Monthly Archives: December 2015

Carpenter BarryA True HelperWhen my nephew, Barry Schulenberg arrived on the scene, on December 11, 1978, he brought with him, a definite culture shock where babies were concerned. Barry was the first grandson in the family, which already had four granddaughters, three of whom were still living. Now it wasn’t that those girls couldn’t be rough and tumble girls, but in reality, they were all pretty girly. Barry, on the other hand, was all boy. He liked things like tractors, trucks, helping his grandpa cut wood, and anything else that his grandpa was doing. The girls would rather sit and watch what grandpa was doing rather than be out there getting dirty with him. In many ways, Barry was just what my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg needed. He loved those granddaughters, don’t get me wrong, and they were really his little princesses, but he needed a boy to do all the guy things with him, and Barry fit that bill perfectly. Nevertheless, for my sister-in-law, Debbie Schulenberg Cook and me, Barry was like an alien from outer space. Debbie had a bit of an advantage over me, in that she was raised with two brothers, but I had four sisters, and boys were very much a real culture shock.

For anyone who has boys, I’m sure you can relate to the difference between boys and girls very well. I only knew what little bit I knew from my nephew, Rob Masterson, my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s son, and at that time…well, he pretty much drove me crazy with his very much boyish ways. Nevertheless, I was about to get a whole new education in little boys, compliments of my nephew, Barry. As most of you know, boys don’t get embarrassed by things like the noises that can come from people, from running around nearly naked…which some girls do too, or from coming in the house covered in dirt or mud. To them, all this is a part of having a great day, and in fact, being required to mind their manners, stay clean, and stay dressed…well, that a boring day. Barry was a typical boy in every sense of the word.Barry on his motorcycleBarry

Barry is a grown man now, and while he is still into trucks, tractors, and many of the other things guys are into, he has long since ceased to do the things that made him a culture shock for me. I can’t speak for his wife, Kelli, on any of his annoying ways, on the other hand, and I’m sure she could name a number of those right off the top of her head, but I think I’ll leave that one alone. Today is Barry’s birthday. Happy birthday Barry!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Women VoteI’m sure that most people who are from Wyoming have heard it said that Wyoming is about 20 years behind the times. I suppose that in some ways we are, and I don’t think that is always a bad thing. If we are twenty years behind everyone else on crime, for instance, I’m happy. I’ll admit that for anyone who is looking for the latest styles or latest gadget…well, it can take a little longer to get to Wyoming. Nevertheless, Wyoming hasn’t always been 20 years behind the times. In fact, on this day, December 10, 1869, Wyoming stepped out ahead of the pack, when the Wyoming territorial legislators passed a bill that was signed into law, giving women the right to vote.

Many people have speculated that the legislators did not have the best motives for passing the piece of legislation. People speculated that while everyone knew the importance women played in the settlement of the west, they felt that it was really to bolster the strength of the conservative voters. Others will tell you that it was done because the 6,000 adult men were lonely. By making it legal for women to vote, they hoped it would bring in more women, because the 1,000 women in the territory was not a good number when it came to courting. They hoped that the right to vote would be a big draw to women who wanted equal rights.

I can’t say for sure what the real reason was to pass the legislation, but if you ask me, Wyoming was ahead of its time for once. Another group of people who wanted women’s rights wanted it simply because it was the right thing to do. William Bright, who was one of the territorial legislators, who was in his mid-forties, and had a very persuasive wife, was convinced by his wife that denying women the right to vote, was a gross injustice. The other major backer, Edward M. Lee, the territorial secretary who had championed the cause for years, Women's rightsargued that it was unfair for his mother to be denied a privilege granted to African American males. I’m not sure if he should have used that analogy exactly, but the truth is that he was right. If one citizen is allowed to vote, then all citizens who are of age should be allowed to vote.

I don’t really think that the reasons behind the move to give women the right to vote matter so much as the fact that it happened. I don’t believe in one citizen having for rights, and others who should really have that right too, but are denied. Maybe Wyoming is behind the times in many ways, but is some of the most important ways, they are ahead of their time.

Roller SkatesAs a kid, going to the roller skating rink was not always an option. Nevertheless, we all loved to skate. Not being able to go to the skating rink all the time didn’t bother us, nor did the uneven sidewalk in front of our house. We learned to overcome those obstacles, because we loved to skate. I suppose it was that age old desire to have wheels to take you where you wanted to go, without having to depend on your parents to get you there…or maybe it was just because it was a lot of fun. The skates I had as a kid were not the fancy ones with the shoe built onto it, because…well our shoe size was always changing. It made no sense to buy new ones every year. That was simply an unnecessary expense.

Wearing SkatesOf course, the problem with those skates that could grow, was that you needed a key to change the length and the width of the skate to fit your shoes. Since feet didn’t grow that fast, it might be a while between the times you needed to change the size, by the time you needed it again, the key was nowhere to be found. This was such a big problem, in fact, that at one point someone came up with a song about two kids…one who had the skates, and one who had the key. It made for a good partnership…or maybe it was just necessity that they become friends. Either way, having a skate key made one a valuable friend to anyone who had skates and no key.

I think if the inventor of the skates had given any thought to it, he might have figured out a different way to do the size changes, or at the very least, put in a place to store the key, so that if it was lost, it would truly be Skate Keythe fault of the child, and not just the fact that the key had no safe storage place to be. Of course, in all reality, the skating years were pretty short lived. All too soon, we were on to the next great toy or the next cool set of wheels…such as the skateboard. Once those came out, kids who were still using skates were considered babies…until Inline Skates came out. Then the ones who still had four wheeled skates or even skateboards were considered babies, who couldn’t balance on two wheeled skates…until trick skateboarding came along. Before long, that old pair of four wheeled skates and their corresponding key, were no longer the latest thing…and no one wanted them anyway, so the key no longer mattered.

IMG_1873I can’t think of my niece Jessi Hadlock Sawdon without thinking about the how sweet she is. There is, however, a mix of personality traits that are simply Jessi in every way. While being sweet and thoughtful is truly her nature, Jessi can also be very funny and a good natured teaser too. I suppose that was a matter of survival in her family. They all love to tease each other, and no one is exempt. I suppose that there are families who would find it odd to tease your siblings…or at least not very nice, but then they just don’t understand Jessi and her family. I think if they weren’t teasing each other, we would wonder what they were mad about.

It has been a long time since Jessi’s sisters have called her Jessi, because she has been nicknamed Jeffrey…don’t ask me why, because I couldn’t tell you, and it’s not the only nickname either. Maybe the girls will enlighten us on this, and the other nicknames in the family. For instance, my niece, Lindsay is called Lancil, and in answer to Kellie calling her Jeffrey, Jessi called 1441388_10151860429264001_1752903621_nKellie, Baby Pie. And these are just a couple of the names that have been used. I know, you all thought that name calling wasn’t nice, but these girls happen to disagree. Maybe the names they use don’t seem like they are cutesy pie names, but they are used in the most loving way there is, and those girls all know that. When people see their form of teasing on Facebook, you just have to wonder if they think these girls must be really mad at each other, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Theirs is a close loving family, and the girls, along with their brother Ryan and his wife Chelsea, Jessi’s husband Jason, and Lindsay’s husband, Shannon, are the best of friends. It doesn’t matter how far apart they are, they are always best friends, and their teasing just keeps everything light hearted and fun.

Jessi is a very capable legal secretary, and has been working in law offices since her high school days. She is an amazing organizer, and that makes her one of the most called upon people to help with things like deep cleaning for grandparents, and setting up the Christmas tree along with her cousin, Liz Masterson, which they IMG_1869did this year, even though their grandparents, my parents, Al and Collene Spencer will be spending this Christmas in Heaven. Helping out this year was for her Aunt Cheryl Masterson, who has always been close to Jessi, and in fact, was instrumental in helping Jessi get her start in law. Jessi’s organizational skills also came in handy when she worked with the Young Professionals, as well as in her heading up of the youth group at our church.

These days, Jessi is occupied with going to college, and enjoying married life with Jason and their dog, Daisy. They love to travel, and especially enjoy going to Miami, Florida to visit Lindsay and Shannon, as well as going to Michigan to visit Jason’s family. Yes, life is good for Jessi and Jason, and it will only bet better, because they are perfect for each other…and it doesn’t get any better than that. Today is Jessi’s birthday. Happy birthday Jessi!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Pearl Harbor 2Battleship RowLocated in the middle of Pearl Harbor is an island 335 acres in size. In Hawaii’s early days, it was known as Mokuumeume, meaning Island of Strife. It amazes me just how close that name is to the reality that is the island that is now known as Ford Island. I don’t think that strife is a constant companion of the island, but on this day, December 7, 1941…the date that will live in infamy, Ford Island was at center stage as one of the worst attacks in history took place on American soil. The participants, from the American side anyway, would have most certainly have chosen not to be there…if they had been given a choice. The island had changed hands several times, before finally ending up as a part of the military installation that was Pearl Harbor.

Every year, as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day comes around, I try to write a story about that dreadful day, and this year, while looking at Pearl Harbor on Google Earth, my thoughts turned to that little island that was at the center of the attack. How must those men have felt? Everything happened so fast. There wasn’t even time to get the planes in the air. While the ships were being bombed around them, the pilots, mechanics, and airfield crew could only stand around watching…and dodging bullets. Of course, for most of them, that was impossible. The death toll that horrific day was 2403. In addition, there were 1178 people wounded. The emotional toll was beyond the imagination. This was the event that finally brought the United States into World War II.

I began to wonder what the people who were there were thinking as the events of the attack unfolded. There was no way to get off the island. If they had tried, they would surely have been killed. There were bombs going off on all sides of the island. Ships were sinking, airplanes were destroyed, and buildings were on fire or blown up. It was as if the world was coming to an end…or in reality, it was like waking up and finding yourself literally in Hell. My mind struggled to imagine how they must have felt…wishing and praying that all this was a dream and that they could be somewhere else…anywhere else. Still, they knew that it was real, and they were there, and Pearl Harbor 1Pearl Harbor 3nothing would ever be the same again. They knew that the world as they had known it, had vanished…never to exist again. Of course, our country would come back from this attack, because we are a resilient people, but we would never be the same. We were less trusting of our enemies, something I see again in this day and age of terrorism, and something I think is important.

Being too trusting of our enemies in December of 1941, was exactly what paved the way for a surprise attack on December 7, 1941, and being too trusting today could do the same thing. It is imperative that we protect our people at all costs…even if it makes us seem heartless now. As in the case of the attack on Pearl Harbor, second chances at protecting our people don’t usually come. By the time we realize that we have made a mistake, it is too late, because it has become a fatal mistake. The men and women who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor knew first hand that our enemies hate us and want nothing less that death for America. That, I believe is the valuable lesson the people who survived that horrific attack took away that fateful day, and one we all need to seriously consider today.

Sisters on the SwingsWhen I think back to my childhood, I always remember the carefree times. Summers spent with nothing but time on our hands, meant swimming at the Kelly Walsh pool, sunning in the back yard, and sack lunches eaten at the park, simply because it was something different to do. Of course, back then, you could easily send your kids to the park by themselves, and they could be gone for hours, and still you did not worry. That fact worked in our favor, because we were allowed to go so many places and do so many things on our own because the world was much safer than it is today.

I remember the hours we spent at the school…the very place we couldn’t wait to get away from while school was still in session. Of course, we weren’t there for the Picnic on the mountain - May 1960classroom, but rather for the playground. Just a couple of months earlier, we couldn’t wait for summer to come, because we were determined not to go anywhere near that school…oh well, the best laid plans…right? Nevertheless, just as soon as you got to those swings that were so very different from the ones at home, you knew that coming to the school in the summertime was a totally different thing, and very much acceptable. It didn’t even matter if you had to bring your little sister along, and going to the park was totally ok even if your parents had to come along. Somehow, even having that parental supervision couldn’t dampen your spirits.

I’m not sure why these thoughts of summer vacation came to my mind today, other than perhaps the upcoming Christmas vacation, which is definitely a close second when it comes to the carefree days of vacation from school. I loved school, but there was just something about that break from school that always felt so Picnic in Thermopolisamazing. I just think every kid needs a break from school, even if they love it. There will always be time for kids to work every day for the rest of their lives, but summer vacation and Christmas break…well those are just pretty much for the kids, and of course their teachers, who I consider very blessed, by the way. I think most of us would love to have their summer vacations off. Nevertheless, that said, today found me thinking about the upcoming Christmas vacation that the kids will have, including two of my grandsons. It will be a welcome break from their studies, even if they do have to work at their jobs. To the kids, I say, enjoy those days while you can, because all too soon, the day will come when you too have a job and those long vacations are a thing of the past.

USS LexingtonWhile Bob and I were in Corpus Christi, Texas in March of 2006, we had the opportunity to visit the USS Lexington, better known now, as The Blue Ghost. The ship was originally known as the Cabot, but after the USS Lexington CV-2 was lost in the Battle of the Coral Sea, she was renamed while under construction to commemorate the earlier USS Lexington. This Lexington was the fifth United States Navy ship to bear the name in honor of the Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington. In June of 1942, after the earlier USS Lexington was destroyed, workers at the shipyard submitted a request to Navy Secretary Frank Knox to change the name of a carrier currently under construction there to Lexington. Knox agreed to the proposal and Cabot was renamed as the fifth USS Lexington on 16 June 1942. She was launched on 23 September 1942, sponsored by Mrs Theodore Douglas Robinson. Lexington was commissioned on February 17, 1943.

I can’t say for sure if this Frank Knox was any relation to my husband’s Knox ancestors, but it wouldn’t uss-lexingtonsurprise me at all, since the Knox family was into politics, and even included a connection to President James Knox Polk. While I was originally writing this because on this day, December 5, 1941, the prior USS Lexington headed out to the Battle of Midway…a battle that it never made it to, because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. That Lexington made it back to Pearl Harbor on December 13, 1941, so it was not much help. Later, the prior USS Lexington was destroyed in the Battle of Coral Sea, triggering the renaming of the USS Lexington that Bob and I saw.

The USS Lexington we saw was referred to as a “ghost” ship by the Japanese for her tendency to reappear after reportedly being sunk. This, coupled with the ship’s dark blue camouflage scheme, led the crew to refer to her as “The Blue Ghost”. There were rumors during the war that the ship was so badly damaged it had to be scuttled at one point, but a newly built aircraft carrier was immediately deployed with the same name, in an effort to demoralize the Japanese. I’m sure the whole situation was a serious frustration to the Japanese, but for Bob and me the legend that ship had Navy Secretary Frank Knoxbecome was something we found quite interesting.

That said, I now find something new to draw my interest…namely Navy Secretary Frank Knox. One thing I have noticed is that in many families, certain names seem to be used over and over. In Bob’s family, there is a Frank Knox, and in that lineage there are Williams and Johns. The same is the case with Navy Secretary Frank Knox’s lineage. For that reason, I expect that a connection exists, and with a little work, I think I will find it, if it exists. I like the challenges that come from trying to connect the missing links in our family, and when I can tie it to something I have personally seen, it is an even more exciting quest.

Killer Smog 1When we think of disasters, we seldom think of smog, but on December 4, 1952 in London, England, smog caused a disaster of epic proportions. On that day, a high pressure system stalled over the Thames River Valley, causing the smog to hang over the area for four days. The air over London became trapped, and along with it, the smog. We have lived with smog in our world for a long time, and while we know it isn’t good for us, most of us consider it to be a minor annoyance, rather that anything serious. Nevertheless, on this day, December 4, 1952, the people of London, England found out that smog is not something to be taken lightly.

Because of the cold air in the area, many people burned extra coal in their furnaces to keep warm, making the problem worse. The smoke, soot, and sulfur dioxide from the area’s industries along with that of cars and energy use by the people caused heavy smog to blanket the city. By the Killer Smog 2morning of December 5th there was the smog made it difficult to see for hundreds of square miles.

By December 7th, the smog was so thick that it blocked out the sunlight and visibility was reduced to five yards. Transportation in the region was halted when the smog caused several rail accidents, including a collision between two trains on the London Bridge. The biggest problem, however, came from the respiratory distress it caused to both humans and animals, including difficulty breathing and coughing up phlegm. One of the first victims was a prized cow that suffocated on December 5th. Suddenly, people were dying in their sleep over the weekend…thousands in fact. The exact number of victims is not known, but has been estimated between 4,000 and 8,000.

I first heard about this unbelievable situation while watching the weather channel a while back. I knew that the Heavy smog in Piccadilly Circus, London, December 1952. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)weather in London had been known to cause some problems, but the main one was when heavy fog would blanket the city. That was something that made England a tough area to fly in during World War II, and was also one of the reasons why B-17 Bomber crews were allowed to fly less missions before being released to go home. They figured that if they made it through the fog successfully, they deserved to get to go home. Nevertheless, I would never have expected that smog would cause so much death, but on December 4, 1952, when a freak high pressure system locked down the air over London, England, holding the smog tightly in place, that is exactly what happened. I don’t know if any of my relatives were among the victims or not, but since my family does come from England, I would not be surprised.

Girls in a BoxOver the years, my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce have made use of boxes for lots of things. In fact, like most kids, they have used boxes in every way imaginable. They have taken the gifts out of the box and set the gift aside, before playing in and with the box. Boxes have been their forts, playhouse, hiding place, storage for their treasures, and many other uses. It is an age old tradition that kids have played in and with boxes for as long as there have been boxes big enough for kids to get into.

My daughter, Amy went so far as to try sitting in a shoe box that had been used to wrap a Christmas gift. She was too big for the box to say the least, but that didn’t phase her a bit. That box usage was the funniest one I can think of. Amy was always a teeny little girl, but she was still too big for that little shoe box. Nevertheless, watching Amy try to get into that Amy in a Shoe Box box, knowing that it was too small, was very funny. She was so determined to get into it, and it never occurred to her that she was too big.

With all the uses kids have found for boxes, I am amazed that I can still be surprised by the use someone has come up with for a cardboard box. One of the greatest ideas I have ever seen is the coloring box. Now I don’t mean a box to keep your coloring supplies in. I mean that you put the kid in the box and Turk then loose with the crayons. They can’t color on the walls, because they are inside a box. It gives meaning to coloring inside the lines. We try to get our kids to color carefully so they work with them and work with them, but really until that kid is ready to color inside the lines.

The cool idea about coloring inside a box is that it doesn’t make a mess. The mess stays in the box, where it imagedoesn’t mess up the paint on your walls, or the carpet on your floors. The other cool thing is that the kids have a great time, because coloring inside a box, and coloring the inside of a box are something totally different to do. It’s almost like coloring on the walls, except that they don’t get into trouble for it. It almost seems like a crazy thing to do, and after all, aren’t kids all about doing things that are crazy. As for the parents…well, they are heroes, because they found something for the kids to do that almost seemed like it was something that was not allowed. I mean, you wouldn’t let your kids write on the walls, but the walls of a box, is allowed. It makes the kids feel like they got away with something…well, maybe not, but it’s fun anyway.

Dalton1Jesse JamesAs the railroad spread across this land, and payrolls began coming in by way of the railroad, a new breed of criminal showed up on the scene…the train robbers. At first, the train robbers got away with it, because no one had really given much thought to the possibility of such a thing happening. Gangs like Jesse James…who was best known as a bank robber, but was also one of the early train robbers, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, the Dalton Gang, and the Reno Gang terrorized the railways, stealing the payrolls of crews working on building the railroads and towns in the west.

With the advent of train robberies came a need for a solution. Enter the train police. At first the railroads would arrange for a posse to go after the robbers, but eventually they realized that the posse was too little too late. They had to take affirmative action. So they put the police on the train with the money. I’m sure that more violence came from that action, but the robbers probably didn’t get away with it as often as they had been.

I think that in many ways, we have almost romanticized the train robbers, but in reality, they were like any other criminal. They would kill for the money they were after. The police were under as much pressure as the police these days. You can’t face a gun as a regular part of your job and not have some degree of fear for your life. These men were the law, and they were pretty much on their own. They couldn’t call in the state police, or the police from the next town over. Those were too far away…especially with the distances the trains traveled. The railroad police were the only thing standing between the robbers and the money.

wildbunch_posse1900_Uniform_RR_Police2Theirs was an important job too. Every time the train was robbed, peoples lives were affected. Without the payroll money, the workers couldn’t support their families, and that caused more problems. The workers were angry and then desperate. I don’t think police work would be for me, but I have to wonder if police work was harder back in the old west, or now, with the terrorism and gang issues…or if police work is police work, no matter what era it is.