Archive for October 2007

Phyllis and Gary Simms – Pa Kept Christmas Simple

October 29, 2007

With the last minute thought, Pa holler’d over toward me:

“Ol’ Woman, I think it’s time we head up to your trees!

But, we’ll keep it real simple: we’ll go as we are;

You do the packin’ while I go warm up that ol’ car.”

Well, I throw’d in some duds; some grub we could eat;

Grabb’d up some readin material for a happy retreat.

Ol’ Betsy was faithful; she purr’d the whole way;

Soon, we both were lodging for two wonderful days.

The first diner we plann’d would be a humdinger treat;

We’d drive up to Kelly’s ‘n’ eat us some barbecued meat.

The trip appear’d easy; the traffic was light;

Then, like a flash, snow fill’d us with fright.

It was there on that spot we turn’d our jalopy around;

The raindrops seem’d more invitin’ in ol’Sonora Town.

We found Wilma’s Cafe open ‘n’ warmly beckonin’ us in;

The scene on her wall told us we’d enter’d pig heaven.

The whole wall was paint’d with pigs flyin’ round;

‘N’ on all the rest, miniature pigs could be found.

We stuff’d our craws full of chicken and trimmin’s;

Then polish’d it off with an ice cream dish brimmiin’.

The next day we stroll’d down Columbia’s streets;

A chicken house there sent loud “crowing” entreats,

Now, as youcan see from our picture this year;

Ol’ Pa made it simple in the choice of his gear.


Phyllis Simms – Take Time

October 29, 2007

Take time to praise the Lord

For all He’s given you.

Take time to spread some love

To make  a dream come true.

Take time to help someone in need

Who needs some special care.

Take time to enjoy the unsung deed

When your receiver becomes aware.

Take time to return a great big smile

Or start one at the very first.

Take time to walk that extra mile

To quench another’s thirst.

Take time to shed some tears

When other hearts are breaking.

Take time to push away their fears

For better days still waiting.

Take time to praise the Lord

You’re better off than most.

Take time to share that praise

In deed, by mouth or post.

Cheryl Hagopian – Curly Mopped Mel

October 29, 2007

When I was four my world was magnificent.  My feet didn’t yet hang over the front of the couch, Peter Pan was famous, and I still believed I could fly if I had the right cape and I tried hard enough.  I was Zorro, Mighty Mouse and ate plenty of mushy spinach so I could be like Popeye and especially, I would never allow myself to be sent to Camp Granada.

Being four was great.  Except for one thing, I had to take a nap after lunch every day.  I think the same person who said we had to wait a half an hour after eating before going swimming was somehow involved with the nap conspiracy.

I decided if Peter Pam could stay young forever, I was going to be four forever.  I still hadn’t mastered that flying thing, maybe I needed Pixie Dust. 

Life was great.  Then it happened, she came along.  I’m not sure how it happened or why it happened, but it happened, I had a little sister.  They named her Melanie.  My four-year-old paradise had been disrupted, not destroyed.

She cried all the time.  If I did that my parents would get mad, but she allowed to get away with it.  Everybody came over and said how cute she was.  Couldn’t they see she looked like a prune with wisps of curly hair.  They “oohed and aahhed” like she was a fireworks display.

Like  Peter Pan I swore I would never grow up, but then I had a birthday and I was told I was five instead of four.  I felt the same.  I  understand how my goal in life could change from one day to the , but it did.  I had a big party with lots of presents, so being five didn’t seem so bad, but somewhere inside me, presents and all, I still wished I was four.

When I was five, life was almost as magnificent as when I was four.  I still hadn’t mastered flying and my goal in life was shattered.  I just didn’t understand why Peter Pan’s life wasn’t so great. 

When I was five, I watched my prune faced sister turn into a little person.  When she started crawling and when my mom wasn’t in the room, I would put my cape on her to see if she could fly.  She just got all tangled up in it, then I’d start laughing and then my mom would come in and get mad at me.  She told me never to put anything around Melanie’s neck, and that she could choke.  I told my mom I was just checking to see if Melanie could fly.  The look on mother’s face was indescribable, like I instantaneously grew a third eye.

When people came over, everybody would say that Melanie had such pretty curly hair.  When the company was gone, my mom would say, “Oh Melanie you have such pretty curly hair.” When my mom would leave the room, I’d say, “Mel, you have ugly hair.” I never really paid much attention to hair, so one day I looked in the mirror and I saw that I had beautiful shining straight hair.  I loved it.  What’s so great about curly hair anyways.

When I was five my new goal in life was to go on the TV show “The Price is Right” and win a bunch of neat prizes, my mom could keep the furniture.  So whenever we went out, I would continually ask my mom how much everything costs.  She grew tired of it and would tell me to quit being so nosey.  Yeah!  She wouldn’t be so mad with a new living room set.  Of course, I would be the first kid to actually get on “The Price is Right.”

As the days drew on, my sister Mel got bigger, and the bigger she got, the more curly hair grew on top of her head.  My mom was continually telling Mel how pretty her curly hair was, and when my Mom left the room I would tell my sister she had ugly hair. I decided I absolutely love my straight  shiny hair .  It felt smooth and silky.

Life was great.  I had another birthday, dream shattered.  Having a little sister wasn’t so bad, it was fun to torture her, but as she got older she learned to talk and she became a curly haired tattle-tale (by the time I was seven.) I still tried to fly, and still dreamed of being the first kid on “The Price is Right”, continually nagging my mother on how much everything we saw or owned cost.

Company would come over and tell my mom how cute “Curly Hair Mel” was.  When they would leave, I would tell Mel that she had ugly hair.  She would cry, I would laugh, she would tattle, and I would get into trouble.  I loved to make my sister cry, and I continually got into trouble, but it was worth it.

One day the family took a trip to Disneyland.  It was so exciting for my sister Mel and me.  We never forgot that day.

When we got back to town, I discovered a new game to play on my sister.  I called it “OOH, THERE’S DISNEYLAND!” So when my sister, my mom, and I would drive in town, I would yell “OOH, THERE’S DISNEYLAND,” and my curly haired sister would pop her head up, eyes bulging thinking that Disneyland was out our window.  Too bad it was 200 miles away.  I would roll over laughing.  Five minutes later I’d yell, “OOH, THERE’S DISNEYLAND,” sister would pop her curly haired  head up, eyes bulging, I’d roar out laughing, and my mom would tell me to stop.  That game never got old, she fell for it every time.

One day I was really desperate to fly, so I decided to build myself a helicopter.  Where does one start, with the seat.  I got the wood, nailed the seat together, sat on it and it broke.  It’s just that I didn’t want my curly haired sister to accomplish flying before me.

Company  would come over, tell my mom how cute Mel and her curly hair was, and when they would leave, I’d tell Mel her hair was ugly, she’d tell my mom, I’d get in trouble.  It was a continuum, like my getting older, not flying and not getting on “The Price is Right.”

Then one day it happened.  My mom packed us in the car.  I play “OOH, THERE’S DISNEYLAND,” (you think my sister would have learned.)  My mom took us to a friend’s house where they sat me in ta chair and put stinky stuff in my hair.  When it was all over, I had curly hair too.

The smell of the day stayed with me forever.  So did the curly hair.  My hair never went back to being straight, even to this day.  Melanie finally out grew “OOH, THERE’S DISNEYLAND,” but it didn’t matter.

When I was eight, my mom brought home a new sister.  I never made fun of her curly hair, never learned to fly with a cape, never went on A”The Price is Right”, but ‘OOH, THERE’S DISNEYLAND” lives on.

Olivia Scholz – Pizza Party

October 29, 2007

My Grandpa spoiled me. When I was 13 years old I wanted to have a “boy-girl” pizza dance party, but there was one big problem. We didn’t have a place in our house to hold such an event. Most houses in Duluth had a living room and dining room, but nothing that even resembled a family or rec room.

If you were lucky enough to own a TV set it was usually in the living room and that’s where your parents would be. My best friend, and I came up with the grand idea of using Grandpa’s basement as he lived next door. He had a full basement under his house, but ours was only a partial basement that had originally been used for coal storage for winter heating. After first obtaining permission from Mom & Dad to have the party in the first place (that included having to “invite my 10-year old brother, Jim) I had to convince Grandpa that this would be a good thing for him. What he would get out of the deal was a cleaned up basement. After a little persuading I talked him into it.

His basement was under the entire house, but it was NOT what you would call a finished basement. There was no sheetrock on the walls and it was pretty dark with only a few overhead bare light bulbs. It was separated into a couple rooms. When you first came down the stairs there was a root cellar where canned goods from the garden were stored along with potatoes, rutabagas, turnips and other root vegetables.

The basement then opened up to a laundry room that held the wringer washer, and a metal laundry sink. I remember Grandpa shaving Fels Naptha soap with his paring knife into the washing machine. I enjoyed helping pull the clothes through the wringer being careful not to get my fingers caught. First the clothes were washed and put through the wringer (they were actually two rollers that squeezed the water out of the clothes). Then refilling the washer for a rinse and putting the clothes through the wringer again repeated the whole process. The wringers would be like today’s spin-cycle in an automatic washer.

However, I have gotten off the subject of my pizza party. After the laundry room there was a fairly large open area that was mainly used for storage and that was our target. First we had to either remove items or somehow camouflage them with tarps or sheets. We swept and cleaned for a week. We put lampshades on the bare bulbs for atmosphere, found empty wooden crates at the grocery store for tables, dragged chairs down the stairs, and Mom contributed red & white checked tablecloths. By the time we were finished it looked like an Italian bistro, sort of. We hauled in our little record player so we could play dance music like “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly. That was a very big hit. We made invitations and delivered them to our guests, decorated, then waited for the “big night”.

I have to explain the pizza. That would be baked at our house next door so Grandpa would not have to be involved with that work. He could enjoy his evening while we were partying downstairs. The year was 1958 and pizza was just beginning to gain a foothold in the American conscience. In Duluth we did not have pizza parlors or pizzerias as we now think of them. What we did have was “pizza in a box” by Appian Way. Not frozen pizza in a box, but a box that contained a dry mix that you made into dough for your crust by adding water. It also contained a can of pizza sauce (tomato sauce with maybe some oregano thrown in) and a small can of grated Parmesan cheese. If you wanted salami or some other ingredient on your pizza you had to add it. We couldn’t afford that since Sissy and I were paying for the pizza so we just had cheese. My Mom agreed to make the pizzas, bake them, and then we would bring them over to Grandpa’s basement.

It was a big success. We had fun dancing to the music, eating “awful” pizza, and enjoying being with our friends. The next day wasn’t so much fun because we had to undo all of our hard work and put Grandpa’s basement back in order. The anticipation was gone so now it was just “work”. It was a valuable experience in my life and my first attempt at entertaining. I’ve enjoyed many more years of giving dinner, birthday, and anniversary parties. As usual Grandpa was there for me allowing me to grow.

Grover Beach Life Story Class

October 26, 2007


Students Gather Around as Phyllis Sims, age 80, reads from her life story on Oct. 24, 2007, at the Grover Beach Community Center, San Luis Obispo County, California.  From left to right the students include Olivia Scholz, Jessie Stone, Cheryl Hagopian, Gary Simms, age 81,  Mary LeBlanc, Instructor Myla Collier, Sara Medzyk, Arnie Dowdy, Phyllis Simms,age 80, Susie Tacbas, and Chester Johnson, age 84.  Pictured is the Grover Beach class.  Classes are ongoing in several other locations as well. Student Kristi Gott took the photo.


Voices from the Past, Gifts for the Future

by Kristi Gott

Anthropologist and Instructor Myla Collier, Cuesta Community College Adult Emeritus, San Luis Obispo, California, teaches a Life Story Writing Class with the motto, “Voices from the Past, Gifts from the Future.”  Each week students enjoy sharing several pages from their pasts of adventure, drama, the sad times, the happy times and the funny events. 

The life stories represent a priceless treasure because these tales include details of a world that has disappeared forever.

Seniors are traditionally the storytellers in society who preserve the family history and pass down experiences and wisdom to the next generation. 

By writing a chronological narrative, starting with birth, the students create a timeline of their lives.  Myla provides Memory Joggers to help bring back experiences that took place 50, 70 or more years ago.  Students bring photos and family memorabilia to the class and these, too, help people to retrieve memories.

At my class in Grover Beach we have become almost like a family ourselves, as we share stories of growing up and the historical events we have experienced.  Phyllis Sims, 80, and husband Gary Sims, 81, are prolific life story writers and genealogists who keep the class entranced each week when they read their stories.   Life story writer Chester Johnson, 84, is a naturally skillful and talented storyteller, and his stories of growing up in Louisianna have many interesting facts about a time and place from the past.

People often say, “I wouldn’t know where to start” when thinking of writing a life story.  Linking the life experiences to the details of historical events, and proceeding chonologically, makes organizing the huge amount of data easier.  The Memory Joggers, which include questions such as “How did you feel about your first day of school?” make retrieving the memories easier.

A Seniors’ Life Story Writing Class provides an excellent opportunity for seniors to continue education, learn new skills, acquire a new hobby, and meet friends while preserving the family history in writing.  People agrees it’s good mental exercise, too. 

Everyone always has a wonderful time, new friends are made, and at the end of class the students leave smiling and laughing, until the next week rolls around.  Then the life story sagas continue, and students can find out “what happened next.”

Gary Simms – The Dollar Watch

October 25, 2007

“Come on boys, let’s go out and hoe the beans,” our dad called to us three boys.  We had never hoed beans before.  So my two older brothers and I, dressed only in a pair of overalls, a shirt and a straw hat, followed dad with our hoes to the bean field on our small eight acre farm a mile and a half southeast of Ceres, California.  There he showed us that we not only had to hoe the weeds, but also had to chop out enough bean plants to space the remaining plants about ten inches to a foot apart.  We each took a row of beans and started hoeing. 

In the early morning, cool, damp summer air, we could smell the dew on the bean plants and on the  trees on our irrigation ditch bank behind us.  There was no way we could keep up with dad, as he was really moving with his hoe, but not for long.  He stopped suddenly, got a thoughtful look on his face and said, “I just remembered that I have to call Mr. Cooper about a wiring job.”

He left the three of us and took off for the house.  We had been through that justification before.  He may have made a phone call, but if we were to check on him, which we had sneaked and done in the past, we would find him sitting at the kitchen table eating a dish of his home made ice cream, while the three of us boys were out in the bean field slowly hoeing.

As the sun rose higher and the day got hotter, we kept a close watch to the location of our shadow.  None of us had a watch, so we had to depend on the sun to let us know when to quit and go to lunch.  I stopped and stood my hoe handle as vertical as I could, and then we all looked at the shadow, and discussed whether it was noon or not.  As the time got closer to noon, one of us would stop and shadow his hoe handle every so often. 

Actually we got pretty good at telling time with our hoe handle.  Now you probably think this story is about hoeing beans, but it isn’t.  It’s about telling time.

As a kid, I always dreamed of having a watch of my very own.  I did  have a broken alarm clock, that I would take apart and put back together again.  I liked to watch the gears turn.  Even though the clock didn’t run, it was one of my favorite toys. 

We had a neighbor that was a watch repairman.  He also had a cow and a few other farm animals.  One day his cow got out, and I saw the situation and herded his cow back into it’s pen.  The man found out what I had done, and promised me a watch. 

I hadn’t expected him to give me anything for getting his cow in, but that sure sounded good to me. It wasn’t long until I realized that the man wasn’t going to give me a watch.  Him saying that he was going to give me a watch, was just his way of saying, “thanks” and that was the end of it.

Then one day someone had a dollar watch that had quit running and he asked me if I wanted it.  Boy, was I happy.  I took the watch apart, cleaned, oiled and reassembled it.  To my surprise it ran and kept good time.  I now proudly had a pocket watch of my very own.  I carried that dollar watch in my pocket all through High School.

Then when I joined the army during WWII, I still carried that watch.  Our outfit ended up on Oahu, Hawaii.  One day near the end of the war, we were driven to the beach on the north side of the island to go swimming.  While we were enjoying a swim in the warm ocean water, someone went through the building where our clothes were, and took all the watches.  They even took my Dollar Watch.  I know that watch wasn’t worth very much, but I sure hated to lose it.

Since Uncle Sam was paying me $54 a month, plus providing my room and board, to sleep on an army cot with a mosquito net over it, in a five man tent, and eat army grub, I now had money and could afford to buy a watch to replace the old dollar watch.  I bought a very attractive gold colored wrist watch.  It didn’t keep time as well as the old dollar watch and didn’t last as long or tick as loud either. 

I now have a cheap digital watch that is very quiet and far more accurate, as it only gains about a minute in six months.  And you know, I kind of miss the gears and the ticking of the old watches.

Tom Friedman – Thoughts on Death and Immortality

October 23, 2007

May 10, 2002

I clearly recall my first thoughts on death. I was about five years old
and was sleeping, when I had a terrible nightmare about dying and sinking into a black morass. I woke up terribly frightened, crying. My Mother comforted me. I could not accept the thought of non existence.

Later, as life progressed death became part of the process. The phone calls or, initially, the yellow Western Union telegrams delivered to the door: Aunt Millie has died, cousin Walter is dead, Uncle Irwin is gone – steadily over the years the generations before me have all vanished from this earth. My wife recently received back from Copenhagen a letter she had sent to a lifelong friend there. The cryptic statement in Danish, written by the postman was a “No longer exists.” An apt way of putting it.

And, also during the war the constant disappearance of my Army Air Force buddies, (and in 1942 from the Royal Air Force nightfighter squadron I was attached to for a while). Young men vanished forever, just the vacant beds in the barracks that night, and the empty seats in the mess hall. And the accidents I saw: The fiery crash on takeoff, the fellows could not get the door open, burnt to death right there on the runway. Another time the airman who walked into the propellor as the engines were warming up on the tarmac.

And the takeoff on our first bombing raid from India, against the railroad yards at Bangkok. As we made the turn after takeoff I looked back and saw the plane taking off just after us crash and explode just off the end of the runway. That was on June 6, 1944, as D-day was just beginning in France. Memories.

And a poignant memory of death and love which often comes to mind: One fine summer day, about fifteen years ago, my wife and I were waiting to take the ferry from a small town on the northern coast of the island of Zealand, near Copenhagen. While waiting for the ferry to arrive, we visited a cemetery, beautifully kept, in a quiet churchyard near the ferry terminal. There we found an exquisite memorial, erected to the memory of three British airmen, in their late teens and early twenties, whose plane had crashed nearby during the war, while on a bombing mission against a German target in occupied Denmark. The local inhabitants had recovered the bodies, buried them and erected this beautiful monument to these young foreign men who were fighting the Germans in their behalf. Tears still come to my eyes when I think of the love these Danes showed.

Now, I am definitely a member of the next generation scheduled to depart. No ambiguities here. For so many of my peers whom I have known from work and play, there is a constant stream of obituaries and the brief notices in the company newsletter which I still receive after retirement. Statistically at
age 86 I am not in good position to stick around that much longer. What are my thoughts?

I am not sure of any hereafter, but surely am in no position to rigorously disprove the existence or nonexistence of some state of consciousness after death. Regardless, it is time to set fear aside. As Hamlet famously soliloquized in his walk on the ramparts of Elsinore, “to be or not to be ” and about that distant land of death “from whose bourn no traveler returns”. This is a journey each and every one of us is scheduled to take, we will have company, we are not alone. Years ago, Time magazine started its obituaries with the words;”As it must to all men…” And thus it will be.

So, I accept my mortality and appreciate the good life I have been privileged to enjoy in this most interesting time in history, a period of enormous technological and sociological change, generally for the good, but not all. I am particularly dismayed that science has made it possible for mankind to swiftly and efficiently kill large numbers of people at vast distances, certainly an obscene miscarriage of scientific inquiry and principles. I hope that this endeavor will be abandoned, the sooner the better.

And I leave this brave new world to my grandchildren, whose constructs are so different from mine, I cannot begin to fathom their true thoughts and desires; their inputs are often completely external to their parentscontrol. Already, considering some of the middle aged generations actions we are finding a breakdown in traditional ethics and principles. ( I refer to the current accounting scandals). Of course, every generation has believed that the succeeding generation is going to the dogs, however so far we have survived. I will leave to future generations the confirmation of Nietzsche’s pessimistic viewpoint that western civilization is doomed and of Arnold Toynbe’s historical work, showing that all civilizations rise, flourish and then decline and fall.