1 Nephi 1: 1, 3
...therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days. And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.

^^That pretty much explains this blog.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More About Catholic School in the 1960s

I've had several comments to my memories of Catholic School.  Some disagree with what I remember, but that's the definition of a 'memoir.'  I remember it one way and you remember it another.  I guess that's what a child's memory is, too.  I'd love to have your memories, though, to add to mine.

For Mary Nagy:
I have another picture from school.  It is a trip to Harrisburg in eighth grade.  There is Sister Francis Maureen, front and center.  We all loved her so much.
Center is Sister Francis Maureen flanked by a Senator and a Representative; second row, from left:  Mrs. Shank, me, Mary Nagy, Debbie Riley, Patrick Sellers; third row:  Mrs. Riley, Joanie Fuller, Jean Leofsky, Samuel Forese, Robert Derr, Mark Wolfe, John Lindenlauf, Sonny Gracia, Paul Phillips, my mom; fourth row: Laura Cahoe, Patty Hewczuk, Mona Trace, LuAnn Forese, Robert Persch, Danny McMichael, Thomas (Greg) Shank, Joey Atkinson.  I think a boy is missing.  I remember there were 12 boys and 9 girls in eighth grade.  21. Anybody know?  Joseph Nagy?  Did he go all through to 8th grade?
 The Sister Francis Maureen scandal might be spurious, and is completely conjecture.  I don't think anybody really knows.  But I'm sure we all thought it was because the other nuns were jealous of her because we loved her so much, and they made her life horrible, so she either asked to be transferred, or the other nuns asked for her to be transferred.  Of course, that's just the anger we had at the time coming out.  She was so good to us, and thought 'out of the box' for a nun. 
Mary, she changed my life, too.  She helped me 'see' things in a whole new light.  One day, during religion class, she was teaching about hell.  She just had one thought that she threw out.  Perhaps 'hell' is not a place of fire and brimstone.  What if it is a place where we cannot see the face of God ever for eternity?  Won't that be a terrible punishment?  I never looked at hell the same way, though both thoughts are scary.
I just noticed in the picture her pointer finger is pointing to the ground.  Or maybe it's the sign 'We're Number One!"  She was so proud of the boys on the basketball team.  Remember the Spartans?
This trip must have been taken place in the fall because she was gone by Christmas, right?  Or just after Christmas.  I remember the boys had a basketball game just after she left and they were determined to win 'for Sister Francis.'  They didn't.  We cried and the boys were dejected.
Mary, you are right.  My mom (and maybe someone else's mom, too) drove us down to Chester to her new inner city school.  I remember the graffiti on the walls outside and I remember my mom was scared to leave her car parked outside.  I remember Sister Francis just had the biggest smile on her face and she said she was happy there.  But we knew she couldn't be happy without us!  She had to be lying.  I remember she said she asked for the transfer.  But, again, we knew she was lying (or we thought she was). We all bawled our eyes out the whole time!!!  We wanted her back.  We didn't care if inner city kids needed her!  How could she leave us?!
Remember one time there was a fire drill and some of the boys went to Gibneys?  When the Mother Superior was checking to see if we are all back, I remember Sister went up to Joey Atkinson from behind and put her hands on his shoulders, shook him, and facetiously said, "Yes, we're all back, aren't we, Joseph?"  He looked up at her in surprise that she didn't rat him out.  I don't know if he ever had it in him to 'love' or even 'like' a nun, he seemed to always have so much anger in him, but I think at that moment he liked her very much.
Oh, Mary, you got a letter from her?  Where from?  Do you know where she might be?  I think Mona said Florida.  Do you know her 'real name?'  Wouldn't it be so great to get in touch with her again?
Yes, we heard she left the convent and even got married.  I think Mona got a letter from her, too.  I never did, but she gave me a special gift before she left (though I didn't know she was leaving at the time).  She gave me her art portfolio from college. (Who knew nuns went to college?  At that time I just thought they joined the convent and then taught school.)
She knew I was interested in painting and one week she let me bring my paint box and canvas and easel to school to work on during 'art' class on a Friday.  I remember my mom came, too, to help me.  That probably never happened before--or since.  But, she gave me her portfolio!  I still have it. 
That's another reason I think she was transferred, not of her own accord.  She told me, when she gave me the portfolio, that she would help me with my painting.  She said, after Christmas we would concentrate on it during art class.  I was shocked that she made me that promise, then left!
Here is a picture of the painting I did.
Haha...I remember that shirt. From the Sear Roebuck catalog, I think. Or Penneys catalog.

I haven't painted in oils since my first child was born (considered too toxic), but that was the first of many.  I was 13.  My brother Henry has a big collection of my paintings in his home in Florida.  I was flattered when I visited him and saw them all hanging.  He was proud of me.  I don't have that many, maybe two or three.  He must have at least a half-dozen or more.  My mom has some, too.  And I have some of hers.  She and I started painting at the same time. My grandmother, too!  She was 63, my mom was 33 and I was 13.
Now that there are non-toxic oil paints, maybe I'll sign up for a class--once my foot is healed.

Some more memories of school.  Cheerleading.  We were the second class to have a cheerleading squad.  Mona was the captain and I was the co-captain.  Me?  Uncoordinated me?  I remember my mom found the perfect gold short-sleeved cotton ribbed shirts for us in the Penneys catalog but Mona wanted us to wear those hot long-sleeved sweaters (with three buttons on the shoulder) from--the BonTon?  They were stylish, yes--but not cheerleading clothes!?  Anyway, Mona won, much to the chagrin of my mom.  They cost $20!  We did not have that kind of money.
I remember, one time, I had to practice a cartwheel and I went into the girls bathroom and cartwheeled right into the trash can!  I sprained my ankle and had to sit out the whole game.  I missed a week of school with my foot up and swollen.  (I've been thinking about that since I broke my ankle recently.) That might have been our last game of the season--of forever.

I would very much like to read other memories of our Catholic School.  Please tell others who were in our class, or our school, about this blog and have them visit and give comments. ♥

Monday, November 14, 2011

Where Did You Attend Elementary School? How Did You Travel from School to Home?

I didn't get to attend kindergarten, so I began my elementary schooling in first grade at St. Cecilia's School on Main Street (Lincoln Highway) at Sixth Avenue in Coatesville, PA.  The year was 1960.  I was six years old.
It was rather scary to be schooled by nuns.  Luckily I had a very nice first grade teacher, Sister Andrew Cecilia.  She was nice to us little kids.  I don't remember being abused at all by her.  Considering there were about 75 kids in the classroom, that is a monumental feat (sort of). 
I remember there were about six rows with 12 kids in each row--boys always in the front. We stretched from the front of the room to the way back by the cloak closet with only enough room for a little body in between all the desks.  We had to watch that we didn't bump our heads when we bent down to get books out from under our seats. 
For some reason, I remember the Habecker twins, Angela and RoseMarie, sitting in the last row in the last two seats.  I always thought they looked alike, but they were decidedly fraternal.  But who knew about fraternal twins in those days?  They dressed alike--in a navy blue uniform--and wore their hair the same--in a ponytail.
On the first day of school, my best friend, Mona Trace (pronounced like Monna), and I sat next to each other in the last seats of probably the third and fourth rows.  Sister pronounced her name as Mona instead of Monna, and I quickly stood up to correct and enlighten her.  Likewise, Mona stood up to inform Sister of how my last name was pronounced--Tobelmann--a mouthful.
First grade had many mishaps for me.  I broke my right arm in October walking my dog on a gravely side street (or maybe he was walking me?).  I wasn't allowed to learn how to print with my left hand, so I spent the next six weeks playing with little cardboard letters and numbers, making up words and doing arithmetic problems. (It wasn't called Math until about sixth grade.) So, I never really learned how to print.  I printed in all capital letters.  I never really used lower case letters until I learned calligraphy.
Another mishap I remember is breaking my thermos bottle in my lunch kettle.  I dropped my lunch kettle and, sure enough, when I took out the thermos, I shook it and you could hear the glass rattling around in the milk.  I couldn't drink it, of course, but I thought my parents would be mad that I broke it.  Money was always dear in my family.  I remember getting off the bus and running across the front yard at 1417 Olive Street.  My mom was stepping out the door when she saw me crying.  I ran up to her and put my arms around her and just cried and cried.  I can't imagine what she was thinking was wrong with me.  I finally confessed that my thermos broke and got ready for a beating.  But, I guess the crying was a good softening mechanism and the beating didn't come. It didn't always work, but it was worth a try from time to time.
I remember crying about something else that went amiss, but I can't recall what it was at this time.  Maybe my lunch kettle broke.  That's probably what it was.
I remember we sang songs before each different subject.  There was an arithmetic song, a spelling song, a reading song, and so on.  I wish I could remember them.  We sang them as we put away our books from one subject and got out books for the next subject.
And, being a Catholic school, we prayed together.  To hear little first graders pray is hilarious.  We would say things reaaaaalllly slowly, so as to stay together.  We pledged allegiance to the flag and we sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee" -- all three verses.  I still remember them to this day.  We prayed before lunch and after lunch.  Then we would greet our Sister, then turn and greet our classmates:  "Good after-noooooooooon, Siiiiis-ter.  Good after-nooooooooon, class-maaaate."
Whenever we heard a fire engine or ambulance go by, we would always bow our heads and say a prayer for the poor people who fell under that misfortune. 
We had three reading groups:  Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph and the Holy Ghost reading groups, from highest to lowest respectively.  I was always in the Blessed Mother reading group.
I had many religious questions in first grade.  I questioned the concept of limbo and baptism of babies who died (my mother lost twins in 1958 and they weren't baptized because they were stillborn and I was told they were in limbo.  I didn't think that was fair.).  I also questioned the concept of the Trinity.  Sister Andrew used a shamrock to illustrate three persons in one God.  I got that.  Like three people in one family.  But then she added that Jesus and God and the Holy Ghost were all the same person and I didn't understand that at all.  I don't think Sister Andrew liked me asking all those questions either.  She told me to sit down (and leave room for my guardian angel).
I was smart.  I made my guardian angel sit by the bar on the right of the desk so I could have all the room, rather than squeeze myself against the bar like the rest of the kids did. lol

I rode a bus to school throughout my whole school career--public and private.  Since I went to Catholic school, our buses were borrowed from the public school so we had to wait until they were done with them.  Consequently, my bus didn't come until 4:00 to take me home from school.  Our school let out at 3:00, so we waited an hour for the bus.  I could finish my homework or read a book or play with numbers and letters.  Our school didn't start until 9:00 because, I guess, we had to wait for the buses in the morning to be finished transporting the 'public' kids.  In my mind, if you went to Catholic school, you were a Catholic.  If you went to public school, you were a public.  It made sense to me.
When we moved to Scott Drive, right at the end of first grade, my ride to school was very different.  We went over around Route 82 and there was a stream and houses that seemed to be built right on the stream. It was the Brandywine creek, a tributary of the Brandywine River, I think.  That's where we picked up Rene Miller and Yolanda Thomas.  They were the colored girls that went to our school.  I thought where they lived was so beautiful.  I loved that bus ride.  It changed somewhat over the years.
By the time I was in eighth grade, some of the girls and I would walk to Joanie Fuller's house on Fifth Avenue, a block from school and we'd watch "Dark Shadows" while waiting for the bus to come at 4:00.  Sometimes Karen Kardos and I would go to Gibneys on the corner of Main and Sixth Avenue, across the street from school, and buy a cherry Coke.  I owed Karen so much money.  She got an allowance and was always lending me money to buy a cherry Coke.  I finally had to go to my dad and beg him for 30 cents to pay her back (a cup of Coke from the soda fountain was 5 cents). I didn't get an allowance.  He yelled at me and told me not to go to Gibneys anymore, but Karen took me there anyway and didn't mind paying for my Coke.  I told her I couldn't ask my dad for any more money, but she didn't care.  She had such a good heart.  She was a very generous person.  I'm sure she still is.
Sometimes we would walk to the library in town on Main Street near Fourth Avenue to kill time until the bus came.

I haven't thought about these things in a very long time.  I think over the years I've tried to forget about the horrible times at Catholic School.  There was a lot of abuse in the 1960s.  A lot of those nuns would be locked up for things they did to the pupils.

One time, in second grade, I purchased a new ruler for 25 cents from the 'stationery store.'  I got back to my desk, which, for some reason, I sat in the second seat in the second row, and began to print my name on my ruler with my red pen.  I drew some daisies on it, too.
I heard Sister Marion Pious come swishing and clomping up the aisle, but I just kept on writing my name and drawing daisies.  Next thing I knew, this black shadow of a person was looming over me.  I tentatively looked up to see her looking down at me.
She said, "Let me see your ruler."  I moved it aside to show her.  I thought she was going to admire my artwork.
She grabbed the ruler and said, "Hold out your hand."  I thought she was going to give it back to me, but she proceeded to slap my hand with my ruler!
She said, "THAT's for destroying God's property!"
While my hand was smarting, my brain was furiously trying to grasp her meaning.  "Wait a minute!  I bought this ruler.  Why is it God's property?" I thought.  I never did understand.  I was only seven years old.
Conveniently, a little while later I was diagnosed with an allergy to chalk dust.  With my chin thrust out I walked up to Sister Marion Pious, mustering all the courage I had, and told her, "I can't clap the erasers for you anymore.  I'm allergic to chalk dust."  Then, with my nose in the air, I marched back to my desk.  "That'll teach her," I thought.  Pathetic, huh?
The girls in my second grade class.  I am in the second row, second from the right.
In back is Sister Andrew Cecilia on the left, Father Kiggins in the middle, and Sister Marion Pious on the right.

Third grade with Miss Dulen (Doolen?) was uneventful.  But I have some photos from the newspaper.

I am in the second row on the far right

Fourth grade I had Sister Laurencha (sp?) Laurentia?  We called her the confirming nun.  When she was mad at you, she would take both her hands and slap both sides of your face simultaneously, like clapping erasers.
That was the year of the British invasion and one day Jimmy DePedro came to school wearing a Beatles wig. (He normally sported a crew cut.) Consequently, he was confirmed by Sister Laurentia. It was sad, but we all laughed.  Poor Jimmy.  I heard later that he died of AIDS in prison.
That was also the year I expressly remember Pagan Babies. 
Each year there was a competition between classes to raise money for the Pagan Babies (probably in Africa).  You would bring your dimes and pennies and the first person in the row would go down the row collecting money from everyone.  It could be by row or by boys verses girls.
In fourth grade we all wanted boys and we collectively bought four boy Pagan Babies and named them John, Paul, George and Ringo.  (tee*hee).  One year the girls named two girl babies Samantha and Tabitha, after "Bewitched."  And I remember Samuel Forese always got to buy his own Pagan Baby.  They cost $10!!!  Everyone was jealous!

So many memories are being conjured up right now, but I've got to stop my writing.

That was a little bit about my elementary school experience, what was elementary school like for you, and how did you get there?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You September 11, 2001?

Since I am home nursing a sprained ankled, I have been watching all the special shows about 9/11. Some of them I have not seen before. All have been very inspirational--but sad.
I remember I was getting ready for work that morning. I never watched the "Today" show, but Matt Lauer was interviewing someone and I thought he was being very curt or rude to his guest (I don't recall who it was). It was about 8:50 a.m. and I had my toothbrush in my mouth as I was watching.
All of a sudden he said he just got word that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. I thought it was a little plane, like a Piper Cub type, some sort of joy riding pilot who was maybe drunk or had a heart attack...my mind raced on making excuses as to why that might happen.
I watched for a few minutes, then turned the TV off and got myself out the door. As I was driving to the newspaper, I heard that another pilot drove into the other Twin Tower. I thought, "What is this? Some drunken pilot convention?"
When I hit the office, my colleagues were looking for an place of business nearby with a TV set. The chiropractor, two doors down, had one. Some of the other reporters raced over to see what was going on. I stayed at my desk and listened to my headphones. I was tuned into one of the local talk shows that was preempted by what was now being called an attack. There were many theories being tossed around. I kept wondering, what happened on September 11th in the past? Was this an anniversary of some kind?
I decided I didn't want to see any of the footage, being the empath that I am. I figured I wouldn't be able to do my job if I was picturing the whole escapade in my mind. The radio was doing a fabulous job already of filling my mind with images I didn't want to see.
By the time I got home for the day I told the kids nobody was to turn on the TV. So we didn't see any of the images.
That didn't stop Timmy from imagining the worse.
The next day he refused to go to school and threw the biggest temper tantrum I'd ever seen. He finally said, through angry grunts and grimaces, body throwing and pounding arms and legs on the floor, that he was afraid to go to school; that it might be bombed.
I tried to console him by telling him that Perkasie was a very safe place and would be the last place a bomb would come, and Guth Elementary School was not a target either. We were very safe.
Nevertheless, he refused to budge and would not go to school.
So, I let him stay home--a mental health day. He certainly needed it. I spent most of the day checking up on him. He was very quiet and contemplative.
He kept refusing to go to school and it got so bad the school recommended I take him to Penn Foundation, so I called them and made an appointment with a social worker who was very good for him. She had him draw a picture of his fear. He drew a high tower (only one) that was on fire and there was a fire engine at the bottom trying to put out the fire.
The social worker told me he was very concerned about the little children who lost their parents. She said she had never seen that much compassion in a 10-year-old before, that he was worried about other people, other children.
So she advised me that we should immerse ourselves into some 9/11 service. Many had popped up in a short period of time. As it happens, when we got back to school that day, a service project was taking place. If you donated $1, you could write your name on, something, a flag maybe, and it would go on the wall until the whole cafeteria was covered. The money would be sent to some 9/11 service foundation for children in NYC.
I believe that helped tremendously. The social worker had him draw pictures to send to children in Manhattan, where she was going to be of some help to children working through the trauma. He liked that idea, too.
It's funny that he never saw an image in our home. We didn't watch any of the many films, news coverage, documentaries--I was afraid it would be too graphic for the children. I guess imagination plays a big part in how you deal with tragedy.
Believe it or not, there was a family in Souderton who lost a son. He was a chef at the Top of the World cafe, or whatever it was called, on the top floor of one of the towers. I was given the daunting task of interviewing the man's parents. I was flustered. I didn't know what to do or how to act. I could only let them speak. Everyone was hurting. Later, it seemed, everyone knew someone who knew someone, like six degrees of separation.
And I knew several who had birthdays on September 11th. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to have that as a birthday, until on March 11th, my birthday, the tragedy was dredged up again on the six month anniversary. I felt horrible inside. And my horror would only be half as horrid as someone born on September 11th who would have to live through this every year. I was sure they wouldn't single out March 11th again--and they never did.
And so, here we are, 10 years later. What have we learned? What has been accomplished?
I have learned that terrorism is of the adversary. Those who would blame God for what happened are past the mark. I remember reading about all the people who missed being at the towers because their alarms didn't go off, they missed the train or subway, they had a dentist appointment, and so on. That was Providence. He saved many lives. And all the heroes, living angels who sacrificed their own lives so others could make it out alive, were Providential, too. No greater is one who gives his/her life for a fellow being. There were many of them and they are in the spirit world now and we don't even know what they did. Their glory is complete.
I pray--really hard--we don't ever have to go through that again. I pray that Providence will again work overtime to quell those who wish harm on their fellow humans, their brothers and sisters--all of us children of a divine Father.
Please, Father, comfort those who lost loved ones during that tragic attack. Protect those who are fighting to combat the adversary in other lands right now, that love, kindness and Your Way will win out.
Please, Father, let us all live as we did on 9/12, in a scenario of loving brotherhood and God Bless America.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What Are Your Early Memories of Your Grandparents?

When I was born, my parents lived with my paternal grandparents, so some of my earliest memories are of my grandparents.
I remember sitting in the high chair and my grandfather Tobelmann (Henry Joseph Tobelmann, Sr.) handing me a BIG pretzel stick.  I don't know how old I was but I just remember that pretzel was BIG.  I think I remember a fuss that I might not be able to eat it.  I remember I was sitting in my highchair in their kitchen, my grandfather to my left handing me the pretzel.
I also remember wanting to sit with my grandparents in church because my grandfather always gave me all the pennies in his pocket to put in the collection basket.  My own parents gave me one or two pennies, but PopPop would give me, like, 20!
I also remember the smell of my grandfather's hands.  He was a smoker and his hands smelled, I guess, like tobacco.  Somehow I equated that smell to him and it smelled good to me.
Granny and PopPop Tobelmann ca. 1960s

I remember my grandmother (Ida Mathilda Heffner Tobelmann) trying to tell me the name to call her.  I was standing in my crib calling, "Nanny, Nanny!" for her to come and get me.  She came in and told me not to call her Nanny. A Nanny is a governess.  She wanted to be called 'Granny.'  I couldn't say Granny.  It always came out Nanny.  She was disappointed, but kept it up and eventually I got it, I guess.
I also remember sitting on the back patio and Granny teaching me how to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."  I got as far as 'How I wonder what you are."  She kept going, but I just couldn't remember the rest.  I thought, wow, how does she know all those words?  My mom told me later I was about 15 months old.
I remember Granny sitting on the front porch on the glider filing her nails.  She always reprimanded me for biting my nails.  I don't know why I did it, but I couldn't stop.  I was fascinated with her filing her nails, though, and I wished I could grow my nails to be long and pretty like hers.
Granny taught me how to crochet and how to embroider when I was in high school.  Where would I be without those skills that I enjoy so immensely today?  At the time it was the hip thing to do to embroider on your jeans.  My jeans were FULL of embroidery.  I would design my own and just go wild.  I also crochteted those cloche hats made popular by Jennifer Cavalleri (Ali McGraw) in "Love Story."
Granny gave me her sewing machine that was a gift from PopPop on their first anniversary.  I still have it--and it still works.  It's the only machine I ever really used, except for a brief stint with a zigzag machine that broke.

I remember my maternal grandmother (Mary Lou Kessler Blumberg McNelly Loebe) was like a movie star to me.  She was flamboyant and beautiful and when she walked into a room every head would turn.  She just commanded the room.  She looked young and stylish and always dressed trendy, with hats and stoles and high heels and makeup.  She was the antithesis of Granny, who was matronly and stoic. 
MeeMaw worked at the BonTon Hat shop in downtown Coatesville where she made hats for all the ladies in town.  She would tell me that I would call her on the phone and say, "MeeMaw, you too busy?"  And she would answer, "I'm never too busy to talk to my beautiful granddaughter."  She always made me feel special.  I think all the grandchildren of my age group felt that way.  I never knew of all the heartache she had in her life.  
MeeMaw gave me my first piano when I was one-year-old.  It was a toy piano, but because of that and how she always praised me when I played it, I knew I wanted to really learn how to play a real piano when I was old enough.
My first birthday with my piano from MeeMaw

When I was five, MeeMaw went to England as a governess for a famous tennis pro, Fred Perry, and his family while he played in Wimbledon.  I remember hearing about Penny Perry, his daughter.  While she was in England, we took care of her prize white Pekingese (only two in the country at the time) and her budgey (parakeet).  Well, budgey died and Pinky got pregnant to the Fox Terrier down the street.  Oh, my!
We visited MeeMaw in Florida a few times. Once when she was taking care of her sick younger sister, Agnes, in Fort Lauderdale.  Then we visited her regularly when she married Elias Loebe (her third husband and love of her life) and they lived in North Miami Beach.When I was about 12, I was at Aunt Lucy's house with all the cousins and MeeMaw was there.  All my cousins called her 'Grandmother.'  It was then that I first called her Grandmother, too.  I realized MeeMaw sounded so babyish.  I could tell she noticed by the look in her eyes when I said it.  It felt so unnatural to me to say 'Grandmother.'  But then she became Grandmother for the rest of my siblings, too.  Had I known that MeeMaw was a southern name for Grandmother, I would definitely have kept the name for her.  But I was 12 and wanted to 'fit in.'  I thought I said MeeMaw because I couldn't say Grandmother as a baby.  I'm thinking maybe I will have my grandchildren call me MeeMaw.  I'll tell them it's a traditional name in the family for Grandmother.  We'll see what happens.
I had a spiritual experience with Grandmother--it happened two weeks after she died!
I was in labor at the hospital with Jewely.  My mom was there and my best friend, Donna Ramsden.  It was an easy birth--20 minutes of harder labor and it went quickly.
Later, my friend, Melanie Joncas, came to visit me from Ohio where she had moved.  Donna came over and the three of us were sitting in my kitchen and I was telling Melanie about my birth and was so happy that Donna could be there.  I told her it was easy only because my mom stood next to me and put her arms around me and just hugged me tightly.  It gave me the strength I needed to get through it.
Donna said, "Your mom was at the foot of the bed with me the whole time."
Since my eyes were closed the whole time, I just assumed it was my mother.  So I said, "Then who was holding me the whole time?" 
She said nobody was holding me.
Just then Melanie asked, "Didn't your grandmother die right before the birth?"  When I said she died two weeks before, Melanie, with tears in her eyes, said, "I feel impressed to tell you it was your grandmother holding you."
My eyes teared up because I knew at that moment that what Melanie said was true.  My grandmother, who was a nurse, would have been very comfortable in that setting and would have known exactly what I needed to get through that painful part of childbirth.
How comforting to know that one's grandmother was her guardian angel in the hospital while giving birth to her great-granddaughter, that she never met on earth, but certainly sent off to me from heaven.
I have thought a lot about Grandmother this past year.  She got divorced from an abusive man, like I did, then escaped far away to get away from him, like I did.  My mantra this year has been, "Grandmother did it, so I know I can do it, too."
MeeMaw ca. 1966

My maternal grandfather (Ralph Watson McNelly) was almost unknown to me.  He was divorced from MeeMaw when I was a child.  He only came around once a year; maybe twice.  My mom said later he used the Lord's name in vain all the time and they didn't want their kids exposed to it, so they didn't invite him over very often. 
My mother was always a stickler about using proper language because she said her father had bad grammar.  Maybe that's why I am so aware of articulation and good grammar--and apparently instilled it in my own children.
I have a memory of his death.  My mother was the one who found him in his apartment.  He had been dead for, like, three days;  asphyxiated due to emphysema.  During the 1940s--in fact, during my mother's whole four years of high school, he was in a TB asylum in the Gettysburg area.   Yet, my mom told me when they visited him there they brought him cigarettes.  Doctors hadn't put two and two together yet, I guess. He had one lung removed due to the TB, I guess, but I'm not sure when that was. 
So he died from emphysema because he never quit smoking.  So sad. 
I found out later he was the one who supplied our big Easter coconut eggs with our names on them, so that was his contribution to the grandchildren.  I found out later, too, that Aunt Lucy had him for dinner at least once a week.  He was her step-father, but she is so kind-hearted.  She told me she was just happy that he took her in and gave her a home--such as it was.  His mother was very unkind to my beloved Aunt Lucy.  She told me that later, too. 
So many things you find out 'later' in life about your relatives.  I am happy to know these things, though, because finding out the notoriety in your family certainly gives you the proper perspective to ponder, rather than always wondering--why this or why did that happen?

I'm so happy I had my grandparents to know and love while I was a child and even into my adulthood. I feel blessed in that respect.

What do you remember about your grandparents?  What are your earliest memories to share?  I'd like to know.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is There a Scent or Sound That Immediately Takes You Back to Childhood? Why? What does it bring to mind?

I've said it before and I'll say it again--wait for it--Vick's Vaporub!
I love the smell of Vick's!
In fact, I just found a product, do-Terra, and I bought the Physician's Kit and it has all the organic smells that I love: lavender, lemon, peppermint, melaleuca, plus frankincense, and others that just smell good to me.
I am very scent-sensitive.  Perfume can send me to the hospital. The chemicals are too much for me.  I have to move and get away from people wearing perfume or cologne.  But organic smells, like lilacs and roses and hyacinth--and whatever Vick's Vaporub is made of--just intoxicate me!

What does it bring to mind...ha-ha...being sick!? 
Actually, I think of it as a healthy smell.  Smelling Vick's is going to make me get better.

My second choice is honeysuckle.  I remember Laurie Mundy and I walking through the woods and picking flowers off the vine and sucking the tiny bit of honey in the pale yellow flower and smelling that wonderful nature perfume that filled the air as we walked.  Deep breaths!  Laurie then proceeded to tell me it was against the law to pick honeysuckle.  Luckily we were embedded in a particularly dense forest while we did it. ha-ha...In fact, I just planted a honeysuckle vine right next to my front door.  I hope it grows and grows and has lots of flowers.  If it's June, it must be honeysuckle season!  I love that I can have the scent from my childhood here with me in Utah where, apparently, it is not against the law to grow domestically.

Sound?  hmmm...I'll have to think about that one.  Crickets chirping? Cicadas? They remind me of summer.  I wonder if they have those sounds in Utah.  I know they don't have lightening bugs.  Bummer.

What about you?  What smell takes you back to your childhood? 
Any sound that reminds you of anything from kidhood?  I'd like someone to give me some ideas.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Did You Have a Favorite Book or Story?

Wow...this is a hard one.  I love books.  I think my favorite book was whatever I was reading. 
When we moved to Scott Drive, my dad took us to the Coatesville Public Library on Main Street one Saturday after school let out.  I got my very own library card, and we could pick out three books a week. I had just finished first grade.  He put his hammock from the Navy up between two trees and I laid on the hammock and read my library books.
I grew to like the classics because I remember, in third grade, I stayed up all night and read "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll.  I have that same book still. It was my dad's from 1935. It was a child's book, but it has 241 pages!
It was late, like midnight, and I challenged myself to not stop reading until I finished the book.  I remember waking up, lying across the end of my bed the next morning.  I had done it!  I was on the last page.  I don't know that I retained an awful lot of it, but it was interesting and I just wanted to say that I stayed up all night to read a book.
This engraving is on p. 131 of my copy of the book

Another tome that really influenced me was "Little Women." 
I marvelled that I was in all the characters.  I was the oldest sister, like Meg; a writer (wannabe), like Jo; I played the piano like Beth and I painted like Amy.  I could relate to all of them.  I said before, I found an old typewriter in the attic that used to be my mom's.  It was from the 1940s, I think.  I carried that black manual typewriter, in its black canvas case, up to Pike's Peak and sat down and typed out my novel.  I was in sixth grade, I think.  I remember letting Nancy Antol read it and she said it needed more adventure in it.  I can't remember what I wrote about, but after Nancy's critique, I had a skiing accident in there somewhere.  I scoured the map of the United States to see where my novel would take place and I picked Hagerstown, MD.  Little did I know that I had ancestors who lived in that very place.  I wasn't sure if people skiied in Hagerstown, so the novel went on the back burner while I painted--probably.

I read "Lives of the Saints" and was very taken with religious writings.  I read about "Theresa, the Little Flower" in third grade and I decided I wanted Theresa to be my Confirmation name.  If I'm not mistaken, my friend and former babysitter, Theresa Pahira, was my sponsor when I was confirmed.  I loved her.  I missed her when we moved to Scott Drive.

I also read about "Helen Keller."  It was about the time the movie, based on the stage play, with Patty Duke came out.  I stayed overnight at my grandparents' house and Mona and I re-enacted the scene where she and Annie Sullivan were in the dining room and Helen was eating off everyone's plates.  Mona was Annie and threw herself into the part.  I believe I had bruises and scratch marks after the re-enactment.  I hope she was given as good as she got, but it was for the play!

Being in high school rather ruined me with reading.  I didn't particularly like the books we had to read:  "The Scarlet Letter," "The Red Badge of Courage," "Great Expectations," "Moby Dick..." Classics, all, but not my taste.  Once I got out of high school and college, I could read whatever I wanted.  That, I liked!  I got to choose the classics that suited me.

I still love classic literature--"Jane Eyre," "The Count of Monte Cristo," "Little Women (still)," "Gone With the Wind," "To Kill a Mockingbird..."

I've said it before, "Jane Eyre" is my favorite book of all time.  I don't know why.  I just like it.

What are YOUR favorite books or stories?

Do You Remember a Favorite Toy?

Yes!  My Chatty Cathy doll.  You pulled a string in the back of her neck and she spoke!  I thought it was the most marvelous and magical doll!  She had blonde hair and my mom made clothes for her.  She was my favorite, favorite toy to play with for a long time.

Alas, when I was in about 4th grade, my brother, whom will remain nameless (but his name begins with W), pulled the string right out!  My Chatty Cathy was voiceless.  *sigh*  I was devastated...

I also liked to play with Paper Dolls.  I started to play with Paper Dolls when I was about 4-years-old. My friend, Mona, and I would spend hours cutting out the dresses for our dolls, then pretending with them.  But I think the fun part was the cutting. It was a wonderful device for teaching a child how to use scissors correctly.  If you wanted to play with them, you had to first cut out all the parts.  I was diligent and endeavored to never go out of the lines to ruin the clothes for the dolls.  I believe it was the precursor to my love of Scherenschnitte (Pennsylvania Dutch term for "scissors cutting")!

I had paper dolls of Janet Lennon and the Lennon Sisters, Dorothy Maguire and the Maguire Sisters   (I think my mom liked them) and I even had Dinah Shore and George Montgomery Paper Dolls!!! ahhhh!   And remember the FREE Betsy McCall paper dolls in the McCalls magazine every month?

I wish I could talk to my friend, Mona, and see if she remembers what other paper dolls we had.
And, of course, the BIGGEST thing to come out in the 50s was BARBIE!!!!!  I remember wanting a Barbie doll so much, but my mom said we couldn't afford it.  At $3, it was expensive in 1959.  So she first bought me a knock off doll.  Her name was Babette--NOT a Barbie.  I wanted a brunette Barbie with a pony tail--a classic. 

Then, one day, a few years later (yes, YEARS I had to wait), I got a Barbie--an ash blonde Barbie with a "bubble cut."  *sigh*  Oh, well...at least it was a Barbie. I still kind of get a tingle when I think about it . . .

(This is the first Barbie commercial that first aired during Mickey Mouse Club!)

I didn't have a Ken doll either until one day, my friend, Laurie Mundy, gave me her old Ken doll that a dog had mauled.  It had no hair and only one hand.  We said he came back from the war, and I was content.  Then my brothers got GI Joes and that was even better than a Ken doll.  So Barbie, and later, Tressy, had GI Joe boyfriends.
Tressy was the doll whose hair would grow when you pushed a button on her back (or was it her stomach?)  "Short, or long, or in-between; Tressy's hair makes her a queen!"  "It's grows and grows!"

I decided then I wanted to be a hair dresser when I grew up.

What was YOUR favorite toy to play with when you were young?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In Honor of My Ancestor Fathers

I see I honored my ancestor mothers on Mother's Day.  Now I will honor my ancestor fathers on this Father's Day, beginning with my dad.
Henry J. Tobelmann, Jr.
b. February 3, 1926, New Orleans, LA
d. November 14, 1989, Palm Coast, FL

My father was born in New Orleans and he and his parents never really felt 'at home' in the Northeast. They were southerners through and through. Many times my dad would refer to his offspring as 'you Yankees,' though he had lived most of his life in Pennsylvania.

My beloved Grandfather, Henry Joseph Tobelmann, Sr.
b. December 16, 1896, New Orleans, LA
d. May 4, 1968, Coatesville, PA

During the Great Depression, my grandfather lost his job at Lukens Steel Company in New Orleans.  My grandmother said he tried to make a go of selling stationery, but only made $2 a week.  Her exact words, "He only made $2 a week selling carbon paper." He was hired on at Lukens in New York, and, three years later, moved his family to East Orange, NJ while he commuted into the big city every day.  He was then transferred to Lukens Steel in Coatesville, PA at the home office.  I believe my dad was about eight years old when he moved to New Jersey.  Wouldn't that make him a Yankee, too?

My grandfather's father was Henry Rudolf August Louis Fritz Tobelmann
b. February 2, 1869 in New Orleans, LA
d. September 5, 1936 in New Orleans, LA

The picture of the children is Henry Rudolf with his two surviving sisters, Ernestine (center) and Laura.
He also had a much younger brother, August, who wasn't born at the time this photo was taken.
Henry R. had two siblings that died within days of each other in February of 1882.  I couldn't find any supporting documents on their deaths.  I assume an epidemic, illness or maybe an accident.  I know of no family stories.
On my trip to NOLA in 2001, I found his obituary and looked him up in the City Directory.
OBITUARY: TOBELMANN--At the residence, 2647 Cleveland Avenue, on Saturday evening, September 5, 1936; at 10:40 o'clock, HENRY R. TOBELMANN, in his 67th year, beloved husband of Susan Hoerner, father of Charles, Henry J., Mildred and Elfreda Tobelmann and Mrs Frank P. Deegan (Olga) and brother of August L. and Laura Tobelmann of this city and Mrs. A. E. Ewing (Ernestine) of Shreveport, La. Relatives and friends of the family, also officers and employees of sewerage and water board, of The Times-Picayune and Louisiana State Board of Health, are invited to attend the funeral, which will take place from the funeral home of Pat J. McMahon-Coburn Company, 2305 Canal Street, corner North Miro, on Monday, September 7, 1936, at 4 o'clock p.m. Interment Greenwood cemetery. (THE TIMES-PICAYUNE, MONDAY, SEPT. 7, 1936)

New Orleans, Louisiana Directories, 1890-1891:  Henry Tobelmann; Edison Electric Illuminating Co.; dynamo tender; (Location 2) 308 Gravier, New Orleans LA 1891.

I know he owned a bar, too.  My dad said he was an ornery man.  As his grandfather, he used to chase his grandchildren away and they were afraid of him.

According to Margaret Deegan Conner, his granddaughter (my dad's first cousin), Henry R. loved full-blooded fox terriers. That probably explains why Dad and Mom bought a fox terrier.  Tippy was my first dog. According to Margaret, he also had a canary. He grew peppers in his garden, and he paid his grandchildren a penny a worm to get them off the peppers.

I remember my grandfather used to recite all his names for me and I couldn't get past Rudolf because I thought of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.  When I met up with Margaret in NOLA in 1993, she recited all of his names, to my delight! Henry Rudolf August Louis Fritz.  I now have them all documented.  She said he was named after all his uncles, but I haven't found evidence of that.

In the bowler hat is my great-great-grandfather, Charles (Adolph Carl Friedrich August) Tobelmann, The Immigrant.
b. February 12 or 15, 1844 in Wagenfeld, Hannover, Germany
d. April 13, 1899 in New Orleans, LA
I went on a genealogy trip to NOLA in 2001 and went to the New Orleans Public Library.  I found the Obituary for Charles Tobelmann and his death certificate.
OBIT IN TIMES-PICAYUNE, N.O.L.A.: "He was a native of Germany and a resident of New Orleans for many years. He died at age 55. Mr. Tobelmann started life as a steward on the steamers plying between Bremen, Germany and New York. When the Civil War was inaugurated he remained in this country and in 1866 came to New Orleans. He engaged in the grocery business and remained in it until six years ago. At this time he retired from active life.

Besides his wife, he leaves four children, Mr. Henry Tobelmann, now in business in New Orleans, Mrs. A. E. Ewing of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Miss Laura Tobelmann and Master August Tobelmann. Mr. Tobelmann was a member of Germania Lodge #46 F. and A.M. and was buried by that order. He was one of ten original stockholders of Jax Beer [Jackson Brewery]." (Times-Picayune obit., April 14, 1899, p.3, col.4)

Death Certificate for Charles Tobelmann, found in New Orleans Public Library, Loyala Street, NOLA, Microfilm #FF650, 1899.

"Be it remembered, etc., etc. ., J. Duffy, undertaker appeared before the recorder of births, deaths and marriages, etc., who herein declares that Charles Tobelmann, (white), a native of Wagenfeld, Hanover, Germany, aged 55 years, 2 mos., departed this life yesterday (13 April 1899) at [home?] Valence and Baronne, this city [New Orleans].
Cause of death: Sarcoma of Cervical Glands (cancer of the throat, I believe)
Certificate of Dr. F. Loeber
Deceased was married and 33 years in city.
Birth place Wagenfeld, Germany."

I have a picture of Charles in his Mason garb. He looks so familiar. Family.

The first old house photo is the birthplace of Charles Tobelmann, Wagenfeld, Hannover, Germany.
This place is still in Wagenfeld and has been renovated, kept up and passed down through the Tobelmann lineage.
Georg Tobelmann is the proprietor of what is now an exclusive restaurant and tavern.

The picture, hanging in the Hofschanke Tobelmann, was taken in 1900. 

The Hofschanke Tobelmann in Wagenfeld as it appears today, taken while my brother John visited Wagenfeld in about 2006.

The house on Valence and Baronne in NOLA, was the home of Charles and Sophie Tobelmann, (photo taken 2001).

Gloria Garrett (my father's second cousin), granddaughter of Ernestine Tobelmann, found abundant information on the ancestors of our Charles Tobelmann.  She hired someone in Wagenfeld, Germany to extract information on the Tobelmann family.  We found out, according to naming customs, we did not start out as Tobelmanns at all!
Charles' father was Friedrich Wilhelm (or Henrich) Auffurth. When he married his wife, a Tobelmann widow who lived at the Tobelmann farm, he had to take that last name because your last name came from where you lived. Thus, his children were all named Tobelmann.
My brother, John, was able to travel to Wagenfeld a few years ago and meet the Tobelmanns descended from Margaretha Dorothee Louise Dehlfing Tobelmann and her first husband, Georg Friedrich Tobelmann. They are our 4th half cousins. It was a grand reunion. 
Cousin Gloria did the family a great service by finding all the information on our Auffurth ancestors back to 1714.
I don't understand why anyone would want to locate to New Orleans--it is stinkin' hot and humid there most of the year--but Charles had a plan, I guess.  He married Sophie Droge, whose parents came from Germany as well.  I do have pictures of her and her parents.

The four generation shot is of Sophie Droge Tobelmann, holding her great-granddaughter, Rheba Steadman. Her daughter, Ernestine Tobelmann Ewing and granddaughter, Regina Ewing Steadman, mother of the baby, are in the photo. Gloria Garrett sent me a copy.
Catherine Sophia Droge, b. July 3, 1845, New Orleans, LA, d. June 26, 1931, NOLA

The little house with the wrote iron fence was the home of Sophie Droge Tobelmann after the death of Charles, at 1021 Foucher St., NOLA, (photo taken 2001 by me).

Sophie's Parents were Elisa Haustermann Droge, b. March 9, 1820, Land Wursten, Amt of Dorum, Kingdom of Hannover, Germanym d. December 26, 1882, NOLA, and Nicholaus (Claus) Droge, 
b. March 4, 1812, Land Wursten, Amt of Dorum, Kingdom of Hannover, Germany, d. May 12, 1879, NOLA.
Gloria sent me those copies too, but they're not very good. But I'm happy to have them.

Wursten was originally a Frisian Land, and was a free peasant republic until 1525 (non-feudal). It is located on the right bank of the Weser estuary, just north of Bremerhaven, the main German port through which emigrants left for the US.

Rheba Steadman, the baby in the photo above, was a great genealogist.  She left her work to her sister, Gloria Steadman Garrett.  Many thanks to caring cousins who shared their hard-earned information.

I am grateful to all of my ancestor fathers (and mothers) without whom I wouldn't be who I am today.  I can't imagine the sacrifices they had to make to leave their country and start new lives here in America.  I am grateful to be born in this land of freedom.  I don't know what I did to deserve it, but it couldn't be done without those who went before.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day 2011

In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I would give a little genealogy tour of all my ancestor mothers.

I'll start with me!
These are my children at Zannah's wedding in 2011, on my birthday, March 11. From left: Jewely, 21, me holding a picture of Elder Tim Knight, 19, on his mission at the time in Chicago; newlywed Zannah, 25, Alexander, 27.

I am the oldest of eight surviving children, from left sitting: Christine, 12; Susan, 25; Andrew, 19;
Standing:  Jeffrey, 13; John, 15; Kathy, 17; Warren, 18; Henry, 22. July 1979.

My mother is Edith Catherine (Kay) McNelly Tobelmann Doran. Below is my favorite picture of my mother.  She was Harvest Queen her senior year of high school, 1950-51.

She graduated from Downingtown Junior-Senior High School, 1951

Her mother, my grandmother: Mary Louise Kessler Blumberg McNelly Loebe

She was one of six surviving Kessler children.
My grandmother is the little girl in front with the big bow in her hair
circa 1907-1909

Four Generation photo, Christmas 1987: From left:  Kay, 54; Mary Lou, 84; Alexander, 4; Susan, almost 34

My grandmother's mother: Lucy Richmond Boggs Kessler Walts Lively (yes, she outlived 3 husbands), 1871-1956

My great-grandmother's mother: Lydia T. Smith Boggs, 1850-1927, standing next to the chair.

Lydia's mother, my great-great-great grandmother:Frances (Fannie) Cochran Smith,1814-1895

There are many more for which I do not have photos.  This is just one line of my ancestral mothers.  I have many more that I am proud of, and hope I do them justice as part of their posterity.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

As a Child, What Were Your Chores or Responsibilities?

I was the oldest of eight children.

For a long time I had a notion that my parents adopted me to be a babysitter.  At 10-years-old I was watching my brothers and sisters while my mom left and did errands.  I would never do that to a 10-year-old, but she figured my Aunt Grace (we called close friends and neighbors "Aunt" in those days) lived right next door if there was any trouble.

At 10 years old I could diaper a baby with real diaper pins and wring out the diaper in the toilet.  In fact, when I had my own kids, I vowed I would never put my hand in another toilet with a poopy diaper. You can imagine I was the choice babysitter for everyone in the neighborhood as well.  When I was 13 I was getting babysitting jobs over 16-year-olds because of all my experience with babies.  At least I got paid for watching those kids...

I had to dust and vacuum and keep my room neat (hardly ever accomplished).  My mother must have had a thousand knickknacks and bric-a-brac and she wouldn't just let me dust around them.  I had to take them off the tables and hutches and dust the shelves and then dust the knickknacks, too. 

She had a ceramic rooster collection.  I will never have a rooster collection!!  I hated those roosters, especially the fighting cocks.  What were they thinking?!

On Saturdays I had to clean the bathroom.  OK...I had five brothers!  Can you imagine what the bathroom looked like after a week?  And we had these tiny pink tiles on the floor and bigger pink tiles on the walls.  Tile is impossible to keep clean in a bathroom full of grout.  Yuk!  It's the reason I slept late on Saturdays, or tried to.

I mainly had to take care of whatever baby was drinking a bottle or needed to be fed in a high chair.  I realized, when I left home, I didn't know how to cook (except peel potatoes, which I also vowed I would never do again--and never have!) because I always fed the babies while my mother cooked.

If I could, I would sneak out the door quietly, but if ever my mother caught me sitting and reading a book, she would yell at me to do something helpful/useful!

I figured out at an early age that my mother would never disturb anyone in the bathroom.  You guessed it.  I did most of my reading in the bathroom.

Still do!

Describe the Neighborhood You Grew Up In

I lived in the same neighborhood, though in two houses, until I was six-years-old.
First I lived with my grandparents, then moved a block away.
The neighborhood was safe and most of the houses were built in the 1940s-1950s, but they were new at the time.
My grandparents built their home new and we were the second homeowners in the next home down the street.
The neighborhood had either elderly people and empty nesters, or new families.  It was safe.  If we were walking around the neighborhood, we knew the neighbors would be looking out for us.

There was a small butcher shop about two doors down from my grandparents' house which was a mom and pop grocer.  That was a great hangout out for popsicles and soda during the summer.  My friend, Mona, would tap into her blue, plastic piggy bank and we would buy a twinsicle for a dime and split it.  Sometimes we would go around the neighborhood and collect Coke bottles and other soda bottles in my red, metal wagon and we would take them to the butcher shop for pennies and buy Tastykakes or popsicles or Bazooka bubblegum.  Tastykakes were 7 cents and you got three of them in a pack.  Bubble gum was a penny.  We loved to read the comic wrappers.

The butcher was in the back of the shop.  I remember you went in and told him what you wanted and he would cut it up and wrap it all in brown paper that hung from a roll on the wall.  Then he would tie it up with string that as also hanging from the wall.  There was no milk in stores back then because we had milkmen deliver millk and leave it on our front porch during the night.  I remember almost every day, my mom opening the front door to retrieve the milk from the silver, metal milk box.  We also had a dry clean guy that drove to pick up my dad's white shirts.  And we had a bread man, too.  I remember always begging my mom to buy sweet rolls.  She did sometimes, but not every time.

Mona Trace was my best friend.  We played on her swing set in her back yard which overlooked the railroad tracks.  When engines would go by we would pull our arms down and up and the engineer would wave and blow his whistle at us.  What fun!  We did acrobatics on the bars of the swing set and pretended we were princesses or acrobats or girlfriends of astronauts that were in a TV show we liked.  Commander Perry!  And there was a western, Laramie, and Mona would be the girlfriend of the blonde guy (she was blonde) and I would be the girlfriend of the brunette guy (I was brunette).  I think his name was Jesse.

Sometimes we would play with Eddie Short next door.  He lived with his grandmother and they had an apple tree.  We loved to pick the green apples off the tree in the summer before they were ripe.  To this day I love green apples.  Maybe because they remind me of my happy childhood.

One time we got caught in Mona's garage.  It was set off away from the house.  For some reason we pulled the door down and we couldn't get it back up again.  We started pounding on the side of the metal garage and screaming "Help!  Help!"  Then Eddie started crying!  Mona and I laughed.  We just thought it was so funny that a boy, who was about three years older than us, would start crying and we, girls, didn't.  All of a sudden, Mrs. Trace opened up the garage door.  I don't remember her yelling at us or anything, but I'll never forget Eddie Short crying!

Summer lasted forever when you were four and five.  We never knew what humidity was.  When you're a kid it doesn't bother you.  We would go outside after breakfast, make a short stop home for lunch, then go back outside for the rest of the day until dinner.  At night, sometimes we would have picnics and show slides on the side of our house on Olive Street and invite the neighbors.  The kids would catch lightning bugs until bedtime.

When we moved to Scott Drive, it was a different type of neighborhood.  It was in a suburban-rural-type area with no sidewalks and miles from town.  You had to drive to get anywhere.  There was no corner store and only a few houses.  From the top of Scott Drive you could see all of Coatesville.  It was fun to go there.  I would ride my bike a lot and pretend it was a horse.

I had a good friend, Laurie Mundy, and we played Barbies and made dream houses with our mothers' Good Housekeeping and Better Homes & Gardens magazines.  Our future selves were always Breck Girls.  We each planned to have about 5-6 children and we glued our future living rooms, bedrooms, etc. onto construction paper.  We tied it up with yarn and made booklets.  It was our favorite thing to do on a rainy day.

Laurie had a Magic 8 Ball.  I always wanted one.  It was so much fun.  It would capture our attention for a long time as we asked it questions--until the answer was one we wanted! Laurie also had a tall, thin black cat bank.  Sometimes we would take out the stopper and empty out all her pennies and count them.  There was no mom and pop grocer to go spend the money on, so we just counted the money and put it all back in.

During the summer we played with Laurie's brothers' friends and all the other boys in the neighborhood.  We built forts in the woods.  There was a lot of homebuilding going on and we would siphon wood and nails from the builders and contractors and confiscate our fathers' hammers and make forts in trees.  One time we had 3 forts in a triangle and you needed a ladder to get up into them.  We would collect acorns from the oak trees and put them in brown grocery bags and keep them in the forts, saved for acorn battles.  Boys did things like that.  Mainly Laurie and I would climb up there when there were no boys around and bring our lunches in brown lunch bags with sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.

Next door to my house they were building a new house where the McGhees would soon live, and there was a huge pile of clay dirt.  One evening, my dad helped me build a fort out of that clay.  We dug and pounded the dirt into tables and chairs and we even had lunch there, in the hard red clay dirt.  I bet my mom loved that load of laundry!  Our clothes were all red and muddy and dirty.  But it was fun to do and pretend to have a house.

When I was older, I used to go up to Pike's Peak (the people at the top of the street, named Pike, had a big front yard that sloped down).  There was a big boulder rock there and I would take my diary there or even an old typewriter I found in the attic, and I would pretend to be Jo in Little Women and write stories there.  As I recall, I even wore a beret, just like Jo in the book.

Mostly I would go to Pike's Peak and ponder.  There was also Spackman's Pond.  I would walk down there, mostly with Laurie, and sit near the drain pipe and ponder.  It was beautiful there.  I wonder if Laurie remembers the time we were sitting on the cement by the pipe and throwing stones at a stick in the water. All of a sudden, the stick moved and a big, red snake peaked its head out of the water and stuck out its tongue and looked at us!  We screamed and ran away up Moore Road as fast as we could!

What do you remember from your childhood neighborhood?  Was it a safe place to live in?  Did it have sidewalks?  Did you live near stores?  Did you play in the woods?  Did you build forts or play with Barbie dolls?