dad told me that someone in town had polio. He explained to me what the symptoms were and asked me to tell him if I felt anything like what could lead to the disease.

I think that was the wrong thing to do. He told me my legs might hurt. Well, I was going through a growth spurt that summer, and guess what, my legs hurt. I told daddy every day that my legs were hurting, and everyday he would take my temperature, check my throat, and make sure my legs were working and working in good order -- he checked that by making me walk a lot.

Polio is nothing to laugh about, even though some of the things we did may seem ridiculous in retrospect.

I remember pictures in the newspaper almost every day of another child in an iron lung. Another child in leg braces. Articles about some Sister in Australia who was having success with rehabilitating children and adults who got polio.

Polio caused paralysis and children could be left mildly affected or horribly affected. Some people who contracted polio were left no being able to breathe on their own, thus the iron lungs.

After Jonas Salk found a vaccine, we were all -- the entire town -- herded into the school gym (that would be Downing school) and were given lumps of sugar with the vaccine squirted on the sugar -- the vaccine was colored reddish purple as I remember -- and the cube of sugar was to make it swallowable.

Polio has been basically eradicated in the USA because of the vaccine which all you young ones got when you were babies. Just we "elders" remember eating the cube.

Although my legs hurt a lot that summer (growth spurt) the Lord protected our family from that disease.

Running out of topics

Even with my sister's input, I'm running out of topics. So this will be a pictorial of old pictures.

This is a picture of Aunt Fran and Uncle Howard. Aunt Fran was my mother's next older sister. She came into Philadelphia in 1906 when the family emigrated from Italy. She and Uncle Howard were missionaries to Bristol, Tennessee. Having recently visited Bristol, I think they need missionaries today as well! My cousin Betty Boyll Curtis still lives in Bristol and works in the library at King College. Her brother Dan went to be with the Lord in the late 90s. All four of them graduated from Philadelphia College of the Bible (when Aunt Fran and Uncle Howard went there is was Philadelphia Bible Institute). Aunt Fran often talked of their days at PhilaBI -- pronounced fil-a-by.

This picture is of my mom and dad and was taken in 1969 shortly after my son, Phil, was born. I put this picture up so you could see the resemblance between my mom and her sister Fran. Although, Fran really looked like Daisy, mom's oldest sister. Unfortunately, I only have one picture of Aunt Daisy and it was taken in 1936, so a comparison wouldn't be worth anything.

Aunt Daisy died when I was quite young. I remember visiting her a couple of times at the hospital in Lima, PA and thought how much she looked like my mom.

Okay, final picture of the day. This is my father in 1935 at the beach wearing his wool bathing suit. If he knew I put this up on the WWW for the whole world to see he'd be rolling over in his grave. But wasn't he a handsome dude? My sister thinks he looks like my brother Mark -- I don't see it. If I put a picture of him up when he was a child of about five you could say he looks like my granddaughter Rosie. She's the one who talks about me and my "elderly" friends. Cracks me up!
Enough for tonight. I'm going to bed. To all you family out there in BLOG land, enjoy!

Words that MAY have disappeared from the Dictionary

My older daughter sent me a quiz today and because it's about things that are more than 40 years old, I did very well -- in fact, I got them all correct, which means, according to the answer sheet that I'm "older than dirt". It said a few other things as well about my mental abilities.

Anyway, I thought I'd clarify the words that you youngsters may not know, and which I, growing up in Runnemede used often.

Dimmer switches on automobiles -- are they even called that now? It was a button on the floor of the car on the driver's side next to the clutch which you hit with your left foot to make the lights go from bright to not so bright, thus the name "dimmer switch." Now, you flip the light control bar behind the steering wheel.

What's a clutch? If you've ever driven a manual transmission you know what that is. A manual transmission means you do the work in shifting the gears, not as in an automatic transmission where the work is done for you by the way the transmission is built. Few cars today have a manual transmission.

Clothes sprinkler -- in the OLD days before we had steam irons, we had to make the clothes moist so the wrinkles -- and there were wrinkles because there was no such thing as permanent press -- would go away. One way was to sprinkle the clothes on ironing day in the morning, rolls them up and wait for the moisture to go through the whole item to be ironed. This was also before spray starch or spray sizing. So, the clothes sprinkler was a soda bottle or some other bottle with holes punched in the lid so just a sprinkle of water would come out -- sort of like that button on today's irons that gives that extra squirt of steam on a hard-to-get-rid-of wrinkle. I don't know why we didn't just leave the clothes a little damp and iron them while they were still damp. Seemed like an extra step to me.

You also had to be careful, because if the clothes were left moist for just a little too long they smelled sour and you had to wash them again, and start over. Sometimes in the sprinkler bottle oils of lavender or rose oil were mixed with the water so the clothes smelled nice.

I already addressed the issue of the cream squirting out the top of the bottle in a previous BLOG.

A popular chewing gum (not Chicklet -- a small piece of gum which was sugar coated) back in the 40s and 50s was Blackjack gum. You got five sticks for a nickle. It came in a blue and black wrapper, and it tasted like licorice. Not my favorite. I preferred cinnamon Chiclets -- they tasted like red-hots.

Stockings -- stockings were pantyhose without the pantie. I mentioned this previously. You had to wear a very uncomfortable gadget called a girdle or a garter belt to hold them up. Or, if you wanted to cut off your circulation you could wear a garter. The stockings came to the top of your thighs, and down the back there was a seam which was where the piece of nylon was stitched together to form the stocking. This seam was a pain as it had to be kept straight or the back or you leg looked like &*()@. So, because of a shortage of nylon/silk during World War II and after that, ladies took to using an eyebrow pencil and drawing a "seam" up the back of their leg so people would think they had stockings, when, in fact, they didn't.

Wax candy -- I think you can still get these today. They were wax (like the stuff used to seal jelly during canning) and they came in various shapes and sizes, and inside that wax was a juice -- basically colored sugar water. Yummm! Not one of my favorites.

Butch wax -- what? Butch wax was a special wax (not floor wax and not furniture wax) that boys and men used to keep their BUTCH (crew) cuts up in the front. It was a style thing.

Skates -- no in-line skates for us. Our outdoor skates were made of all metal. They had clamps on the front which you loosened and tightened with a key. The thing was, however, if you didn't have a pair of shoes that had soles that were separate from the shoe -- not like a sneaker where it's all one piece -- there was no way you could get those skates to stay on. I finally got the wise idea that a piece of heavy twine tied around the whole front of the skate would keep the skate on better, so I used that. They also had a leather ankle strap to keep the back end on.

Today many people have a hard time making a decision. Not so back in the "good old days" we simple went "eeny-meeny-miney-mo, catch a monkey by the toe, if he hollers let him go, eeny-meeny-miney-mo." And with each word you would point at what you were trying to decide -- like which piece of candy would be a best buy.

Polio -- I'm going to write about that in a separate BLOG.

Duck-and-cover drill -- I think you can relate to this as it's the same as a tornado drill. You would duck under your desk and cover our head with your hands. It was something we practiced in case someone dropped a nuclear bomb on us. Stupid, when you think of it. We would have been fried anyway, and all the dropping, ducking, and hiding under our desks wouldn't have helped at all.

Princess Summerfallwinterspring -- think about it. All the seasons. She was a a part of the Howdy Doody show -- a puppet show that was very popular with children in the 40s and 50s. You can find lots of stuff about this on-line, just Google "Howdy Doody".

Mimeograph -- an old fashioned means of duplicating something on paper. I don't know how to explain this. Prior to this method there were stencils, which were very messy and dirty when you were printing out what was on the stencil. Mimeographed items were typed on a two-piece paper and carbon set -- the carbon part was a special material that would not disappear when added to the spirit juice. The machine was very similar to a stencil machine, you turned a crank after you affixed your stencil/carbon side up to the drum, and this spirit juice would, if the machine was working correctly, slowly drip over the stencil allowing you to make up to 100 copies from one stencil. For all I know some schools are still using this method. The important thing was it smelled so good so when got the paper(s) you automatically sniffed the paper.

My children should remember the mimeograph machine because we had one and when I was teaching at BBCS I used it almost every day to give my students extras, including games such as Pundles. Another word that isn't around any more.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Eggs, chickens, and chicken coops

I know this picture is small, but I don't know how to make it bigger for this BLOG. the persons on the left side of the picture are me and, I assume, some babysitter, but I don't recognize the person, even in the full-size picture. And I'm sorry this is so blurry. Beside the church (picture taken in 1947) left side of the picture behind the picket fence are chicken coops. They were are neighbor's coops. The Lodges'. I barely remember Mr. Lodge, but I remember Mrs. Lodge. She baked good cookies.

Mr. Lodge would frequently bring mom eggs (fresh) and chickens (freshly killed with the feet still on). Mom would boil up the whole chicken and she would eat the feet. Yes, my mom ate the chicken feet, telling me that there were lots of nutrients in that part of the chicken. Can you imagine that? I know we ate a lot of eggs.

The chicken coops were demolished after Tom Lodge died (Tom being oldest son). They were a fixture in our side yard for years and years. And they really did smell bad. Anyway, Tom died in 1972 -- I know this because dad was the executor of the estate and had to sell everything in the house. We came down two weeks after my youngest child was born and went through the house and got some neat antiques which I still have.

I mentioned Tom Lodge in another BLOG -- he was our Friday produce man.

When Mrs. Lodge (Tom's mother) died in 1948 my mom told me that Jesus was coming to take Mrs. Lodge to be with Him. I sat on the back step for hours watching for Jesus. I just wanted to see Him. Well, Jesus came and went and took Mrs. Lodge with Him. I didn't see Him. I cried. Poor mom. How do you explain to a 5-year-old that Mrs. Lodge is with Jesus -- Jesus took her to be with Him, but He didn't come in person to get her? I survived it, and I'm really looking forward to the day when I see Him face to face, when He comes to take me to be with Him.

On my mother being a nurse

My niece wanted clarification on what I said about my mom being a nurse. Well, here goes.

My mom and dad were married seven years before I was born. And, I guess (really I am guessing at this) that mom was despairing about being pregnant, and decided to go back to school. She went to the Pennsylvania Hospital school of nursing to study practical nursing.

She almost finished before she got pregnant with me. Even though she didn't graduate, she did have several well-starched nurses uniforms, well-starched nurses caps, and her cape. She also had a "nurses bag" which contained such things as bandage material, a scissors to cut the bandage with, suture thread, suture needle, blood pressure machine, syringe, a small vial for iodine, another one for alcohol, etc. It was in a small case that nurses carried with them when they made house calls -- like a doctor's bag only feminine. I'm guessing again that mom was going to be a home nurse.

We -- my sister and I, both mostly me -- played with her well-starched uniforms, her cape, and especially her cape. She taught us early to treasure these items and keep them clean. How did she do that? She made me iron one of those heavily starched uniforms once -- that's all it took -- after I had messed it up. She also taught us how to make nurses caps out of plain white paper. Who could tell that they weren't cloth? That way, we didn't have to worry about getting them blemished and then having to wash, starch, and iron them.

As I got older I really wanted to be a nurse. There was a family in our church and four of the five daughters went to nursing school at West Jersey School of Nursing (WJSN) and all went around the same time. I used to visit them at the dormitory and infuse myself with as much nursing stuff as I could. I read all of mom's textbooks before I went to high school. I continued my desire to be a nurse until I found out that I had to take high-school chemistry. I figured that was a sure-fail course for me, so I switched to teaching.

Back then there were no tutors or extra chances to pass a course to get into nursing school or any other collegiate endeavor. You were admitted solely on your class standing. Open college classes were not an option. And, you took specific courses in high school to enable you to go on to that specific college course of study. The options back then weren't anything like they are today.

Anyway, because I didn't want to risk failure at anything, I changed over to seeking a teaching degree (which my father was more encouraging about anyway). And, it worked. I am a teacher. Even folks that don't know me will ask, after they've talked to me for a while, if I was/am a teacher.

So you don't think oh, she just went on to teaching as a last-ditch endeavor, that's not true. I also played teacher for years and years and my brothers and sister were my students. My mom and dad even bought me a "teachers kit" -- which was a box that had a tablet, pencils, a slate board, chalk, and a pair of fake glasses -- all teachers wear glasses, right? I worked that "kit" to death.

The picture? Mom in her nurses uniform (I think).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saturday night baths

My sister wanted me to clarify about this when I start this BLOG on this topic that we were not dirty, and it might seem so when you start to read this. We were scrubbed when we were little on a daily basis by our mother, but ...

When I was growing up, until 1952, there was no sewer system in our town, and the only way to get rid of household waste was to it to go into a cesspool. Our yard had two cesspools -- one for the house, one for the church. And these "pools" would periodically become full to overflowing, actually, not literally, and would have to be emptied.

A truck would pull into the yard and pump out the waste that was in the cesspool and we were good to go again. And boy did that process stink.

So, because we had to be careful of our waste water, because emptying a cesspool was expensive, we were only permitted one bath per week -- and that bath was on Saturday night. During the week we had what my mom (the former nurse) liked to call "sponge" baths. Hah! They were with scratchy washcloths, not soft sponges, and the water was usually cold, not tepid or warm. But we were washed (sponged) every day.

Oh, yeah, when we took that weekly bath, we were only allowed two inches of water in the tub -- now, I like to have a tub that has water in it almost to the top, but at that time it just wasn't permitted.

I must say that after the town sewer system was up and working, all that changed and we were allowed to take as many baths as we wished.

We never had a shower, by the way. There was a hose with a shower head on it attached to the faucet and in that way we could wash our hair and hose down after the bath water became soap scummy.

I can't remember the last time I took a bath. In our "retirement" home we have a big, big tub and I've only taken two baths in it -- I prefer to shower. But if I wanted to take a bath in that "garden tub" I could fill it almost to the top -- almost, I say, because if I filled it to the rim when I got in, it would overflow and cause lots of water damage to our bathroom. I think that has something to do with Archimedes principle, doesn't it?

Now, my father didn't only take a Saturday night bath. It seems to me that every morning he took his good old time in the bathroom, washing/bathing/steaming up the bathroom, while we children waited to go "potty" and waited in pain until he was ready to give up his place in the bathroom. He would exit the bathroom smelling like a freshly shaved and bathed person wearing his briefs and undershirt, move the three steps from the bathroom door to his bedroom and get dressed. Strange the things one remembers.

Mr. Softee

Did you know that Mr. Softee is a Runnemede company? Yes, that annoying song on the ice-cream truck started right in Runnemede. ( Listen to the song, it's on that website. Actually the company started in 1956 in Philly, but as the website states, moved to Runnemede in 1958, where it's been ever since.

Let's see, when I was 16 (that would be in 1959) I worked for about 6 weeks at the main office which was located in front of the factory which was in front of the place where they housed the vehicles.

I used to walk to work. It was about 3/4 of a mile from the house, or maybe a mile. But it was a straight shot toward Barrington on Clements Bridge Road.

How we enjoyed that ice cream. It was sort of like Dairy Queen brought to your door. You know, the ice cream with the curl on top. It was soft-serve ice cream, and you could get a cone with jimmies.

If this BLOG picture device was working right now ("engineers are working on the problem") I would include a copy of the music sheet so you could play the song on your piano and drive everyone crazy with it -- sort of like the song: "I would like an ice-cream cone." We used to start singing that one whenever we wanted someone to go down to Joe's and get us ice cream. And my children used that ploy as well when they wanted ice cream.

Anyway, just a short BLOG about Mr. Softee, and one of my many summer jobs. What did I do with the money? Probably spent it on material so I could make myself some clothes for school.


Today is the first day in six months that I felt like it was cool enough to enjoy some soup, so I made some. Nothing better than home-made chicken noodle soup. I make it the way my mother made it. I had cooked some chicken breasts several weeks ago (in water) for chicken salad (a summer staple in fresh tomato) and froze the broth. I made lemon chicken the other night, and had some left over pieces -- neither Alan nor I were hungry -- and so I put the left-over chicken in the broth, added some celery, fresh parsley, and some carrots, and there you have basic chicken soup. I put the noodles in about 15 minutes before we eat, that way the noodles don't get mushy. That's also how my mom made it. Well, almost. She would just throw a chicken in a pot, cover it with water, add three or four stalks (uncut) of celery, and a couple of carrots (uncut, unpeeled) and some salt and then simmer than for about three hours or so, until the chicken fell off the bones. Then at the end she'd add either pastina or rice or noodles.

We had soup often, I think. Although, mom's soups were more like stew, or were her stews more like soup? Anyway, I always loved my mom's soups (except for lentil) and she taught me how to make them. Since my husband isn't really a soup eater, I enjoy the feast myself for several days after I make a pot. I've learned to tone it down -- use a smaller pot -- so I only have to eat the soup for three days, instead of weeks (freezing one-serving containers). Since I now have a rather small freezer, I have to limit how much I freeze, so I stick to freezing stock (broth) and not soup. The soup I just put the pot in the fridge and when I want some, I just reheat it.

So, today is like a beautiful fall day. Tomorrow -- they tell me, it's going to be hot again, but then... they PROMISE it will cool off. I'm not holding my breath. I know I've complained about the warm weather we've had this year. I'm really tired of it. Those hot flashes I endure at this time of my life are more severe in warm weather, and I look forward to the cooling effect, both on the outdoors, and on my metabolism, that lower temperatures will bring.

This really has nothing to do with Runnemede except that I learned to cook in Runnemede. When I was nine years old, my mom bought me a children's cookbook. The first thing (besides toast, which isn't really cooking) she taught me to make from that book was scrambled eggs. I still love scrambled eggs -- well, souped-up scrambled eggs, or are they called "loaded" scrambled eggs -- must have some ham, cheese, fresh red pepper, onion (just a smidgen), if no ham, then bacon. Sounds like an omelet, but with scrambled eggs (loaded) you don't have to have a perfect round egg dish slide from the pan, you can just scoop it out -- much easier.

I never caught on to why people want omelette's -- scrambled eggs is the same thing, just not as fancy.

Back to learning to cook in Runnemede...well, then she taught me how to measure, or read a measuring cup, and that's the best use of fractions I can think of. How many tablespoons make 1/4 cup? Who cares? How many teaspoons make a tablespoon -- 3 teaspoons make one tablespoon, but I have at least six sets of measuring spoons and measuring cups, so I don't have to make that conversion. Mom never had measuring spoons, that I can recall. She had her "cooking" teaspoon and that covered everything that required "spoon" measurements. She had a pyrex two-cup measure, and that covered the cup-ish measurements.

I seem to have to have every new set that I see on the Cooking channel. I found the neatest set of measuring spoons in Wyoming this summer -- they measure "a smidgen", "a pinch", "a taste", and "a soup-son" -- that last one's not spelled correctly, but I don't feel like getting up and going to the kitchen to find out how to spell it correctly. Needless to say, the scoop part of the spoons are very, very small. But I thought it was a cute gadget, so I bought it.

Enough rambling about cooking, and soup, etc. I hope you all enjoy soup on a cool autumn day and that your mom taught you how to make a great soup like my mom did.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fishmonger and milkmen

It seems to me that I posted something about this before, but just in case my senile mind is playing tricks on me again, here goes.

When I was growing up food was delivered to the door. Oh, we had markets (stores) where we could purchase food, and mom did, but there were those delivery trucks that seemed to be at our home several times a week.

Every Friday, the fishmonger would bring us fresh fish from the shore, and fillet and de-scale those fish right on the street. The neighborhood cats would get a feast. But the aroma wasn't too pleasant, at least for me.

Also, on Fridays, our neighbor, Tom Lodge, came by with his "fresh" produce truck -- never mind it was in the dead of winter and the "fresh" produce was up from Florida or out from California. However, in the summer we feasted on Jersey tomatoes -- they are really the best ever tomatoes and aren't grown any more. Big Boys have replace the good old Jerseys. We also relished Jersey corn. Jersey peaches. Jersey blueberries (I still try to find Jersey blues in our local produce store), local lettuce, onions, and even potatoes. I loved the summer -- still do -- for the fresh produce that was and is available.

One our family favorites was tomato salad -- made with cut up Jerseys, sweet basil leaves (fresh from mom's garden), onions and a little bit of olive oil (EVOO). Mixed together the salad produced just enough "juice" to be sopped up with day-old Italian bread. Yummy! I was probably the only child in the family who loved zuchinni the way my mom made it. She would cut up a zuchinni and saute it in butter and add some garlic for flavor. When the squash was just tender we would eat it. It was soooooo good. Even dad liked it. But when she made it the only ones to eat it were daddy, me, and my mom.

Also delivered to our door was milk, in glass bottles, which in winter would freeze, and the cream would become like a Popsicle on the top of the bottle. The milk portion would settle to the bottom of the bottle, cream would rise to the top, and basically we drank 3/4 and 1/4 (not 1/2 and 1/2). Milk tasted so much better when I was a girl. Now it tastes like watered down I don't know what. It doesn't taste like milk, anyway. Milk and other dairy products, like cottage cheese which came in aluminum cups, were delivered on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Since I never knew that there was such a thing as non-delivery of milk, when we set up our home in Cincinnati, it took me quite a while to find a company that would deliver milk, butter, and cottage cheese to the door. The company finally stopped home deliveries in the mid-80s.

I would pay extra to have food delivered to my door any day rather than have to go to Kroger's or some other grocery.

And, dad's shirts were laundered, starched, and ironed by one of the local laundries, and his shirts were delivered, also on Friday.

Seems like Friday was a busy day.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Late night movies

When I was growing up, after I was 13 and in high school, I was allowed to watch the "Late Night Movie." That was a program that started after the 11 o'clock news, and showed an old movie, usually a black and white movie that was made in the late 30s or early 40s. Movies like: Mrs. Minever, The Quiet Man, The Bells of St. Mary's, White Christmas, Jane Eyre, etc.

My father especially like the British movies -- mostly depicting World War II events -- and so did I. Anyway, I would stay up and watch that movie, after I finished my homework (another topic of discussion for a future BLOG), and then went to bed, and got up at 6:30 a.m. ready for school. Are you getting the picture. I went to bed at 1:30 a.m., got up at 6:30 a.m., and went on like that for all the years I was in high school and college. I did, however, make up for the lack of sleep during the work-week, on the weekend when I would sleep until noon or later, always waking up with a headache on Saturday because I slept so long. And then, on Sunday afternoon, tradition was to nap again.

However, my sleep habits are still messed up. I still am a night-owl. Now, however, I have the luxury of sleeping in, but since I don't sleep well at night, I can't really say I sleep in, I just sleep when I can. That's part of getting old.

I wonder why that is? As we get old, we probably should sleep more, but we don't, at least the old folks I know don't. We would like to, but the mind doesn't shut down like it used to.

Anyway, thought you'd like to know about the old movies. Oh, yeah, I missed one -- Random Harvest -- my kids remember? Smithy?

Sis's visit

Well, Deb's visit to northern Kentucky is just about over -- boo, hoo! I'm sure gonna miss her. She's been such a blessing to have here and we've just been chatting up a storm and reminiscing about our childhood and young adulthood .

We both have three children, hers are a couple of years behind mine. She has two boys and a girl (now men and woman), I have two girls, and one boy (now women, and man). Duh!

We have enjoyed visiting with some of my grandchildren while she's been here. Today we celebrated my son's eldest's birthday -- Rosie -- she's eight! Time flies. Aunt Debbie was surrounded for the whole two hours we were at Rosie's house with her and her siblings. Aunt Debbie plays better than me-mom.

We started working on HER memory books of our family. Mine are mostly finished -- the picture editions, that is. This BLOG is another memory "book" of sorts of the Drexler/Sbaraglia/Hahn clan.

Her mind is not as old as mine and she remembers things better than I do. But I remembered something that she didn't remember -- or, as she put it -- never knew about therefore, couldn't be accused of forgetting.

We saw a dead cat in the road -- gross! -- on the way to Rosie's birthday party. Well, when I was a teenager, whenever you saw a dead animal in the road, the object was to say, "I one it." Then the next person had to say, "I two it." And so on. When you got to the number eight -- well, I'll let you complete the sentence. So, when I saw the dead cat, I said , "I one it." And I had her say "I two it." By the time I got to "I seven it." She got it !! She "eight" it. Ha, ha.

We talked about padoodles and how we looked for them when we were growing up, because the person who saw a padoodle first -- oh, yeah, a padoodle is a one-headlighted car or truck -- got to kiss his or her best beau.

And then there was the trick at the stop lights. If your car got stuck at a stop light, everyone in the car had to jump out, run around the car, and get back in before the light turned green. Fun!

And blue lights. Deb didn't know about them. They were lights on poles where the emergency phones were located, and if you saw a blue light first -- same as a padoodle -- you got to kiss your honey. We used all kinds of excuses to get to kiss each other. Kissing was a big deal in those days.

We talked about marriage, and weddings, and how thankful we are that we have such long-lasting marriages. And how we both wanted an early morning wedding so we could get on with our honeymoon. You see, in those days, we waited until the honeymoon to do more than kissing. So, can you understand why we liked kissing? Is that too much information? Sorry.

We talked about Uncle Joe Egitto and for those of you who don't know, he is still alive, he's 91, and he and I have talked to each other a couple of times in the last year. I've mentioned Uncle Joe. He, like my mom's brother, Joe, did things with us children that my father couldn't do because he was occupied being a pastor. Extended family things, I guess is how they would put it these days. God blessed me and my brothers and sister with great Aunts and Uncles who took pleasure in playing with us, and taking us places that without their taking us, we would never have gotten to go.

Anyway, we've had a wonderful, blessed time. And I'm so thankful to Jim, Deb's husband who has given her this time to be with me, and helping me with Alan these past few days. Thanks Jim! And Thanks, Deb!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

British Books

We sat on the love seat, my sister and I, with our feet outstretched and devoured books on the kings and queens of England. Daddy loved the Brits. He subscribed, for as long as I can remember, to the Illustrated London News (ILN). And, how we loved those magazines.

I still have an affinity for the English Commonwealth and while I'm not a Diana watcher I was enthralled with the wedding and watched it on TV back in 1982. I vaguely remember watching the wedding of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on TV -- I was taking a piano lesson at Hegaman's at the time, and they had the TV turned into the wedding. Hmmm. Or was it the coronation? No, I think it was the wedding. Which came first? The coronation or the wedding?

Needless to say the ILN had pages and pages and pages of pictures of the royals. And the coronation was a special issue which daddy kept for a very, very long time -- until it wore out, I guess. Although we were taught early to treasure books and magazines and to handle them properly, and keep them like new for as long as possible, they would still get to a point where too much handling left them in a state of no-longer-being-able-to-be-repaired.

I have three of those books in my home now, The King of England (about Queen Elizabeth II's father), The Little Princesses (about Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret); and The Queen of England (about Queen Elizabeth and her ascension to the throne). I do have a book about the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, but it's not a classic, and there is little text in it. The three older books are mostly text (history) with several pictures in the middle of the book.

My sister and I are checking out the sequence of events mentioned above -- coronation vs. marriage, which came first. I'll get back to this in a second. Okay, here's the scoop. Queen Elizabeth was married to Prince Philip in 1947 -- therefore I did NOT watch the wedding on TV, I mean I was four years old. What would I know about a queen getting married.

She was crowned Queen of England in 1952, so that must be what I watched.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mom's garden

My mother had a garden, always. She had flowers and vegetables. She loved spring. One of the first signs that it was garden fixing time was the Spring Garden Show in Philadelphia, PA. Mom went every year. It was an event. No one went with her, but she met her sister, Aunt Anne there, and they loved it. She would come home so excited about what she saw. She didn't buy any flowers, but she got catalogs and ideas.
In the spring she went through the seed catalogs and ordered seeds for her garden. She needed seeds for her tomatoes, her herbs, and any new "flowering plant" she saw at the flower show. Each year she added another rosebush and another iris plant to her garden.
These pictures are the house where I grew up, NOW, not when mom was gardening. The new pastor's wife has made the yard beautiful again. It went downhill after mom died, because dad had no interest in it. So, for 13 years the lawn got mowed, but the plants (annuals) that came back each year had to fend for themselves. They got water when it rained. Dad wouldn't water during a drought. But her roses, survived mostly intact, as did her irises.
Mom's favorite rose -- well, she really had two that she loved -- one was crimson glory and the other was sterling silver. She was so excited when she got sterling silver. It was supposed to be gray (like silver?) and it was sort of, but more lavender in color than gray. Crimson glory was a deep, velvety red, almost burgundy rose and the aroma of that rose was unbelievable.
She had climbing roses that took over their corners of the house and garage, but they were beautiful when they were in bloom. I wish I could remember the names of those roses. The bush that covered the garage was a very pale pink, and it was a full, beautiful rose and almost white, but had just a little bit of pink on the edge.
The growth at the back door was a red rose, not as full as the other roses, but it still had a wonderful "bouquet". There was a yellow climber by the cellar door. Not as pretty as the others, but it gave us in-house flowers for several weeks each year.
I already mentioned that we visited an "iris farm" on Memorial Day, and that's where mom got her "iris" wishes. She had a black iris -- and I know no names of any irises, but I love the plants -- and it was really black. I think she wanted a black rose -- there was a rose at one time that was almost black, it was such a deep red.
I believe she had a Mrs. Miniver rose. I know she had a peace rose.
She had a white lilac bush that she nurtured and took great care of. But the purple lilacs grew with no help from her at all. She had a patch of lavender that I envy today. I have a large pot, but her lavender came back every year and it took over the spot next to the back steps. Seems to me, there was a climbing rose there at one point as well.
On the west side of the house, she had mostly irises, and a few rose bushes. In the front of the house she had a forsythia bush that was her bane. She kept chopping it back and it kept taking over the yard. I think it was finally removed.
I never appreciated all the work mom did in her garden, but I do now. And when I heard the song "In the Garden" I think of mom and the Lord walking together in the morning -- the time of day she did most of her garden work.