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 worth...it 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" games...no 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?