Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My office -- my father

I'm looking around my office and I'm thinking -- my father. I have become my father.

My dad, in his later years, had so much stuff that it gradually piled up all over the house so that there was a path from the front door to the back door, and into the bathroom and bedroom. All other floor and furniture top space was covered with stuff. I've talked about his collections before.

Well, my office has become my father's house. It's the Christmas room, and it's piled high with presents that need to be wrapped, projects for the grandchildren at our Christmas get togethers. Not to mention the Creative Memories left overs. At least that pile (the CM pile) won't get any bigger. Since it is a small room, it fills up fast.

I'm looking at the bookcase I have in the office, the one, small bookcase. It was the bookcase that my father had next to his captain's chair in the living room. It's as jam packed with books now as it was when dad had it. Two levels deep on each shelf... The books are all hardbacks, most of them are antiques. Most of them, in fact, were given to my father in the early 1900s by his own father and mother and are inscribed as such gifts. That really makes them special.

Once in a while I'll pull one out and read a story or a few poems or even the whole book and try to think what it was like to be a boy reading such literature.

I'm hoping someone gives me a complete set of Jane Austin for Christmas -- leather bound, of course. That's a pretty expensive gift, so I'm not going to hold my breath, but it would be nice. I have not one single book written by Jane Austin, yet I love her stories. And, I would like to read them for myself, not watch them on PBS.

Ugh! The room is eating me up and I'm going to be gobbled up by the debris any minute now. I'd better get out of here before that happens.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's a beautiful day.

You know, I don't remember a Thanksgiving Day ever that wasn't a beautiful day. Crisp, clear, sunny, cold, even left-over snow, but always sunny. I'm certain that in my 65 years there has to have been a yucky weather day on Thanksgiving, but I just don't recall any.

And so, today, Thanksgiving 2008, dawned another beautiful, sunny-shiny, crisp, cold day here in Northern Kentucky. I don't know what the weather is like in Runnemede today, and I could look it up on, but in New York the weather was beautiful, which brings to mind another Thanksgiving Day tradition.

My family, as long as we have had a TV and as long as the Macy's parade has been televised, have always watched the parade. I haven't watched it for several years. Alan isn't interested, but today, I was up before him so I had control of the clicker and we watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. And, at 2:00 p.m. I'm going to watch the movie, Miracle on 34th Street, the original one.

I called my daughter Becky, because I know she always still watches the parade and we talked for a few minutes while she and I watched together in our own individual homes. I talked with one of the grandchildren, Annie, as she was watching the parade, and it almost made it feel like I was, once again, sitting on the sofa in the family room, with my three children sitting with me, watching the Thanksgiving Day parade, smelling the smells of the turkey roasting, probably a pie in the oven (and today it was an apple pie in the oven at the time of the parade) and waiting for the moment when the parade was over, and then a game or some other activity was entered into in order to keep the children occupied while I finished up preparing the Thanksgiving Day feast.

I've celebrated 65 Thanksgivings, about 61 of them I remember, sort of. And I hope you are all storing up good memories of this holiday. Be Thankful -- In everything give thanks for this is the will of God.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

I sent an e-mail to my cousin, Joanie, who lives in South Jersey. I had to let her know that I am thankful for her and other things. Here's what I wrote to her:

Things to be thankful for:

(1) Waking up;
(2) getting out of bed;
(3) knowing that my husband is still breathing when I get up;
(4) being able to walk occasionally;
(5) wonderful children and grandchildren;
(6) the best ever Italian family in America!

Oh, there are other things. And I shall miss the large family seated around the table, and each member of the family saying what they are thankful for. I think that was probably one of the best things about our Thanksgivings. Of course, that was AFTER dad prayed and after we had eaten, but before dessert.

When my children were growing up, a tradition we started was the annual football game. I only played that once, if that many times. I don't mind watching football, but all that running and falling, and getting pounced on, was not, and still isn't my cup of tea. However, the children and the other adults who attended our Thanksgiving feasts enjoyed that respite before the turkey nap syndrome sunk in.

I'm so glad to have found out about this BLOG site and have been able to give many of my family members a peak at what it was like growing up and living in the 40s, 50s, and 60s in a small town. But...that was then and this is now. Life goes on, and it goes faster and faster the older I get.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Write me and tell me how and what you all did on this special day.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I made my first "seasonal" pie yesterday -- pumpkin. I have to admit it tastes really good. My father didn't particularly like pumpkin pie. He liked french apple. But mom always made a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and another one for Christmas. Mom made crust using the cold butter, flour, and cold water method. Too much trouble for me. But, I have to admit I recall that her pie crusts were light and flaky.

When the "packaged" pie crusts came out (Mrs. Smith's had a pie crust shell) she tried them, but dad still preferred her light and flaky crust rather than Mrs. Smith's thick and chewy crust. He didn't object, however, to the store prepared graham cracker pie crusts, but I think mom still always made her own.

Don't get the idea that mom baked a lot of pies. She didn't. Getting a piece of pie in our house was a real treat. And I think that's one reason why we liked the holidays so much -- we got pies. Aunt Annie always brought a pie with her when she came to visit on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I recall that we always had a lemon meringue pie, but I don't recall who made it, that is, whether it was my mother or Aunt Annie.

So, it's time for me to start peeling apples for my annual apple pie (that's really a stretch, I usually make more than one apple pie a year, but not many more than 2). And this afternoon the smell of a freshly baked apple pie will permeate my habitat. Can't wait.


Monday, November 24, 2008

My favorite holiday

Once again it's time to opine about my favorite holiday -- Thanksgiving. But before I do, let me put into this BLOG, before I forget, the best ever, easiest recipe for pumpkin pie. It's online at: You must, if you can cook at all, use this recipe. And I recommend using Pillsbury ready-made pie crust -- so simple -- for the crust -- which is always flaky and perfect. You get the pie crust in the biscuit section of the grocery store, the same section where the "we make, you bake" cookies are.

So, I love Thanksgiving, even though this year will be very quiet for Alan and me. We've been invited to my daughter's (Becky's) in-law's for the day, but Alan is not up for the trip, nor am I, so we're going to stay home and I'm going to, hopefully, make a great dinner. We'll have cranberry sauce (already made, last week), pumpkin pie (in the oven right now), turkey (I have a turkey breast thawing in the fridge), stuffing (Stove-top with added nuts and applies), apple pie (yet to be made), corn, coleslaw, and rolls. What's missing?

Well, when I was growing up we always had pickled beets. I love them, but Alan doesn't, so I'll not waste the effort to make them. We always had a dish of pickles and olives and celery sticks. While I have all those ingredients in the fridge, I don't think I want to dirty another dish and I don't want to just stick the jars on the table. We can do without them. Ginger ale and cranberry juice -- may have these, but I'm not sure yet what we'll have to drink. Since we both prefer water to anything else, I'll probably just stick to ice in a glass topped with water. Mashed potatoes? Too much trouble for two people. Sweet potato casserole? That's a maybe. I'm not partial to sweet potatoes in a casserole, I prefer them baked, straight from the oven, slatthered with loads of butter. Alan loves all the sweetnes of the casserole, so I may, if I'm up for it include that in his dinner. He loves them as left-overs as well.

Mostly what we'll be missing is 30 people around the table, all talking at once, laughing hilariously at something someone said, and my father's 30 minute grace wherein he thanked God for everything He every made and gave in my dad's lifetime.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It snowed again!

Not enough to even stick your tongue out and try to collect a few flakes on, but I saw it -- it was definitely snowing for about 30 seconds.

Do I get excited over the dumbest things? Well, any time I see snow I get excited. Because, I love snow. I have a friend here in Northern Kentucky and I usually call her as soon as I see a flake -- she's also a snow lover -- and I sing to her over the phone --

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but inside is just delightful, and since I've not place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Then we talk for a few minutes. We seem to talk on the phone more in the winter than in the summer -- mainly, I suppose because it doesn't snow in the summer -- at least not here.

So, I just wanted you all to know that it snowed again today, albeit the 10 flakes didn't amount to much. I mean by the time I grabbed my camera to take a picture of the event, it had stopped!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

It snowed!

I woke up this morning and what to my wondering eyes should appear -- my faded vision that is -- but snow. Not a lot of it, mind you, but enough to say, "It snowed!" I would say we had what the prognosticators call a dusting, but to me it was snow. I knew it had snowed before the light of day because it was so very, very quiet throughout the early hours of the morning. At 3 a.m. there wasn't even the sound of an auto on Route 27. It was what writers like to call as "eerily quiet."

I love snow. I hate ice, but I love snow. I don't mind what it does to the roads, because I no longer HAVE TO drive any where.

My first remembrance of snow was when my father put me on THE SLED (this was an old wooden sled with the cross bar in the front for steering the two steel rudders) and hauled me down to the Post Office to get the mail. I was bundled up like you see those kids on TV with 16 layers and couldn't move if I wanted to. He put me on THE SLED and then he walked down the middle of Second Avenue to The Pike talking to me the whole time, about what, I don't remember. The he went over to the PO to pick up the day's mail and dragged me back home.. What fun that was for me! No roly-poly plastic thing that is now called a sled for us -- I don't even think plastic has been invented back then. Well, maybe it had, but I can't recall anything that came in a plastic bottle or jar. Shower curtains were made of material -- if a household even had a shower -- and the interior and exterior of appliances were made of metal or glass.

THE SLED also provided me, personally, with many hours of play. While I can only remember one snow storm when I was a child where the snow was so deep in which I had to trudge through snow up to my waist to get to school -- all uphill of course, we often had snow enough for sledding. And there were many hills -- small hills which we called "banks" and I would find my favorite "bank" and slide down there over and over until I wore myself out, then I'd head home. It seems to me that I was only allowed to sled in the afternoon. Whether that was because I had school in the morning and early afternoon, or whether it was a "house rule" I can't recall, but I do not remember ever sledding in the morning. Isn't that odd?

So, it snowed last night. Our first snow of this winter season and it isn't winter yet. I wonder if that forebodes a treacherous, blustery winter for this area. This section of the country really hasn't had a bad winter since 1977. We're about due, aren't we? Oh, yeah, and I won't be sledding this year. My sledding days are over. Now, it's time to watch others enjoy the sport.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Then and now

The last post was about my brother, sort of, and I posted pictures of him when he was a young lad (laddie as my dad would say). This is how he turned out -- he's 60-something.
When he was a boy/teenager he collected baseball cards -- RELIGIOUSLY.
Every week he would spend his minimal allowance on baseball cards, hoping to get a new one. He kept them in mint condition, and that "hobby" continued for years and years. I think he still gets a set of TOPS baseball cards every year, but I'm not sure about that. Two things I do recall -- one is we would argue about which bubble gum tasted the best -- the yucky,hard, dry, minimally sugared baseball card bubble gum, or the soft, chewey, sugarey double bubble gum. And, I do know that when he was in his 30s and 40s he bought and sold the bb-cards and while he could have made money selling them, he also bought cards that he thought would increase in value. I think he broke out even each year he was doing that.

Mark also was a statistician -- a baseball statistician. He started when he was around 12 and began figuring out how many hits a player had, how many swings, how many outs, how many singles, etc. And he kept all those chits in little notebooks -- he got a new book each year -- and committed to memory all those stats for years and years. He should have been a baseball sportscaster, but God had other plans because he went to Philadelphia College of the Bible (Now Philadelphia Bible University) and then went of to Grace Theological Seminary to get his Th.D.

Another sports related thing my brother did that really was a nuisance -- he was good at being a nuisance. If you look at the picture of our old house you will notice that there are steps leading up to the porch. Well, he would throw a tennis ball against those steps -- trying to hit a certain spot he had chalked into the steps (to practice his pitching) and would occasionally miss, causing my father to yell at him to "Play it right!" just like he yelled at me to play the piano correctly. Mark as never a pitcher on any baseball team -- at least I don't think he was. He was the catcher in our town little league/babe ruth league. He played for several years on the town teams.

Now he collects Beanie Babies -- yes Beanie Babies. He gives them away though. Any child that shows up at the church (the first time) or who comes to visit his home gets a Beanie Baby -- he loves giving them away. Although, I can just see that it tears him up to give up his little lion, or the cuddly bear, or the soft octopus. He does get attached to the little critters.

Is he nuts? No, he's just like his father. I think that says it all. And, I love him dearly.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Please compare these pictures

Noah doesn't look very happy, does he. He did a good job, though.

You'll notice that in the picture of Mark with the suspenders his hair is a little uneven. His brother (and mine), Carl, had given him a hair cut a few days prior to the taking of this picture.

I found pictures of my brother Mark from when he was a little tyke about the age of my great nephew, Noah (Lori's son). The old black and whites are my brother, the other one is Noah at Emily's wedding. And, if you look really close, you will see the resemblance to Lori's daughter, Maddie as well.

Veterans' Day

Yes, November 11 is the day designated by Congress to honor our war veterans. And while it is a "shopping" day with loads of sales, I recall Veterans' Day when I was a child.

First of all, it was definitely a day off from school. In fact, November of each year was a holiday month. We had election day off (every year), Veterans' Day (November 11), the State of New Jersey Teacher's conference (two days, Thursday and Friday early in the month), and then Thanksgiving and the day after. So, in November we had six days off.

I don't recall how much my mom and dad enjoyed having us all home from school, but I never got the idea that mom wanted us in school and was happy when we were home and happy when we were in school.

On Veterans' Day, in the morning, daddy and I would walk over to the VFW Hall and they had a ceremony there to honor the vets, which I ENDURED -- I had to stand still while the ceremony took place, which if I recall corrected was a bunch of boring speeches, and it ended with taps.

My husband is a vet. He was in the Army during the Viet Nam war era. We were blessed that the only action he saw was on the New York City subway and not in SE Asia, but we wonder sometimes whether what our vets and anyone who wore a uniform in the late 60s endured wasn't like being in a war zone.

I can't imagine what our men went through in SE Asia. I can't imagine the suffering of the POWs. I only know from experience what the uniformed men suffered at the hands of the men and women of this country who opposed a war in a far off country -- a war which was to keep communism at bay, a war which most of the country opposed, and in that opposition turned on our men in this country, when they were at HOME, and defiled them and abused them, both physically and with their mouths.

We need to thank God for the safety he has given our friends and family who have returned from our wars, and thank God for their willingness to keep us safe and preserve what we have fought so hard to have -- freedom as outlined in our Constitution.

Enough flag-waving for today, I suppose. But I feel strongly about this and could go on and on and on about it.


Yesterday's post and schooling

I wrote yesterday about my stint on the State Board of Education and little bit about the politics of it.

I just thought I'd clarify that I had really good credentials for that position. My children had attended public school, then went to a Christian school (private), and then were home-schooled. They were all accepted to various colleges after graduation from high school (home-schooled).

I was able, as a member of that board, to represent parents of all children, whether they were public school students, home-schooled, or attended any of many private/religious schools in my district, that district serving one million Ohioans. There were 11 districts at that time, 11 board members, and each one of us represented one million people. I served basically two counties in southwest Ohio, which included the city of Cincinnati.

I loved visiting the schools, no matter whether they were private or public. And I tried to keep a good rapport with the many superintendents in my district, which by and large, was a conservative (in the aspect of their desire for the type of education the children received) district. My superintendents often battled with the Ohio Department of Education (and the OSBE) over requirements that they include certain touchy-feely programs in their school day when they wanted to spend more time on academics.

So why am I writing more about this stint? Well, it certainly changed the way I looked at education for children, not only my own, but my grandchildren as well. I discovered things that were happening in the various school aspects that I liked, and some that I really didn't like, and could and would NEVER support. After getting off the board I was able to "lobby" for the programs I liked, named phonics and then going before the legislature with my (and my supporters) wishes regarding changes being made to the various required curricula for all students no matter what choice parents made -- what would be teaching requirements for all students.

So, I think I've written enough about this subject. I was a hard two years, but it was probably the best two years of my adult life from a "work" standpoint.

I have had many jobs in the past 65 years, being on the Ohio State Board of Education was by far my favorite.

Monday, November 10, 2008

State Board of Education

This has nothing to do with Runnemede, except that I was raised in Runnemede and attended the public schools in Runnemede, and then went to a state college.

In 1992 I was elected to the Ohio State Board of Education. It was a surprise. I ran because the group of republicans with which I was associated at that time -- the truly right-wing conservative wing which was not really part of the STATE republican, or LOCAL republican RINOs who were in control. We were trying to get more conservatives elected into all areas of government. So, when someone mentioned that the State Board of Education seat was coming up for election this year (term started on Jan 1, 1993) was anyone interested or even able to run, I looked around the small group and no one said yes. Being new to the group I didn't want to butt in, so to speak and just take over, which was my bend back in those years.

Well, no one said anything that night. I went home and I thought about it. I was working as a paralegal at that time and so the next day I looked in the Ohio State Code what the requirements were for a person running for the state board of education in Ohio, and how to do it. Then after talking with Alan, we decided I would run with the help on the ground of this group of Republicans in the Hamilton County, Ohio area.

After three months, after my petitions to get myself on the ballot had been certified (I needed 500 signatures of valid voters) I started with their help to get my campaign going. Alan and I had little to no money, so we weren't able to give me much support in that respect. I sort of ran "under the radar" against the local county Republican pick for the SBE and the NEA pick for the job. I won. And believe me, I was so surprised. I won by a landslide. And at that point I really believed that if a recount had been taken I would have lost, because the win was so big. The following election was just the opposite, I lost by a lot. In fact in my own precinct the certified list of votes in Hamilton County showed that I only receive one vote -- which is not correct, because I know that I had at least three votes -- me, Alan, and my son. But to get an official hand recount would have cost us $20,000, and that certainly was not in the budget for a job which I loved and spent 24/7 at for the years I was on the board, but for which there was little remuneration.

Why am I writing all this. I know I was on that board for the time I was on that board for a reason. And today I received a Google response to something I wrote back in 1999 about the Science Standards that were being written and argued about in Kansas. You can check it out at: .

I have often thought of running for another school board slot, and this year I should have run for city council, as there were six slots open and only six people signed up. My chances of getting on the council would have been good, I suppose. But, I'm at a point in my life, now, where while the mind wants to do much, the body isn't able to follow the mind's direction.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

More silly names

I wrote several days, or was it weeks, ago that my father had pet names for his children and grandchildren, not necessarily names that we liked. They were more to tease us.

Well, my niece Jennie remembered another one that he would call people, not necessarily family members, and usually not family members. So, I guess we can add this to either family sayings, or just idiosyncrasies of my father.

He would call people a potted palm. Now, Jennie, don't take this the wrong way. If he ever called you that, I'm sorry. Because a potted palm was a dimwit, a dummy, a numb skull, and politician with all of those adjectives in front of his name. So, no one ever wanted to be called a potted palm.

I don't know where that came from, probably some old movie, like Arsenic and Old Lace, but I really can't say where. If anyone out there knows the origin of that saying, let me know.


Another recollection

Growing up as a preacher's kid in Runnemede had, as I've often mentioned its good points and its bad points. The good were far more prevalent than the bad.

Anyway, I woke up this morning thinking, again, of the Sunday night song services, which were extended and daddy only had to give a 15 minute sermon, which usually lasted about 1 hour. But that's beside the point. The point is the song service, and the singing part was the long part, which we really enjoyed. I'm not saying that the "old" people didn't enjoy daddy's sermons, but until I was older -- in my late teens -- I really didn't appreciate his preaching. Back to the point.

I woke up this morning with a song on my mind -- Since Jesus Came Into My Heart. I recall this as being a favorite of the younger church attenders -- younger meaning under 14. SJCIMH was a favorite because of the chorus, which went like this:

Since Jesus came into my heart, since Jesus came into my heart, Flood of joy o'er my soul like the sea billows roll, since Jesus came into my heart.

The thing is that whomever was leading the songs that night, would stop us at the word "roll" and it was a contest to see who could hold that word the longest. In fact, Mr. Paul Turner was often the leader at the sings and he would even step away from the pulpit and count to 10 or 20 or whatever, all the time we were holding on to the word "roll" in the chorus.

Sometimes we sing it, "like the sea billows roll and roll and roll and roll". Some fun. Those were certainly different times, different church hymns/songs, and the church was packed on these Sunday nights. Of course there was no TV to distract people from church. No football. It was, after all the day of rest and church, a day set aside to honor God and his Word.

You can click on the link in the title above and hear the melody and read the words for yourself.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Grandparents' Day

Well, today was Grandparent's day at Rachel's, David's, and Rose's school. Since I can't be in three places at once it was decided that I would go to Rachel's room. Her other grandparents went to David's room, and then a family friend, Brett, went to Rose's room. I also sneaked into David's room because it was right next door to Rachel's room. I never found Rose's room, and by that time my knee was bothering me so much, I decided it was time to leave the building.
That's me with Rachel, and theother picture is when she was showing off an "O" she made with Play Dough. She also did some dot-to-dots with alphabet letters, instead of numbers.
Prior to the time set for the grandparents to arrive (10 a.m.) her teacher had a reading time with a big book. When it was time for the grandparents to see the class, it was time to go to their various team corners and work on those items. One is a painting corner, another was a puzzle corner, Rachel's group was making letters with Play Dough. Rachel made an "O", an "X", a "W", and an "A". The "O" was the easiest and her favorite letter to make.
Boy have times changed since I was in kindergarten. We had desks. Each student had his/her own desk. They have tables where five or six students sit. Mostly the children sat on the floor. We NEVER sat on the floor. What I saw today made me shudder -- the way they flopped on the floor banging their knees -- and me with such painful knees from gymnastics. I can't imagine what kind of knees they'll have by the time they're in their 20s. But I digress.
I don't recall that we ever had any grandparents' days, but I think we must have had parents' day. I recall having to clean out my desk at school -- at least for the three years I was at Downing school. After that I don't recall any "clean-up" times, but it may be because we were old enough to not have to be reminded to clean out our desks.
Anyway, we had to clean out our desks. The bulletin boards were decorated with our work -- I didn't see any of Rachel's work on any bulletin boards in her classroom -- or any children's work on the bulletin boards for that matter. I do recall that definitely our daily work was posted on the bulletin board -- but only the best got posted -- which made us work harder at being neat and tidy. It was a privilege and honor to be posted. The work was posted for one full week, then it was replaced with another paper, either by me or one of my classmates.
I have the most vivid memories of Downing School when I was in first grade. I don't' know why that is. I was in the second grade classroom, but I was a first grader. I did first and second grade work. I loved tallying long lists of sums , which was a second grade chore, but I butted in because I liked to do it. I loved doing cursive writing -- which started in second grade, not first.
I noticed that now they start the kids right in with cursive, they skip the printing, which I think is kind of nuts -- because whenever you have to fill out a form they ask you to "please print." But I understand that it skips a step. They do the cursive without the connection of the letters. In other words Rachel would sign her name, like R-a-c-h-e-l (without the dashes) and each letter would be in cursive (I couldn't find that font to show how it would actually look). Interesting.
Back to my parents' day. I know my mom showed up. My mom always came to anything that had to do with me when I was at Downing School. I don't think she came to much when I was shifted over to Bingham. We had no car, and it was quite a walk. I rode a bike to school most of the time. Dad never came. And I don't think she came to anything when I was in high school, except maybe one science fair.
So now we have grandparents' day at school which includes special friends of the family or other relatives they want to come. Neat!