Tag Archives: my family

‘I Need Thee Every Hour’

This is the Sunday school version of Annie Hawke’s beloved hymn (1872): you get the piano and the lyrics and the Holy Spirit, but you have to sing it yourself.

My mother used to sing this around the house. So did Grandma, her mother. Oh, I wish I could tell them that what they taught me, as a little toddling boy, I have not forgotten. No! I think I hear them more clearly now than I did then. It takes the seed some time to grow: that’s why you have to plant it when the children are very young. And give it time! It might take 50 years or more to bear fruit.

Eureka! (Maybe)

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Calloo, callay, oh frabjous day! My Facebook referrals are back.

When Archimedes, in the course of taking his bath, suddenly realized he could calculate an object’s weight (or something) by the amount of water it displaced, he leaped out of the tub and shouted “Eureka!”, which means “Hot dog!”

I can’t quite do that, because I don’t know that anything I’ve tried actually did the trick, bringing back Facebook referrals to this blog after I got mysteriously disconnected from FB last weekend and have gotten hardly any referrals all week long. Maybe some of you folks out there accomplished it by sharing one of our cat videos on Facebook. I don’t know. All I know is, they’re back today, returning as inexplicably as they disappeared.

My father had no object in his house which he didn’t understand. Whatever it was, if it stopped working, he knew how to fix it. And if he didn’t know, his kid brother, Uncle Ferdie, an inventor, would be sure to know. I used to love to watch the two of them take apart the television set and fix it. Dad never had to send it to the shop.

Well, my own apartment is full of gadgets whose workings I couldn’t explain if my life depended on it. And I daresay I’m not alone in that respect.

And so, at least for the time being, my nagging Facebook problem has been solved–how, I just don’t know. But if any of you readers did anything to solve it, you have my thanks. It wasn’t a big problem, but it was certainly a nagging one.


Memory Lane: The Lennon Sisters Sing ‘Paper of Pins’

This video, vintage 1956, has the Lennon Sisters, on The Lawrence Welk Show, singing a dear old folk song, A Paper of Pins–one of the first songs I ever heard on a record: one of those little red records they used to have for kids.

Grandma never missed Lawrence Welk, and the Lennon Sisters were her favorite. This video brings back fond memories of staying overnight with Grandma and Grandpa and my aunts, and wondering why they chose to watch this stuff.

Now that I’m as old as my grandparents were then (if not older–but to a little boy, everybody over 40 is downright ancient), and part of my job is to keep track of things like claiming that drinking milk makes you a Nazi, jawohl, I don’t wonder about it anymore. Jump on my bike and pedal down Memory Lane for all I’m worth. Stop in and see the Lennon Sisters. And maybe even sack out on a Castro Convertible–remember those?

Memory Lane: Travels With My Aunts

Image result for images of world map 1960

My mother’s unmarried sisters, Gertie, Millie, and Joan, lived in the same house all their lives, with their mother and father, and worked at the same jobs all their lives. You might think that was boring, but you’d be wrong: it freed them up to do what they really, really wanted to do.

What they did was travel. Not like travel is now, with everybody doing it, jet planes, computers, etc. We’re talking the 1950s and 60s, with propeller-driven airliners and luxury ocean liners. It was glamorous, back then. And very few people did it. But my aunts did it practically every year, usually in the summer, and there wasn’t much of the globe they didn’t cover.

They started out seeing America, places like Yellowstone Park and the Grand Canyon, then Canada and Alaska, back when Alaska was an exotic destination. Before it was a state. By the time they were done, they’d been to Central America, Egypt (where Millie had a bout of claustrophobia inside the Great Pyramid–imagine that!), Norway, Iceland, England, Spain, Italy, East Africa (lunch at The Black Cat Cafe in Uganda: not for the faint-hearted), South America, and Australia (where Gertie declined to hold the koala). They always brought back slides, boxes and boxes full of slides, and souvenirs. And they were much in demand as speakers at their churches. I think the only places that they didn’t go to were places that you weren’t allowed to go to, back then, like Russia or China.

I can’t stress this enough: back then, nobody was traveling like that–nobody but professional travel writers. And these three little maiden ladies from a small town in New Jersey. They could’ve easily hosted a TV show. But they liked their lives the way they were–stable, peaceful, and Christian… and seasoned with a hearty tablespoon of worldwide travel. A lot of us would have called that “adventure.” But for my aunts, it was just the way they liked to live.

Memory Lane: Zebras

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Very young children have some fanciful ideas, and who knows where they come from?

When I was a very young child, a pre-schooler, I wanted to be a zebra when I grew up. How that ever came into my head, I don’t know. I think I was already in kindergarten when I finally realized this was impossible. But I never did outgrow my fondness for zebras. A lot of children are crazy about horses, and a striped horse living wild in Africa–well, how could you beat that?

Many years later, when I was married, and working as a newspaper editor, my Grammy phoned and asked me to come and see her, she had something for me. She wouldn’t tell me what it was, so I had to hustle over there to find out.

It was, of all things, a stuffed zebra. And I am looking at it right now, almost forty years later, as it sits proudly on my coffee table–looking at it and remembering her, and how very much she loved me, and I her. I was her first grandchild, the first of many; and she never forgot how fond I was of zebras.

Love your family while you’ve got ’em, folks! Of all the wonderful and precious gifts God gives you, your grandmas and grandpas are very high on the list.

Memory Lane: The Workbench

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When I was a boy, I never met a man who didn’t have a workbench either in his basement or his garage.

I can see it now, my father’s work area. The big bench strewn with tools, and more tools stored in old dressers on the flanks. Jars full of screws and nuts and nails of all different sizes. Uncle Bernie’s work area was nice and neat, like the one in the picture above, but my father’s was more mystical: more intriguing.

In those days, men were expected to know how to fix things, and even how to build some of the things they needed, rather than buy them. Was this because they were all biggits? But what a world of wonder for us kids! I wouldn’t have dared switch on the power saw. But the vise! Hammers! Screwdrivers! And all those cool doo-dads he used to bring home from the Ford plant. I wound up making a lot of my own toys–a whole Civil War flotilla, back in 1961, ideal for naval engagements on various mud puddles in the neighborhood.

I don’t know if every household still has such a magical alcove as a workbench area, these days. I was never very good with tools, but they were so much a part of everyday life, you just couldn’t help learning how to use them. All you had to do was watch your father, and you’d pick it up.

Need I add that my sister had free access to all this fun, just like her brothers?

All I can say now is, I should’ve spent even more time watching my father and my uncles, my grandparents, my mother and my aunts. I would have learned a lot more!

Memory Lane: Dad’s Paycheck

Image result for images of family, house and car 1959

My daddy worked at the Ford plant for some 25 years, starting a little after I was born. Went to high school, served in the Navy during World War II, got married, settled into a job, and raised a family. In this he was not at all unusual.

It seems incredible now, but throughout the 1950s and 60s, his Ford paycheck was the only source of money for a family of five. But that paycheck was enough to provide the five of us with a house in a quiet, pleasant neighborhood, a nice car every few years, good food on the table every day, a family vacation most years, nice clothes for children who kept growing out of them–in short, with everything we needed, and most of what we wanted. My mother only had to work occasionally, and never for long. Mostly she wisely managed the family’s money.

None of this was unusual. Our whole neighborhood was one-paycheck households, with everybody pretty much at the same middle-class standard of living. The father worked. The mother raised the kids and ran the house. We went to school, and to church, and played. The grownups got together for poker, or to watch TV, and sometimes had a pickup baseball game. Boy, I loved to watch my father hit!

It was all so ordinary, so sane. So wonderful. I’m sitting here writing about it and my eyes are starting to tear up. This was wealth that can’t be measured in money.

This was America.



TV Heroes: ‘Robin Hood’

Wow, this takes me back a good distance down Memory Lane!

The Adventures of Robin Hood ran from 1955-1959, and I tried never to miss an episode. It starred Richard Greene, not well-remembered now, but quite a big star in his day. How big? In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Greene got top billing over Basil Rathbone. That’s big!

How many times have I whistled this theme song since the show went off the air? How many times did my friends and I play Robin Hood?

Of course, kids have been playing Robin Hood for centuries. Before there was TV, my Aunt Joan and her twin sister, Florence, decided to play Robin Hood on a rainy day. In their game, Robin had to rescue Maid Marian, who was locked up in the Sheriff of Nottingham’s jail. They used a bed frame for that. Unfortunately, after Maid Marian poked her head through the metal struts to call for help, she couldn’t pull it back out again. Grandpa had to bring his tools and take the bed apart. I wish I could’ve seen the look on his face when he discovered what his two youngest daughters had gotten up to.

Enjoy the clips, and feel free to play a little Robin Hood yourselves when no one’s looking. Just be careful with the bed.

Memory Lane: ‘Grandfather’s Clock’

This was in old song, from 1876, but it was popular when I was a little boy, and I remember it. It used to move me close to tears, and still does: I guess because I loved my Grandpa.

Some of us have things that are always associated with us, and the sight of one of those things–a cane, a hat, or a grandfather’s clock–always, and vividly, brings to mind the person to whom it belongs.

There were songs like this, back then. I don’t think there are songs like this now.

I’m glad I wasn’t born much later than I was.

The 11 p.m. Phone Call

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Once you reach a certain point in life, the phone can’t ring at 11:00 at night unless it’s bad news.

Our phone rang at 11 last night, and it was bad news: the nursing home calling, Aunt Joan has a fever, they need my consent to take her to the emergency room. Well, yeah, of course! And then you wait for the phone to ring again.

First thing this morning, I called the hospital for an update: sit on hold for a while, and then they can’t tell you anything yet. For some reason my blood pressure begins to climb.

Half an hour later, another phone call: and, praise Our Father, now everything’s all right, the fever’s all gone, they’ll give her antibiotics and keep her a bit just to make sure, and then it all goes back to what passes for normal, these days. Well, I’d rather have her in the nursing home. She’s been there long enough for the staff to develop some commitment to her.

Until the next time the phone rings late at night…

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