Growing up, I had only one set of grandparents. My dad’s parents were both in Heaven by the time I was six months old, so my grandparents were George and Harriet (Hattie) Byer. My grandpa was a tall man, but he was very slim. Still, I always thought of him as a big man…with big hands. I’m sure his slimness was due to several factors. In those days, everyone had large families, and my grandparents, with nine children, were no exception. That many kids during the Depression Years meant that food was a bit scarce, and my grandparents never turned away a hungry neighbor or any other hungry person, for that matter. My aunts and uncles can remember having strangers at the dinner table many times. Grandma would simply add a little more water to the soup to make things go a little further.
Grandpa Byer worked hard his whole life. He helped build Alcova Dam in Alcova, Wyoming. He was always considered a good worker and was always loyal and followed orders to the letter. Grandpa was always considered a dedicated employee. Grandpa was known to follow orders to the letter, and it actually saved his life one time while digging a ditch. When his boss walked by and saw the beginning of a cave in, he yelled, “Jump George!!” Grandpa immediately did as he was told, and his upper body was above ground after the cave in. Many people, these days, would have found themselves in a lot of trouble…even the ones who jokingly say they would ask, “How high.” There was no time to ask anything. Grandpa’s life depended on his immediate action…and I’m happy he followed those orders.
Grandpa was loved by all who knew him, and while his was a strong man, he was soft-spoken, and often quiet… something that might also have come from the fact that he had a big family. It’s not easy to get a word in when you have that many people all wanting to talk at the same time. Nevertheless, if Grandpa needed to make his voice heard, I’m sure he could. He was a man who commanded respect…not because people feared him, but because they loved him. Today is the 129th anniversary of my grandfather’s birth. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandpa. We love and miss you very much.
For a number of years, my husband, Bob and I have dragged ourselves out of bed to jump into the Black Friday shopping,to get a head start on our Christmas shopping. Our morning started with a stop for much needed coffee, and a quick look at the ads to see where to start our shopping. While a lot of people have told us that we are crazy to enjoy this tradition, we really enjoyed it…until the stores changed it. Call me a traditionalist, but i don’t like the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving. That is a day to spend with family, and I see no sense in having the stores open at all. The people who are forced to work to keep the stores open, should be spending that time with their families, but instead they are working and I will not go out and shop when it means that those people are not able to spend Thanksgiving with their families, and that isn’t fair to them or their families.
When the stores started their “Black Friday” sales on Thanksgiving Day, it also eliminated the need to get up early on Friday to stand out in the cold and wait for the opening of the store, so you could try to be the first one to get in and get those “must have” gifts, that were on sale, starting at 6:00 in the morning. With the sale starting on Thursday, I would rather use the day to sleep in, and…maybe go shopping later in the day. I guess that we have just become disenchanted by the whole “Black Friday” event, because it starts on Thursday…and even on Wednesday in some stores, so that basically we are seeing the death of Black Friday. These days there are no crowds, even at the “Early Bird Sale.” If no one is rushing into the stores to buy, why should I get up at 4:00 in the morning to get there first?
Strangely, it seems like the sale items aren’t even that spectacular. I suppose there might be a few items that are must haves, but nobody seems to be rushing out to buy those, and the stores seem to have more than enough of them to go around. Suddenly, black Friday shopping is just like any other day, except that I refuse to go shopping on Thanksgiving, because that is just wrong. I’m sure there are those out there who do shop on Thanksgiving, but I have too many family members who have had to work on thanksgiving because the store they work in is pen that day. They missed out on that time with their families, because the stores thought it would bring in a few dollars more. To those stores I say…no thanks, I’ll wait until Friday, or better yet…shop online!! I won’t be part of the complete disregard, by the stores, of the need for their employees to have family time.
Imagine a world in which you could go to sleep living in freedom, and wake up behind prison walls…and you didn’t leave your home. That is exactly what happened to the people who lived in East Berlin. The Berlin Wall was erected overnight on August 13, 1961. The people of East Berlin were prisoners in their own city. Many of them had friends and family members who lived in West Berlin, but they were no longer allowed to go and see them, nor could the West Berliners come to East Berlin to see the inhabitants of that part of the city. The people in East Berlin were in a panic, and yet nothing could be done to free themselves from their plight. At least, not until they began to get very creative.
Many attempts were made in an effort to escape their captors, and many of those failed, but it would be the successful attempts at escape that would stay in our minds all these years. It was the successful attempts that were written about and celebrated in history, because those people won against a tyrannical government. One such escape was captured in pictures. Early in the construction, before most people even knew what was going on, Willy Finder figured it out and took steps to get his family out. His was a daring plan,but the people of West Berlin were willing to help pull it off. Willy’s wife was the first to go. I con only imagine how she must have felt. The plan required her to jump from the window ledge of their 4th story apartment, into a net held by residents and firemen in West Berlin. These apartments were along Bernauer Straße (street) in Berlin. The building actually saddled the border between East and West Berlin. After the wall was first constructed in 1961, many residents escaped through these apartment blocks, in this manner. So many, in fact, that the Soviets finally bricked up the windows and raided the apartments, evicting the people who lived there. After his mother jumped, four year old Michael Finder was tossed by his father to the waiting net below. There was no time to explain all this to his son…no time to reassure him. His daddy simply had to toss in out the window. Then Willy Finder made the jump himself. Theirs was a successful escape, one of many, and this infuriated the Soviet Union, because this was a part of the Soviet occupation zone formed after the reconstruction that followed World War II.
The Soviet occupation zone in Germany, and in Berlin, was suffering from numerous movements of educated individuals from their sectors toward the West throughout the 1950s. This movement, thought to be a brain drain, encouraged the Soviet Union to begin construction of a “Fascist Protection Wall” that was supposed to keep East Germans protected from “Fascism” that the Western Allies had “not eradicated in their sectors.” Of course, the reality was that the wall, later called the Berlin Wall, was designed to keep East Germans from emigrating to the West. The apartments where the Finders lived were later torn down and the Berlin Wall that most of us picture in the news reels, and have chunks of in our museums all over the world, was erected. Nevertheless, between 1945 and 1988, around 4 million East Germans migrated to the West. The majority…as many as 3½ million people left between 1945 and the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Of those, most simply walked across the border. After 1952, they exited through West Berlin. After the border was fortified and the Berlin Wall was constructed, the number of illegal border crossings fell drastically. The numbers fell further as border defenses were improved over the following decades. In 1961, 8,507 people fled across the border, most of them through West Berlin. The construction of the Berlin Wall that year reduced the number of escapees by 75% to around 2,300 per year for the rest of the decade. The Wall changed Berlin from being one of the easiest places to cross the border, from the East, to being one of the most difficult. The wall was finally torn down on June 13, 1990, and the German people were again free to move around the country.
When Eric was born, his older brother, JD was very excited about having a little brother, but that didn’t mean that he knew how a little brother needed to be cared for. That wasn’t really unusual for a little boy of 17 months. Nevertheless, we all wondered how Eric managed to survive having an older brother like JD.
The first hint that Eric might be in peril came when JD stuffed an eye drop bottle, with the lid on thankfully, down Eric’s throat when he was less than a year old. Thankfully, their mom, my sister-in-law, Jennifer was very nearby and heard little Eric’s struggle to breathe. She immediately called 911, and they walked her through what to do. While Jennifer is a nurse, you can’t thinks straight when it is your own child.
Having survived that ordeal, life got back to normal for the two brothers…for a while anyway. When Eric was about 3 years old, JD’s curiosity would again get the better of the situation, and JD would lock Eric in the trunk of the family car…thankfully it was parked in the garage at the time and not in the hot sun. Jennifer heard his muffled yells for help and rescued her youngest son from his big brother a second time. Now, I know you think JD hated Eric, but the opposite was the truth. They were inseparable.
And if having his brother out to get him wasn’t enough, Eric decided to give it a go himself, when he fell off of the deck of the family’s bi-level home. He landed on the concrete below, but somehow managed to stay in one piece…with everything in working order. Talk about having nine lives, I think Eric must be part cat.
Through the years many future challenges presented themselves, since the brothers were very much into motocross, and with motocross comes a number of bruises. Still, that did not diminish their love for extreme sports. They have tried many different extreme sports, and usually do quite well at them.
But, probably the craziest thing Eric wanted to try almost happened on the day he had a friend over and he called his mom at work to ask if it would be ok for them to jump off the roof of the house and into a snow drift. Of course, Jennifer told him no, but he continued to try to persuade her to allow it. So, finally she told him that if he insisted on doing that, he had to wait until she was at home…because someone needed to be there to call 911. Needless to say, that was one attempt at Eric’s demise that didn’t happen. We’re glad you made it through it all, Eric!! Happy birthday!!