Monthly Archives: November 2013
I still have not decided exactly what is going on in this picture but I have a theory. If you take a good look at the only man in the picture, you will notice that his eyes are in the process of rolling. The woman sitting next to him looks to be about his age, and she looks a little frazzled too, though not as much as the man. My guess is that like my dad, this man has all daughters, but unlike my dad, he has nine of them. Getting a family to pose for a picture and all cooperate at the same time is always hard, but in the case of his nine daughters, I think it is proving to be impossible, and since his daughters appear to be grown or almost so, he is a veteran at having daughters, and so he knows full well that yelling will probably do no good, since it is highly unlikely that he will even be heard.
As most men will tell you, when it comes to getting a word in edgewise around a group of women, the best thing to do is give up. As I look at this poor man I can tell he had tried many times in the past, and maybe even that day, and to no avail, so he had resigned himself to sitting there patiently, or maybe not so patiently, until all of his girls decided that they were ready and in the right position for the picture to be properly taken.
Meanwhile, the photographer saw an opportunity to play around with his camera a little bit. Why waste those disorganized shots, just because they weren’t exactly the kind of shots that most people would think were perfect. Still, sometimes it’s those candid shots, where everyone is a little disheveled, or even making faces or rolling their eyes or making some other face, that turn into the best pictures, after all.
Pam is the oldest of my Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill’s three children, and their only girl. Each of their children were special in their own right. I always thought of Pam as an elegant looking girl. She and my sister, Cheryl had a way about them that I had always wished I had. I don’t know if it was about being older and more sophisticated, or what, but I knew that it was what I wanted to be like, but never felt like I was…at least not until I was much older, and it didn’t matter anymore.
Of course, Pam was much more than that to her little brothers. As the big sister, she knew all the fun stuff to do when they were little boys. I’m sure that as they grew, she wished they would leave her alone…as all big sisters do, but when they were little, she was the one they loved to hang around. She has always had a great smile, and she could always make them laugh when she played with them. They were very blessed to have her.
When Pam and her husband, Mike came out for a visit last summer, we all had a chance to get reacquainted. It was such a lovely visit. We had not seen Pam for a long time, because we all let life get in the way. How sad is that? But with Facebook, hopefully we can stay better in touch with each other now.
Pam is an elementary school teacher, teaching 3rd grade right now, but plans to retire soon. We hope that might mean that she and Mike can come back out and visit for a little longer this time. The little visit we had really just brought with it an appetite for more time with this wonderful cousin. We talked and laughted about the old days, and caught up with the things going on in our lives these days. I could have talked with them for hours, and really hated to see them leave. And, I look forward to the next time we can get together. Today is Pam’s birthday. Happy birthday Pam!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!
As a young man, my dad decided to broaden his horizons and so, he headed out to California, where his brother, my Uncle Bill and his wife would eventually join him. While out there, Dad worked at McDonald Douglas, helping to build airplanes. That would eventually help him in his job as flight engineer in the Army Air Forces in World War II.
After the war, and after his brother, my Uncle Bill, my Dad again headed out to California to work in a lumber yard. I don’t know if this was the only job they did out there, but if it was, I would be surprised. I think most single people, especially the young ones tend to try out a few vocations, before settling on a career…and this would not be my dad’s career choice either…no would California be his choice of a place to live. Nevertheless, he and Uncle Bill did work in the lumber yard in the Eureka, California area. Their job was to pull the lumber off of the “Green Chain”. A green chain is a type of lumber delivery system used in the 19th and early to late 20th century to collect the final product of the mill and move it at a controlled rate. The men, like my dad and Uncle Bill, would stand alongside and pull lumber that matched the required dimensions and place it in piles. Basically the lumber was sorted by hand. Modern sawmills use automatic systems to place the lumber in an area where it can dry. The green chain was most likely called that because it was a way of setting the green lumber in a staging area for drying before it could be used. I would think that this type of job would be rather boring, and that is also most likely why they didn’t stay in that career.
The thing that I found most interesting about these pictures, is not what the men were doing, but rather that I had to read the list of men in the picture before it hit me that one of them was my dad. I suppose it could be that the picture wasn’t of the best quality, but I really think that it was because my dad was so much younger in the picture. He was very handsome, and I could see why my mother fell for him the minute she saw him. He was rugged and friendly, with a nice smile. I am glad that he and Uncle Bill didn’t stay in California, because then he wouldn’t have met my mom, and my sisters and I would not have been born.
Most children take some type of nap for the first three to five years of their lives…and their mothers are grateful for that quiet time. I was no different, but I had one problem…my youngest daughter. Amy was a happy, smiley little girl, who loved to laugh and practically always ran wherever she went. Both of my girls were very happy little girls. When they were little, both of them took an hour to two hour nap every day. It was a time when I could clean house, do laundry, or maybe even read a book…which was shocking to my system. At first, they both woke up smiling and very happy, but as Amy approached two years old, things began to change.
My smiling little angel would go to bed so happy and when she woke up…all those little smiles were gone. The best thing to do then was not to speak to her for a while, because she was going to be grouchy for a while. My solution was to get her a glass of Kool-Aid, and wait it out. Amy was so grouchy that she would hold that glass up to her face, for an hour or two, sipping slowly, until she was ready to rejoin the rest of the world. The glass didn’t leave her mouth during that whole time. Now, if you know anything about Kool-Aide at all, you know that when it sits against a baby’s cheeks for a while, it will leave its mark on those little cheeks. One might have thought that it would be hard to catch a picture of a Kool-Aide face, but with Amy it was not difficult at all. She had a Kool-Aide face pretty much every day.
After almost a year of putting a happy toddler to bed and getting a cranky toddler up, I decided that I no longer cared what all the experts said about children needing their naps for the first five years. When Amy turned two, I made the decision that mine would be that strange household where the three year old took a nap, but the two year old took no more naps. Strange as it was, it was the best decision I ever made. Amy stayed happy and the Kool-Aide face became a thing of the past, and her big sister, Corrie took her naps for about another two years. And peace reigned in our house…which made me very happy!!
Memories come from many different places. They can be triggered be sights, sounds, taste, touch, and even smells…which is exactly what happened to me this morning. Bob and I were having breakfast at Perkin’s, and when they brought my food and I poured syrup, the view of the food on the plate, and the smell of that syrup, sausage, and eggs, took me back about 45 years or so, to those hurried Sunday mornings when we were all scrambling to get ready for church. Five girls and two parents trying to get ready using one bathroom…well, you can imagine. My dad usually got up early and got out of the way…it was safest that way. Getting in the way of 6 women getting ready to go somewhere can be very hazardous, and since Dad had been around us all our lives, heknew very well when it was time to get out of the way of his girls.
We usually went to church after a quick bowl of cold cereal. It wasn’t much, but we knew that breakfast would be brunch that day, when we came home to have a relaxing and lazy Sunday afternoon. I remember the smells coming from the kitchen after church. bacon or sausage and eggs cooking, usually toast, but sometimes pancakes. I would get so hungry waiting for everything to be ready. The smell in the house was incredible. I remember watching my mom or dad cooking the eggs in the bacon grease, carefully flipping the grease over the yoke, so the yoke stayed runny. It was great for dipping your toast in, after it broke and ran all over your plate. There really was a reason you had toast with eggs and bacon.
Finally everything was ready, and we all sat down at the table. After we said our prayer, we were finally able to take that first bite. It tasted so good. I think sometimes it is a good thing to delay a full meal, because when you sit down to eat…finally, there is just nothing that tastes better. Then we would sit around the table, and talk about our lives. It was a time to catch up on things. As we all got older, we were so busy, and you can easily lose touch with what is going on with each other, if you do ever take time to catch up. As Bob and I sat there eating, I found myself missing those days very much. Since my Dad is in Heaven, and the rest of us have families, we are as busy as our parents were then. We seldom have time to catch up like we did in those days gone by. I really missed those days today.
It’s hard to think of your aunts and uncles as being young people. To you, they have always been adults, and they probably never sewed any wild oats…I mean, old people didn’t do that sort of thing did they? I suppose that the way kids sewed their wild oats in days gone by, is very different than the way kids do that today. In fact, I’m sure that wild oats in the 1940’s were really pretty tame oats in all reality. It was during this time period that my Uncle Bill, and his sisters, my Aunt Laura and my Aunt Ruth were working in the shipyards. On their few days off, they liked to get together with their friends for what Uncle Bill called a party. My dad missed out on those little gatherings, unfortunately, because he was in England fighting in World War II. but if I know him, he didn’t begrudge them their parties, because he did have R & R after all.
Parties on those days might have meant a big gathering at one of the area lakes, somewhat like a reunion of sorts., but I seriously doubt if the gatherings they called parties were anything like even some of the tame parties of today. If they had beer or anything like that, I would be surprised…but I could be wrong. No, I think they had picnics, went for rides on the lake in a small boat, and probably did a little fishing. What better way to relax. I do know that fishing was a part of their little outings, because Uncle Bill took a picture of the fishing.
As to the wild oats, well maybe Uncle Bill did sew a few. These parties were, of course, men and women, and being a bachelor, and a definite ladies man, Uncle Bill very much enjoyed those outings, because of all the pretty girls that went along. It probably worked out very well too, if there was an equal number of men and women, but if not, well…it’s every man for himself right. So maybe they did sew some wild oats, and while their parties were quite a bit more tame than those of this century…it’s all about socializing, relationships, and fun…right.
When the automobile first came out, very few people had one. Like most things when they first come out, they were first thought of as frivolous. If people could have seen the world as we see it today, they would not only have been shocked, but they would have understood the need to have one of those new fangled contraptions. Nevertheless, like any new invention, they soon caught on, and more people traded off their wagon for the automobile. It was a slow process, however, and many people thought the ones who had the first automobiles were a bit snooty, or that they were using the automobile as a status symbol…and maybe to a degree they were. It’s like that today too. First it was the computer, then the laptop, then the cell phone, then the smart phone, then the iPad…and the list goes on, depending on what you are into.
When the automobile came out, they scared the horses, who had to use the same roads, and they scared the people too, because the seemed to have no controls. They weren’t sure the machine could be stopped. They thought it might be a death trap. And it can be, if it is misused, but as we all know, it can also be a very useful tool in our everyday lives. The problem the people of those early years had was that it was an unknown. That made it much more scary. They also felt that what they had was good enough, which is the same as many people today think too.
As the years went by though, the car became a common thing. Everyone has one these days…or almost. We are so used to cars that we think nothing of our 16 year old children driving them. We know how they work…in fact, most 15 year olds know how they work. As commonplace as they are, I think most people still feel like they are a status symbol, and we try to have one that reflects who we are. Nevertheless, when you look at the old pictures of people with those older cars, you could see that they really knew the value of that machine, and they didn’t take it for granted like we do today. Status symbol…yes, then and now, but maybe it meant a little more to them then.
Many people have worked in the lumber business over the years, but I don’t think that there are many places, if any, that still float logs down river to get them to their destination. I think most logging these days is done using trucks, but it was quite common, in days gone by, to float those logs down the river to the saw mill.
It was at that time in history that my Great Uncle Albert Schumacher and my grandfather, Allen Spencer, decided to set out on what could only be deemed their frozen adventure in the world of trapping…that ended up being and adventure in logging. The two men were great friends in the years before Grandpa married Albert’s sister, my grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer. The year was 1910, and they left the warmth of home to head to northern Minnesota to trap for the winter. It was the coldest undertaking imagineable. The trapping part of their frozen adventure lasted about a month, and then, while they did get some pelts, they were done with freezing, starving, and trapping in general. That’s when the logging began.
The main way to get the logs to the sawmill in 1910 was Log Driving. Log driving is to use the river to transport the logs down stream, since big truch did not exist then. Driving logs down the river probably paid well, or at least it should have. Many men were killed after being crushed by logs in a jam or getting caught under the logs, and unable to get out, thus drowning. An ideal river is straight and slow moving, but few of those exist. In order to keep the logs moving smoothly, men were needed to guide them along. These men, called “log drivers” or “river pigs” had this dangerous job. They usually divided into two groups with the more experienced and nimble men on the “jam” crew or “beat” crew. Their job was to watch for potential jam spots, and if one started, they would try to get ahead of the game by jumping out on the logs to quickly dislodge them before more logs came down the river. They used a peavey hook, which consisted of a handle, generally from 30 to 50 inches long (0.75 to 1.25 m), with a metal spike protruding from the end. If necessary, they used dynamite. You can easily imagine how dangerous dynamite would be, with no way to say where those logs or their splinters would go, and if your were far enough out of the way.
By the pictures here, I can see that my great uncle and my grandpa were on the jam crew, and so I know that while they may have tried not to think about it, they knew they were risking their lives to do the job they did. I can also say without doubt, that both survived their frozen adventure in the trapping and logging business, because had they not, some of my cousins, my sisters, and I would not be here to tell of their adventures.
As I was helping my sister-in-law, Brenda and my daughter, Corrie with some projects around Brenda’s house today, we started talking about Christmas Eve, which is always held at Brenda’s house. The talk was really about planning for the upcoming holiday, but my thoughts drifted back to Christmas Eve celebrations, as well as other holiday celebrations, of years gone by. This is a year of firsts for our family. Since my father-in-law’s passing on May 5th, we are facing the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and every other holiday without his presence. My mother-in-law is still with us, but with Alzheimer’s Disease, she cannot live alone, so she is in a nursing home. She is quite happy there, but since she hasn’t walked since March, bringing her over to celebrate with us is just not feasible. She doesn’t know what day it is anyway, so she doesn’t miss the holidays. The sad thing about our situation is that with her in the nursing home, and my father-in-law in Heaven, we are almost going through that year of firsts with both of them at the same time.
As I took the trash out when we were finished with our project, I looked at Brenda’s patio, which had often been the place for family barbeques in the summertime, the sad and lonely feeling that had been there throughout our conversation, persisted. Anyone who has lost a parent understands quite well just how hard that year of firsts is. The traditions that had been a part of life for so long that they were taken for granted, must now be completely re-worked to reflect the changed family unit, and no matter what you do, there is always and will always be a hole in them…that empty place that belongs to that loved one who is now gone. Yes, you move on and make new traditions, be they never really feel quite right, somehow. You keep thinking that maybe next year it will feel normal, or at least not feel like something is missing, but it just doesn’t. The subsequent years of holidays are joyous, just like before, but with a little hint of loneliness, that never goes away.
As a look at the old pictures of holidays from years gone by, I can’t help but shed a tear, because those days are gone forever. I think one of the hardest things about the circle of life is the changing face of tradition. I love tradition…families gathering to celebrate holidays in the way that their families did, and the way their children’s families probably will. Unfortunately, change is inevitable, and traditions will change…as loved ones pass, children marry, and babies arrive, but some changes feel good, while others feel forced…and laden with a hint of loneliness.
I was born in an era where little girls always wore dresses. It doesn’t make today’s world wrong, just different. And it wasn’t that everyone put their daughters in dresses all the time, but dresses were a very real part of a little girl’s life, and I guess I would have to say that it gave a girl a sense of who she was, and that it was a special thing to be a girly girl. And some even felt that a girl who was wearing pants was…well, a little risque, or maybe a bit of a rebel.
The old west really brought that belief to life. Women like Calamity Jane were thought to be…well, less than ladylike, and proper women went out of their way to avoid contact with them. Of course, proper women went out of their way to avoid women who wore their skirts above the ankle at times too, so as we all now know, the idea that women should have to dress in a certain way are really the ones that are backward in pretty much every way. And yet, I have to wonder if we have lost something in that pushing away of those times when you could easily tell the difference between men and women. Now, women are placed in combat positions, or any other position that a man can be whether they really want to be there or not. I know of like the feeling that my man wants to take care of me, to open doors for me, and help me with those tough jobs that I can’t easily do…like opening a jar, or lifting heavy things.
My mother loved putting her five daughters in dresses, and really loved the party dress. I don’t know if that is what those dresses were really called or not, but they were the frilly kind of dress, whatever they were called. These days there is a different word for the frilly, girly clothes the girls wear. It is a term we all know very well, and really like, The clothes may be different, and not always dresses…or even dressy, but whatever they wear, these days, the girly girls always have their bling!!