Archive for the ‘From the Past’ Category

Raise your hand if you remember!

Monday, January 27th, 2020

Learning About The Olden Days

“Do you miss teaching?” my friend, Miki, asked me.  “No!  Not a bit!” was my instant retort.  Since this is the first year of her retirement as opposed to my twentieth, I thought that maybe the question was more a reflection of her own feelings than an interest in mine.  But, as I thought about it, I back-pedaled a bit.

“Actually I don’t miss the job,” I said.  “But I truly miss the kids — the first, second, and third graders.  I miss the incredibly cogent things they say.  I miss their unfiltered look at the world.  I miss their artwork and their wonderful journal entries.  And I miss reading aloud to them and explaining ‘hard stuff’ and seeing those aha moments when it would all become clear.”

All Aboard in Kelso!

Miki nodded and murmured in agreement.  “Yes!  It’s the kids and the real teaching I miss,” she said.  “Not all the proscribed, lock-step, formulaic stuff that we had to test them on again and again ad nauseam.”

I don’t know if I said, “Yes, the things the textbook companies say are important and the testing companies are making millions from.  Corporate America has been in the classroom for a very long time.”  But even if I didn’t say it this time, Miki and I have had this discussion before.  And will probably have it again.

Easel Painting

Sometimes I think that public school teaching and our political system ran amok at about the same time.  I think both were better in the 1960s when I was yet a new teacher and a young voter.   I am thankful for those years — the years we could teach kids what they wanted and needed to learn (not teach them to simply pass tests) and we still felt that we could make a difference in the voting booth!

Raise your hand if you remember…


Rainy Day Lunch and Laughter

Friday, January 24th, 2020

Barbara Bennett Parsons

We met at the Roo at High Noon — Cherry, Barbara, and I.  We hadn’t seen one another for years — certainly not all of us together — but we decided it was a lunch long overdue.  It’s not just that Barbara now lives in Hoquiam.  It’s not just that Cherry is still “working” — well, it’s volunteering but it’s every day, everywhere, on a regular basis.  Like a job.  And it’s certainly not just that I seem to always have more on my plate than I can get to.  No. None of these.

Barbara Bennett Parsons lived on the Peninsula in the 1980s.  Perhaps you remember her North Head Gallery where she sold her father Elton Bennett’s artwork as well as the work of other artists, mostly local.  Cherry Harding worked in the Gallery and later would work in the Bookvendor — first for Gordon and later for us.  It seems as if we’ve known one another always but, really how did we meet??

Cherry Harding

We tried to reconstruct all that over sandwiches and rice and bean bowls but we got stuck on the dates.  “When did you come to the Peninsula?” I asked Cherry.  “Let’s see… maybe 1989…”  “Really?  Are you sure it wasn’t ’79?”  “No….”  And we all laughed.  In fact, we laughed and talked and remembered all through lunch and, suddenly, three hours had gone by!

Missing was Sharon VanHuiet,  now living in California in a care facility.  And Lucille Pierce who, at 97, has given up driving here from Portland… “Not that the drive is difficult,” she said when she last came on her own two years ago.  “It’s just that I get so sleepy.  I know to pull over and take a nap for 15 or 20 minutes and then I’m fine.  But I have to do that so often nowadays that it takes way too long to get to the beach!”  But she promises to come in summer when her daughter will be here to do the driving.

Gordon Schoewe (1926-2014)

And we lamented our friends who are no longer with us — Gordon Schoewe and Charles and Kaye Mulvey and, of course, Cherry’s Jack.  “Did you ever know Maureen Mulvey?” Barbara asked.  “Such a warm nurturing, wonderful woman.  When I was a shy little girl and came with my folks [Elton and Charles were good friends] she always had time to visit with me.  All by myself.  That was a huge gift!”

Just as this gift of friendship is huge, I thought!  How wonderful that we can stay connected.  We decided we’d do it again in the Spring — maybe four times a year would be good.  “If we can remember…” Cherry and I said.  We put Barbara in charge of scheduling.  She’s younger by at least a generation!

And, besides everything else, the lunch was terrific!


Martin Luther King Day

Monday, January 20th, 2020

Joan Baez in the Sixties

It was totally coincidental (but oh so timely!) that we watched the Neflix documentary “Berkeley in the Sixties” last night.  For me, there was a lot of déjà vu in the film — familiar faces, familiar places, familiar experiences.  This is the description that was on the CD sleeve:

University of California, Berkeley, alumni recount how their quiet school became the epicenter of 1960s campus activism, starting with the free speech movement and evolving into organized opposition to the Vietnam War. The students also championed civil rights, the women’s movement and the Black Panther party. Archival footage is interwoven with present-day interviews and songs by the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez and Jefferson Airplane.

Mario Savio in the Sixties

In 1961 I was newly married to Marta’s father and I had just begun my first teaching job in Hayward, CA which is just 17 freeway miles south of Berkeley.  Although we didn’t know the term then, we were a ‘blended mixed-race family’ and had purchased a home in a Joe Eichler development — a development that purposely reflected the diversity in the Greater Bay Area. Eichler’s post-war philosophy of integrated middle class neighborhoods was on the cutting edge.

My husband Bill taught in Oakland in “the flats” — all black neighborhoods, though no-one used the term “ghetto.”   He learned of an after-school program for inner-city kids in Berkeley that was looking for volunteers, preferably teachers.  We went to a meeting with the organizer, UC Berkeley student named Mario Savio, and we signed up to work three days a week.

My assignment was to be the “adult presence” at an elementary playground where I doled out basketballs to kids — mostly middle-schoolers as I remember — who honed their skills and occasionally played work-up or had an impromptu game if enough kids showed up.  At six o’clock they helped me return the balls to the equipment closet, I locked it up, and we all went our separate ways.  Once in a while Mario, himself, would come by to ask “how’s it going?”

1969 – Sydney and Another Notable

As the sixties progressed, we would see Mario and other Berkeley students in the news.  We’d watch the confrontations and police riots with concern.  We’d root for the students and the activists and joined the peace marches.  We felt way too old (after all we were well over 30!) but we also felt much more kinship with the students than with UC’s President Kerr and the trustees and the uptight Governor Reagan.

As I watched the almost-familiar footage last night, I felt saddened and discouraged.  How hopeful we all were that we could help change the world!  And… here we are sixty years later.  Still hoping.  But now the operative words are  “to save the planet.”


Sunday Mornings At Our House

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

First Presbyterian Church, Alameda

Even in retirement, Sunday mornings are different from all the other ayems of the week.  For starters, I never know whether to think of them as the last day of the weekend or as the first day of the week.  Both and neither, I guess.

I’m sure if I’d been a lifelong church goer — an eleven-o’clock-in-the-morning-dressed-up-and-nod-to-the-other-congregation-members sort of person — I’d have a different take on Sundays.  But maybe not.  I have a vague memory of my elementary school days in Alameda when I went to Sunday School at the Presbyterian Church every week with my friend Verna.  The walk was a little over a mile each way from my house.

Vespers 2017

I remember learning that “on the seventh day He rested” and I could see by the calendar that Saturday was the seventh day… So why was Sunday the day my folks “slept in” while I was sent off to color worksheets about Jesus and practice for the Christmas pageant?  As I recall, those Sundays ended the week, they didn’t begin it.  No question.

All my working years, whether or not I slept in (usually) or went to church (occasionally) or took a “Sunday drive” (often), I always considered Sunday the last day of my weekend.  Monday began the week — never mind how the calendar was arranged.  And, in the summers in Oysterville, even the Sunday afternoon Music Vespers Services seemed like a fitting end to the week.

Sunday was a day to laze around and read the Sunday paper.  (Remember those big comic sections?)  Sunday was the day for a big brunch or a special dinner — maybe roast beef or fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.  Sunday was the day to think about and mentally prepare for “next week” which, of course, began the next day.

It’s still that way at our house — never mind the calendar.

A sad, sad situation…

Saturday, January 18th, 2020

1952 VW Beetle

On this date in 1949 — 71 years ago! — the first VW beetle was introduced in America.  It would be thirteen more years — 1962 — before I got my first VW and then I had them more or less continuously until 1985.  Of all the cars I’ve known in my 67+ years of driving, the beetle has been the most memorable, most important, and actually, without peer.  If they were still making them, I’d surely be driving one.

As it is, we have a big, boxy, supposedly “safe for old people” Suburu Forrester.  It’s  “okay.”  But it’s not fun to drive — too many bells and whistles.  And it’s too big.  It hardly fits through our old single-car garage door.  So far, I’ve scraped both rear fenders and knocked the passenger mirror off.  (Well, not totally off.  But  I broke the outer housing; it’s only a matter of time.)

1968 VW Bug — The Best of the Best!

Granted, even back in the mid-eighties when I traded in my final VW for a Chrysler, I had been feeling a bit like I was riding a roller skate on the freeway.  Those eighteen wheelers, sometimes one on either side of me, were massively intimidating.  But, in all other ways, I loved my bug.

Air-cooled engine — no radiator worries.  Engine in the rear — no problems on minimal ice or snow unless.  Gas mileage — I don’t remember except that during the oil crisis of the 1970s, I was better off than most.   And best of all, it was small enough to tuck in almost anywhere on the crowded city streets of the Bay Area.

Sydney’s Super Beetle – Painting by Nancy Lloyd, 1980

The first VW bug I had was a ten-year-old ’52 with the split back windows and starter on the floor (I think.)  I actually “married into” that VW.  Marta’s dad had bought it used several years before I met him.  It was the first time I’d driven a four-on-the-floor transmission.  In the summer of 1968 I bought my own VW at the factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. Charlie inherited it when he graduated from high school just after I had picked up a ’74 super beetle in London.

I miss every one of those VWs.  I’ve had a number of cars since, and only the PT Cruiser came close to the satisfaction I felt when I was behind the wheel of the bug.  And maybe the Prius came close.  Meanwhile… I sure do wish there was a way to skinny down our present car — especially for entering and leaving the garage.


The Ache In My Heart

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

Bookwoman on Horseback delivering books to a rural school

The other night, Vickie Carter told me about the “Horseback Librarians” and then followed up by sending me this link:   The images are stunning.  They tugged at my heart.

I had never heard of this particular WPA project before.  Vickie’s mention came right at the time when Nyel and I are watching the Ken Burns “Country Music” series on Netflix — a gazillion more images from our beleagured country during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years.  And, too, images from the WPA projects and the beginnings of hope for so many.

“Migrant Mother” by Dorthea Lange

I thought of Dorthea Lange and her iconic photographs of migrant California farm workers — photographs taken as part of yet another WPA project.  They  have become symbols of the hard times for those years that the oldest of us only remember through the stories of our parents.   And I thought of how few of us there were gathered  at her funeral in Berkeley in 1965 to pay her tribute.  My heart ached then, too.

I went to a bookshelf in our library to look for my copy of Washington, A Guide to the Evergreen State — part of the WPA Writers Project and published in 1941.  My friend John Snyder had snagged it at a book sale years ago and knew I’d love it.  Again, my heart ached but more because I couldn’t locate the volume.  I’ll probably spend the day looking…

Vintage WPA Poster

Lots of heartache this morning!  Our “hard times” now need a different kind of vision than FDR’s New Deal and the WPA.  I wonder if there is anyone imaginative enough and tough enough and charismatic enough to fill the bill.  And what will the price be this time around?

Not a very cheerful beginning to this Sunday morning, I’m afraid.  I’m off to talk to the chickens about it all.  At least they will cluck-cluck sympathetically — not a solution but it beats a tweeting alternative.

Gather ’round! It’s the visiting season!

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

Friday Night in November 2019

Last night it was SRO at our usual Friday gathering.  We ran out of chairs so we spilled over from library to living room.  Hal sat on the floor and I meant to see how he’d manage to get up — but I forgot.  I can still do it, but it’s not a pretty picture — not popping up like toast as it was in the days before I got old and creaky,

Sue, Carol, Sandra — All A-Tangle?

The fiber arts ladies (or so I call the knitters and quilters) sat on the couch and played cats cradle.  Not really, but that’s what it looked like.  I think they were helping Sandra with a problem.  It took a while but they got it solved.

Tucker actually brought a hand truck loaded with his show-and-tell for the evening — some of his sign collection which included  few old Oysterville signs, a discarded tsunami sign,  and a yellow stop sign.  Yes, yellow.  Only a few of us remembered them. Ahem!  From The Manual of Traffic Signs on

The first STOP sign appeared in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan. There were a variety of colors used for STOP signs until the late 1920s, when the background color was standardized on yellow for maximum day and night visibility. Remember that this was a number of years before the invention of glass-bead retroreflectorization for sign faces, so a red sign looked very dark at night.

Until 1954

By 1954, signmakers were able to use durable fade-resistant red coatings for sign faces, so the background color of the STOP sign was changed to the red color you see today. This change also served to distinguish the regulatory STOP sign from yellow warning signs, and also made the color consistent with that of red traffic signal indications, which for decades had used red to signal “stop”.

So there you have it.  We learn a lot on Friday nights!


The Inflated Cost of Greetings by Mail

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

As the holiday season approaches, I begin to get itchy about sending Christmas cards.  Never mind that I haven’t sent holiday greetings by mail for ten years or more and, at 55 cents a pop, I’m not likely to do so this year either.  An email greeting will have to do, at least for those whose email addresses I have.  But, it’s not the same.

I know I’m still stuck in the first several decades of my life when it cost only three cents to mail a letter.  I think I began sending Christmas cards of my own (and not as a part of the family) when I got married in 1957.  The rate for letters was still three cents that year and seemed a small price to put on a yearly greeting to far-away friends and relatives.  But now… fifty-five cents apiece to send maybe 75 or 80 cards… a different matter entirely.

Says  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, today’s prices in 2019 are 815.82% higher than average prices throughout 1957. The dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 3.64% per year during this period, meaning the real value of a dollar decreased.  In other words, $0.03 in 1957 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $0.27 in 2019, a difference of $0.24 over 62 years. 

Say what?  If that’s the case, I can’t quite figure out why a stamp to mail a letter (or a Christmas card) costs fifty-five cents.  Shouldn’t it be twenty-seven cents?

Well,  obviously, I’m not a mathematician and I’m sure there is more to factor into increasing prices than inflation.  But, I’m also pretty sure that many of my friends will be feeling the pinch, as well.  I’ll miss all those colorful greetings lined up on the mantel and piano-top.  E-mail greetings are great… but definitely not the same.




105 and still going strong!

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

Betty and Sydney, September 2019

It was in September — just a few days before Our Grand Affair — that Betty Paxton and daughters met me at Adelaide’s for coffee.  They were in town briefly on their way home from a trip to Alaska.  I felt honored that they had time for a chat with me!

Afterwards, they came up to Oysterville to say “hello” to Nyel.  As an extra serendipity, they visited for a bit with Charlie and Marta who had arrived the day before to help with the “getting ready” for our  celebration of the house’s 150th.  “That’s even older than you are, Betty!”  I teased.  “Hard to believe.”

Sydney and Betty, September 2019

I was so pleased that my “kids” were, at last, able to meet Betty and her daughters.  They are all role models  — Betty for her extraordinarily enthusiasm for whatever life presents and her children for making it possible for her to continue interacting with the world on an everyday basis.  No “old folks home” for Betty, thanks to her family!  (Were you paying attention, C and M?)

Yesterday, Jan sent me some pictures that were taken that day.  My first thought was “Which twin has the Toni?”  In case you are too young to remember, that was the theme of a very successful ad  campaign in the 1940s.  “Which twin has the Toni?” challenged the public to pick which twin had a hair perm done in a beauty salon, and which had used a Toni do-it-yourself kit.

Ad from the 1940s

Not that I have ever had either kind of a permanent — not with my difficult, naturally curly, problem hair.  I don’t know about Betty.  But it was the look-alike aspect  — both white-headed, both short, both dressed somewhat the same, both “of an age,” and both smiling — that prompted my thought.  (Apologies, Betty!  I hope you aren’t insulted!)

I hope we can do it again, soon!

Oh, my aching back!

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

Dale in a P-38 – at Lockheed on a PR Tour for General Engineering Shipyards, 1944

Anna Nagel (or was it Nagle?) came into our lives in 1942.  I was six years old and in the first grade at Edison School in Alameda.  My dad was the Catalog Order Manager for “Monkey Wards”  in Oakland, just across the Alameda Estuary — a mile from our house on Versailles Avenue; my mom had gone to work as a pipefitter’s helper for General Engineering Shipyards.  We were about three months into World War Two.

Nagel (we never called her “Mrs.” Nagel – I don’t know why) was hired to look after me after school.  She also did “light housekeeping” and sometimes got dinner started for Mama — and so much more.  I remember staying overnight at her house when my folks were out of town and going with her and her grandchildren to Russian River for a week to her daughter’s cabin in Guerneville.  She was an extended member of our family (or we of hers) until 1947 — the year we moved away.

Sydney at Russian River, 1942

Nagel and her husband were Scandenavian immigrants — Norwegian I’ve always thought.  Mr. Nagel was a merchant seaman and  both spoke with rather heavy accents though they could read and write fluently in English.  It was Nagel who taught me to embroider and to crochet, and the lovely table cloths and doilies and bedspreads in our house were pieces my mother had commissioned her to do.

“Oh, my aching back!” is an expression I associate with Nagel.  She said it frequently but I don’t think it had anything to do with the condition of her own back.  If it did, I never knew about it.  In fact, until now, the only people I’ve known with back trouble were my dad and Nyel.

Oh, my aching back!

In 1958 my dad sneezed and landed “smack dab on the kitchen floor” and then in traction in a San Francisco hospital.  Ever afterwards he did back exercises every morning and, except for a few twinges, never again had a bad siege.  I’m not sure what initiated Nyel’s back trouble — he’ll never say.  It used to come and go and, though he periodically would do the same sorts of exercises my dad did,  he didn’t think they did much good.

Now, as of Sunday, it’s my turn.  My trouble was precipitated by the weekly sheet-changing duty.  Damn those fitted sheets and our spiffy new mattress, anyway.  Oh, my aching back!