Friday, July 27, 2012

Week 30 of 2012 – Sirens, tornado sirens and other official warning devices..

“This is a drill, this is a drill” I remember it being yelled over the loud speaker at our school! Then it was followed by instructions, “Please get under your desk and remain there until the ALL CLEAR has been sounded” You would see small children scrambling to get under their desk. I do remember having one or two drills while I was in Elementary School. I believe it may have been practice for tornado alerts. I remember being worried that the boys could see my underpants!!!! I also remember that the floor was really cold. I remember wishing that the all clear would sound in a hurry because I did not like it under my desk. Sitting on the cold floor made me afraid I would wet my pants! I do not remember this event being an annual thing. I do not remember ever having actual tornado alerts while we were in class. I really do not remember any bad storms which may have frighten me either. I am sure that we had some but they were not memorable to me and the teachers or school official never had to take any kind of action. 

This is not me but I do remember doing this in Kindergarten and 1st grades.

We had fire drills once or twice a year. Every one was to WALK single file out the nearest exit and away from the building. As I recall, the teacher was the last one to leave the room after all the students left which meant there were times when no one of authority was really watching the kids from the time they left the classroom door until they got to the nearest exit. So for some kids that meant “ It was a race to the door or a bathroom break or it was time to do what ever you wanted!” ...Some walked, some ran, some goofed off ,some marched, some skipped...but if a hall monitor or the principal were near by then you straightened up fast! I always thought it was funny that they always happened on a sunny day and of course today I know that was a part of the plan! 

Once I started, Jr High and High school in Imlay City, things got a bit more interesting. We had our usual fire drills but every once in a while someone would decide to pull the fire drill alarm box in one of the hallways as a prank. And then we would really have an unplanned fire drill. We also had several bomb scares. We always presumed that the bomb scares were called in by someone who was not prepared for class. You could be almost guaranteed that it would take a couple of hours to evacuate the school and search all the rooms and the local police were usually involved. Sometimes this would be the end of your day. You never left your purse in the class room when it was a bomb scare or you might be waiting a long time before you could go home.... 

As a teenager we began to see weather alerts more often on the TV but still nothing like we see them today. Mom watched her “soaps” in the afternoon when we moved to Imlay City. When there was a “weather bulletin”, she was as cool as a cucumber. She never got excited and often did not even go look outside to see what was happening. In the big old house in Imlay City, we did have a basement but it was used for storage. I do not ever remember going down in it because of a storm. Since Mom was relaxed about storms, so were we!

We did not have a basement in Romeo so there was no where to go if a tornado was coming... I do not remember her ever telling us to go to the bathroom or the inside hall. I do not remember instructions at all. I remember her telling us that if we ever got caught outdoors and you see a tornado coming, find a ditch and lay flat in it! Thinking back on that advise...when ever we had storms, the ditches would rage with running water. So it would not have been the safest place after all. My belief was that she just did not want us to try to hide under a tree. Thankfully we never had to worry abut it. 

As I began to spend more time with my friends and other families, it became obvious to me that my mothers calm composure was not the norm in most households.  When I first started dating Gary Tietz, I realized that some families really did heed the warnings as they were sounded.  On more than one occasion we were escorted to the Tietz basement during bad storms. This kind of activity was unheard of in our house. These are stories for different blogs I guess. I wish I could get Sharon to tell us her Tornado warning story when she was visiting at the Warren's.  (the house next door to our home!  Maybe she will take time to do that one of these days....

Hope you enjoyed....

Love,  Jan

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Week 30 of 2012 - Curfew

Now there's a word that takes me back....way back to my teenage years and beyond.  Curfew...the deadline that rules the end of the fun or the time you need to be "where you're supposed to be!"  Back in the neighborhood on Fritz and Ivy Drive in Romeo, Michigan, curfew was when the porch light went on.  If the light was on, you had better be heading home.  I have heard others say the city street light going on was the signal.  Customers in The Corner Store told me that the big clock in the front window (north of the front door) was where all the neighborhood kids kept track of time.  That's where they checked to see if if was time to head home.  I remember the bells of the Congregational Church in Romeo that played hymns every evening at 5:15 and signaled dinnertime for many kids.  Or if that wasn't enough, my father in law would whistle loud enough for several city blocks to hear.  Supper's on!

In the teen years, Mom and Dad had the curfew call.  Whatever the time was, they meant it.  I remember once when I was 15, I stretched the curfew on a school night ski trip to Mt Grampian in Oxford.  I just didn't respect the time frame I was given.  I walked in, after midnight, and the house was dark.  But Dad was standing in the family room waiting for my explanation.  I think I was more time conscious after that.  He had told me 11pm and definitely meant it. 

Western Michigan University and Smith Burnham Hall was my next curfew experience.  My freshman year, 1969-1970, involved rules for freshman women.  The doors locked and you would have to have the desk clerk let you in.  It was a later time on the weekend, but as a freshman you didn't want to get locked out.  NO, I didn't get locked out.  The following year in Ernest Burnham Hall, sister hall to Smith Burnham, curfews were eliminated...there was plenty of coming and going at all hours.

As parents, our sons were pretty tolerant and respectful of Mom and Dad's rules.  That's not to say there weren't times when it was later than we liked, but the rule was "just let us know what your plans are."  Mom's sleep was not sound until all the boys were in the house.  Dad didn't seem to worry unless I woke him up to lay awake with me and wait.

Curfews...discipline, guidelines, limits of love...provided because someone cares for you.  They are a good thing!

Week 28 of 2012 Burn Baby Burn

Burn Baby Burn....and I wondered if it referred to forest fires, campfires or tons of candles on my latest birthday cake (61 to be exact)!  But this refers to sunburn...something I totally understand!  I still today envy the smooth, tanned skin of those with darker complexions.  I happen to have skin exactly like my father....freckles, red skin that might hold a little color...but I wouldn't call it tan....and plenty of blotches.  I think as a child I knew early on that tanning would never be an easy or good thing for me.

 I remember getting burned very badly on our family vacation to the cottage at Lakeport.  I was just out too long and without sunscreen I burned bad enough to run a temperature, feel quite sick and then have the whole top layer of skin peel off.  Now that's a good way to wreck a week's vacation!  Maybe this picture from the Lake Huron beach at the cottage was part of that bad sunburn and now I'm......covering up!

  (See Grandpa Anderson in the background) Note the second picture when I'm sure Dad had a smart remark to encourage a a child I hated these two photos and would get upset when Dad put them in the family picture shows!

As a teenager, a tan (sunburn for me!) was still desirable. friends and I...went to extreme lengths to get that tan.  We wrapped large pieces of cardboard in aluminum foil and would lay on it to "catch more rays."  Somewhere I got the idea to pour iodine  (used for cuts and scraps) into baby oil and grease up with that.  I guess the red/orange iodine gave us some instant color.  I don't remember having sunscreen around or being vigilant about wearing it either.  Then there were the times that we laid on the roof...a porch worked perfectly.  Once the Smith's moved to Imlay City, the door going out the second floor of the back of the house....Mark and Matt's bedroom....was a perfect roof to sunbathe on.  Why?  I'm not sure, but we did it.

Now with all the emphasis on sunscreen and all the products that are readily available to seek protection from the suns rays and the melanoma fears, tanning is still a year round activity.  Tanning beds in tanning parlors and private homes, spray tan....painting the skin????...yes I've done that, all sorts of artificial tanning products that take 20 minutes to develop and wear off if you shower too often and also leave a telltale ring in the hot tub.  YES, I've done that too!  There's no reason to BURN BABY BURN!
Week 27 of 2012 Independence Day

God Bless America!   Land that I Love!  And that I do....what a privilege to live, work and play in this wonderful country of ours.  I remember family picnics, flags, sparklers and sometimes fireworks in the distance in my youth.  For most of my adult life, the local celebration for July 4th has always been 6 miles to the north in Port Hope, Michigan....flea market, softball, parade, fireworks, food and friends.  My Independence Days have always involved working in the retail sector of our small town businesses, Harbor Beach Variety and The Corner Store.  Everyone else is on vacation or visiting for the holiday.  It means terrific traffic and lots of potential business for the day and days surrounding the 4th.  While it was work, it was always exciting to be busy, have lots of people around and when it was all said and done, some money in the cash register.

The Smith's hanging out at Frankenmuth for Mom and Dad's 40th!
I remember one HOT July 4th when the thermometer on the bank was reading 106 degrees.  We wanted to close at least by 3pm to go to Frankenmuth, Michigan to celebrate Mom and Dad's might have been their 40th.  It seems most of the family was around and we met to have the famous "chicken dinner" at Zender's.  We almost didn't make it because we couldn't get the store cleared out.  Finally, Dad put me on door detail which meant the key was in the lock and you unlocked it to let the customers out, but no one else was let in.  I had people on the outside screaming and swearing at me and pushing their way in when I let some shoppers out.  I told Dad that he better be the doorman.  I would run the register!  We finally did get on our way that day and enjoyed riding in our Dodge caravan 8 passenger van with the air conditioning on high for the entire trip over and back.

 Times are changing, however, and with my retirement from retail and the day to day operations, I find it most interesting with holiday schedules.  I am now experiencing what the rest of the world does without having to go to work.  I can accept party invitations for July 4th...thank you Tom and Liz O'Rourke for today's fun afternoon on the lake in Forestville.  I can go to the festivities at Port Hope, and check on my friend and Barb (and Warren) Geiger and their terrific woven rug business at the flea market.  I even got to attend the popular Farmer's Market in Port Austin for the first time ever....and on a holiday weekend....or I can sit on my porch.  How cool is that?  I did all of these things this year in conjunction with our country's independence day celebrations...and I enjoyed every minute.  It's been almost 2 years since the decision to end my retail career and one of the biggest (and best) adjustments has been to see how others spend their holiday and weekend time.  Prior to Nov. 22, 2010, I always worked.  I am still adjusting, loving it and looking forward to having many more opportunities to appreciate my freedom and citizenship in this wonderful place we call home.  God Bless the USA.  I hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday this year!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Week 29 of 2012 - Wedding Days...

Wedding days are different for everyone. They range from simple to lavish affairs, large social events to a Justice of the Peace and a bride and a groom. Each is unique in it's own way. They are personally interpreted by the bride and groom with or without the input from other family members. There is one thing that is common to them all; two people who love each other.

Personally, I never really understood the fancy wedding event myself. All the planning, what to wear, what color shoes, what flowers to have, what jewelry.... I was never really a girlie girl! I like to look nice but don't love clothes, shoes, makeup and getting all gussied up. Give me a pair of comfortable jeans and my favorite Tee shirt and I am happy! Oprah...I hear just isn't me! That is probably why I ended up picking the career choice that I did. Who ever heard of a woman who fixed computer especially in 1980 anyway!

So, having said all that, I had small events. My first marriage, when I was 16 years old, was to my high school sweetheart. My Grandfather, Rev. Everett Smith, married us in a ceremony at our church. It was lovely and simple. We had a luncheon in the fellowship with cake and in a couple of quiet hours it was done. That was May 28th 1972.

Nineteen years later, we were divorced. I was a single mother for 6 years before I married my second time. My second marriage was also a simple event. Most of the guest thought they had been invited to a pig roast in our back yard. The wedding ceremony itself was held under a tent in our backyard with our families present at 2 PM before the other guests arrived.
Greg's friend Jeff,  Greg, Jan and sister Sue - August 9, 1997

A pig roast reception August 1997


The pig roast was scheduled for 4 PM. It was a really nice party. We had a 200 pound pig which roasted in a cooker in the side yard for 8 hours. Everyone was encouraged to bring a dish to share. Each time a spot opened up on the table someone would arrive with a new dish.  We had plenty of food. We provided drinks, 14 dozen ears of corn and the pig. We had 8 pounds of pork left from a 200 pound pig.
Our campfire at the end of the evening with the party in the background.

I am realizing, as I age, that I am a not exactly comfortable being the center of attention. Which is an unlikely Leo trait! I am not sure why I feel this way but I do. I would much rather help to make someone else the center of attention. It could be because I am a middle child in a family of 6 kids...there is not much attention in the middle of a group. The oldest seems to get it and the youngest. I don't mean that as bad thing but just a fact. For most women, their wedding day is the biggest and most important day of their lives. Many woman bask in the attention of it. It was not something that I thought or dreamed much about. So my weddings, fit my personality to a tee!

Week 28 of 2012 - Burn Baby Burn

I am a week behind again. All these hot temperatures must be frying my brain because I just can't seem to write. It is not that I don't have memories of sunburn. I have pretty fair skin ...the type that burns and then turns brown if it doesn't peel... When I was a child we never worry about getting too much sun. We did not use sunscreen. It was in the days before sunscreen. We probably burned some early in the summer but we spent so much time outside all year round that I think we were rather used to the sun!  Each day as we played, we got browner and browner. And each day our hair got whiter and whiter. As a kid, it was OK to have white hair because you only had it in the summer. These days, my hair is white year round!

As a teenager and young adult, we would actively try to get a tan. Just before Memorial Day, the lawn chairs in Michigan would begin to emerge and so did the tanning babes. By now we had learned a thing or two about tanning. For most people it was bring out the baby oil and fry a few times until you skin got used to it and before you knew it you had a nice tan going. It was at about this time when I discovered Bain de Soleil Orange tanning gel. I used it for probably 20 years and loved it. When my children were small, their nap time was my tanning time.  You could just feel the sun's heat as it permeated through your muscles all the way down to warm your bones...At last, the chill of winter in your bones is gone. And if you relaxed enough, off to sleep you would got too. That's when you got in trouble. You would lay on one side too long and burn, baby, burn. I also learned that apple cider vinegar worked pretty well on a sunburn provided you did not care if you smelled like a pickle and you kept the jar handy for the second and third applications that you would need...

Pool party at the Tietz's summer of 1985 - it may have been for my birthday in August.
Eventually my family and I moved to Arizona and I thought that I was in heaven. There I could get sun for most of the year and the first few years I did. We had a swimming pool, my children were older and weekends were spent by the pool and in the sun after I got my cleaning done. (and sometimes before the cleaning was done!) Until one June when thermometer hit 123 degrees, oh my goodness is that hot. It took your breath away. It was like opening your front door to an oven. The high heat that year went on for almost two weeks straight in the 115 degrees plus range. The summers became unbearable and they seemed to never end.... I kept telling my self that it was no worse than winter in the midwest. And it probably isn't but it became too much for me. Eventually I stuck to the shade of my covered patio.

My Friend Ivy and I at her sister Rocky's house in Texas in August of 1985
Ivy and I at Lake Pleasant in November 1985
I do not actively try to get sun any more. I haven't in many years but I do enjoy gardening which I do obviously during the day in the sun. I still love the warmth of the sun as it warms me to my bones. Since I am back in the midwest, the summers are too short and the winters too long...except this year but I enjoy all the seasons. My favorite day is an Indian summer day in October in the Midwest.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Week 26 of 2012  Favorite Dessert

Who said, "Life is dessert first"?  My mom never did.  Her line was "clean your plate if you want dessert."  Dessert was not an everyday event, but all the Smith's can attest to not missing too many sweet treats.  If it was a holiday, birthday or company coming, there was dessert.  All four of the Smith girls are good cooks..and it all began with learning to make cookies, cakes and other goodies.  I don't remember asking how to make meat, potatoes or least not initially.

Mom was a great cook and did a super job with most everything she made.  Over the years, she was known for her apple pie, angelfood cake with strawberries and almond star Christmas cookies.  I remember loving her elderberry pie, something that was an involved process.  Grandpa Anderson (mom's dad) would come and we would go pick the berries by the roadside.  (Funny we never worried about road spray in those days)  Elderberries are very tiny black berries in a clump.  You would pick the stems, take them home in a brown paper grocery bag and rub them between your fingers to loose them from the stem, repeating the process until you had 5-6 cups to make the pie...a lot of work...but fabulous results.  Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream...yum!  One of my favorites...

My husband's Grandma...Grandma Vanoff was a terrific cook and owned Peerless Cafe, home of Vanoff's Pan Fried Chicken!  She made and now I make the very best Chocolate Frosting in the world.  She also made me a very scrumptious birthday cake every year...white layers with lemon filling and vanilla frosting.  My mom always made me angelfood with strawberries...for 57 straight years.  It was neat to have another favorite for my birthday cake!

One of my best girlfriends makes the worlds best Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I've had lessons...right in my own kitchen, I have the recipe and all the ingredients, but they do not turn out like Jeannie's do.  Many in my family and beyond would easily say Jeannie's Chocolate Chip Cookies are the hands down favorite!

So is it a Saunder's Hot Fudge Cream Puff that Mom and Dee would splurge on in downtown Detroit, a Turtle Sundae at the Dairy Isle in Harbor Beach, or how about Old Fashioned Rice Pudding at Cracker Barrel or Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies at Reuter's Bakery (the Semp boys favorite)....there's not much to "not like" about dessert.  Well, there's one that I don't want to repeat courtesy of my sister Sharon and her husband Michael for my 60th birthday.

Check out the wasn't a good one!  I always notice powdered sugar on dessert tops now...and never blow out the candles on those!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Week 27 of 2012 – Independence Day

Independence Day, the 4th of July was all about time spent with family. We almost always had a picnic in our back yard and sometimes a croquet match in the side yard. Holidays were busy for my Dad. He would get up early and drive to Detroit to retrieve his parents for the day. They lived in a retirement home for Methodist ministers called West Grand Boulevard.
Holidays were an escape for Grandma and Grandpa Smith, an escape from the ordinary, the routine,  from the retirement home and the "city". Grandpa had MS and was confined to a wheel chair.  He lived on one of  the nursing room floors(3rd floor) and Grandma had her own apartment on the 5th floor. (I think) My Dad would drive the van down to the city and hoped for a good parking spot so he could load Grandpa and Grandma in the van for a day trip to Romeo.  These were in the days long before handicapped parking and lift gates on vans.  Sometimes we would need to circle the block a few times waiting for a parking spot to open up. Dad could usually find a retirement home employee or two who could help him get Grandpa loaded. Sometime he took an adult friend with him just in case.

They would usually arrive by mid-morning about the time Mom finished making the potato salad!  We would have usual summer food;  potato salad, deviled eggs, chicken, hamburgers or hotdogs and water melon!  Sometimes my mother's Dad, Grandpa Anderson would come too.

Dad had built a barbeque pit / fireplace out of used brick which he got free from an old building torn down in Romeo or Rochester.  I cannot remember where it was.  I remember the pile in the side yard and I remember him working at stripping the old mortar of the bricks before he neatly piled the bricks along the lot line. I believe it was the brick which was used for the fireplace when the family room was added on.  The outdoor fireplace was where we roasted hotdogs and anything else we cooked out doors.  He also made a side table which we put the serving dishes on and a bench. Here is a pretty good picture of it taken in 1964 or 1965 but I see a photo of it with snow over it in early 1963 photo.   This photo is of a picnic with the Randall family. Wonder if it is still there all these years later.

Our day would be spent in the back yard around a picnic table eating.  In the summer when we had water melon we were allowed to spit the seeds out in the yard! We would see who could spit the seeds the furthest and Grandpa Smith would be coaxing us on.

In the evening, Dad would get the help of the some of the men in our neighborhood and load Grandpa  and Grandma back into the van for a return trip back to Detroit. Due to his MS, there was no way for him to spent the night away from the retirement home. It was usually after dark when he returned home and we would be waiting impatiently for him.

 We could finally light our sparklers when he got home.  When I was 8 years old, I had an accident with a sparkler which could have been life changing.  I had been told over and over again not to run when we were playing with sparkler but the excited 8 year old that I was, forgot!  I ran over to my sister Pam to get my sparkler lite off of her sparkler, just as she moved her sparkler and I walked right into it, face first.  I received a good burn down the left side of my face and really near my eye.  Part of the scar remains today. The Dr said that it was a fraction of an inch away from my eye which would have likely meant the lose of  vision in my left eye. I still am not very fond of sparklers today.
So there you have it.  Independence Day...the 4th of July, through the eyes of a kid...

So until the next shared memory...