Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grandkid Quiz

Guess who:

1)  LOVES the movie Cars
2)  Has a sword as his favorite toy
3)  Wanted a Hermione costume from Harry Potter outfit for Christmas
4) Spearheaded an illegal effort chop branches off my Mountain Ash tree (now deceased - the tree, not the kid).
5) Has green as a favorite color and blue as a second favorite color.
6)  Aspires to be a nurse because nurses rock babies.
7)  Builds huge towers with magnetos
8) Attended her parent's graduation (two answers to this one).
9)  Birthstone is a pearl.
10) Was born on a holiday (two answers to this one).
11) Made paper airplanes and tried to sell them to the neighborhood instead of operating a lemonade stand.
12)  Replaces dolls with crayons and  dresses the crayons.
13)  Helps her father get ready for work by handing him his razor, contact lense solution, and toothbrush.
14)  Will live in a townhouse.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

They Did It!!!!!

We now have a Mathematician and an Electrical Engineer in the Family.  These new grads will even us out since we had so many Language and Speech grads.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Grandchild of the Depression

I am still coming to grips with the death of my toaster. My sister-in-law gave us the toaster as a wedding present over thirty years ago. Deep inside me, a voice insists that a decent person would need only one toaster in a lifetime. If I had cleaned old bread crumbs out of it daily and taken it in for routine check- ups, the toaster would still be alive and well, burning toast in my kitchen. Trashing that toaster suggests a lack of character and a degree of moral depravity in me that I am loath to face. I am a grandchild of the depression.

While eating strained peas in my highchair, my depression-raised parents imprinted the idea in my little brain that possessions should never wear out if you take proper care of them. An iron, a living room couch, and a crock pot, are lifetime investments. Just like a piece of real estate at the lake, they should never wear out. If they do well…. there is no stronger evidence of low character than an appliance that checks out before I do.

As a grandchild of the depression, I was thirty before I was spendthrift enough to purchase a store-bought dress. It took all my resolve to do it. I was squandering money on a department store dress when I knew I could make a dress that looked half as good for 1/3 the cost . My guilt didn’t quite kill me, but it was a month before I could shake the feeling that I needed to confess this dark deed to my ecclesiastical authority.

When I first married I unwillingly inherited many of my parents’ possessions that fell into their category “too good to be thrown away.” These possessions had burned out electronic tubes of enormous proportions, were full of rust, or had dinosaur scales from the Cretaceous period. I knew if I kept this junk around my home would look like a cross between a landfill and what is left in the wake of a killer tornado. Since I didn’t want hate mail from Goodwill, I couldn’t take the stuff there. And I felt a little an evil corporation that goes to the woods, clear cuts a thousand acres and leaves the timber to rot on the ground if I hauled these mill stones to the dump.

Fortunately, the man of the family utterly tuned out my Depression Era parents’ scruples. No advice about how he had an obligation to fix a swing set my parents bought in 1964 swayed him. He just wanted the pile of rust gone. And he handled the forthcoming inquisition about what he did with the junk with aplomb. A Saturday morning, a pickup truck, and he made short work of any junk my parents couldn’t handle throwing away. No wonder I like this guy.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Dad Stories

A month ago on March 9 was my Dad's birthday. Here are a few stories some stories about him.

Dad worked for a surveyor one summer during the Great Depression. Rest was in short supply. Darkness falls late in the summer anyway, and the surveyor had to stay up until the North Star was visible. He set up his surveying instruments using the North Star.

During this summer, Sunday was the only day off for the surveyor, Dad, and one other man employed by the surveyor. One Sunday the surveyor drove Dad and his fellow employee to a picnic area to spend Sunday. Dad and the other employee made friends with a group of Italians from Butte who were having a picnic. Dad and his cohort were having so much fun they decided to stay when the surveyor left to drive back to their camp for the evening. Night fell and Dad and his fellow employee had to walk all night long to get back to the camp. They arrived the next morning just in time to start work.

When Dad was in High School he and his brother Gene were regulars at the “Broadwater Plunge,” a swimming pool created after the prestigious Broadwater Hot Springs went defunct. Since they didn’t have any money, they worked as life guards and cleaned the pool area for swimming privileges. I remember my Aunt Win, Dad’s older sister, heatedly recalling how Dad and Gene would leave her home with dishes to wash while they slipped off to swim.

I remember that Dad did not like Irishmen much. He wasn’t one to speak ill of anyone, so I was startled when he told me Irishmen were a bunch of drunks. At work, Dad had a man named Flanagan he supervised during one period of time. From phone calls I overhead at home, I gathered Flanagan was a complete idiot. During Flanagan’s employment Dad received phone calls at home often because Flanagan was always dropping off or picking up mail in the wrong place. It was the only time I ever remember Dad getting work calls at home. Perhaps Flanagan led to Dad’s disdain for the Irish.

Maybe Dad didn’t suffer fools gladly because he was a very smart man. His army IQ test was 130 or more. He read constantly and loved buying books on birds and animals. When he stayed with us during his illness, he loved reading an archeology magazine I bought for the kids' band fund raiser. He LOVED reading books by Louis L’Amour. I can’t think of any topic he didn’t know something about. He loved the outdoors and went hunting and fishing often, usually near York where he grew up.

I am glad I asked him about our family history because Dad was not normally very talkative. If I hadn’t asked, he never would have told me.

Uncles Les, Dad, Uncle Gene at my grandparents' house

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Smoke and Basketball in the Butte Civic Center

March madness basketball coupled with a trip to Butte for dinner with friends resurrected some memories about the Western Divisional Basketball Tournament when I was in high school. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Western Division tournament was always in the Butte Civic Center. The Butte Civic Center was only place the boys played basketball where smoking was permitted. It was a smoking free for all. Smoking was allowed any time and any place in the civic center. It seemed like every adult in the place was a six pack a day smoker. Since it was a divisional basketball tournament, the building was packed. We would watch boys dribbling, shooting, and running through a blue-gray haze of cigarette smoke. One team had oxygen for its players. I remember seeing a couple of the team’s players pulled out of the game for an 15 minute oxygen break. Even as a high school student, I was appalled that adults in charge were OK with this situation.

During that same time period, my Mom and Dad decided to take in a divisional basketball tournament game in Butte. They brought my little sister who was not yet in high school. Mom, a nurse who worked with people dying of emphysema, was horrified to see the basketball players physically exerting themselves in the thick cigarette smoke of the Butte Civic Center.

To understand why this story is memorable, you need to understand my parent’s personalities. Mom was a pistol. She was a champion of good health, especially when it came to the drinking and smoking. She did not tolerate abject stupidity. Mom didn’t respect authority just because it was authority. When authority sanctioned stupidity, compromised safety, or endorsed what was harmful, she had no compunction about raising Hell.

Dad was another story. Dad was 6’2 with a solid build. He had big, thick hands and feet, a barrel chest, and a placid disposition. He had more tolerance for people’s foibles and if he thought someone was an idiot, he merely ignored them and avoided them. I rarely remember him saying anything unkind about anyone. I never knew him to start an argument or provoke a scene of any kind.  He was a humble, church-going man.

So these two diverse personalities and my sister, Colleen, sat watching a basketball game through smoke-filled haze of the Butte Civic Center. A couple of spectators seated themselves in front of my family and proceeded to light up. This misguided couple picked the wrong seat to enjoy a quiet smoke during the basketball game. My Mom asked the couple how they thought those kids playing basketball court were supposed to breathe in a building reeking with cigarette smoke. The couple flung down the gauntlet. Their position was that smoking was permitted, they were going to smoke, and there wasn’t a thing my Mom could do about it. Never one to meekly accept defeat, Mom, accompanied by Colleen, stood up and grabbed their winter coats.  They created the civic center's newest ventilation system, using the coats as large and visible fans to blow the smoke away from them. Every smoker in the entire Civic Center must have had a view of the proceedings. The man of the smoking couple turned around and threatened my Mom. Where upon my quiet, peaceable father raised his huge, anvil-like fist and let it be understood that if the smoking spectators disturbed my Mom in any way, Dad would settle the matter in the traditional Butte manner.

Evidently, the couple thought better of pressing the issue. Aunt Colleen would have further details about the couple’s subsequent actions since she was there. Not long after, smoking in the Butte Civic Center was prohibited.