Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The picture above is of John Breckinridge Preston McConnell and Narcissa Frances "Bonnie" Wright on their wedding day in Glasgow, Kentucky - July 3, 1865. The family bible shows he has those two middle names, but he always was shown on documents simply as John B. McConnell. Narcissa, except for listings on censuses and on her marriage license, was called Frances most of the time, and her grandchildren called her "Bonnie."

This much information was available to me when I first starting doing genealogical research in 1984. I've learned lots about her, but poor great-grandpa John is all but an unknown in my records. The McConnells moved to Kosse, Texas by 1880, where they had a small farm. They sold the farm in 1886 and from that point on I can't document him anywhere. Family lore is that they came to Colorado Springs when their son-in-law, an engineer for the Midland Railroad, was killed in a train crash in 1893. Family lore continues that they then went to Palisade, Colorado and for a short while owned an orchard; he missed the south so supposedly they went back to Texas, where he died in 1898. "Bonnie" moved back to Colorado by 1900 and her life is well documented from that point on.

Poor John has dropped off the radar screen after leaving Texas the first time, and I cannot find his burial place anywhere. I cannot find a grave in either Limestone or McLennan Counties, Texas, which are both mentioned in family stories. He is not buried in Palisade or Colorado Springs. Nor is he buried in his old Kentucky stomping grounds. Recently I hired a researcher to see if she could find deeds in Mesa County between 1890 and 1900 that would show him buying and/or selling property; there is no land record for John B. McConnell.

John is my great-great grandfather. I have this awful feeling that he is one of those people who simply are not going to be found. I hate to give up on the hunt, but I don't know where else to look. I keep hoping that one of these days someone is going to post online somewhere a cemetery transcription or burial records in which John B. McConnell b 27 September 1829 Kentucky shows up. If it is going to happen, it had better be sooner than later, as I am getting older every day and would like to have that tiny piece of information before I depart and become an ancestor myself.

Monday, June 29, 2009


First, treat yourself to another viewing of the old movie, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Believe me, it has stood up well over these many years and you'll have as much fun seeing it this time as the last time.

Then, find yourself a copy of "Etta" by author Gerald Kolpan and settle in for a real romp.

What Kolpan has done is to give Etta a life beyond the movie. Actually, she was a real person, but there is nothing known about her beyond her escapades with the Hole in the Wall gang. So Kolpan has created a fictitious life for her to set the groundwork for how it was that she found herself with the outlaws, and then has carried her story, again all fictitious, after the deaths of Butch and Sundance.

Kolpan gave her an amazing life, which touches all kinds of well-known personages in the 1900 time frame. I found the book to be a real hoot. One of the reviews shown on the Barnes and Noble website called it a "picaresque novel." I had to look that one up and found the following: "Pertaining to, characteristic of, or characterized by a form of prose fiction, originally developed in Spain, in which the adventures of an engagingly roguish hero are described in a series of usually humorous or satiric episodes that often depict, in realistic detail, the everyday life of the common people." And yes, I'd say that applies to this novel.

Kolpan is an award-winning journalist and this is his first novel. I say more power to him. I look forward to the next one, which I hope will be as much fun to read as this one!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Which wine would you choose if you were faced with the following descriptions?

Wine #1
Smell- spice and leather
Taste- sweet berry
Aftertaste - chocolate

Wine #2
Smell – mocha and eucalyptus
Taste - over-ripe plums
Aftertaste - black pepper

Wine #3
Smell - tar
Taste - chocolate and black raspberry
Aftertaste - oak and dried herbs

I have smelled lots of wine in my day, sometimes the house wine and sometimes the "pricey" stuff. I cannot smell ANY of the above smells. The smell I can identify is whether it is red or white wine.

I have tasted lots of wine in my day and again I have never been able to isolate a single taste. To me it tastes like either red wine or white wine.

And as for the aftertaste, I usually like it or don't like it, whatever "it" is.

My brother is a wine connoisseur and I have sat in many classes that he has given where wine tasting is part of the learning. But I obviously have not inherited the nose or the taste buds (or the brain, actually,) that my brother has.

The writer of today's wine feature in our newspaper apparently not only has an expert’s nose but he is able to write a whole column in which there is nothing that I understand. But I want to be sure you understand it is not he who is deficient; I am the one lacking something – a gene maybe – for smelling and tasting and understanding wine.

My wine identification skills are limited to knowing red from white, sparkling from still and sweet from dry. I can tell a Chardonnay from a Chablis when I taste them, but that's about as far as it goes. I have no wine sense at all. My only forte is knowing what I like and don't like when I taste it.

The fellow who wrote the wine article is pleased with his column, I'm sure. But he won’t know that the very same article has made me laugh because I perceive it as being full of pompous pronouncements more than anything else. And his very seriousness is what makes me laugh. I don’t think that is the intent of his column but that’s what I get out of it, and reading it sure made my day!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what I’m going to do when my ship comes in. (Notice I don’t say “if” but “when”). I’m expecting a very large ship filled with gold bullion, and since that is the case, I don’t want to be standing on the dock and not have a plan.

So that I don’t seem selfish, you need to know that of course my families will be taken care of first. But I’ve been thinking about what I am going to get for myself, something I’ve always wanted and could only have if a boat came in. Here it is.

This is a modPod Egg Chair. It is based on an egg chair that was designed by Lee West for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing, NY. Its function, in addition to being a wonderful place to nestle into, is to provide surround-sound music. It also has a tactile transducer, which produces sound vibration and enhanced bass. Now that latter equipment isn’t all that important to me, but at least it is there if I want it. The article says you have to use your own iPod or other portable device to listen to music the way it was intended to be heard. Since I don’t have an iPod I will have to invest in one and hire my son Sean or my grandson Brendan to put all my most-wanted music on it. If there is one thing that could pull me away from the computer, it would be an Egg Chair with my music waiting for me.

Now for music, I’ll start with three different Requiems - Faure’s, Brahms’ and Berlioz’s. And didn’t Andrew Lloyd Webber do one too? Yes, put it in also. Then I’ll have George Anthiel’s “Eight Fragments from Shelley.” Next, I’ll take some organ music, the kind that blows you right out of your seat before the music ends, like some of the stuff I’ve heard at the Mormon tabernacle when their organists perform during the lunch hour and want to give the audience an overview of the organ’s capabilities. But to balance that out, I also want all of Stephen Foster's now-politically incorrect sweet and lovely music played by these same people. I’ll take all the Christmas music of Mannheim Steamroller, concerts by the Three Tenors (ah…..) and the Three Rabbis (lesser known but almost as wonderful). Throw in all the Time/Life “Music of the ‘70s,” some good honest bluegrass, and whichever group of bagpipers does Amazing Grace so well I just have to shed a tear. And one stage musical – Phantom of the Opera. The list is endless.

Now that’s for a start. Any of you are welcome to suggest something I might like, or that you want me to hear. Since I’ll be spending the rest of my life like the yoke of an egg, I’ll have time to listen to it.

I see on the internet that the modPod chair comes in a variety of colors and fabrics, and the cost is only $2,149 plus tax, with shipping charge of $250. With the bullion available on my ship, that price won’t be a problem. I can’t wait.

Until then I’ll just have to be content with my little CD’s played through my computer speakers. But you’ll hear my scream for sure when the boat finally appears.

Friday, June 26, 2009


June 26, 1935
7lb 7oz - 20” long

(From a newspaper clipping in my baby book

(author unknown)

Change the titles, one and all.
Enters now a baby small.
Unto wife and husband add
That of mother and of dad.
Baby’s here, and mercy’s sakes,
What a difference it makes!
Every one of us today
Has a larger role to play:
Has an extra task to bear,
And another name to wear.

There are sisters numbering four
Hurrying to the bedroom door
Raised to aunthood by the tot
Who is sleeping in a cot.
Those two codgers, white of brow,
Fathers once, are grandpas now!
Those two mothers, gentle, true
Proudly wear their titles new.
This wee bit of breathing clay
Made them grandmas yesterday.

Here are uncles! Look them o’er!
None of them was that before,
But as soon as baby came
Each one had to change his name.
Run the family down the list,
Not a single one was missed.
Grandpas, grandmas on parade,
Uncles, aunts, all newly made!
Names to carry to life’s close,
Titles every babe bestows.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


As Jerry and I were preparing for bed the other night, I asked him if he knew that Adam named all the animals. He stopped dead in his tracks, looked at me like I was crazy, and then said, "What in the world are you talking about?"

I am always surprised when Jerry doesn't know things out of the Bible, especially out of the Old Testament. Furthermore, I don't have a clue as to why I was thinking of that particular part of the Old Testament that evening, but for whatever reason, it popped into my mind. He just hates it when these kinds of things happen right at bedtime, because he knows now he's got to listen to the story.

I of course don't carry my Bible around with me, so I couldn't quote him chapter and verse, but the gist of my explanation was that God told Adam he could name all the animals, and I wondered how he made up the names? And what language he made them up in and were they a direct translation into all the languages? I know, for example, that the English word "Elephant" is "Fil" in Turkish (which has always struck me funny because of having a tiny, three letter word for such a huge animal). But anyway, these are the kinds of things I speculated while poor Jerry was biding his time before he could go to sleep and he just kept saying, "I don't know" and "uh huh."

I never did get to share the exact bible verse with him, so since he always reads my blogs (and hopefully catches my typos) he will now see the verses of Genesis 2:19-20 from the KJV: And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field...."

So this morning I ran two Google searches: The first was a standard web search using "Adam naming animals." I found the picture above on a very interesting website: http://www.answersingenesis.org/about/first-time

It is a Christian site that offers questions and answers: I loved how they handled the statement: Adam could not have accomplished all that the Bible states in one day (Day 6). He could not have named all the animals, for instance; there was not enough time. The site's answer was: Adam did not have to name all the animals—only those God brought to him. For instance, Adam was commanded to name “every beast of the field” (Genesis 2:20).

The second search was a Google Image Search on the same words.

This image search brought up an amazing view of the various ways artists have interpreted this event. When I see stuff like this, I always think that if one has more than a single shot at life, next time I want to come back as an artist. In this life I am merely an appreciator; and I am always stunned at whatever it is inside them that causes an artist to conceptualize a work to begin with. I would love to be able to inwardly see something and to be able to give it an artistic birth.

I don't expect Jerry to go nosing around this site, and for me, my interest mostly is in the art of the event, not the event itself. But I must admit I found some interesting reading there and think you all should take a look for yourself.
I don't do this every night, as sometimes I am sleepy at 9 p.m. too. So Jer gets his beauty sleep most of the time. But I did want to use this way to finish up the animal-naming question. We'll just have to wait and see what I hit him with next.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


It’s things you don’t know that get you in trouble. I have just learned something quite important from an article in an English newspaper and I’m going to pass it on so none of you will have any reason to get in trouble either.

What I learned is this: Do not take your dog for a walk in a cow pasture, especially one where both cows and calves reside.

I know, it really isn’t likely that it’s going to happen anywhere around here in Mira Loma, but I suspect that there are places in the heartland of America where there might be an occasion to put this rule to use.

The article I read told of a lady and her dogs that were up in the Yorkshire dales on a wee holiday. As those of you who have been to England know, there are lots of walking paths all over and if one is so inclined, which this lady was, it’s possible to have a lovely jaunt on clearly identified walking paths. However, the particular path the lady went on actually took her through a cow pasture and even though she herself was a veterinarian, she apparently did not know that there is little that aggravates a mama cow more than a dog. The cows see dogs as a danger to their calves. Especially during the spring and early summer months, when the calves are small, the cows can turn into bulls. Oh, no, that’s not right. What I mean is they can become as enraged as mad bulls.

In the case of this poor lady and her dogs, while she was simply taking her morning walk on the identified path, she and the dogs both were attacked. She was trampled to death by the protective mamas. The article said she got pinned to the fence and was unable to get away. However, the cows, once having done away with the woman, left the dogs alone. They were found scampering around near her body. This was a real unexpected tragedy.

All this happened because a) the sign said it was a walking trail, b) there was no warning on the trail to leave dogs at home, c) she apparently was unaware of the propensity of mama cows to run amok, and d) England is known for its mad cows. (California is known for its happy cows; aren’t we lucky).

I don’t mean to make light of this incident. It certainly is no laughing matter. But it is such a bizarre thing to happen – I mean, when I look a poor mama cow in the face I never suspect she might trample me and my dog, if I had one, to death. No, to me she always looks like she wishes the milk man would hurry up and come around.

I do believe it is important for tragedies like this to count for something. So I’m letting you all know that I will think about cows now in a new light and I’ll keep my distance from them, especially if I decide to get a dog. That mix just might be an accident waiting to happen.

Monday, June 22, 2009


A newspaper article yesterday read as follows:

STONEHENGE, England (June 21) - Pagans and partygoers drummed, danced or gyrated in hula hoops to stay awake through the night, as more than 35,000 people greeted the summer solstice Sunday at the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge.

Despite fears of trouble because of the record-sized crowd, police said the annual party at the mysterious monument was mostly peaceful.

"It's the most magical place on the planet," said antique salesman Frank Somers, 43, dressed in the robes of his Druid faith. "Inside when you touch the stones you feel a warmth like you're touching a tree, not a stone. There's a genuine love, you feel called to it," he said.

My reading came to a halt at that point. Those people, pagans and partygoers, got to touch the stones at Stonehenge and when I was there in 1985 I couldn’t get within a football field’s distance of the stones. How can that be, I wondered? Why pagans and not me?

When Jerry and I decided to take a month-long trip to England that year, I drew up a list of things I HAD to see. Among them were Westminster Abbey, Sherwood Forest, Oxford University, the Yorkshire dales, a tiny town called Goosnargh near Lancs, where my Helms ancestors worshiped, the famous book town Hay on Wye. But heading the list was Stonehenge. The other things were “want-tos” but Stonehenge was a “must.”

All went as planned. We had three weeks on the road, heading up the east side of England, across the dales and right up to Scotland but not stepping over the border, then down through the lake country and the west coast, making little forays into the center of England to catch a few things, just as we did from the east side.

I was so excited as we neared Stonehenge but you can’t imagine my dismay when we found the whole area roped off and huge signs saying that visitors were not allowed to get any closer to the monument than the ropes. And there were guards to see that it didn’t happen. Yes, I had a 200mm lens for my camera, but it wasn’t the same. I wanted to walk among those stones just as I had walked among the temples at Karnak in Egypt. I wanted to look upward and see those massive stones hulking over me. Apparently the ropes were in response to some vandalism. I could understand this action, but for me this was a trip of a lifetime, and to say I was disappointed is an understatement.

When I read the newspaper today and found that all the weirdos (pardon me) got to do what I couldn’t, I was a bit miffed. It doesn’t pay to stay miffed, so I quickly gave it up. But I really do need to go on record here and let you all know that I got cheated!

I did, however, get a bit closer to the prehistoric white horse on the hill in Uffington, but that is one of those things that looks better the farther away you are from it. I’ll show you what I mean. Here is the picture I took from up close to the horse:

And here is what you see if you are in the air. But at least I was a whole lot closer to it than I was to the stones at Stonehenge.

I loved England. As a genealogist, I have learned that I am rooted deeply in that country. As I walked around, not only to these places that were tops on my list but also in the little villages where we overnighted in B&B’s, I had this strange feeling that I was, in a sense, home.

But as a genealogical "native" I sure wish I’d been able to get closer to my Stonehenge.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


If it had not been for seeing and hearing Dave Cullen talking about his new book, Columbine, on BookTV a month or so ago, I probably would not have read it. I knew it had been published and knew that it was receiving good reviews, but it just never came into my thinking that I needed to read it until after I heard the author talk about it.

It is probably the most dynamic book I've read in a long, long time. The best thing about it is that Cullen has treated everything with dignity. He has not sensationalized what happened; in and of itself it was sensational enough. He is careful with his words and with the truth.

He has made even the technical parts - all the bomb making and all the psychological investigating - readable and understandable. For us who lived away from the area, once the news reports dwindled away, we didn't have much follow-up information to absorb. So much of what I read in this book was new to me and very surprising. And of course having it condensed into one place really amplified just how horrific it was and continued being for a long time.

Reading this book is not like reading something you already know about. And it isn't like reading a fictionalized story. Cullen did a great job of telling the story, and even his explanation of sources in the back of the book is interesting and readable.

Dave Cullen has helped explain the unexplainable, and that is a real feat. Many kudos to this author.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


It's not often you open an e-mail and find a photo of your granddaughter and the seastar she found at Zuma beach yesterday. I spent my growing up years in the ocean at Long Beach and I never found one (we called them Starfish when we were kids.) We saw dried starfish in little souvenir shops along the waterfront, or live ones if we went to an aquarium, but never did I find one.

It was a surprise to Olivia, who was at an end-of-the-year beach party with some of her little friends and their parents. After finding it, one of the parents offered up a bucket and some seawater to put the starfish in so that everyone could get a good look at it. As a good steward of all creatures great and small, when it was time to go home Olivia asked some older kids on boogie boards if they would take it back out in the deeper water and let it go. The lifeguard had given the group a little talk on the starfish, so the kids knew where it should go when they were through enjoying it.

I learned a lot at a website about starfish this morning. Heres the URL: http://animals.howstuffworks.com/marine-life/starfish-info.htm

Thanks, Olivia, for taking good care of the little fellow and for seeing that he was put back where he belonged. You have the picture now to always remind you of what an adventure you had yesterday.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I didn't particularly want to get involved this morning with the difference between a flying ant and a flying termite, but last night's invasion of flying things in my office pretty much overruled my plans for the day. The guy on the left is the flying ant.

About 7:30 last evening I decided I'd better check my e-mail, but the minute I sat down in front of the monitor I noticed what I thought was a gnat crawling on the keyboard. I tried to shoo it away, but it didn't fly in spite of its wings. Then I saw another one on the desk, then another one on the printer. I started moving the papers around on my desk and it quickly became obvious I had a problem.

I called Jerry to come look, and as he walked into my room he saw a trail of ants coming out from a tiny hole between the wall and the wood striping at the bottom of the window sill. When I pulled the aluminum shades to the side so I could get a good look at what was going on, I found hundreds of ants - tiny little things mostly unwinged but enough with wings that it was obvious where the winged ants on my desk had come from.

Quick, Henry, the flit! Jer ran outside and found a line of ants coming up the wall from the outside, and he took care of those. I took care of the ones inside the room. I didn't want the cat to come in and walk around the sill (which she loves to do because she gets a good view of the world there) so I exited the room and closed the door behind me so she would have to stay out. I figured I'd clean it all up this morning.

Checking with Google this morning on flying ants, I found that the winged ants are the ones who are going to mate and start new colonies. And I decided NOT IN MY OFFICE!! I needed our pest control company to come in a hurry. A good online video said I should use some scotch tape to capture a sample of both the winged and the non-winged ants for the pest control service but with all those dead little bodies on my windowsill, they wouldn't need my sample. Of that I was sure.

The service only comes on Friday and only comes to those apartments who have phoned to schedule a visit. So at 8:30 I'll call the office and hopefully will be able to get this taken care of today. In the meantime, Jer will go do all our usual Friday errands and I can loll about on the couch reading "Columbine" (which by the way is an excellent, well-written and extremely interesting book) until the pest control people get to my apartment. Since grocery shopping isn't my favorite thing to do anyway, I'm fine with letting Jerry do it all by himself. I'd rather sit and read anyway, but preferably not because of ants.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Long ago there lived a brave seafarer named Captain Bravo. He was a courageous man who showed no fear in facing his enemies.

One day while sailing the seven seas a look-out spotted a pirate ship and the crew became frantic. Captain Bravo bellowed, 'Bring me my red velvet jacket.'

The First Mate quickly retrieved the captain's red velvet jacket, and after donning the jacket the captain led his crew into battle and defeated the pirates.

Later on, the look-out spotted not one but two pirate ships. The captain again howled for his red velvet jacket and once again vanquished the pirates.

That evening, all the men sat around on the deck recounting the day's triumphs and one of them asked the captain, 'Sir, why did you call for your red velvet jacket before each battle?'

The captain replied: 'If I am wounded in the attack, my crew won't notice my bleeding and will continue to fight, unafraid.'

All of the men sat in silence and marveled at the courage of their captain.

As dawn came the next morning the look-out spotted not one, not two, but TEN pirate ships approaching. The rank and file all stared at the captain and waited for his usual request.

Captain Bravo calmly shouted: 'Bring me my brown corduroy pants!'

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The time is 1908. The place is at Rule Creek, just east of Las Animas, Colorado. The child is my father, Scott Walter Dobbins Jr., the second child of Scott and Susan Maud McConnell Dobbins. Called “Buzz,” a nickname given to him by his sister Dorothy, he was born in July of that year.

I began genealogy research in 1984 and I was fortunate that both my father and his older sister were still living. I knew they had both been born in Bent County, Colorado, but I sure didn’t know much about their early life. Because I lived fairly close to my father in 1984 he and I spent lots of time talking about his growing up. But I also wrote lots of letters to my Aunt Dorothy, who still lived in Colorado, asking so many questions that I’m sure I drove her nuts. She was four years older than my father, so I knew she held the key to many things that he just vaguely remembered.

Within a short period of time – maybe 6 months after I started “bugging” her – she informed me that all my questions made her decide to write down the story of her life. I’d get a copy, she said, as soon as she finished the first part, which was to be from her birth to her leaving home for nurse's training. I had a hard time waiting, but sooner than I expected her story showed up in the mail.

She told of my grandparents meeting in Colorado Springs at a band concert. She told how Grandma was a city girl and how difficult it was for her to learn to live on a ranch out in the dry land farming area of eastern Colorado. She told how they raised turkeys on the ranch and grew wonderful melons that my grandfather intended to show at the county fair – that is until the goat got into the garden and took a bite out of each one of them. Shortly before my dad was born, the family sold the ranch and moved to town.

In her story Aunt Dorothy told me that quite often the family would take horse and buggy rides out into the countryside near Rule Creek, where the ranch that my great-grandpa had homesteaded had been.

The photograph above is one that I came upon by accident not too long ago, tucked between some blank pages of an old family album. The handwriting belongs to my Grandma Dobbins. As best as I could, I cleaned the photo up a little bit. Not many family pictures of the Las Animas years exist and the few that do are in pretty poor shape. I’m so pleased that this one has survived.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Once in a while I am given a gift inside a book. Nancy Huston in her book, 'The Mark of an Angel" allowed me to receive this one on pages 123-124:

Saffie closes her eyes and Andras traces her profile with the tip of his index finger. Beginning at her hairline, he moves slowly down across her forehead and between her eyebrows, following the narrow ridge of her nose and sliding into the delicate groove between the base of her nose and her upper lip.

"This," he says, "is where the angel puts a finger on the baby's lips, just before it's born -- Shh! says the angel -- and the baby forgets everything. All it learned before, up in paradise, forgotten. So it can come into the world innocent...."

Thank you Nancy, for these lovely words.

Monday, June 15, 2009


So here’s another of those wonderful words that come to me from Dictionary.com. Disport. I am sure I have read this word many times and understood it within the context of what was written. But when it popped up on the screen and took me by surprise, I drew a blank.

But after reading its meaning, I fell in love with the word. Nevertheless, I feel fairly down in the mouth because I think my disporting days are over.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned to you in the past that my mother continually cautioned my sister and me not to make a scene, and in doing so she took away any spontaneity we might have seen develop into a bit of disporting. My father exemplified a classic old-line Presbyterian hard-work ethic and Mother was pretty much bound by the bonds of New England prudery, and I’m sorry to say that the acorns didn’t fall far from the oak trees. There were no disporting teenagers in our house. We pretty much moused our way into adulthood, all three of us.

Now I do need to make a confession here: since I was the oldest, I was mainly out of the house when my sister and brother were going through their teen angst period, so I really shouldn’t speak for them. But I do know that there was no Haight-Ashbury-Woodstock-flower children in the Dobbins household, or whatever it was that children of our generation had in place of the above. The nearest I came to causing a ruckus was when at age 19 I discovered Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Essay on Self Reliance” and it turned me into someone else for that summer between my freshman and sophomore year at college. I carried my American Lit book around all summer long and whenever my mouth opened, words from Emerson’s essay spewed forth. Now this action wasn’t disportment, but it certainly caused my mother to roll her eyes and hope that “this too will pass.” In September of that year I went back to college and became my old plain self again.

The nearest I ever came to really disporting was that time in between my marriages, after a divorce had knocked the bejabbers out of me. After nine months of pitying myself, I met a younger fellow who made me laugh at his outrageous behavior and I must admit that during those few months I was dating him I loosened up a bit. I think some things that I did then I would now classify as disporting, but in doing so I really saw what life was like when one was not afraid to be spontaneous. I’d have to say that my disporting period also corresponded with my crapulous period, so it was not entirely a healthy way to live. But I passed though that just as I did my Emerson period and have lived my fairly ordinary, controlled but happy life since.

The dictionary gives these synonyms for disport: cavort, frolic, gambol, romp, carouse; tomfoolery, merrymaking, skylarking, escapade, diversion. Oh gosh, these words all sound like so much fun!

So when Dictionary. com gave me “Disport” as its word, why then did I become down in the mouth?

I turn 74 this month and my stiff, creaking bones tell me every morning when I wake up that I am now too old to disport, that the time has passed. To have lived almost my whole life with no skylarking or gamboling, no romping or “diversion” is a sad thing to accept. I really never intended to get so old so fast, and I always thought that one of these days I might have a little escapade or “diversion.” But alas, the bones tell it like it is!

So the moral of the story is: if you want to disport, do it while your bones will still let you. I really think a little of it might be fun. But do avoid being “crapulous” if you can help it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


One of life's "givens" is that whatever you decide you can get rid of, either by throwing or giving it away, once you do you will for sure need it again.

I can hear all of you agreeing and saying with me, "It never fails!"

When we downsized into our first apartment, I had 25 years of collecting cookbooks to face. I decided at that point to give away to The Salvation Army all the cookbooks I had that I had never tried a recipe from. It was really hard to do, because I loved those cookbooks and loved to look through them and drool. I swear I could even gain a few pounds just looking at all the desserts! But I was ruthless in doing what I had to do.

Later, when we moved from Loma Linda to Mira Loma and had even less room for books, I had more decisions to make. Both my Julia Child's and my James Beard's cookbooks went that time, as did my Middle Eastern cookbook, my Dutch cookbook and a few others. What stayed? My plain old Betty Crocker book, Irene Kuo's The Key to Chinese Cooking, and my very favorite book, "Main Course Soups and Stews." I distinctly remember copying a few recipes out of some of the books I gave away and putting them on the computer in my recipe file. But beyond that, almost everything is gone. Periodically I want one of those books and I stand in front of the bookshelf just shaking me head: "I can't believe I gave it away!"

Today I'm going to share one of those recipes I copied into my e-file. When we were in Israel in 1980 I found a good cookbook printed in English. It was small and spiral bound. But the two recipes I kept from it when I made my final "cut" was the one for the best hummus I've ever eaten, and the one I'm going to share with you today. It is very simple.


8 carrots, freshly grated
1 cup dark or light raisins
1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Mix together and let sit for one hour. Place on plate and enjoy. Serves four.

That's it. But I should give you a couple of hints. In the middle east many things are served at room temperature. Keeping this salad at room temp means that the carrots will more quickly soak up some of the orange juice, which adds a great deal of flavor to them. And the second tip is that you need to grate the carrots and squeeze the oranges yourself, not buy already prepared ingredients. If you aren't a raisin person, you can omit them, but when plumped up with orange juice they will be super-delicious.

Happy eating to you all.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Being sick when I was a kid was no fun. I suppose it was no worse than being sick in any era but if you ask me, the home remedies mom sometimes used seem to be fairly primitive.

Having a cold meant any one of several methods could be employed to bring me back to good health. If my chest was congested, a mustard plaster was the standard remedy. I do not know whether or not the mustard used in a mustard plaster was the same dry mustard that we used in cooking. If it was, it must have been the same mustard that sits beside the fried shrimp served in a Chinese restaurant, which is hotter than a pistol, or even worse, hotter than a glob of wasabi on a bite of sushi. At any rate, mother made up a thick mustard paste and spread it like sandwich filling between two pieces of child-chest-sized flannel. That was the mustard plaster. I had to crawl into bed and mother then carefully lowered it onto my tiny chest. Mind you, the mustard didn’t touch my chest directly, but it might as well have. That mustard got “hot” in the way that Ben Gay or other such ointments got hot, but to a skinny little kid, it felt like the flames of hell were dancing on my chest. I suppose the idea of this was that the heat would break up the chest congestion. However, I have a thought or two on this whole ordeal. I suppose the skin of my chest got very red but I don’t suppose it blistered. I’m sure mother wouldn’t have used it if it did. I also suppose that it would have been hard to fool mother by saying, “I am better now,” hoping that the plaster could come off quickly , because she could still hear that the wheezing and coughing were still around. I suppose it did some good, or at least mother was sure it would down the road. But believe me, I never wanted to be sick enough for a mustard plaster.

If what I had was simply a cold with minimal congestion, I got Vicks Vap-O-Rub rubbed on my chest. Vicks, which may still be around, was a strong-smelling mentholated ointment that my mom used in a couple of ways. Mother would rub it on my chest, again placing another square of flannel over it to keep the Vicks from getting on my pajamas. If I was sick enough to lay down, the flannel stayed put, but if I was mobile, the flannel had to be pinned to my little undershirt. As the Vicks warmed to body temperature, the fumes started rising and I couldn’t help but smell them. This was supposed to help me breathe better. If I simply had a stopped up nose, mother would have me rub Vicks inside my nostrils. It was a potent smelling ointment and probably was as effective as anything else in unclogging the airways.

My sister often had croup, which makes a terrifying sound in the stillness of the night. Mother would boil water in a big pot, drop globs of Vicks in it, and then set the pan of hot water in the bathroom sink. Then she would drape a sheet over herself, Ginnie Lou and the sink so that the fumes and the moisture could help my sister breathe more easily. Mom would hold my sister on her lap and sing to her until the croup came under control. Ginnie Lou and mother spent a lot of time at night in the bathroom under a Vicks “tent.” Later on, the development of an electric vaporizer made treating the croup much easier, but that didn’t come about until long after we were grown. While I am loathe to take away any of the healing credit of Vicks, I am sure being in my mother’s arms and hearing her singing “Sweet and Low” was at least half the reason my sister always recovered quickly.

Finally, here is the worst-of-all use of Vicks: if I had a sore throat, mother would put a big glob of Vicks on a teaspoon and I would have to slide it off the spoon into my mouth, where I was to let it melt and slide down my throat. Oh, UGH! It was awful. I have never found another person who had to eat Vicks like we did. My sis and I hated it, but of course we had to do it if we knew what was good for us!

For minor sore throats not calling for the Vicks torture, we got a spoonful of honey mixed with lemon juice. My sis and I loved it like hummingbirds love honeysuckle nectar. We certainly never liked having sore throats but if we had to endure them, the best kind to have were the ones treatable with this home remedy.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I like birds. If I didn’t have a cat I would have a bird, a roller canary to be specific, one that sings his little heart out over nothing at all, just because he can. When we lived in a house, I had a canary and three cats. In good weather I put the canary cage outside under the patio and he did his singing there. At night and in the colder weather his cage stayed in the spare bedroom I used as an office. I suspended it on a swag lamp chain where the cats couldn’t get to it. The bird sang there too. I loved hearing him.

In our little apartment now there is not room for both a cat and a canary. My intention was to get myself a canary when our last cat died, but by the time Tigs was gone, Squeaky had already become a member of the family. Since she is likely to outlive me, a canary just is not in the cards for me. Perhaps that is why I am so solicitous of the outside birds.

In our front yard, visible to us through sliding glass doors, we put out suet blocks, seed bells, millet sprays, hummingbird “juice” and even water for a drink or a dip. But even with all those goodies, I am a tinch disappointed in the limited variety of birds that come to feed. Of course we get hummers and various sparrows and pretty little house finches. We have a lone resident phoebe but since phoebes eat bugs, he pretty much stays out on the rooftop out of sight waiting for gnats to fly by. Once in a blue moon we will get a female oriole come for a taste of the hummingbird juice, but obviously it isn’t her favorite place to eat.

For the last three years we have had a pair of black-headed Grosbeaks come in the spring. Usually they show up the third week of April and stay until their baby is able to come to feed at the seed bell. We usually get a couple of peeks at him and then they head out for their next stop. This year the pair were here for about two weeks and then disappeared. It was very disappointing, as these are the only colorful birds we get. In the winter the cute white-crowned sparrows mingle in with the regular sparrows, but in spring they head north for the bay area. So our bird population, insofar as what we can see from our front yard, is very small. We don’t even get mockingbirds!

To be honest with you, I have only told you about the birds that I like. This year we have had starlings, which are exceptionally uninteresting birds. We have lots of crows, who are only good for making a racket as far as I am concerned. And then we get a hawk once in a while. When I see it sitting in the big tree out in front, I run out like a crazy woman and try to shoo it away, flapping my arms and saying, “Not MY birds!” The hawk is pretty good about minding me.

In January of our second year here our complex was visited by a flock of about 12 or 14 cattle egrets. These egrets aren’t very pretty but they were fun to watch. They would slowly walk across the lawns in search of interesting tidbits. We could even sit on the porch and watch them nibble by; our presence didn’t disturb them much. I don’t know where they went at night. Maybe to find some cattle. During the day if the flock wasn’t in front of our house, we could count on them being on down the road a bit on someone else’s lawn. By May they were finished with us and moved on. They have never come back.

It’s fun to watch birds. Right now the sparrow babies are just about big enough to be on their own. Sometimes the way they carry on, fluttering their wings and opening their mouths while they hunker down into a soft ball on the ground trying to get their parents’ attention, you’d think that they are still quite dependent. But if food doesn’t come quickly, they shrug their shoulders and set out to find their own seeds, of which there are plenty around.

The down side of all this bird business is that we tend to track a lot of seed hulls into our house. But that is a small price to pay for the enjoyment it gives us to watch all the critters big and small who know they can depend on the Title family for their next meal.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


There is just not much more boring than someone else’s dreams. Well, I do think that listening to genealogists telling about their ancestor runs it a close second, but that’s another topic. It is strange, I think, that we who dream and remember every jot and title about what happened in our dream are so enamored of them. Very honestly, no one cares about the little scenarios that play out in our busy brains.

It took me a while to figure that out. I am a dreamer and most of the dreams I remember are the ones that apparently happen just before I wake up (or are those that wake me up, being what I call my “disaster” dreams.) When Jerry and I decided to take a trip to Egypt and Israel in 1980, we embarked on a rigorous exercise schedule of getting up at 5 a.m. to walk a mile or so. (In our thinking, that was really rigorous). We wanted to be fit enough to climb to the top of the pyramids, so when the alarm went off at 5 a.m., we were out of the house so fast we almost took the bedcovers with us. But poor Jerry. At 4:59 a.m. every morning I was in the middle of some kind of dream and he had to spend his walking time listening to me report every detail about that dream. He was a good husband and did not tell me to shut up, but had I been able to see his eyeballs, I would have seen them rolling, for sure.

I don’t know when it was that I finally figured out my dreams weren’t all that exciting to anyone but me, and frankly, when I started to repeat them they sometimes seemed a little boring to me too. So for the most part I have shut up about them.

I don’t try to figure out what dreams mean. Sometimes there is an obvious Freudian content to them, but not all the time. In my dreams I fly a lot. I don’t flap my wings, but I do something comparable to the breast stroke to keep myself flying above the treetops and to dodge the power lines. There are certain houses that appear and reappear in my dreams. Some of those houses I can identify from my real life, others I know all the details about because I have spent so much time in them in my dreams.

In one dream there is a house with a basement, and in the 30 years or so I’ve been dreaming about this house the supports in the basement are getting so weak that I expect it to collapse at any time. One of my disaster dreams will be when that collapse finally happens.

Once I dreamed that I walked past a mirror and saw that I had long black hair. Now that dream was nothing more than wishful thinking, because as I age my hair gets grayer and grayer and thinner and thinner.

In most of my dreams my children are small. I also alternate husbands in my dreams. There’s just no accounting for what the mind shovels up for the next dream so I plead innocence.

I also believe that I can dream without falling asleep. I know. I know. I just think I am awake. But it seems like there is this area where I am lying in bed waiting to go to sleep and an unbidden scenario is, at the same time, playing out in my mind. That mostly happens when I try to eke in a little afternoon nap. I feel like I haven’t slept at all, but if that is so, why then do I dream?

I don’t ever sleepwalk. I think I’d rather fly at night than walk. It’s a little safer, unless my flying is to get away from something that appears to be not good for my wellbeing, like maybe a kidnapper. Then it goes from a happy flying dream to a disaster dream, and those I’m not so crazy about.

I try my best not to inflict my dreams upon Jerry, but once in a while I just can’t help doing it.

Like this morning.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


When I came home from Istanbul 2 years later one of the first things I wanted to do was to see if any of the local newspapers carried a story about Gary Bouldin's death. I found the Los Angeles Times did:

Los Angeles Times - Sunday, December 29, 1968

ISTANBUL (AP) - A Californian killed three men, wounded four and finally was shot fatally in a wild gunfight with Turkish police Saturday, Istanbul police said.

Police said security men had taken Gary Ralph Bouldin, 35, and a woman identified as Patricia Ann Seeds, 20, both of Los Angeles, for questioning to a police building where a bureau of the Treasury Police, which usually deals with smuggling and narcotics, is located.

During questioning, Bouldin opened fire on police officials, fatally wounding two of them, police said. Then he fled to a restaurant downstairs and continued to shoot it out with policemen.

Police said Bouldin died while being taken to a hospital. His companion, who was not involved in the shooting, was taken to police headquarters for further investigation. Police did not disclose why Bouldin was being questioned.

(The girl’s father, Norton H. Seeds, said he had not heard from his daughter for a month since she took time off from her studies at San Jose State College to travel in Europe with a girlfriend, United Press International reported.)

But the search of the index also brought up an earlier article on Bouldin:

Los Angeles Times - May 27, 1960

SAN BERNARDINO (California) May 26 – Chemicals being mixed on a kitchen stove exploded tonight,seriously injuring a San Bernardino Valley College Student. Gary Bouldin, 25, a social sciences major,was seriously burned about the neck and face. His left hand was badly injured.

Police said Bouldin was mixing chemicals he had taken home from his college chemistry course to unclog a kitchen sink. The explosion occurred as he heated the mixture on the stove, police reported. Bouldin was taken to San Bernardino County Hospital for emergency surgery. His wife, Beverly, and the couple’s eight-month-old son arrived home shortly after the explosion occurred.

My goal when I started work in the Ferikoy Protestant cemetery was to find out as much as I could about why those people were buried there and not sent back to the United States, what they were doing in Istanbul, where they came from in the States, and who their family might be. What I found on Gary was as much as I thought appropriate for inclusion in the data I was collecting.

As noted yesterday, I eventually put it into book form and a few years later I posted the names and basic vital statistics as I found them on the tombstones onto a website. I mentioned that I had further information on many of these people and gave my e-mail address to contact if the reader wished.

In the meantime, as I have heard from relatives I have added their information to my paper files, so that if further inquiries come I can provide people with everything I know.

So, you ask, why have I chosen to single out this fellow for a blog? Of course, his most interesting story is one reason. The Turkish newspaper called him a "Texas Gangster" and that is a second reason, for using him as an illustration of what kind of misinformation one can find in research. But the most important reason is that earlier this week, I got an e-mail from Paul Garrity, a friend who is posting information on www.findagrave.com. He knew I had lived in Istanbul and thought I might be interested to know that in Montecito Cemetery in Colton, California, there is a tombstone that says the deceased died in Istanbul. The name on the stone? Yep. Gary Ralph Bouldin.

All I can say is: research never ends.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


When Jerry and I moved to Istanbul in 1991, I had to leave my own genealogy research behind. Little did I know, however, that I would find in Istanbul a project that would take close to five years to complete but then continue via the internet to this day. That it impacted my life and my research is an understatement.

We arrived in Istanbul in June, and in September I was at a meeting where the American Consul General gave a talk in which he mentioned what he called "the American Cemetery." My genealogical antennae stood straight up, and I later found out from him that it really was the "Protestant" cemetery that in 1857 had been given by the Sultan to the 7 existing protestant powers - Prussia, Great Britain, the US, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Hanseatic Cities. Each of these nations had a section of the cemetery. Upon going to see the American Section of this cemetery and finding absolutely amazing information written on many of the stones, I decided that while I couldn't do my own research, I surely could copy all the information from these tombstones and put it in some kind of form where it wouldn't be lost.

That form ended up being a book, shown above, which I donated to various major repositories that genealogical researchers might look in, as well as posting it on the Internet. In the years since that time, I've been contacted by many people who have discovered their ancestors in that cemetery. And still, I probably receive one request every two months for additional information.

When I made known to the American community in Istanbul what I would be doing, all the long-term residents asked me to keep my eye out for information on the American Hippy who was killed in a shoot-out with the Turkish police. I did not find a tombstone for this fellow, but eventually I found an entry in the Record book at the Union Church (Dutch Chapel) that told a story and started me off on a fascinating discovery. I think it will take me two days worth of blogs to tell this most interesting story.

First, from the Record book:

“b 1935, California. Buried 3 Jan 1969. An alleged “gangster” and smuggler who was being questioned about a stolen car in which he and his girl companion were driving. Dope and LSD were found in their possession. Gary decided to break away and in doing so shot and killed two policemen and two civilians. He was then gunned down after a chase. Brief ceremony of committal was held Friday, 3 Jan 1969 at Protestant Cemetery, Feriköy, Istanbul. Dr. Perry Avery presided and four consular officials from the American Consulate were present.”

Next, gathered from the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, December 29, 1968.

The article in Turkish newspaper reports that on the day previous (Dec. 28), Bouldin was arrested near Taksim driving a car with Milan, Italy license plates. With him was his girlfriend, Patricia Ann Seeds. He was taken to the police station in Karaköy next to the Liman Lokantasi (Restaurant) to be interrogated. Since it was a Saturday, a full complement of police officers was not on duty. Bouldin drew a gun and shot two policemen. He then ran into a lavatory, locked the door behind him and jumped through the window, landing on the terrace of the restaurant. He entered the kitchen, and after confronting an employee, shot him. In the meantime, the injured policeman were taken to the hospital. Other police were called in and they surrounded the restaurant. The newspaper reported that 1,000 policemen were on site. Upon learning that one of the injured policemen had died, they swore to capture Bouldin. The ensuing shoot-out in the restaurant ended with five dead, including Bouldin, policemen and restaurant patrons. Three were injured.

Immediately after the shoot-out ended, anger ran so high that the police determined to lynch the girlfriend. However, after acknowledging that she had no part in the shooting, they desisted. Officials from the American Consul were called in, along with some American detectives who had been on Bouldin’s trail. It was learned that Bouldin was from Los Angeles, California and had an ex-wife and two sons living there. The body was unclaimed and it was buried at the Protestant Cemetery.


Monday, June 8, 2009


Almost everybody can look at this picture and tell what bible story it tells. Yep, it's Jonah and the whale, in a very unique rendering. I had to laugh when I saw it. Those certainly aren't Old Testament sailors, that's for sure. And look at poor Jonah, waiting to be tossed (or rolled) overboard. And in the dark blue surrounding the boat and sailors is the representation of God. The artist, He Qi, is a Chinese artist and his renderings of Bible stories is absolutely delicious. I know, that's a strange word to use, but I like to use it when I have a visceral reaction to something that is way more than just being intellectually interested.

If you do a Google Image Search on He Qi, you will find lots of his art work. A better place to go is to Christianity Today's blog - http://blog.christianitytoday.com/images/about_imago_fidei/ - where if you snoop around you can find a slide show of He's work and an explanation of the symbolism in each painting. It's awfully interesting. His own story of how he became both an artist and a Christian is equally interesting.

Way too many times in my own travels through Christian circles I came up against a real wall of negativity toward anything artistic that was "out of the mainstream." Artistic interpretations were almost considered blasphemous; only traditional images were considered acceptable. To be honest with you, I found this same attitude coming from the pulpit too, especially back in the '60s and '70s and in the churches that were very threatened by both the charismatic revival and the hippie movement.

I have been out of religious circles a long time and am truly behind the times in seeing the changes in evangelical churches. So for me to discover the old mainstream magazine "Christianity Today" online and see how it has changed over the years, and in this case especially in showcasing He Qi's amazing artwork, just does my heart good.

No, I'm not moving back into the church. But as those of you who follow this blog know I still am very interested in things religious. Learning about and seeing He Qi's work this morning has certainly set a nice tone for the rest of my day!

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Oh I’ve taken a lot of photographs in my lifetime, and to a large extent they are in findable places and are carefully documented on the back. Twenty-four years doing genealogical research has taught me the importance of doing that. And I’ve caught a few pictures that I’m really glad I took.

The photo above was taken for a class I was taking at UCR Extension back in the late seventies. I knew what I needed to do and I did it. I would have liked the silhouettes to be crisper, but for a first try it wasn’t too bad. I’m glad I took it anyway.

This next photo was taken after our cat Cipsi got her first Lion-King haircut to ease her way into the summer. We lived in a place that had inadequate air conditioning, and Cipsi was one of those cats with such long thick black hair that her vet called her a bowling ball. The vet suggested we have her shaved for the summer, so we did. Jerry took her to the groomer while I was at work. When I got home from work, I nearly split a gut laughing at her. And it took our other cat a week to stop hissing at her; he was convinced she was an intruder.

However, there are a number of things that I wish I’d taken a picture of – or had a picture of that someone else took.

1) My first husband was always putting silly things on his head to make people laugh. One evening he came out of the bedroom wearing my “Merry Widow” on his head for a hat. Now for those of you who don’t know what a Merry Widow is, it was like a corset that it nipped your waste in. It was made to wear with strapless dresses, so there was a sturdy built-in bra which pushed your “bazooms” up into place. The bottom went down to your hips. There were plastic stays in it so it wouldn’t crumple, and then it was held together by lots of hooks and eyes. A zipper then covered the hooks and eyes to make the opening lie smooth. It was stiff as a board and really made your figure quite curvaceous in a gown. When Joe came out of the bedroom wearing it on his head, he’d placed the bra cups like umbrella shades over his eyes. The rest of the Merry Widow went straight up into the air like a stovepipe. He walked nonchalantly out into the living room without saying a thing. The kids and I took one look and collapsed with laughter.

I wish I had a picture of that.

2) The front door to our living room was oak and had a fairly large oval window in it. We also had a cat, Puff, who let us know she wanted to come in by climbing up the screen until her entire body was framed by the oval window. She hung there until somebody saw her and let her in. One time we had a prayer meeting in our living room and in the middle of a prayer I heard the cat start up the screen. The pray-er was pretty long-winded but the cat didn’t budge. One of the pray-ers peeked at the door to see what was going on and then burst into laughter. That was the end of the prayer meeting.

I wish I had a picture of that.

3) When Sean was a little tyke he was a very verbal kid. We lived in a neighborhood full of children and they ran up and down the block, in and out of each other’s houses. It was before we had to worry about things like kidnapping. One summer afternoon I got a phone call from a neighbor telling me she had just been interviewed by Sean and advised me to go out in front and see for myself. He was probably close to four at this time. I found that he had pulled the garden hose out to the front sidewalk and was interviewing the children as they went by, using the round lawn-sprayer screwed onto the hose for a microphone. Everyone, kids and moms alike, were all queued up to be interviewed. He asked each of them a different question, one by one. He didn’t run out of questions, and hasn’t yet.

I wish I had a picture of that.

3) In Orange County we owned a really neat house with a big swimming pool in the back yard. We also had a nice black cat named Sammy Davis III. Sammy Davis had a propensity for giving himself a bath while sitting on the end of the diving board. One day he lost his balance and fell in. In the water he righted himself, and with big round yellow eyes, he stretched his neck to unbelievable lengths to keep the water away from his face. With his head looking for the world like a periscope, he dog paddled to the shallow end of the pool and hoisted himself out. He was humiliated and we were hysterical with laughter.

I wish I had a picture of that.

4) I wish I had a picture of the man we saw in Istanbul who because of the rain had put a big plastic bag over his entire body, including his head, so he would stay dry. All we saw of him were two feet and two eyeholes.

5) I wish I had a picture of the evening that Sean and Erin, in their little pajamas, fell asleep inside their toy box. We heard them playing after we put them to bed and then when the playing stopped, we checked on them. There they were, sound asleep, crumpled on top their toys. This one is the nearest I could come to repeating that image.

I can think of lots of other pictures I wish I’d taken, but at least I've taken these.

Friday, June 5, 2009


How long has it been since you’ve seen a polliwog?

I haven’t seen one in years, though I assume they are still around because I haven’t read anything recently about frogs being on the endangered species list.
When I was a little kid, almost every Sunday afternoon our family went on “rides.” We would pile in the family car and my dad would head out somewhere. We never knew where he was going, unless he told my sister and me to get jars because we would be going to a park where there the polliwogs were. His two favorite parks were in Montebello and Anaheim.

He would usually limit us to 10 polliwogs each and of course my sister and I were very selective in which 10 we wanted, so as to drag out the time at the pond. Even after seventy-some years I can recall how exciting it was to choose our polliwogs and what fun it was to watch them change into the tiniest of little frogs, so tiny they could easily get lost in the house if we weren’t careful.

Do children today know what polliwogs are and where one goes to capture them? I have thirteen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren and I don’t recall any of them ever mentioning to me that they had a polliwog. But then I don’t think I ever asked them if they had one, either. Perhaps I should do that. Polliwogs may be more a part of kids’ lives today than I’m aware of. But then again maybe not. The little ones today know how to use their parents’ IPODs and perhaps polliwogs couldn’t hold a candle against using a GPS system on their parents’ cell phones.

Come to think of it, there are lots of things I wonder about. The senior apartments I live in are unique, in that there is lots of acreage – lawns, shrubs, trees, and a small 9-hole golf course that provide the setting for our apartment buildings, which are small and scattered through the acreage. There also is a flood control channel running alongside the property that always has a little bit of water dribbling through it. We’re in our fourth year of living here and I’ve never heard a frog croak at night. Where are the frogs?

And believe it or not, I’ve never heard a cricket at night, either. We get mosquitoes and June bugs but no crickets and no frogs. Where are they?

I can count on one hand how many butterflies I’ve seen flying around our place in the time we’ve been here. It isn’t like there are no flowers here; nearly everyone has flowers in their yards. But no butterflies. I know there is a problem with the loss of bee colonies, but shouldn’t the flowers around here draw at least a few bees?

When I was a little tyke, bees, wasps, butterflies of all kinds, crickets and frogs were all a part and parcel of our outdoor existence. Maybe they are still around. Perhaps I just don’t see them any more because I am not playing in the out-of-doors for eight hours a day like I used to.

I wonder if this is just peculiar to where I live? Or to Southern California? Global warming? Signs of the time? I wonder.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Excerpted from a local newspaper:

A 22-year-old man was arrested Wednesday evening on weapons charge after he accidentally shot himself in the thigh.... Further investigation revealed he arrived at his mother’s house and began waving a .22 caliber gun around while threatening to shoot anyone who called police. He shot himself in the right thigh after he placed the gun in his waistband.

Ankara, Turkey – 1991 or 1992

Two soldiers on guard duty at the main entrance of General Staff Headquarters gunned each other down for reasons that are as yet unclear, the Anatolia news agency reported Sunday. The soldiers started arguing for an unknown reason…. Later they fired at each other. One has been hospitalized in the intensive care unit of the hospital. His condition is reported as critical. The other died at the scene.

There is nothing funny about guns when they are used in inappropriate ways. But when I read the first article in the paper this morning, I immediately remembered the second, and I dug the old copy of it out of my files. I laughed as I reread it, because I had a little drama playing out in my mind of two guards shooting at each other while skulking around from behind their little guard shacks. This undoubtedly was not exactly what happened but my mind didn't let that stop it from churning out an imaginary story.

I probably shouldn’t have laughed, but except for the serious results of the latter shooting, both scenarios played out in my mind like something I might see in a very funny movie.

But to mitigate my unease at finding anything funny in a shooting, I tell myself that while my reaction may have not been appropriate for someone else’s misfortune I truly am happy to find something to laugh at to start my day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


In 1981 the Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram asked their readers to share their memories of the Pike in Long Beach. My Uncle Bert obliged:

“You might call me a Pike Brat. I started my experience on the Pike shining shoes, between the old bandstand and the old Venetian Square area. Later I worked in most of the pitch games, including working for Emory Christee…. I worked selling three balls for a dime to knock the milk bottles down, pop the balloons and even selling four-for-a-dime photos in the old photo shop….

But my fondest memory was dancing at the old Majestic Ballroom. Myself and three of my buddies used to dance there almost every night and Sunday afternoon from 1939 till we entered the service the Monday following Pearl Harbor…. My buddies and I were dancing there the Sunday the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Someone came into the ballroom shouting that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. We didn’t know where Pearl Harbor was but we swore we would all go down to the Post Office the next day and enlist.

I was the only one that showed up that particular day but the rest joined up that week. We joined the US Army Air Corps, Coast Guard, Navy and the Army. All of us saw action overseas and returned to Long Beach at the end of the war. Three of the gang married the girls they were dancing with the Sunday they bombed Pearl Harbor. The three that married are still married to those girls they met at the Majestic.

Only one of the gang has passed on. We don’t hear much about the old Majestic any more, but when the old gang meets we don’t ever tell war stories but think of the good days dancing at the Majestic and roaming the Pike.”

BYRD W. “BIRDDOG” RYLAND, Lt. Colonel, born in Caldwell, KS on March 21, 1919. Enlisted in the US Army, Dec 8, 1941. Transferred to the USAAC in 1942. Entered cadet training in February 1943 and graduated (43-K) on Dec. 5, 1943. Flew tour in B-17s in ETO, 1944.

After 42 missions he returned to the States in December 1944 and was discharged in June 1945. Recalled to active duty in February 1951; started SA-16 Pilot training in April 1952; joind the 12th ARG, 81st ARS at Morrison Field, FL, and flew with the 12th ARG to Bordeaux, France.

In 1953 he was sent to TDY to Korea as aircraft commander with a composite crew to fly rescue combat sorties to pick up any downed pilots (15 sorties) over the Yellow Sea. Returned to Bordeaux at end of hostilities.

Decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal w/5 clusters, Purple Heart and three Commendation Ribbons, among numerous other awards.

Upon returning to the States in 1954, he joined the 4th ARG, 42nd ARSq and was with this organization until 1956. During this time he was mission commander on many important ARS missions, one being the crash of two airlines (TWA and United) over the Grand Canyon in 1956, where 127 people lost their lives. For this effort he received a personal commendation from Gen. Nathan F. Twining, USAF, chief of staff.

Last two assignments were with the Air Training Command as aircraft commander and instructor pilot at Lowry AFB, 1960-65. He was transferred to Mather AFB (Lowry stopped their flying activity) and joined the ATC Standardization and Evaluation Section as a flight examiner 1965-67, at which time he retired as lieutenant colonel.

He was hired by Rockwell space Div. as a test engineer. During his military career he flew over 15,000 hours in 17 different aircraft in the AF inventory. He was an active member in 179th Bomb Group Assoc., Air Rescue Assoc. TROA and the Daedalians.

He retired to Aurora, Colorado and died May 11, 2004. He was married to Betty White of Long Beach, California. He is survived by his wife Betty, his son, daughter and six grandchildren.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Below in my Uncle Bert’s words is his description of another flight in late August of 1944 that didn’t end a whole lot better than the first one.

“We were over Mersburg, Germany and received a hit between number 3 and number 4 engines. It knocked us out of formation but I was able to control the aircraft while we feathered number 4 engine. We then got a fire in number 3 engine and feathered it. About that time we were hit by ME-109s. They didn’t stick around except for two passes due to about four P-51s coming in to help us. We could not maintain altitude and started down with one of the P-51s staying with us. At about 4,000 feet we were able to maintain altitude. About that time number 3 prop came out of feather and started to windmill out of control. The prop gear box housing became red hot and the gear box froze. When this happened the prop shaft broke and the prop started to teeter so badly that it literally knocked off the engine nacelle.

I was unable to maintain altitude so again we started down. We threw everything out we could find loose. Flack jackets, ammunition, guns and anything we could rip off. We even tried to drop the ball turret. We advised our escort P-51 that we might have to bail out and for him to call Air Sea Rescue and give him our position.

When we reached the French coast my navigator gave up a heading to Manston Air Force Station, England. The prop was teetering and the aircraft throttles vibrating so badly that the only way we could keep them at full power was by jabbing at them. I finally told the men to bail out. At that time, the P-51 said he couldn’t stay with us as he was out of fuel and that he had called Air Sea Rescue and they were on the way. The crew decided not to bail out and we would stick with me to the end. By using every trick in the book we were able to maintain approximately 1000 feet until we were about two miles from the runway. When I asked for gear down all hell broke loose and we started down and hit the ground about 200 feet short and bounced onto the runway. At that time number 3 prop tore loose and chopped up the underside of the fuselage from the chin turret to the tail gun position and then spun off onto the runway. After the aircraft came to a stop we all got out and not only kissed the ground but also the good old B-17 that again had brought us home. We counted over 150 holes in the fuselage and wings. We spent the night at Manston and returned to the base the next day….I don’t know what happened to that B-17 but it was flyable with a new engine or engines. I think we will all remember that P-51 with “RAMBLIN’ RASCAL” written on its side.”

Bert served in the Eighth Bomber Command, United States Army Air Force, 379th Bombardment Group (Heavy) which was stationed at USAAF Station 117, Kimbolton, Huntingdonshire, England, June 29, 1943 to July 4, 1945. In a March 1985 copy of Contrails, a publication of The 379th Association, Inc., a non-profit organization of former men connected with this bombardment group and to which my uncle belonged, has a report in it on data from the operational records that were kept on all Groups. It states that “the 379th BG excelled in 1) Number of Sorties, 2) Bomb Tonnages delivered by 8th AF Groups, 3) Bombing Accuracy, average percent of bombs dropped within 1,000 feet of assigned MPI’s; 4) Bomb Tonnages dropped within 1,000 feet of assigned MPI’s; 5) Abort Rate; 6) Loss Rate – the 379th BG had the second lowest number of aircraft in this category.

It was only after I became an adult and got interested in genealogy that I learned the extent of my Uncle Bert’s service to our country. I was born in 1935 and as the picture shows, my uncles (my mother’s brothers) were teenagers. I have vague recollections of him coming to see our family during the war years, and one very concrete recollection of him buying both my sister and I each a very special doll of our choice. Of course after the war when he married and settled down in Long Beach, where the Ryland family had lived since the early 1930s, he became a much more real presence in the lives of his nieces and nephews. For a while he headed up the “air and rescue squad” run from March Air Force base near Riverside, California, and in fact after the 1956 mid-air crash of two commercial airliners over the Grand Canyon he was the person sent down into the gorge for an examination of the wreckage. My sister and I grew up hearing stories of airplane crashes and it took me a long, long time before I would ever set foot on an airplane.


Monday, June 1, 2009


The Press Enterprise, Friday, February 23, 2001
Two Women at a Loma Linda senior center are linked by a B-17 crash in England in 1944.

Betty Capozzi remembers riding a bicycle from her family’s farm in south-central England to the U.S.Army air base in nearby Kimbolton, slipping along an earthen ditch unseen by guards to lie on her back and watch the sleek, silver B-17 bombers take off. She was so close and the planes so low as they passed her that her face turned black from splattering oil. And she remembers August 5, 1944, when she and her father raced to see a crippled bomber after the pilot made a near-miraculous belly landing.

Fifty years later…those memories came rushing back as the 73-year-old one-time ballroom dancer attended a crafts class at the Loma Linda retirement home where she lives. Sitting across the table was Bobby Title, 65, a newcomer to the Loma Linda Springs retirement complex. Title showed off a cross-stitch method she had learned that reproduced photographs in fabric. One of her projects was of a photo of her uncle Bert, Byrd Ryland, the pilot who crash-landed that bomber in 1944.

“I happened to mention that I had done one of my uncle Bert, who was a bomber pilot flying out of Kimbolton,” Title said, “And I hear this shriek from the other end of the table. It was Betty, saying, ‘Kimbolton? I was born and raised in Kimbolton.’ At that point we forgot all about the cross-stitch and the class and we started comparing notes.”

“I was amazed,” Capozzi said. “I have met people in my travels who were stationed in England, but I have never come near a lady like her who said her uncle was stationed in Kimbolton.” Capozzi recalls hearing “the bang” when Ryland’s bomber landed. She and her father rode their bicycles to the base to see it. “We wondered how the pilot could have landed it,” she said.... “It’s very exciting,” Capozzi said. “It brings back a lot of memories, nice memories from World War II and getting to know the Americans. I didn’t know her uncle, but in my heart I feel like I know him.”

After this amazing meeting with Betty, I contacted the Press-Enterprise newspaper and asked if they would be interested in a rather unique human interest story. They sent out reporter Darrell Santschi who did a great job, including the taking of the picture above.

Later I mentioned to Betty that when Jerry and I went to England in 1985, Uncle Bert had asked if we got close to Kimbolton he would like us to go to the old base and take a photo if anything was left of it, and if we found the runway, to see if we couldn’t bring a little piece of it back. We assured him that we would, but when we got there, no base could be found. We kept asking people to point us in the general direction, but most of those we asked had no idea a base ever existed. When I related this to Betty, she indicated her adult son would be going to England the following month to see those in their family who still lived there. He told his mom he would get one of his pals and they would make a search for a remnant of the runway, and he felt sure someone in his family would remember its location.

A few months later, Uncle Bert and Aunt Betty came from Colorado for their annual trip to California. I arranged for them to come to Loma Linda and to meet Betty Capozzi and her family. And of course the highlight of the visit was when Betty’s son presented my Uncle Bert with a bit of the runway, along with a video that he and his buddy had made while they were searching, and ultimately finding, that runway.

Everyone cried.