Summertime Fun as a Child – Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

Randy Seaver in his blog provides a challenge each Saturday evening. Tonight’s fun is, on the first day of summer 2014, (1) to write about your summertime fun when you were a child and (2) to evaluate how those childhood fun experiences impact your life today.

My family moved a great deal when I was growing up and my memories are very sporadic. There are only three locations for which I have specific summertime memories: Gainesville, Texas when I was six to eight, on Binkley Street in Oklahoma City when I was nine/ten and at Rotary Park in SW Oklahoma City when I was twelve.

From Gainesville, I remember picking up boring gray rocks, breaking them with a hammer and being amazed at their sparkly interior; sitting in a circle with the neighborhood kids at dark-thirty telling ghost stories; on hot afternoons filling a metal tub with water and taking turns sitting in it to cool off; drinking water from a hose; riding my bicycle; playing on the graded side of I-35 construction; and walking to the library to check out books to read (I began reading a series of biographies – Presidents’ wives, pirates, Sir Walter Raleigh, etc.).

From Binkley Street, I played dolls, cut out paper dolls, played with a whole neighborhood full of friends, explored the world of imagination and spent Saturday afternoons at the movies. This is about the time when I most remember loving to play in the run-off water after a summer shower and to be amazed at all the worms that surfaced after the rain. Because of moving so much, this is the first location where I made a friend I still have today – Jean ‘Tootie’ Blake Riggs. I only lived there one year but Jean and I reconnected in junior and senior high school and have maintained a connection despite many separations of physical distance.

The summer between grade school and high school I joined a park’s summer program where the games I played were competitive: ping pong and running track. I rode my bicycle to the park every day to participate.  When I discovered the Daily Oklahoman archives, I did a search for my own name and found a news article from July 11, 1953 that evidenced my participation in track – my team came in first. Rotary Park Track

The second part of Randy’s challenge is to evaluate how summertime fun impacted me as an adult. Breaking open rocks to see the sparkles inside helped me realize not everything in life can be judged by its appearance on the outside as well as gave me an appreciation for how amazing our world is – much of it just waiting for our exploration to see it. Playing dolls and telling stories taught me the importance of imagination and creativity. Running track and challenging myself competitively helped me see my physical and mental capabilities and to know there will always be some faster/better/smarter and some slower/worse/less smart than I am, but that challenging myself will always end up making me better than I was before. The library and reading opened my mind to everything – knowledge, possibility, hope, a bridging of the past, present and the future.

See Also: My Doll With Hair

Sharing Memories 2012 – My First Memory

My daughter Kay and I, in working on genealogy for the past several years, have become very aware of all the questions we have about our ancestors – what they did and why and where. In 2011 I started writing “my memoirs” so my children and grandchildren would have a record of my life, and perhaps answers to their questions when they arise.

When I began writing, I didn’t think I remembered much of my earlier childhood – like my Uncle Joe: “I don’t remember nuthin’” – but as I began to write it down, a little snippet of a memory here and another snippet there began to emerge.

As one memory led to another, pretty soon I was having so much fun realizing my grandchildren and, in many cases, even my children, would not have a clue about things such as a wringer washer or a mangle or even Monkey Island at the Zoo. I realized the physical and social landscape has changed in ways to make the earlier world almost unrecognizable, so I did Internet research to find pictures and explanations.

One of the things that came out of my writing endeavor was recording my earliest memories and in response to Olive Tree Genealogy blog prompt for today, I’ll share from my writing. Because I have no clear grasp of which came first, I’ll record two that must have happened at about the same time.

My parents bought a home when I was three and that is where my earliest memories occurred. I suspect both these memories occurred at about the same time period, in fact, possibly on the same day, which would have been mid to late September of 1944 and about a year after we moved into the home.

Although I’ve been an extrovert as long as I can remember, many of my early memories are of me being alone and the first memory I’ll record is one of those. The house Mom and Dad bought, which I’ve previously blogged about, had a brick arch on the front west corner.

Probably one of my strongest memories of that house on Hardin Drive was playing London Bridge by myself with the arched brickwork – unfortunately, no picture shows that full arch to provide a visualization [based on the County Assessor’s website photo of the house, the arch is gone now]. I don’t remember being sad and lonely in playing by myself, but rather was singing the song and circling through the arch. I don’t know if the song was commonly sung by children in those days or if it was something connected in some way to mother’s brother, George, who was stationed in England and, consequently close to London, at the time.

One day after playing at the arch, I came through the front door and saw mother on the sofa with a crumpled piece of paper in her hands and sobbing deeply – the crumpled paper was the telegram telling her of the death of her brother, George, in Arnhem, Holland on September 18, 1944 in the largest World War II airborne operation called Operation Market Garden [Kay has written about George and his WWII experience in her blog]. In reviewing George’s letters on my daughter’s website, I can see George had written mother a letter from England on August 13, 1944 and mailed on August 23 (the letter to her brother, Johnnie, written the same day was apparently post marked on August 19). I would guess George’s letter had only reached mother a few days before she received the telegram, which likely heightened her already huge pain and loss compounded by the early deaths of her father, then mother and oldest brother, Willie.

Sharing Memories: A Genealogy Journey (Week 30) – We’re Having a Heat Wave!

This past week I joined the Google+ group and have connected with several genealogists, including Lorine McGinnis Schulze and her Olive Tree Genealogy blog. She has a writing prompt series she calls Sharing Memories: A Genealogy Journey and is now up to Week 30. I decided to join in this week on the topic of “We’re having a heat wave” and talk about the heat in my own childhood and youth.

One of my first memories of the heat was the summer of 1947 or 1948 in Gainesville, Texas. I have always loved to read and that summer mother let me go to the library by myself. From having been back to Gainesville on a research trip, I know we must have lived about a mile from the library, which was downtown on California Street. I don’t specifically remember the library – what I remember was the trip home. I had obviously gone to the library in the morning and stayed there a long time because when I returned home it was clearly afternoon and HOT! I know that specifically because I was barefoot [a typical condition for me during the summer] and the concrete paving was, as has frequently been observed, “hot enough to fry an egg.” In response to that unexpected hot concrete, I attempted to find as many patches of grass as possible and leap from one patch of grass to another as I crossed streets and sidewalks on my way home.

Another way the neighborhood children handled the heat that summer was with a metal washtub we filled with water from the outdoor faucet and we took turns sitting in it. We also got frequent drinks from that same outdoor faucet.

Sometime during the mid-1940s, Mother purchased what was, I’m sure, an inexpensive and heavy gray with blue stripes stoneware pitcher; during the summer she would occasionally make a pitcher of a mixture of really cold orange juice and lemonade and pour us a glass as a treat. I loved that pitcher and thanks to the Internet, I was able to find a picture of a similar one – wish I still had mother’s.

By the summer of 1949, we were back in Oklahoma City. That summer was a part of the huge polio scare that was so predominant during the summers. Every parent insisted their children come inside and rest during the heat of the afternoon. Our rented house had a large screened-in back porch and one of those inside afternoons it was so hot, even on the shaded and screened porch, that I had the screen door open and was lying with my head outside on the first step hoping for any any breath of air. We lived less than a block away from the old Blackhawk Swimming Pool; I remember walking by and watching people swimming, but I don’t remember swimming there myself that summer (although it’s possible I did since I love to swim).

We moved again the following year to a neighborhood that had a small park a few blocks away. It had a small wading pool and, although, I don’t remember being in it much, I did take my brother down there where he could play in the pool [he’s six years younger than I am and would have been about three to four at the time]. Water was definitely a factor in summer-time cooling strategies and it could be a real treat when someone’s parents would allow the neighborhood kids to play with the water hose with every kid getting a turn at both spraying and being sprayed.

Summer in Oklahoma generally means a dearth of rainfall. Because our rain is generally part of a thunderstorm, which is usually accompanied by lightning, it’s not wise to be playing outside during the rain, but following an occasional late afternoon rain, one of my favorite things to do was go outside barefoot and splash through the water still standing against the curbs. Even the rainwater could still have some warmness to it because the streets would be hot, but wet skin picks up breezes so nicely. I was always fascinated with the earthworms that were so prevalent following the rain. Of course, you could find worms if you went digging in the dirt, but after a rainfall, there would be hundreds of them crawling on sidewalks and driveways and in the grass – amazing!

I’ve seen pictures of old rotating fans, but I don’t remember having them during those years. We finally lived in a house that had a large window evaporative or swamp cooler by the time I was in my mid-teens. This was a large metal box affixed to an open window. It had fiber-type pads [they looked to me as if they were filled with straw] on the sides that we would hose down in the afternoon; there was also about an inch or so of water standing in the bottom of the metal box. There was a large metal ‘squirrel cage’ fan that turned through the water and blew water-cooled air through the window into the house. It definitely helped in reducing the house temperature but because it was coming through only one window, the portions of the house without direct access to that cooler air could remain quite warm. Sometimes during the nights, I would get so hot I would get up and go sleep on the floor in the dining room where the swamp cooler was located.

Another way I sometimes cooled off at night was to take my bedding outside and sleep in the backyard. As the morning approached and the temperatures grew cooler, it could be quite pleasant sleeping with light covers on – until the time dew began falling in the mornings and you’d wake up with damp covers.

Although my typical fashion choice for home during the summers was shorts, a date night would mean a full skirt with starched net slips under them and often more than one of them to achieve the necessary fullness of the skirt. One night the young man I was dating and I went to the drive-in with another couple. We were in the back seat and I was probably wearing three of those underskirts plus a light blue cotton skirt with matching short-sleeve blouse. I stood the heat as long as I could, but I finally decided fashion was definitely subservient to comfort and I reached under my skirt and pulled off the underskirts and piled them on the floorboard. In those years of ingrained modesty, that was a bold move. My date, a young man with a great sense of humor from the deep south [Laurel, Mississippi],  thought it was quite funny but still allowed me to maintain both my dignity and my reputation.

All in all, I have to say, central heat and air is a definite improvement and an amenity I do not wish to forego – ever!

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 12 ~ Movies

I was raised by a mother who loved movies. In a blog written for the 68th Carnival of Genealogy as a tribute to women, I wrote that my mother spent all her money on movies and concerts. She told me she saw every movie as well as every opera singer that came to Oklahoma City. With very little education, mother spoke impeccable English, sang hundreds of songs and arias learned completely by hearing them in movies and on recordings or the radio and she had a personal style of elegance learned mostly from watching movies.

As a small child, mother introduced me to her love affair with movies by taking me to see such early Disney feature-length cartoons as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Bambi and Song of the South. Like my mother, I learned the songs from those movies. Mother bought me the 1950’s album of Snow White. My brother, Mickey, talked about listening to that album, narrated by Dennis Day, on our record player (he’s six years younger than me and hadn’t seen the movie at that time). I still have the record though the front of the album cover is gone as well as the 24-page color booklet that came with it. I loved that album and listened to it for perhaps 15-20 years – the records are almost slick. I particularly enjoyed I’m Wishing [Snow White’s duet/echo from the wishing well] and One Song, Someday My Prince Will Come, Whistle While You Work, and Heigh Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go. I have to say, some of those Disney songs shaped my positive outlook on life and my work ethic, including these from Snow White, but also tunes like Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah from Song of the South.

Saturday afternoon at the movies.

By the time I was about ten, I lived in a  neighborhood where all the kids went to the movies every Saturday. We would walk over to the Redskin Theater at SW 29th and Western to be with other friends and watch a double feature movie. Most of those Saturday movies were westerns or comedies so I saw the Bowery Boys movies, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tim Holt, Hopalong Cassidy, Tarzan, and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. There were also shorts with the Three Stooges and Our Gang comedies as well as cartoons, such as Mr. Magoo and The Road Runner as well as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, or Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, and Elmer Fudd as well as the other Disney or Warner Brothers cartoon characters. My favorite actor when I was ten to twelve was Tim Holt, though I also liked Richard Green, and my favorite actress was Yvonne DeCarlo whom I thought was beautiful.

Every Saturday was a great day. The theaters were filled with kids and we were there from about noon to 5:00. I would have enough money to buy a drink and a candy bar (probably a quarter) and, due to the length of time I was in the theater, it needed to be something that would last a long time, so my favorites were the chewy Milk Duds, Bit-O-Honey and Tootsie Rolls. My other favorite, Milky Way, didn’t last long enough so was rarely my Saturday afternoon choice.

A movie I particularly remember was Samson and Delilah. Although it came out in 1949, I don’t think I saw it as a first-run movie. I would guess I was in junior high, maybe 1952 or 1953, when it was shown at the Capitol Theater at 2510 S Robinson, which was only two to three blocks from our house [Doug Dawgz blog has loads of great pictures and post cards from earlier years and I’ve included both an exterior and an interior photo from his website taken in the 1930s when it was still the Circle Theater]. I loved that movie – Hedy Lamarr was absolutely gorgeous as the sensuous [I doubt I had a real clue as to what that might mean] Delilah but I also thought Angela Lansbury was beautiful in a more pure way. I still remember my feelings as I watched it – feelings of loss as Angela Lansbury’s character was killed, and feelings of confused amazement that Samson would alter everything he believed in just to be with Delilah and my wonder over the loss of his power as well as the return of his strength in order to bring down the Philistine’s idol. I even remember where I sat in the theater; I sat on the left side of the theater (right side of photo) about 1/3 of the way back.

I associate movies with my mother and never with my father, but as I watched an old movie on television that starred Ann Sheridan, I remembered him telling me she was his favorite actress, which implies he went to movies, at least in the 30s and perhaps early 40s. Although I don’t remember ever going to a movie as a family, I also don’t remember going with mother either, even though she told me she took me to see any number of the movies I mentioned earlier. I remember the emotional aspects of seeing Bambi –my tears when Bambi’s mother died – and the cuteness of Bambi trying to get up and walk as a new born, and even the joyfulness of Thumper and Bambi’s friendship ~ just nothing about the theater or mother’s presence. I also have no memories of Snow White other than those that could easily be connected to the record and accompanying picture book, even though, once again, mother told me she took me to see it. Pinocchio is another one I saw when it came out and I have some recollections of watching it – particularly my sense of impending danger when those boys lured Pinocchio into doing something he knew not to do – but those recollections could just as easily be recollections of seeing it at a later time – on TV perhaps. Each of those movies I mentioned was originally made either before I was born or when I was much too young to have watched a movie, so clearly mother took me to see them at a time of re-release. Song of the South is probably the first movie I saw as a first run movie – it came out in 1946, though again my recollection doesn’t include any remembrance of mother’s presence or a theater. Song of the South was a wonderful movie that has been pulled in the United States with no intention of it ever being seen again due to some people’s interpretation that blacks were not being shown in a positive light or that some positive aspects of slavery could be inferred [it is available in some other countries but I think the formats require some sort of conversion to work on our machines]. The Br’er Rabbit stories were a collection of African-American folklore compiled by Joel Chandler Harris and were depicted in both the book and the movie as being told by an old former male slave known as Uncle Remus to the white children in the southern family that had owned him prior to the Civil War. Hiding those movies does not negate the fact that slavery was a real aspect of American history, that the stories were delightful, and that Disney’s movie version was fabulous and, in my opinion, its lack of availability is a great loss to both adult’s and children’s viewing pleasure, regardless of ethnicity.

By the time I was a teenager, besides ‘cruising Main,’ the other thing to do on date nights was go to a movie. On my first date, I went to see Not As A Stranger at the Centre Theater in downtown  Oklahoma City. Although that theater is no longer in existence, I believe at least portions of the building were incorporated into the current Museum of Art that houses both permanent and rotating art collections as well as a large Chihuly glass collection.

In the mid-1950s, cities had not yet begun their urban sprawl and downtown areas were still places where people got dressed up to go shopping as well as for a special night at the movies. Movie premieres were a big event and I remember seeing a midnight preview of Good Morning, Miss Dove at the Criterion and seeing Oklahoma!, which had to be seen at the State Theater because it was the only theater equipped for showing a movie using the new Todd-AO. One of my choir director’s favorite musicals was Carousel, and at his recommendation I went to see that movie when it came out.

There were, of course, the mostly teenage interest movies and I saw most if not all of them. That included Elvis Presley movies made prior to my marriage, Blackboard Jungle and Rebel Without a Cause.

Another popular form of movie viewing in the 1950s, at least in reasonable weather, was the drive-in movie and I had my fair share of drive-in movie dates as well as whole groups packed into cars and meeting up at the drive-in. Although many of the movies I saw at drive-ins were B movies, I also saw The Ten Commandments at a drive-in.

As much as I was raised on movies and truly enjoy them, after my marriage, a night at the movies was a special treat – although a movie with special appeal to the interests of my husband was generally an exception. We saw 2001: A Space Odyssey at a premier in Hollywood while we were living in Long Beach. We also saw Star Wars, and Superman. We went to see Airplane!, which was a great disappointment at the time because it was a comedy and airplanes were a serious interest to my husband – I have since come to appreciate its humor. Other movies I managed to see in the theater during my marriage included The Sound of Music and Funny Girl, as well as taking our daughter to see Jungle Book.

Currently, I have a small group of female friends that occasionally get together for a movie and I remain ready to go whenever an opportunity presents itself. Otherwise, I wait to see it on television since, for me, a movie in a theater should be a shared experience.

John W. Peterson

In today’s post I’m responding to and expanding on my daughter’s Advent Calendar post about Christmas music. She mentioned one of our family’s humorous memories of her misunderstanding of words or phrases – this incident was about the song, “Sleep, Holy Child,” which she requested as ” ‘Poly Child.” Kay was three at the time so her memory is one of an oft-repeated story rather than a remembrance of the song.

At Christmas of 1963, we were living in Shawnee, Oklahoma where Wayne was attending OBU after sensing and responding to a call to preach. We had joined the First Baptist Church of Shawnee and that Christmas the choir was presenting John W. Peterson’s excellent Christmas cantata, Night of Miracles; I was the soprano soloist for the earlier-mentioned lullaby, which is a really lovely song. After a rehearsal in the auditorium, Kay walked over and asked, sing ‘Poly child, mommy, sing ‘Poly child.”

John W. Peterson was a prolific composer of sacred music having written over 1,000 Christian songs and 35 cantatas and musicals and, according to his website, his music has sold over 10,000,000 copies worldwide. Some of my most enjoyable Christmas and Easter cantatas as well as songs were written by him and over the years I sang many of them as solos. As evidence of the enduring quality of his music, a search of YouTube yielded a clip of “Sleep, Holy Child” sung by Marilyn Cotton and which includes the lyrics.

Around 1976, when we were living in Durham, North Carolina, the ministers of music got together to plan a program they called “1000 Voices Singing for Christ.” They invited John W. Peterson to direct the orchestra and choir and a well-known pianist and composer, Don Wyrtzen, to play the piano. There was to be one soloist for the event to be selected by audition. My choir director, George Archer, asked me to audition, so I did.At that time I was studying voice with Kathryn Posner (an excellent teacher) and about this same period of time had the opportunity to sing a small role in Puccini’s Sister Angelica with the newly founded North Carolina Lyric Opera.

The auditions for the 1,000 Voices Singing for Christ event were conducted by Mr. Peterson and Mr. Wyrtzen themselves. I don’t remember where the auditions were held but it was in a church rehearsal room somewhere in Durham; I arrived fairly late in the day after the guest musicians had apparently listened to a long stream of church soloists. Mr. Peterson was sitting in a choir chair and Mr. Wyrtzen was sitting at the keyboard and neither of them looked up when I walked in. I found a picture of Mr. Wyrtzen sitting at the keyboard at an angle to it as he was that day, except that day he had no smile but rather looked like a dictionary definition of bored, as though he could wait no longer for this day to be over.

I also don’t recall what they wanted to hear as part of the audition, but Mr. Wyrtzen began the accompaniment, with no acknowledgment of my presence; however, when I began to sing Mr. Wyrtzen snapped his head up to look at me so quickly he almost fell off the piano bench. Though Mr. Peterson was not so precariously sitting on his chair as to potentially fall off, he too came alert and both of them began to listen with enthusiasm. After I finished singing, they talked with me on a personal level and Mr. Wrytzen laughed with me over his response when he told me what a pleasant surprise it had been to finally hear someone sing beautifully.

I was selected as the soloist for the occasion, which was held at Duke University stadium. The choir and orchestra filled one end of the stands and a huge audience filled in the other sides of the stadium for a well-attended and well-received afternoon of singing praises. I don’t remember what solo was a part of that event; I just know it was a special treat for me to meet and work with both of these excellent church musicians, but particularly John Peterson since I had loved and sung so many of his beautiful songs for so many years.

Blog Caroling

After listening to my daughter’s selections of favorite Christmas carols as her responses to footnoteMaven’s tradition of Blog Caroling, I obviously had to participate and, like my daughter, no way could I just pick one. I have always loved choral music as well as solo music with incredibly beautiful melodic lines. One of my early favorites was always O Holy Night because of its beautiful melody. When I decided to use a Christmas song in a novel I am writing with a setting of 1899, I was pleased and surprised to find that it had been written by Adolphe Adam in 1847 so was a perfect choice.Though I’m a soprano and the range and vocal line are well fitted for my voice, I’ve chosen the version done by Il Divo just because I like them.

The next carol to become a favorite is also one on my daughter’s Blog Caroling post – Carol of the Bells. This has to be a favorite of any choral singer because the movement of the voices is satisfying both melodically and harmonically. I loved it from the first choral run through. As a singer, you are blessed indeed if you are fortunate enough to sing this song in a choir with singers who are capable of singing with parts intermingled versus only getting to sing next to someone singing your same part.

Over the past few Christmases, I’ve sung with choirs who’ve sung two songs written by Michael W. Smith and they’ve both become favorites, not just for Christmas, but just favorites. One is No Eye Had Seen.

The second is All is Well. I love the way this song expresses both the message of joy of the arrival of God’s salvation and the sense of peaceful calm that joyful message brings. It was both those aspects that led me to choose this song to be played at my mother’s funeral service. Both these songs are on Michael W. Smith’s “Christmas” album.

A few years ago I found a Christmas album I really enjoy. It’s called Black Christmas: Spirituals in the African-American Tradition. Though I didn’t choose any of these as favorite carols, still as a classically-trained singer, I love the voices and interpretations on this album and the more I listen to it the more I enjoy it.