Saturday, July 31, 2010

It Was a Challenging Time

Nothing in my memory compares with life during the early 1940's during World War Two. We think we have a handle on war now - and how it was during the Vietnam conflict but the fact is, neither of those conflicts compared in intensity AT HOME with WWII.

Point taken: We lived with rationing - shoes - meat - butter - tires - and lot's more. Most people had an allowance of 3 gallons of gasoline a week. Tires were scarce as hen's teeth. We'd put patches on patches - use retreads until there was nothing for a retread to hold on to. And as children we would buy 10 or twenty-five cent savings stamps that eventually could be converted for savings bonds. In 1947 and '48 I was working at General Electric earning $18.75 a week and the reason I remember that is $18.75 was the price of a savings bond I bought each month by withholding enough pay each week to get a bond at the end of the month. It was a time where everyone was sensitive and reactive to the needs of the time.

Then there were the scrap drives - iron - aluminum (even tinfoil from chewing gun wrappers) -remains of cooking oil - silk stockings from the ladies --- and paper. That's what the picture above is all about. Apparently a school worth of children built up a huge collection of scrap paper for the war effort.

Which reminds me of a paper drive in our school in the fall of 1944. A few of us had cars - a few had access to parents cars - or farm trucks. We made a covenant to exceed every other classes contributions and we did it. As I recall, we brought in 7 tons of paper in one week
and dumped it all on the school gymnasium floor. What a mess - and even worse, The school had to postpone basketball games for a couple of weeks until the gym floor could be cleared.One neds to be aware that we lived in a small town in the country which meant we had to cover a lot of ground.)I think our class record still stands. My father wondered for quite some time why the ceiling lining in our car got torn, and one of the rear springs got broken. We were serious about supporting our country in a time of dire need.

I wonder if we could approach national security today as we did back in WWII. I think the whole idea of patriotism and national pride has changed. Radically. And continues to change.
Will we ever recover our pride in America and our spiritual faith? I hope so - and I wish it could be in my lifetime - but for me, life grows short.

Personally, I am thankful for our American heritage. Are you?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Additions to the Family

Back in the 70's we had a huge house which looked like something right out of the Adams Family TV show. With two of us adults and five children, we still rumbled around in the huge house. So what does one do? Open the family up to an exchange student. Well, actually, several exchange students each one from a different country. Not all at the same time, mind you, but there was a time when we had a few at the same time.

Our first student came for almost a year from Finland. He was a very interesting individual - very reserved but he fit in well. He spent much of his time with other students from other countries - Germany and Yugoslavia as I recall. It was more challenging for our boys. When his visit ended and he went back to Finland he let us know that he wished he had not spent so much time with Europeans and had spent more time experiencing our culture. But it was a good year and we have tried to keep in touch with him. It's thirty years now and the last we heard he was involved with the national office of communications in Finland. He sent us a picture of him, his son, and his boat and he looked well and happy.

Not long after he went home we got a boy from Mexico (he had grown up in Cuba but his family moved to Mexico). He was temporary - a lot of fun - and went to another family in our town. In the meantime we got a boy from Ecuador and he was a sketch. Never a bad word - but a lot of mischief. He would slip bottles of wine onto our shopping cart and when Joyce would tell him to put them back on the shelf he would cuddle up to her and say (with a sly grin), "but Mom......." And he'd put the wine back and bring back several bottles of hot sauce like Tabasco. He was irrepressable and full of fun. We've lost touch with him be we watch television news to see if his name might come up in some unlikely event in Ecuador.

Then there was the boy from Belgium who was dropped off at out front door one day. (the family he was assigned to said he was unsociable) He was anything but - he fit into the family circle perfectly - he and Amy played violin together. It was very hard to see Leonardo and Paul go home - they were a delight and became a close part of our family. By the way, Leonardo volunteered our home to a boy from Iran and that did not work out well at all. The picture above is of Paul a year ago. He has come to see us a couple of times over the years and today he is a doctor serving in Afghanistan. He;s been there off and on for many years and in some other countries as well. A number of years ago we visited his family in Antwerp, Belgium and they were a delight.

Our last student (they stayed for a year) was from Japan. She was a lot of fun as well. She played the piano along with Amy and fit in very well. One time she gave us Japanese clothes and we created quite a scene when we went into a nearby restaurant dressed in our outfits. Again, it was very hard to see her go home.

IN short, these were some of the really rich moments in our lives. We learned about other cultures - and they experienced a reasonably normal American family for a year.
We can truthfully say, 'thanks for the memories.'

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hot Hot Hot

This month brings back a lot of memories from last July when we made our humonguss trip to the west coast and back. Last year it seemed cold the entire three weeks (except in the southwest desert areas). This year, in Oscoda, it has been much more normal -- hot amd humid. Cloudy and muggy. So I went back to the trip last year and found a photo from Snoqualmie, Washington -- a picture that shows winter in July. Or at least reminds us that there WILL be a winter again.

Our area of Michigan is sometimes a little strange weatherwise. We miss a lot of the really bad weather. The bad stuff is mostly to the south of us, a swath from Kalamazoo, Battle Creek to Flint and Saginaw and across the Thumb. Makes no difference the season - the worst stuff almost always goes that route and seems almost consistently bad across the Thumb. Maybe it's because the Thumb has Saginaw Bay to the West and Lake Huron to the North and East.

Anyway, it's been a challenging summer and it will be nice to see the weather cool down as we approach autumn. At least the photo is reminder of cooler weather. And yes, we WILL watch out for the yellow snow.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Good Old Days

It's July and for a lot of people in this area, it's head north fromb Detroit, or Flint or Saginaw to the cabin "up north". Back in the 1930's we did the same thing = we were eager to get out of the heat and humidity of New York City suburbs and so we headed for "Stone House". Well, actually the village name (and I'm not sure it was big enough to be called a village) was West Pauling in Dutchess County of New York. The picture above is of our house. In the lower right hand corner you can clearly see my brother and I am almost out of sight in the bright area. I think I was four or so at the time.

There was no electricity - no TV - no radio - no refrigerator - though there was an old-fashioned ice box that used real honest to goodness ice from an an old fashioned
ice house down the road a piece. We used the rain barrel for water to wash with - and had a hand pump for drinking water. No bathrooms - an outhouse in the woods
which were scary for a little kid. (You know, 'lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my")
Each of the bedrooms had a pitcher of water (from the rain barrel) and a washbowl.
After use, the water was tossed over the second story railing. Under the washstand in each bedroom was a chamber pot which saved a trip out back into the woods at night. (No, the chamber pot was not dumped over the porch railing - the residue in the pot was discretely and carefully disposed of in the proper place the next day.) Oh, I forgot to mention that the outhouse was the home of bees, wasps, and hornets
just to make things a bit more interesting. And yes, as the story goes, we had a few Sears ROEBUCK and Company catalogs in the outhouse. Not just for reading, of course.

Our kitchen was extremely primitive - just the bare essentials - and cooking was on a huge cast iron wood-burning stove. It was a wonderful way to spend a summer - even if my father severely cut my leg with a scythe and I ended up with a scar I bear to this day. By the way, I think the picture may have been taken around 1935. Anyesy, time and lifestyle's have changed a lot since then. Believe it or not, the old house was refurbished and upgraded - in the seventies we drove by it and the house was beautiful. The man of the house actually was out in the yard using a power mower on the yard. And the house even had a TV antenna on the roof.

For some reason, I like the old house better the way it used to be. Yep, it was a primitive way of life - but it was simple and happy - and it makes for a great memory. And I guess that we were really fortunate in those terrible depression years to have a place like it with all the pain and suffering that many others endured during those years.