Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day, Dad! Week 24 of 2014

It's a great day...and one that is appreciated far more now that I'm in "senior" status.  While I, too, think about Dad on a regular basis, my admiration grows with each day.  We Smith kids are so very blessed with the love and dedication of our parents and the ability to pass it on to our children and grandchildren.   Thanks, Dad, for your guidance, your love of life approach that included making almost anything fun, sincerely loving people for who they are, and for teaching us about the love of God through his son, Jesus. We didn't always appreciate the Sunday mornings of worship and Sunday School or the return trip to town on Sunday evening for MYF.  Oh, it was fine, once we got there.  But I know I didn't always want to be there.  Today I understand the part about rearing a child in the way they should go.  Thank you, thank you for your love of God and the importance of sharing it with your children.

I think I can answer a couple of questions from Jan's Father's Day post...

It was Pickerel Lake at Vanderbilt.  I sure don't remember it being a State Park at that time.  I'm sure it was a state forest campground, but our most favorite spot to camp, including the nightly trek to the "power line" road to watch for elk.  Pajamas, treats and some patience along with alot of "Shhhhhh's" occasionally resulted in a spotting of the large animals. How Mom and Dad hauled a bunch of kids to a clearing and got us to sit reasonably quiet is beyond me!

I remember the Orchard Beach State Park (Ludington), camping in an orchard, a beautiful pavilion that had a Saturday night dance, Janet getting lost and hearing all the adults talking about the death of Marilyn Monroe (August 5, 1962) on Sunday morning.  Suddenly, the Saturday hunt for Jan was old news...and everyone was buying the Detroit Free Press for the details of the glamorous movie star's demise.

I also remember the camping spot south of Saugatuck for very different reasons.  It was actually the Allegan State Game Area.  It turned out to be the only time Dad and Mom resolved never to return and actually called in a complaint and followed that with a written letter.  It had the stinkiest, most foul outhouses of anywhere...ever.  Mom and Dad often laughed about how bad it was and in all their years of camping, there was never a situation that was anything close to it.  We had the tent all set up and it was just too much to move....and we had made reservations there, so we stayed.  But we left early the next morning and went to breakfast at Kellogg's in Battle Creek, MI.  It was only a short drive, it smelled much better and we were thrilled to get ice cream sundaes with cocoa krispies on top for a treat.

SO...thanks again, Dad, for all the good times and for the not so good ones, too.  All of it makes us what we are today...very blessed to have you for our Father!  Love you!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Week 24 of 2014 - Dad and my fondest memories....

Memories like racing home on Tuesday to help him with what ever was his project of the day. One day it was getting on the roof and fixing a leak. My job was to hold the bucket of tar as he slapped tar on all the cracks and holes he could find.  I did not think they looked like holes but he did.  I was just glad I could climb on the roof with him.  While I was up there I could not help but marvel at the view from so high up in the air. You could see the whole neighborhood from the roof.

Then there's the Sunday that we got snowed in and could not go to church.  So he took us sledding instead. He lugged the toboggan a couple of miles out into the woods to our favorite sledding hill. We rode the toboggan down the hill for several hours before we trouped  back home wet, tired and totally happy after spending the day with Dad! I'm sure that Mom got hot chocolate ready for us while Dad got to have his Sunday nap. Dad introduced it to us and we all have fondly kept going almost every year since our first trip in 1962. I think that it became our  annual vacation because it was affordable back then. When you have a growing family, vacations can be expensive.  Dad needed a break from work and where do you take 4, 5 or 6 kids where everyone can have fun.  I think he would be happy to know that it still remains important to all of us.  We all like a nice vacation to an exotic place but our annual camping trip keeps us really tuned in to what is important in life....Family! Precious moments in time that we experience together!

Our first trip we drove around the lower penisula of Michigan camping all along the way.  Our first stop was Oscoda where we visited family friends, the Dievers.

Next up...Roger City, Michigan, PH Hoeft State park. 

There is a beautiful beach and we loved playing in the water even though it was cold. 

Our next stop was near Mackinaw Bridge. I am wondering if it was Mill Creek Campground but I am not sure.  I recently read that Mackinaw Bridge opened in 1957.  Our camping trip would have been 5 years after it opened!  I was amazed when I read that.

Our next stop was a few days at Vanderbilt, Michigan.  I went to the internet to look up the name of the park expecting it to be Vanderbilt State Park or something...but it is not.  I find a park called Pickerel Lake.  It must be it. It is the only park listed in Vanderbilt, Michigan...It is a state park and still has no flush toilets!

The lake at Vanderbilt was awesome and shallow.  A great place for small kids to play in the water. 

Then on to Orchard Beach State Park.  I have a story about this park.  I got playing with a new friend at the playground at this park.  I wandered off with her and went to her campsite to play with out telling anyone.  Low and behold, I got lost.   I did not think I was but everyone else did!  I guess I gave them quite a scare but I knew where I was all the time!  Mom would later reminisce about Orchard Beach and she always said  " Oh yeah...Orchard Beach, that is where Jan got lost!"

Our next stop was a park south of Saugatuck, Michigan. Wish I could ask Dad where it was...No picture to remind me.   On our way home we stopped in Battle Creek and toured the Kellogg factory.  I will never forget a factory where they made my breakfast cereal! At that age I did not really think about where my breakfast cereal came from but I surely did not think it was a factory!
I have so many fond memories of my Dad.  He taught me so many things but probably the most important thing he taught me was how important your family is.  He focused on us.  It was all about us!

Love you Dad...miss you every day!


Monday, April 7, 2014

Week 12 of 2014 - Moving to a new town

During the summer of 1968, we moved from Romeo, Michigan to Imlay City, Michigan.  My father had worked at Mitzelfeld's Department Store for most of the years that we lived in Romeo.  He had decided that it was time for a career change.  He was looking to purchase Brownites Department store in Imlay City.  The current owner was looking to retire and was interested in selling his business.  He plan to move in the summer since we were all out of school and everything seemed to work as it was planned. We found a house that we could fit in and we moved.  All the while he is negotiating with the owner of Brownites.  So there we are in Imlay City and the deal fell through..No sale  and now Dad is still driving to Rochester everyday of work from Imlay City instead of Romeo.  We had rented the house in Romeo and our new life in Imlay City began. 

Matt and Mark on the porch at 240 South Almont Ave. - 1968

Dad would have several years of driving to Rochester to work at Mitzelfelds. I wish I could ask Dad what his thoughts were when the deal fell through. Around late 1970 or early 1971, he bought the  Ben Franklin Store in Imlay City from Bill and Ruth Knight.  Bill and Ruth were family friends of my grandparents and my parents so in the end, it really worked out better.

The Grand Re-Opening of the Imlay City Ben Franklin Store - 1971
Ben Franklin Staff in 1971 with Ben Franklin Corporate Reps - 1971
So I got a little ahead of myself here, this blog was suppose to be about 8th grade.  The year that we moved to Imlay City.  The school year that I started a new school in a new town and had to make all new friends. I do remember how scared I was.  I had a big knot in my stomach that morning.  It was on that morning when I first learned that wearing something that you really liked...your favorite  outfit, helped to make you feel more at ease when the whole world felt totally foreign and uncomfortable to you. (I still do that today..)I had learned the year before about going to a new school but now I had no friends and a new school!  I will never forget what happened on the first day, in the first few minutes!  The friendliest girl in the whole school came up and introduced herself!  It was Cathy Charbeneau.

Cathey Charbeneau-1968

SO all my dread was short lived because within a few minutes, I had a new friend! She told me she wanted to make sure that I knew someone.  I will never forget it.  Because of that exchange,  I have always made it a point to be one of the first people to introduce myself to someone work, school, church, a club or an organization. She taught me the importance of making a person feel welcome!  It was a lesson I'll never forget.  She was so sweet and we are still friends today!  Thanks so much, Cathy,  for helping me to get past the fear of not knowing anyone. 

When I was young, I had trouble introducing myself to other kids. Simply telling other kids what my name was seems difficult...and uncomfortable.  To this day I don't know why.  I could play for half a day with someone and never introduce myself....I remember going home and telling my Mom about playing with different kids at school ...and how fun it was.  When she would ask who they were, I would say "I don't know?" I never knew their name.. "Did you tell them who you are?  Did you introduce yourself?"  she would ask...I would answer "No"  Cathy cured me of that.  All at once, I understood the importance of an introduction and the friendship which would follow!

Janet Smith - -1968

With in a few days, my circle of friends began to grow and I felt as though I belonged in my new town. There were obvious groups of kids who had known one another for a very long time. There were many friendly kids which helped to make me feel as though I belonged! Jean Brinker, Diane Rankin, Laraine Crake, Sharon Pringle, Carol Halstead, Peggy Rider, Marilyn Kempf, and Carol name a few. It was interesting to look at Mr Theordore's home room...and see how and when my friendships developed.  Most of these friends I still have contact with all these years later! Eighth grade turned out to not be as difficult as I had thought it would be.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Week 9 of 2014 - Favorite Relative

Well since Jan wrote about Grandpa Anderson, I think I will choose Grandpa Smith.  What a great man and grandfather he was.  We Smith kids were so blessed!  Grandpa Everett Alton Smith was a wonderful and wise gentleman.  While spending almost half his life in a fight with multiple sclerosis...a disease that crippled not only legs, arms and hands, but sometimes took eyesight and speech away, too.  As disabling as it was, there wasn't much known about it and while we have much more research and documentation today, there still is no cure. I can remember Grandpa Smith walking with leg braces and a cane, while I'm sure my younger siblings only remember him in a wheelchair.  I never remember him complaining.  He continued to minister to his parishioners, guided the building of a brand new church in Lapeer...Trinity Methodist Church, and graciously accepted the title of Pastor Emeritus.  It was getting incredibly difficult for Grandma to take care of him herself and the decision was made to move to Detroit...a move that I'm sure was difficult to make.  With only one son, and the father of six children, I'm sure Grandma and Grandpa hesitated to go farther away and live in downtown Detroit at Boulevard Temple Methodist Retirement Home. It would mean more travel for son Harold and his family.  But it also meant that Grandpa would have the medical help and hospital floor he so desperately needed.
Grandma Lillian would not have to be solely responsible for Grandpa's care. Coupled with the fact that Grandma was about 5' 1" tall and probably weighed 120 pounds, and the disease was not showing any signs of letting up, it turned out to be a blessing for all involved.

I don't remember Grandpa ever complaining. He kept his sense of humor to the very end.  He sometimes would tease Grandma and everyone would enjoy the fact that Grandma was oblivious to the fun poked at her.  I always felt that my Dad's outlandish sense of humor was a carbon copy of his dad multiplied by 10.  Grandpa always was up on the world news, the latest joke and was very interested in what his six grandchildren were up to. He always had an April Fool's joke or two, loved cole slaw, roast beef and apple pie and listerine.  YUP...when I see or smell Listerine...that's my Grandpa Smith.
April 17, 1971  -  Untited Methodist Church - Romeo, MI. 

My marriage was performed by Grandpa Everett.  In those days, there weren't video tapes, but I still have the cassette tape of the ceremony and the still photographs with him in the front of the altar in his wheelchair.  We were also blessed with him baptizing our son Brad in 1973 in my parents home in Imlay City. There have been so many times when I think of Grandpa and wonder what he would think of our current church issues, progress or lack of and our world in general. Some day, I will get the chance to ask him.  I know he will still have the terrific sense of humor, gentle compassion and love of Christ that I feel was so very special about him.  He loved his faith and family, accepted the challenges of his life journey and encouraged all he came in contact with to do the same.  What a mentor he was to so many people.  Thinking of you, Grandpa!!!  Love you!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Week 11 of 2014 - 7th Grade - The year of the Sleepover!

In 7th Grade, was the year of the SLEEPOVER!  Oh my goodness, we did it a lot. It really began at the end of 6th grade.   I had a birthday sleep over in the summer before 7th grade.  It was the only Birthday Party of sorts that I remember having as a child.  My Dad took this photo of us all in our PJ's!    

These are all friends from Washington school.  Brenda Kirkwood, Michele Pilibosian and Sandra May (I think).  I can not remember for the life of me the name of the blonde girls behind me.  She was fairly new to Washington and was not there very long.  Soon after this her dad was transferred and she moved. I have unfortunately never been very good at remembering names!  We had a lot of fun that night. We slept in sleeping bags on the floor in the family room. With six children in our family already, there were no extra beds for extra kids!!! We talked most of the night before we finally fell asleep. As you can see there are pop cans and pop corn bowls so that must have been our snacks for the night!

In 7th grade, kids from all the area elementary schools would all go to the same Junior High School.  So it was like moving to a new town and going to a new school and bringing all your old friends with you!  The Junior High School was located in Romeo so instead of riding the bus south to Washington, we went north to Romeo. Our new school had once been the old high school building and it was a pretty big school compared to our elementary school.    Brenda Kirkwood and Michele Pilibosain, friends from Washington, went to the Powell Middle school after 5th grade when the school district boundaries were redrawn. We were friends for as long as I can remember.

Michele Pilibosain - 1968
Brenda Kirkwood- 1968
We had many sleep overs at Brenda's house. I remember one weekend in particular that she told us all about the haunted farmhouse down the road.  We had so much fun talking about it and scaring ourselves half to death.  We laid in her living room on the floor in our sleeping bags watching the house for any signs of spiritual activity.  I do not remember that we saw any but it was fun all the same!  It is just the sort of thing that preteen girls like to do!  I regularly talk to Brenda through Facebook.  It is fun to stay in touch.  She is very talented artist.  Check out her work at Http://

One time at a sleep over at Michele's house,  we went to the movies.  Don't remember what we saw.  The real purpose of going to the movies was to meet up with boys and spend some time with them.  All the boys were from Powell Middle school and I did not know any of them.  We were all paired up and I had no idea who this boy was.  It was pretty uncomfortable for me as I recall. After the movie, we returned to Michele's where we spent the rest of the night talking about boys!  I have lost touch with Michele.  Maybe someday I'll find her again. it would be fun to catch up.

Harriet was a friend from church, as I recall.  Our church was always in Romeo, so I did know a few kids through our church.  I spent the night with her on one occasion at least.  They had a really nice home north of Romeo as I recall.  It was a more modern home with two floors. One time when I was there I remember picking up a porcelain figurine which was on the kitchen counter. It may have been a German Hummel figurine, I do not remember which one but I dropped it and broke it.  I felt so bad and later learned that it was a very expensive piece. Mrs Leonard was very kind and gracious about the whole thing but I still felt awful.  We did not have expensive things like that at our house openingly displayed. This maybe the reason I was not invited again! I wonder where Harriet is now.

Jane and Helen were new friends who lived in Romeo. They had gone to the Elementary school in Romeo so I did not meet them until started at the Romeo Junior High School. 

Jane Dembowski

Helen Kitchen

Jane lived right across the street from the school.  Once the school year got into full swing, I would often stay after school on Friday at Jane's.  Sometimes it was for a dance, a football game, basketball game or just for a SLEEPOVER.  Seventh grade was the first year I went to a school dance.  They were always on Friday evening.  We would spend all afternoon in Jane's bedroom getting ready!   For the first hour at the dance, the music played and no one danced!  Eventually the girls would get tired of waiting for the boys to ask them to dance and a few of the girls would get brave enough and just go dance.  Then a few more and  a few more...before you knew it the boys would join in.  Every dance was always the same.   We would just get the dance floor really going and the dance would be over!

I got to know Janie's mom, Phyllis, she was the sweetest woman.  She made everyone who walked in the back door feel like they belonged in this loving home. I got a hug every time I came and every time I left to go home.  She was a fabulous cook.  She made food I had never heard of. And I always liked it.  No matter what she made it was delicious! She cooked for her large family and there was always extra for the expected guests.  There were always extra people!

The Dembowski's had a large, stately, two story home.  It felt like a mansion when compared to our ranch which we filled to the brim with nearly as many kids as they had. I remember they had two bathrooms and one was downstairs next to the kitchen.  We had one bathroom which all eight of us shared.  One day, Jane's Mom, decided to redo the downstairs bathroom.  It was a cute bathroom and did not seem like it needed to be changed or that anything was broken.  This was in the days long before Home Depot, DYI and the nearly constant remodeling mode of today.  It was in the day when functionality was the norm and this room was functional but she decided she wanted to change it.  So she did!  I had never known anyone to change a room just because...She painted and bought wallpaper which had bright, bold, vertical stripes on it.  She decided to hang the wall paper horizontally instead of vertically.  The first time I walked in after it was transformed, I was taken a back.  It was an amazing, bold, bright transformation.  She was the first adult who showed me very clearly how to "think outside the box".  She demonstrated that it was OK to not follow the rules sometimes. And she was not afraid to make her own rules. I always loved her for that.  It was a lesson I could never forget!  It was also at that time when I learned that bold, bright colors were important to me! I believe that it was Jane's Mom's influence who helped me discover that. To this day when I see bold color, I think of her.

 I spent many wonderful nights in this home away from home. It was a fun place full of activity.  There was lots of noise and people doing things and going places.  Since they lived in town, they did not need a ride here or there.  We could always walk.  It was at this time that I learned that there were so many more things in the world to do in TOWN!  I decided that I liked it!

We visited many of the small businesses n Romeo.  One of our favorites was a small shop downtown near the Drug Store on the east side of Main Street. Oh, I wish I could remember the name. It was one or two doors south of the Drug Store.  It was a store that sold small gifts as I recall but my favorite thing about it was the candy counter which had jars full of candy sticks in many different flavors. They had every flavor imaginable but my favorite was chocolate mint.  I also bought a small chocolate squares which melted in your mouth.  We were frequent customers.  

Those are just a few of my memories of 7th Grade in Romeo.  The next school year, we moved to Imlay City and I would begin all over with a new batch of friends in a new school and would miss my Romeo friends dearly. 

Hope you enjoy these memories as much as I did!


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Week 10 of 2014 - Movie Time

Movies we saw when I was a kid...

We did not go to the movies very often.  We had a movie theater in Romeo. With six children in the family, it would have cost a small fortune for all of us to go.  When we did go, it was most likely a matinee. We lived outside of town so it just wasn't something that we did often.   I remember going to see Mary Poppins with my Mother and Dad in 1964.

 I remember having a hard time deciding if I wanted candy or popcorn as we got ready for the movie to start.  I settled on popcorn with butter.  It was so greasy and I did not get enough napkins for my hands so I sat for the rest of the movie with greasy hands.  My sister Sue always got Snow Caps, the dark chocolate wafer candy with white sprinkles on the top.

In 1966, for the 10th Anniversary of the Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments", a large group of us from the Romeo Methodist church went to Detroit to the Fisher Theater to see the movie.  It was the Methodist Youth Fellowship group and their families who went. I was one of the younger kids in our group.  It was my most memorable movie.  It was an special showing event for our youth group and others.  The theater was large and beautiful. It had a wide staircase that we climbed as we made the way to our seats which were high in the balcony.  Every seat was a good seat and really comfortable to sit in. I do not remember if we had candy or popcorn.  I remember that the movie was really long and I had to get up once to use the bathroom.  I was so disappointed because I had to miss a minute or two of the movie.

I remember seeing Lady and the Tramp.  It must have been a second release for this movie because it came out in 1955, the year that I was born.  It could have been near the 10th Anniversary of this movie also. 


I also remember seeing "The 101 Dalmatians".  It was first released in 1961 but I do not think that was when I saw it.  

As you can see, there is a trend forming here.  We went to see primarily Disney movies and usually one or two a year. Disney movies were extremely popular and kid friendly!

 Enjoy,  Jan

Week 9 of 2014 - Favorite Relative - Andrew Anderson

As a youngster, I would have to say that my Grandpa Anderson was my favorite.  He was the Grandparent that we spent the most time with.  He was older than my Smith Grandparents by about 20 years and retired by the time I was born.  His wife (my Grandmother) died a few months before I was born.  He came regularly  to our house and stayed with us.  He would drive to Romeo from Marine City.  He always stayed at least a few days but often a week.

Grandpa Anderson holding Sharon soon after she was born in 1960

 He must have slept on the couch but it is funny that I do not remember it.  You would think that I would remember waking up and finding him there in the morning but I don't.  He went on many vacations with us, first to the cabin on Lake Huron and eventually he would go on our camping trips with us. He always had his lawn chair and would sit with us at the beach and often take his afternoon nap.

Grandpa Anderson napping on the beach - 1959  

Camping in 1962 at Vanderbilt, Michigan
Every afternoon in the summer, he would sit on the church pew on our porch and before long all the neighborhood kids would come gather on the porch.  He would had out fruit stripe gums to all of us.  Once the kids realized that he was visiting, it would be a daily event.  He would open as many packages as he needed to give all the kids a piece.   It always amazed me when he opened a whole box full of gum.  It always seemed that when the gum was gone it was time for him to go home.

Grandpa convincing Sharon to eat her lunch - 1962

He always brought us treats from the bakery in Marine City.  He always brought a small yellow round loaf of bread.  It made the best toast in the morning.  I loved it.  I do not know it was egg bread or potato bread.  It was sweet and quickly became my favorite.  He always brought donuts or danish too.  He and Mom ate those with coffee.

Andrew at John and Benita's for his 83rd Birthday.
 I remember in about 1965 or 1966, he would have been 82 or 83 years old, he had an accident while driving back to Marine City.  He totaled his car.  He came to a T intersection in the road and he just did not stop.  Don't know if he fell asleep or what but he ran the stop sign and careened into a ditch after mowing down the arrow sign.  He did not drive after that.  He had a couple of small fender benders before that and that was just the last straw.  After that, Mom would go get him when she could but his visits were never as frequent.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Week 8 of 2014 - 5th Grade Memories

Easter 1966 - Harold Smith Family
In fifth grade, I began to realize that maybe there were good reasons to have boys in your life. I also found one that I thought maybe I liked better than all the others. I did not understand it but his name was David Moon and I, for some silly reason, could not quit thinking about him. Did I have a crush on him? What did I feel like this for? I was certainly confused but I sure liked to be around him.

At Christmas in 1965, I am still playing with dolls with Linda Jacobsen.
 One day during recess a group of kids, including David and myself , were playing “tag” on the play ground. Before I knew it I was tagged by a boy named Georgie and I was “it”. Georgie rode the bus with us and I really did not like him but he seemed to like me. We picked him up on Campground Road just before coming into the town that our school was in. Since I became “it”, I decided to chase after David, of course! As I was chasing him, I slide in the mud and felling head over heels into a marshy wet mud puddle at the back of the play ground. I had extended my arm to try to break my fall. My hand and arm sank in the mud past my wrist. It was a wonder that I did not brake my wrist but I did not. I had a dress on with leggings. I was more concerned about the mud all over me and all the kids that were staring at me, than if I was hurt. The play ground monitor came over to see what all the commotion was about as the crowd gathered around me. I was embarrassed, close to tears and totally covered in mud with all these kids looking at me. She helped me out of the mud and looked me over. That was when we realized that I had a cut on my palm. It was oozing blood and mud. So off to the office I went to see the school nurse.

In the Nurse's office, they got me cleaned up. They tried to find clothes that would fit me so I could get out of my muddy wet clothes. I looked pretty funny in pants that were too short and a dress that was far to large but it was dry and not covered in mud. After getting the mud off my hand and out of the cut, it was decided that I probably need a few stitches. I had probably found a piece of glass hidden in the mud which cause the cut. It was about an inch long and a half inch deep in the palm of my hand in the fleshy part by the base of the thumb. It was bleeding pretty good and you could see fleshy tissue.

SO my parents were called to see if they could come and get me. This was a problem since Mom did not have a car at home. Dad had it with him at work. So she called Dad and he left work headed to the school. He worked in Rochester so it would just take a bit more time. Once he got me, then he took me home and got Mom. It would be her job to go to Dr Chabidor's office with me, Dad would stay home with the other kids. So Mom drove me to the doctor's office in Romeo. All the while I am holding a wad of gauze on my hand, trying to keeping it from bleeding too much.

Once we arrived at the Dr office, I remember sitting in the waiting room for what seemed like forever. Of course now I know that they were trying to fit us into their schedule but I did not know that then. I could not figure out why we had to wait so long. It was nearly dark by the time we got to go back to the exam room. Everyone else had gotten to see the doctor.

He took a good look at it and poked at it. It hurt when he touched it but it wasn't bleeding any more. “ You did a pretty good job, young lady!” he exclaimed. I thought, “I'm a girl” but I did not say anything. He looked at Mom and said, “She needs 3 or 4 stitches. We'll numb it a little and stitch it after I have the nurse clean it a bit more.” Mom said, “OK sounds good” The nurse came in and worked on it a bit to clean it. It hurt and I cried a little. The he came back with this shot that looked like it was HUGE and I got really scared and could not get the tears to stop. He sat next to me and said, “ Look, it is going to be OK, this shot will make it so you can not feel anything else I have to do. It will be better after I do this, I promise. You can look away if you want but I have to put it right where your cut is..” Then the tears really started to flow and I did not need to look away because I could not see through my tears anyway. He did not give me a chance to do anything. All of a sudden the shot was in the wound and in no time...I did not feel a thing. After that, I got rather interested in what he was doing. He put a stitch inside the wound and then three on the outside. All the while he was talking to me and telling me what he was doing.

Before I knew it, he was all done. “You are going to have a nice scar on your hand that will forever remind you of today!” And he was right. That was my first and last “stitches” event as a child.




Sunday, February 16, 2014

Week 7 of 2014 - More grade school memories.

Today I am remembering the day that John F. Kennedy was killed.  Everyone remembers what was happening the day that he was shot.  I was in the school office.  I was not feeling real well.  I was running a fever and they were trying to figure out what to do with me.  My parents only had one car.  Dad took it to work so that left Mom home without a car.  Can't come get a sick kid without a car. So the school nurse would usually give you some children's aspirin and after a few minutes they hoped that the fever would go down.  Often they would then have you go back to class for the rest of they day or rest in the nurses office.  If your fever returned when you got home, you stayed home from school the next day.

Janet, Sharon, Grandpa Anderson and Mark - Fall 1963

I was sitting in the chair getting my temperature taken when a news bulletin came squawking over the radio which played continuously in the front office.  "President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas!  He is dead. The President is dead." the announcer said.  All the ladies in the office gasped and most began to cry.  Before I knew it, I had tears  too.  I really did not understand what was happening...They were crying so...I was crying...I think that was the first time that happened.

I knew who the president was.  He was the man who lived in the big white house that we saw on TV.  The man with the pretty wife who showed us all the big rooms in the big white house.  She had put a lot of time in having them restored.  They had a special TV program about it and Mom watched it. I remember that.

I really did not know anyone who had died at this stage in my life.  Did not know what it meant or how it felt to lose someone you loved.  The office was quite a bit of chaos for a while.  They left the thermometer in my mouth for so long that my mouth began to hurt and I could not hold it there anymore. So I just took it out and held it for a while but I finally put it on the edge of the desk.  The fact that I was not feeling too good seemed of little importance after the radio announcement.  I just sat in the corner as all the woman talked about  John and Jackie Kennedy.  They kept giving updates on the radio and the information would be relayed to the other offices as news became available. I just remember being the little girl sitting in the corner as all the woman in the office were crying.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Week 6 of 2014 - Winter Games

Not quite the Olympics but in our neighborhood we had plenty of ways to have fun in the winter.  While we did not play outdoors quite as often as the summer, it was so much fun when we did.  We had a pond in a farmer's field that we skated on.  We often pretended we would be in the Olympics....twirling around on one skate, skating backwards and forwards, trying to do fancy tricks....or racing each other as fast as we could.  Sometimes on Saturday or Sunday afternoon we were able to round up enough kids for a hockey game.  It was probably my least favorite game and if there were enough other kids I would opt out because it always seemed that I would get that line drive hockey puck in  the shin...It hurt like the dickens and would send me limping across the field toward home.

We liked to sled.  We had saucers and sleds but in 1962 for Christmas we got a toboggan...OK it is not the "Luge" just a big toboggan full of kids.  Dad loved  playing in the snow with his kids!!! We had several good sledding hills but sometimes it was just as much fun just pulling us around in the yard.  Our favorite sledding hill was a hike of a couple of miles...trudging thru deep snow all bundled up in many layers of clothes,scarfs and mittens. We would stand on the top of the hill and it would felt like a mountain.  Dad would get us to all seated in our place on the toboggan with him in the back...He would give us a running push and jump on....Swish.... down the hill we went...wind and snow blowing in our faces.  We would scream and laugh. All too soon the ride would be over and we would be making the long climb back up to the top of the hill with Dad lugging up the toboggan.  As we neared the top of the hill, the excitement would build all over again! Sometimes we would spend several hours out in the wood at the sled hill.

Mom must have been in 7th heaven when Dad took all of us to go sledding.  Peace and quiet for a couple of hours.  If she was lucky, the boys would nap and it would really be quiet until we all came home and dumped our wet snow filled clothes and boots at the door with the expectations of having a cup of hot steaming cocoa to warm us up.

We received games  and puzzles for Christmas.  I suppose it was to help pass the time indoors when the weather was so bad. 

Christmas of 1962, Mom, Pam and Grandma Smith are playing Pam's new Christmas game while Sue and her new doll watch them.

Jigsaw puzzles were another favorite winter activity.  We had wonderful neighbors who we spent Christmas night with each year, Dee and Jake Jacobsen and their children.   They were from Nebraska and Colorado and stayed home (Michigan) at Christmas time because it was just too far to go for Christmas with family.  They became our Mom and Dad's best friends! (and ours too!) Our Christmas night activities were a special time for all of us. We spent Christmas day with my Dad's parents.  Grandpa was in a wheel chair so Dad would go get them in the morning and Jake would ride along to help him.  Then late afternoon, Jake and Dad would take them back home. 

Dee and the kids would come over to our house and our Christmas evening would begin. We ate left overs from Christmas dinner and had a special ginger ale sherbet punch!  Every year we did a puzzle. At first, it was an adult only activity, because they were afraid we would lose a puzzle piece but as we got older it became a group activity that we all participated in. Often the table was not big enough for all to gather around the puzzle which sometime resulted in a squabble or two.  "MOM, Sue won't move over so I can do the puzzle too!" I would whine.   This usually resulted in Mom saying "  If you can't behave go find something else to do!" All the while she and Dee are hunting for that next piece of the puzzle.  It was not uncommon for us to start and finish a puzzle in one evening. Dad and Jake would return and join in on the fun.

This was another of our Christmas games.  A game called Kaboom I do not know who got this game but the adults sure loved it!  They played with it all evening.  We are a game playing family. We still are and always will be!



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Week 6 of 2014 - Games you played as a Kid...

While an earlier post from May, 2012, was titled Family Games, there were enough games to go around...probably enough for several more posts before we exhaust this title.  I marvel today at how few children are seen outside playing.  Even in beautiful weather, the parks, sidewalks and neighborhoods are void of the sound of children playing.  I recently had a dear, elderly friend remark to me some of the same feelings.  He said he missed the sound of the kids walking home from school..and playing along the way.  He said, "Do children play outside at all anymore?"  Kids of today are consumed with technology.  The ability to understand and use today's technology is paramount with our younger generation.  This ability many times comes with the loss of "children's play" time, social interaction and just plain "playing."

Growing up in the 1950-1970 time frame, money was tight and we only received store bought games at Christmas time.  I remember the year that Dad and Mom were determined to find "Mouse Trap"...I'm guessing it would be 1960-1961.  It was all the rage.  For some reason, Mom and Dad felt we needed to have one.  Dad did find one (Mom never left the house with 5 children at that time and no car at her disposal until Dad came home from work.) somewhere at the last minute, paid a premium price but everyone was thrilled.  It had quite an elaborate series of plastic "piping" that you assembled as you rolled the dice.  The mouse would get caught in the trap after the metal ball rolled through the maze in a domino-like set of events.  I think we got our money's was a family favorite.  We had an old parcheesi board, a scrabble game, Dad's chess set...but none of us learned while I was at home.  I thought it was very interesting to see my oldest learn the game pretty easily in his youth.

So many times we occupied our time with "made up" materials needed except your imagination. Our Romeo neighborhood at 29 Mile and Mound Roads...the Fritz Builder's first subdivision, was made up of some 50 kids.  Most days there were groups of 10-12 minimum...with someone always coming up with a game, a squabble...something to do.  Baseball, kickball, kites, bikes (up and down ditches, with cards or foil flippers attached to the wheels with a clothespin for a motor sound.  My husband still says he probably had a Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth card that got ruined on a bike wheel!)  Many times the boys and girls played together, and then there were times when Mom would make us just come home because the boys weren't being nice at all. We'd play "house" on the porch...and the boys would make fun of us.

Inside we'd play Hide the Button or Hot and Cold with Mom.  I SPY would work in the car as long as we used something in the car and not along the roadside. I'd play BOSS and trick my younger sisters into helping me clean.  Playing House and giving them jobs would work for a while!  Even doing the dishes turned into a game until the water ended up on the floor and/or on us.  When we had a few minutes before the school day was complete, the teacher might quickly put a "Hang Man" game on the board and the whole class would try to figure out the word...letter by letter. A favorite game in Kindergarten was a piece of wood about 12 inches square with holes drilled an inch apart. There was a box of colored pegs...dowels that fit into the holes.  We would spend precious time creating birthday cakes (wood) with candles (pegs).  Making tents...blankets, sheets, towels, afghans...anything that you could spread over the furniture, tables, beds...a rainy day often turned into a pretty messy house as the Smith kids entertained themselves. We were pretty creative, however, and I wonder if the kids of today get the same chance at entertaining themselves.  It seems that they are consumed with being entertained.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Week 4 of 2014 - Grade School Memories

This is an easy one...I just wish I had photos to go with all this fun stuff!  Unfortunately, I don't!  But fortunately, I must have had a pretty good time because there's lots to remember.  Good old South Grade School on Croswell Street.  Ironically, my in laws....Bill and Gloria Semp have lived on Croswell Street since the 1980's, after purchasing Grandma Vanoff's (Dad's mother) house after she passed away.  The school is still there, being used for a Senior Center, but it hasn't changed very much.  I always give it a good look and it makes me smile.

There's a lone tree on the eastern side of the property...where much of the land is now developed for soccer, little league and whatever else the younger generation is up to.  But that lone tree...if not the same one...sure looks exactly like the tree that was there in the 1950s and after.  We would run out that east door and head for the tree.  It was "home" for tag, it was shade on a sunny day and the place we gathered at recess...and chased the boys around, too.  I remember a game of chase that ended up with a boy getting cut by a swinging jacket zipper...don't remember the boy, but it was my jacket and I was afraid I'd be in trouble that day.

In second grade, with Mrs. Jenks, an elderly, white haired woman, who everyone loved...we all learned a life lesson.  She stood on a folding chair trying to reach something above the black board.  The chair closed, taking her down to the floor.  It broke her hip. As I remember, she never returned to the classroom.  I cannot remember who took over the teaching job, but I still think about the incident whenever I stand on a chair...yes, sometimes a folding one if I'm too lazy to get a "proper lift."

Sping of 1959 - Pam (second grade), Sue (Kindergarten), Jan (trying to talk Mom into letting her go, too!)
In third grade, I was blessed with a best friend that I still cherish...the memories are still so precious. Bianca Banash moved to Romeo with her family.  Her mother was at school to enroll her, fill out papers, etc. and Mom was there, too.  They got to talking and Mrs. Banash asked Mom to ask me to look her up and help her get acquainted.  We immediately became friends and it continued throughout school.  Now I had lots of friends, but Bianca was one that never strayed, was always there for me and I never worried about "losing" that friendship.  Some of the girls came and went, but Bianca and I were pretty constant.  I recently heard from her, via the computer.  I wish we could get together someday.  She's had an interesting life...another story for another time.

Fourth grade might have been the first time I laid eyes on my future husband.  Mike Semp
attended North Grade School on the opposite end of town.  The students there could choose to buy hot lunch but had to ride the bus across town to eat it!  Just a very few times a year, this good looking blond boy would join the lunch chaos...and very quickly all the girls knew who he was.  He seemed to have a thing with Terri Hill...their families were friends...but many of us thought he was sure something special.  Wow...who would have thought that 54 years later, this special person would be my husband, kids father and a true blessing from God?

Fifth grade brought our first male teacher on staff...Mr. Gerhardt...a very easy going and fun individual.  For all the uneasiness we felt, when we saw our names on the list taped to the door....MR who?  MR?  not Mrs?  He was not a  young man, but did a very good job and began the job of preparing us for Junior High...and many more male teachers in our educational career.

Sixth Grade...we thought we were something special by that time..we ruled that school...or we thought we did.  We had another male teacher on staff...a new young one that wore an eye patch...don't remember why.  But his name was Mr. Queerio.  Can you imagine the song we made up?  He was actually a pretty cool guy and we had a great year.  The Cuban Missle Crisis happened in 1962 and was the first time I remember wondering if we were safe in our country.  Several of the girls were crying in school because they were afraid we were going to get "bombed."  There must have been some serious conversation at home that we didn't hear in our house.

All in all...grade school was terrific.  We learned alot, messed up regularly, started wearing glasses and got called "4 eyes", had my first job in the cafeteria doing dishes, loved the cookies that we'd beg for through the kitchen window.  Mrs. Rothnie and Mrs. Braidwood loved us girls.  On a good day, they would hand us each a warm cookie through the window and we were supposed to NOT TELL anyone. We'd stand by the sun warmed brick wall and enjoy the baked treat.  We had a yearly school fair with a cake walk, band concerts and plenty of reading, writing and arithmetic.  Sure wish I had all my class photos and my report cards.  They might tell "the rest of the story......."

Week 5 of 2014 - Things you did when you were young..that you maybe should not have.

Things we did when we were kids that we knew we should not do!   Oh this is a good topic! When we were kids, almost every day in the summer we were exploring somewhere in the woods, a swamp, or a farm yard!  In the winter, all day Saturday and Sunday afternoons were for exploring the pond in a nearby farm field or sledding or tromping in the woods.  We would get up in the morning, pull on clothes, make a PB&J sandwich and out the door we would go.  The next time my mother would see us was dinner time.
Sharon, Pam, Jan with Sue in the tree - 1966

Sue, my sister, Pam and Bruce Randall and I were the neighborhood explorers. We could be found in a swamp, sloshing in the mud chasing snakes, frogs, turtles or salamanders. We could be found in a nearby pasture full of cows, dodging cow piles as we made our way to the pond or the bull pen.  Yes there was a bull pen...a pasture which we had to cross to get access to the "woods" as we called it.  The bull pen was really a corral that the bull was kept in...or sometimes kept in.  The bull was not always in residence but there was no way for us to know that for sure until we got there.  We would climb over the fence if we did not see the bull, then there usually was no sense of urgency.  We would skirt the corner of the corral and climb the fence and now were safely in the woods.   The corral seemed large to an eight year old girl.  It was probably no bigger than five acres but if the bull was present, we ran like hell to the fence on the other side of the corral climbing it  as quickly as we could and  throwing ourselves over it ....usually in a pile of pine needles and leaves left from last year.  Of course we were breathless and laughing, thinking that once again we had out smarted the bull. I honestly only remember see the bull once or twice and do not remember if it actually chased us.  But we were certain that it would happen one day!  No one ever wore red to the woods!

Once in the woods, we built forts out of tree branches.  We climbed so high into the trees that we could see for ever. I remember the feeling of wondering if this branch could hold me....Was I too high in the tree? I remember the tree swaying in the wind and sometimes thinking I might fall out of the tree if it got any windier. I remembered wondering what would happen if I fell but it did not stop me. 

We would hunt crayfish in the creek after tromping on the skunk weeds to get there.  We would come home stinking to high heaven!  We would lay in the field eating the green pears from the pear tree and watch the clouds as they drift across the sky. We would talk about what the clouds looked like and time would stand still. We discovered a small swimming hole in the middle of the nature preserve.   It was a small sandy beach. The water was cool and four kids could not help but get in, our own private beach.  We spent many days playing in the water there. This area of the Stoney Creek park was north of the dam on the Creek side of the nature preserve.

 My sister had met a new friend at school and she lived at the Stoney Creek Nature Center. Her dad was the ranger.  The Nature Center was new and a fun place to visit. We did not realize that the woods we  played in were a apart of  this nature preserve area.  At the Nature Center, there were defined nature trails  and many things to see and do.  We were bound and determined to figure out how to get there thru the woods.  Mom would not let us walk the road to the Nature Center because there was too much truck traffic due to the nearby gravel pits.  We knew where it was because Sue's friend rode the bus with us and some times she spent the night with here friend.  We decided we would try to find the "back way through our woods" to the Nature Center on Inwood Road. It was at that point during our exploration that we discovered the gravel pit. 

We had heard large equipment near the woods sometimes but it was always off in the distance and during the day during the week in the summer.  As we wandered further into the woods than we had ever gone we  came upon an area which was fenced off with an extra tall chain link fence.   Insided the fence we saw large piles of gravel and sand and a lot of large earth moving equipment.   On the fence it was clearly posted,  "No Trespassing" !  It was the weekend and there was no one there.  "How would they know if we walked thru the gravel pit to get to the Nature Center? " we wondered.  SO over the fence we went.  As we proceeded through the gravel pit we were enticed by the large mounds of gravel and sand.  It is very difficult to resist the temptation to run up a pile of sand and then roll down it again when you are 9 or 10 years old! So before we knew it, instead of just walking thru as we had planned, we had begun to play...with all the interesting stuff we found.  First the sand piles, then the gravel piles.  Then we found a pond.  We threw rocks into a pond  but could not tell how deep it was and apparently were not interested in swimming.

As we made our way to the front of the gravel pit, we came upon an area which we could not quite figure out.  It looked like a pit of sand.  It has a small amount of water on top of it.  It reminded us of our swimming hole.  I think that Sue was the first to venture onto it and with her first step she began to laugh.  "I'm walking on jello!" she said  and then began to run in  a circle.  We laughed hysterically as the pit heave and giggled.  We thought it was amazing and before we knew it we were all playing on it. We had no idea that were were playing on quicksand until I stopped running and after a few seconds began to sink. I became scared and scrambled out of the pit.  I started to cry and begged them all to get out of the pit.  Eventually they did...but they still thought it was fun and that I was being a baby!  At this point, we moved on trying to find a way to get to the Nature Center. We would soon discover that there was no direct route to the Nature Center and that the front gate of the gravel pit was locked with a pad lock.  The only way out of the gravel pit was over the fence just as we had come in!

By then it was late in the afternoon and we decided that we should go back the way we came so we did not get in trouble.  I told the rest of the kids if they stopped at the "jello" I was going to keep going. They told me I was a big baby...But I did not care.  It scared me.  We never ventured into the gravel pit again.  The only time we got to go to the Nature Center was when someone could drive us there.  Many years later,  they had put trails in the woods that we had called out play ground. Some day when I move back to Michigan. I am going to visit the nature area and our old neighborhood and see what I remember.  

My parents never knew the things we did as kids in those woods.  It is truly a wonder that no one was ever hurt since we were so far away from home.   We were gone for 6 or 8 hours and there was no sense of concerned about what we did during that time.  The only thing that I remember that they were very strict about was the time that we had to come in the house at night.  After dark, they would turn on the porch light and that meant it was time to come in. So there you have it...I did alot of things that I probably should not have. Some of these things I am confessing for the first time...not as a confession but more of a memory revisit.

So what did you do that you probably should not have?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Week 4 of 2014 - Grade school memories ....

Many of my early grade school memories revolve around recess.  Humm....Wonder what that means?

My favorite activity was to play marbles during recess.  Can't help but wonder if I was good at it or not. Probably not,  knowing how uncompetitive I am today!  And I suppose if I was, I would have remember, do you think?   So this is what I remember, we used to line up along the school building wall where we had dug holes or depressions in the dirt. I was never afraid of getting dirty!  We still wore dresses everyday but I wore a pair of pants or shorts underneath so the boys could not see anything that they shouldn't.  I always felt more comfortable in pants but it just wasn't the way we dressed in those days. I sure wish I has a picture of it! Me in a cute little dresses and a pair of pants on with holes in the knees!  I can just see it.  That is another thing about the time period that is so different today.  Today we take pictures of everything!   Since pictures are digital and require no processing we can do that!  But back then, you had to get a picture developed so we did not take as many pictures and certainly did not take pictures of little girls half dressed in play clothes and half dressed in church clothes!!!!

Back to marbles.... Our marble playing field consisted of a hole in the ground which was about one foot from the exterior wall of the school.  There were marble holes every few feet the full length of the school. I remember standing against the brick wall of the school over the hole. My marble was in the hole challenging other students to come and hit it. Each kid had their favorite spot. I remembered days when the sun shone on the school, warming the wall. It would feel so good as I leaned against the warm bricks on a cold winter day. I wish I could remember the rules...I can not. I remember that you never put your favorite marble in the hole for fear that your opponent would hit it and take it home with them!  You only make that mistake once! I remember grabbing my marble bag everyday as we ran for the bus. I would have rather forget my lunch than my marble bag! The bag was made for me by my mother out of corduroy fabric. It was tied with a white shoe lace! There were lots of beautiful marbles in it so...I must have been pretty good! When the recess bell rang we would run for our spot along the wall of the building and hope that someone would want to play.

 I was really quite the “Tom” boy, not that I realized it.  It was just how I was.   Not much of a girl except I did like to play jump rope. The swing sets was another favorite too. I loved to swing as high as I could often jumping out as a means of getting off the swing. It was a wonder I did not break my neck! I was always frustrated by the monkey bars. My upper body strength was never strong enough to swing from rug to rug like so many of the other kids did. Sometimes they seemed to be able to swing for hours just like monkeys. Not me...It was pretty hard work.

The first "girlie" thing I remember was from third grade.  I had a teacher who got married during the school year.  It seems to me that she became Mrs French but I am pretty bad with remembering names.   She was pretty, always well dressed with just the right accessories including the right shoes and perfectly done makeup. She was beautiful.  She also had perfectly manicured nails.  I had never known  anyone who painted their nails.  She took such good care of hers.  From the first day that I saw them, I knew I wanted mine to be just like hers but there was a big problem.  I bit my nails so badly.  I chewed my finger until they bled...I would have to work very hard to over come this bad little habit.

For the next few months, we would hear all about the planned wedding.  Wedding showers, her dress, the honeymoon.  We had a small party for her a few days before the wedding.  The week of her honeymoon we had a substitute teacher. I thought of her all week and wondering if she was having fun. When she got back, she looked so happy and radiant.  After she got their photos developed, she shared a few with us.  Getting to share the planning process of this teacher's wedding enable me to realize that maybe it was OK to be a girl after all.  It was during third grade that I stop my nail biting habit and learned that bad habits can be broken.

To this day, I am still not what I would call a "girlie girl"...  It simply does not fit into my comfort zone.  No makeup or dyed hair for me. I would rather have on a comfy pair of jeans and hiking boots but I do still have nice nails and they hold up well even when I am digging in the dirt!   And if I break one, "oh well, it will grow back!"

So there you have it...a little bit about  grade school memories!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Week 3 of 2014 - Getting My Drivers License

WOW...I'm closing in on almost 50 years since this rite of passage.  Well, not quite, but probably 46 years from right now I was signing up and getting excited about driving a car!  I never aspired to HAVING my own car...never cared as long as I could drive.  At that time, driver's education lasted only a few months of classroom work and a few....three times behind the wheel with a teacher...passing your drivers test...and you were golden!

I remember hearing boys talking about it as if it was no big deal...for they had been driving tractors forever.  I was a little apprehensive about the actual driving part of it.  My first time behind the wheel was with Dad on 31 Mile Road between Sisson Street and Campground Road.  We had a stick shift Ford station wagon and Dad was very accomodating to beginning my lessons.  I just didn't want to go behind the wheel with other kids in the class and NEVER EVER done it before. Well, let me tell you...a stick shift and a 15 year old girl...poor Dad had no idea what he was in for.  He patiently explained that you press down on the accelerator with your right foot as you let up on the clutch with the left foot...kinda in a synchronized way (oh yeah..syncronized, right!) and when you feel the "catch" just give it the gas and "it's that easy!"  So I put my feet on the pedals, repeated his instructions word for word and confidently turned the key.  So far so good, until I let up on the clutch just enough to lurch us forward and stall it.

Dad:  "Okay..that's ok. Start over.  Feet on the pedals..gas goes down, clutch comes up, catches and give it the gas."
Pam:  "Okay, got it."

This time was better.  No lurching..just stalled it.  Again...and again and again.

Dad:   "Okay..just do it again."
Pam:   "Okay."

Two little lurches and one big lurch...stall.  Dad remained jovial and was getting a kick out of me trying so hard.  We were both laughing and enjoying the efforts.  Even at that young age, I was good at laughing at myself, which I learned from Dad!  At one point, he leaned forward gripping the dash and hollered, "Stop, Stop! Stop the car!"  He put his head down on the dash and just lost it with an enthusiastic belly laugh.

We were moving west on 31 Mile Road, but only by a lurch or two at a time.  Ever determined with a patient father sitting shotgun, all of a sudden I was able to move the car from a stop to a forward roll without any stalling...or lurches.  By the time I got to Mound Road (less than 2 miles from where we started), I was able to successfully start and stop.  I know that there are also some shifts in there, but that wasn't a problem.  When we arrived at Mound Road the lesson was over.  We switched places and Dad headed south toward home.  The only stick shift lesson I would ever have was over.

My drivers ed experience was interesting too.  The classroom part was no problem...the actual driving time was...a story in itself with an automatic shift vehicle, thank goodness.  All these know it all on farms, etc.  I was paired with two boys, and my first driving experience was from Lapeer to Imlay City along M21.  We stopped at Tietz's Drive In for lunch and then I drove south on M53 to Romeo.  That first time on pavement with cars coming at me was intimidating.  I couldn't get far enough to the right.  I cringed every time a car came in the opposite direction.  By the time we reached Romeo, I was calm and decided it was pretty cool afterall.  At some point, I was told to pull over and a classmate, Lanny Kaeding, took his turn.  And what a turn it would be.  We headed to Stoney Creek Park and Lanny was scared to death.  At one point we went off the road on the right, down a sloping ditch and around a park sign and back up on the pavement.  The teacher had him pull over and that was the end of his driving time for that day.  The teacher drove and dropped me off at home and Mom was waiting to hear "all about it."  I just couldn't believe a "boy" couldn't drive better than that!

Soon after completing the classroom tests and driving three times, once you turned 16 you could take your driver's test with the Romeo Police.  The officer climbed in your car and you took him around the block.  I was scared I'd have to parallel park, but it was just a once around the block and done.  I passed!

Dad told me many times that "driving will be the most dangerous thing you will ever do. Remember that!"  How true that is still today!  Lest we not ever forget that....

Week 2 of 2014 - First Grade

September, 1957, meant first grade in Mrs. Parsons room at Croswell Elementary School.  It was the last room on the right in the east end of the school.  Mrs. Parsons lived in the big red house at the Country Store location, now called Frontier Village in Romeo, Michigan.  The house is still there and I remember wanting to see the inside of it...she was such a cool teacher!  She was a small lady, with glasses that slipped down on her nose and always wore her hair in a bun.  She was very nice and I think the only trouble I got into was for talking...too much talking.  I really felt endeared to her after an incident in the bathroom.  I had on my first skirt with straps...a pink skirt...that I'd wear with a white blouse.  It was an outfit that just made you feel special!  Mrs. Parsons and Mrs. Engel's first grade rooms shared a bathroom that was located between them.  I used the bathroom, but got the skirt off (instead of pulling it up) and couldn't get dressed again...the straps were tangled and I started to panic.  About that time, Mrs. Parsons knocked on the door and asked if I was okay.  She quickly got me put back together, dried my tears and sent me back to my desk. Funny what one remembers...I loved going to school all day, hot lunch and showing off my papers once I got home.  Susie and Jan gathered around and were very impressed with whatever I brought home. Mrs. Parsons got me off to a great start!

Week 1 of 2014 - Kindergarten

It's the Fall of 1956 and I'm about to start Kindergarten in Lapeer, Michigan.  It's just a few blocks east of our home on North Main Street.  I remember having Mom walk and Johnny Hill, our next door neighbor, across the busy street and then continue about 3 blocks.  In one of the blocks there was a white picket fence and we'd run our hands across each board as we made our way to school.  I remember very little about the school, having attended only 3 weeks.  Why?  We were moving to Romeo at 63021 Fritz Drive and I would continue Kindergarten at South Grade School on Croswell Street.  Why even go to Lapeer for such a short time?  I bet Mom and Dad planned to have us moved before September rolled around.  As with all projects, delays are inevitable...I can just hear Mom giving Dad the business because "school is starting...we need to be in Romeo!"

We moved to Romeo and I was introduced to a new school and teacher, Mrs. Rowley.  Living 5 miles out in the country, meant there was a bus ride.  I think all my school years in Romeo involved bus #12.  It was never new, but not the oldest vehicle in the fleet...but from 1956 to 1968, I think #12 was a constant down 29 Mile Road, north on Mound Road to 30 Mile Road.  East on 30 Mile to VanDyke and on into Romeo with a quick stop at St. Clement Catholic School to let off all the Catholic kids in their navy plaid uniforms, shirts and ties.  Such spiffy dressers!  I also remember riding to school with Dad some days.  He was employed at Eggleston's (I'm not even sure of the spelling) in downtown Romeo.  It was a department store sitting just east of Starkweather Alley.  I look at it everytime we go through Romeo.  The door and windows are still there...the one we entered and Dad's desk or work area was right underneath the windows.  We had lunch together there a couple of times.  He must have picked me up from school for some reason.  That didn't happen very often and he quickly changed jobs and then drove to Rochester for his management job at Mitzelfeld's Department Store.

I wish I had more memories of that first year in the classroom, but I really don't.  In the photo above, I have a favorite dress on...probably one Grandpa Anderson gave me, hand picked by Mom.  Susie and Jan probably walked with us and the little boy is our neighbor, Johnny Hill.  Johnny is a topic for another time and one of the reasons for my intense dislike of the s word.  Stay tuned...!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Week three of 2014 - Getting my Drivers License

I learned how to drive in the summer between 10th and 11th grades. My driver's Ed teacher was Mr Volick. He was also the boys PE teacher and sometimes a science and history teacher. I had him for History in 7th grade. I was a pretty good student in his class and I liked history so that rather put us on the same page a few years later when he was my Driver's Ed teacher. Every Monday and Wednesday afternoon we would have “on the road” training and every Tuesday and Thursday we would have a couple of hours of classroom training. The local car dealers would donate three sub compact cars each to the school to use for “on the road” training.

For the “ on the road” training, we were divided into small groups of three . Usually a boy and two girls and kids who did not normally hang out together. Would be hard to learn if you had three girl friends in one car. My group was me, a farm kid named John and another girl Betty. I knew both of these kids but we were not friends. John had been driving since he could remember or “could get his foot on the gas pedal of a tractor”, as he told it. He told stories of sitting on the edge of the seat and barely being able to see out the window thru the steering wheel of his Dad's truck. He had driven for years and acted like it. It was full speed ahead. Mr Volick had to rein him in sometimes for fear of getting a ticket in the Driver's Ed Car!

I had limited on the road experience prior to Drivers Ed. Oh I had a couple of friends who would let me drive on the dirt roads around town but that was all the experience I had. Needless to say, when Mr Volick, in his billowing PE Coaching voice, said, “Janet, go first, I thought I might wet myself!” “Really?” I asked! “Yep!” He smiled. “it is your turn!” So I was the first driver and a nervous wreck. I adjusted the seat so my legs could reach the gas pedal. I looked at Mr Volick and realized that his knees are now mashed into the dashboard. He just smiled at me and nodded his head with encouragement. I put my foot on the brake and took the car out of park and into drive and pushed gently on the gas pedal as we left the parking lot and when down First Street. “Wow, I'm driving,” I thought. As I pulled up to the first stop sign, I gently applied the brakes so I did not send Mr Volick thru the windshield. He smiled and seemed to relax a bit and so did I. He has me drive down South Almont Ave to Newark Rd, down Newark Rd to Lake Pleasant Rd and from Lake Pleasant to Bowers Rd. All in all my first 20 or 30 minutes of driving was uneventful. I got much more comfortable about the oncoming traffic, turning, braking and all the nuances of driving. At one point, Mr Volick even encouraged me to increase my speed a little! A few minutes after we turned onto Bowers Rd, Mr Volick had me pull off to the side of the road and we switched drivers.

So now it was John's turn! And I got in the back seat. He moved the seat back as far as it could go and Mr Volick once again had some leg room. John take the car out of gear put it in drive and punches the gas like a punching bag. The dirt and gavel from the side of the road flies everywhere as we skid back on to Bowers Rd. “Hey, easy does it, there John!” Mr Volick says and we are off! John drove for about 20 minutes too. A couple of times Mr Volick asked him to slow down some. He also had to remind him to keep both hands on the steering wheel several times. Somewhere out on Brown City Road we changed drivers again.

Now it was Betty's turn. She looked scared to death...Just a sheet of white. I felt for her...It had just been me an hour or so before. She got in the drivers seat and once again Mr Volick found his knees in his face as she adjusted the seat. She nervously took the car.. out of gear and put it is she push the gas...we started to back up...Mr Volick billowed, “Hey, stop! We need to go forward... it needs to be in DRIVE!” Now she is so nervous and nearing tears!

She stopped, put the car in drive and eased off the shoulder driving down Brown City Road. She tended to drive too close to the shoulder as if she feared the center of her lane. Mr Volick corrected her several time wanting her learn how to stay more toward the center of her lane but awy from the center line. Occasionally she would drop the right tires off the pavement. I could see Mr Volick's tension rising. After Betty drove apprehensively for about 10 minutes she never quite reaching the speed limit. As we neared M-21 and a small grocery store on the corner, I could tell that Mr Volick was thinking about changing drivers. There would be much more traffic on M21, especially truck traffic so Mr Volick told Betty, “Just pull over at the store and we'll change drivers.. We'll have Janet drive us into town from here!” I was shocked...I thought my driving for the day was done but I thought...”OK, I can do is just a few short miles to town and back to the school..” So Betty, neared the store and instead of just pulling off the road as instructed, she turned the steering wheel a hard to the right. Hitting the gas instead of the brake she nearly put us through the wall of the store into the meat counter. She slammed on the brake stopping us a few inches short of the block exterior wall of the store! I was in a state of shock with my heart in my throat. Mr Volick face was a bright red and Betty was an ashen gray. While John said, “Holy shit, man! What the hell!!!”

It took a few minutes for all of us to regain our composure and for the dust to settle in the parking lot. Mr Volick quietly said, “ Janet, can you come up here and take us back to town.” I said, “sure Mr Volick.” So Betty and I traded seats and I drove the rest of the way into town and back to the school.

From that day on, Mr Volick had me drive when ever he had lost his patience with other two students. I got quite a lot of driving time. John did not need much practice time and Mr Volick was just plain afraid of Betty!

After my formal Drivers Ed, I would have to learn how to drive all over again!! Our family car was a manual transmission Ford Station Wagon. You know the kind that had two seats facing one direction and the back seat facing the other direction! It was as long a speed boat and I would need to know how to parallel park it. I also needed to be able to smoothly transition from 1st gear to all the other three gears with out grinding or stalling the car! I remember several days of trying to go from a stop to first gear smoothly with out any clutch hiccups or grinding gears. My father and I laughed until we cried as I tried to learn! Stopping and starting a hundred times along back country roads when there was no traffic. He used to imitate his Grandfather, who he remember from when he was a kid, drove with the clutch engaged all the time!!! So after a few short weeks, I was ready to take the test to get my drivers license. I was able to parallel park “the boat” in downtown Lapeer and safely drove the station wagon all over town without grinding a single gear or a single clutch hiccup. I stopped at all stop signs and used all the correct turning signals.

I got my drivers license but with two older sisters who had their license way before me there would be few opportunities for me to ever get the car. Between Mom and Dad and two sister and one station wagon...there would not be much driving time for me!