Saturday, April 30, 2011


Drive through any predominant LDS neighborhood in Utah and you'll see ward house after ward house that are almost exactly alike.  The exterior finishes may vary, but the over all architecture and floor plan are all the same.
Not so with the chapel that I attended for most of my growing up years.

The Arlington Ward building on Inglewood Street was a beautiful building.  I believe it was built in the late 1940s.  The all red brick building  on a slight hill at the corner Inglewood and 16th street.  The entrance to the building was up several broad steps.  At the top of the steps there was a covered area that was supported by large white columns.  When you entered the building, there was a lobby with a set of stairs going up to the foyer into the chapel and another set of steps that went down to the classrooms.

The chapel itself was a traditional style.  In it's early days, it was the walls were painted white.  But in the 1960's, redecorating was done and the walls were painted yellow with a brown accent wall behind the choir seats.  I remember that there was some grumbling by some ward members about the color choice.  Since J. Willard Marriott, Sr. was our stake president at the time, some said the chapel looked like a Hot Shoppe (a restaurant owned by the Marriott.)

Off the chapel foyer, there was a hall that went past a coat room and into the Relief Society room.  Off that hall was also a stairway that went up to a mezzanine that overlooked the gym.  There were several classrooms on the mezzanine.  The opening on the mezzanine that overlooked the gym was covered with heavy metal wire that resembled chicken coop wire. When decorating for ward dances, the wire often had napkins or squares of tissue paper stuffed in the openings.

The Junior Sunday School room (would currently be the Primary room), was on the lower floor under the chapel.  The room was accessed from a downstairs hall.  But there was also a small staircase at the front of the room that went up to chapel podium area.  I think that the stair was there so make it easier for the Sacrament to be served to the children since the Sacrament prep area was upstairs by the podium.  Children weren't suppose to run up and down the stairs....but we did....many times.

The Arlington Ward chapel was a beautiful building.  It's still standing and in use today.  A few years ago on a trip back east, my sister and I took time to go see the building.  Lucky for us, an activity was just wrapping up and the building was open.  Much of the building was as I remembered.  But the chicken wire was gone and the mezzanine had been enclosed.  A double door entry had been added to exterior gym entrance.  There had been a few other structural changes as well.  But it is still a beautiful building.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Going into the seventh grade also meant that I started Mutual.  Back then, Young Womens classes weren't held on Sunday.  We met on a week night for lessons and activities.  I always liked going to Mutual because it was another time during the week when I could see my church friends - girls and boys alike.

One of the best parts of Mutual was the nights when we had dance instruction and/or casual dances.  It happened on a regular basis.  In every ward, there was always an adult or two who were proficient enough in ballroom dancing that they could give instruction to a cultural hall full of teenagers. Oh, and back then, there was no such thing as a cultural hall.  It was called the gym.

I remember instruction in the jitter bug, fox trot, waltz and cha cha.  I probably had my favorite partners since some boys were a little more skilled than others.  After our instruction, time would be allowed to dance to 45's.  It was also a time when I hoped that the current boy that I had a crush on would ask me to dance.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I live in an urban area where plenty of public transportation is available, including a light rail system which I use frequently.  When I grew up, the only public transportation was the bus which I rode infrequently.  I either walked or rode my bike to where I needed to be or, if a longer distance was involved, one of my parents took me.

There was one occasion that I remember when I rode the bus.  My sisters and I had a shopping outing via the bus.  I have a recollection of some discussion with my parents as to whether it was appropriate for three girls to ride the bus alone.  Is that accurate, Linda or Karen?.  The trip must have taken place when Karen was a teenager which would have made me about nine or ten.  But maybe the discussion was about wanting to go shopping and my parents not being available to take us.  Going by bus was the solution to the dilemma.

I remember being very excited for this adventure.  The trip to the department store seemed to take a very long time. But I enjoyed looking out the window and seeing everything that was around me.  Because it was a shopping trip to a department store, we had to wear the appropriate shopping clothes - dresses or skirts.

I don't really remember if there was much shopping done or if the bus ride went without incident.  I just remember the grown up feeling that I had because my sisters and I were taking the bus to go shopping.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Back in my olden days, Primary was on a week day after school.  We met in age group classes with the boys and girls together until the last three years of Primary.  Then we were separated by gender.You also advanced by grade level rather than age. Advancement was at the beginning of the school year.

When I started fourth grade I became a Lark in Primary. As a Lark, every girl was given a green felt bandelo. Much of our time as a Lark, Bluebird or Seagull was spent on learning homemaking skills like knitting, crocheting, basic sewing and cooking. So while the boys were doing manly scouting stuff, the girls would be sitting in a circle in their Primary class stitching on a cross stitch or learning how to knit.

After being a Lark, the next advancement was to a Bluebird in the fifth grade and finally becoming a Seagull in the sixth grade.  With each advancement, you received a small plastic bird for your age group that was attached to the bandelo.  The activities still focused on homemaking skills.  I think that many LDS girls had a leg up in junior high Home Economics because we had spent those last three years in Primary learning the basics.  Cooking and sewing weren't foreign to us.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Back in the olden days, we were required to change into PE clothes for class.  Every girl in PE class wore the same thing, in the same color...the blue PE rompers.  The rompers were designed with modesty in mind.  They were one piece with short sleeves, collar, rust proof snaps up the front and a belt.  Some rompers had short like bottoms.  But the ones I remember wearing looked exactly like this....

We put these things on for every PE class.  We were also required to wear white tennis shoes with white socks.  Part of our PE grade depended on this lovely outfit being clean and our tennis shoes white.  Every Friday, we had to take our rompers, socks, towels and tennis shoes and come back with them clean on Monday. Because the rompers were made of cotton, they usually had to be ironed. To keep white tennis shoes white, I would often coat them with white, liquid, shoe polish.Getting PE clothes ready for school on Monday was always a weekend task.  If you showed up in PE on Monday wearing rompers that obviously had spent the weekend in your PE locker and dirty tennis shoes, your grade was affected.

Isn't this little outfit attractive?  Aren't you glad that you don't have to wear it today?

Sunday, April 24, 2011


After completing elementary school, I started junior high at Williamsburg Junior High School.  I remember being very excited about the more grown up prospect of junior high..  Having older brothers and sisters, I kind of knew what junior high was all about....changing classes, being in a bigger school and the opportunity to make more friends. One of the biggest changes for me was that I had got to ride the bus to school. It was great to start the school day by gathering at the bus stop with the kids in the neighborhood. 

Seventh graders at Williamsburg changed classes but we had the same kids in all our classes.  I suppose that it was set up like that to help with the transition from elementary school. In addition to the basic classes like English, Math and Science, I also had home economics, music, art, business, speech and P.E..  The Home Ed, music, art, business, and speech were half year classes.

Back then you actually learned sewing skills in Home Ec.  I made a gathered skirt with a waist band that I wore on Easter Sunday.  When my own kids took Home Economic (I don't think it was called that), they made pillows or something like that and for sure, they didn't make anything that they would wear.

P.E. was a new experience and one that I didn't particularly like.  All students were required to change into P.E. clothes and shower after P.E.  The locker rooms didn't provide any privacy and the showers were "gang" showers rather than individual stalls. Perhaps you can imagine what it would be like to change clothes and shower with a large group of girls, from seventh to ninth grade.  I was pretty uncomfortable with it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


On some Saturday afternoons, back in my olden days, I went to the matinee movie with my sisters. Our mother or father would drop us off at the State Theater on Lee Highway.  Usually, we walked backed home because our parents didn't know how long we would be.  There may have been a pay phone nearby to call for a ride.  But it was generally easier to just walk home.  I have no idea how far the walk was but it had to be at least a mile or more.

Going to a movie back then was different than today.  First of all, it was cheap entertainment. Our parents could easily afford to give us pocket money for the tickets and candy.  Although I don't remember the price of the movie ticket and candy, I pretty sure that the total price was less than a dollar for each of us. We never worried too much if we missed the beginning of a movie because back then you could stay in the theater after the end of the movie to see it all over again if you wanted.  So for about twenty five cents, you could stay in the theater and watch your favorite movie over and over.

The State Theater, like all theaters back then, had a one ticket booth that opened to the street.  You had to wait in a single line on the sidewalk.  After purchasing your ticket, you went into the lobby, bought candy and then found your seat in the one theater.  There was no such thing as multi-screen theaters.  The candy bar was fairly simple with a selection popular candy and popcorn.

There was usually a newsreel and always a cartoon or two before the actual movie started.  I don't think that there were very many previews of upcoming movies. It was a lot different than going to a movie today at multi screen theaters with huge snack bars, stadium seating and having ten or fifteen minutes of advertisements and previews before the actual movie starts.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


While at my son's home the other day helping out while my daughter in law recovers from some surgery, I came across a school paper that my thirteen year old granddaughter was working on.  It appeared that in the age of most everything being written on a computer, children aren't being taught the basics of cursive. My granddaughter had more or less printed her name.  But it has hardly in any form that would have been acceptable when I was in school.  This granddaughter is a smart girl and gets good grades, so I don't think it's really her fault that when writing by hand, the old fashioned way, her writing is a mess.  She just hasn't been drilled in the fundamentals of the Palmer method or required by teachers to refine her handwriting.

In first and second grade, we had daily exercises in printing letters and words.  By third grade, cursive writing was introduced and everyone was expected to learn by the Palmer method.  Around the room, above the chalkboards and bulletin boards, were posted strips of green paper about 6 or 7 inches high to be used as guides when learning cursive.  These strips had three lines on them spaced evenly apart.  Following the guides around the room, from left to right, the guide showed how to make the curves and lines of cursive, how to make those curves and lines into letters and finally how to connect the letters together to form words.  The three lines on the paper guides indicated how tall lower and upper case letters should be. When letters like "o", "a" and "c" were written in lower case, they could reach no higher than the middle line of the guide.

We had lessons in cursive every day.  On lined paper similar to the guide around the room, we practiced loops, curves and circles until they were acceptable to the teacher.  Then, as a class, we moved on to connecting those loops, curves and circles into letters and words.  I don't think that I really enjoyed the learning process.  It was tedious and my teacher was exacting.

By the end of the third grade, I was proficient in cursive writing. I had to be since that's the way all written assignments in school were done.  It had to be more or less legible so that the teacher could easily read what was written when grading papers.  Penmanship was always a part of the grade on any assignment. I could have spelled every word correctly on a spelling test, but if the penmanship was lacking, my grade would be affected.

I know that today's kids start early on computer basics and keyboarding.  My granddaughter does pretty well at the keyboard. But are we raising an entire generation of children who's handwriting is barely legible all in the name of technology?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Yesterday afternoon, my grandson was eating a popsicle and asked me if there were popsicles back when I was a kid.  This is the same grandson who asked me what cars were like back in the olden days.  I told him that most definitely there were popsicles back in my olden days. 

I can still hear the sound of the bells on the Good Humor truck as it approached the neighborhood.  The bells were the signal that I had just a few minutes to get a nickle from my mother for a popsicle.  With the neighborhood kids gathered, the Good Humor man would pull his truck over to the side of the road.  He would then open a small door on the side of the truck where he would pass out the frozen treats to the waiting kids.  The truck was painted white with colored pictures on the side of all the possibilities of frozen treats inside.  The Good Humor man wore a white jacket and a jauntly little white cap on his head.

I usually got either a banana or a blueberry popsicle.  But if I was lucky enough to get a quarter from my mom, I could buy either a fudgesicle, creamsicle, chocolate covered ice cream bar, or my favorite, a toasted coconut covered ice cream bar.  The Good Humor man usually came around in the evening.  A popsicle was a great after dinner treat especially when you could eat it while sitting on the curb with your friends.

My grandson was amazed about buying ice cream from a truck and wondered how the ice cream was kept frozen.  That led to a discussion about refrigeration and whether or not there were refrigerators back in my olden days.

Monday, April 18, 2011


When I left sixth grade to head off to junior high, there was no official graduation from elementary school.  At least, I don't remember one.  What I do remember is the May Festival.  The May Festival was a annual event for the entire school that involved every grade performing a folk dance on the black top of the playground.  I have no idea what dances I performed in any other grade except the sixth was the May Pole Dance. The May Pole Dance was only performed by the sixth graders and it was the grand dance of the entire festival.

It took a lot of practice to get the May Pole dance right.  If any one of the participants didn't pay attention to what they were doing during the dance, it could mean chaos.  A May Pole is a tall pole, probably 7 or 8 feet high.  Pastel colored wide ribbons are attached to the top with enough ribbons for each dancer at the pole.  The participants alternated boy girl in a circle around the pole.  The dance started with a simple dance around the pole.  Then a cue in the music signaled the dancers to pick up a colored ribbon.  The boys and girls faced each other.  Another cue in the music started the winding of the May Pole.

This is where the dance got tricky and you had to pay attention.  As you walked in the circle around the pole, the ribbons were woven in a basket weave pattern by lifting your ribbon over the first person facing you and the going under the next person coming towards.  This pattern had to be followed all the way around the pole.  If it wasn't, the pattern on the pole wasn't right.  You also had to pay attention to how far out from the pole you were because the ribbon got shorter as it wound around the pole.  Imagine what this dance looked like with 4 or 5 May Pole dances being done at the same time.

I remember that for the May Festival my mother made me a small corsage from light pink rose buds from our garden.  I may have had a new dress for this as well.  I also remember that the evening was perfect for the event.

Friday, April 15, 2011


The Fourth of July in the Washington DC area was a big deal.  I don't have specific memories about how we celebrated the Fourth as a family. There may have been a picnic with friends or ward members.  But the one thing that we always did was go see the fireworks that were set off at the Washington Monument.

Usually, we drove to somewhere along the Virginia side of the Potomac River where we could get a decent view of the fireworks.  When I was about five or six, however, my father decided that he would make the extra effort to go into Washington and see how close we could get to where the fireworks were being set off.  We knew that there were ground displays as well as over head  fireworks.  Getting up close and personal would give us a chance to see the ground displays.

Up close and personal was what we got, alright.  We were able to get a spot directly across the street from where the ground displays were.  It was also where the over head fireworks were being set off. We were in for an unforgettable experience. 

We had a great view of the ground displays.  When the over head fireworks started to go off, we got more than we bargained for.  The noise was deafening and hot ashes fell from above directly on us.  I was terrified and screamed the entire time.  There was no way to get out of there until it was all over.

After that experience, watching the fireworks from across the river was OK with everyone.  I love fireworks, but still prefer them from a distance.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


If you're a parent, then you've gone through the process of what to name your sons and/or daughters. Some of you may have gone to family names, a baby name book, names from your ancestral home, or names common to a favorite country.  However, you came up with your children's names, it's their's for life...good or bad.

I'm not really sure how my parents came up with my given name.  Even though I didn't know any other girls with my first name until I got into high school, I've always thought my name was uninteresting and not very feminine. I have often wished that my parents had named me my older sister's name, Karen, or the name that my Grandpa Reid always thought is was, Colleen.  The only thing I know about why I was named what I was is that the name fit my father's strict rules regarding the naming of children.

Those rules were:

1.   It had to be short enough to go with my 11 letter, 3 syllable maiden name.
2.  When you heard it, you had to know if it was a boy or a girl and how to spell it
3.   When you saw it written, you could easily pronounce it.
4.  Girls did not need middle names because when they married their maiden name became their middle name.

My father would probably have plenty to say about some of the current trends in children's names.  He wouldn't like the use of surnames for first names, especially when some surnames, like Jordan, are interchangeable between the genders.  He'd have plenty to say about the spelling "Emmaleigh" for "Emily", or my son's name, which has to be spelled all the time and is mispronounced frequently. He would want to know why we gave him a first name that has to be spelled all the time when he also has a last name that has to be spelled all the time. 

I always felt short changed because I had no middle initial prior to getting married. "C.C" looked redundant and weird to me.  I remember that as I got older, if I had to initial something, I wrote "C.L.C.". I've gotten used to my name, but wonder if it really fits me.  Would I be a better Colleen, Carol, Cathy or a Karen?

What do you think?  Do I look like a Colleen, Claire, Cathy, Carol or Karen?

I do have to say that I now like my initials when written with my last name.  It's easy to write and I like the way it looks when I sign my watercolor paintings.  So that's one good thing....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Like most children, I had a few fears.  Some were of real situations and some were of the uncertain.

I lived in hurricane country and those could be pretty scary.  I remember while in elementary school, we were released from school early one day because a hurricane was headed for a direct hit on Washington DC.  As I was walking home, the sky was very dark and threatening.  All the way home, I was praying that I'd make it home before the storm hit.  Once home, I went to the basement with our family to wait out the storm.

Something else that scared me were the air raid drills that we had in elementary school.  Fire drills were nothing.  But the idea that your school could be involved in an air raid because of it's proximity to Washington DC was pretty scary.  On a regular basis, the fire alarm would sound but we would be told it was an air raid drill.  We would either duck and cover under our desks or go out in the hallway to duck and cover by the lockers.  If you think about it, if the school was in the line of fire because of an attack on Washington, duck and covering under our desks or in the halls wasn't really going to make a big difference in our personal safety.

With good reason, I was terrified of dogs.  Neighbors across the street had a big black Doberman named Darby.  Darby was usually confined to the yard, but would get out once in awhile.  On those times, if I was outside, Darby would be in my yard, growling and barking at me.  It was pretty menacing since Darby's huge teeth and mouth were at my face level.  I didn't like the other neighbor's Irish Setter either.

I was afraid of the the older brother of the girl who lived next door.  Eddie was just plain mean and a bit of a bully.  He would often stand in his back yard, yelling "Corny Connie" at me.  There was more than one occasion when I was walking home from school alone that he and some of friends would walk behind me, taunting and teasing me all the way. I was sure he was going to beat me up.

Lastly, I was afraid of my oldest brother.  He's eleven years older than me.  There would be times when as the oldest child at home, he'd be left in charge of the younger kids.  One way he had to keep us in line was by intimidation.  He had a heavy stick that looked like a club.   There were several times that he'd threaten to clobber me with that stick.  Since he was so much bigger than me, I believed him.  This brother is now a kind, gentle man with grandchildren and great grandchildren.  If you met him, you'd never guess that when he was a teenager  his little sister was scared to death of him.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Being a Mormon and living in suburban Washington DC. meant that you had two sets of friends - your neighborhood friends and your church friends.  The ward I attended while living in the red brick house covered most of Arlington County, Virginia.  Because of that, children in the ward attended several different elementary schools.  Unless play dates were arranged during the week, the only time you would see some of your church friends was on Sunday, at weekday Primary or ward activities.

There were about five or six girls my age in my ward.  A couple of them also went to my elementary school.  But my absolutely best church friend, Norene, went to another elementary school. I can honestly say that I knew Norene from the time we were babies.  Her parents had lived in the area as long as my folks.  I always looked forward to Sunday School, Primary and other ward activities because I would see Norene again.  We were excited to go to Junior High because then we would see each other at school as well.

Norene and I had similar interests, particularly when it came to boys.  We always seemed to have crushes on the same boys.  It was a friendly competition, even though Norene usually got the guy.  One of the boys that we had serious competition over was the older brother of one our friends.  Norene was the one who married Monte.

When both of our families bought new homes while we were in high school, we were devastated.  Both of us would be leaving the ward we grew up in and leaving the high school we both attended.  We both wondered why our parents couldn't have consulted each other and bought new homes in the same area instead of buying in opposite ends of Fairfax County.

We were pretty close all through school and came to BYU together.  We weren't roommates at BYU. But because each other were about the only two people we knew on a campus of 25,000 students, we were together a lot.  We got married at about the same and, unfortunately, we were both divorced about the same time.

Norene eventually married a second time and moved back east with her second husband.  We've lost touch.  But I still have the memories.

Monday, April 11, 2011


I'm short.  At my adult height, I measure 5' 3".  With 3 brothers that are at least 5' 11" or taller and two older sisters who are both slightly taller than me, I've always been the shrimp in the family.  My thirteen year old granddaughter loves to stand next to me every time she sees me to see if she's passed me up in height.  At the most current measurement last week, she's within a inch or two of passing me up.  Great.

I recently unpacked my "Treasures of Truth" from when I was a teenager.  "Treasures of Truth" was a large binder given to girls of Mutual age.  The binder is divided into sections titled "My Story", "My Family", "My Friends".  In the "My Friends" section, I found my class pictures from elementary school...grades two through five.  I showed these pictures to my granddaughter and asked if she could pick me out of the group of kids.  She couldn't until I told her to look for the shortest girl in the picture.  She quickly found me in all the pictures because kneeling or standing, I was definitely the shortest.

I didn't start to get my height (well, if you can call 5' 3" height) until the ninth grade.  I was 4' 9"  in the ninth grade and was almost  5' 2" in the tenth grade. Being short and petite, my mother had to make most of my clothes so that I would be dressed age appropriate.  Being short, I was always on the front row and on the end when singing in school chorus and choir.  Being short, I can never reach the top shelf without a stool.

Being vertically challenged has been a challenge.  I hope that in the next life, I have the two or three inches missing in the length of  my legs so that they match up with my long torso.  I'd probably be at least 5' 6".  And it would be a few years, and not months, before my thirteen year old grand daughter is taller than me.

Correction:  It has been brought to my attention by both of my sisters that they are and, as adults, always have been shorter than me.  Maybe, I think of them as taller because they reached their maximum height several years ahead of me and I had to look up them.  Even so, I was still called a "shrimp" by people outside the family.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


In the fourth grade, there was a new girl in my class.  When I found out that she lived just over the back fence from Jeff, I was delighted.  The new girl was Terry.  Her father was in the Navy and had been transferred to Washington D.C. from Newport, Rhode Island.

Terry and I soon became best friends.  We walked to and from school together, ate lunch together, and became obsessed with the Mouseketeers  and the Mickey Mouse Club together and were more or less inseparable. Terry had stawberry blonde hair, blue eyes and freckles. She was also a whole head taller than me. But the height difference didn't keep us from telling people we were twins...even though we didn't even look like sisters, much less twins. We had a great time doing all the stuff that girls do when they are nine years old.

In the fifth grade, there was another new girl in my class.  Cecilia had moved into the house on the other side of Jeff.  I was really happy.  Now I had two girls my same age as neighbors who were also in my class.  What could be better?  I was sure that the three of us would be like the three musketeers.  But I quickly found out that wasn't going to be the way it was.

You see, Cecilia was an only child.  And in looking back, she was an only child who was used to getting her way and didn't know how to share very well.  While I wanted to be like the three musketeers with her and Terry,  Cecilia had a difficult time being best friends with more than one girl at a time.  A rivalry soon developed with Cecilia over who would be her favored or Terry. Cecilia was always at the center as the master manipulator.  If you were out of her favor, Cecilia was able to get the favored friend to ignore the other, say and do unkind things, almost to the point of shunning the unfavored girl. Some how the rivalries became known as "Wars", almost like they were a strategic and calculated event. We had plenty of "Wars" between the three of us for the entire fifth grade.  Most of the time, I was the one defeated.

Our fifth grade class picture pretty much tells the story of this three way friendship. In our fifth grade picture, Terry and Cecilia are standing next to each other on the back row.  I'm on the middle row at the opposite end.  The picture must have been taken when we were in a "War".  It would also appear from the picture that Terry and Cecilia had decided that they would really dress up for the picture...something that best friends would do...since they were both dressed in Sunday best.

Fifth Grade Class Picture - On the back row, third girl from the left is Terry, the  fourth girl from the left is Cecilia. I am on the middle row, fourth girl from the left. 

Fifth grade was a painful year.  I had other friends in my class, but none of them lived near by. When "Wars" were going on, I had to walk to school alone or with younger kids in the neighborhood.  The other girls in my neighborhood were a year younger and I did spend some time with them.  But it hurt to know that Terry would be watching the Mickey Mouse Club with Cecilia or playing with Cecilia's large collection of small, ceramic animals. There were times when we could all happily be the three musketeers.  But that never lasted long.

Before the sixth grade, Cecilia had moved.  Terry and I were once again best friends with all that had gone on between us the previous year forgiven.  We remained best friends until her father was transferred again when we were in the eighth grade.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


The one baby picture that I have of myself indicates that I probably didn't have a lot of hair when I was born.  What little I had was blonde.  The hair that grew in as I got older was also stick straight and fine.  My mother kept my hair all one length to about my chin and always with bangs.  On Saturday nights, my freshly washed hair got put up in pin curls.  However, with the development of home permanents in the 1950s,  my mother, being a trained beautician, subjected me and my sisters to regular home perms. I say subjected because it was quite a process and seemed to take most of the day, especially if all three of us were getting perms.

My mother's home perm kit of choice was the Tony Home Perm.  In the box of the Tony Home Perm was everything that was needed to have curly plastic curlers in various sizes, the small waxy tissue papers to use on the hair when it was being rolled up and, of course, the stuff needed to make up the powerful, smelling home perm solution.  The smell of a home perm was so bad that my father and brothers would vacate the house for the entire time.

While getting a perm, I sat on the junior chair in the kitchen. The junior chair was a sturdy wooden chair that was a little taller than a regular dining chair.  It was what I graduated to after I out grew a high chair. My mother had everything she needed on the kitchen counter.  It seemed to take forever to have the perm solution combed through sections of my hair, the tissue paper folded over each section and then have the section rolled up on one of the pink curlers.  Sometimes, the papers would slide off my hair and curlers would fall out. The solution was cold and smelly and often ran down my scalp and neck.  There was always a towel nearby to catch the drips.

After all the perm curlers were in place, if there was any left over solution, my mother would use cotton to soak up the solution and then squeeze it over the curlers on my head.  This was always annoying because by the time she was done with rolling up the perm, you had  gotten use to the damp and cold on your head.  The applying of the last bit of perm solution was always a bit of a shock and it always ran down my scalp and neck....again.  After all the solution had been applied, my mother would put strips of cotton around the bottom row of curlers.  The cotton absorbed any additional solution that would inevitably seep from the curlers.  With that terrific look, I was sent off to process.

The next step for the home perm was that it had to process.  This meant that you had to wait around for the perm solution to do its thing if the end result desired was beautiful, curly hair.  My mother would usually send me outside while I processed.  I'm not sure if she timed the processing exactly.  All I know is that if the solution was left too long on my hair, I had VERY curly hair.  Since my mother would only perm around the sides of my hair and my bangs, the effect could be very interesting if the perm was left on too long.

After the processing time, I sat on the junior chair in the kitchen as my mother removed each curler.  My hair was shampooed over the kitchen sink and then put it up in pin curls.  I never really knew how curly my hair was until the next day, usually Sunday, when the pin curls were removed and my hair was combed out.  Sometimes tears were involved when the end result was revealed.  But regardless of the look, I still had to go to church, smelly hair and all.

The perm solution was really smelly and stayed on your hair for days.  Everyone knew when someone had had a home perm just by being within four or five feet of the person.  It would take days for the smell to fade and even longer for the curl of an over processed perm to relax.  That was also about the time when a new Tony Home Perm was purchased and the process was started all over again.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Before the sun was up on Christmas morning, I would often hear my older sister calling to me through the heat vents. Her bedroom was in the basement, directly below mine.  Because the vents were connected, it was easy to talk back and forth.  I think I was usually trying to convince her that it was OK to go wake up mom and dad.  My parents eventually got up, but I don't remember if it was because they heard us talking or  Karen had come upstairs.

It was tradition that all of the kids lined up in the hall according to age, with the youngest being first in line.  We had to wait there while my father fumbled around in the dark to turn on the tree lights and start a fire in the fireplace. On more than one occasion, he knocked the tree over.  Then the lights had to be turned on while he up righted the tree. The kids had to retreat to a bedroom so that we couldn't see what Santa had brought. It was agony waiting for everything to be ready.  Most Christmas mornings, all the kids were hoping that Dad wouldn't knock the tree over and delay our first look at the presents.

The Christmas morning line up.  I'm trying to get Alan to hurry just a little.  That's my father in the lower left corner.  I guess he's wearing a coat because he had to go outside for firewood - maybe.

My father, being very systematically minded, had a defined process about how the presents were opened.  We all had to sit in a row in front of the tree while he searched under the tree for our presents.  There was no attacking the presents with a free for all unwrapping.  Dad handed each child a present in turn.  We had to wait while the present was opened before he searched under the tree for a present for the next kid. He would tease you by pretending that maybe there wasn't something under the tree for you.  Then with further digging and searching, he'd find a present with your name on it.  The process went on what seemed like forever  It was particularly agonizing when you knew that the big box over in the corner had your name on it, but Dad seem to pass over it time and again.

Christmas 1953.  I so thrilled with my Saucy Walker doll.  My sister, Karen, and brother, Alan are in the background. Notice the Christmas tree in the back with all the carefully hung tinsel.

The clean up of all the Christmas wrappings was easy.  We just stuffed the paper and boxes in the fireplace and watched it all go up in flame. It's amazing that we didn't set the house on fire because the somewhat dried out tree was right next to the fireplace.  Icicles and other ornaments weren't fire proof back then either.  We also didn't know back then that the fumes and toxins released by burning Christmas wrapping paper in living room fireplace was hazardous to your health.

By the time all the presents were opened and the Christmas wrappings burned up in the fireplace, the sun would be up.  We would have breakfast together and then my parents would go back to bed. I didn't quite understand that because my parents were early risers every other day.  Little did I know that they probably had only been in bed for a couple of hours when we kids rousted them out at 5:30  or 6:00 AM.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


If any one of you, other than my brothers and sisters, were able to translate the two lines in my post about Dog Latin, good for you.  For those who couldn' you go.

Title translates: Can you read this?
First sentence translates:  If you can, you know dog latin.


The Christmas magic back in my olden days started with the Christmas tree.  Even though the new fancy metallic trees with a rotating colored light below it was the newest thing in Christmas trees, ours was always fresh.  My Dad usually bought the tree from a tree lot that was run by our church.  It was often the saddest looking tree on the lot.  Dad would bring home the tree, along with many loose tree boughs and proceed to try to make the tree look presentable by drilling holes in the trunk and wiring the loose boughs into the holes to fill out the tree.  It was quite a process.  Dad would also cut several inches off the bottom of the tree and stand it in a bucket of water over night to have it soak up water.  We didn't have a tree stand with a water receptacle...I don't even know if there was such a thing back then.  The next evening, my father nailed two pieces of wood in a cross shape to the bottom of the trunk so that the tree would stand up.

The tree was then brought into the living room and put in the corner between the fireplace and the picture window.  Next the lights were placed on the tree. The metallic, silver garland was next...draped just so all around the tree.  The garland was followed by the ornaments.  Finally, thin, silver strands of icicles were hung.  Placing the icicles was a long process because we had to hang them individually, strand by strand, so that the entire tree was covered in a sheet of icicles.  The task was well worth it because the tree would shimmer, even in the daylight. 

On Christmas Eve, we always had a nice dinner with turkey and all the trimmings.  It was Thanksgiving all over again.  My mother had been baking for days making treats that only showed up around the holidays. We often had my mother's cousins and their families over for Christmas Eve.  After dinner, we gathered in the living room to visit and sing Christmas carols. The only light in the room would be the lights from the tree, the light from the fire in the fireplace and the Christmas candles that my mother had placed around the room.  It was truly magic.

For me, singing Christmas carols was one of the best parts of Christmas.  Everything was in  four part harmony and we sang all the verses. We sang acapella until my sister and I were proficient enough on the piano to accompany.  I got very good at playing the carols and singing in harmony at the same time. Sometimes, we would go caroling in the neighborhood as well or get in the car and drive to ward members home to carol.

Like most children, I was reluctant to go to bed on Christmas Eve.  But with the admonition that Santa wouldn't come until I was in bed and asleep, I was usually happy to go to bed.  But the Christmas magic continued for me as I lay in bed listening for the bells on Santa's sleigh.  On more than one occasion, I was absolutely certain that I heard them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I had many relatives living in Salt Lake.  There were two aunts, a grandpa and several cousins on my mother's side.  On my father's side, I had an aunt and uncle, grandmother and many cousins. My mother also had a sister living in Montana.  While we were in Utah, her family made a trip to Salt Lake as well. Our days were filled with much visiting and sightseeing.

Back in 1954, the Salt Lake Temple was the dominate building of the city skyline.  There were no sky scrapers to block the view of the temple.  Having only seen pictures of the temple, I was pretty excited to get my first in person glimpse of it. I remember our visit to Temple Square only vaguely. I know that the grounds were surrounded by a tall iron fence and not the solid wall of today.  The iron gates at the entrances is all the remains of the fence that I remember. The only visitor's center that I remember was on the south side of the square.  The visitor's center was more like a gift shop. 

It was at the old ZCMI store that I had my first experience with an escalator.  I had never seen one before. My mother and sisters headed up the escalator, thinking that I was right behind them. But I balked and didn't want to step on this somewhat scary contraption.  I stood crying at the bottom. My mother had to go back down the up escalator, pick me up and carry me up to the top.

One of our outings with relatives was to the Salt Lake Plunge pool on 300 West.  We went with my dad's brother and his family.  What I remember most about the outing was that my Uncle Carlyle was in the pool playing with all the kids and he actually seemed to be having a good time.  It was foreign to me to see a father playing with his kids. That certainly wasn't what my father did.

My mother had an aunt who lived in Orem so we drove to Orem one day to spend the day. Great Aunt Harriet lived on State Street in Orem across from the Scera Theater.  I was amazed to find the yard flooded with water while we were there.  I had no idea what an irrigation system was and didn't know that lawns could ge watered that way. I certainly had a great time playing in the water.

Another thing that amazed me about Utah were the deep gutters that often had water flowing in them. For me, it was a challenge to take a big enough step over the water filled gutters. Additionally, being able to see from one end of the valley  to the other amazed.  Back in Virginia, you couldn't see for long distances because of the trees and hills.

Other things on our To Do list while in Salt Lake was to go out to the Great Salt Lake. Back then, the lake was a big draw with a good size boardwalk and some concessions.  I waded and floated in the lake and managed to get the salt water in my eyes as well.  I remember a picnic at Liberty Park with a bunch of relatives and riding on the ferris wheel that used to be there.  There was probably also a canyon picnic as well.

One of the places that we stayed was at my Aunt Melva's house in the Avenues. Her house had many Hollyhocks growing in the yard that were in full bloom. My mother taught me how to make Hollyhock dolls by picking blossoms of the plants and using toothpicks to create the dolls.   The full opened blossom became the doll dress.  Unopened blossoms were used for the head and arms. My cousin from Montana and I decided that we would put on a little play using the hollyhock dolls we had made. I have no idea what the play was about but remember my aunts and cousins politely indulged us by watching our little production.

My grandpa Reid lived in a duplex on Canyon Road just below Memory Grove.  On a visit with him one afternoon, I got bored and decided that I would climb the hill opposite his house.  The state capitol was at the top of the hill.  I didn't get very far because the hill was steep with alot of under growth.  About all that I accomplished were scratches on my legs.

After three weeks of doing all that a new visitor to Salt Lake could do, my mother, sisters and I got back on a train headed to Washington DC.  At seven years old, I never thought I would ever be living in Salt Lake as an adult.  But for years, I have lived within just a few miles of where all my aunts, uncles and cousins lived at the time.  On a regular basis, I walk past the duplex where my Grandpa Reid used to live.  I used to live in the same ward boundaries where my Aunt Melva's house was in the Avenues.  I attend the ward where my father met my mother at an after mutual dance back in the 30s.  I live within walking distance of my great grandfather's home in the Avenues.  Sometimes, things come full circle whether you plan it or not.

Update:  Things really come full circle.  About a year ago, we moved in to a small red brick cottage on Canyon Road.  That cottage is next door to the duplex where my Grandpa Reid lived when he died.  

Monday, April 4, 2011


The biggest adventures that I had before the summer of  1954 was going to the Hill Cumorah Pageant or the beach for the first time.  My realm of adventure was pretty much limited to my neighborhood or the occasional trip in to Washington D.C.

In the summer of 1954, my father put me, my two sisters and my mother on a train headed in a westerly direction.  We were off for a cross country trip to Salt Lake City so that my mother could spend time with her sisters and other relatives who lived in Utah. I was going to meet aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents that I had never met before.  Except for my Grandpa Reid, I don't think any of my Utah relatives ever traveled to Virginia to visit.  Their reason was that it was "just too far" to come.  Apparently, traveling from east to west wasn't as far as traveling from west to east.

The first leg of trip was to Chicago where we changed trains to get to Salt Lake. To save money, my mother brought food along.  The primary staple of the train trip diet was Vienna sausages, straight from the can dripping with liquid, and soda crackers. We probably had some fruit and other non perishables as well.  I remember eating at least a meal or two in the dining car where tables were covered with white table cloths, place settings were nice hotel quality flatware  and food was served on china brought to you by waiters in white starched jackets.

If you've been on a boat, you know about "getting your sea legs".  Riding a train, you have to get your "train legs".  It was sometimes a challenge to walk up and down the train due to the motion of the car.  Walking between cars was a little scary because the motion was even stronger and there was a slight gap where the train cars joined.  To a seven year old, that gap seemed like the Grand Canyon.  I was amazed that the waiters could serve a full meal with the train in motion and not spill anything.

The train between Chicago and Salt Lake had observation cars.  Those cars were sort of like a double decker bus.  The observation domes were accessed by small stairs.  Up there, you could really see the landscape rolling by.  It was also a great place to sleep.

After three days and two nights on the train, we arrived in Salt Lake City to be greeted by my mother's sisters and ready to start our three week adventure.  Our visit to Salt Lake was documented on the society page of the Deseret News with a short column and picture of my mother, my sisters, Karen and Linda, and me. We were celebrities for sure!

All it took was a call to the Deseret News by my aunt and our visit was documented.

P.S.  I think I need to go buy some Vienna sausages and soda crackers.  Can you even get Vienna sausages anymore?

Sunday, April 3, 2011


At the beginning of the second grade, a new elementary school, Tuckahoe, was opened in my neighborhood.  It was about a block or so away from Stewart Elementary where I started first grade.  The two schools became known as Stewart-Tuckahoe.  First, Second, Fifth and Sixth graders went to the new school.  The Third and Fourth graders stayed at Stewart. So I started second grade in a brand new school that had a library and a cafeteria.

The principle for Stewart-Tuckahoe was Gertrude Smith.  It's probably a little strange that I can remember her.  But she was someone you didn't easily forget.  She was a short, some what rotund woman with curly white or bleached blonde hair - I don't remember exactly which.  She seemed really old to  me.  I can still see her bustling around the halls of the school.

My stay at the new school didn't last long.  The faculty felt that the second grade classes were too big so another was created.  I was put in the new class that was moved back to the Stewart building.  However, we walked over to Tuckahoe for lunch and to use the library.  The classes that had to be divided must have been huge because in my second grade class picture there are 28 students.

I remember a funny, and maybe somewhat embarrassing incident, that happened to me in the second grade during recess  A night of heavy rain had left a large mud puddle at the bottom of the long, metal, sliding board.  My friends and I dared each other to go down the slide to see if we could clear the puddle.  Everyone did...except me.  I landed smack dab in the middle of the puddle. I was a mess, to say the least. My mother had to come to school to bring me a change of clothes. 

I stayed at Stewart through the third grade.  My fourth grade class picture was taken in the school cafeteria at the Tuckahoe building.  So there must have been some rearranging of class assignments that put the fourth graders at the new building instead of at Stewart. 

My older sister, Linda, has a personal claim to fame as a student a Stewart-Tuckahoe.  Gertrude Smith took her aside one day and told her that there was a contest to compose a school song for Stewart-Tuckahoe.  Miss. Smith wanted Linda to enter the contest.  Linda did and won the contest.  It turns out that she was the only entrant.  Linda thinks that Miss Smith told her that it was a contest to get my somewhat competitive sister to enter and that there may be really been no contest at all.  That song is still sung today by Tuckahoe students.

Stewart-Tuckahoe is no more.  The school is now Tuckahoe Elementary.  An online search for Stewart-Tuckahoe, revealed that in 1971 Stewart was donated to Arlington County Parks and Recreation. The Tuckahoe building had been expanded to accommodate all the students from both schools.  Stewart was torn down and the grounds are used today for soccer and other activities.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Arpif yarpou carpan, yarpou knarpow darpog larpatarpin.

I'm not exactly sure where Dog Latin came from.  I grew up hearing my older brothers speak it to each other.  Being a kid in my family, you eventually became quite fluent just by having the basics of Dog Latin explained to you and then hearing it spoken constantly by your older brothers and sisters.

Here's the key to speaking Dog Latin.  Put "arp" between the first consonant and vowel of every syllable.  If the word has only one syllable and it begins with a vowel, i.e.  "if", put the "arp" in front of the vowel.  So the word "if" becomes "arpif".  The word "I" becomes "arpI".

My brothers, sisters and I operated with the idea that our parents didn't understand Dog Latin.  If we wanted to talk about something that we didn't want our parents to know,  it was Dog Latin that we used.  Many times at the dinner table, we would carry on conversations in Dog Latin, excluding our parents.  It was our code language.

I taught Dog Latin to a few select friends.  As teenagers, we would even pass notes in school written in Dog Latin.  It took quite a bit of mental agility to put Dog Latin into written form.  A brief note could end up being almost a page.

My sister made the comment recently that my father probably understood Dog Latin, but never let on that he did.  She's probably right.  But I'm pretty sure that my mother never did.

Using the information I gave about how Dog Latin is formed, take a little time and go back to the post title and the first line to see if you can figure it out.  My sisters and brothers are banned from posting the translation.  Tharpat warpould barpe charpeatarping.

Friday, April 1, 2011


When my five children were at home, I usually felt a little dread when Halloween approached. Getting five kids appropriately attired in Halloween costumes was not my idea of fun. As small children,  they were happy with clown costumes, Superman or princesses.  But when they hit elementary school, the competition was on for the neatest, coolest, bestest Halloween costume ever.  I'd get requests for bizarre, scary, dead looking costumes with lots of blood from my boys.  The girls weren't much better. It put my creative juices to the ultimate test. I didn't understand why putting a sheet over their head with holes for eyes wasn't scary enough.  My girls wouldn't be satisfied with simply dressing like a gypsy.

What's wrong with being a gypsy?  Back in my olden days of Halloween, I was always a gypsy.  It was pretty easy because all I had to do was go to the box of dress up clothes and find a long, patterned skirt and a gypsy like top.  A large, patterned scrap of fabric from my mother's sewing remnants served as a covering for my head.  I loved going to my mother's costume jewelry box and picking out multiple necklaces and a pair of earrings to wear as part of my ensemble.  But the best part of being a gypsy was that I could wear makeup.  After being fancied up and beautified, I took a pillowcase and my mother sent me out the door to join my friends for a night of Trick or Treating.

I don't remember my parents following along as I went trick or treating.  I was always with a group of my friends. We freely roamed the neighborhood, only coming home when our pillowcases were too heavy to carry or we got too cold.  The older we were, the farther we roamed and the longer we were gone.

When I got home, I dumped my candy into a big bowl. The loot was terrific.  There were no such things as "Fun Size" candy bars back then.  Everyone gave out full size candy bars.  My parents weren't concerned about there being anything other than good, old candy in my stash.  They didn't inspect it. Sometimes, there would be trading involved with my siblings...a Milky Way bar that I didn't like for a box of Red Hots or a Three Musketeers.  For days and maybe weeks, I had candy with my school lunch.  I had candy after school.  I had candy whenever.  If my parents were afraid my teeth would rot from all the sugar, they never said anything.  And, I was probably on a sugar high until Thanksgiving.

Today, Halloween is very different.  To keep children safe,  parents drive them while trick or treating, or only allow children to collect candy loot at the ward Trunk or Treat, the shopping mall or Daddy's office.  Before children can eat any of the candy, parents have to inspect it and may discard anything that looks suspect or harmful.  Because of the times we live in, it's all necessary. In my opinion, it's too bad that kids today will never know what true Halloween really is.