Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bicycle update

Jan tells me bicycle story corrections are required.  Her brothers taught her to ride in circles on the blacktop.  She crashed into the garage twice and then got it.  Her narrow squeak between the grape vines and the uprights was result of being six and only learning mechanics.  She came down Gardendale behind her brother on his ten speed.  Mel idly amused himself pedaling backwards, which didn’t affect his bicycle.  She thought he was pedaling forward, and not to be outdone, redoubled her effort.  Down the hill.    She was totally out of control at the bottom and grateful for the relatively soft landing.

Mel wasn’t so fortunate when he crashed.  Excess speed was not a factor.   He came down the hill under reasonable control.  At the bottom his wheel broke, the bike went forward, the forks embedded in the ground and he went over the handlebars.  Chico’s mother, a nurse, saw the accident from her kitchen window and called for the ambulance before she went outside.  He spent at least one night in the hospital, being assessed and treated for a concussion.  As serious as the time he got a buttocks full of shrapnel.  Always up for adventures, Mel was.


CUV’s—childhood utility vehicles.  We rode them far and wide.  Places we should be, places we shouldn’t.  I was eight when the mystery of the box behind the chair in the basement was revealed on my birthday. My mom told me she got her first bike at age 18; she was employed and bought it herself.  I have no idea where she rode it.  We rode ours everywhere. 

I don’t remember the actual presentation of my Schwinn.  My ever practical parents may have sent me to the garage to discover it.  That’s where we kept them; dad built a bike rack.  In the summer the almost nightly question, “Did you put your bike away?” could result in “Um, no, I’ll go do it,” and a hasty trip up the street to retrieve the bike from behind some garage.

I totally recall learning to ride my bike.  It probably was the very day.  It was cold, I had on a sweater.  Mom and I set out from our front drive; Moraine was level, as opposed to Gardendale going up hill.  Our residential street was not paved by the city during my tenure.  There was some squabble with the city as to the streets’ status.  Akron claimed it was a private road and they didn’t even plow it.  Consequently the potholes deterred any attempt at speed by an automobile and kids on bikes ruled the road.  After they learned how to navigate the holes and ruts.

Mom held the rear end of the bike in the time honored fashion and I wobbled past my house, past the neighbor’s house, past the vacant lot.   I wobbled right and turned into the drive of our next neighbor.  The drive went uphill, I pedaled hard.  I wobbled right again and was on the path through the vacant lot.  The bike picked up speed, I was not in control.  The wind was in my face, my head buzzed, my vision blurred.  I heard Mom saying “You’re doing fine,” and saw her down on the road.  I realized she had let go long ago.  I realized I was a bike rider!

In retrospect, although we rode our bikes everywhere, we never rode them to school.  I don’t know if we suggested and were denied, or if riding to school was just not done.  There was a bike rack at our elementary school, but it only held bikes after school and during the summer, when we went to play on the equipment.  I also remember we were older than grade school when we did that.  It was half a mile to our grade school, a mile to the high school and 1.999 miles to junior high.  The statute specified a two mile distance to require a bus; there were no school buses in Akron when I was a kid.  Bicycles on those busy streets would have been deadly.  We jaywalked Tallmadge Avenue as it was, to avoid a block to the light and a block back to the school.

The grade on Gardendale was serious.  In the winter cars that came out of drives part way up the hill generally went down first, turned around on our blacktop and got a running start.  A serious hill that requiring serious attention.  I was a cautious kid; I used brakes on that hill.  My brother Mel pre learned his motor cycle skills on that hill, even knocking himself unconscious in one misjudgment of gravel, turning radius and speed.  My poor little sister was sent up the hill at six or seven years of age by two big brothers who failed to give adequate advice.  She came flying down, made the turn onto the blacktop, went straight through the grape arbor and crashed in the garden.  Walt was heartsick.  Mel probably thought it was good training.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reaching way back

I spent almost twenty five years in corporate America.  When I left I was the controller of a subsidiary of a division of a very large corporation.  My company was chewed up and spit out by the very large corporation.  In classic “what goes around comes around,” that very large corporation was chewed up and spit out by an international conglomerate.  The brand remains, the corporate identity doesn’t. I rather enjoyed the very public annihilation of the corporation spit out by the conglomerate.  Sadly, the original little company was the leading edge of the takeover game and not even a footnote in the current “too big to fail” scene.

When I was the young whippersnapper, I worked in companies that valued employees, and for people who mentored those of us coming up.  Looking back to fifty years ago, I was not naive, as some cynics have suggested, or working in some Shangri La, or too friendly with the boss.  The president of my company actually earned fifteen times as much as a new hire on the line.  When a new plant was required and built, the factory was air conditioned.  Major decisions involved doing the right thing.  We really asked that question in meetings, and meant for our company, for its employees.

We built a cutting edge product and sold one important component of it to other manufacturers. This led to us being purchased the first time by a company that wanted to develop that component further.  Although we were the smaller fish in the bigger pond, our contribution was important.  But the company who bought us had something an even bigger company wanted, and there was another purchase.  The story is up to the mid eighties by now, and take over’s were becoming common.  These buyers spun-off those unnecessary bits that once provided jobs and products, but were not structured to stand alone. 

So, the tuna that swallowed us was swallowed by a whale.  They didn’t want us for our product, or even our ability; they wanted us for our great big factory that could make zillions of pc boards for their product.  They didn’t need our engineers, they didn’t need our sales force, they didn’t need our support staff.  It took a couple of years to come down to that; the original principals of my company struggled to keep their product viable.  Over that period of time all the employees wondered what would become of us every time someone from corporate showed up.  We were destined to be another spun-off.

I learned valuable business skills when I was in corporate America.  I loved my jobs, until the last year. I loved looking out for the bottom line.  I loved running a department.  I loved going to work every day.  I loved dressing the part.  I invented organized closets before California Closet existed.  When I took off my suit each night it went to the end of the line.  I wonder how many I had.  Then there were the shoes.  Three inch heels, minimum.  That brought me up to five foot nine, back then, and I could look anybody close to in the eye.

Imagine the recollection when I found that picture.  That’s me.  In my office in corporate America.  In 1988.  What is she wearing, you ask.  Well, I’m sure I had on Dockers, and I see I had on a Big Shirt.  This was a work day, not the week end.  Most of my department would have been in similar attire.  Most of the staff in all the offices and cubicles could have blended in with all the service and factory workers. 

It was toward the end of the last year I worked there.  No one was happy, smile notwithstanding.  Every drawer was full of candy or change for the vending machines.  There may be a week’s worth of candy in that bag. Every one of us was gaining weight from the constant snacking. Morale was rock bottom.  There was no pleasing corporate, especially when we reported to a new boss weekly.   At some point I realized everyone was in sloppy clothes, myself included.  Oh, well. They fit.

One day I went down the hall full tilt, shirt tails flapping, around the corner and straight into the head of HR, on an unannounced visit from corporate.  He looked me up.  He looked me down. He said, “Well, well.  Joanne.”  I greeted him and shook his hand and kept on going.  The next day the dress code arrived from corporate.

All women will be attired in suits, maximum; skirts, blouses and jackets, minimum.  The men had to smarten up, too.

I went shopping that night and bought two men’s suits, white shirts, ties, wing tip shoes and socks.  Oh, and a man’s belt.  That’s what I wore for the several months I remained a good employee.  I apologized to my staff; I still feel personally responsible for that dress code.  I am also very proud of the subsequent careers of the staff I mentored as they too left. 

And, thanks to everyone who taught me how to run a good business.  That’s what Jan and I did for the next twenty years.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My yellow haired daughter

Shelly was born with a full head of lovely brown hair. She was the prettiest baby in the nursery, and I’m not kidding. 

That hair never fell out.

 It grew out.  Blond. 

 My dad couldn’t keep his camera off it.  She was his Yellow Haired Grandaughter. 

 Sometimes said a little testily, as she also was the little No girl who went in the opposite direction of the general flow.  He kept track of that hair, nevertheless. 

Can you believe I was asked in the grocery store if I tipped the ends! 

 Around the age of three Shelly administered her own hair cut. 

 The professional salvage.  Or, as Shelly says to me, "We can laugh about this now."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Jade Tree

The big guy was in the family a long time.  Over forty years, counting the papa tree that lived in my Mentor living room from a sprig.  At the last pot transplant it had to stay on the floor in front of the south window and when someone begged me for it I only feigned sorrow at being such a good sport.

This jade started as a cutting I gave to my brother Mel.  He tended to lose interest in plants that needed watering more often than when it rained in Arizona; Jan rescued this puppy from his kitchen sink back in 1976.  It lived in the east bay window on Moraine Avenue, and slipped happily back into a south window when we moved here in 1988, where it embarked on a growing mission.

We helped.  We kept cats out of the so tempting outhouse by littering.  Pine cones, sea shells, prickly debris.  Great cat deterrents.  When it became dangerously top heavy we supplied the next biggest pot.  It was a fixture inside the front door. 

One spring it bloomed.  Just once.  People with ever blooming jade trees gave us advice about moving it outdoors in summer, putting it in the basement.  Things they did.  Like Mel and the watering, we didn’t have much interest beyond the problem of top heavy and crashing over on an unsuspecting passerby.

We transplanted it last four or five years ago.  It took all three of us to manhandle it.  It was too big to get to the front porch, so we dealt with the mess right there in the foyer.  Tom broke the old pot; he and Jan heaved the old fellow up in the air, I put the new pot under.  What a team.  We all said we’re never doing that again.

Last spring I gave it a critical appraisal.  It liked the new pot and rewarded us with several more inches of height and girth.  I concluded it had one last chance of getting through the front door, and sent the Cleveland Botanical Gardens pictures of its magnificence and an offer.  They didn’t refuse.  We told them it is the Melvin Lytle Memorial Jade.  I’ll drop by and take its picture some day.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

More pictures from the special box

Grandma’s keep grandchildren, it’s part of our job.  In our house it was a great-grandma, great aunt job, too.    Shelly’s Bekka was our first, and Shelly’s four were the first four grandchildren. 

Bekka always stepped out of a fashion plate when she arrived.  Mothers take enormous pride in the appearance of first babies, as they should.

Fortunately, Shelly understood kids come to grandma’s house to get dirty.  It’s where they start eating that peck of dirt.  No matter how many clothes are in the suitcase, they run through all and wind up in whatever works.  Wearing Uncle Tom’s rubber gloves for duck feet works, too.

Hamilton, my first grandson.  He’s fifteen and taller than all of us now.  I expect he’ll top out close to his great-grandpa Lytle.  Here he is, back up that ramp almost as fast as he came down.  I laughed until the tears ran.  He looked just like Olive Oyl’s nephew, Sweet Pea. 

Earlier that spring his parents were picking him up from a stay.  Mom was so ill at the time, asleep in her room.  Ham was screaming in the living room.  I went in to mom to see if she was disturbed.  She looked at me and smiled and said, “How sweet that crying baby sounds.”

2002 and 2003 were crowded; we had Bekka, Ham and Emily living here.  There wasn’t room in our little house for a Christmas tree, too.  For Tom there is no Christmas without a tree, so he set it up on the porch.  Em, watching for Santa.

Laura, Shelly’s youngest.  Shelly and Laura lived in Lake County those couple of years, while Shelly took her nursing degree.  Laura was an especially fussy baby.  Until shut in the sleep suit.  Shelly would start gathering up to go and Laura would wind up her disapproval.  Get the suit, get the suit.  Phew.

Friday, November 25, 2011

From the special box

I sorted through some more pictures, waiting for the Thanksgiving crew to assemble, and scanned a motley assortment.  There were a lot of notes from Aunt Flo.  She was always popping things in the mail.  Old photos.  Clippings we were sure to find of interest.  I opened a note today with several old photos (from the thirties and forties) and her note said she found them in a special box.  How sweet.  How Aunt Flo.  Made me think of all the pictures I would keep in a special box.

These two are of my daughters, in the very early eighties.  80, 81ish.  I was an aspiring photographer then, even had my own darkroom.  We each had an Aran sweater like Shelly’s.  Mom made one for me when I was I college and I made one for each of the girls.  Shelly played the clarinet and marched in the band.  When the clarinet was boring, she traded it in for a flute or a piccolo.  I don’t recall which; have no idea who she traded.  One day she was practicing a different instrument.

Beth probably was sixteen or seventeen in the picture.  More than a little of her black hair was turning silver.  She hated it and used some “you’ll wonder where the grey went” stuff.  It stayed black for about ten years and then she just busted out.  Purple.  That was interesting.  Henna.  I think she was married in some 1920’s red.  Occasionally I would wonder out loud if she had that beautiful grey hair women might kill for.  I didn’t try it often; the look was scathing.  Then she did it.

This is the only photo I have of the hair to die for.  She’s more concerned with grandma giving the new baby a watermelon rind than with having her picture taken, as you can see.  It didn’t last long; one too many people at the West Side Market remarked on her grandchildren.  And one of them old enough to be tugging on her sleeve and saying “Mom.  Mom!  Mom!!!!”  They ruined it for all of us!  Now it’s red again.  The baby, by the by, is Caroline of pink highlights last summer.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The very white Thanksgiving

In our family we remembered the Thanksgiving of 1950 as the year Grandma Rolf wore her spring coat and stayed a week.  She arrived the day before to help with pies and such.  We celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 23rd, as usual.  In fact, I don’t specifically recall the day at all.  That holiday became memorable commencing the next day, Friday. 

The weather the day after Thanksgiving was bitter, bitter cold.  Snow was beginning to fall.  Not the sort of weather a grandma would set out home with only a spring coat.  So, Grandma stayed.  By Saturday night there was two feet of snow.  The neighborhood kids were out, the parents stayed in.  There was no solution but to wait it out.

The snow got to three feet by Sunday, when it tapered off and the men went out with shovels to tackle the drifts.  They did not make appreciable progress.  Back in the house Mom and Grandma were inventing things to do.  There was enough food on hand, the milk was stretched out with powdered.  The biggest disaster was dad running out of cream for his coffee and bemoaning all the cream whipped up and gone with pumpkin pie. 

My memory of Mom and Grandma is the two of them sitting on the sofa, the black darning box between them.  The box had compartments that held various colors of darning cotton, the darning eggs and darning needles.  Every holey sock was darned, every thin sock was reinforced.  My brother and I came and went, exchanging wet mittens and socks with warm dry mittens and socks pulled out of the register grates.

By Tuesday the men had made a passable lane up both Moraine and Gardendale, augmented by the ashes from all the coal furnaces on the street.  On Wednesday it was still cold, but the mothers couldn’t take another day of kids and our neighbor, Calvin Cole, walked all the little kids to school so they wouldn’t be confused in snow drifts over their heads.  Grandma went home.

There are no family pictures of the event; here are some I found on the internet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pie safe

Thanksgiving’s been creeping in all week.  Three evenings in a row Jan baked a loaf of bread, let it cool a bit, then sliced it into cubes to dry out for stuffing.  Occasionally we’d find a cube on the floor.  No one fessed up to being careless, but when Toby came sliding around the living room corner after his bread cube, we had the culprit.

Counter cats are absolutely not permitted in this house.  Cats being cats, we also keep the counter free of cat attractions.  Purrl and Ryon still make the occasional foray, maybe they left something in the sink strainer, let’s just check.  Neither one is a stealth cat; someone hears the counter thump and hollers “Purrl, you better not be on the counter if you know what’s good for you,” followed by the thump down and a cat stroll into the living room, you were talking to me?

So, a kitten who thinks we keep toys on the counter. But we couldn’t catch him to give him what for. Until one afternoon I heard a loud thump, investigated and found Toby commencing to investigate the zip lock baggie of frozen chicken he had transferred to the floor.  Down the slippery slope in only a day; bread cubes led straight to chicken!  I had him full to rights, snatched the baggie and delivered a clip on the nose with frozen breasts.  He looked at me.  What did you do that for?  He didn’t run, he didn’t cower, he just wanted to know.  Getting no answer he left,  insulted.

Yesterday’s bang on the tile featured Toby with frozen cube steaks held high, another prize from up there.  These may slide across the floor quicker than bread cubes!  Another snatch, another nose clip, another insulted rebuttal:  What’s your problem?

In two days we have learned to defrost dinner in the fridge and store drying stuffing in the oven.  But now the pies are coming down the line.  Do we lock up the little mister kitty charm.  Of course not.  Jan put the pie in jail.  And, she cleared the cupboard over the fridge to store them overnight.

The second time I woke up mad

A year ago June I had a massive ischemic stroke.  Now I have to check in with a neurologist every three months.  Sometime after a check in, I’ll think of another question I’d like to ask, and keep it in mind for the next time.  Last time Dr. Wong asked me if I’d had any more stroke symptoms.  I asked what these symptoms are like and he asked “What happened last time?”  I told him I went over like a felled tree.  “Well,” he said, “that’s a symptom.”  We both laughed.  When my cardiologist asked me the same question a week later I told him the only symptom I’d ever experienced hadn’t reoccurred.  He liked my story.

That’s exactly what happened.  I took our new rescue Cairn, Euba, out for a walk.  I came back in the front door and crashed to the floor.  I couldn’t move anything and could barely speak.  I was quite unconcerned.  Eventually my grandchildren stood around looking down at me.  Then my brother-in-law came in and wanted to know what occurred.  I didn’t answer.  He picked me up, put me on the sofa and went outside to wait for Jan; he knew she would be home shortly.

When Jan and Shelly came in from their errand Jan went straight to the phone and Shelly, the nurse, assessed stroke before Jan was done dialing 911.   The ambulance was soon whisking me off; the EMT fellows told Jan not to keep up.  The last thing I remembered was being taken off the ambulance.  Probably around 6:30 pm on a bright, cloudless June afternoon, and I thought “it’s really dark.”

Jan and Shelly showed up right behind me and they and the stroke team pinpointed the time of the “incident.”  Jan had called Tom to say they were on the way home shortly before he found me on the floor; she looked up the time of the call on her cell phone.  The doctor asked if there was a power of attorney, Jan said she would go home for it.  The doctor said don’t bother, you need to decide about using a clot buster.  Jan figured I would like to live so she took the remaining 50% chance on the clot buster.

The first time I woke up I looked to my left.  There was a doctor.  Except he was split in half, head to foot, right between the eyes.  Half a doctor.  I looked right.  Another doctor.  Split right down the middle.  No head.  Left.  Same thing.  Right.  Same thing.  “Wow.  How interesting” I thought.  When I asked Dr. Wong, months later, it was the clot on my visual cortex.  The headless doctor had his head tilted down and to his right.

I have vague memories of being trundled through hallways, put through a CAT scan, an MRI, more than once.  I recall saying “For this I quit smoking.”  Beth, Shelly and Jan were all there for that and insist I was asking for a cigarette.  Wrong.  There were no nouns in what I said.

Eventually I really did wake up.  A nurse was shining a light in my eyes and asking what it was.  She pointed at her watch and asked what it was.  She pointed at the clock on the wall and asked what it was.  I didn’t know the word. Later I asked Dr. Wong about that, right in the hospital.  That was the clot on  language center.  The nurse kept waking me with that damn flashlight and her questions.  First I strained my whole self to recall the words.  But then I snapped at her “If you’ll just tell me, I’ll know!”  She did, and I hung on tight to those nouns.

In a few more hours I woke up enough and thought enough to realize I did not know one single noun past the three the nurse gave me.  I had adjectives, but no nouns.  I was really angry.  More angry about the nouns than about how weak my right side was.  When Beth and Shelly came to visit I had demands.  I wanted my red sneakers.  I said red.  I drew a shoe.  I wanted a book.  I drew that.  Which book?  A blank book!  I needed to start writing stuff down as fast as I learned it.  Especially what the doctors were telling me.  I’d write that down as fast as I could.  If I couldn’t remember it all I’d ask them to come back and tell me again.  I wrote down the name of every noun I saw and could think of.  

I was so unhappy about the nouns that I would talk around a word.  I used words I didn’t remember seeing since I read them in a book in college.  The physical therapist walked me up and down the hall a few times, using the IV trolley for a cane and a wide white strap for support, and said I would need therapy.  Whatever.  I wanted to get back and write down physical therapy before I forgot it.  The speech therapist came in to assess me.  She didn’t really believe me about the nouns.  I could define all the words she asked about and when I explained elbow grease to her she said I passed her assessment.  I wouldn’t have known elbow or grease  if she hadn’t said them.

I put the book away when I came home from the hospital.  I asked people to be patient while I remembered words, and they were.  I have most of my nouns handy now and seldom have to stop and fish, or ask.  A while back I did have the need to tell a chauvinistic old man he did not know the difference between patronizing and apologizing, but it took me three days to remember the word patronize. I missed that opportunity, but I have the ammunition if he ever sends another scurrilous email to the township.  I work out three times a week, but my heart will never truly be in it, and someone else will be carrying my bags.

 I asked Dr. Wong what became of those two clots and he said they break up and stuff up the capillaries in the brain.  I have pieces of those two clots left, one on vision, one on language.  He said they could break loose and start travelling.  If I’m lucky, he said, they will go through my liver or kidneys, real good clot blusters.  If not, they’ll make the round trip and get me again.  I asked him how fast clots travel.  “As fast as your heart beats!”  Quite the education I’m getting.  When I see him in another three months I want to know why I was never frightened.

This morning at the post office I passed the very EMT who put an IV in my arm before he put me in the squad.  He grabbed my hand, we exchanged greetings.  He never let go my hand.  Finally he said, “You know, sitting around the day room afterwards, we had no hope.  Someone mentioned you the other day and said who would have thought.  Someone one else said it’s exactly what we should have expected, and we all laughed.”   He’s a great young man.  Seriously, he’s only old enough to be one of my kids.  I thanked him and wished him a Happy Thanksgiving.  I don’t know if I would have posted this if Scott hadn’t patted me on the back this morning.  I don’t waste a lot of time on the event, but I am so thankful for the outcome.

I am thankful my sister was on her way home.  I’m thankful she took in the situation and picked up the phone.  I am thankful the EMS crew got me to Akron General in fifteen minutes.  I am thankful Akron General is the stroke trauma center of Summit County. I’m thankful Jan could pinpoint the time to within a few minutes.  I am thankful she picked half a chance of surviving over no chance.  I am thankful for the friends and family who watched out for me.  And, I am thankful that nurse made me so mad.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The picnic table

Dad built the picnic table even before there was a patio underfoot or overhead.  There were so many people to seat around it, he built it big.  Actually it was the normal width, but extra long.  Twelve feet according to Beth, and that’s probably right.  She inherited her grandpa’s mechanical ability.  My supporting evidence is that picnic cloths were too short, it was stationed lengthwise in the screen house and when placed the width of the patio went from edge to edge.  Accessible from the front, only.   Even so auxiliary tables were required and some older relatives preferred to be on the periphery with their own side table.

Six to seven people could be seated on each side.  We were careful to keep count to stay balanced.  The table could accommodate even numbers on each side, but if one side outnumbered the other by three the table went up on its legs like a teeter totter.  “Sit down, sit down” the light side would shout to the person who stood up.  Or, “Don’t sit here.  Go sit on the other side.”

An Easter picture of what would have been considered the normal crowd.  Way before there were spouses and grandchildren!

Grandma Rolf didn’t trust the picnic table.

To combat the often present cloth flipping breeze dad made U clamps to hold the cloth to the table on all four edges.  They were aluminum strips about an inch wide and formed into U’s.  Another childhood drill.  When the tablecloth came off the clamps were slid back onto the table to be ready for the clean cloth.  We never lost or misplaced them.

Twenty or more years later I screeched up short in the picnic aisle of some department store.  There were my dad’s clips.  No way.  “My dad invented those!”  And so it goes. 

The scream house

Unlike the sidewalk, the scream house construction didn’t get documented with pictures.  Half way down the sidewalk, on the left side, there’s a shed type structure put up by the current owner.  Sadly, he tore down the patio and covered up the cobbles to do it.

In the beginning there was the screen house.  Dad built it about 1957.  It was a frame of a house, complete with pitched roof, and screens for walls.  Jan was four.  It was her scream house.  Before he built the scream house dad had to make the patio under it.  He laid hundreds of brick cobbles that he discovered as construction waste at Botzum Brothers, the company mining the pit.  They were his for the taking.  The pile surely weighed a ton and was three quarters of a mile from our house.  A quarter mile of that was the climb back up out of the pit.

Dad furnished the clothes line and paid the neighborhood kids a nickel a cobble to drag those bricks up from the pit and down the street to our back yard.  I think that took us the entire month of June.  After dad laid the stone floor he assembled the scream house on top of it.  Every fall he took it down and stored it in the garage.

The cobble stones, on the left.  Quite a few years after they were laid; probably between the screen house and its replacement.

A glimpse of Jan's scream house over her shoulder.
Dad ran electricity to the garage and the patio.  He dug a trench the length of the yard and laid a pipe that went through the basement wall.  Walt held the ball of cord at one end and dad started up the vacuum at the other.  The line was sucked 200 feet out to the garage.  Then the cord was tied to the electrical line and slick as you know what, the electrical line was pulled through.  This probably did not violate a single zoning code in 1957.

Mom, Jan, Joanne, Walt, Mel, Uncle Bill, Dad.  That grin on dad's face is knowing the timer will trip perfectly.
The scream house was our haven in summer.  Mom set up her sewing machine.  She may even have set up a quilt or two. We ate every meal there. She made pancakes in her trusty electric skillet on the weekends.  One time I reached up to unplug the coffee pot I had just emptied into my parents’ cups.  Just as I reached dad jumped up and shouted “NO,” but my hand had already closed on the plug.  Bare feet on damp stones.  I was thrown the ten foot width of the patio and landed on my back.  Unconscious.  When I opened my eyes dad was compressing my chest and counting.  He looked at me and said, “How often have you been told to wear shoes!”

In 1965, early one April there was a freak wind storm.  My brother Mel had just put the scream house together, and it sailed away forever.  The next patio cover was not screened.  However, it did not have to be disassembled and reassembled annually.  Dad’s health was not up to new construction and Walt was in the Air Force, so Mel and our neighbor Chico built the new patio roof.  The new roof was barrel shaped, with fluted green fiberglass covering.  From then on, when dad was not using his camera for family events he would reach up and store it safely from harm on one of the four by four rafters.

 Mel and Chico, constructing.

Mom supervising.

The camera holder completed.  Right up there on the cross rafter in the foreground.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The sidewalk

We moved to 729 Moraine in 1945, just before my brother Walt was born.  I was 2 ½.  Dad told me a moraine was the end of an ice age glacier and all the stones and dirt and stuff the glacier pushed along were left right there when the ice melted. All the stones had been ground fine, and our moraine was sand.  We were the last street before the land went down a hill and there were no houses on the other side of Moraine.  It had been farm land, and an old harrow stood abandoned.  That very summer I played on it, fell off the seat and sliced my scalp open on a rusty point on the way down.  I ran home, all the neighborhood women looked at it; I got cleaned up with soap, water and iodine.  People who cut my hair have commented on the scar. Then a construction company began mining the field for sand, from our road down to the bottom of the hill.  Acres and acres of sand.  We called it The Pit and it figured mightily in our childhood adventures.

729 is the middle house, with two cars in the drive.  We never used that drive for cars.  Our official entrance was from the street behind, Gardendale.  My parents owned the land from Moraine to Gardendale, as well as the next property west up Gardendale.  The front porch was open in 1945, but was closed in within a year or two, giving we children ten more windows to wash twice a year.  Inside and out.

Next, my parents built the garage over a summer, with the help of Uncle Bill and neighbors who did carpentry.  A blacktop surface that filled the balance of the lot was poured in front of the three car garage and then dad graded the hill up to the west lot and planted trees and grass.  Thus leading to another phrase from childhood, “Keep off the hill!”  Or, “Get off the hill!”  The hill only took up part of the west lot, and the neighborhood played baseball on the rest of it.

There’s a long neat line from the back of the house to the garage, curving past the garden to meet the blacktop.  That very large tree in front of the garage is an acorn Walt brought home from Aunt Laura’s house and planted when he was two or three.  The long neat line is the sidewalk that got us from the back door to the garage.  Dad and crew built it in 1956.

He and Walt put up a grape arbor at the end of the blacktop, first.

Dad excavated the sand from across the street.  It was 1956, people were  resourceful.

Walt fell out of the neighbor’s tree and broke his leg, so he got sand washing duty.  The doctor told him he was not eating enough green beans.  He still doesn’t eat green beans.

Dad built a frame to form the blocks, which had to cure two days.  Then, it was a block a day. 

Anyone who could swing a shovel to clear the way did.

Block by block the sidewalk was laid. 

When it was finished, the celebratory picnic: 

 Uncle Hank, Barb, Mom, Uncle Bill, Aunt Flo, Joanne, Grandma Rolf, Walt, Mel, Janice and Ken. 

Uncle Hank swapped places with the chief engineer for the final shot. 

I am not pictured in any of the construction.  That’s pretty much how I remember it.