Sunday, May 27, 2012

Week 19 of 2012 - New Friends

Friends...people you share life with, briefly or lifelong, with similar interests or polar opposites, people that support you, people that teach you...people that come and go but leave a defining mark.  Friends come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life.  How do you define "new friends?"

With the exception of our immediate family members, friends are all "new" at some point.  I think of one of my best childhood friends, Bianca Banash.  My mom came home from school registration at Croswell Elementary School in Romeo, Michigan in 1959 and told me that she had met a nice woman at school who had a daughter my age.  They had moved to Romeo and her daughter, Bianca, was very nervous about starting 3rd grade in Mrs. Handley's room.  Mom promised that she's have her daughter, Pam, find her on that first day and make sure she had a "new friend."  Armed with a few descriptives about her strawberry blond hair and what her first day "attire" would be, I found Bianca on that first day and we were best friends for the next 10 years. 

One of next "new friends" was my roommate from Western Michigan University.  Our friendship developed quickly as we were living in the confines of dorm life and away from home for the first time.  We were like Mutt and Jeff...tall Janet, short Pam, but had the same study habits, love of food and always able to find the silliness of life in all things.  Those were great times, but the best is still in progress.  We see each other a couple times of year, talk for an hour on the phone and never get tired to staying in touch.  What a precious thing our friendship is!

There was Rita Cram and Sheri Moorhead in Adrian, and then many, many blessings of friendship have followed in the 36 years in Harbor Beach.  I am now old enough to have lost some special friends.  I am so thankful for the time we had together, especially Miss Barb Chapin who was so helpful after my father passed so suddenly.  She could fix, motivate and keep things going with the best of them...and to this day I know she was an angel that God knew I would need.  That's another post for another time.  I have friends today that have been with me for years and friends that have been with me for days.  Being in the retail business for 35 years, also enhanced my friendship is limitless and a wonderful example of how people interact.  But "numbers" of friends is not the goal.  The interaction and communication of people and continuing to learn about yourself and how you can help others is what enriches and brings satisfaction to our busy lives.

"Make new friends and keep thee old.  One is silver and the other gold".....a song sung in a round in Girl Scouts still makes perfect sense today!

Week 18 of 2012 - My Town

My Town...which town do I pick?  Lapeer, Romeo, Imlay City, Kalamazoo, Adrian and Harbor Beach make up the list of  "my town" options.  I guess I easily focus on the places I have spent the most time...Romeo and Harbor Beach.  I actually left out Imlay City in my first list.  Only being there from the summer of 1968 until Sept. of 1969, I don't have ties established like the younger siblings who went to school and graduated from high school in Imlay City.  I do know that all the places listed above have one thing in common...they are threads woven into my story and places that all contributed to the person I am today.  Blessed with a wonderful family, it probably wouldn't have mattered where we was home and a good place to be!

Romeo, from 1956 to 1968, is what I call my hometown.  Croswell Elementary, Romeo Junior High and Romeo Senior High are my "alma maters."  Living in the first "Fritz Builders" subdivision at the corner of 29 Mile and Mound Roads, we were 5 miles from town, rode the bus to and from school, spent a good portion of Sunday at the First United Methodist Church and enjoyed a great childhood in rural Michigan. Apple and peach country with vast orchards, plenty of farmland, no crime and good old small town values.  My family moved to Imlay City during the summer of 1968, just prior to my senior year.  I was fortunate to commute, riding to Romeo with my dad, and graduating with my class in June of 1969.  Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo was next, followed by Adrian, Michigan and Mike's first job with FW Woolworth in the Adrian Mall.  But opportunity called in Nov. 1974...there was a move in the works to go to Harbor Beach, Michigan, a small community on Lake Huron in the thumb of Michigan.  We were excited to go and part of the lure was the small town atmosphere that we wanted to find to raise our family...something like what we were raised in in Romeo.

Harbor Beach has proven to be exactly what we were looking for.  36 years later, we are still happy to be here, love its small town appeal and are thrilled that "our town" was such a positive influence on our three sons.  The "my town" topic doesn't let me single out one community.  But each one is very special to me and has made me the person that I am.  Home is where the heart is and my heart was always at home where ever we were!

Family Games - Week 20 of 2012 games...Monopoly, Parcheesi, Chinese Checkers, Chutes and Ladders....card games...War, Solitare, Old Maid, Hearts, Pinocle, Euchre, "Spoons"....old time favorites like "Hide the Button," I Spy, Hangman and Tic Tac Toe.  There must be in infinite number of activities that would be classified as "games."  These are some examples of indoor games.

Then there are outdoor games....Hopscotch, Croquet, Ball and Jacks, JumpRope and Hide 'n Seek...or Touch the Porch, as it was called in our neighborhood in Romeo, Michigan.  Whatever was the game of the day, it was embraced with total concentration and an intensity that occupied hours.  Eventually, someone would either get bored, mad or both...and the game would be over.  Sometimes it was hours of Monopoly at the kitchen table in the Trombley kitchen on Ivy Drive.  With Monopoly, those waiting in the wings for their turn, had to have patience!  It was a long wait.  Sometimes it was Parcheesi or Sorry on the Smith's front porch with "takers on" lining up for their turn to dethrone the champ.  The same happened outside with Croquet, Horseshoes, even Hopscotch.  All in all, kids were busy playing, learning how to be good winners and losers, and not depending on any technology to do it!

It wasn't that we Smith's were were part of life!  I think a prime example of this was how there were games almost everyday, at every gathering....home, school, church!  When I first heard the week 20 topic, games to me immediately brought the favorite church games to mind.  My all time favorite was always the "String Game."  A group of people...all ages...formed a circle and had a circle of string large enough for everyone to hang onto.  On the string was someone's ring.  Each  person playing would hang on to the string and made a back and forth motion with their hands, moving the ring around the circle.  The person that was "IT" had to stand in the middle and figure out who had the ring.  Sound silly?  Maybe it was, but it was the game of choice at the United Methodist Church in Romeo.  We also passed life savers from person to person using a toothpick between the teeth.  We passed oranges from person to person....but you had to hold the orange under your chin and place it under the chin of the next person in line.

We did sack races, three legged races, wheelbarrow races (instead of running the bases after you hit the ball, you got in a wheelbarrow and someone ran you to the base) and hunted for treasures in a huge pile of sawdust and wood shavings.

Most of the time it was for nickles, dimes and pennies.  Occasionally, there might be a quarter as the big prize.  Ping Pong was also the game of choice at church...until some of the boys were start slamming the balls with such force that they would end up across Fellowship Hall.  Eventually, there would be no more balls...and the game was done.

I was always able to enjoy the experience and didn't compete because I HAD to win.  But sometimes there was someone that had a difficult time if they didn't come out on top.  I remember discussions with Mom and Dad about being a gracious winner AND loser.  I remember stories from Mom and Dad about their games growing up...simpler versions of what we had, with nothing purchased.  They made games out of common household items....sock bean bags, buttons, and toothpicks.  Rock, Paper, Scissors was a regular, with no materials needed.  I SPY only needed your eyes!  Card games were often part of any gathering, with several tables of players participating.

Proof of the Smith's long line of "gamesters," however, came to light this morning when I remembered some books that I inherited just by osmosis...they ended up at my house somehow.  It is obvious that not only my Dad, but his Dad before him, found "games" and fun an important part of life.  There are several game and party planning manuals that I know were from Harold and Leah's early marriage days when they were involved with young couples and singles from the Methodist Church in Lapeer.  There is a wooden cover/back binder that was from Dad's days of Scout Leader in the Boy Scouts of America.  But the very best of all is the 1009 page "The Fun Encyclopedia...An All Purpose Plan Book for Those Interested in Recreation for Clubs, Schools, Churches and the Home."  On the inside cover is further proof....original signatures from both Grandma Lillian Smith in her neat, cursive writing (Rev. & Mrs. E A Smith), Grandpa Everett's larger, slant cursive ( E A Smith) and then the backhand combination of cursive and print from my Dad, Harold (Harold A Smith)...this time is is pretty legible.  Sometimes, it was not!  Dad's penmanship usually left much to be desired.  But this time, the signatures say it is supposed to be fun!  How blessed we Smith's are to know that!

Week 21 of 2012 - Childhood Surgeries

THANK GOODNESS this will be a short post...which means I was very fortunate with childhood illness, accidents and medical issues.  I do remember that in a family with six children, when one was ill there were five more that would usually pick up the germ and follow the lead.  It seems that when the six Smith kids were young, the common childhood ills included sore throats, croup, occasional stomach flu and more sore throats.  We also experienced chicken pox, mumps (which were not a big deal back then) and measles (which was a big deal) seems like we all had the chicken pox (baths with baking soda, lots of itching and scabs), a couple of us had mumps (fat, sore glands in the neck) and I really don't think we had measles...but I'm not sure.  I don't know what the fear was with measles, but I remember that was the biggee.

Sore throat, however, was universal.  It always meant a trip to the doctor in Romeo, and home with a bottle of penicillen filled from either the Rexall Drug Store or Morley's Drug Store in Romeo.  After 5 days of antibiotic, the fever would subside and the next child became sick.  When the sore throat was so severe that you couldn't even swallow saliva, it was strep throat.  Mom would look in your throat with a flashlight for the evidence...white spots on the tonsils...and a trip back to the doctor...and more penicillin.  It happened so often for Susie and I that the doctor gave Mom a guideline.  If the girls have more than five occurances in one calendar year, the tonsils and adenoids have to be removed.  This went on for several years, with neither of us making the quota, until we were teenagers.

Susie, age 13, and Pam, age 16, were scheduled for surgery as soon as school was out in 1967 at Crittenton Hospital in Rochester, Michigan.  I only remember being in the same room and waking up to this horrific sore throat.  I looked over at Susie in the next bed and her large, brown eyes were looking at me with horror.  WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME????   Like it was my fault or something.  It was the worst pain of my 16 years. 

At that point, talking was not an option, but the offer of ice cream was met with an affirmative nod of the head.  Sitting Susie up in bed brought the first major reaction....instant vomiting...and she wasn't getting ice cream.  I don't remember it, but she says I ate mine...and hers....right in front of her.

Long story short, we were released and were to take it easy and no talking for a few days.  No talking was not in my vocabulary and I resumed...or normal routine, only to find out that 3-5 days recovery time turned into 3 weeks of hell.  Sue was raring to go and feeling great in less than a week.

Moral of the story: 
 Get your tonsils out at 5 years, not 16.  Follow Dr's orders and DO NOT TALK.  In the end, all was worth it, as I have never had a sore throat since.  But the shared surgery was only one bonding experience for Sue and Pam.  More to follow in subsequent posts!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shared Memories - Week 21 of 2012 - Jan

Near Death Experience

This week the subject was suppose to be child hood surgeries. Humm...I never had any so I think I'll write about something else. I had a near death really dark night but before we get to that story, I need to give you some back ground.

We had a spinster who lived in our neighborhood. Her name was Miss Collins and many of the girls in the neighborhood really loved her. I can't for the life of me know why she put up with us...but she did. During the day on the weekends especially in the winter, fall, spring or when the weather was bad, we would go hang out at her house. She liked to make things mostly out of wood, items like doll houses, barns and toys. If it was a building, she would fill it with all the little accessories that it needed from furniture to animals, people, etc...She would make these toys for her nieces whom we never saw. I just thought they were the luckiest kids to have an Aunt who would make them toys. Sometimes she would let us help. She would give us a small piece of sand paper and a piece of wood that she had carved or cut. We would work on sanding the edges until they were smooth. Often I would think it was smooth enough, and she would tell me, “ Oh no, not yet, not done yet”.  She always let us know when it was time for us to go home.

She had a small dog...I do not remember what it was ...maybe a Chihuahua...It was the neighborhood “ ankle biter”. I am sure the dog had a name and I can no longer remember it. Miss Collins had a beautiful yard. Her house sat on a hill and her yard sloped away from her house on the North and West sides. She planted beautiful perennials which returned every year. She weeded the beds and tended them very carefully. They were always beautiful. She had grass paths which weaved around the beds which she very carefully mowed with a manual push mower. She was the first person who likely inspire my love of gardening. The lower level of her house exited to the north yard which was fenced. She had a small garden, more flowers and a clothes line behind the fence.

At night after dark, her yard was the best yard to hide in when we played “Touch the Porch” or “Hide n Seek” because of the flower beds. We could hide behind bushes and flowers, never in the beds, but we could lay quietly along the grass path waiting for the right moment to run for the porch..but there was one small problem...the “barking ankle biter” which she would let out either on a chain in the front yard or loose in the fenced lower yard. As soon as that dog came out, it would start to bark at us. And we would have to change our hiding spots in a hurry. If the dog carried on for too long then she would come out and yell at the kids that she knew were just outside of her sight in the darkness!   She would tell us, "Go home and play in their own yard!"  I always wondered if she realized that the kids who came to visit on Saturday during the day were the same kids who she was yelling at that same night.

Near one of her flower beds on the west side of her yard, there was a utility pole. The pole had a guide wire for support much like the one I have in my yard today. Every time I weed the flower bed with the guide wire at my current house, I can help but think of the night I tangle with the one at Miss Collins house.

One moonless dark summer night when we were playing “Touch the Porch”, my sister Sue, Pam Randall and I were once again, hiding among Miss Collins flower beds. I believe that we had just decide that we could make a run for the porch and so we took off. First Pam, then Sue and then me...running full speed....the next thing I knew I was flat on my back in the grass with a thud! “Oh wow”, I think “ what a beautiful sky full of stars... how did I get here?”

Then I hear my sister and Pam whispering...”what was that? Did you hear that? What was it? Jan where are you?”

I think...”huh...I'm right here...why would they say that?” Then I try to whisper and I realize that I can not make a sound...nothing is coming out of my mouth.

“Jan where are you, what happened?” I hear a bit louder...

They call me again.... and again …. this time I hear fear in their voices...still they whisper because they don't want too be found. I hear them in the grass nearby. Searching for me and I can not move nor can I talk...I now begin to feel a little like I can not breathe ...I too am thinking...humm... wonder what happened. 

 “ I am over here”, I want to yell but I can't! Finally Pam or Sue finds me...I feel them touch me but I can't really move....I try to talk to them but nothing comes out.....

 Then one of them yells, “Oh my God, is she dead?” 

 Now my mind is racing....”No I am not dead, silly! I am over here”

 I try to tell them but nothing comes out....they start shaking me...and I try to yell at them to tell them to stop it but all that comes out is a weak whisper,  “ Stop!” 

 In my mind I am screaming but only a faint whisper is coming out...Next I start to moan and move abit. My mind is racing but I am having trouble moving, talking and I begin to wonder if this is a dream. I can see the dark silhouettes of my sister and my friend as they are looking down at me. 

I am thinking " I'm OK! Just give me a minute!" ...and they do. They sit there next to me while I come around.. I was certain I was breathing now and could whisper. Now my neck hurts and it starts to become clear what happened...I ran full force into the guide wire. I am not sure if I flipped over it or what but the force of my fall to the ground knocked the wind out of me, for sure. I do not think that I lost consciousness but I may have..As I said I seemed very aware of all that was going on around me but I could not respond to any of it.

For me, that night, the “Touch the Porch” game was all done. We decided not to tell our parents about it at first because we were afraid that they would not let us play outside after dark if we we tried to hide it but when the mark showed up on my neck, I had some explaining to do. So I told them that I ran into the guide wire at Miss Collins house when we were playing “Touch the Porch”. They did not ask specifics...and I did not tell...Mom looked at it and told me “ You need to be more more hiding at Miss Collins house. She probably doesn't want you up there anyway!”

Thinking back on it, I really may have been hurt very badly that night. It is a wonder I did not break my neck or land on my head. I can find some humor in the story now but it really wasn't all that funny at the time. As kids, we did not treat it as seriously as we should have. I should have had things looked at back then...and my neck issues that I have lived all my life may have been from that very night!

Sorry there are no photos....It was too dark to take any while playing "Touch the Porch" !

Until next time! I hope you enjoyed my memories.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Week 20 of 2012 - Games People Play - Jan

This weeks subject is suppose to be about games that you played as a family. We played mostly board games when I was in elementary school but I do not remember a regularly scheduled game night. Sometimes, Sunday afternoon was a good relaxing time to play and always on Christmas!

Sue, Leah, Lillian and Pam playing a new board game on Christmas 1965
Sharon, Jan, Sue and Lillian playing Racko in 1966
Jake and Jim Patti playing a game on Christmas 1966


This was my first sleep over....and maybe my last because we stayed up all night talking and laughing!  I believe that the game called "Life" had just come out came out! We are playing "Life" and little did we it!

I remember that when my Grandpa Anderson (Mom's Dad) visited, he and Dad would play cribbage. I used to like to watch them. I had no idea what they were doing but I thought the cribbage board with the little pegs was just the coolest game. The board had a small slot in the back to store the pegs when you were not playing the game. For a little girl, it was like a secret compartment! SO I loved to watch them play. Before long, a peg would turn up missing and then another... It did not take long for all the pegs to be missing but the board still worked. They would use match sticks or tooth picks for pegs. I still have the old cribbage board. The cover for the secret compartment is also long gone but it holds special memories of my Dad and my Grandpa for me. I have often wondered if cribbage was a game that Grandpa Anderson played as a sailor while at sea.

Grandpa's Cribbage Board
Secret Compartment exposed..
At some point I remember learning to play crazy eights, rummy and fish from my mother. I remember playing cards with the Hughes girls from down the street. Both their Mom and Dad worked so we would go to their house after school. (no parents around...) We would watch Dark Shadows and the Monkeys on television and if we had time before their Dad got home we would play a game of cards at the kitchen table... and eat buttered bread with piles of cinnamon sugar on it!

Looking back we did have regular card games when we went on family camping vacations. We always played cards at the picnic table under the worn green tarp which provided shelter from the rain or the sun. I remember often playing cards using the gas lantern after dark. Nothing drew the bugs in like that camp lantern! You had to learn how to swap bugs when it wasn't your turn play. Some years their were huge June bugs and other years it was big fish flies. And some nights it was better to go sit by the campfire with the adults and hope it was time for marshmallows.
Eating Pop Corn and playing cards - 1970
After the bugs got the best of us. - 1970

Years later card games would sustain us through our teen years. Euchre became our favorite because it was a quick game which you could play if you only had a few minutes. My boyfriend's family played card games every chance they could get. If there were two people, they had a game you could play, if there were three or more, all the better. There was always a deck of card or two in the drawer next to the kitchen table. My younger sister Sharon and I spent countless hours with the Tietz teenagers playing cards at the kitchen table. When the weekends rolled around, often a slew of cousins would come for the weekend from the “city” and they would join in on the card games. We had a birds eye view for when “Howard” came home from work at which time the game would be temporarily halted until a better time.

Leah and Harold playing Pinocle with the Hassingers at Sand Lake - 1970

As a young adult and newly married, I learned to play pinocle with my parents. My first husband,Gary and I, would play with them and later with friends. At about the same time, I was learning to play poker with the Kaake family on Sunday afternoons at Grandma Rose's house. Well, I should say I watched them play for several years before getting into the game myself. They had a variety of games they played from “five card draw, Jacks are better, trips to win”, 7 card “deuces and Jack's, man with the axe”, 7 card straight poker and many more that I can not remember. There would be 8 or 10 of us sitting at the table playing cards most of Sunday afternoon. The poker games were nickle, dime, quarter games which made me feel a bit guilty gambling on Sunday, with my Methodist upbringing and all!

Euchre would become the game of choice for my first husband and I with our friends as young adults. We did not know at the time that it was a mid-western game. When we moved to Arizona, we learned that no one knew how to play. We rectified that pretty quickly by teaching all our new friends how to play.

It's funny I really did not think I had much to write tonight. Hope you enjoyed my card game memories. I know that you all have more to share!

Love, Jan