Tuesday, March 31, 2009


My first mother-in-law was born and raised in Tennessee. She was a wonderful cook, and I learned to eat “real” food, as well as “southern” food at her table. As I may have noted earlier, my mother was an awful cook of even very ordinary and plain things. Food held no delights for her or, by extension, for my sis and me. So when I married into Ida May's family, I learned not only that real food could taste wonderful but also about corn bread cooked in a skillet, green beans simmered in a pot for hours with strips of bacon, and just how delicious fried okra was. I was especially fond of her fried okra, and even though I watched how she made it, I did not have the knack for cooking it. I tried many times without success. So knowing this, when she fixed it she would always phone us to come on over and help her eat it.

One day last summer while at the local laundromat I was nosing around in a magazine and came upon a new recipe for okra. The developer of the recipe was a southern cook used to making fried okra, but he had "seen the light" about not cooking with so much bacon fat (which of course is what made fried okra exceptionally tasty) and he said this: Don't spoil the okra by frying it or cooking it in gumbo. Pick out small okra pods, wash them lightly and sauté them in a frying pan with a balance of olive oil and butter. Cook them until they are just "al dente" (maybe 5 or 6 minutes), then drain, add salt and pepper and eat while hot. He swears that cooks have missed the boat for years by cooking them any other way. He says they were slimy in gumbos (that is correct) and lost their greenness to dark brown when fried in bacon fat (they did). He assures the readers that we will never want to eat them cooked any other way once we try his new way!

I tried his way, and I have two thoughts: Either this man wrote the new recipe just to have something published or he was crazy. I found it hard to believe that his highly touted healthy-cooking okra recipe would be good, and by golly, it wasn’t. I bought baby okra and followed his directions perfectly. And when I put those little sautéed okras in my mouth it was like trying to eat a slimy, hairy crispy bug. They were awful. How could that man say that we’d never go back to fried okra in bacon fat again? I don’t know what that man was thinking.

Although Ida May never cooked grits to my knowledge, I later learned in a visit to Baton Rouge that grits were eminently edible. Our cousin Beryl served them as she would mashed potatoes. They were sitting on the dinner plate in a pile; a huge chunk of butter was slathered on the top and then the whole mountain of grits was salted and peppered within an inch of its life. Never having tasted grits I wasn’t sure that I was going to be all that enamored of them, but I quickly learned that I had really missed out on something yummy. Later while having breakfast in a local restaurant we were served sausage and eggs with a helping of grits on the plate – and those grits were of a consistency of something like Cream of Wheat. Again I wasn’t sure I was going to like them, but they were just as good that way (doctored with butter and seasonings) as when they were standing upright in a mound on my dinner plate. And many years later my cousin in Swansboro, North Carolina, took me to a restaurant that served “Shrimp and Grits” for lunch, which was a bowl of Grits and cheese, topped with shrimp and a marinara sauce. It was to die for.

I am convinced that if grits had a more esthetically-pleasing name, more people would like them. “Grits” and “eggplant” are two delights that I believe suffer from misnaming. I am not a connoisseur of southern foods (and especially not of pig-picking), but at least for the few things I have a personal acquaintance with I can be counted as one of the loyal cheerleaders.

Monday, March 30, 2009


West of Cambridge and the willow-shaded Cam River is a countryside of orchards and pastures. Here and there you can see a windmill or a church tower, the roofs of an ancient riverside town or the bushy crown of an occasional copse. It is a serene area and except for a visit to Cambridge, it is not exactly a tourist destination.

But a few miles outside of Cambridge in a little town called Madingley there is a stark white, modern chapel sitting in the middle of a vast cemetery of white crosses. This is the American Cemetery and Chapel, a little known burial ground for many of our WWII pilots and crew of the planes that left England in the bombing raids over Germany.

In 1985, Jerry and I took a month-long trip to England, spending three weeks on the road seeing as much as we could and then a fourth week in London where we explored the city. We made up our minds ahead of time that we would confine our visit to England and Wales, hoping that some day in the future we could do Scotland and Ireland the same way. We purchased a book called Touring Guide to Britain, published by the English Automobile Association and plotted our three weeks on the road, using that as our guide. It was in this book that I saw a simple notation for the American Cemetery and decided to include it in our plans when we neared Cambridge.

My Uncle Bert had piloted a B17 on bombing raids headed to Germany from a RAF base in that part of England in 1944, and because he had asked us to see if there was anything left of the old air base when we were in the neighborhood, I was primed to be emotionally involved. My eyes misted over as I looked at all those white crosses, hundreds and hundreds of them. My uncle Bert came home safely; these men weren’t so lucky.

The chapel was long and narrow and was positioned east to west. Just inside the chapel entryway was an area of displays and maps, including a 540 square foot map showing Atlantic sea and air routes used by American forces during World War II. The chapel building was built with floor to ceiling glass panels alternating with marble pillars along each wall. Each panel had on it four or five stained-glass replicas of the official seal of one of the then 48 states, a tribute to the United States whose sons lay buried in the cemetery. The entryway to the altar at the far end was framed with a wooden partition on which were the moving words, “INTO THY HANDS, O LORD”

But it wasn’t until I looked up at the ceiling that I came very close to losing my composure. The entire ceiling was a sky-blue mosaic, with images of every kind of American airplane used in the battles flying toward the east. And interspersed among the airplanes were angels, their hands outstretched ahead of them, their wings behind, accompanying those airplanes. On the ceiling over the altar was a huge gold mosaic sun with rays of gold radiating out of it and toward which the airplanes and angels were flying.

It took me a while before I could compose myself enough to be able to focus my camera. I got what I thought would be a decent shot, and it was then that I saw the inscription that ran along both sides of the mosaic: “To the men of the United States Army Air Force who from these friendly shores flew their final flight.” I was undone.

During the next three weeks Jerry and I saw enough to last us a lifetime, and still we didn’t see all that we wanted to. But now, almost 25 years after our visit to Madingley and the American Cemetery, I remember this time and place as if it were yesterday. And it still has the power to move me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


How long is tolerable to wait on hold for someone to come to the phone? I think probably everyone has his or her own time frame, but an article in the paper this morning said that in an informal poll taken by the newspaper, as long as there was music playing on the telephone the bulk of the people questioned said 15 minutes was the far end of what was tolerable. I was surprised that in this day and age anyone would find 15 minutes of waiting acceptable. Now having said that, I must 'fess up to being on hold that long when I call my doctor's office to make an appointment. Not waiting is like shooting yourself in the foot.

My normal tolerance level for waiting on hold is probably 5 minutes, unless country music is playing, in which case I hang up immediately.

I think what irks me the most about waiting is when I call someone and then they put me on hold while they take another phone call -- that irritating "call waiting" feature that so many of the younger people have. And a corollary to that is standing at a counter in the middle of a transaction and having the salesperson take a phone call and then deal with that person while I wait. Yes, that is the most irritating! I was there first and I need to be helped first. Phoning and being taken care of is like taking “cuts” in a line. I always mentally picture myself gathering the goods, scooping up my purse and marching away, leaving the salesperson stuck on the phone with the person who interrupted me. Of course I never do, because I don't make scenes but I always run that scenario through my brain when it happens, wishing I were brave enough to do it.

I have never been a very good wait-er. Jerry is a good influence on me. He doesn't ever try to fight the system -- if it takes ten minutes, well, just relax; you'll get there when you get there. He also has a slow tempo to his life -- he walks slowly, acts slowly and sometimes thinks slowly (no offense meant). He has helped me be more patient when I wait in line.

When I lived in Istanbul and dealt with the postal service there, I swore I would never again gripe about the United States post office, or their lines, or their service. To date I haven't, though on occasion I have been mightily tempted. I don't fuss at standing in a long line at a grocery store, unless the cashier and the box person are having a chat about last night's date, which slows down the movement of the line.

One time I went through a checkout stand somewhere - maybe at a drug store - and since there was nobody in line behind me, I was digging in my coin purse to get the right amount of change. The cashier, a man, took my change and said, "I see you’re one of those "pickers" who hold everything up while you hunt for nickels and dimes." I would have liked to punch him in the snoot right there on the spot; instead I wrote a letter to the manager regarding his nasty attitude.

However, it affected me so that now I never, ever, try to get the right change, and when I see someone doing it, I think, "Look how that awful picker is slowing everybody down." I always feel ashamed of myself but it happens, I admit it. Old people are particularly bad and when I get old and my mind gets addled, I hope I remember not to turn into a "picker."

Friday, March 27, 2009


The year was 1952 and I was a junior in high school. Early one afternoon my good friend Miles, a neighbor boy who practically was a fixture at our house, showed up at the door with a young fellow in tow. They both were dressed in the young male's clothing of the day - Levis and white T-shirts. After introducing this fellow to me, Miles said he and Al were heading up the street to a nearby restaurant for a hamburger and coke and asked if I’d like to come along. I had not started dating yet and did not automatically look at unattached males as date possibilities, so I was delighted to come along with them.

All was well until Al mentioned that he was from Wyoming and that he was in the Navy, having just arrived in port from Subic Bay in the Philippines. I nearly fainted. In fact, I was horrified. Me, sitting in a restaurant with a sailor! Both my sister and I had been taught to stay away from sailors, that downtown Long Beach was OFF LIMITS to nice girls when the fleet was in. What would my mother think! I assumed that meant no sailors any time, anywhere. I tried to act blasé about the whole thing but inside I was mortified. A Sailor! Me with a Sailor!

We walked back home and I was hoping to scoot into the house alone and disappear into my room. But since our house was a place where my friends were always welcome, Miles invited Al in to meet my folks. Mother and Dad were very welcoming and then suggested we all go out to the patio; dad would make some coffee for us. Miles didn’t mention to my folks that Al was a sailor, and I sure wasn’t going to do it. But of course when they asked Al about himself they soon learned. After the visit, there was no reference made in our house about Al.

However, a few days later Al showed up alone on our doorstep about 4 in the afternoon, having just gotten off duty, and to my chagrin my mother invited him to stay for dinner. Of course he was delighted to have home-cooked food, and he was truly polite, very courteous and considerate. My parents were charmed. They liked him a lot. He mentioned he would be shipping out shortly for another tour of duty in Japan. I saw him several times over the next couple of weeks but do not think that we "dated", except for one movie that we walked to one evening and in which he held my hand. I do know that we never kissed. When it was time for him to return to the base, my dad offered to drive him and I was expected to go along. Al shook my father’s hand as he prepared to leave. And then he surreptitiously slipped me a letter to read after I got home.

The letter was a courteous Midwestern “love” letter, professing his besottedness with me and saying that he would write me while he was gone. He hoped I would write him in return and said when he got out of the service he would like to “court me proper.”

I was so relieved that he was gone. I didn’t want to be “courted proper.” I didn’t want to date a sailor. Shortly he sent me a white shortie-jacket made in Japan that had “tuck and roll” lapels that went down the front, just like all the other girls at school who dated sailors wore. I hid it in the back of my closet and never wore it. My folks – and Miles – were very disappointed when I wrote to tell him that I was not interested.

I always have felt a bit embarrassed about my treatment of Al, feeling that sometime, somehow I needed to make amends, or apologies, or something. All I could tell him is that I was at the age and stage where I still didn't question my parents' orders and hadn't even yet arrived at the point where I was interested in "boys." Given another two years, when my teen-aged rebellion hit hard, I might have run off with him and become a Wyoming housewife. Who knows?

I do hope that down the line he found a nice Midwestern girl to marry and lived happily ever after. He really was a nice fellow, but just not for me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Of all the pictures that I have come across in researching my mother's family this one comes close to being my favorite. On the left is my Uncle Hughie, in the center is my Aunt Marie, and on the left is my Uncle Bert. They were children of Byrd and Jessie Davis Ryland.

There were seven children born to my grandparents: Nevalyn, called Bob; Florence; Virginia, my mother; Marie; Byrd Jr., called Bert; Hugh; and Marjorie. The Ryland family lived on a farm in Caldwell, Kansas, right on the Oklahoma border south of Wichita. All the children except for Virginia and Margie were born in Kansas; my grandfather Byrd often moved the family to Colorado Springs for his health, and it was there that the other two were born.

The youngest child, Margie, was born in 1925. In 1929 my grandma divorced my grandpa. In lieu of child support, she took a settlement which included some acreage with a house on it in Mulvane, Kansas. By 1929 the oldest son Bob had gone to California to try his luck at the movies. Florence, the oldest daughter, had a job in Wichita and was engaged to be married. My mother, who had graduated from high school in 1928, stayed in Colorado Springs because she was working for a photography studio and was scheduled to be sent to Illinois to a school for retouching. So grandma packed up the four remaining children and moved to the house in Mulvane.

This picture is obviously from the time they lived on the farm. In spite of it being taken in the beginning of the depression, at that point in time the family was not poor. Those clothes were what children in farming communities wore then. As adults, my aunts and uncles talked about that time on the farm with only good memories of it being a part of their childhood.

I heard three stories from my mom about the time on the farm. One was that it was so hot in the summer that my grandma hung wet sheets up in the doorways to try to catch a cooling breeze. One was that my grandma had chickens and she loved them all. The third was that when the house burned down, my mother's high school yearbook was burned up with it.

It was this fire that turned my grandma's eyes toward California, and when she got an insurance settlement from the fire, she packed up the kids, including my mother, and headed to California. Her son Bob encouraged her to come out, saying he was sure she could find work here. When they arrived the depression had deepened and there was no work. It was a hard struggle for them, as it was for most of America.

My mother always regretted having lost her yearbook in the fire at the farm. I didn't know about the hobby of genealogy until after mother died, and my delving into it was really motivated by her no longer being around to answer my questions about family things. In my first trip back to Colorado Springs I went to the Penrose Library there and inquired if they had a collection of high school yearbooks from 1928. They did, and I found the one with my mother's high school graduation picture in it. I made a photocopy of the picture for my files.

But a few months later, I wrote a letter to the newspaper and asked if they had a place in their newspaper appropriate to post a query for me: to see if anyone had a 1928 yearbook that I could purchase from them. I told them the story of how my mother's yearbook had burned up in a fire and how much I would like to have one. Within three weeks I had two copies in my hand; one from a retired caretaker who couldn't bear to see the old annuals thrown away so he stored them in his house all those years. The second was from a long-lost friend of my mother who said she never looked at hers anymore and since she had no children, she'd like to pass it on to me.

Having two of them enabled me to give one to my sister. Mom's picture is in there - and the inscription next to it says, "For she is sweeter than perfume itself." And my mom was.

Genealogy is about going back into our ancestry as far as we can. But it is also adding dimension to the family members we know and love. All of my aunts and uncles are gone now. I was lucky that they lived long enough for me to enjoy them adult-to-adult. The pictures I've found of them as children is a real bonus.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I've been watching on TV and hearing on the radio about the young wife back east who has filed for divorce and has asked $53,000 per week in alimony. She indicates she’s cutting corners at that cost but that she’ll agree to it to get the matter settled.

For us peons out here, we can’t imagine what $53,000 a week would feel like. I’ve never even felt what $53,000 a year felt like. Nevertheless, since I do expect my boat to come in one of these days, I began ruminating about how I would spend my big bucks

Of course I would have to pay all my taxes, and for this “let’s pretend” I’ll just say that of course I would help my kids and grandkids. And I have some charities I’m particularly fond of and would like to help them out. But for the portion I would have to play with here’s what I would do.

First off, I’d get a cleaning lady to clean my apartment. It wouldn’t take her long since it is small, but it would surely be a blessing to me, because any more my poor knees and back are very difficult to make housecleaning easy to do. Along with this lady I’d get someone who would do a weekly wash and ironing for me. Of all the chores that I have to do, taking dirty clothes to a laundromat ranks up there higher than any of the others. I didn’t mind doing laundry when I owned my own equipment, but this laundromat business is for the birds.

Next, I would eat out every lunch and dinner. I wouldn’t mind doing the breakfast myself, because it is only toast and coffee, but eating out would solve a host of problems and there would be less dishes for me to wash.

I’d replace our cars, both of which have substantially over 120,000 miles on them and are almost relics. I see myself in a snazzy sports car. But I learned some time ago that my back doesn’t like cars where I have to drop myself into a bucket seat, so I think probably I’d buy whatever kind of car I can find that has a bench seat in front. My former car, a 1989 Olds Cutlass Supreme, had a bench seat and it gave my back such good support that I was loathe to get rid of it. But after we’d put a couple thousand dollars in on it and the problem still hadn’t been located, much less fixed, we decided not to throw good money after bad. We donated it to The Salvation Army. I hope its new owner fixed it and loved it as much as I did. The car that replaced it, a 1992 Buick, was given to us and we don’t look gift horses in the mouth, but it is not a comfortable car to be in. It has a bucket seat!

I definitely would by a new computer and load it with everything I want. I’d put a PowerPoint program on it and then hire someone, probably one of the Geek Squad out of Best Buy to come in and give me lessons on how to use it.

For a long range plan, I would buy us a Whoopie Goldberg motor home and hire a driver to take Jerry and me all over the United States where my families have lived, so I could do on-site research and walk over the land where they lived. I’d go to every cemetery where a family member is buried and pay my respects by photographing their headstones. (Jerry would just love this, I know.)

I think I’d still have plenty of money left after the first week, so I’d probably buy a few more clothes and some shoes. I hate shopping and tend not to buy until there is an emergency – either a place that requires dressy attire or the clothes in my closet getting so raggedy that I’m starting to be embarrassed about them. So I might hire myself a personal shopper for a short period of time to get my wardrobe back up to where it should be. Frankly, I’m at my most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, but I’m sure there will be a time when an almost-74 year old lady starts looking ridiculous in them. I should remind my kids that I want them to tell me when that time comes!

Let me see…… do I have any more “I wish I had…?” Off hand I don’t think of any. Actually, with a roof over our heads, good mattresses to sleep on, enough money to keep food in the pot and a darling kitty to keep us company, what more could two old people want? Well, $53,000 would be hard to turn down!

Monday, March 23, 2009


There are some lucky people in the world who do not have to dramatically downsize as they go into their “golden years.” We have not been so fortunate. Nevertheless, when we keep one eye on the budget and the other eye on our health, we understand that certain things must be changed.

This morning I was looking at my bookshelves behind the computer where lots of my treasures are and wondering if anything on those shelves could be moved out. Most of it is working material – albums for the photos, genealogy notebooks, cookbooks (down to four from about twenty), reference books for both genealogy and writing, some few craft boxes (for scherenschnitte – paper-cutting, for calligraphy and for note-card making,) and then a few special books that I just can’t bear to give up. It is those that I want to list for you today.

Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fisher.
How to Win a Pullet Surprise by Jack Smith (a signed copy)
Jack Smith’s LA (Jack Smith was a wonderful LATimes columnist whom I read faithfully)
Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters
The Mormon Murders, by Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith
Stiff by Mary Roach (the world’s funniest book)
California Missions and their Romances by Mrs. Fremont Older (a book given to me in 1945)
Son of the Morning Star by Evan Connell
Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks (a novel about John Brown)
Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler
Gilead by Marilynn Robinson
Girl Scout Handbook, 1950
Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball
The Provincials by Eli Evans
Robert College: The American Founders by Keith Greenwood
One Hundred and One Famous Poems – Anthology 1929

After I typed this list, it occurred to me that my reference books are every bit as important as the ones above, so I’ll list those also, excluding my Genealogy books:

Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1975 and woefully outdated)
Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style
Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations
Rodale’s Synonym Finder
Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised
and an old well-used Holy Bible

I love my books. Over the years I managed to part with all the old college textbooks I had saved, which were my English and American Lit books and all my psychology textbooks, although the latter group probably would be so outdated now that they would be useless. I wish now I'd saved the Lit books.

In the first list above I do find a couple of books I’m ready to part with if I give them another fast reading.

I also see that I am never going to do anything more with the scherenschnitte so I can toss that box but will save the Exacto knife that I used (I love my Exacto knife and find lots of things to use it on besides paper.) I’m not going to bother with calligraphy anymore, so that box too can go. And card-making? It was a hope that I had enough creativity in my genes to make some cards, but I quickly learned in class that I do not. Why I’ve saved this stuff is beyond me. So out with that too.

Just writing this blog has given me direction for the day’s goal: clear a few more things out to provide space for new projects. There are always new projects. I’ll do that first thing. Having success at something so early in the day is a good way to start it, don’t you think?

Sunday, March 22, 2009


One of the things my mom did when my sis and I were little was to sing to us. She first started out with childish songs that we could learn and sing along with her. Besides “Row Row Row your boat” we learned one about cats:

O where is my kitty, my little grey kitty?
I wandered the fields all around
I looked in the cradle and under the table
but nowhere could kitty be found.

and dogs:

Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone
Oh where, oh where can he be
With his ears cut short and his tail cut long
Oh where, oh where can he be?

I probably remember these because they were sad songs and my sister and I worried about the animals. I’d guess if my mom had any idea that we were upset with them she wouldn’t have added them to her repertoire.

But mom also sang some of the songs that were popular in the 1930s, and throughout the years after mom died, Ginnie Lou and I would talk about how lucky we were to have a mom that read poetry and sang songs to us. Probably our favorite of all the songs was one called “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye”. The idea of furniture in the house being involved in human lives was fascinating to us. Ginnie and I talked a lot about our family’s furniture having eyes to see what was going on, and on occasion, if one of us was going to sneak an extra piece of candy or something similar, we’d pat the couch and say, “Now don’t look!”

Anyway, here are the lyrics to that song.

We thought that love was over,
That we were really through,
I said I didn't love her,
That we'd begin anew
And you can all believe me,
We sure intended to,
But we just couldn't say goodbye.

The chair and then the sofa,
They broke right down and cried,
The curtains started wavin'
For me to come inside.
I tell you confidentially,
The tears were hard to hide,
And we just couldn't say goodbye.

The clock was striking twelve o'clock
It smiled on us below,
With folded hands it seemed to say,
"We'll miss you if you go."

So I went back and kissed her,
And when I looked around,
The room was singin' love songs,
And dancing up and down.
And now we're both so happy,
Because at last we've found.
That we just couldn't say goodbye.

As well as I can remember we never heard it played on the radio, but lo and behold, now YouTube has a Frank Sinatra rendition of it that is a little bit more draggy than my mom’s rendition but will let you hear the tune. (Besides, who is to say anything against anything Old Blue-Eyes did!) Have a listen.


I had a lovely childhood and in spite of the fact that I read Dr. Seuss and sang Girl Scout songs to my kids, I hope they enjoyed their childhoods too.

And now that you know, be careful. Your furniture has eyes!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


When my sister and I were little tykes back in the early 1940s our family took a lot of car rides in our local area. In the summer, quite often Daddy would ask where we wanted to go, and Ginnie Lou and I would jump and shout that we wanted to go “round Rainbow Pier.” In those days the big Municipal Auditorium sat at the foot of Pine Avenue on the strand, jutting out into the water on a filled piece of land. Making a wide arc around the outside of the auditorium was Rainbow Pier, which left a quiet salt-water lagoon surrounding the Auditorium. Nearly every child in Long Beach learned to swim in the Rainbow Lagoon. The “rainbow” nomenclature came about because the streetlights lining the Pier itself had colored globes, and since automobiles were allowed to drive around the pier, many Long Beach children learned their colors by looking at the lamps as their folks drove past.

Daddy always timed those summer evening rides so we could first drive past the “Spit and Argue” Club, an outdoor structure built adjacent to the base of Rainbow Pier which had a platform for speakers and benches for listeners. It was an informal meeting place for people who had something to say and needed to get it off their chest. I don’t know that it was formally called “Spit and Argue” Club, but by golly, that is exactly what went on there. We kids would start rolling down the car windows as we headed down the bluff to drive onto the pier, and we would have daddy drive very slowly past so we could hear all the carryings-on, although we were always a little bit afraid of having spit fly into our car.

Then just about at dusk we drove around the pier itself . We called out the color of each globe: red, orange, yellow, green, blue – and maybe purple, although my recollection after 65 years may be a little hazy. At the other end of the pier we drove up the bluff, turned east on Ocean Avenue and headed toward the Currie’s Ice Cream Store out near Belmont Shore. Currie’s had what was advertised as “Mile High Cones,” and illustrated by a huge three-dimensional ice cream cone atop their building. Instead of having round scoops of ice cream topping the cones, they used a conical-shaped scoop that put a cone-shaped scoop of ice cream on top the sugar cone. We always ordered “Chockl-bits” ice cream. Because of the warm summer evenings we had to eat it real fast so it wouldn’t melt down our arms. That was not a problem to do, because it was so good.

My sis and I never got tired of that evening ride. We longed for Long Beach summers to come quickly. We learned to swim in the Rainbow Lagoon, fish off the pier – and later we attended circuses in the auditorium, held beach parties where the “real” ocean water outside the breakwater-sheltered shoreline was, spent our summers slathering our bodies with baby oil and baking in the sun on beach towels – and finally ending our teenage years with the all night dance held in the Auditorium for graduates of all three local high schools – Poly, Wilson and Jordan. I remember in 1953 Ray Anthony played for our dance, and in the early hours of the morning when the dance was over my “gang” of friends, which was composed mainly of high school newspaper staffers, headed to our house on Gardenia Avenue, where my dad and mom were already up cooking a pancake breakfast for us. We ate until sated and then about 15 of us curled up on the furniture with the overflow on the floor and slept away the first half of the first day of the rest of our lives.

I suppose everyone who grew up in a “home town” has a soft spot in their heart for it. I drive through Long Beach now and it is not at all the town I grew up in. But I still see it all in my mind’s eye as I struggle to figure out where it – and where time – has all gone.

Photo taken at Rainbow Lagoon 1940. I am in the middle, my little sister Ginnie Lou on the right. My dad is behind her, his best friend "Uncle" Bill Funk at the left. The oldest girl was a neighbor friend.

Friday, March 20, 2009


The older I get the more concern I have for the welfare of little animals. Actually, even big animals, too. But not all of them. I have sympathy and concern for the zebra who is being eaten by a lion. I would feel sympathy for the lion if it were being eaten by an elephant, but since that doesn’t happen, I have yet to be concerned about lions. But I am surprised that as much as I hate the thought of bats, and as much as I am revolted by pictures of bats, under the right circumstances I will feel sorry for them.

Take for instance the latest threat to the little brown bat. It appears to me from pictures that it is an exceptionally small bat. Other than its ferocious visage I’d have to say in general it is a cute little thing, no bigger than a minute. It’s hard to be repelled by a tiny furry something, though the bat might consider that he wouldn’t have such a bad rap if he’d keep his mouth closed a bit more. Don’t you think this picture is somewhat cute? Look how tiny he is -- and maybe scared too.

Anyway, for the last few years biologists have seen what they call a “white-nose syndrome” attacking these little bats. Whatever disease that has produced this syndrome is decimating the bat population. Under ordinary circumstances I’d probably say, “Good!” but how can I say that when I see a picture like this of all the little hanging bats sick with the white-nose syndrome?

The farmers are hysterical about their demise, because bats are voracious eaters of insects that carry diseases and attack crops. Each bat during a midnight foray can eat 100% of its weight in insects each night. And of course biologists themselves don’t want any critters to die out. The biologists have a theory as to what is happening, ie bat waking up during hibernation and burning up too much energy trying to get warm, thus being in too weak a condition to ward off disease. And they have an idea of what they need to do to prevent it, ie warm up the bat bedroom.

The researchers propose using insulated boxes about 18”x 12”x 6” that would hold about 200 bats each. A heater coil like those used in snake cage would raise the temperature inside the box as high as 80 degrees. The heater coil would be powered by car batteries linked to solar cells. During the winter they would put these boxes in caves where the bats normally sleep. If the bat woke up during hibernation he or she would automatically fly into them and warm up quickly, saving their strength to live another day! If I understand this correctly, the white-nose syndrome is only a winter problem.

It is hard for me to visualize 200 bats in a box. It is equally hard for me to want to visualize any bats in a box. But apparently bat boxes are used all over the world, of course not with heaters in them. I found a website that encouraged people to buy one of the bat boxes to give their bats a home. http://www.batconservation.org/content/Bathouseimportance.html

I am sure there are bats where we live but I don’t want to see them and I don’t want to think about them. All the general bat websites that I consulted said bats do not fly into your hair. However, knowing my reaction when a measly June bug flies into my hair, you wouldn’t want to see my reaction if a bat accidentally got in my hair.

So I think it is a good idea for biologists on the east coast to do research there on those tiny little critters to prevent the white nose syndrome from taking over. And overall I do believe in live and let live, even when it is one animal killing another, but I don’t have to like it. But be assured that I am not going to go exploring in my neighborhood at night to see what I can see. I don’t really like bats any better after reading all about this syndrome than I did before. Nevertheless, I'd like to see the sick bats cured.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Below is a photograph I took of a page in the Corel family bible. Before I started into genealogy I knew nothing about my dad's grandmother. My dad was raised in Colorado; his dad's mother lived in Kansas City, Missouri and dad had no recollection of ever seeing her. He did not know that her name was Nancy but was called "Nannie." He did not know that she had two husbands, her first, Francois LaHay, died in 1862 and that their two children died shortly thereafter. He did not know that after five years of widowhood she married James S. Dobbins and they had two sons, Robert and Scott (dad's father). I had to research really hard to find out all this information.

It was all done before the advent of computers. Today I'm going to encourage all genealogy researchers to get out from behind their computers and start some letter-writing or some phoning to see if you can make some surprises happen.

After 7 years of researching I had learned about Nannie Corel and in fact had located some Corel relatives that were still living in Lawrence, Kansas, where the Corel family ended up after they left Virginia, settled for a short while in Kansas City, Missouri and when Kansas opened up to settlement moved over into Douglas County. I only knew these living relatives by letter writing, but in 1990 we had a small "reunion" to meet each other. It was at this reunion that Daphne, one of the descendants of Olivia Corel, Nannie's younger sister, brought the old family bible for all to see.

The names of both Nancy and Olivia appear on the lower portion of the bible page, as they were the two youngest of the large and female-heavy Corel family. It was because in those early days genealogists like me had to write letters to communicate with one another that the bible, with all its important family information, came into my awareness.

My father did not have a picture of his grandmother Nancy. Two other Dobbins descendants of his generation - my dad's older sister Dorothy and their only cousin Percy - didn't have a picture either. How is it that I have a copy of it then?

In first getting acquainted with the Lawrence relatives prior to the reunion, they were very excited about what I had learned about the history of the family. They knew the farmland that they lived on had been the original homeplace of the Corels but they knew nothing about them. As I shared information I was finding in my research, they passed it on to other relatives they knew of. One day I received a letter postmarked from El Paso, Texas. I didn't know a soul there, and couldn't figure out who would be writing me from there. When I opened the envelope and took out the letter, a small, very old photograph fell out, and on the back was written "Nannie Dobbins."

The lady who was writing me was a descendant of Olivia Corel, and Olivia, being the youngest child in the Corel family was the inheritor of all the family memorabilia. Gloria, a great-granddaughter of Olivia, was the current keeper of that memorabilia. Her Lawrence relatives had kept her apprised of my research and she knew that the picture she had my "ancestor" should rightly belong to me. To say I was dumbfounded is an understatement. Her contact with me came via letter, not the internet.

The Corels lived through the "Bloody Kansas" period. Nannie's first husband, Francois "Frank" LaHay was the son of Toussaint LaHay. The LaHays were French Canadians living in St. Genevieve, Missouri. When Kansas opened up and a vote was to be taken to see whether it should be admitted as a free or a slave state, Toussaint and his sons, Francois, Antoine and John, moved to Douglas County as southern supporters. The boys were a part of the border ruffians. Of course there were plenty of northern supporters whose activities often mirrored the mayhem caused by the southerns. Toussaint had built the family a very nice house, and in the course of the difficulty it was burned to the ground by the northerners. During this time Nancy married Frank LaHay and there is a family story about her throwing pans at the "soldiers" when they came to destroy the house.

In the course of my beginning research I had made contact with my dad's cousin Percy Dobbins. He mentioned that Karen, one of his daughters had in her possession a Certificate issued by the Territory (not state) of Kansas to Touissant LaHay in 1859 for reimbursement for damage to the LaHay property. Within a week after making contact with him, I received in the mail a copy of the Certificate, shown above.

I think two things are obvious: getting away from the computer to make some personal contacts is an exceptionally productive way to do research, and you will learn a lot about the times your family lived in when you start getting artifacts from that period of time. These things are all out there and available for the searching. In my now more than 24 years of researching I am still finding that people I haven't known in the past know something about my families, and in fact as often as not have something that I didn't even know existed.

I encourage each of you to keep working just as hard as you can on your research by internet, but take an active role in going after the things that will only be available if you push yourself away from the computer part of the time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


When I have spare time, I like to knit. I learned how to knit back in the early 1950s when the fad for hand-knit argyle socks came back. Most of the girls I ran around with knit argyles like mad; most of us had boyfriends that we gave them too. About the same time it became very fashionable to use angora yarn. We used it to knit a "fake" cuff to wear over our bobbie-socks, and also we used it as one if the yarns in the argyle sock pattern. While we didn't have competitions to see who could use the most argyle in the pattern, I have to admit that the ones I knit for FiFi (my boyfriend at the time whose last name was Fifield) made his ankles look like they belonged on an elephant.

The angora was very long-haired, quite different than the angora I see in the market today. At any rate, I would have won the contest. Fifi, like a good boyfriend, said he liked them -- and as proof of the pudding, so to speak, he wore them a lot. We took our yarn and our knitting to school and at lunch time you could see clumps of girls sitting on the grass knitting away. It seemed like everyone was doing it!

Since then my knitting has pretty much been limited to ski hats, mittens and afghans. But a year or so ago I found a nice website dedicated to knitting and occasionally they offer free patterns. The one below caught my eye; I'm sure I was struck as much by the beauty of the model as the style of the "beanie."

I couldn't see myself wearing one of these things, but I did want to see how they made up. The first one went quickly and I was delighted. After I finished it I thought if I made a second similar one, I could give them to my darling little granddaughters. I knit a second smaller one, and then made a trip to our local Michaels to see what I could find to decorate the hats for two little girls.
I chose some pretty bluish-purplish buttons for Olivia's hat, and some little brownish animal buttons for Justine's. I put a little bunch of flowers on the side of Olivia's, and three angora puff-balls on the side of Justine's. As the first one I made was really for an adult, it turned out to be a little big for Olivia but that didn't matter to her. The girls were delighted and wore them every day for about four months, their mom said. The day that I gave them to the girls I was lucky enough to grab a cute photo of them at a nearby park where we went for lunch.

If you are interested in having this pattern or perusing the website, here's where you will find it:http://www.knittingdaily.com/blogs/patterns/archive/2008/01/01/cecily-beanie.aspx

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Now don’t think I’m crazy, but there were two good reasons this morning why I thought a living dinosaur had been found in Canada, according to a newspaper article.

The first good reason is that yesterday my cousin in North Carolina sent me a stupendous photo she took of a bug sitting on her front porch. It was an “up close and personal” photo and I was very impressed. It of course appears to be looking at her.

The second good reason is that the article in the newspaper was written in a screwball tense which, if I had not been a little bleery-eyed from getting up so early and weary-brained from a by-law committee meeting last night, I might have not taken the wording so literally.

Here is the sequence of how early this morning my grey-matter synapses came to the conclusion that there was a living dinosaur.

Later I found this drawing on the internet done by the very people in Canada to describe the small dino whose bones they found. Had this picture been used in the newspaper, I would have been off the hook.

In the light of mid-day this all seems like a weird dream, which I am prone to having but usually asleep when I do. I was not asleep when I read this; I was not dreaming. I know there are no dinosaurs living today and I know not to believe everything I read in the newspaper. However, I just can’t make any rational excuses to you for this bizarre episode that might reinstall the esteem which some of you in the past might have had about my brain power. Alas, I'm afraid it is gone forever.

I do not want to tell you that I even yelled in to Jerry, who was doing his early-morning computer duties, that a tiny dinosaur had been found in Canada. I do not want to tell you that he didn’t hear me; he did. And he laughed. That was my first signal that something was amiss. Jerry does not ordinarily laugh early in the morning. That laugh meant something. and my wonderment at his laugh was the final synapse that moved me from the realm of ridiculous to reality.

And I tell you all this because I figured after blogging such a ponderous subject yesterday, you deserved a laugh at my expense. So go ahead, laugh your head off. The laugh's on me. :)

Monday, March 16, 2009


A new study has recently come out that shows some interesting statistics about our country’s religiosity. In spite of the noise level raised by the conservative Religious Right, whose antics make it seem way bigger than it really is (my interpretation, not the survey’s) it seems that between 1990 and 2008, the percentage of Americans who identified themselves as Christians dropped from 86% to 76%, according to the American Religious Identification Survey that was released on March 9. Broken down a little further, it shows a 10% drop in the number of people calling themselves “Christians” and an increase in every state of those who say they are not aligned with any faith.

Reading this survey made me laugh. Those of us who do not identify with any faith or with any denomination – and moreover whose understanding of what the term “Christian” means precludes us from saying we live in a Christian nation – are called, for survey purposes, “Nones.” I love it! I am a None. Among the Nones are atheists, agnostics and secularists, the latter of which I think are probably what I would call Humanists. To its credit, this study acknowledges there is a difference between being “anti-religious” and being “non-religious” but nevertheless considers them both “Nones” for purposes of the survey. This is a statistical clumping together I understand but I do want to make sure everyone knows I am of the latter type.

Next, I found it very interesting that the survey indicates that growing secularism can be seen in the fact that about 27 percent of Americans said they do not expect to have a religious funeral when they die. According to Barry Kosmin, co-author of the survey, “If you don’t have a religious funeral, you’re probably not interested in heaven and hell.” I know that the trend toward what are called “Celebration of Life” services instead of funerals is becoming very strong out here in LALA land. However, I also think the outrageous cost of even simple funerals may carry as much weight in the decision-making process as the identification of one’s life with either going “Up” or “Down” at the end of it.

I have just finished reading a very funny book in which the author seems to be an agnostic when he starts writing the book and after much scriptural investigation ends up practically an atheist. Again, that is my interpretation, not the author’s. If there ever had been a teeny crack where “religion” might have snuck into in this man’s life, after he wrote the book I think the crack had been sealed up tightly. I’d guess he too became a “None.”

Now having said all this, I admit that probably my most favorite books are ones that have some kind of religious theme running through them and can be either fiction or non-fiction. I do not go into a religious bookstore to buy those kinds of religious books; I can find plenty in my library to read. I have a strong background of religious education; although neither of my parents ever went to church, my sister and I were always sent to Sunday School in whichever was the church closest to our home. While these were mainly Protestant churches, they ranged from Southern Baptist to Foursquare Gospel. As an adult, I can name Quakers, charismatic revival home meetings, Nazarene, Salvation Army and non-denominational affiliations, as well as being accepted into a Jewish family. Going into and finally coming out from of all these groups, choosing none of them as a permanent religious affiliation or belief, makes me comfortable in the religious milieu. And not being angry about where I am makes me able to understand and enjoy the stories with religious settings.

And probably is why I laugh so much when I read reports of studies like this. I don’t take offense at anything that is said or reported. It is what it is. And I sure do enjoy reading about what those researchers have discovered and what they think it means.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


If you were a teenager in the late 1940s and early 1950s you'll probably look at the crate above and say to yourself, "I used to know a song about a wooden crate." And if you were like me, you would have remembered that you used to play it on your ukulele and everyone would have a rollicking good time singing along with you. Those were good years to be a teenager. See if you can remember the tune - and get your uke out if you still have it:

THE THING – Phil Harris 1950

While I was walkin' down the beach one bright and sunny day
I saw a great big wooden box a-floatin' in the bay
I pulled it in and opened it up and much to my surprise
.......C......................x x x....C.........G7...........C
Oh, I discovered a ! ! !, right before my eyes
Oh, I discovered a ! ! !, right before my eyes

I picked it up and ran to town as happy as a king
I took it to a guy I knew who'd buy most anything
But this is what he hollered at me as I walked in his shop
................C.................................x x x....C.........G7....C
"Oh, get out of here with that ! ! !, before I call a cop
Oh, get out of here with that ! ! !, before I call a cop”

I wandered all around the town until I chanced to meet
A hobo who was lookin' for a handout on the street
He said he'd take most any old thing, he was a desperate man
.........C.....................................x x x......C...........G7...............C
But when I showed him the ! ! !, he turned around and ran
Oh, when I showed him the ! ! !, he turned around and ran

I wandered on for many years a victim of my fate
Until one day I came upon St. Peter at the gate
And when I tried to take it inside he told me where to go
..........C.................................x x x.........C.........G7........C
“Get out of here with that ! ! !, and take it down below
Oh get out of here with that ! ! !, and take it down below”

The moral of this story is: if you're out on the beach
And you should see a great big box, and it's within your reach
Don't ever stop and open it up, that's my advice to you
'cause you'll never get rid of the ! ! !, no matter what you do
Oh you'll never get rid of the ! ! !, no matter what you do

A special thanks to Phil Harris for this song and for the memories that warm the cockles of our aging hearts!

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Dr. Shapiro had been an obstetrician/gynecologist for 25 years. One day, he decided he just couldn't deliver one more baby. He was simply burned-out. He decided to completely change professions and enrolled in a course to become an auto mechanic.

He worked really hard, and after several months he took his final exam. He was shocked and surprised when he made a score of 200 on a test that had a possible score of 100. He thought he had better ask the instructor why such a score.

The instructor explained, "Well, Dr. Shapiro, you correctly disassembled the engine for 50 points, and you correctly reassembled the engine for another 50 points. And I gave you an extra 100 points for doing it all through the muffler!"

Friday, March 13, 2009


Every once in a while the diligent genealogist will find something very unexpectedly that has a value worth more than gold. My turn came a while back.

I have been researching a Bradley family that had its roots in Missouri. My great-great grandmother Susan Bradley Davis was one of the children of Thomas and Elizabeth Cockrill Bradley. I'd tracked down all of Susan's siblings except for one: Mandana (sometimes shown as Mandania). And of course the one you don't have is the one that keeps calling to you and drives you crazy! She married David Rice and subsequently disappeared.

Without going into detail, I'll just say that in a Deed book in Schuyler County Missouri I was checking to see what became of Thomas' property when he died. There I came upon a Power of Attorney issued to John G. Davis (husband of my Susan) to represent Mandana Bradley Rice, who lived in Amador County, California. This was such a surprise. I was at the Salt Lake City Genealogical Library when I found it, and I was probably that person you heard stand up and yell "EUREKA!"

Several months later Jerry and I were visiting friends in Lodi, California and they wanted to spend the afternoon gambling at the Indian Casino in Jackson. I begged off, telling them to drop me off at the County Archives in downtown Jackon by the cemetery and come pick me up when they were finished. (A true genealogist!) And as they were true friends, they did just that.

I found the people at the Archives to be exceptionally helpful and to have an exceptionally rich lode of material. Among what was shown to me was the picture above. It is a 4-generation picture of now-aging Mandana, with her daughter Mary Jane Rice Keeney (upper left), granddaughter Nellie Keeney Kent (wife of Walter E. and at lower right) and great-granddaughter Vivian Kent (upper right.) I paid to have a copy of the photo made for myself, and I gathered up all the data in their files and was sitting on the porch grinning when my friends came to pick me up. Believe me, I was the winner that day.

I encourage every single genealogist to find where the archived material is located in each county you research in - and see if you can get as "lucky" as I did. I did extensive research on Mandana and her family, and it is all posted on Rootsweb.com under their Family Tree section.

For anyone who wonders what else the Amador County archives might hold, take a look at their website: http://www.co.amador.ca.us/depts/archives/

And as a note, this family also belongs to all of my "Ryland" relatives who read this blog.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


My sister and I were just little twerps during the WWII years. In fact, I was 10 the year the War ended and since my father was not in the service and my uncles all came home safely, it affected us much less than others. One of the ways we “understood” about the war was in our game-playing. At school when recess came, our class and the other class of the same grade, probably we were third graders, would make a rush for the rings, which was the favored equipment on the playground. Whichever class got there first would yell over and over at the other class, “Here come the Axis”, which was the term used to describe those who fought against us in Europe. The winner was always called "the Allies." It hardly mattered who got there first; one day we would be the “Allies” because we got to the rings faster and the next day we would be the losers, the "Axis." At home we played war in the alley, dropping water filled balloon bombs on kids who lived on the other side of the alley as they came by, and we’d yell, “Take that, Tojo!” - Tojo being a much-hated and much talked about Japanese military leader.

One day some young boys in our neighborhood decided to recruit and build an army from among the neighborhood kids. One of the older boys – and by older I suppose he was 10 or 11 – became the Sergeant. In all he recruited about fifteen children, both boys and girls. Our first assignment was to get guns. We all scurried around to find pieces of wood to serve as our “rifles.” The Sergeant had us drill with these make-believe rifles. Up, down, up, down, left shoulder, right shoulder. He yelled a lot at the younger kids because they didn’t know “left” from “right” yet. He had us marching two by two up and down the sidewalk from one end of the block to another. It was summertime and we spent a great deal of time outdoors, learning to be good soldiers. Most of us had either daddies or uncles who were overseas fighting the Germans or the Japanese and we knew Sergeants were tough and we knew troops were obedient. Ginnie Lou and I, who were probably 6 and 8 years old at this time, were part of neighborhood’s loyal troops and did everything the Sergeant asked of us. Usually it was nothing more than marching or lying on our bellies aiming our pretend-rifles at the “enemy.”

However, one day the Sergeant informed us we were going to have a new drill. He said he expected his troops to comply with his orders. He lined us up at the edge of the sidewalk facing the lawn, toes barely touching the grass. He told us today’s drill was to fall over on our bellies without bending our knees and without letting our hands touch the ground to break our fall. The only thing we were allowed to do was turn our face to one side. Well, obedient soldiers that we were, all of us little kids one by one fell as he called our names. Clifford – splat – oof! Sammy – splat – oof! Darryl – splat – oof! My turn came. Barbara – splat – oof! Down I went, always wanting to please authority. Ginnie Lou – splat ---WAHHHHH, WAHHHHH!! My sister didn’t like that one bit and went running off into the house, bellowing at the top of her lungs. I followed close on her heels, secretly glad she had cried because I sure didn’t like the drill either but the only way to get out of it and save face was to run after her on the pretext of making sure she was ok.

The drills went on without us, the rest of the kids falling down one by one, until my mother came out in a royal huff. She told those boys they should be ashamed of themselves and if they ever did it again she was going to tell their mothers. They skulked away, and it was a long time before they ever allowed us to play any of games with them again. As far as my sister and I were concerned, the time away from them was no great loss. Playing paper dolls in our bedroom was much more to our liking.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


One of our favorite places in Istanbul to have lunch -- well, I should say our "very" favorite place -- was along the Bosphorus at the foot of a darling little town called Kuzguncuk. If you follow this road up the hill a bit you will come to a very old Sephardic Jewish temple, closed now for lack of a congregation, but preserved in pristine form for future re-opening or, for lucky people like us a quick walk-through to see all the treasures inside. This town originally had a very high percentage of resident Jews, and still has some but hardly enough for a minyan.

On the Bosphorus sits our favorite restaurant, Ismet Baba. It is a fish restaurant, and the tourists rarely know about it. There is nothing pretentious about the place, but the food is absolutely exquisite.

We saved our Saturdays for doing errands while Semra, the sweet young woman who was the "super's" wife and lived in the basement of our apartment, would clean our flat from top to bottom. Ahmet, our driver, would pick us up about 9 a.m. and we'd be off, mostly for errands but sometimes for a bit of sightseeing too. At 1 p.m. we would always find ourselves at Ismet Baba having a wonderful round of mezze before we tackled an exceptionally fresh fish or, on occasion, a succulent piece of lamb. With this we always had a glass of the Turkish raki (pronounced Rah-kuh), the equivalent of Greek Ouzo or middle-eastern Arak.

We always ended up with a dessert that was under a sign that said "Formul" so we called it that. We never learned that Formul meant anything other than "formula," which of course didn't make any sense to us, but then there was a lot we didn't understand! Formul was made by placing banana slices on a plate, loading a big dollop of kaymak (a non-sweet whipped cream, sometimes made of Water buffalo milk) on top the bananas, scattering some chopped nuts over the top and then drizzling the whole thing generously with "bal" - honey. As simple as it was, it was absolutely delicious and we always ended our meal with formul.

But there was another reason why we liked this particular restaurant.

The view was simply stupendous! We were on the Asian side of Istanbul and we could look out at the European side. The main part of the city was off to the left side of the picture, and what we were looking at were camiis (mosques), apartments and lovely expensive houses. And of course we could watch the huge oil tankers navigating carefully down the Bosphorus from the Black Sea. There were also ferry boats, fishing boats and boats loaded with tourists. Living in Istanbul put us on each of those boats from time to time, but from Ismet Baba we could kick back with our raki and enjoy the whole afternoon if we wished.

Since Ahmet was always with us, he did all the speaking and ordering, at least until I learned enough Turkish to make myself understood. These fellows were are regular waiters; as I recall, the man on the left was the manager (or maybe he was Ismet himself!). All I know is that they took very good care of us.

One day we went to Ismet Baba and midway through lunch our waiter (neither of the above but someone we hadn't seen before) disappeared. We were told by the waiter who replaced him that he didn’t like people who drank (Ahmet and I had ouzo and Jer a martini) so he went to the mosque to pray. While we thought that was pretty funny, at least he had the strength of his convictions, which I had to appreciate. But that wasn't the only thing that went wrong that day. As usual, I ordered Formul. I waited ever so long for them to bring it (Milking the water buffalo, maybe?) and when it came, there was no kaymak. “Finished,” they said. (Which is what all the semi-English speaking Turks say when they are out of something.)

To this day, when one of us asks if we have something in the house and it has been used up, the person being asked will reply "Finished!" And we get a good laugh -- and we remember how much fun we had at Ismet Baba, even when the waiter and the kaymak were "finished."

And now just a point of information. We lived in Istanbul in 1991 and 1992. Who knows if Ismet Baba is still there? Not me! Things have changed a lot, I hear.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I think most of us have known someone who has become "addicted" to being on the Internet, whether playing games or chatting or something else.

But I guess there is "addicted" and there is "ADDICTED."

Measure your understanding of addiction against this report from Korea as noted in a recent newspaper:

If Korea has a national obsession, it seems to be online gaming. Some people play games for months, just briefly going home for a change of clothing, taking care of all their eating and sleeping at the internet cafe. In fact, recently a 28-year old fellow died after nearly 50 straight hours of playing online computer games. He collapsed while gaming and died three hours later.

But that wasn't the first death noted. The first was in 2002 when a man died in Kwangju after 86 hours of marathon gaming.

A Seoul psychiatrist stated, "Such an addiction upsets the foundation of your life."


Monday, March 9, 2009


One thing a person notices on a walk through this charming cemetery is that pet names fall into three categories: typical pet names, like Shep, Pal, Tweety, Kitty; human names like Fred, Max, Violet, Annie; and clever names like Puggs Bunny and on side-by-side stones not photographed, "Buttons" and "Bows."

Many of us had hamsters and guinea pigs when we were kids, and if our mom let us, which often times was not the case, we had white rats. I'd guess that Timothy J. Rat below was one whose "human mom" did not have a rat phobia.

What has surprised me in the many times I've been to this cemetery is the number of people who had monkeys for pets. It may be this monkey had a hat on -- or it might just be the photograph or etched "aura" that surrounds the little Macque.

If "Thumper" doesn't give away who is buried here, "Puggs Bunny" does. 1987 must have been a sad year for this household.

Those of you in Southern California might want to take a drive down to this special place when you have a "getaway" day. And for those of you from out of state, come visit Southern California and see if you can't work in a very special bit of sightseeing. The URL for Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery is shown here: http://www.seabreezepetcemetery.com/premises.html

It is certainly a place that cares. And it is one of my favorite places.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Among the burials in this pet cemetery many headstones have religious identification on them. This was sort of a surprise to me when I first saw them, and to Jerry, whose first visit was yesterday. There were many headstones with Stars of David on them. The "Christian" headstones generally either had crosses or Bible verses on them. During the 17 years we had Tigger, who was born in Turkey, we never thought of him as being connected to, or touched by, a religious association, even though he was born in Turkey, a muslim country. But just because we didn't, that doesn't mean others don't. The pet owner has the last say of what he or she wants commemorated about the animal who meant so much to them. And for them a logical extension of their own religion covers their beloved pet too.

Below is what I call an ultimate tribute to a feral cat, who I think was one lucky kitty. I must admit that while we were in Turkey with no family there to interact with, there were times that I called Tigger my furry child.

I had to laugh at this stone. First because who would think of an emotional attachment to a turtle, though someone did. And secondly because of the question mark shown for a birth date.

One makes the assumption that in a pet cemetery "Our Baby Girl" and "Little Monkeys" is, in fact, a female monkey. In times past I sometimes referred to my kids as little monkeys.

Even some rabbits are lucky enough to have owners who care enough above and beyond the call of duty to put the bunny in a pet cemetery.

This cemetery has one area set aside for "special" dogs -- those serving in police departments, in various wars, and so forth. There are not a lot of burials there yet. It is hard to look at that area without having tears spill out of one's eyes. Very, very touching.

The final installment will come tomorrow.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


In Huntington Beach there is a lovely pet cemetery that is far and away more touching than any cemetery where humans are laid to rest. This cemetery used to be on the outskirts of town but now it sits in between a fast-food restaurant on one side and a big parking lot on the other. At the back is a large apartment complex -- but luckily the front still opens on busy Beach Boulevard and the cemetery sign is prominent and the driveway visible from the street. Inside you'll see a riot of color, balloons, flags and signs of love and affection everywhere.

It is hard to look at some of the little headstones without laughing -- and some without choking up. For the next few days I'm going to be showing you some of the stones that particularly appeal to me. If you are not an animal lover you probably will think people are crazy to do these kinds of things. If you are an animal lover, you may shake your head but you will understand.

Cat lovers will understand this one.

Such a beautiful way to use these words.

This hen meant a lot to the family. No stew pot for this one!

This is my favorite of all the tombstones. Every time I go to this cemetery (which really isn't often but is usually when some family member from out of town visits and I get to entertain them for a day) I always have to go pay my respects to -- well, maybe to both the dog and the owner, who thought to write such a great thing for his dog.

Tomorrow will be the second installment of these memorable epitaphs.