Archive | January 22, 2011

Disappearing History

(Originally from July 2007)

I’ve been buried in writing projects lately and organizing my 1930’s research – have most of the pictures put into documents which I am planning to turn into html and send off to my co-author, but lord is that time consuming! I swear it’s taking longer to do that than it did to find the stuff!

Though I found an interesting resource yesterday I’d never even thought of – my paper doll  connections! First of all, what a better place to look for clothing examples than paper dolls? And secondly a lot of the ladies in the paper doll groups are fairly, erm, older and whereas we’re getting to a place in time where most of our world war II vets are now dead, the older ladies are more likely to know things – even if just from stories people told them. I find, disturbingly, that my generation and the ones afterwards really haven’t bothered to listen to a lot of this stuff, so it’s all disappearing.

I did, though, and still do when I get the chance. I suppose it comes from church, as odd as that sounds. We went to a small Episcopalian church that was 90% elderly ladies, so I spent a lot of my youth surrounded by them and listening to them – and often hearing things I didn’t want to. But, I also used to know all the gossip.

Anyway, these old ladies would get to gossiping, and if I was very quiet they’d forget I was even there at all, and when you’re six and there’s nothing else to do but listen you learn to get rather good at it, and to even enjoy some of it (Things like some of the old men’s sexual preferences – never discussed in detail, of course, but hinted at, were more than I needed to know!) and because of that I am really a store house of odd information. I know who had affairs with who and why, who was mad at who and why. I knew all the inter church politics, who was doing and saying what to who, heck, I and my brother even ended up cloistered in the midst of the top secret priest-choosing meetings, including the interviews.  But aside from that, I also listened to all kinds of stories from different parts of people’s lives – which I find intensely interesting. Maybe it’s my penchant for history that makes me enjoy odd antidotes, or maybe that’s what makes me enjoy history. Either way, I’ve listened since early childhood to varieties of stories about people’s lives, little snapshots of people who are now dead and moments that are forgotten. and, though no one cares, I am going to share a few that pop randomly into my head.

When Mable Broeker was a child she and her younger brother built themselves a “car” from an old wagon and they’d take turns riding in it while the other one would pull it. But, they knew a car needed gas and so they got themselves a tin can and punched a hole in the bottom of it with a nail. Then they’d fill it with water and as the water leaked out they considered it gas consumption. When it ran completely out of water they’d both have to walk back from where ever they were to the rain bucket and get more, since the car was out of gas and couldn’t be driven anymore. That was the same summer they had the overabundance of cucumbers. She said there were so many that they had them everywhere and in everything until her mother didn’t know what to do with them and finally gave a bunch of them to the kids to make boats out of.  I’d like to see a cucumber boat; that has to be interesting!

When my grandmother Josephine was a tween she and her sisters all had freckles and hated them, so one day someone told them that on the night of the full moon they should slather their faces in cow dung and sit outside for an hour and the freckles would all disappear. So of course, desperate, the three girls waited patiently for a full moon and all snuck outside and headed to the cows where they smeared the disgusting stuff all over their faces and sat  outside, waiting for their freckles to disappear. Luckily for them, no one ever caught them, but of course the freckles didn’t disappear. The next day my grandmother’s sister confronted the person who’d suggested it to them, and everyone spent the next several days laughing at them for trying it.

When Mrs. Holt was in high school she was ahead of her class and the school was short on teachers, so Junior year she got promoted from student to part time teacher and would spend half of her day teaching classes to her peers and the other half attending classes. When she graduated, naturally, she went on to teaching out in Nebraska, and one year they were in the middle of their lessons in a rural one room school house when one of the kids who was looking out the widow started screaming. She looked out and saw a swarm of snakes, she said she’s never seen anything like it before or since, but it was a huge twisting mass of serpents just barreling straight across the ground. She gathered all the kids up and hauled them outside and heaped them all up on top of a large rock that was out of the path of the snakes.

The snakes finally passed, though it was a full two days before they could get all of the creatures out of the schoolhouse as a good chunk of the “herd” of snakes had gone straight into the building through chinks and then it took them awhile to find their way out. She said they’d pull books off of shelves or move something and there’d be another one of the things.

I’ve never had a problem with snakes, personally, but my Great Grandmother hated them with a passion. She had diabetes and back then the only treatment for it was to eventually put you in an insane asylum. Well, as it was progressing, of course, she eventually went blind. One day she was sitting out on the porch and suddenly pronounced loudly that there was a snake. Everyone looked around and assured her that there wasn’t, but she was determined that there was, she said she could just “feel” it, and she insisted that my grandmother and Wanda and June look more. Finally, sure enough, June found it – it was a big bull snake that was sleeping quite happily under the porch! Of course, they killed the poor thing, but after that whenever Great grandmother said there was a snake they took her seriously, and oddly she was always right.

Speaking of my grandmother’s sister, Wanda, here’s a strange one. Wanda was born, oddly, with a dark, olive complexion. It’s obviously some kind of kick back because my Aunt carol has it too. Anyway, when they went to send Wanda to school they wouldn’t let her in because they accused her of being “half-black” and forced her to take a blood test in order to go to school! How weird is that? Just shows you how stupid people were back then, and how much times have changed.

Here’s another one for how much times have really changed. My dad’s mother was a bit of a “bad girl” when she was young. Her mother had left her and her sister under the care of her father and disappeared, so her father moved them in with his sister, who was a tyrannical old bat. Well, my grandma had a friend who happened to be a boy that she palled around with and one day he showed up with a new bicycle. Of course, my grandma was itching to ride it too, but her Aunt wouldn’t let her (my grandmother’s quote was “girl’s didn’t ride bikes in those days” but I’m sure some girls did) and so she started sneaking around behind her back and learning to ride it anyway until one day when she finally got caught at it. The Aunt let out a bellow and demanded she come in the house that second and then she used a switch on her “backside” and forbid her from ever riding a bicycle again because ladies didn’t do such things. Needless to say she rode it when she wanted anyway, she was just more careful about not getting caught. (Guess who I take after?)

I guess it just fascinates me sometimes how much society’s perceptions have changed on things, you know? Like when the ladies I went to church with were children there was a man who went to church there too and he would always carry candy in his pockets and tell the little girls they could have a piece if they’d reach in and get it themselves. They all laughed about it and made jokes about how much candy they’d probably gotten off of him before they all got old enough to realize what he was up to.

My Grandfather Muthcler’s family were real hillbillies, they never lived in the same place twice. One year they spent under a bridge and another they spent living in a house that was missing part of an upstairs wall so that when they woke up they had to shake the snow off of their blankets.

One summer, when he was sixteen, my grandpa took off up the train tracks looking for work – he’d done this every year since he was 12 – only this year he ended up Minnesota by the end of it, working for a guy who paid him off at the end by giving him a motorcycle that he then rode home and had for a few years. That idea fascinates me – he didn’t register it or have a motorcycle license and yet no one cared. There was no paperwork trail or anything else! Another year he wound up learning to fly crop duster planes in Kansas – again with no license.

I don’t know, people say it was the good old days coz things were better, but they weren’t better. People had the same things to deal with then that they have now, but I think the real difference was the complications on things. But even that’s a double edged sword, depending what view you take. For instance you have unlicensed people on a motorcycle, on one hand this is freedom, isn’t it? Anyone who wants to can ride one – assuming they have one – but on the other hand it means people who might not know what they’re doing can be on it, and isn’t that a risk to our collective safety?

I’m sure anyone who knows me can guess my attitude on it, eh? The way I look at it is we’re not safe anyway, are we? Let’s say we lock up everyone who’s ever committed a crime and when we’re done and no one’s left then I guess we’ll all be safe, protected by the prison guards, politicians and judges.

Hmm, not sure how I wound around myself to that subject, but I’m not in the mood for a tirade, despite my recent reading of the Times, so I’ll end this here. I had no intention of this being long at all. Actually I am supposed to be working on brushes for paint shop pro.

I have to say though, my recent writing rash has been caused by Don McLean – I recently acquired his album Tapestry, and pairing it with the American pie album back to back causes one to want to say long flowery and oddly depressing things. I finally got round today to listening to the “new” one, I mean actually listening to the words, not just having it play, and wow, it’s just as down and social commentating as the other one *big grin*. Quite delighted, really. I am such a sucker for the folky string-driven stuff  😀

And for the segment I like to call Random Things From My Hard Drives” here is…

This is my very first poetry collab for Cheryl’s Pals. The way it works is that poets contribute lines to the “give me one more line” blog, and then use those lines to compose a poem of their own. It’s a lot of fun.


In the darkness of the night
That’s when they come to me
I see your face by the candle’s light
Dancing shadows amuse my fears
Your warm embrace, the taste of your kiss
The pale light erasing the trace of years
The sweet caress of the moonlight mist
you come into my dreams

memories whisper astride a cool wind
ghostly signs of my obsession,
your touch, my sin
from the shadows, your face emerges
your beauty beyond sight
whispers to me in magnolia mists
and fades away with morning light
although you’re not with me
I can feel you by my side
But I couldn’t hold you…
you belong to the night

(I’ve lost who contributed the original lines, sorry 😦 )

Fav Song of the moment – Three Flights Up– Don McLean

%d bloggers like this: