Monthly Archives: January 2015
When brothers don’t live in the same town, and in fact live miles from each other, it is easy to find that your brother has changed so much that you don’t recognize him. Such was the case for my Uncle Bill Spencer, and my dad one time when I was a little girl of about eight years. Of course, under normal circumstances, Uncle Bill would have recognized his brother…even if it had been a few years since he saw him last, but my dad had a couple of secret weapons up his sleeve. Dad had grown a beard, which is something he never wore, but this was a special occasion…a centennial celebration, and contest. Since Uncle Bill had not seen him with a beard much, he was at a distinct disadvantage.
Another reason that my dad was able to pull one over on his brother is that Uncle Bill was a gun dealer at a gun show, and he never expected his brother to show up there. When we arrived, there were a lot of people milling around. While we stayed out of sight, but where we could watch, Dad went over and started looking casually at some of the guns Uncle Bill had. Uncle Bill was used to letting people take their time, and was waiting to see if anyone had any questions. He simply wasn’t expecting his brother to show up at the gun show, and so he actually looked right through him, paying no more attention to him that he was to anyone else. When Dad finally asked him a question, it still took a moment for him to connect that this was his brother, because Dad did not look like himself.
I’m sure that Uncle Bill was shocked to find that not only was his brother at his gun show, but he had successfully pulled one over on him. The brothers were always joking around, and to be so successful as Dad was in fooling his brother was the ultimate prank in a long line of good natured spoofs that the brothers had played on each other over the years. I can’t say that Uncle Bill never pull a better prank on my dad, because it is entirely possible, but this particular prank was one that was not forgotten, and was probably ranked up there as one of Dad’s best pranks.
This past summer, my mom, sister, Cheryl, and I had the chance to go to Wisconsin and visit Uncle Bill in the nursing home where he lives since Alzheimer’s Disease made it impossible for him to live alone. Because it had been nine years since we last saw him, the memory loss from Alzheimer’s Disease was quite pronounced for us…even though it had actually progressed at a normal pace. We were pleased that while he did not recognize us for ourselves, he did know who we were once we told him that we were his brother’s family. As is common with Alzheimer’s Disease, the patient has good days and bad days. These good days are days when their memory is better than other days. We were so blessed in that while most of the conversation centered around the past, Uncle Bill was able to remember and relate much of it to us. It was sad to leave him, because we don’t know if we will see him again in this life or not, but knowing what I do of Alzheimer’s Disease, I know that as quickly as we left, he had forgotten that we were ever there…a blessing in some ways. He didn’t have to feel the sadness of parting that we did. He didn’t even remember that we had been there, but that’s ok, because we knew that we had been there, and he enjoyed the visit while it was taking place. Today is Uncle Bill’s 93rd birthday…an amazing accomplishment for him. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you very much!!
Pretty much everyone has taken a ride on a roller coaster, but have you ever thought about where these originated or who thought them up? You might be surprised to learn that the roller coaster originated in Russia. I know that this is not at all what I expected. In Russia, they built a wood frame that the sledders used to fly down 70 foot high mountain slopes as early as the 16th century. Now, I don’t know it I would consider that to be a roller coaster, but I can tell you that I know it would be a scary ride. There weren’t any breaks on the whole thing. Just you and gravity. The ride was so popular that they built a summertime version…a wheeled cart that took riders down a wooden ramp. If that version, which I have seen in Jackson, Wyoming, and Keystone, South Dakota, though not at 70 foot drops, was as uncontrolled as the first one, I would not be on it.
Many of the early roller coasters, which were probably not what we would consider to be real roller coasters either, were designed as improvements to incline railways systems. Those patents began as early as July 2, 1872, but they were designed to take you from the top to the bottom of a hill or canyon, like the one at Royal Gorge in Colorado, or at Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I have had the pleasure of riding and both of those and I enjoyed them very much. I’m sure that most people would consider this type of ride to be pretty tame, as it is very controlled. It would have to be controlled in order to stop at the bottom.
The Circular Railway, is probably the type of roller coaster that most of us rode as children. There are a few hills and slightly fast moments, but for the most part, it goes around in a circle, while going up and down hills. Pretty tame in the eyes of most thrill seekers, but for little kids, it works pretty well, or at least the old style did. I don’t know if some of the current circular railway roller coasters are scary or not.
Probably one of the most famous roller coasters received it’s patent on this day, January 20, 1885, and was the first Switchback Railway roller coaster. If you thought about it, you might guess that is was at New York’s famous Coney Island. It was designed by LaMarcus Thompson, and debuted in 1884. This roller coaster was considered to be the first successful roller coaster. It was really a fairly primitive Gravity Switchback Railway, but the people loved it, and it immediately began bringing in as much as $600.00 a day…an amazing amount of money in 1884.
Roller coasters continued to be very popular until economic changes in he 1940s, 50s, and 60s caused them to lose their appeal. Nevertheless, the roller coaster would rise again. Now, we have Megacoasters, Hypercoasters, and Gigacoasters. Megacoasters such as Phantom’s Revenge in Pittsburgh’s Kennywood Park or The Beast at King’s Island were first. Hypercoasters standing 200 feet high, the first of which was Cedar Point’s Magnum XL-200 and the Desperado near Las Vegas, Steel Force at Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania and Mamba at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri, took things to the next level. Cedar Point then introduced Millennium Force, the world’s first Gigacoaster topping off at an astounding 310 feet above the ground.
I suppose that in order to compete, rollercoasters will continue to become more wild, higher, and scarier as time goes on. I’m sure that many people look forward to each new one that is developed, but since I never liked merry-go-rounds or anything much scarier than a Ferris Wheel, I guess that I will have to leave those riding challenges to someone with more of a stomach for it than I have.
A young friend of mine recently had a new baby, and I was reminded if the age old tradition of the shower. Women through the years have helped brides-to-be and soon to be moms prepare for the upcoming event for some time now. The bridal shower got it’s start in 1890, and is mostly a tradition held in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The baby shower was one that transitioned from the purification rituals that used to occur back when women had to remain in seclusion for 14 days after giving birth, to the naming and baptismal ceremonies, and finally to what they are today, which is more of a way to welcome the new baby with gifts that are necessary for caring for the child. Personally, I like them more for what they are today, as I’m sure most people would agree. These days, the showers just as often include the husband-to-be or the new daddy, in what used to be a pretty much exclusively female party.
One tradition, when it comes to showers, that people either like a lot, or completely dislike is the traditional shower games. We have all been to showers where you tried to name the new baby, diaper a balloon, remember the kitchen utensils on a tray, or give marriage advise to the young couple. Not everyone likes to play these things, and having been to showers of both types, I really have to say that I like both. I think it is simply a matter of taste…and maybe of well thought out games. In the years that I have been attending showers, I have played just about every possible game, and I must say that there have been a few that were great. I personally liked the diapering the balloon, the name game, and the balloon under the shirt game. That one was actually played for the first time…by me anyway, at my niece, Ashley Parmely’s baby shower, and it was hilarious. Of course, as the mother-to-be, Ashley won. The point was to see who could have the biggest belly. Technically, Ashley had a distinct advantage over the rest of us…she had the balloon belly, and the Reagan belly. The rest of us didn’t stand a chance, but it was fun to try to get a belly that was bigger than hers.
Some of the funniest shower games are those played with a blindfold on…like the one above, in which my sister-in-law Jennifer Parmely was trying to scoop all the cotton balls into a bowl, without being able to see them. They are so light that you really don’t know if you have anything on there or not, and since you can’t use your other hand to assist in the process, you find yourself being less than successful. And since it seems that there are always a few little ones in the group, the laughter can get going pretty easily. My brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg found his sister’s attempts quite hilarious indeed. It’s all intended to break the ice among friends of the honoree, who may not know each other, as well as adding a little bit of laughter and fun to the whole occasion. So the next time you go to a shower, and find that games will be played, try taking a lighter view of it. You might find yourself having a great time, even if you don’t usually like to play those silly shower games.
Sometimes in life, we are handed a blessing that takes us by surprise. Such was the case with Uncle Butch Schulenberg. Butch is my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s half brother, and since my father-in-law’s passing, I have had the wonderful opportunity to get to know Butch, if only through Facebook. This is a fact that I’m sure my father-in-law would be quite pleased about. When my father-in-law passed away, we needed to let his family in Forsyth, Montana know. It was a hard time for all of us. Then, something very nice began to happen. I had connected via Facebook with Butch Schulenberg’s daughter, Andi Kay, and that has led to blessed connections with her brothers Todd and Heath, and her sister-in-law, Jennifer, as well as Butch’s wife, Charlys and their granddaughter Savannah. Each of those connections is a sweet blessing in it’s own way, and I am so thankful for each, but the connection to Butch as been especially wonderful, because of the kind of man he is.
Butch reminds me a lot of my grandfather, George Byer. He is an encouraging sort of man who always makes you feel important. I’m sure his kids and grandkids can attest to that, because I’m sure that over the years he has encouraged them in whatever they chose to do. Of course, being encourage is not the only reason I feel a closeness to Uncle Butch. It’s because he has just welcomed me into his family. Unfortunately, for many years, there was not a closeness between my husband’s grandfather, Andrew Schulenberg, and my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg, but when they decided to set aside those feelings and reconnect, that was for them the end of a long era of being distant from each other.
It is strange, however, that somehow, I was unaware of the relationship the half brothers had developed. It wasn’t until I was involved in taking care of my father-in-law, that I even knew that they were in touch with each other at all. Of course, it is no surprise that these two men would get along so well, because I believe they are two of a kind. It is a hard thing to fully express the personalities of these men, but gentleness, kindness, encouraging, and accepting are words that all come to my mind. These are attributes that really leave a person no choice but to like the person who has them…and these men have, or in my father-in-law’s case, had these attributes. They leave a person room to be their own person, knowing that the people they respect, also respect them enough to trust their judgment, and celebrate their successes. Even if the accomplishment isn’t anything major, these men could make it feel like it was. Can it get any better than that? I don’t think so.
I’m not saying that I crave praise, or that it is the praise that makes Butch special, because that would be inaccurate. It is just the person Butch is that makes his very dear to me. Every interaction I have with him reiterates just how much I like the person he is. At some point, we are hoping to meet up and have an actual face to face conversation, with several of us in attendance, an idea that I am very much looking forward to. Still, for now, I am glad to have connected with him on Facebook, because it has given us the chance to get to know each other. This isn’t Butch’s birthday or any other special day that I know of, but rather just a chance for me to tell this sweet uncle just how glad I am that our families have connected…because he has been such a surprise blessing, and one I feel very thankful to have received. Of course, that blessing is nothing new to those who have known Butch all their lives. Thank you Butch for being an important part of my life, and the lives of all the people you touch with your gentle kindness. We love you!!
Several of my cousins were talking a couple of days ago on Facebook, about our grandmother, Hattie Byer, and how she kept her numerous grandchildren in line when they were at her house. Now, in reality, I pretty much mean Greg Hushman, Elmer Johnson, and Forest Beadle, because most of the rest of us would never have done anything to provoke the Wrath of Grandma!! It’s funny, but I can almost hear the skepticism from every reader. Ok, I’ll admit that I was no less likely to get into trouble with Grandma than Greg, Elmer or Forest, but I truly don’t recall having her coming after me with the broom, although my cousin Shirley Cameron, who is from the other side of my family remembers it once or twice, when she was over there with us.
One thing I do remember, and that I know every one of Grandma’s grandchildren will agree on, Grandma was the boss when you were at her house. You see, those were the days when it didn’t matter if the adult in the vicinity was your parent, grandparent, or the parent of the friend you were visiting, they all disciplined the kids who got out of line. And if some adult caught you doing something in the public arena that you shouldn’t be, such as graffiti or some other such mischief, they weren’t afraid to tell you to “knock it off” either. That was just the way things were back then. From what I am told of this barely five foot tall, broom wielding grandma of mine, she was able to make that broom go around corners, so if you thought you were going to get away from her, you might just as well think again.
I certainly remember that when you found yourself in trouble with Grandma, you were about to get a very clear understanding of what the word “trouble” meant. Yes, I too, had my share of times in my childhood where I found myself on the wrong side of Grandma Byer. Oh boy, believe me, it was not a place you wanted to be. And don’t think she was going to threaten to tell your mom just how bad you were, and then conveniently forget to do it when the time actually came for your parents to come home. Grandma wasn’t about to be the helpless little babysitter who had to wait for your parents to make you behave…oh no!! Whether she used a broom, her hand, or some other punishment, believe me when I say the punishment was swift, and it fit the crime. You see, Grandma was old school, before there was a new school form of discipline. People weren’t afraid of some well meaning, but not too bright passerby telling them they shouldn’t spank that kid…those people didn’t exist then. People knew that most situations required a little whack on the seat to get through to the brain. For many of us those lessons made it crystal clear, who was in charge, who was acting up, who would refrain from such activities in the future, and who would apologize for their elders for acting such a horrible fashion in the first place.
For most of us, the discipline Grandma dished out, is looked back on with a smile, because we all knew how much she loved us. People who have never had any discipline simply don’t understand that discipline is a form of love. Does it hurt…yes, because it is tough love, but are you better for it…oh yeah, because they love you very much. If your parents or grandparents didn’t care about you, they would have no need to want you to behave. They just wouldn’t care, but since they do, they want you to know how to act in public, because then people are happy to have you around. And for any of you, who have ever been around an out of control kid, can you honestly tell me that you did not wish their parents would just give them a spanking? Of course you did. So to my grandma, to her broom, and to our parents, aunts, uncles, and teachers…I say thank you. Whether we felt the broom on our backside, or some other form of discipline, I can say that we all turned out pretty good. And people don’t seem to mind having us around.
Once a war is over, the people of the world, and especially those who fought in the war never really want to think about it again, but it is, nevertheless, a permanent part of history. It was on this day, January 16, 1991 that America would go to war with Iraq for the first time, and it would be a war that would ultimately draw my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg back into the service from the reserves, which is where every soldier is for a time following their active duty term. Ron had joined the Army during a time when things were relatively quiet around the world, and he also ended his active service during a relative time of peace, but all that would change for him when he was notified that he would have to go back to active duty, and to Iraq.
I can only imagine how Ron felt upon receiving that letter. I know how the rest of us felt. We were very concerned for Ron’s safety. None of us wanted him to go, but this was not up to us. The government, and specifically the Army had spoken, and go he would. I remember talking to him about his time over there, years later. One of the things that most civilians wonder about is things like how they felt about killing someone else, or even just seeing a dead body that had been mutilated by the weapons of warfare. For Ron, one of the strongest memories was marching from one place to another and seeing all the death that was all around them…and then simply stepping over it, like it was a rock or tree stump. In my mind, that would be almost impossible to do, but I suppose that you simply get used to some things…or as much as anyone can get used to war and death.
The Persian Gulf War…known as Operation Desert Storm, was a short lived war. Saddam Hussein invaded the little country of Kuwait, because of their oil, making Egypt and Saudi Arabia very nervous, so they called on the United States. When Saddam Hussein refused to leave Kuwait, the war began. The biggest anomaly in Operation Desert Storm, was that the Iraqi soldiers were either not well enough equipped, or simply not willing to die for this cause, and so may of them actually came up to the American troops, and surrendered. I’m sure that the initial fighting, and the amount of war dead lying around the desert, made the decision to surrender seem like the best option. Ron told of this anomaly when we talked about his experiences, and it seemed that it was with a continued sense of relief. I can imagine that the thought of having to kill someone was not one that my brother-in-law relished, but something he would have had to do, had it became necessary.
Ron returned to us from Operation Desert Storm, and his time in the reserves ended. The Persian Gulf area would continue to become more and more unstable, but by the time America would again find herself at war with Iraq and Saddam Hussein, Ron was not required to go. While it is my belief that the second war with Iraq has been far more successful, it has also been filed with far more casualties. I believe that if we had gone in and removed Saddam Hussein during Operation Desert Storm, the world would have been a better place. Would that have prevented the need to go back? I don’t know, but it would have spared many of the lives of the countless people that Saddam Hussein slaughtered during his time in power.
As a kid, I remember the funny things that my Uncle Wayne Byer would do, like pushing his false teeth out of his mouth and making them clack together part way out of his mouth. The kids, who always seemed to gather around him, would laugh with delight, while trying to do that with our own teeth, an endeavor that proved impossible. Uncle Wayne had a great laugh and a bright smile, both of which were kid magnets…probably even his childhood years. I can imagine that any kid who was younger than Uncle Wayne, wanted nothing more than to spend time around him, just to see what mischief he might get into next…at least those who knew him, anyway. And my mother, Collene Spencer, being just 2 years older that he, and his usual partner in crime, can tell you just that, for sure.
When I had children of my own, I found myself feeling proud of the fact that my Uncle Wayne was the head of the Natrona County School District #1 bus garage. It was he who made sure that the bus and the driver of the bus that transported my children to school every day were safe and well trained. For a parent who put their kids on a bus and sent them to school on icy roads, and a rather large hill with steep edges and no guard rail, I wanted to know that the driver of that bus knew what he or she was doing. Those were my precious babies after all. Uncle Wayne had retired by the time my girls finished riding the bus to school, but I always felt blessed to have had him there during those years.
I don’t get to see Uncle Wayne much anymore, because I’m working, and he is busy doing his own things, but I still enjoy watching him connect with the little kids whenever I do see him. And of course, we all enjoy hearing his laughter and seeing his smiling face. His sense of humor will always be something that is near and dear to my heart. Uncle way is getting older, like all of us are, and it occurs to me that we may not have him with us too many more years…except for the fact that he is in good health…something that I am very grateful for. Losing aunts, uncles, and parents is really hard, so for as long as we have him with us, and beyond, I will always first picture him clacking his false teeth, whenever he comes to my mind. Today is Uncle Wayne’s 77th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
In the height of World War II, on January 14, 1943, President Franklin D Roosevelt made history when he became the first president to travel by airplane on official business. The trip was not without danger. The German U-boats were wreaking havoc on Allied war ships in the Atlantic, and it was decided that a face to face conference was needed to discuss strategy. The man President Roosevelt was going to see, was my fifteenth cousin once removed, Winston Spencer-Churchill. No American President had flown on official business before, but with security in the Atlantic uncertain, Roosevelt’s advisors reluctantly agreed that he should fly. I’m sure his frail health at 60 years of age played a part in their decision too. The secret trip began on January 11, and the plane had to make several stops along the way. They took off from Florida with a first stop in the Caribbean to refuel and allow the president to rest. They then took off and headed south along the South American coast to Brazil, then across the Atlantic to Gambia, finally reaching Casablanca on this day, January 14, 1943.
It seems strange to us now that they would take such a roundabout route, but things were different then. The Boeing 314 Flying Boat that had been dubbed the Dixie Clipper was a big heavy plane. It had a flight range of 3,500 miles, and the direct route would have been about 4326 miles, making at lease one stop necessary. Since the Secret Service considered air travel for a president as risky anyway, I’m sure they wanted to take a route that would keep them as far away from any fighting as they could. Also, the final leg of the trip required that the group transfer to an Army transport plane. The C-54 was required to fly at 15,000 feet to cross the Atlas Mountains…an altitude that seems insignificant today, but must have been quite high then. The Secret Service personnel and FDR’s advisors were worried about the oxygen levels affecting the president, and in the end, he did have to go on oxygen for a time during that part of the flight.
The flight was mastered successfully, and the two men were safely tucked into the Anfa Hotel where Roosevelt and Churchill were both in suites that were close together, making it the perfect place for the conference to take place…after the rooms were cleared of listening devises that had been planted by unknown persons, that is. The advisors and chiefs of staff did most of the hard work of the negotiations, but the presence of Roosevelt and Churchill kept them on task and working toward an agreement. The conference was very important to both sides, as the British were being hit very hard, and Roosevelt needed to keep the American troops advancing and winning their battles, so he could demonstrate to the American people that the tide of this war was turning. People get weary of war quite quickly, and in order to keep their support, victory in battle is key.
The Casablanca Conference was looked at by some as a victory for the British negotiators, because Churchill’s strategy prevailed, but they had missed the fact that the Americans also gained British commitments to long-term goals that went beyond the immediate objectives in the Mediterranean. The Americans agreed to attack Sicily after the victory in North Africa and the British agreed to allow a massive buildup of Allied Forces in Britain, which would allow for an invasion of France with a target date of May 1, 1944. The invasion actually took place on June 6, 1944, and would become a day we all know as D-Day, when the troops stormed the beaches of Normandy…and that is where my dad came in. Since he was one of the Allied Forces that was stationed in England, his B-17G Bomber was one of those that provided cover for that invasion. It seems quite strange to me that a conference that took place over a year before, and 2 months prior to my dad’s enlistment, would ultimately place him in a position to fight in one of the most well known battles of World War II.
I don’t know about you, but as a kid in grade school, recess was maybe the best part of the day…if you could get to the swings faster than anyone else. At the school I went to anyway, the swings were the one playground item everyone wanted to be on, and if you were a little slower getting there, you missed out. That usually meant that the younger students had to find something else to do…until they got older anyway. There was no time limit to be on the swings, but most of the kids were pretty good about swinging for a while and then getting off, but then recess was only 15 minutes long, so how much time did that leave the rest of the kids…not much.
The fight to get to the swings first, and the ultimate lose of that battle for many children, did very little to sway them from trying to get there, however. Every recess, the bell would ring, and the doors to the playground burst open as the kids ran for the swings. Of course, a few tears were inevitable, because there are always the little fights and little ones don’t always lose well, but all in all, they learned pretty quickly that the best solution to the problem, was to practice your running. The faster you are, the more likely you will end up with a swing.
This whole process goes on for a time, and then about 6th grade, which was still in grade school when I was a kid, the kids aren’t so interested in the swings anymore. They have started to mature some and look forward to being more like the kids in junior high, or middle school as it is known today. Playing on the swings was suddenly beneath them. How quickly things change. One year, you are fighting over the swings, and the next you are acting like all those little kids are so far beneath you that it is completely unbelievable.
Now flash forward a few years, and…well, I don’t know about you, but it’s funny how much fun those swings can be when you are on a date with your boyfriend. Of course, anything is romantic when you are on a date, right? In the years I dated my husband, Bob, I can’t count how many times we ended up at the park swinging on the swings like little kids. It seemed so different from those grade school days, somehow. It wasn’t nearly as juvenile as it used to be. Now it was romantic…and fun again.
Lately, I have been thinking about the Civil War. I think that most of us have an ancestor or two who fought in the Civil War, possibly from both sides. This was a bloody war that really seems to have been a matter of who could hold out the longest. In the end both sides found themselves scavenging everything from food and water to ammunition from the people who lived in the area. But, the really bad part about the Civil War, was that because the South had succeeded from the Union, and had made their own money, they had a serious problem upon losing the war. After their loss, the South once again became a part of the Union, and their money became worthless.
These were people who had owned plantations and slaves. They were among the wealthiest people in the nation. Suddenly they found themselves broke…unless they happened to own gold, and I don’t think many of them did. People had loads of cash, but it wouldn’t buy anything. It might as well have been counterfeit. Not only that, but the entire banking system fell apart. The South found itself in the unique position of not only losing the war, but of losing itself. They were trying to become their own nation, but when they lost the war, they lost their nation. Then, to make matters worse, they lost the money they had too.
The whole financial system for them had to be rebuilt. Add to the fact that their side lost the war, the fact that these previously wealthy southern gentlemen and women were now broke, and were forced to work for a living. Their slaves were free, and if they wanted them to work for them, they had to pay them…but with what. The governments war debts were hard enough to deal with, but the individual was in much deeper trouble, because if they had no money, they had no food. There was no money to buy seeds to plant, or cattle to raise…or even ammunition to hunt with, if there was anything left to hunt after your neighbors hunted ahead of you.
In the end, I suppose that the only solution was time. Thankfully, the difference between being broke and having money is one paycheck. Debt is something people can learn to live with. There will always be bills to pay, and the family that can keep from borrowing money will do better than the one that must borrow to make ends meet. And the biggest problem they had was that there was no place to borrow from. The people of the south had to learn to work…and that was going to be something very new to most of them.