Thursday, July 31, 2008


When I mention genealogy to my kids they roll their eyes, thinking I can't see them but I am very attuned to it (I had lots of practice watching them when they were teenagers). However, I am sure when they are old and decrepit they are going to enjoy all the wonderful "finds" I've made through the years.

One example is actually two photographs - one of the Las Animas (Colorado) Band about 1895 and another photo of it around 1910. Their great-grandfather appears in each of them -- but more than that, each picture shows what life was like in that time period.

Their great-grandfather (my grandfather) was Scott Dobbins Sr. He died when he was only 44 years old and my dad was only 8. There are no family stories handed down about him. But these pictures tell a lot.

The Dobbins family lived in a tiny dry-land farming community east of Pueblo, Colorado. The town was Las Animas, and this is the Las Animas City Band. Scott had an older brother named Gaston and he is on the right hand side of the bottom row holding a trombone. Way up on the top row, right, is Scott, who always played a cornet. The Dobbins family were always involved in music.

What I learned is that during this period in our country's history, band competitions were regularly held. These bands traveled to various locations, even as far as to an adjacent state, to complete in very elaborate and ceremonial competitions. If you are lucky enough to be able to find a newspaper story about such a competition your mouth will drop open to learn what lengths the bands went to in order to make a good showing. The above picture came to me from Gaston's son, Percy, back in 1984. He told me at the time that there was another picture in which he himself appeared but he wasn't able to find it. In 2001 I received a copy of that one from Percy's daughter, who had come upon it stored in an old scrapbook belonging to her long-deceased father

This is the same band taken about 1910 or thereabout. And yes, it is Cousin Percy posing in the front. Percy was born in 1902, so I'd guess he's about 8 years here. My grandfather Scott is on the extreme left hand side and his brother Gaston is directly behind him. My own father would have been 2 at this time, way too young to pick up a horn. (He later learned to play a banjo).

I am so pleased to have these photos. One of them reeks of the old west; the other of the early 20th century. Finding things like this and being able to explain them is what genealogy is all about. It certainly is about more than just getting dates and names.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


One of my favorite blogs is by Religious News Service <> and every day I find interesting, amazing and sometimes amusing items there. This is one of the entries I found myself grinning over:

"Italy's animal rights groups are launching a protest, with a petition drive to get Pope Benedict XVI to stop wearing fur during Vatican ceremonies.

"We just want to ask him in a message of love and peace to give a strong signal towards the protection of animals and the environment through a small but very significant personal sacrifice," Lorenze Croce, chairman of the Italian Association for the Defence of Animals and the Environment,
told an Italian news agency.

Benedict has taken to wearing a number of traditional religious garments, including a small red velvet cape with a white ermine border, which he wears in winter along with a hat the same color, says AFP."

Later in the blog there is a very interesting article about the pope's use of some very old, very traditional garments dating back many centuries.

I know both articles are serious subjects, but I only laughed at the one. I can't put my finger on what exactly I found so funny. I considered in light of all the serious things going on in the world how insignificant this request was; I considered how difficult it might be for someone to throw paint on the Pope's furry hat and cape; and I considered it might be the picture that accompanied the story: he does look a bit like a jolly old Christmas figure but of course he has been referred to as the "bulldog" pope because of his past service in making sure that every "t" was crossed and every "i" was dotted.

I tend to think, hopefully but not irreverently, that it is the latter. But whichever, RNS blog was a very good read today.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


A straightened-out paper clip and a tiny screwdriver were all it took to get my laptop's CD drive unstuck and working again when I took it to the repair shop the other day. I was shocked. I figured I’d be without a computer for a week!

I must confess: Lurking in my soul, in spite of a generally sunny, upbeat exterior, is a pessimist. Yes, I guess I admit to the half-empty glass.

Which reminds me now of a very funny article that appeared a number of years ago in the New York Daily News. Written by Sherryl Connelly, it told of a scientific test conducted on two rats. Both of these rats were doomed at the start. But one had been pampered and rewarded at every turn, thus becoming a happy-go-lucky, optimistic varmint. The other was met with an electric shock at every turn and as one would expect, he exhibited signs of depression

Both rats were tossed into a deep vat of water. The depressed rat made a few perfunctory tries at getting out and then simply gave up the ghost and sank to the bottom. The happy rat swam and swam and swam, sure that he would somewhere find his reward, but he too ended up at the bottom of the vat. The scientists said it was a lesson to us all: the depressed rat gave up too soon, and the optimistic rat tried to prevail against overwhelming odds. Somehow the scientists interpreted this as giving points to the optimistic rat, but the test observers disagreed, saying both were dead just the same and the depressed rat’s reality was far more accurate that of the optimistic rats's.

When the tests were moved from rats to people, the surprise was that the non-depressed people were the ones who consistently made perception errors. According to the results, depressed people were more objectively correct in their sense of controlling the outcome of the test than the non-depressed people. The scientists were loathe to admit that these finding flew in the face of their best rat theories, but they had to admit that the pessimists' perception of reality may be closer to actuality than that of all those "up" people.

Now, this was a serious scientific study but a tongue-in-cheek article, and I laughed all the way through it. As a closet pessimist, I felt vindicated, somewhat like the lady whose tombstone read, "I told you I was sick!"

Anyway, I looked for the worst in my computer situation and expected the worst. So the paper clip and the tiny screwdriver sure made my day! I guess that is one way to insure serendipities!

Friday, July 25, 2008


Sometime back I had the wonderful opportunity to baby-sit my little Los Angeles grand-daughters. I don't get to do it often because I live 60 miles away, but sometimes when their folks take a weekend away, I get to stay with them, which I consider great fun. The only part I don't enjoy is trying to figure out how to make all their electronic equipment work.

The TV downstairs has about 12 functions connected to it, with many "clickers" involved and sometimes it just gets out of sync and I'm not able to get the regular broadcast channels on it. Actually, it happens almost every time I lay my hand on it, so I am always resigned to doing without any news for however long I am stay.

On this particular evening it happened again about 7 o’clock, so I thought it might be fun for the three of us girls - me, Olivia 5 and Justine 4 - to get in our Jammies and watch the low-tech TV in their parents' bedroom, lolling on their high four-poster bed. The girls ran to get into their jammies and I got my new summer PJs out of the suitcase. They are a two-piece seersucker outfit, a pair of shorts and a sleeveless top.

Just as I was pulling off my Capri pants in preparation for putting on the PJ bottoms, Olivia came into the room. She stopped dead in her tracks and said, "Grandma, you have old legs!"

I could hardly keep a straight face when she said that, but trying not to grin I said, "You are certainly right, Olivia. I am an old lady and my legs are old too."

She thought about that a minute and asked, "Well, how old are you." I told her I was 71. Her next question was, "Well, when are you going to die?" I was getting such a kick out of this "out of the mouths of babes" kind of conversation, but I told her that people don't know when they are going to die, that some people die when they are young and others when they are old and I didn't know when it would happen to me.

That seemed to satisfy her, and she jumped up on the bed and plumped up the pillow she had chosen for herself. Although I never intended to take off my T-shirt and bra in front of her, that very act gained new significance because if she thought my legs looked old, what would she have said if she had seen my bazooms! Believe me, I really didn't want to know!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Don't ever get a frozen shoulder! As I understand it, the condition is more common to older folk than younger people, and more apt to happen to a female than a male. I must have fit right into the "more common" slot, because I got it and it is no fun, believe me.

When I finally convinced mydoctor that I needed help (when I could no longer move my right arm more than about 6 inches in front of my body) he acquiesced and sent me for a round of Physical Therapy. I eventually needed a second round.

Some of the therapy was difficult but do-able and I could feel myself making progress. Then we got to the point where the therapists had to physically manipulate my shoulder and arm into various positions. The pain was excrutiating. Although I mostly laid immobile and silent on the table while this was going on, I was mentally using all the tricks in my bag (self-hypnosis, mental imagery, relaxation, etc) to convince myself that this did not hurt like Billy Sam! (It did). One of the ladies who was having this part of the therapy done would throw her legs and feet up in the air and wave them around while she groaned loudly because of the pain. That isn't my style, but I came very close to emulating her on occasion.

After the two rounds of PT, I was released with a page full of exercises to continue at home. One that did me the most good but was the most difficult to do was to place a towel over the top of a door, grip the top of the door with my bum arm and gradually "hang" from the door by the one arm. Success came in 1/16ths of an inch, believe me. And it hurt so bad. (You know the old saw - no pain, no gain!) Needless to say, I much preferred the exercises done on the bed while moving a wooden rod in various configurations.

All the time I was doing this therapy, my cat Squeaky would sit on the dresser watching me. As soon as I would get off the bed, she would make a dash for the rod and go through her own set of calisthentics. Below are pictures of me and Squeaky doing our various "things." I can't speak for her but I my shoulder is considerably better. It's not perfect yet but at the 11 month point I can say I'm sure a lot better than I was, and I hope I'll never have to go through that kind of Physical Therapy anymore!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I was around when Pepperdine was called George Pepperdine College (at 79th and Vermont in LA) and when cool jazz was call "Progressive" jazz. That was a long time ago. But it was where and when my love of jazz began. GPC was very small at that time - I think probably about 900 students. Bunches of us would head out to the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach or Shelley's Mann Hole and hear the most wonderful music. It was the time of Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, Shorty Rogers, George Shearing.... and a perhaps less-known but dearer to my heart artist, Chico Hamilton.

The summer that I was falling in love - the summer of 1954 - my future husband and I would go down to The Strollers' Club in Long Beach and sit for hours listening to the Chico Hamilton Quintet and Fred Katz, the fantastic cellist who played with him then. I probably shouldn't have been let into that Club, as I was not yet 20, but I suppose management looked the other way. They could tell that I only drank Cokes! So between having the Los Angeles Jazz scene during the school year and the Strollers' club during the summer, I grew to embrace those wonderful sound that even now I hear in my head.

There also was a bowling alley in Long Beach out on East Pacific Coast Highway just before you went down the hill and around the Circle which featured some jazz artists. One time we stopped in there to hear a young new singer that was advertised as an upcoming artist. She was very good, and after we asked her to sing "My Funny Valentine" for us -and she did - she came to sit with us on a break. We had a nice chat and we told her we were sure we'd be hearing more from her down the line. Her name was Vicki Carr.

I have always considered it lucky that I chose GPC for my college years, because in addition to giving me a good education, it made possible my close affinity to a jazz form that I still love, in all its iterations.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Some time back there was an article in the LA Times headlined “Who Gets Custody of Fido?” that left me both horrified and gratified at the same time.

Seems that in a Midwestern state a bill had been introduced to the state legislature that outlined how divorcing couples and the courts should handle custody battles over pets. The article cites the need for such legality by telling about two such divorce cases. The first was where joint custody of the family German shepherd, who had digestion problems, was awarded to the wife during the week and the husband on the weekends. Each Friday the husband picked up the dog for the weekend, and each Sunday afternoon just prior to returning the dog to his ex, the man would feed the dog fatty sausages, which the dog upchucked about two hours after he returned to his weekend home.

The second is where the wife, after two years of wrangling in divorce court, got full custody of the dog and the minute the divorce was finalized she had the dog euthanized.

Of course it was the second illustration that horrified me, not only that the dog was euthanized for no good reason at all but that any human being could have so little regard for either a dog or a former spouse. I am appalled that people can be so horribly vindictive.

But the gratification came when I had to acknowledge that in spite of the awfulness of my own divorce, not in the process itself but in what my husband felt was acceptable in love and war, neither of us would never, ever had done such a thing. Now I have to admit that in my lowest depressive moments I entertained ideas worse than either of those, but I have always believed that down deep it really was not in my being to ever take any such action that would have caused so much pain to another and that time was what would bring healing to me. It did.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Today's LA Times has an article in it about a group of Girl Scouts in Claremont, California getting booted off the street while selling Girl Scout cookies. Since this happened some months ago I'm not sure why it was in the newspaper today, but it certainly reminded me of my many years of cookie-selling. Except that in that day we went door to door taking orders, and then delivering them when the shipment came in. I do believe we had lots of budding Type A personalities because we set goals for our sales and worked the neighborhoods like crazy to see who could sell the most boxes. In that day, no one considered having a working parent take boxes to sell at work.

Anyway, thinking of old Troop 28 in Long Beach, California brought back such good memories I just have to share a couple of photos with you. Troop 28 started in fall of 1945 and actually is still in existence, if you call regular reunions as indications of membership.

So here we are in 1947, in the middle of our third year of scouting. I'm sitting in the middle, front row, with my arm positioned to show all the badges on my sleeve. (Yes, Type A!)

And here we are again in 1988, posed in the same positions as we were earlier. Ladies in the front row were "newcomers" -- that is, they joined later.

Time is taking its toll on us and there are fewer now than in this picture. But even so, we get together when we can. Reminds me of the round we used to sing:

Make new friends, but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I've had it in my heart -- or my soul, is probably more accurate -- to join in the fun of blogging. Do I have anything to say? My husband says I must, since I am always talking and writing, talking and writing, but I think that if I had anything really important to say, I'd probably be rich and famous.

But since I'm not, I'll just say that on occasion I do have some little tidbits to share. I'm hoping some of them will ring a bell in the heart (or soul) of the reader and we can touch that way. I'll be looking forwards and backwards -- and sometimes sideways -- in my life, sharing with you some observations and reflections just for the fun of it. Since I read a lot, I'll share some books; since I work hard on genealogy, I'll share some family stories. A few joke now and then, and hope that we can get acquainted as time passes.