Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Thursday, January 31, 2008


Politics today are nothing like they were back in the 50s and 60s. Oh, I guess they are, but they seem different. First, we didn't have primaries run by the media for two years prior to the primary season, and an open or brokered convention was normal, and frankly, enjoyed by those of us on the outside looking in. Today, the press seems to think it would be a crime if that happened.

I remember after we got our TV, one of the first things we watched, because there was nothing else on TV, was the Republican convention that was putting Dwight Eisenhower back as their choice for President again (56-60). The democrat convention was not enjoyed at our house, but the Republican convention was. Runnemede at that time was a Republican town.

Dad was a Republican through and through. He reminded me of that on several occasions, as was his father. He castigated me once when I voted against John Glenn in a primary -- the reason I did was that I figured if the other person who was running against Mr. Glenn won the primary, the Republican candidated would win the seat in the senate. In order to vote in that primary I had to declare that I was a democrat. It stuck in my crawl to do that, but I did it. The person I voted for did not win, but that was the only time I ever voted for a democrat.

Back to politics -- daddy style. He was a history buff, my father was, and he would go through all the "bad" things the dems did or were going to do, and how much he didn't like Woodrow Wilson, the League of Nations, the United Nations, FDR or Truman, although, he did respect Mr. Truman's style. He thought the USA was going to hell because of FDR's socialism, which wasn't seen as socialism but as a means to get people back to work, which his policies did; but if you check it out, they were socialistic policies.

There was a boy who went to our Sunday school who ran for mayor in Runnemede as a democrat and daddy did vote for him, but he didn't want anyone to know. And from the pulpit dad was not shy to talk about politics from a Biblical perspective.

So, growing up, Republicans were good, Democrats were bad, and never, no never would we say anything good about the democrats.

Monk Lewis

My neice reminded me of something I had forgotten -- my dad's school days.

My father was NOT the best student, although, he did very well in penmanship -- he had beautiful handwriting, even when he was 90 years old and arthritic hands hampered his endeavors at writing. He was a good typist also. Of course, those skills had nothing to do with school work. He didn't like calculators when they became very popular and preferred using his own arithmetic abilities rather than depend on a "machine." I have to agree with him on that.

Think about it. If you put the wrong number into the calculator you get the wrong sum. What are the odds that you'll do that -- pretty high when you get up in age, like I am, and like what my dad was when they were "invented." I know this is true because we used to have "adding machine" wars when I was in high school -- given a list of numbers we would race to see who could finish the list first -- correctly of course, and while we all finished quickly, all of us had mistakes at one time or another in what we put into the adding machine. And then we'd "war" and see who could get it done more quickly than an adding machine and the accuracy of those who did it in their head, rather than with the adding machine. The "head" counters were more accurate more times than the "adding machine" counter. I rest my case, and get back to Monk Lewis.

My father was extremely smart -- he had to be because I know he had the entire Bible memorized and he could cull out parts of it, chapter and verse, quicker than you could bat an eye. But school was not his forte.

I'm sure he wasn't a less than perfect student on purpose -- he was certainly academic enough to do the work, but he was a boy, and a boy without a mother -- which in that day meant he had one parent and coped. Today, they would assign all kinds of afflictions and disabilities to him because of his "one-parenthood" but not the fact that he was a boy and preferred to do "boy" things rather than academic things.

My father had one teacher he told us about often -- mostly when we were being rowdy or not quite obedient fast enough. And, I'm sure my siblings can relate to this -- MONK LEWIS! The name we feared most when growing up. I picture a heavy, pock-marked ugly man, mean demeanor, etc. Actually, my dad told me in later years that he was a rather nice-looking man. But my dad's faces when he told us about this man would not allow me to visualize anything other than this horrible personage on this horrible person.

So this is what dad told us about MONK LEWIS!

Monk Lewis was dad's fifth grade teacher (I'm pretty sure it was 5th grade) and he had a reputation of being very, very strict (and mean). Although when you think about it, it was all "show". But the students didnt' know that.

Monk Lewis had a book, and in that book he would write student's names and put a mark next to that name depending on the infraction of the rule that had been broken. He would make an ugly face (as my father made an ugly face, I supposed that was what Monk Lewis had done), he would point his pencil at the person who had made a mistake, while leering at that student, and put a dot or a number of dots next to the name, dependingon the rule infraction, in this little book he kept on his desk.

The face my father made -- he would stick out his tongue, cackle, point at me (or my sister or one of my brothers), then lick his pencil, and put a mark in this little spiral-bound book. It was scary.

My father told us that story many times, and daddy had a book, and he would get it out and pretend he was Monk Lewis, lick his pencil tip, leer, and put a dot in that dreaded book -- which was blank, by the way, except for a bunch of dots! Dad never counted the dots, and he really never used the book against us children, but we lived in fear and trepidation of that book which mimicked what Monk Lewis did when my father was a child in 5th grade.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Icky Sicky

Sorry folks, the BLOGger is ill with the flu. Woke up this a.m. with a sore throat which rapidly progressed into a realy awful headache and then the pukes. Fever accompanied all this as well. I'm going back to bed. I thought I was getting better, but I'm really not.

Back to bed for me. I'll be in touch in a few days.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


This isn't really about growing up in Runnemede, but today I was thinking about what it would have been like to have the ability to BLOG when I was growing up. All that I can't remember would be in my BLOG and you youngsters would have it all set up already.

I would have known what questions to ask my mother and father about their pre-children life, their parents, their grandparents, etc. Now, it's like working in the dark to get just little glimpses of what my parents went through when they were growing up.

My mom grew up very poor. Her dad died when she was a youngster -- I think she was 7 or 8 -- and her mom had to scrub toilets at a mission in south Philadelphia (and I don't even know the name of that mission) to support the family, which at that time consisted of my mother, Aunt Anne, and Uncle Joe. The extended family helped Grandmother Sbaragalia, but it was difficult. My own mother told me that when she was 14 she started working odd jobs to help put pennies into the pot so the family could eat.

To keep warm they would use the oven in the kitchen, basically living in the kitchen in the winter.

My father's family was well-to-do and he was basically disinherited when he became a Christian and when he married my mom, an Italian. His father had a great job -- he was postmaster in north Philadelphia and thus didn't lose his job during the depression -- and had enough money to not only support himself and his family in style, but to have a rather large "savings" account when he died.

The stuff the Drexler family had accumulated during my grandfather Drexler's life was used from time to time to support the younger Drexler family (me and my siblings and my mom) as dad would remove family heirlooms from the jewelry tray in his bureau or from the trunk in the basement and sell them (hock them, pawn them) to get money to support his growing family.

Dad was a giver, so he was smart enough to give all the money he earned to mom and she would stingily parcel it out for food, clothing, bill paying, etc. And she always tithed on the money dad gave her. He kept a very little bit for himself each week -- I believe it was 10 percent or maybe even less. If he knew that the electric bill had to be paid, he didn't get much money for his "giving" to others. I know that whatever little money he had in his purse/wallet he didn't keep or use for himself. He was always giving money, books, and other things to people in need.

Mom would keep the money in envelopes in her dresser -- the electric bill got a percentage of the earnings each week, as did the gas bill, the fuel bill (either coal or oil depending on the year), food got what was left. There was a "tithe" envelope, an "allowances" envelope (a whole dollar was put in there for the children's meager allowances). There was a "savings" envelope, and once a month mom would go to the bank and put what was in there in the "Christmas" club account she had every year when I was growing up. She was very thrifty. She was a wonderful complement to my dad's spending wants and her knowing what needed to be bought and what would need to be purchased down the road. She also had an envelope for clothing, into which she put a small amount each week, saving it until there was enough to get shoes for the children, or some other item of clothing one of us needed.

I just wish I had asked them -- mom and dad -- about their life before I came along. I did talk to my father one night about his grandmothers and grandfather, but I'm not remembering much of the conversation. Most of all, I wish I could remember more of my life in Runnemede.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Thorns

I'm not talking about roses here. They--the Thorns-- were a family who attended our church. Founding members.

I remember the day Mr. Thorn died. We were in church, and the word came and his daughters Grace and Ruth left immediately to go home. They lived about three blocks from the church on the Black Horse Pike, next to the funeral home. Mrs. Thorn was not in church that morning.

I remember Mrs. Thorn (Ulva) as well. She was a nice lady who was one of the friendly parishioners who always had a tickle for the little lady (me). She had gray hair and wore it always in a tight bun at the back of her head, near her neck.

Ruth Thorn got cancer when I was in my early teens. She was probably 10 or 15 years older than I -- she was not married. The type of cancer she had progressed slowly. I used to visit her at least once a week when she was bed-bound, and play the piano for her. She loved to hear my latest "hit" single. I don't know how many times I play Roger Williams' arrangement of Autumn Leaves for her. All those arpeggios and scales and ebbs and flows of keys that sounded so much like falling leaves. I also played Grieg's piano concerto for her. She really did love to hear the piano. Also during those mini-concerts, I played God's music, music of the church, with my own arrangements of the beloved hymns.

Toward the end of her illness and life it was difficult for me to visit her because she had these tumors on the outside of her body that they were so huge. It was so hard to look at her. But she never complained and always smiled and seemed happy to have me visit her.

Her sister, Grace, worked at a secretarial job in Philadelphia and I only saw her on Sunday morning and evening. She never married either. She was a true alto -- she never sang any other voice part during services. I liked to sit in front of her because she helped me with learning how to sing alto without even thinking about it, just naturally sing the alto parts.

I loved the Thorns and it was obvious that they loved us by their smile, their speech, and their giving. Thank you Lord for The Thorn Family. We shall meet again.


Sidewalks are no longer present in most communities. But when I was growing up there were sidewalks on both sides of the street, maintained, I suppose by the town. They were cement.

Sidewalks were where one learned to ride a bike -- not in the street.

Sidewalks were where we put our hopscotch grids made with chalk and played and played and played until we couldn't hop any more.

Sidewalks were where we jumped rope, either individually or with a couple of friends. Do you remember double dutch? It was played on sidewalks when I was a child.

Sidewalks were where we played jacks --sitting Indian style on the cement and throwing the ball up and then scooping up the proper number of jacks when it was our turn.

Sidewalks were the place we played -- "Here comes the bride."

Sidewalks were where we walked from place to place in Runnemede. The entire route to the ball field was on a sidewalk, except where I had to cross the street. The entire route to my piano teacher was sidewalks except for street crossing. The entire route to anywhere in Runnemede was on sidewalks, except where one had to cross the streets.

Oh, we could use the railroad tracks as an alternate route to get from 3rd Avenue to 8th Avenue or to Clements Bridge Road, or to Evesham Road -- the only through streets over the tracks -- and we did often do that, but we could have used the sidewalks along the pike to get to the same place.

We used the sidewalks to roller skate -- where else? The street? No, we didn't use the street for playing in, or roller skating, or most of the time even for riding our bikes. The parents always told us to stay out of the street and we did, except when we had to cross it, always looking to the right, left, and right again before crossing.

I loved the sidewalks that were put in around the church -- they were a smoother cement that what the town of Runnemede put in and skating around the church was so much more fun on the smoother sidewalk.

Could we cut through yards avoiding the sidewalks? Yes we could and we did. But imagine a town with sidewalks that went to every other place in the town, no walking on dirt, or in the street, or half on the curb half off. It was really, really nice.

The Love Seat

The Love Seat was in the living room. It has gone through several changes since we first received it. I remember the day we got it.
I'll never know what was wrong with our old living room furniture -- I rather liked it, but Uncle Orf and Aunt Mary Eberhard thought we need a revamp in our living room so they donated their love seat and two chairs to mom and dad for the living room. This furniture was beatufilly maintained, but when we got it the furniture was already about 50 years old. So you get the picture.
The love seat was ALWAYS located under the window opposite the wall on which the piano was placed. So in the living room we had the love seat, next to it was a bookcase -- the subject for another BLOG -- and next to that on the door wall was one of the chairs. The other chair mom place catercorner next to the piano, sort of in the doorway to the dining room.
The love seat was not really good for sleeping on, but I devised a way to do that. By placing my head on one of the arms (which were wooden, not upholstered) and stretching out with my feet pushed through the arm hole on the opposite end, I could doze. Once the TV was added to the living room decor -- and one of the arm chairs was relegated to the basement -- it was my favorite place to lounge and watch TV. If I left the love-seat to go to the bathroom or to get a snack, if I didn't announce to the siblings -- "Don't take my seat, I'll be back." -- I'd be relegated to the floor to watch TV. I figured boys should be on the floor, not girls, so I always fought my brothers for chair space.
The love seat was the OFFICIAL place in the living on which to take pictures. The picture above is just one of many that were taken on that seat. You can almost see the book case next to dad. The picture was taken in 1980. And, in order to preserve the upholstery, mom put that horrible yellow throw cover on the love seat and it was there until the seat was moved to my home in the late 80s.
The love seat became the courting seat when I was dating my husband. I shared it with him, and no longer lounged on the seat as I had in the past.
The love seat now resides with my daughter who is presently looking for a good home -- in the family -- for the seat. The upholstery on it is in good shape, the arms need some work. It's mahogany through and through. I personally like the color of the upholstery on the chair -- it's a sage green -- but I have no room in my home for the seat. I wish I did.
Maybe when I redecorate my living room in the year 2020, I'll find a place for it.

Trundle Bed

When I was a child, the grandmother bed was in the second real bedroom in the small home in which we lived. That is, it was on the first floor in a room you had to go through to get to the attic stairs. And that's where my sister and I slept. The bed was on the wall between the two windows. Dad kept his "closet" -- a vintage Victorian wardrobe -- in that room, as well as his ties and belts. His underwear and PJs were stored in the small bedroom he shared with my mother and whatever baby was in the crib at that time.

Well, mom and dad now had four children and had to decide where to place them so they'd have their own bedroom back to themselves. So it was decided that my sister and I and the bed would be moved to the attic and my brothers would be put in the other downstairs bedroom -- the room through which one had to pass to get to the attic. Carl was still in a crib and that was moved into that room, and mom decided they would get a trundle bed for the "boys." Dad wasn't thrilled with that idea, and I don't recall why he was opposed to it, but they discussed it loudly (for them) for quite a few minutes. Mom finally won. And they got a trundle bed.

I don't know why anyone would care about this, it just a remembrance I had in bed last night. But that trundle bed became the sleeping place(s) for my brothers. When Carl left the crib, left the head-banging ability of the crib -- he used to bang his head against the wall when he wanted a drink and say something that sounded like "Where's the bottle." -- the underneath bed was moved to where the crib had been, so the boys weren't real close to each other at sleep time.

Just thought you might want to know this tidbit, this small remembrance of living in a very small house with one bathroom and six people.

Hope Chest(s)

I wrote recently about my cousin Alberta giving me towels for my hope chest when I was a teenager. I didn't have a hope chest, I had a box. The box had a few home-made pot holders (I wrote about that earlier this month), a few linens pilfered from the chests I'm about to tell you about. And that was it.

I was recalling the house in Runnemede and in particular my room (and my sister's) and as I went around the room, visualizing it, I recalled that there was a "hope chest" at the foot of the bed, but pushed from the foot, to be against the wall, leaving a small walk-way between it and the bed.

It was a magical chest to me. And there was another one in the unheated attic room (which later became my room). Both chests were magical, and we (my sister, mother, and I) just loved to open them up and go through them just to look and see what was in them.

They were full of linens from my grandmother Drexler's home and from my Grandmother Drexler's mother's (the Casper influence). Mom would change out the house each season and would go into the chest to get linens to enhance her seasonal decor.

One of the most beautiful things in the chest was my great-grandmother Casper's wedding gown. It was complete with pantaloons and head piece for the veil. The veil was no longer present. I have the gown now. It was getting very ratty, and a member of our church who was working at the Philaldephia Museum of Art refurbished it and then placed it on display for a couple of years in the museum's Victorian display, before returning it in mint condition to my mom and dad.

The gown is beautiful, but who could wear it. The waist is only 18 inches! My mom wore it once to a costume party they had at church and even her diminutive figure was too large in the waist. So she jury-rigged it so that the gap was not very prominent.

The chest also contained a china doll. It was made of china, not made in China. It was beautiful and so very frail. We had to handle it very, very carefully for fear of breaking it or ruining the material on the costume. I think my sister has that doll now. I know I don't.

The chest in the other room (the attic) also held fascinating things, curtains with which we (my sister and I) could drape ourselves and pretend we were princesses.

They were magical chests, not hope chests, and we enjoyed the forays into them, albeit few and far between.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ocean City Trip

When I was 13 years old, my father's cousin Alberta Young, she's the lady in the black and white picture (Uncle Harry about whom I've written before is with her) invited me, yes me, and a friend of mine, Linda Speer, who happened to be Alberta's next door neighbor in North Philly, to spend a week in Ocean City, NJ, in late June -- it was a graduation gift -- in 1957. Do you know how excited I was? How jealous my sister was? How jealous my friends were? A week in Ocean City, NJ was like a week in heaven for me. And, for Alberta to provide an all-expense paid trip, including meals, was, well, I can't tell you what that meant to me.

Alberta was a "tired, worn-out, old secretary" (her description) who didn't marry until she was in her early 50s, and didn't have any children. So, as her father and mother had adopted my father after his mother died in the influenza epidemic in 1918, she sort of adopted us children. She was always doing things for us, and giving us things. But, I always thought she gave my sister nicer gifts than she gave me. For example, when I was 15 or so, she gave me towels for my hope(less) chest, and she gave my sister a beautiful pearl ring. Since I love jewelry, you can imagine how "happy" I was to receive towels instead of the ring. But that really has nothing to do with Ocean City. I was happy to have those towels after my hope(less) chest turned into a real hope chest.

These pictures are pictures of the music pier and our "house" which were on the same street. The house in which we stayed is pictured here -- not the actual house, but one that was a "typical" house like the one we occupied . We had ONE ROOM -- a large window-filled room -- and were given permission to use the kitchen for renters which was on the bottom floor, under the main porch.

My trip with Alberta was the first time I ever heard of eating fruit (not in cereal) for breakfast. Alberta's favorite breakfast was cantaloupe and watermelon -- that's it, with coffee. It was also the first time I was permitted to have coffee with lots of milk in it by the cup. Alberta didn't know that my mom and dad were saving the coffee experience for me until I was 16.

Linda and I hung out on the beach most of the daytime and we both got quite a nice tan. Those were the days, also, when I would run into the waves when the water temperature was a balmy 68 degrees (folks that's cold water) and would stay in the ocean for hours, just floating beyond the breakers or playing with a boogie board and riding the waves into the beach. It was a wonderful week. Now, I have to admit, unless the water temperature of the ocean is in the high 70s, I won't go near it. It's nice to look at, but I won't step in it.

It was a week when I was introduced to fine restaurants -- not the soda bar at Woolworths. Every evening we went to the different restaurant off the boardwalk. The boardwalk restaurants would qualify as equivalent to Woolworths. Anyway, these restaurants, in those days, served everything family style. The only thing that wasn't served family style was the meat dish. That is what you ordered. You ordered some kind of meat or fish, then all the veggies, rolls, and desserts were served in large bowls and you could take as much or little of the them as you wanted -- in my case it was a lot of everything -- Alberta had to do no coaching at all for me to eat my vegetables.

Basically we ate two meals -- breakfast and dinner -- which we usually ate around 4:30 in order to beat the crowds.

Then in the evening, every evening, we went to the boardwalk and walked the boards. And every evening we stopped and got some Johnson's popcorn -- the best popcorn in the whole world. And we also always got Italian water ice -- I liked lemon and/or vanilla.

This is a picture of the Flanders Hotel -- the biggest, most expensive hotel in Ocean City (at that time) and it had the largest recirculating salt water pool (at that time) in the country. We went to that hotel for a day just to use the pool. I learned to dive from the side of the pool that day, and just loved having swimming races with Linda. We split the winning on that -- we were equally matched, I suppose you'd say.

What a week. It was a week I shall always remember very fondly. I did, however, lose track of Linda after I graduated from high school, when Alberta married and moved from North Philly. I also got my first pimples after that week -- of course it was all that butter and other schleck I ate on the boardwalk at night. But the best part? When I got home, people noticed my tan!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Miss Brown

Miss Brown was a maiden lady, a teacher/librarian, and a member of our church. She lived in a tiny house on Kings Highway, just across the small bridge that leads into Swedesboro. She lived on the creek. The house was such a delight, but it was tiny. She was soft spoken and seemed to really enjoy four rambunctious children.

I looked on Google Earth and it seems that just past that bridge, there is still a tiny building, but after all these years, I doubt it's the same one.

I always thought that small bridge was a bit scary, maybe because I had never seen a bridge like it before. Oh, I'd been over the Ben Franklin Bridge, and probably the Walt Whitman Bridge had been opened by the time we were visiting Miss Brown, but that bridge was small and different.

Miss Brown would come to pick us up in her brown Chevrolet (with running boards) and we would pile into her car for a day in the country. Why Swedesboro was more a day in the country than where we lived, I don't know. It just seemed more barren, because we had to go through so much swampy land to get to her place.

I think my mother particularly enjoyed these jaunts. Dad never went with us. But she enjoyed them so much because Miss Brown had such a wonderful garden. I recall walking through her garden down to the creek, never venturing into the water, but returning to her small home, very muddy.

Creek water is tidal in many New Jersey creeks, and this one was, so there was a mud-bed in her yard at certain times of the day.

The little house was really only four rooms, with a sun porch tacked on the back -- and when I say "tacked" I mean tacked. You could see throught the boards where the porch was attached to the house. Since I was never there in winter it didn't matter. We ate our lunch -- we always went for lunch -- on that little porch area.

I remember the floors in her little house weren't exactly "plumb." But to me her home was like a patchwork quilt. Lots of stuff, lots of patterns, but oh, so homey.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I'm bad

I wasn't a bad kid. I just had an extraordinary habit of not telling the "whole" truth. Not actually lying, just leaving out certain details that got me into a whale of trouble. Most of the trouble occurred when I was in grade school.

My dad was well known to my teachers and principals during my years in the Runnemede schools. Every little thing I didn't like, he was at the school pounding on somebody's desk, asking "Why?"

Well, I was a skinny kid, mainly because I hated breakfast -- always have -- it made me sick. I was okay by morning snack time, but eat right after I got up, food always made me sick. Still does. And the lunches my dear mother made for me--all I can say is "Yuck."

Now, I love cream cheese and olive sandwiches, but after they've been made a few hours, the cheese gets sort of a brown coating on it, and I couldn't get past that, so I wouldn't eat my lunch. Mom wanted to know why, because you see, I was stupid enough to bring it back home in my lunchbox, instead of throwing it away. A smart kid would have thought of that. I didn't. I told my mom I didn't have enough time to eat it. Not exactly true, but it was true. Here's why it was true. I would have needed several hours to get past the dried, brown, cream cheese. So, the 1/2 hour we had for lunch was not enough time.

Well, dad, of course, went to the school and pounded on Mrs. Brookfield's desk -- she was the teacher who was in charge of the lunch classroom for the 20 or so of us who didn't go home for lunch. Poor Mrs. Brookfield. She was a member of daddy's church, so I guess he was a little nicer to her. But after their discussion, she wasn't nice to me.

After dad's visit (about which he never gave me any hassles, which should had told me something was rotten in Runnemede) Mrs. Brookfield would NOT let me leave the lunch room for play time (the time between lunch and when school started again in the afternoon) until I had eaten every bit of my lunch, even if I gagged on every bite. She sat there and stared at me until it was gone. If I gagged, she encouraged me to eat more slowly. Eat more slowly? I wanted to get outside and swing on the swings, or pitch a ball with the boys.

Also, after dad's visit to the school, mom asked me if there was something else she could give me for lunch beside cream cheese and olives, or cream cheese and jelly (never a favorite of mine), or PB&J (something I hated more than anything). I said bologna and mustard would be nice, if it was on really soft, Wonder bread, not day old Italian bread. And I told her if she had only Italian bread, that tuna would be great. I've always loved the way my mom made tuna salad -- the way I still make it today. Tuna is the primary ingredient, some celery, and some chopped olives. Then mayo -- not Miracle Whip -- mom tried that just once. I nearly puked. That's it. Tuna, celery, olives, and mayo. Nothing else. No relish, no pickles, no eggs. Just tuna, celery, olives, and mayo.

She tried, my mother did, to honor my request, and I started getting a different lunch. Sometimes it was just crackers and cheese, which for me was just dandy. I wasn't a big lunch person anyway.

That's at least one experience I remember where I was less than good and got caught.

The back porch

Our back porch has two stages in it's life, which is still living, by the way. The picture on the right shows the porch BEFORE. I know I must have played out there, because you can see a child gate at the top of the steps. That's me and my mom. This picture was taken in 1944. Probably one of the first pictures taken at the "new" house. My dad was called to Mt. Calvary Union Church in October of 1944. The picture on theleft is a picture of the porch, AFTER. The people standing there are church members, Bill and Marian Manduka. Uncle Bill (as we all called him) is still living in Runnemede and we communicate as often as his computer will allow. He has a lot of computer problems. Aunt Marion is with the Lord.

The back porch, I think I've mentioned on several occasions, was a haven for us children. We played out there on rainy days and on days when it was too cold, or after we'd been out in the snow, etc. There was a school desk out there -- my daughter now owns that desk -- it had the seat in the front that would raise up. We had to use a small chair behind it to use it.

Dad put up a black board out there -- to help me with my "teaching" skills, I suppose. I used it to pretend I was a teacher. I also used it to practice my handwriting when I was out of paper.

Mom started plants for her garden out there. In the spring there would be tomato plants all over the porch.

There was a bench out there -- A "Stickey" oak bench. My daughter also has that. We Drexler's don't get rid of anything. We pass the items on to other family members.

So you have an idea of the "furniture" out there. There was plenty of floor space left for toys which the boys played with, and dolls and doll coaches. Bikes and fire engines were stored on the front porch, about which I wrote in an earlier BLOG.

For a couple of years dad put up a Lionel train set. He built a platform out of plywood and he put it up. We had a small heater out there, so that when it was cold, we could play with the trains. He left them up for several months each year. Of course, the Lionel train platform ate into our play area, but we didn't really care. We enjoyed the trains, and let our minds imagine all sorts of travel things with that train set. Dad had put some houses and train yard equipment on the platform as well. Unfortunately, this adventure only lasted a couple of years. It was just too much trouble to put the trains up every year, and eventually, he didn't do it any more. They were put in the large trunk in the basement where Christmas decorations were stored.

Porches are a wonderful addition to a home, whether they are open or enclosed. I like them both, depending on the weather. There's just something so homey about a porch.

Singing and speaking

These pictures of my sister are from two times in her life -- the bottom picture is her as a pre-teen, or early teen, the other picture is her as a new mom with her daughter, Jennifer.

My sister as a teenager was something else. We talked about this yesterday. I didn't realize it. I figured it was just her, being herself.

I never knew my sister could sing on tune until recently. When she was a teenager she was "Lucy" from the "I Love Lucy" show, and when she sang, she always sang like Lucy, even in church. She was never in any of the musical programs at church or in school, because, as we all thought, she was tone deaf. Not so. She sings today, quite well, actually, and can pick out alto without practicing. I'm a natural alto, also, but I also sing tenor at times. I can't seem to get my voice to go about "G" above middle "C", but I can get down to "F" below middle "C". Sometimes, I even pick up the bass, but only in the car while I'm listening to a CD. So I've established that my sister was singing off-key all her growing up years on purpose. She admits this. She did it to make people laugh. And, laugh, we did.

Another thing she would do is be a Russian. Natasha. You know like in "Rocky and Bullwinkle." She has such a great Russian accent, that anybody talking to her would think she was from Russia. I don't recall anyone asking her to speak real Russian. The accent was enough to get attention. She had little ability to learn a new language, like Spanish, French, or Italian, but she could accent them really well.

That was my sister. She was sure so he was adopted, and that, she says, is why she became a Russian. Today, she's such a sweetheart. We talk and talk and talk (on the phone). It's nice to have a sister with whom one can have conversation.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I learned several lessons

Mom and dad had some help when I was growing up, and that came in the form of Charlie and Effie Dawson. They were a negro couple. Charlie was being discipled by my father, and was at Grace Bible Institute, a small Bible school in South Jersey my father and Mr. Wheatley founded in the early 40s.

Anyway, Charlie Dawson did odd jobs around the house, maintenance type things, and Effie Dawson helped my mom. They babysat us many times when we were little.

Well, the first lesson I learned, early in their "helping" years, was not to use the "N" word. I had heard it at school. I was probably in first or second grade, and I asked Mrs. Dawson if she was a "N" word -- dare I print it on this BLOG without getting flogged by the PC police? Anyway, Mrs. Dawson was so sweet about it, she said, "Well, yes I am." But my mom heard me, and before I knew what was happening I was getting my mouth washed out with soap, after it was slapped and was told never, ever to use that term again. No one asked where I had heard it.

The second lesson I learned, also had to do with Mrs. Dawson. One day, it was hot, sultry, humid, etc., and frankly Mrs. Dawson didn't smell good. I mentioned that she "stunk" and she, again, said, "Well, yes, I imagine I do." Well, once again my mom came to her rescue, slapped me upside the head and told me polite little girls NEVER told anybody they smelled bad. That was something you kept to yourself.

The Dawsons came often to care for us and just to visit. They came to church on rare occasions, as Mr. Dawson was setting up his own church for black folk in Camden, NJ. Mr. Dawson also preached at our church on several occasions. By the time I left Runnemede, both Dawsons had gray hair, and were aging. The last time I saw them was at my mom's funeral.

I remember when I got married Charlie and Effie came to visit us the day before the wedding. They hadn't been around much when I was a teenager, since Charlie had his own ministry. Anyway, they came to give me a wedding gift. I remember to this day that I was sitting at the dining room table, which was piled high with gifts, and I was writing thank you notes, when they came in and presented me with their gift. I opened it then -- we didn't wait until after the wedding to open presents, except those that came to the wedding -- and it was an iron. No one else had given me an iron, and I was pleased, and let them know how thankful I was that I wasn't going to have to buy an iron after the wedding.

I know, I know, I've mentioned that I don't iron, but I did for a couple of years when we were first married. I even ironed Alan's handkerchiefs -- and he has allergies and had lots of handkerchiefs. I gave that up, though, when they came out with permanent press hankies. All those cotton things were replaced real quick. Frankly, as I must digress, since I have never understood why Alan can't use tissues like everyone else. NEVER has he used them, even when I provide them and almost BEG him to use them instead of hankies. I think they're more sanitary and that his colds would go away quicker if he was more sanitary in how he blew his nose and disposed of the runoff.

Below is a short biography I found online (Wheaton's archives) about Charles Dawson. One thing this short bio mentions briefly is that Mr. Dawson was a boxer. He actually boxed Jersey Joe Walcott. So he was a BIG man. Always smiling -- both he and Mrs. Dawson were always smiling, and she was in my mind so very pretty. The article says they had three daughters. I know one was Edie, but I understood that she wasn't theirs by birth, but a girl who they fostered and then adopted, and with whom me and my sister played. Her name was Edie. I have no clue as to who the other girls were. And now, I have absolutely no pictures of the couple.

Charles H. Dawson was born in 1916 in Riverton, NJ to James Henry and Betty James Dawson. His parents had just recently moved to New Jersey from Virginia. Shortly after Dawson's birth the family moved to Camden. He was the second oldest of eight children. Both his parents were devout Christians and the Bible and church attendance played a very important part in the life of the family. James Dawson was a laborer and jack-of-all-trades. Charles also worked from a very young age to help support his family. He was very active in athletics at school and was a boxer and baseball player on an amateur and semi-pro level.
He was born again in 1937 and shortly afterward began attending the New Jersey Bible Training School (later called the Grace Bible Institute), from which he graduated in 1945. At this time he was working at various jobs around Camden. By the mid-1940s he was a shipfitter working at the New York naval yard. Also about this time (1942) he married Effie Robinson, whom he had met in 1940. They had three children, all girls. Dawson was ordained in 1944. Already by that time he had been street preaching and regularly witnessing to his co-workers. He soon became a leader in local jail and prison ministries. In 1947 he was one of the founders of the Afro-American Missionary Crusade, which was created by Montrose Waite and others to provide a means for black American Christians to go to Africa as missionaries. In 1960 Dawson became the pastor of the Broadway Bible Tabernacle in Camden, a post he held until 1982, when he became pastor of the Calvary Tabernacle. He continued in all his other Christian activities. In 1967 he went on an evangelistic tour of Liberia for the AAMC and in 1968 he and Jack Wyrzten led a similar preaching tour in Kenya, Tanzania and the Congo. Dawson continued to travel to Liberia to visit AAMC missionaries and to preach in the 1970s and 1980s.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bad weather?

I know I walked to school everyday that I attended (or rode my bike) for 13 years, but you know, while I know in my head there had to have been bad weather, other than one day that I trudged out in waist-high snow (I was only 4 feet high at the time) and another day that they closed the school because of ice (I was in 8th grade), I don't remember bad weather.

It seems to me that I must have walked to school in rainy conditions, and a one-plus mile-long walk would most assuredly have left me wet to the skin, even with a rain coat, goulashes, and/or umbrella, I'm certain, but I don't recall sitting in class in wet clothes. While I did attend an old fashioned school, there were no pot-belly stoves in the classroom to warm us up or for us to put our wet clothes near. We had "cloak" rooms -- there we had an assigned hook upon which all our outer gear would be hung/boots on the floor beneath the coats and hats.

I'm not writing this so you'll feel sorry for me and my siblings -- they also walked for 13 years through rain, snow, sleet, wind, etc., just like a mail carrier. We didn't have to carry anything but our lunches. We didn't have homework until high school. I know I've mentioned that before, but I'm proud that my era didn't have to have homework. I'm proud we could get it all done IN the classroom, even though we had TWO play periods a day, one-hour for lunch, and a time each day for music and art, 28 to 30 children in a class, and no teaching assistants. I'm also proud that when I taught school if a child had homework it was only because s/he didn't his/her work completed in class. My students knew that, and most didn't have homework.

When we got home from school, we could be just kids, playing with our friends, reading a book, letting our imaginations run wild (no video games for us), or learning from our parents "life" subjects such as -- for girls -- sewing, cooking, baking, cleaning; and for boys, woodwork, taking out the trash, delivering newspapers, or getting other odd-jobs such as mowing lawns or shoveling snow. It was a different time and much simpler than now.

I say that, because I think of all the car-pooling events parents have to participate in these days, and maybe the lack of all that running around is what made life simpler.

We ate together, we prayed together, we went to bed at the same time. Life was good no matter what the weather.


Lately I've been reading a lot of Louis L'Amour's books. Don't know why. Maybe it was the trip my husband and I took to Wyoming (cowboy land) this summer that got me interested in the old west. I actually had started reading books about the "wild west" a couple of months prior to our trip out there.
Wyoming is a beautiful state. A big disappointment was, however, when I saw "cowboys" using 4-wheel all terrain vehicles to herd cows through a chute. Not all the cowboys we saw did that, but some did. I'm not sure I like that kind of progress. The sheep we encountered (free range country) on our way home, were herded, however, by shepherds with staffs, like you would picture the shepherds in the Bible. Once again, I'm off track.

I wanted to be a cowgirl for a short period of my early life -- probably around the age of 10 through 12. I did get to do some horseback riding at that time in my life, not a lot, just a couple of times. Someone mom knew had a farm in South Jersey and they had a horse and saddle (or was it horses?) and I was permitted, with help from someone from church who drove me to the farm, to ride their horse. I loved it. I never got past the "trot" stage -- no galloping for me, but the few times I rode, I really enjoyed it.

And my dreams were running rampant at that time. Could I be a cowgirl? I had a rope and I did learn to make a lariat and use it to encircle objects like cowboys did on the TV. I learned to spin it and actually make the rope go in a circle instead of an oval. Other girls were jumping rope (not that I didn't, and I was good at it, too), but I was slinging a lariat over rocks and tree stumps.

Before this age, however, I recall getting my first cap gun. I was probably 6 or 7. I wanted one where there were actually fake bullets in it, and you could spin the chamber. The caps were disks that fit over the chamber near the handle, which broke away from the chamber so you could insert the caps, and you got six shots. Instead I got the older type cap gun. You just put a roll of caps down in a hold in the pretend bullet chamber, and threaded it up behind a plate so that when you pulled the trigger, it shot. You could have up to 50 shots with that type of revolver. But, I wanted something more authentic. The two guns at the top show these two types, the one on the left is the six-shooter, the one on the right is a roll-cap shooter.
I also received a holster. I only had one gun, so I only had to practice my "draw" with one hand. A couple of my friends and I would have "drawing" contests. First one to get his gun out of the holster and get off a shot was the winner. I was pretty agile and pretty fast at that. I also learned how to twirl my gun around my index finger and twirl it right into that holster. Now, my arthritic hands would drop the gun and if I tried twirling it, it would fly off and break a window or something more valuable, I'm sure!
As an aside, my dad collected miniature canons. And some of the canons were of a type where you could insert a cap behind a striker and it would make a sound like a canon going off. I still have several of dad's canons, sitting on a shelf getting dusty. Someday I shall pass them on to a grandson who is interested in that sort of thing.
As a second aside, my brothers had guns also. By the time they were ready for a cap-gun, there were other types available, like pretend rifles, pretend one-shot derringers, pretend cop (C-O-P) guns, etc. I know my brother, Mark, had a cowboy hat and two-holster gun set. But, alas, I have no pictures in my books to back that up. I have a picture of my other brother, Carl, and he is blowing on the end of his six-shooter, like he'd just shot someone and was proud of it. I guess he and Mark were playing cowboys and Indians. I often was the Indian -- another tale -- because I also made my own bows and arrows. And when I got older I would walk up to Mt. Ephraim (about 3 miles) and there was an indoor archery place, and I could shoot real arrows with a real bow into a real target. For $1 you got an hour's practice. I loved doing that.
I guess you could say I was a tomboy. I could hide out, become invisible, rope a rock, shoot straight, and sing, "Back in the Saddle Again." Those were the days.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Taking the chill off

When I was a child I remember standing in the kitchen between the stove and the chimney. Between these two objects was a hot-air register, where warmth came from the heater (coal or oil depending on the year) in the basement. When we had coal heat it was a constant flow. When we had oil heat, the heat was regulated with a thermostat, so there wasn't that constant flow of warm air rising to heat the house. It came in bursts. When the air around the thermostat got cold enough, it would trip the doo-hickey, and the furnace would turn on, and then we'd have hot air. But then, I suppose you all know how a furnace/thermostat combo works.

Anyway, the warmest place in the house was near a register. There was one in the dining room/living room wall -- yes it came out on both sides of the wall. There was one in the bathroom opposite the tub. The bathroom being a not-so-large room, was always warm as long as the door was closed. There was another one in my brothers' room, on the floor behind the door that went into the room. The one in my attic room was in the chimney near my sister's and my bed, and the one in my parents' room was on the floor, again behind the door to the room.

The warmest place, however, was in the kitchen, and I would just stand there and let that warm air flow around my legs, or up under my skirt, which would send it billowing outward, but the warmth was what I was after. I would just stand there and watch my mother prepare dinner or watch her bake, or whatever she happened to be doing in the kitchen. I loved that corner of the kitchen.

Today my office here in Northern Kentucky is quite cold. It just doesn't heat up above 65 when the outside temperature falls below 30 degrees. The rest of the home is up at 68, but my office/my sister's room is over the garage which isn't heated and the floor, even though it is carpeted, it cold, Since the register is in the ceiling, the cold air stays at the floor and the hot air which is already high up in the room never gets down to ground level. Stupid design, if you ask me, but the builder didn't, so it's cold in this room -- right now it's hovering around 58 degrees.

I suppose I could hitch up the little portable heater I bought for the sun porch and warm this room up, but then I'd have to find a plug that isn't being occupied with a lamp, a computer, a printer, a scanner, a telephone, or a clock radio. You get my drift. Or I could pray for a hot flash. Nah!

I'll just stay cold for a couple of days and remember the warmth of the kitchen in Runnemede in my youth.

All My Children

For all you who have been asking for pictures of all my children and grandchildren, here is a collage of all of them. Top is Becky and Quinn and their children (Dan, Grace, and Annie). Becky is my middle child. Middle picture is Phil and Amy, and their children (Matthew - Phil is holding, Rachel, Amy is holding, Rose and David). Phil is my oldest child and is pushing 39. Which means I'm really getting old. The bottom picture is Cyndi and Shandon and their children (left to right: Shandon, Jr., Adam, Jonah, and Toria). The baby, Ellie May, is out of the main picture, and has changed a bit since that picture was taken.

I know the pictures aren't brand new, but you get the idea of what they look like as they really haven't changed much in the past year.

God has really blessed me and Alan with great children and wonderful spouses for our children. The grandchildren are also a great blessing. God is good!

Your side of the bed

I have mentioned in past posts that my sister and I shared a bed (pictured here with my grand-daughters). As you can see it was a large bed for two little girls. It was my grandmother Drexler's bed, which we inherited. The whole "suite" is still beautiful and consists of the bed, a bureau with a beautiful beveled mirror surrounded with a carved wooden frame, a lady's writing desk, and a chair for the desk. There was also a mirror for above the writing desk which resides in my other daughter's home. The wood is curly maple.
I digress. Deb and I shared this bed for years (until I was 16). One of the things we liked to watch on TV when we were children was The Big Top which was a circus show, live from some place in South Jersey every Saturday afternoon. Ed McMahon -- a really young Ed McMahon -- was the ring-master. Anyway, we tried to mimic many of the acrobatic acts we saw on that program.
One "trick" we performed was that my sister would grab hold of the top of the headboard and I would lift her with my feet on her stomach so that she was above me (as I lay on my back) and then she would let go of the headboard and spread out her arms and be supported only by my feet. That was fun.
I also used that bed to learn how to do head and hand stands -- the headboard was a good brace as I was learning those tricks.
Of course, I related the story of her cleaning her side of the bed, and me NOT cleaning my side. But before we would go to sleep, I remember after prayer on our knees -- she on her side, me on mine -- we would say to each other: "Stay on your side of the bed." "Good night."

Miss Camilla

Miss Camilla (Dodge) lived on the corner of the Pike and Clements Bridge Road. I believe there is a pizza place there now. Miss Camilla was a spinster lady who attended our church. She had some strong beliefs. One of her strongest, I think, was that women/girls should not wear "pants" (not panties).

I was scared of her. I never wanted to meet her on the street, so I avoided that corner of the pike as often as possible. Unfortunately, the post office was just north of her house!

Anyway, Miss Camilla would start shouting -- yes shouting -- anytime she saw a woman/girl in trousers/snow suit with pants/peddle pushers/ dungarees. And she would go tch, tch, tch, then lambaste that person telling them they were doomed to hell for the way they were dressed. It is any wonder I avoided her?

I didn't wear other than dresses very often, but I did have a couple of pairs of overalls. I never wore them to church, but I did wear them around town, if I was playing with someone. Well, she wouldn't let me forget that she saw me in overalls, either. Because on Wednesday night or Sunday, whichever came first, she would lay into my mother or father about my dress, or should I say lack of "dress."

She and her maiden sister, her name was Josephine, were good to mom and dad. Her sister wasn't as judgmental and would read to me and the ladies often brought food to the house. Best we were out of the room or out of sight when Miss Camilla called if my sister or I were wearing overalls. Mom never wore anything but a dress, so that wasn't a problem. But her daughters, tch, tch.

Miss Camilla -- not so fond memory.

Daddy's study

I mentioned before that the church made a study for my father in the church building. I suppose I was 5 or 6 at the time. Prior to that dad studied in the house.

I also mentioned that the attic was finished and there were two rooms up there. One was heated, one wasn't. Prior to the time my sister and I took up residence in the heated part of the attic, my father studied up there. He had a desk set up at the top of the stairs and the bedroom furniture that my sister and I used was also up there.

One day -- it's very vivid in my mind -- my dad was "baby sitting" my sister and I. Deb was just learning to walk and was in diapers -- not Pampers. Now, folks, diapers were messy things. They weren't the kind of cloth diapers you can get now (maybe). Instead they were a long sheet of cheese cloth and you had to fold it small enough to fit on the child it was intended to be worn by. And in order to protect those folks who would hold the child, they slipped over the top of these cloth things, rubber -- yes rubber -- pants, not the plastic things with elastic legs they came up with in the mid-50s. They didn't really work very well unless the child had really fat legs, which Debbie didn't.

Anyway, on this particular day, apparently Deb had a case of diarrhea and all of a sudden she let go. Poor daddy. He wasn't prepared for this. I remember he yelled for my mom, who was downstairs cleaning, I suppose, and had just had dad watch us so she could get her work done. I ran down the attic stairs to get mom, and dad followed behind me holding my sister at arm's length so he wouldn't get any "stuff" (baxy) on himself and handed her to my mother, while he stormed that she had dumped all over the floor in his study. While he was holding her away from him, she was still dripping, so there was a trail down the stairs as well. If only, he had let her stay where she was.

Poor mom. Poor dad. Poor Deb. Me? I was thinking of this at 2:30 a.m. today and started laughing. I'm still laughing. You had to know my meticulous, fastidious father. You have to visualize him holding this one-year-old child, who didn't have a clue what she'd done to bring out the "other side" of her daddy, away from him, hoping against hope that she wouldn't spoil his suit as she had dirtied his floor.

Mom cleaned up both the baby and the floor and all went back to normal quickly. Dad went back to his studying, and Deb and I went back to playing on the floor in the attic while dad studied.

Deb: Don't be angry with me for relating this story. I'm sure you don't remember this at all, but I do, and really if you could remember how funny daddy looked holding you away from him, and you didn't know at all why he was in such a state. It really was funny.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fishes and Fleas

Okay folks, this is really dating me and our cheers and silly songs. When I was in high school, one of the favorite cheers at a Pep rally or at a football game was:

Flee (not flea), Fly, Flow.

Here's the words which I taught my children and have started singing (?) it to my grandchildren:

FLEE! ( Echo after each stanza)Flee!Flee fly flow!
Cumala, cumala, cumala Vista.Oh, no, no, no, not the Vista
Eeny-meeny-desimeeny, Eww-wa-adda-adda-meeny
Beet billy oten doten bo, bo baditen doten.Shhhhhhhh!

Then tonight I was with my grand-daughter Grace and all of a sudden I remembered another silly song. Three Little Fishes -- and they swam and they swam right over the dam. Boop Boop Diddim Daddum Waddum Choo!Boop Boop Diddim Daddum Waddum Choo!Boop Boop Diddim Daddum Waddum Choo!And they swam and they swam right over the dam!

Silly songs. Some these songs were songs we sang on buses on school trips. The three little fishes was something my dad liked to tease me with. I couldn't stand the song, and he would break out once in a while with the boop-boop, diddim, daddum, waddum choo! Perhaps my own children can't stand the "flee, fly, flow" ditty either, but I still break it out once in a while.

Another annoying song my dad like to sing at us was Doodley Doo -- Do you siblings remember that? I think maybe even my children will remember my father (their grandfather) breaking out in Doodley doo!

Please play for me that sweet melody
Called doodley doo, doodley doo.
I like the rest,
but the oneI like best
Is doodley doo, doodley doo.
It's the simplest thing
there isn't much to it

You don't have to sing you just doodley do it.
I like it so, wherever I go,
It's doodley doodley doo.

And, hey, if you want to get the words for Great Green Gobs of Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts, just go to:'s%20Songs.pdf. I'm sure several of you remember singing that at camp or some other function where food was served that you didn't particularly like, right?

Flee fly is also on that website, and there are several versions given. And, folks, this is a UK website. I also found Flee-fly on a German website, and on a Russian website -- imagine, back in the 50s/60s we were international and didn't even know it!

Also, on that site is: Be kind to your webfooted friends. I know some of you "kids" haven't a clue what I'm talking about, but I think some of you 50s/60s high-schoolers remember these wonderful, edifying songs -- songs like no others. Dippy, stupid, silly songs that were fun (and often gross).

Worms: Nobody loves me, everybody hates, me, I think I'll go out and eat worms, etc., etc., Yes, it's on that site, also. Hey, this is a great site.

There was an old woman who swallowed a fly, etc. It's there too. Well, I give up on that site, there are 206 of these ditties. Maybe one of you has time to scroll through them all.

Just wanted you to remember, Fishes and Fleas!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Library

Runnemede had a library -- yes it did. Not the one they have now, but it was a library. It was located in the basement of the Municipal Building, which was on The Pike between 4th and 5th Avenues. It was a small room, and probably had 500 books. It was only open on Monday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. I think Mrs. Proctor -- Runnemede clerk -- ran it. But I'm not sure about that. (Click on BLOG title to link to Runnemede Library Home Page).

I do remember faithfully visiting the library and getting a new book each week, until I had read all the books of interest to me that the library housed at that time. I walked to the Municipal Building -- about 5 blocks -- by myself -- in the dark -- in the cold. I was a youngster. Would a child between the age of 8 and 11 be permitted to walk on the Pike alone after dark these days? I don't know. I never had any fear of walking around town at any time of the day or night.

Now, the Runnemede Library has a website and will soon have its catalog on line. They have children's programs now. Book reviews. It's open every day but Sunday, now. There are even computers available for public use. What can I say? Progress is great.


We had two that I remember -- well, actually we had more than two, but I can only recall two NAMED pets.

We had cats -- one of our cats had kittens. Mom couldn't get rid of all the kittens, so dad was sent to Pitt's Drugstore to get some chloroform. I was probably around eight at the time.

I recall another unnamed cat that died while my mother was trying to nurse it back to health. She was holding it in her lap, and she was sitting on the piano bench when it died. I don't know why I remember that, except mom cried, and I didn't often see my mother cry.

But we had one NAMED cat -- Binky. Binky was a female, black cat with white boots. She was a pleasant cat, but it turned out that I was allergic to cats and we finally had to get rid of any and all cats.

We had a dog, also. We kids had begged and begged for a dog. After all Lassie was the most popular TV program at the time, and every kid wanted their own Lassie. Well, mom and dad didn't want a dog. We children wanted one very badly. It seems someone in the church had a dog that they wanted to get rid of, so after much pressure from the children, mom and dad allowed us to get this dog. Hoppy.

We probably thought that we could teach Hoppy some tricks, and that if we got lost that he would come after us or point mom and dad to where we were. Fanciful thoughts. Hoppy couldn't be trained to do anything. Hoppy was a very, very dumb dog, but if you got close to him, he was a loving dog. He loved attention, but rarely got it -- once we found out that he wasn't Lassie.

Hoppy -- short for Hop-a-long (named I supposed after Hop-a-Long Cassady) was a male dog. He was not a good dog. And therefore he was chained outdoors where he became a badder dog. We kids took him for walks and I hugged him as much as I could -- however he was a mudder -- and when he was muddy, I didn't hug him.

Hoppy was tan and white -- a miniature collie -- NOT! He was a mutt, plain and simple, but he had collie coloring. Not only was Hoppy a mudder, he was a barker. That dog barked at anyone who was in the yard -- a good protection against predators for the humans living in the house.

Tom Lodge -- our neighbor -- fed him once in a while -- not that we didn't, but he seemed to like the dog. Eventually, Hoppy got to be "mad" and Mr. Lodge had to put him down.

No more pets. Quiet nights. No more mud holes. Bye Hoppy!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Seaside Heights. NJ

My father's maternal grandmother and grandfather had a hotel and bath-house on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, NJ.

The top photo is a message that was on the back of the bottom picture - postcard. It's signed "Mother Casper" -- that would be my father's mother's mother -- my grandmother Drexler's mother.

I spent several hours today searching the Internet looking for more information on this hotel and bath-house. All I could find in a short history of Seaside Heights was that this hotel was on the boardwalk and that the boardwalk was burned in 1955 and all the things from the amusement pier to the south of the pier was destroyed in that fire.

I do recall my dad talking about the Caspers and the home in Seaside Heights. We never went there. I do NOT recall my dad talking about that fire. And it seems to me if the Casper home/business was destroyed in that fire he would have said something. I would have been 12 years old at the time and surely would have recalled his angst at the family losing so much property.

Anyway, these are some pictures to add to the collection and a very little more of the family history. I shall continue to search for information on Seaside Heights history as it connects with our family.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bare feet

Don't you just love to go bare foot? I do. As soon as I enter my home, off come the shoes. In the summer, except when I have to travel across hot tarmac or cement, I don't wear shoes.

I remember growing up and as soon as it was warm enough outdoors to go without shoes, I did. Mom and dad encouraged it. I suppose it was a cost-saving method -- if I didn't wear shoes, they wouldn't have to replace them as often, or have them re-soled as often.

I loved walking in the grass in the morning, when it was still covered with dew. And in the evening I enjoyed walking around the block several times -- the sidewalk had cooled sufficiently that it wasn't uncomfortable to my feet.

I recall, also, that none of my friends wore shoes in the summer. We would gather to play or swing or slide down Uncle Ben's home-made slide -- which I talked about in a previous BLOG -- but not with our shoes on. Barefoot was the "chic" thing to do.

When flip-flops became popular, I tried them, but I could never get comfortable in them. Sandals were an option, but frankly, they didn't make kid sandals back then, or if they did, I never saw any child under 13 wearing them. No, it was school shoes or bare feet.

One time when I was about 22, I went into Philadelphia. Alan and I were going to the art museum for the day, and it was hot. So, when we got out of center city (past 13th & Market) I removed my shoes and walked to the art museum bare-foot. I did get stares, and a few people called me a country hick, but I didn't care. I was comfortable.

You're probably wondering why I didn't take my shoes off before we got out of center city -- well, Philadelphia had a nickname back then -- filthy-delphia -- and center city streets were full of peoples spit and other things even more gross, but once you got out on the Parkway, the streets/sidewalks were clean, and there was also grass you could walk in. I realize there could have been all kinds of vermin in the grass, but if I didn't see it, it wasn't there. When we got to the museum I put my shoes back on. Even back then, they had a "no shoes - no service" rule.

Did I get sores on my feet? Sure. Did I step on rusty nails -- actually no, I did not. Were my mom and dad concerned about my injuring my feet? I don't think so. You see, we all knew that God is control of everything. Now, don't misunderstand that. We weren't testing God to see if he would protect us. We just knew that if we were going to get a nail in our foot, it would happen with or without shoes, and I did step on a nail once, and I was wearing shoes, and it did go through the sole on the shoe, and I did have to get a tetanus shot.

If only people would trust God more for protection rather than man.

Friday, January 11, 2008


You'll recall that my mom was a proficient seamstress. I've mentioned it several times. And, you'll recall that I mentioned all the gifts she had to give to parishioners. Well, for several years she made aprons. These three are examples of the types of aprons she made.
In fact, the first thing I ever made (after doll clothes) was an apron. It had a floral tie, which was straight stitched to a black glossy cotton, and then I straight stitched a border at the bottom to match the tie part. The tie part was put on like you would sew on a waist band on a skirt, but each end extended an extra 24 inches, so there was ample length of this waist-band to tie behind one's back to hold the apron on. The apron to the right at the top is similar in style to my first actual project.
One year mom made aprons for ALL the ladies in her Sunday school class (about 15). She made them in the style of the one at the top on the left. It had a big pocket down at the bottom in the front, which was stitched in the middle, producing two pockets, both of which were roomy. As a new pattern or style (yes, aprons were in-style or out-of-style) came into vogue, mom would gather her material scraps and make aprons for her ladies.
Who wears an apron any more? I still have several of my mom's aprons, and on occasion I'll get one out and wear it. Her cover-all aprons would not fit me today (like the one on the left). But my mother always wore an apron. When she cooked, she wore an apron, when she cleaned she wore an apron (and a scraf on her head). In fact, I think for her an apron was as important as a vest or tie was to my father.
I used to wear an apron. In fact, I had a favorite apron. It was given to me by a butcher, shortly after I was married. It was white (of course), and had a slip-through tie at the top, and then at the waist it had a tie which wrapped around me three times -- back then I was still Olive Oyl thin. I loved that apron and I wore it often. Somewhere along the way, in one of our moves, I suppose it got lost. But mom's aprons are still with me.
I don't wear an apron any more, well, hardly ever. I put a couple of my mom's aprons in the grandchildren's toy box, and they enjoy playing with them.
Mom had a couple of organdy (very dressy) aprons, used for decoration only, not for working in -- she would wear those aprons AFTER she was finished cooking or cleaning and was serving dinner to guests. Those are the aprons the grandchildren play with.
When I got married, I actually received several aprons at one of my bridal showers -- the kitchen shower. I haven't a clue what happened to those aprons either.
I'm still looking for a "chef's" apron -- like the kind Mario Bitali wears. Someone told me Sam's has them (in bulk). I don't need bulk. :) I would like one chef's apron, though.
After I wrote this post, I found chef's aprons (plain white) at Hobby Lobby. I'm all set now!


Money was always in short supply when I was growing up. I remember my Aunt Francis telling my mom, "Just wait until your children are in High School, it is so expensive."

At that time we couldn't imagine how. After all in grade school, the only expense we had was clothes, shoes, and food. The school provided dental, eye-checks, paper, pencils, books, work books, and, oh yes, teachers.

In high school, it was a different story. We had to provide our own paper. Our own pencils/pens. We were requested to use a typewriter if possible for our essays. Typewriters were not something that every home had. And clothes. Well, it wasn't like in grade school -- one or two dresses, a pair of shoes, a pair of sneakers, and several pairs of socks and underwear. No, in high school something ugly cropped up -- peer pressure.

I couldn't wear the same dress everyday to school. I mean most girls had at least six outfits.
So, what were we to do. Well, that's when mom taught me to sew. I know, I had to learn to sew in Home Ec -- a required subject for all freshman girls -- but I was fortunate enough to have a mother who had taught me the summer before I started in high school. So, I sewed my own clothes. Patterns cost 25 cents, and most material was only $1 a yard. One yard of material, one zipper, one spool of thread, and one pattern -- total cost for a skirt, $2. Blouses cost about the same.
And then there was the expense of those wonderful gym suits -- one-piece jumpsuits -- short, not long. (The picture shows it in blue, mine was red.) As I recall they cost $12 -- not much money you say. It was for our family. And personal products were required to be in our gym bags (another expense) like deodorant, and those monthly woman's supplies. And, we had to have a certain kind of gym shoe. Keds, white. And they had to be clean. No scuffs or dirt. Yes, we had inspections in gym class. The suit had to be ironed, and the gym shoes had to be clean.

And who could forget the high-school sweater. Ours were red, with three blue stripes. The goal was to get a "letter" to sew on the sweaters. At the time I purchased mine they were $30 -- that was a lot of money, a lot of saving. It took me almost two years to get enough to buy one -- late in my sophomore year. I never opted for a high-school jacket. I wanted a leather jacket instead. Another thing I had to save for. Those bottles we could turn in for two cents or five cents were my main source of income.

Back then I was a size zero (although the smallest size in any store was a size 5), so I nipped and tucked everything, to get it to my skinny size.

Do you know I was called "Olive Oyl" because I was so thin? Hard to believe, isn't it. I was so thin I wore three slips (on non-gym days) so I'd look heavier. I refused, however, to stuff my bra with non-human materials -- no tissues or cotton or handkerchiefs for me. So, I was a flat-chested young woman with a home-sewn wardrobe, which I would add to as often as I had time.

And another expense of high school was trips -- I never went on any. The class ring. The annual year books. Lunch was cheap -- 35 cents for a full lunch. Back then you either got the whole lunch or you got nothing. You didn't have to eat the full lunch, but you couldn't just buy the pizza. And there was never anything other than milk or water to drink. No soda, no fruit juice. Milk came with the lunch.
So, Aunt Fran was correct, high school did become an expense which mom and dad bore, as much as possible, and after me they had three more to "put through." Then started college. Another tale for another day.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Family sayings

Go back to the original "family sayings" post (Monday, October 29). It's been added to seven times now. The German sayings are so difficult to duplicate. I am trying to do them phonetically, and German isn't phonetic. Then I try using the usual German diphthongs, and umlauts, etc., and that doesn't seem to work either.

After doing that, I go to the thesaurus and find synonyms for the word dad used, and use the German-English translator to give me "best guesses". So that's what I've done. I've added the "best guesses" to the list.

News added on January 16, 2008 -- I found out that all those terms dad used were NOT German, but Pennsylvania Dutch. I found several of the terms in a PA Dutch listing of common phrases:

Schushlich -- (hoosh lick) -- meaning clumsy -- yes, that's right. I remember that. Going back to the October 29, 2007 BLOG I don't think that phrase was included, but if it was, this is the correct term. Take a look at this website: There are many sayings in there that I recall from my father. I guess this is enough said on this subject.
Check out "doplich"; "fergesshlich"; "fershmeerd"; "rootsch"; "SCHOOSLICH"; "SHRECKLICH"; "STROOBLY"; ""BAXY, BAXY; POOH BAH." (Baby talk for "dirty, dirty;" "Pooh bah" for gigag," or to cause to vomit)." Yes, the last one -- BAXY was used a lot around out house with all the little kids always getting "dirty."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Pot holders

Have you ever made a potholder? You know those rag circles that you loop over and under and through other rag circles, then, like magic intertwine all the loops that are on the loom over and through each other, and you have a pot-holder? An ugly potholder?

I had one of those looms -- I got it for Christmas when I was six or seven. I know Grandma Aspling gave it to me. Mom got me the rag loops -- you could get a bag of them, just like you can today. Mom showed me how to put the first loops on, then using the special hook provided with the loom, to thread other loops throw perpendicular to the first set of loops put on the loom. Unfortunately, there were never enough of any two colors to make a two-color potholder, which to me would have been not too bad to look at. No, they had maybe three brown loops, 16 red loops, 13 yellow loops (you needed at least 16 of each color), etc. So, the potholder was always ugly.
My mom, who received potholders as gifts never let on to us how ugly they were. I mean, they even had black loops. Back then the loom cost $.98 and you could get a bag of loops for $1. Now for the small price of $12.95 you can order a loom from the Internet. A bag of loops costs $4.98. So, I suppose for the cost of only $17.93 you could make a lovely (translated ugly) potholder for a loved-one. But why bother? You can get two fairly nice looking potholders for $1 at Dollar Tree.

So what, you say? I know, I'm thinking the same thing. So what is that I remembered it!

Then I remembered other "crafty" toys we had: one was like a spool -- a large spool -- around the edge of which were equally space nails. You would pull a piece of yarn (from a ball of yarn) up through the hole in the bottom of this spool, then loop the yarn around each nail, going back and forth until you had two layers, then you'd unhook the bottom layer of yarn pulling it over the top layer. Then you'd layer it again. What did you get? A long rope-like yarn thing, good for nothing, but it kept a child occupied for hours. The spool loom was like the pot-holder looper only on a much smaller scale, and the item you got after you finished looping was worthless. At least you could use the potholder after you finished making it. You can find out all about this craft by going to It's called French knitting. And it shows a "knitting spool." One website says you can make a hot-pad with the fruits of your labor with a knitting spool. I think it was just used to keep me and my siblings occupied.

Do any of you remember sewing cards? You can still get sewing cards -- in fact Dollar Tree had them in stock for many months last year. They came 12 to a box with a needle and yarn. Instant child amusement. Not!

Any way, for those of you who don't know what a sewing card it, it was a way to teach a child how to handle needle and thread and then stitch. Needless to say the needle was not sharp, usually made of plastic or wood (we did have plastic back in the 40s and early 50s), and the thread was really yarn.

A child could thread the needle easily with the yarn because the needle was quite large, and then s/he would move the needle point to a dot on the card, push the needle through to the underneath of the card, then push the needle back through by following the dots on the bottom of the card. When you finished you had a picture of something, a horse, a cat, a dog, a house. I guess it was more like embroidery than stitching, now that I think about it.

The difference between then and now is that I loved to amuse myself with such items, but my grandchildren seem to be only interested as long as I'm showing them how to use these "toys". Give them the chance to stitch a card, and it's "Do you have anything else I can do Me-mom?"

Life goes on.