Thursday, March 31, 2011


Back in the olden days, there weren't shopping centers and malls like Gateway or Fashion Place.  There weren't big box stores like Target, Home Depot and Walmart.  If you needed clothes, shoes or underwear, you went to a department store.  The hardware store was where you bought lumber, nails, bolts, screws, saws and hammers.  Pharmaceutical items were purchased at the corner drug store.  There were variety stores for everything else.

If my mother, sisters and I went shopping, it was usually on Saturday afternoon after ALL the morning chores were done and lunch was over.  It was also a time when we changed from our play clothes and put on dresses or skirts.  We never went to a department store in play clothes.  My mother was raised in an era when the women put on dresses, dress shoes and wore dress gloves to go shopping.  It was an event.  We never had to wear dress gloves.  But it was a very long time before my mother decided that it might be acceptable to go shopping on Saturday in pants or slacks.  However, those pants/slacks had to be clean and neat. We had to wash our hands and faces and comb our hair.  Mother always put on her makeup before we left.

Back in my day, there were several department stores.  The moderately priced ones were Hetchs and Kahns.  If you didn't mind spending a little bit more money, you went to Woodward and Lothrop.  The people with a ton of money shopped at Garfinckles.  My mother usually frequented Hetchs and Kahns.  I don't think that I ever set foot inside Garfinckles. These department stores were free standing with perhaps some smaller local stores in the same area. 

I loved to go to Kahns. In the kid's shoe department at Kahns, there was a large glass enclosed cage set in a wall and in that cage were... small monkeys.  Probably just about every kid who knew that their Mom was going to Kahns wanted to go along just to see the monkeys.  It didn't even matter if you were getting shoes or anything.  While mothers shopped, the kids hung out in the shoe department watching the monkeys. 

Our local hardware store was Snyders in the neighborhood commercial district called East Falls Church.  I went to Snyders quite a bit with my father on Saturdays.  Due to the basement remodeling, he was always in need of nails. lumber or other building materials.  Snyders was a wonderful place that always smelled of fresh cut lumber. At kid's eye level, there were many bins filled with various size nails, screws, nuts and bolts. Those bins were fascinating. I'd walk alongside my father as he filled small bags with what he needed.  At the cash register, the bags were weighed.  The total weight determined how much he paid. There were also large open bins of various seed that was sold in bulk.  Whenever I went to Snyders with my father, he always bought a bag of sunflower seeds as a treat that he shared with me.

Across the street from Snyders was the corner drug store that had a soda fountain.  I remember that special treats would be a sundae or milkshake at the soda fountain counter.  The dentist that we went to had his office above the drug store.

A few doors down from the drug store was Robertson's Five and Dime.  That was a wondrous place for a child.  A Five and Dime store was a variety store where you could get small household items, pencils, notebooks, small toys, trinkets, and candy.  Most things were very cheap and a lot of things were a dime, nickle or less. If you could get your mother to give you a bit of her change from a purchase, you could always find something special at Robertson's.  The best thing was the open bins of wrapped, hard candy.  You've heard the term "Like a kid in a candy store"?  Oh, the wonder of all that candy.  It was so hard to choose.

One day on a visit to Robertson's with my mother, I decided that I wanted a Three Musketeers bar.  My mother must have said "No" because when she wasn't looking I took one and hid it from her.  When we got home, she saw me eating the candy bar and asked where I got it.  I told her I took it from Robertson's.  She immediately took the candy bar from me and drove me back to Robertson's.  There I had to confess to Mr. Robertson that I had stolen the candy bar and paid him for it with money that my mother gave me.  I never did that again.

While I was in junior high, Seven Corners Shopping center opened.  It was the brand new concept of a center where department stores anchored each end of the center and smaller, speciality stores lined enclosed walkways between the department stores.  Seven Corners had a Woodward and Lothrop at one end and probably a JC Pennys at the other end. 

These kinds of shopping centers are all over the place today.  I find it interesting that new centers being built today are trying to capture the feeling of the old neighborhood shopping areas of the 50s and 60s.  But try as they may,  the feeling of neighborhood and familiarity can't really be duplicated.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Back in my childhood, there weren't electric washers and dryers like we have today.  Getting the clothes washed and dried was a bit of a process.  You didn't just load them in a machine, add soap and water and push the start button to wash them.  To get them dry, you didn't transfer them to another machine, add a dryer sheet, select the drying cycle and then push the start button.

The first washing machine that I remember was a wringer washer similar to the one pictured below.  The clothes were agitated in the tub and then cranked through the wringer to get out as much water as possible.  The wet clothes were put in a laundry basket and hung on a line to dry. That laundry basket was very heavy, too.

In the basement of the red brick house, my father strung several lengths of clothes line in storage/furnace room. We also had a square clothes line outside. When my mother was doing the wash using the wringer washer, she'd put the clothes in a laundry basket and then hang them up on the clothes line, either inside or out.  Outside was always preferable since the clothes dried quicker in the sunlight.  In the dark, musty basement, it took the clothes longer.

I often had to help hang up the wet clothes. Like just about every other job at home, there was a proper way to hang the clothes. Clothes, towels, sheets, pillowcases were all secured with  clothes pins.  I had to be sure that the towels, sheets and other like items were hung out their full length and not folded over the line.

I also had the job to take dry clothes off the line. It wasn't acceptable to just pull the clothes down and put them in the laundry basket.  Everything had to be folded before going in the basket.  Since most everything was made out of cotton, folding things as they came off the line helped to avoid some wrinkles.  As it was, just about everything had to be ironed.

I learned to iron by doing the pillowcases and my father's hankies.  My mother's instruction about ironing was very specific.  I first had to dampen the pillowcase or hanky with water from a bottle that had a top similar to a sprinkling can.  Then with the hot iron, I had to keep ironing until all the wrinkles were gone.  Once over lightly didn't do the job.  After ironing on one side, I had to turn the item over and do the other side.  After the ironing, the pillowcase or hanky had to be folded. My mother also taught me the proper way to iron a shirt...collar first (both sides), then the back yolk, sleeves and cuffs (both sides)next, a front side, the back and then the remaining front.

There were occasions when there wasn't time to get all the ironing done.  So my mother or, one of us girls, would dampen all the clothes, put them in a bag and then put the bag in the upright freezer in the basement.  When she had time, she'd take the clothes out of the freezer, let them thaw when they would have the perfect dampness for ironing.  The freezer trick was used to avoid the clothes getting mildew.   Plus by having the clean clothes stashed away in the freezer, they weren't sitting around in laundry baskets looking messy. 

In addition to the routine wash/dry cycle for the majority of the family clothes, my mother had to starch my father's white dress shirts.  He wore a suit and dress shirt to work every day, plus on Sunday.  I don't exactly remember the process for starching my Dad's shirt.  I do know that Mother was really glad when canned spray starch hit the market.

At some point before we moved from the red brick house, my mother got a more modern washing machine and a dryer.  Those two inventions changed our life. With eight people in the family, there was a lot of time spent doing the washing. But with the new washer and dryer there was no more dashing to bring the wash in if a sudden rain storm hit or having damp clothes hanging up in the basement. 

But I still love the smell of laundry fresh off the outside clothes line.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


All through elementary, junior high and high school, I took my lunch to school.  I was kind of a picky eater and school lunch wasn't very appealing...especially the canned green peas that would often end up on the menu.  I disliked peas in any form, with canned peas being the worse. There was one occasion that I had to buy school lunch in elementary school.  When the lunch lady started to put those dreaded canned peas on my tray, I told her that I couldn't have them.  I was allergic. 

Every day my mother made my lunch.  In elementary school, I carried my lunch in a dark, blue metal lunch box.  The lunch box had a thermos that was held in place with metal spring type clips. I may have had a character lunch box at some point.  But the dark blue one is the only one I remember. By junior high, I graduated to taking my lunch in a brown, paper lunch bag. What I had for lunch each day was pretty much the same. A sandwich, potato chips, maybe half an orange, carrot sticks or apple slices,  and perhaps some raisins and a cookie.

The sandwich could have been a peanut butter and jelly. With a PB&J by lunch time, the grape jelly on my sandwich had oozed through the bread.  Another sandwich that could show up in my lunch box was tuna fish.  The tuna fish would have been mixed with mayonnaise.  When I got to school, my lunch box stayed in my cubby or locker until lunch without the benefit of refrigeration. So by lunchtime...well, you can imagine what the sandwich was like.   Sometimes, my mother would make a tomato sandwich or a cucumber sandwich.  Again, mayonnaise that went unrefrigerated until lunch was included.  Tomato sandwiches would leave the bread pretty soggy as well.  Once in awhile, I had leftover meatloaf or roast beef sandwiches. A special treat was a Vienna sausage sandwich. Taking into account all the sandwiches that I ate in 12 years of public school that should have been refrigerated, it's amazing I never got food poisoning.

Back then, there was no such thing as resealable sandwich bags.  Everything that went into my lunch was put in a wax paper sandwich bag.  The result was that things weren't too fresh by the time lunch came around.  Carrots stick would usually be a little shriveled up.  Apple slices would turn brown.

My mother had a few little lunch time specialties that she often included in my lunch...raisins mixed up with flaked coconut and nuts, or graham crackers cookies.  Graham crackers cookies were the absolute best.  Mother would spread homemade confectioner sugar frosting on a graham cracker and place another cracker on top.  By lunch time, the grahams had softened and the icing had hardened. It was a great combination.  Today, my kids call those cookies "Grammy" cookies.

Occasionally, I'd get Campbell's Chicken Noodle or Tomato soup in my thermos. I bought milk at school for just a few pennies a day.  The milk came in a small square, heavily waxed cardboard carton.  To drink it, you had to pull the top of the carton open and then insert a straw. 

Regardless of all the pitfalls with my school lunches from home, I usually ate everything. In my opinion, it was much better than eating what was served up in the school cafeteria.

Monday, March 28, 2011


If my father were still alive, today would be his 107th birthday. It seems fitting that the post today be about my father.  He had lived a long life when he died at age 90 on November 28, 1994.  Even though he was nine years older than my mother, he outlived her by eleven years.

September 1937, Age 33

My father was a do your duty, all business, hardly any play, type of man.  When his father died in his fifties, it fell to my father to pick up the slack in helping to support his mother and younger sisters still at home. He was in his early twenties during the Great Depression which made it even more important for him to take care of his mother and sisters. From my perspective, doing your duty and being responsible pretty much defined how he lived his life.  He took little time to relax and have fun - either for himself or with his family.  I think that in his mind being a good husband and father meant providing well for the family. We lived in comfortable homes, in good neighborhoods, had plenty to eat, and clothes to wear.  But what we didn't have was a father who played with us or showed us much affection with hugs and kisses.

Growing up in my family was similar to growing up in a business.  Dad was Chairman of the Board, CEO and CFO.  My mother was Operations Manager who carried out Dad's wishes and made sure that everything on the home front was running according to the determined business plan.  My brothers, sisters and I knew what our jobs were as well.  We were to stay out of trouble, not make messes in the house, do our chores around the house, and get good grades.  The boys were expected to go on missions, go to college and then get married in the temple.  The girls were only expected to get married in the temple.  If we wanted to go to college that was fine, but post high school education wasn't high on the list of things expected of us.  My sister, Linda, and I both went to BYU.  I'm pretty sure that the primary reason we went there was so we could find a good Mormon boy to marry. 

As CFO, he handled all the family finances.  My mother had a checkbook for household purchases. Dad would enter an amount each month in the check register that was Mother's budget for the month. At the end of the month, he balanced the checkbook. I know that I never got an allowance.  As a teenager, if I needed money I either had to go to Mother for it, who usually had to go to Dad.  I wasn't usually denied, but then I didn't have a great need for pocket money.

Dad was a stickler for being places on time.  I don't remember ever being late for anything.  We were usually the first ones to show up for Church. The habit of being on time, or even early, was so ingrained in me that I have a difficult time if it looks like I might be late somewhere.  It drives my husband nuts because he doesn't really care and hates to be early only to wait around for things to get started.  As a teenager, I was mortified when my father, who was conducting a church meeting, said over the pulpit to people coming in after the opening prayer: "For those of you who are just coming in, you didn't start early enough to do your hurrying.".  I wanted to crawl under the pew.

Because Dad was never involved in sports of any kind, he couldn't see the point getting his children involved in sports. The only acceptable extra-curricular activity was anything involving music, with Choir being the most acceptable. Most of the kids sang with school choruses, A-Capella, and Madrigals.  It was a good thing that we were all blessed with fairly decent voices or we wouldn't have even had that activity.  Even though, I was a member of two audition only vocal groups in junior high and high school, my father never came to any of my performances. He was too busy doing his duty elsewhere. 

Family vacations were few and far between.  Once in awhile, we would drive to Rehobath Beach on the Chesapeake Bay for a day's outing.  We'd get up at the crack of dawn, take a packed lunch, spend the day at the beach and turn around and come home.  I know that Dad was with us at the beach because he drove the car.  But I can't remember him getting in the water and playing with us kids.

The vacation of choice for Dad was going to the Hill Cumorah pageant.  Again, we would get up very early, drive all day to upstate New York usually arriving just in time for the pageant. By necessity, we had to stay over night somewhere.  The next morning, we'd make the return trip home only stopping for gas and rest breaks.  There was usually no stopping to see anything of interest along the way.  I think that we all knew the route from home to Palmyra and back by heart because it was rarely deviated.  I remember once we stopped at the Corning Glass Works for a tour.  On another trip, we convinced Dad to go home by way of the Hudson River valley and go through New York City.  He obliged.  But my memory of being in New York City is pretty much driving through the city and looking up at the buildings.  I don't think we even got out of the car.  I seem to remember him saying "Well, you've seen New York now.".

There was also a brief overnight trip to Bedford, Pennsylvania. We stayed in a motel and had plans to do some fun things in the area.  However, it rained the entire time so outdoor activities got nixed.  Instead, we went to a movie.  My father's comment about deviating from the usual family trip to Palmyra was "That was a long way to go for a movie.".

Overall, my father was a good man who was doing the best that he could for his family in the only way he knew how. My father was kind, and rarely raised his voice around the house.  He provided for his family, was faithful in his church callings and was charitable towards others. He was my father and I loved him.
Happy Birthday!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Back in my olden days of summer, after my household chores and piano practicing were done, I had entire days of unstructured time. Our county had a summer playground program at local elementary schools every day.  That was usually the first place where I'd go.  My mother wouldn't drive me there.  I had to walk or ride my bike.  But I'd spend a delightful few hours with my friends under the direction of camp leaders doing crafts, playing organized games, performing skits and just hanging out.  It was at summer playground that I learned to work with plaster of Paris, play "Duck, Duck, Goose", sing traditional summer camp songs, make bracelets and lanyards out of gimp (a thin, flat plastic like material on spools that came in various colors). I probably took a lunch with me too.

 If I didn't go to summer playground, I'd find someone in the neighborhood to play with.  Depending on what age we were, we'd play with our dolls, explore the woods behind Gail's house, play board games, ride bicycles in the neighborhood, roller skate or organize a group of kids to play "Simon Says".  The hula hoops or pogo sticks would often come out and we'd have contests to see who could keep their hula hoop going or stay up on the pogo stick the longest. If I was lucky, one of my friend's whose family had a membership at the local pool, would invite me to go swimming with them.

My girlfriends and I would sometimes make cookies and bake cakes (from scratch, not from a box). And yes, we were unsupervised while using a gas oven that had to have the pilot light lit with a match every time you baked. Sometimes, I'd go home for lunch.  But more often than not, I had lunch at whatever house I was playing.  Just about every mother was home during the day back then and was willing to feed any extra kids that were around at lunch time.

Some days, my friend Terry and I would climb to the top of the huge cherry tree that was in the side yard of Terry's house. It gave us a great vantage point to what was going on around us.  We stayed up there talking and try to solve the problems of our small world.

About all my mother knew regarding my whereabouts was that I was in the neighborhood somewhere. If she needed me, she'd often holler out the back door. If I heard her, I'd come home. If I didn't hear her, but a neighbor mom did, I'd be informed that my mother was calling for me.  But my mother  always knew that I'd be home by dinner time and never seemed to be concerned about where or what I was doing all day.

If for some reason there was no one around to play with, I was on my own to figure out what to do.  Those were the days when I'd get on our backyard swing and see if I could get high enough to see over the bushes between our yard and Jeff's.  Or I'd lie on my back on the grass and look at the clouds floating by trying to see if they looked like something familiar.  Often, I'd get a book and retreat to the cool of our basement and read.  We had the complete set of the Bobbsey Twin books which I read over and over.  If our raspberries were ripe, I'd pick them and eat them right on the spot.

I'm pretty sure that if I ever complained to my mother about being bored, I was given something to do...hang  the wet wash on the line outside, fold and bring the dry wash inside, iron pillow cases, weed her flower beds, watch my younger brother, dust the hated shadow boxes or worst of all, practice the piano.

Those were good times - without a care in the world.  I often wish that the children of today had that kind of freedom to just be a child.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


A child growing up in the LDS (Mormon) faith is usually baptized at the age of eight.  Baptism in the LDS faith is done by total immersion...having your entire body taken under the water. Prior to being baptized, LDS children are usually given a little preparation through Primary lessons and from their parents.  They may even attend the baptisms of family members and friends prior to their own baptism.  But not me.  Baptism was something that was expected and there wasn't a lot of discussion about it.  I turned eight.  I was going to be baptized. There was a brief interview with the Bishop of the Ward in advance of my baptism.  But no real preparation to speak of.

What I remember about my baptism is being absolutely terrified about having to be put completely under water.  I had little experience with swimming and was sure that I would drown.  I clearly remember waiting for my turn in a dark hallway or small room by the font and screaming and crying hysterically as my father held me.  I absolutely did not want to be baptized if it meant going under the water.  Some how, despite my protests that bordered on hysteria, my father accomplished the task.  But it was not a great experience for me.  How unfortunate that my parents didn't prepare me better or put off the baptism for a month or two because I was so upset.

I was a lot calmer the next day when I was confirmed a member of the church in Fast and Testimony meeting.  The trauma of my baptism was behind me.  I was just thrilled to be wearing the red felt poodle skirt with the reindeer on it and the matching red vest for the first time.

My baptism took place in the Washington Ward chapel in Washington D.C.  The chapel had an Angel Moroni on its steeple.  There came a point in time, when the church sold the Washington Ward chapel.  The Angel Moroni was removed from the steeple at the time of the sale.  It is now stands on the second floor of Church Museum of History and Art on Temple Square.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Today's kids often get over scheduled with soccer, T-ball, piano lessons, or dance lessons.  Back in my olden days, I had to beg my mother to take any kind of lessons other than piano.

One year, I was successful in getting her to sign me up for tap lessons being offered after school. I loved it.  But one session was all I got. I can still remember the basic steps and the tune to the song for our little recital.  A mother in our neighborhood gave hula lessons.  I took hula lessons on a pretty regular basis.  Do any of you want to see me perform to "I'm going to a hukilau?"

I started piano lessons in the third grade.  My teacher was an older girl in our ward named Birdie Gene.  Her method of teaching was to have the student memorize the treble clef and the bass clef separately, note by note.  Then put the two clefs together.  I didn't learn to read music.  I just knew if the note went up the scale or down the scale.  I took from Birdie Gene for a couple of years.

My reprieve from piano lessons didn't last long. In the sixth grade, I began taking lessons from a woman in our ward, Bernice Manwaring.   I had my lesson before school which meant that my Mother had to take me.  Sister Manwaring didn't live very far away, so I think that Mother would drive me there, drop me off and then come back to get me.  It was on my piano lessons days that I got a ride to school.  From Sister Manwaring, I finally learned to read music.  I took lessons from her for at least a school year, maybe longer.  I'm glad I learned to read music...another skill that has made a big difference in my life.

A few dances lessons and piano lessons were the extent of my afternoon schedule.  That left plenty of time to be a kid.  Thank goodness.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Back in the olden days, there wasn't kindergarten in the public school system.. My mother was involved with a small private preschool run by one of the ladies in our ward.  That small kindergarten was my only exposure to a school setting until I started first grade.

If I remember correctly, the age cut off date for starting first grade was at the beginning of September.  But if you were going to turn six between September and the end of the year, you could take a readiness test to qualify for starting school before you turned six.  I took the test and passed.  So in September of 1952, I started first grade at Charles A. Stewart Elementary.

Stewart Elementary School, Arlington, Virginia
When you walked in the front door of the school, there was a large staircase that went to the second floor.  I seem to remember that there were five classrooms upstairs and five downstairs, all opening on to a center hall.  I don't think there was a cafeteria.  Everyone probably brought their lunch from home and we ate at our desks in the classroom or outside on the playground.  Some kids who lived really close to the school actually went home for lunch. Each classroom had an area at the back of the room for coats. The school grounds were surrounded by a heavily wooded area. Some of the fences around the playground were covered with honeysuckle vines.  When the honeysuckle was in bloom, my friends and I would pick the blossoms off the vines and suck the honey out.

I walked to school every day, usually with my sister, Linda, who was in the fourth grade when I started school.  It seemed like a very long walk when I was young.  But on a trip back east several years ago, I drove the distance in a car.  It was less than a quarter of a mile...not very far at all.

It wasn't appropriate for girls to wear slacks or pants to school back then.  I wore a dress or skirt every day.  We played recess games, hung upside down from the monkey bars, and climbed the jungle gym all while wearing skirts.  Sometimes, we'd wear shorts underneath our dresses, but not very often.  I'm sure that we girls were completely unfazed by having our underwear show while upside down on the monkey bars. Oh, my!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


"Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me? M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e. Hey! there. Hi! there. Ho! There.  You're as welcome as can be. M-i-c-k-e-y-M-o-u-s-e.. Mickey Mouse.  Mickey Mouse. Forever, let us hold our banner high.  High! High! High!  Come along and sing a song and join the jamboree. M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e.

I can't believe that I still remember the words to the Mickey Mouse Club March.  Well, it shouldn't be too surprising since I watched it just about every weekday afternoon at 5 PM.  The show premiered in 1955 and ran for a couple of years.  My friends and I were avid fans and completely enthralled with anything that had to do with the Mickey Mouse Club.

For the first year or so that it was on, I had to watch it at my friend, Terry's house.  We didn't have a television. After getting home from school, I changed into my play clothes, probably did a chore or do and maybe practiced the piano before cutting through Jeff's backyard and climbing the fence to get to Terry's house.  We each had our favorite Mouseketeer.  I loved Karen Pendleton and Terry loved Darlene Gillespie. When Mickey Mouse Club wasn't on, we would play Mickey Mouse Club pretending that we were Karen and Darlene.

We were pretty obsessed.  We sang and danced along with Mouseketeers every afternoon.  In our minds, we were Mouseketeers.  Some time during our Mickey Mouse Club days, a new girl started at our elementary school.  Terry and I were convinced that the girl who moved in wasn't really Carolyn, but Darlene Gillespie.  Carolyn looked similar to Darlene.  We followed Carolyn home from school one day just to see where she lived and worship her from afar.  Silly girls.  I got in big trouble with my mother when I finally got home.  I was always to come straight home from school.  My little diversion of about an hour that day landed me sitting on a chair in the middle of kitchen while mother made dinner.  I missed Mickey Mouse Club that day too. I don't think there could have been any worse punishment.

It was our dream to be able to visit Disneyland which had been opened in Anaheim, California.  Only one of our friends actually got to go to Disneyland.  It was a really big deal to us when Susan and her family made the cross country trip for a family vacation.  We were beside ourselves and really jealous that she was going to the land of Mickey Mouse and would probably meet ALL of the mouseketeers while there. She didn't meet any Mouseketeers.  But she brought us all Mickey Mouse ears.  We were in heaven.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Oh how I loved my dolls when I was a girl.  I would play with my dolls for hours, either by myself, with my older sister or with my friends.  Because my mother was such a wonderful seamstress, my dolls had great wardrobes.  My friends would bring their dolls to my house so that they could dress their dolls up in some clothes that my dolls had. I think that my doll wardrobes were probably the only cool thing about me as a girl since we didn't have a television or belong to the local swimming pool.
Just about every Christmas when I was in elementary school, I got a new doll complete with a full wardrobe made by my mother.  There were years when both my sister, Linda, and I would get the current, must have,  popular doll.  My mother did a lot of sewing those years because in addition to the doll wardrobes, my sisters and I usually got new dresses made by mother.  To this day, I don't know how she managed to do all that sewing and keep it a secret for the most part.  I knew that she had special hiding places, because some Christmas mornings after all the presents had been opened, she'd remember something that she had made for us, but hidden away.

The first doll that I remember is my Tiny Tears doll.  Tiny Tears would cry real tears when she was given water with the bottle that came with her.  After "feeding" Tiny Tears, you would squeeze her tummy and tears would come out of little holes in her face just below her eyes.  I played with her until she was well worn and I had graduated on to bigger dolls.

The next doll that I remember is my  14" Tony doll.  My sister, Linda, and I both got our Tony dolls for Christmas.  Mine was blonde and Linda's was brunette.  We got complete wardrobes for our dolls.  I remember that we would play together, changing their clothes and fixing their hair. I also remember I would play with both Tony dolls when Linda wasn't around.  That was kind of a no-no, but I did it anyway. The Tony dolls were named after Tony home permanents.  My sisters and I got those on a regular basis. My Tony doll was a blue eyed, blonde like this one.

The must have doll after the Tony doll was the Saucy Walker.  Saucy Walker was about 22" tall.  You could stand the doll up, hold her arm and she would more or less walk along side of you.  I got a Saucy Walker for Christmas one year with a complete wardrobe made by my mother.  I remember how excited I was on that Christmas morning to find Saucy Walker under the Christmas tree.

In about the fourth or fifth grade, I got a Ginny doll.  She was an 8" doll and probably one of my favorites.  When I got her for Christmas, she came complete with trunk.  Ginny fit inside the trunk on one side.  The other side had a drawer for her tiny shoes and socks.  That same side had a clothes rack to hang up her clothes on tiny hangers.  Of course, the idea was that little girls would want full wardrobes for their Ginny dolls and additional outfits were available to purchase.  But my Ginny doll had a great wardrobe of dresses, coats and play clothes that were all made by my mother. She was so well dressed that she won "Best Dressed Doll" at the local summer playground.  Ginny and I would often have matching outfits since her clothes were made from leftover fabric of my clothes.  My Ginny doll was just like the one below. 

The last doll that I got for Christmas was a Madam Alexander doll. Mother was afraid that I might be getting too old for dolls when I was in the sixth grade.  She didn't get played with as much as the previous dolls, but I loved her just a much as the others.

Unfortunately, I no longer have any these dolls.  I really don't know what happened to them.  I think that when we moved out of the red brick house when I was in high school, my mother gave them away. I was working as a nanny during the week then and wasn't around at home when packing for the move took place. I would have loved to have had them around for my girls and granddaughters.  I discovered that the Madam Alexander doll I had now sells on Ebay for over $400.  I don't know what my mother was thinking when she got rid of all my dolls.  I suppose that she just didn't want to move them and all their clothes.  How sad.

Monday, March 21, 2011


There were several girls in my neighborhood around my age.  Annie lived in the house next door on the right.  Gail lived across the street and Susan lived down the street a few house. Susie lived in the house directly behind ours and Terry lived around the corner.   We would play together often doing girly things.  But I didn't exclusively play with girls.  One of my best friends for several years was Jeff who lived in the house next door on the left.

Jeff's family was one of the few on the street that had a finished basement.  It was done even before ours.  I remember it was finished in the typical decor of the 1950s, including knotty pine paneling on the walls.  Jeff's family was also one of the first families to get a television.

There were several popular radio and television shows back then.  Among them were "The Lone Ranger", "Roy Rogers and Dale Evans", and "Sky King".  Since we didn't have a television until I was in about the 4th grade.  I had to watch these shows at my friends' homes.   At Jeff's house, I would watch "Sky King" and "Roy Rogers".  When the shows weren't on, Jeff and I would play "Roy Rogers" or "Sky King" just like kids today play "Star Wars" and "Transformers".

"Sky King" was our favorite show and the one we played the most.  Jeff was Sky King and I was Penny, Sky King's niece. If Jeff's little brother was around, he would be Clipper, Sky King's nephew.  We'd pretend that the top stair of the basement steps was the cockpit of Sky King's plane.  The fun that we had as these characters was only limited by our imagination. As Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, we would often play outside where we had more room to gallop around on our make believe horses while we were rounding up the bad guys. Jeff also had a playhouse in his backyard that often served as Roy and Dale's house. We would frequently climb up the very prickly cedar tree behind the playhouse when we needed a better view of where the bad guys were hiding.

Those were very good times and a very treasured part of my childhood.  Jeff and his family moved before we were out of elementary school.  I remember being very more Sky King and Penny, or Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

Correction:  It's good to have a younger brother who remembers things a little differently and probably more accurately.  Jeff's younger brother, Timmy, was Alan's best buddy. Al says that Jeff and his family moved when he was in the second grade.  I would have been in junior high by then and probably out grown playing Sky King and Penny a few years before then.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


In April of 1952, my younger brother, Alan, came into the family.  I was five and a half.  I wasn't a very happy camper about having this new little person usurp my place in the family.  In fact, I confess.  I was very jealous.  I didn't like the idea that he was requiring my mother's attention and in general had upset my little world.

I'm not proud of the fact that I was very mean  to my brother.  I remember that there were times when I would dig my fingernails into his arm, sometimes hard enough that it bled.  When I was related this to my husband recently, he asked me if my parents ever did anything about my behavior towards Alan.  I told him that I don't really remember.  They must have disciplined me in some way. But it took a long time  for those feelings of jealousy to go away.

For most of my adult life, I've regretted the way I treated my brother. This is not only my confession of bad behavior, but my public apology to Alan.  So, Al, if you are reading this blog.  I'm sorry.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Back in the olden days, there was no such thing as childhood vaccinations.  Or if there were, I never got any.  In fact, I rarely went to the doctor due to illness. It wasn't that I didn't get sick.  But my mother just relied on good, old fashioned home remedies to get me through it.

When I had measles as a preschooler, my mother kept the blinds and curtains drawn in the house because the light hurt my eyes.  I remember her sitting and holding me on her lap quite a bit because I was so miserable.  The aspirin that she gave me for fever would have been mashed up in a spoon with either honey or sugar.  Even before Mary Poppins, mother knew that a spoonful of sugar helped the medicine go down.

I frequently got ear aches.  That's when the oily ear ache drops would come out.  Mother would put some in the offending ear and then put cotton in my ear to keep the stuff from running out.  I probably got the aspirin with sugar for fever as well. Leg aches were a common occurrence for me when I was little. Sometimes, I was given the aspirin with honey.  But more often, my father massaged my legs until they felt better.

One childhood illness that I never got was chicken pox.  I got exposed to them plenty of times but never actually got them.  My mother would even take me to play with friends who had chicken pox hoping that the exposure would make me get them as well.  I must have had some kind of natural immunity because I never got them even when my own five children had them.

I sprained my ankle more than once.  I wasn't rushed off to the ER to get fixed up.  Mother would wrap my ankle and have me stay off it the best I could.  When I sprained my ankle in junior high, I kept going to school and limped around the halls without crutches.  I didn't think it was cruel and unusual treatment.  It was just the way it was.

I do remember going to the doctor once when I had a really bad sore throat.  It turned out to be tonsillitis.  I was probably given some kind of antibiotic.  But more than likely, I got treated by mother with her home remedies.  I still have my tonsils.

I'm glad that when my kids were little that vaccinations and antibiotics were readily available.  We still had to deal with chicken pox.  The parents of my grandchildren don't even have to worry about chicken pox since there's now a vaccine for that.

Some how, without the benefit of vaccines and current medications, I survived the illnesses of my youth.

Update: My sister, Linda, confirms that we rarely went to a doctor as children.  She says she had every childhood illness, including many bouts with tonsillitis, both kinds of measles and whooping cough. As a teenager, she missed about two weeks of school with some kind of illness.  She says she came home from school one day and woke up later thinking it was the next day when it was actually two weeks later.  She had lost a lot of weight as well.  However, we all got small pox vaccinations.  I think that was because they were being given at school.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Without an electric dishwasher in the red brick house, the children were expected to wash and dry the dinner dishes, plus clean up the kitchen.  We usually did the dishes in pairs and took our respective turns washing and drying.  I can still see the process that was required to get the job done.

After dinner was finished, each family member was expected to take their own place setting to the kitchen and then usually went back for something else. The table got cleared fairly quickly.  The leftovers, if any, were put away and then the dishes were rinsed to be washed.  The one sink was filled with hot soapy water and the other with clean hot water.  The dish drainer was pulled out from under the sink and set on the left side.  Then the washing and drying began.  We weren't allowed to let the dishes air dry.  Plead as we may that it was fine to let the dishes air dry, Mother insisted that the dishes be put in the cupboard.  She wanted a spotless kitchen after dinner.

Most of the time, washing the dinner dishes fell to me and my two older sisters.  I'm sure that my older brothers had their share of washing dishes.  But by the time I was old enough to help, my two sisters had taken over the tasks.  Sometimes just two of us would do dishes.  However, once in awhile all three of us got involved.

I have some great memories of working with my sisters doing dishes.  We'd talk and sing songs.  My oldest sister had a knack (and probably still does) of making up songs.  My mother had made my sister, Karen, a dress of dark, green, velveteen. One night while doing dishes, Karen made up a song about the dress.  I don't why she made up that song.  But we would often sing "Dark, Green, Velveteen" while doing dishes.

P.S.  I was with both my sisters the other day.  Even though Karen remembered the green velveteen dress, she had no recollection of the little ditty "Dark, Green, Velveteen".  Linda and I instantly sang it for her.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Every night, without fail, my family ate dinner together.  There were table and chairs in the kitchen, but we always ate dinner in the dining room.  All eight of us  would gather around the table in our more or less designated places.  My mother sat at the end of the table closest to the kitchen.  My father sat at the opposite end with his back to the window.  My youngest brother sat on one side of the table at the end next to my mother.  I sat on the other side at the end next to my father.  I'm pretty sure that this arrangement was so that there was an adult handy to manage the younger children. 

My father was a meat and potatoes kind of man.  He wanted a hearty meal at night followed by dessert.  My mother's cooking was good, but pretty basic.  I didn't know what really good spaghetti was until I was an adult.  My mother's version of spaghetti sauce was thinned out tomato paste put in with hamburger that had been fried in the frying pan.  That was it.  She would occasionally make a dish called Spanish Rice which was  the same as the spaghetti sauce but with a little chili powder added.  She made a pretty good meat loaf. Her pork and beef roasts were always great.

We had dinner as a family every night except Saturday. My mother would cook for those who were at home.  But with teenagers and their various activities,  not everyone was at home on Saturday evenings.  Saturday dinners were scaled back.  It was the one time that mother could get away without meat and potatoes.

A Saturday staple was Tuna Fish gravy over toast or Tuna Casserole. Tuna Fish gravy was made by warming up tuna in a frying pan, seasoning it with a little salt and pepper, adding some butter and flour to thicken up the milk gravy.  I doubt if I could get my family to eat it.  But we all loved it. 

Being raised with the tradition of nightly family dinner, there was no question that I would do the same with my own family.  I didn't know any other way.  Instead of eating family dinner around a rectangular table as I did in my youth, my children gathered around a round table.  But the purpose was the gather the family together at the end of the day.

Update:  My oldest brother, John, remembers the actual recipe for my mother's spaghetti and sauce.  Fry hamburger with chopped onions in a skillet. Add some salt and pepper.  Add a can of tomato soup and 1/2 soup can of water.  Mix with the hamburger and onions.  Then pour over the spaghetti.  He says that he found out what real spaghetti sauce was on his mission in the New York area when he was served spaghetti with sauce that had been cooking all day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Fast forward to about six years ago.  At that time, I was working full time as the receptionist for the Welfare Services Department of the LDS Church.  One day a man came to the reception desk and introduced himself as "J. G." and told me that he had an appointment to see someone in the Humanitarian Department.  He had aged, but "J" was still good looking with those Nordic blue eyes.

The name plate on my desk had my first name and my married last name.  There wasn't any reason for him to recognize me or know who I was.  I notified his appointment to let him know that "J.G." had arrived.  As luck would have it, "J" was going to have a little wait. Instead of having a seat to wait, he  hung around the reception desk to chit chat.  I debated if I should say anything about who I was.  After all, it had been forty years ago and he clearly didn't recognize me.

When it became clear that he wasn't going to sit and wait, I prayed that the phone would ring and otherwise occupy me.  But it didn't happen. I got up my courage and said casually, "We know each other.".  He was surprised.  He asked me how we knew each other and I told him we met at BYU way back when.  Then I told him my name way back when.  He had immediate recall.  He said he thought about me from time to time and wondered how I was.  Well, that was certainly interesting.  I said to myself, "It's been over forty years and you still think about me from time to time?".  He was bright and cheery remembering the good old days and made no mention of the way he dumped public, no less.

It took all of the professionalism I could muster to not call him out on how awful he treated me and how he broke my heart. Deep down, I still wanted an answer as to why he had treated me so badly. But it wasn't the time, nor the place, and thankfully, his appointment was ready for him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Standing in line, I could see that there was a girl standing next to "J".  I was a little puzzled because he had no sisters.  When I finally came face to face with him and was about to throw my arms around him, he stopped me.  He then said to me, "I want you to meet my girlfriend, "A".", indicating the girl standing next him.

I was shell shocked to say the least.  WHAT!! His girlfriend?!?  I thought I was your girlfriend.  Didn't we write all summer?  Didn't you call me to be sure I'd make it out to your Farewell?  Didn't you tell me more than once how much you missed me and couldn't wait to see me before you left on your mission? Wasn't I going to wait for you?  These thoughts all swirled in my head, but I couldn't say anything.  I just ran out of the building in tears and got into the car.  I cried all the way to Provo.  My poor brother had no idea what to do with his sobbing, little sister.  He dropped me off at my apartment where I was left alone in my misery.  My other roommates hadn't moved in yet. When they started to arrive, they didn't know how to help this girl that they barely knew who had just had her heart broken by the missionary who just happened to be a jerk.

When classes started, I  was enrolled in a Book of Mormon class of over 300 students.  I ended up sitting next to a girl who introduced herself to me.  After a little small talk, "K" told me that she was from Salt Lake and graduated from Olympus High School. Yikes!  That was the same school that "J" graduated from.  I told her that I had dated a guy last spring who went to Olympus and told her his name. "Do you know him?", I asked.  "K's" immediate response was "Oh, you're the one.".

She knew  him alright.  They were in the same social circle.  She proceeded to tell me how all summer long "J" was bragging about how he was stringing along this poor girl back in Virginia.  He had begun dating the girl he introduced me to as well.  "K" told me that most of his friends were disgusted with his behavior, herself included.  They all thought he was being a jerk and told him so. She told me that some of them had hung his picture on the wall and thrown darts at it.

Back in those days, missionaries going on  foreign language missions spent time in the Language Training Mission center (LTM) on the BYU campus.  They were allowed to frequent the campus bookstore. One day, my new friend ,"K", and I were in the bookstore when I saw "J" a little distance away.  I stood there mute.  He looked at me and saw that I was with "K".  A look of "Oh, no, she knows." came over his face. "K" said to me "There's "J"." She gave him a some what triumphant smile and then we left the bookstore.  That was the last time I saw him until many, many years later.

Me with J, the one that got away.

Monday, March 14, 2011


A post on a friend's blog today got me thinking about an old first, true, love.  Even though, this post will be out of the time line sequence of my life, I'm writing it now while it's on my mind.

In the fall of 1964, I was a freshman at BYU.  It was an entirely new world to me, partly because there were so many LDS guys who could be dating prospects.  Where I was raised in Virginia, I was the only LDS student in my graduating class of over 500.  The boys in my ward all went to other high schools, and besides, it wasn't cool to date a girl in your ward.  So my dating experience as a teenager was rather limited. I did date a guy whose family had recently moved into the ward, but he had been at BYU for a year before we met.  Anyway...on to the story.

In my BYU ward, there was a good looking young man that I developed a crush on.  He fit the category of tall, dark and handsome...well not too tall, but handsome, none the less.  I did everything I could to get him to notice me.  But I was really surprised when his roommate was the one that asked me out.  He wasn't even on my radar.

"J" was tall, blonde, blue-eyed and very nordic looking.  On our first date, we drove to Salt Lake and saw "The Sound of Music" at the old Center theater. I was impressed. Especially since prior to the date, he had to get someone to drive him to Salt Lake so he could get his mother's car for our date.  For a second date, he rented a Honda scooter and we took a ride up Hobble Creek canyon for a picnic.  We quickly became a couple.  I readily remember the first time he kissed me.  It was while we were watching an outdoor movie on the campus quad on Y Day.  Oh, swoon!!!

The guy that I had dated earlier back in Virginia was on a mission.  I was waiting for him but we hadn't agreed that I wouldn't date while he was gone.  He got a "Dear John" letter from me as my relationship with my new love developed. I was sure that "J" and I were meant for each other.  When my parents came out for my older sister's graduation, "J's" mom invited them to Salt Lake for dinner. I left for home with my family reluctantly leaving "J" behind in Salt Lake.

During the summer, we wrote regularly and he occasionally called me.  I knew I was in love.  When "J" got his mission call to Argentina, he called me.  He wanted me to be at his Farewell so he could see me one more time before he left on his mission.  In order to get to his Farewell, I had to leave for BYU early and arrange to get a ride from Provo to Salt Lake. My parents arranged for me to get a ride across country with my mother's adult cousin who was making a trip to Utah.  We drove straight through from Virginia and I was dropped off at the apartment where I was going to live that fall. I think we arrived the day before the Farewell. My oldest brother was living in Provo and agreed to drive me to Salt Lake for the Farewell.  We were a little late to the meeting so I had to sit at the back of the hall.  There was no chance to talk to "J" before the meeting started.

Back in those days, after the Farewell, the missionary and his family would form a receiving line after Sacrament meeting for a meet and greet with well wishers.  I got in line, anxiously waiting to be reunited with "J" for one last time before he left on his mission.

And that's when the wheels came off the relationship.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


The stairs that led from our kitchen door down to the backyard were made of wood.  The space between each stair was large enough for a child to slip through, or so I thought.

When I was about seven or eight, a couple of my friends and I thought it would be fun to crawl through the stair opening.  I was the first one to try it.  My body went through just fine.  But my head got stuck.  Try as I might, I couldn't get out.

My father came to my rescue by getting his hack saw and shaving out a curve underneath my head to make the opening large enough to free me.  He never repaired the stair.  The scar on the stair from his handiwork was still there when we moved out of the house.

Maybe he never fixed the stair so that I would have a reminder not to try stupid things again. You know, it probably worked because I haven't been one to indulge in risky behavior.

Update:  My oldest sister raised the question "Why didn't you just go back out the way you went it in?".  My other sister, who remembered this incident,  said that some how in an effort to get out of the stair opening, my head got wedged and I couldn't go in either direction.  It's great to be validated once in awhile!

Friday, March 11, 2011


I made myself a sandwich today from roast beef left from yesterday's dinner.  The roast beef sandwich got me thinking about some Sunday family traditions of my youth.

Back in the olden days, church meetings went on all day.  The men would go to Priesthood meeting first.  The rest of the family arrived for Sunday School about an hour or so later.  This schedule often required the father of the family to drive to his first meeting and then go back home to pick up the rest of the family for Sunday School.  After Sunday School, everyone went back home for several hours then returned to church for Sacrament meeting in the late afternoon.

My mother always cooked a big Sunday dinner that we ate between Sunday School and Sacrament meeting.  There was just enough time between Sunday School and Sacrament meeting to get dinner on the table and the dishes done before we had to go back to the church.

Our route home from church took us past an ice cream place called "Giffords".  Wow, did they have wonderful ice cream!  On most Sundays, after Sacrament meeting, we would go  through the drive thru at Giffords and get an ice cream cone.  I'm pretty sure that we all had our favorite flavor and pretty much ordered the same thing every time.  My choice was was the pink kind, peppermint candy.

When we got home, my mother would make sandwiches from the left over roast beef.  To this day, I only want my roast beef sandwiches like my mother made them....white bread, mayo, salt, pepper, lettuce and roast beef.  And peppermint candy is my absolute favorite ice cream

P.S.  The consolidated block church schedule was implemented in the early 1980s partially due to a gasoline shortage.  Before then, members drove back and forth to the chapel on Sunday for three different meeting times.  Relief Society and Primary were held during the week requiring more drive time and gas.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I'll admit it.  I sucked my thumb when I was a kid.  Well, to be more truthful, I sucked my thumb until I was about thirteen.  My thumb sucking habit was a source of constant frustration and, sometimes, embarrassment for my mother.  She went to great lengths to try and get me to quit the habit.

My thumb sucking habit involved sticking my right thumb all the way in my mouth and while rubbing my pointer finger in a circle around the end of my nose.  I guess as a VERY small child this was kind of cute.  But when I did it in public when I was older,  my mother was mortified. Of course, she was also concerned that I'd end up with buck teeth and require expensive orthodontic work.

My mother tried many different methods to get me to quit. None of them really worked and one method had an unexpected disastrous result.  When I was about eight or nine, I was chosen as my age group representative from my local school playground for the county wide Playground Queen contest.  On the night of the big event when the county wide queen would be picked, my mother dressed me up in my favorite dress...a lavender dotted-Swiss dress with a tiered skirt.  On our way out the door, my mother realized that she hadn't put any of a thumb sucking deterrent liquid on my right thumb.  She didn't want me to be sucking my thumb while I was on the stage during the judging.  Without turning on the hall light, she grabbed a small bottle out of the linen closet and swabbed the stuff on my thumb, spilling some on my dress in the process. .

It wasn't until after we had arrived at the competition that my mother realized that what she had put on my thumb wasn't the liquid deterrent.  The front of my dress where the some of the liquid had spilled and my thumb were stained brown.  She didn't know what she had put on my thumb. But the dress was ruined and it took awhile for my thumb to return to it's normal color. To add insult to injury, I lost the contest too.

The lavender, Swiss-dot dress before it was ruined.

I eventually quit sucking my thumb on my own.  I don't remember exactly how old I was when I stopped.  But I do know that when I went to high school,  the thumb sucking habit was long gone. I never required braces either.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


My mother was a skilled seamstress and tailor.  She could make anything.  Just about everything that I wore as a child and well into my teen years were made by my mother.  I never felt like my clothes had a homemade look.  In fact, I had a pretty good wardrobe that was as nice or, better looking, than my friends who got their clothes from the store. I wore beautiful dress coats, school clothes and formals.

When I got old enough to have an opinion about what I wore, my mother would take me to the local department stores where we'd look at the latest clothes for sale.  If I saw something that I liked, she'd take a good look at it and say "I can make this for a lot less.".  So the next stop would be the fabric store.  If we couldn't find a pattern to duplicate what was in the department store, mother would make her own.

For me, there were advantages to having an excellent seamstress for a mother.  When I hit junior high school, I still pretty small and clothes my size off the rack in a store would have been clothes for kid's in elementary school.  That wasn't too cool when you were trying to look like a teenager.  I wore age appropriate clothes in junior high thanks to the sewing skills of my mother.

Mother, Karen, Linda and Me - all in Easter outfits made by my Mother.

 Another advantage was my dolls were always well dressed.  Mother would make clothes for my dolls from the fabric left over from sewing projects.  In fact, more than once my dolls, or my sisters dolls, won "Best Dressed Doll" awards in the local county summer playground program.

The lilac dotted swiss dress that my mother made and then, unfortunately, ruined it when she spilled what she thought was a thumb sucking deterrent down the front of the dress.
 Because my mother or I chose the fabric for clothes that she made me, they were one of a kind.  It was unlikely that other girls my age would be wearing the exact same thing.  The style may be the same. But that was where any similarity ended.  When felt poodle skirts were the rage, I had one as well.  However, mine was specific for me.  Mother made it when I turned 8. The skirt was red felt with a white Reindeer instead of a poodle.  Mother drew the pattern for the reindeer and then cut it out of white felt.  She also made a matching vest. 

My mother also sewed for people outside the family.  Her ability to cut out a pattern and have fabric left over sometimes meant that I'd get an outfit when she made something for someone outside the immediate family.  This only proved a problem when she made a jumper and blouse for her adult cousin.  Her cousin was also a teacher who happened to teach at my elementary school.  More than once, we both showed up at school in matching outfits since mother had sewn me a jumper and blouse from the left over fabric.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


In my neighborhood, there was a large group of boys and girls within my age group . During the summer, we would come together after dinner and play nights games. There was usually discussion among a few before we went home for family dinner about which game we would play that night.  Once it was decided, we all headed home to re-group after dinner.  The meeting place was the man hole cover in the middle of street in front of my house. 

Sometimes, we'd play good old fashioned hide and seek.  We decided what the boundaries were for hiding places and take off when whoever was "It" started to count. We would play until it was too dark to see.

There was little traffic on our street in the evenings.  So sometimes, we'd string a badminton net between telephone poles down the hill.  Due to the street lights on the telephone poles, we could play badminton until way after dark.

But our favorite night game was "Kick the Can".  We could only play "Kick the Can" if someone could provide an empty can. That required a little advance planning to be sure that a proper empty can didn't get thrown in the trash after dinner.

The can was placed on the man hole cover.  Everyone playing gathered around and someone was chosen or volunteered to be "It".  Then one of us, usually a boy who could kick the can accurately and hard, kicked the can and sent it flying.  When the can was kicked, we would all scatter and hide.  The person who was "It" had to put the can back on the man hole cover before she/he could go looking for everyone.  However, at any time, someone could come back, without getting caught, and kick the can again.  The poor person who was "It" had to go back and replace the can.  Anyone who had been found prior to the can being kicked could go hide again.  It was a blast.

Even now, I can hear the sound of the can as it was kicked and went rattling across the pavement.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Above the counter that was between the kitchen and dining room of the red brick house were several shelves.  The shelves were divided vertically in sections, about 5 or 6 sections per shelf.  My mother called these shelves shadow boxes.  The sections of the shadow boxes is where my mother kept her collection of tea cups, a couple of model cars that my brothers had made, and various knick knacks.  There wasn't any empty shadow box.  Some had more than one knick knack in it. They were all great dust collectors.

One of my chores as a girl was dusting the shadow boxes.  My mother kept a very clean home and she wasn't too pleased if I tried to hurry through this dusting project.  She insisted that a good job meant picking up each item, dusting that item, then dusting the shelf before replacing the item.  She seemed to always know when I just moved things around in hopes of getting the job done quicker. And, of course, care had to be taken in the dusting process.  She didn't want anything broken either.

That's the way my mother was.  A thorough job was the only acceptable job. She had her own little motto: "Your house is as clean as your corners.".  Which meant that even if the surfaces were clean, the house wasn't really clean if there were bits of dust and debris lurking in the corners of the room.  I can remember rolling my eyes more than once and complaining that the chore that I had just finished was "good enough".  But it wasn't good enough for my mother. Sometimes, I'd have to do it over. I soon learned that it was much easier to do a job right the first time.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Recently I came across some notes for the talk that I gave at my father's funeral. Part of the topic of my talk at the funeral were things that I learned from my father.

A couple of things I learned from Dad was how to sit still while he sawed boards and the words to silly songs that he knew.

When Dad was working on finishing the basement of our home in Arlington, I would sometimes hang around.  If he was sawing 2 x 4's, he'd ask me to sit on the board as it laid across the saw horses.  He told me it was my job to keep the board from moving while he sawed.  As he sawed the 2 x 4's, he'd often sing.  He had quite a repertoire of silly songs that we heard all through our childhood.  I learned the words to most of those songs sitting on the 2 x 4s.  One song that he sang was "Consumptive, Molly Jane".   As best as I remember it, the words are:

Well, she said that she'd meet me, when the clock struck seventeen
at the slaughterhouse, just nine miles out of town.
Where the pig's eyes, and the pig's ears and the tough old  Texas steer
sold as T-bone steaks at nineteen cents a pound.

She's my honey, my baby.  She's cross-eyed.  She's crazy.
She's knock kneed, pigeon toed and lame.
And her nose is like a tunnel and her ears are like a funnel.
She's my darling, consumptive, Molly Jane.

She's got gumboils on her knees.
And her face would make you sneeze.
She has freckles on her feet that make her lame.
And you know her teeth were false just from chewing Epson salts.
She's my darling, consumptive, Molly Jane.

But, she's my honey, my baby.  She's cross-eyed.  She's crazy.
She's knock kneed, pigeon toed and lame.
And her nose is like a tunnel and her ears are like a funnel.
She's my darling, consumptive Molly Jane.

There may be more verses, but I don't remember them. I haven't sung the song for a long time. If you want me to sing it for you sometime, I'd be happy to oblige.

Beside learning about sitting on boards to hold them still and silly songs, I also learned a few things that have been valuable to me through out my life.

My father was a wonderful ballroom dancer.  He and Mom belonged to a group that had monthly ballroom dances. He met my mother at an after mutual dance at the 18th Ward in Salt Lake. (Note: I'm now attend the 18th Ward.)  It was my father that taught me how to fox trot, waltz, swing and tango.  He was my favorite partner at Ward Gold and Green balls.  The boys my age had basic knowledge of ballroom dancing because we received regular instruction as part of mutual activities.  But they couldn't hold a candle to my father.  Memories of having him lead me around the dance floor to a live band are some that I treasure today.

As mentioned earlier, my father was a singer.  But he also knew how to lead congregational singing.  He served many years as the music director in the ward.  He taught me the proper way to conduct singing.  I learned basic conducting patterns while he coached me to have a firm, definite pattern without a weak, floppy wrist.  His instruction has served my well through out my life.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Until my younger brother came along when I was five and a half, I slept in a crib. The crib was white with lamb decals on the end panels. I think that my parents kept me in the crib as a matter of convenience.  It meant that they didn't have to invest in a single bed for me and the crib didn't take up much space in the room that I shared with my sisters. Plus, I was small for my age and didn't require a lot of sleeping room. By the time a single bed was needed for me, my older brother had gone off to college leaving a vacant single bed.  

My Dad and I had a little ritual when it was my bedtime.  He'd come to tuck me in many nights.  Before leaving the room, he'd pull a dime out of his pocket and use it to tighten the screws that secured the end panels of the crib to the sides.  Most nights, they didn't need tightening.  But he did it anyway.  His final words to me were always:  "Nite, nite.  Sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite.".

Friday, March 4, 2011


Because I was the youngest for five and half years, I didn't always have my older sisters around to play with. They were in school and during the summer had their own friends.  There were several girls my age that lived on my street and we played together on a regular basis.  When they weren't available, it was up to me and my imagination to entertain myself.

My mother, being a seamstress, had a large mason jar full of buttons.  There were buttons of every shape, size, and color.  Some were just plain old buttons off my Dad's dress shirts.  Some were sparkly with rhinestones.  But I loved playing with those buttons.  After climbing up in my mother's sewing closet to get the button jar, I'd take the jar into the dining room where I pulled some of the Reader's Digest Condensed Books off the shelf below the counter to the kitchen.  The books had various cover designs and a solid color spine.  I'd lay the books down flat on the floor to make a house or a school.  The solid color spines were the hallways.  Buttons from my mother's button jar became people who attended the school or lived in the house made of books.

I was very particular about which buttons were the parents, adults, boys and girls.  The large buttons were grownups. Dark colored buttons were always boys.  Sparkly, pretty or pastel colored buttons were always girls. The smaller the button, the younger the child it represented. I could play for hours with my make believe button families.  On the few occasions that my older sisters would try and join me in my make believe, they'd get frustrated because I would tell them "That button isn't a boy, it's a girl".  "That one's a grown up, not a kid."  It was all very clear to me.  But I don't think they could ever inside my head to figure out my very, specific system.

To switch it up, sometimes, I'd get my father's box of Dominos and use them for my make believe families. Again, I knew exactly which Dominos were boys, girls, grown ups and kids. All it took for me to entertain myself was my imagination.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


All of the homes in my childhood neighborhood had, stuffy places where Christmas decorations, family treasures in trunks and boxes were stored. In most homes, the attics were accessed  through a door in the bedroom hall.  When you opened the door, you had to climb up on a platform before climbing the few steps into the attic.  But that wasn't the way it was at my house. My parents saw more potential in this space than just a way to get to attic. They kept the stairs to the attic, but closed off the direct attic access, making a great closet for my mother to store all her sewing supplies and materials.  A pull down, folding ladder, was put in the ceiling of the hallway to get to the attic.  I can still smell the odor that came from the attic as the ladder was pulled down and put in place.

If you've seen "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation", then you've seen the attic of my childhood home.  I don't think anyone in the family ever got stuck up there and had to put on layers of clothing to keep warm or drag out a film projector to pass the time.  But it was always an adventure, when as a kid, you were allowed to go up in the attic to retrieve something.  The admonition before entering the attic was to be careful to step only on the few boards that were laid over the rafters.  Mother and Dad didn't want to have the experience of seeing a kid's foot coming through the ceiling. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


When my oldest brother reached high school age, my parents decided that they should move to neighboring Arlington County, where the schools were much better. In 1950, they purchased a home about a mile away in a new subdivision full of red brick homes.  All the homes in the neighborhood, which encompassed many, many blocks, were exactly the same.  The only differences may have been the color of the wood trim on the eaves, the color of the front door,or perhaps the addition of a screened in porch off the living room. There were no garages. I could go in any of the homes of my friends who lived in the neighborhood and find the same floor plan. Most of my friends had the same bedroom in their house that I had in mine. Some of the homeowners fenced in their back yards.  But for the most part, there were no fences between the homes.  The kids in the neighborhood ran freely between the back yards, taking short cuts to friend's homes.

My childhood home at 6801 29th Street North, Arlington, Virginia had a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and 3 bedrooms on the main floor.  The basement was unfinished.  But with five children, two of them teenage boys, my father quickly set to work finishing the basement.  It was a slow process because he did most of the work himself.  I don't think that it was completely finished by the time my oldest brother graduated from high school. When he finished, there were two bedrooms, a bathroom, large recreation room and a laundry/storage area in the basement.  Even though, to me, the house seemed big, it was probably no more than 1400 sq. ft on the finished main floor.

 The basement had its little quirks and peculiarities.  My father built a laundry chute.  The opening was towards the top of the basement stairs.  Instead of falling straight down, the clothes slid down what could be called a clothes slide and landed at the bottom where the clothes were accessed by a small door.  The opening to the chute, the slide and the door at the bottom were big enough for a child to use as an indoor sliding board...which I did, along with my friends.We'd make the short, quick trip to the bottom and then race back up the stairs to do it over again.  It was all the better if there were clothes piled at the bottom. It was also a great place for hiding in games of Hide and Go Seek.

Both of the basement bedrooms had built in closets, desks and a set of drawers.  In one bedroom, the set of drawers didn't come all the way to the floor.  Dad finished the interior of what was below the drawers except for some reason, he didn't fill in the back of the opening.  The opening was directly in front of the furnace. When the furnace was running, the pilot light gave off a glow into the bedroom. The opening also provided another place in the basement for little kids to play, crawling back and forth between the bedroom and the furnace room. Thinking back now, the opening was probably left to let the heat from the furnace warm the bedroom.

Because Virginia summers could be unbearably hot and humid, the finished basement was a refuge for the family.  There was no central air back then.  Being an engineer, my father designed a table that pulled out from wall in the rec room - kind of like a Murphy bed.  On the unbearable summer evenings, we had dinner at the table in the basement.  The table also got a lot use by my mother with her sewing projects. The table also served a refreshment table when my oldest sister had her wedding reception in the basement of our home.

The basement bathroom was the most quirky of all.  It had the necessary fixtures, sink, toilet and shower. However, the plumbing just never worked right.  After all, my father was an engineer, not a plumber.
The shower was lined with plastic tiles which were continually falling off the wall.  I know that Dad made repairs from time to time. But I don't think, the shower wall was ever properly tiled with ceramic tile.

The cinder block walls in the basement were painted white. Due to the high humidity in Virginia, there was often water seeping through the cinder block. The interior walls were covered with wallpaper.  The main rooms had a yellow/cream/tan paper.  But one basement bedroom had an unusual pattern of gray plaid, with pink and white. It was really quite atrocious. The floors were finished in a green tile.  It was nothing fancy, but served the family well for the thirteen years that we lived there.