Life Changes

For as long as I can remember, the previous generation or generations have had changes, that they were very vocal about, said changes not being right or not needed. 

“Things had never been done that way and it makes no sense to change them now”. 

One of the ‘biggies’ was the automobile. Stories have been written about how much chaos they caused with the noise and how they would scare the horses and pedestrians. I am sure there was a learning curve that was or was not followed many times. 

Many changes seem to appeal to the younger set, as a rule. Probably when you are young, everything is thought of as possible and all the fear that goes with change is not there. I, personally, have never cared for change but I have some definite ideas about what ones are good and ones that are not. 

I remember several years ago, schools started changing to “open concept” classrooms. Several grades in one big room, partitioned off with bookcases, student cubbies and movable blackboards. At first, I thought, ‘this is crazy’ only to remember I was in a one room schoolhouse for 1 – 6 grades, one teacher and we did well. Several students went on to Jr High and High school and graduated top of the class. 

Another change was bus pick up. In my time you had to live more than a mile from school to be able to ride the bus. My children had to walk to the main road (about ½ mile) and catch the bus. Now, the bus comes to each house on our street. 

One of the changes I really could not believe, when I first heard, was that cursive writing would no longer be taught in the schools. 

I had kind of forgotten it until recently when I sent my 16-year-old grandson a card. 

I had written him a quite lengthy note enclosed with $20 and he called to thank me (and Grandpa). 

I asked what he thought of what I had written to him and he said ‘have to wait and have my dad read it to me, I can’t read cursive’! 

Now I know this is a bad change, but I am not sure what I can do to change it. I would like to know the reason for the change. Is it because almost no one writes notes anymore? They email, tweet, Facebook, text and other methods that I do not know anything about. I understand that ways of communicating have changed but who would rather receive a tweet than going to your mailbox and finding a note, written in cursive, from a friend, giving you the news in their life. 

I vote we go back to cursive. Or printing and some times called Technical Writing. One vote per person please.

What a difference a year makes

It is hard to believe, but it has been a year since COVID-19 reared its ugly head and put us in lockdown. Though I think it was around several months before that, we were made aware of it, and during that time of ignorant bliss, were totally naïve of the “train” that was speeding at us and what damage we were about to witness. 

Even if I had been told what was coming, I do not think I would have had a clue how to prepare. I wonder if I would have ‘stocked up’ on toilet paper! Probably not! So, guess I for one, would be in the same spot I am now. 

What a year it has been. Gary and I have not put more than 30 miles a week on my car. The year before, we put at least 500 miles a week going to our grandson’s basketball games. I now try to shop once every week or week and half. Before, I would run to the store almost everyday for something. I tend to make lists now and plan for meals, so I do not run out or come up lacking when preparing meals. 

I had picked up my mail when it struck my fancy but now I go about 4:00 in the afternoon when I am more apt to have the post office to myself, at that time of day. 

“In the old days”, the family gathered for holidays, birthdays and just plain gathered. This year is the year for Zoom. My daughters-in-law are good about setting that up. Last year I cooked, baked and cleaned for those get-togethers but this year not so much. When I do cook or bake (no cleaning), I would fill my long-lost pie basket with a meal and leave it outside the door of a single friend of mine. 

We were able to see everyone’s face back then, and this year there is almost always a mask covering it. I remember over the years seeing people, mostly Asian, with masks and thinking how odd it looked and wondering if they were embarrassed to wear them. Gary, who spent 2 years in Japan, says that masks were worn out of respect for others, when the wearer had a cold or something, that might be given to someone else. Just a way of life for them. This year I must admit I have become a mask vigilante. I have not taken up telling people to put on a mask, but my eyes have! 

I can hardly wait to be able to meet people and HUG them. I want to go out for breakfast where we used to go and meet friends and sit and talk, laugh and yes, HUG! 

Lost – Found – Give

I do not know about you, but I ‘hate’ to lose something. 

I would rather drop it and see it run over by a bus (or in my case, an antique car would be more likely) and know its whereabouts and thus know what happened to it. The other is to give it away, I love giving things away. Gary had a grandmother that you had to watch what you said to her or you could go home with several items from her house. All you needed to say is, “oh grandma, that is so cute, I love it”. It would be in your bag as you left. Much to the envy of the other relatives, I might add. Though I might say I have seen her generosity used for someone’s’ benefit, too. But you can read that in my memoir someday. 

When I was first married, I ran to the Grand Union and did not take my purse. I carried a $10 bill in my hand. When I got to the register, it was gone. I re-traced my steps but to no avail. There was one person, who I thought was keeping a close eye on me, and I always thought that I had dropped the money, and he picked it up, and was watching me to see my reaction when I realized I couldn’t pay for the items I had picked up. Probably more likely he could see how cute I was (1972) and wanted my phone number. Never found out any of it! Was it the money or my looks -probably neither! 

I lost a ring when I was 8. My mother had given it to me, and I was going to get my initials engraved on it but lost it before that could be done. About 3 years later, a neighbor girl and I were playing, and I noticed her hand. She had a ring that looked exactly like my lost one. When I mentioned it to her, she said, ‘it probably is yours, I found it in my yard where we always played dress-up’. She gave it back to me but about a year later I was helping my mom throw brush over a bank and the ring came off – never to be seen again but I guess in this case I at least know where it is!! 

This brings me to a lost item that you may know about, my pie basket. I could buy another, but the reason it means so much to me, is my dear friend of many, many, years did a painting on the lid. 

It is of apples and is done with a technique called Tole Painting. I have had it for almost 50 years. 

I have searched everywhere I could think of and asked countless numbers of people if they had seen it. I even searched the cupboards of the church in Waterbury, in their fellowship hall, because I know I have sometimes taken it there, with my contributions to the lunch, for ‘show and tell’. I admit I ‘kind of’ accused my oldest son and his wife, Kate of having it under something in their garage. Like I should accuse anyone of having it under something in their garage (have you seen the Olney garage lately)? 

Gary Fiske put an ad in Wheel Tracks a few times, thank you. I have gotten ‘over’ the ring and the $10 but could not seem to let go of the pie basket and just hope that someone was enjoying it as much as I. 

The other day my son Josh put on Facebook that he was collecting winter coats and boots at his store in Orleans, Vt. You could bring them in and donate or if you needed some items, you could pick them out and take them home. 

I went into a closet where I knew I had some extra coats. I found 1 jacket I had been looking for, 3 jackets to donate and low and behold my PIE BASKET!!!! 

How did it get there? The Olneys have people that come in when we are away and move things around. That is the only explanation I have. 

My suggestion to each of you (with 4 fingers pointing back at me) is to give things away. That way you will not lose them, damage them or have them become mice food. There will also be less for the folks who come in and move things around when you are gone! But the big PLUS, you get to see the smile on the receivers’’ face. 

Stories for your Grandchildren

I was thinking, the other day, about Covid-19 and what it will be like to be on the other side of this horrible time. Of course, I hope that we will all get to the other side of this virus. Like most things in history at some point our grand or great grandchildren will hear of the terrible epidemic of 2020 and want to know how it affected us, good and bad. So, the following is the story I will tell (if I remember!). 

This is not your grandpa, or his camp, just an example. Actually, he was very happy at camp, with his old magazines.

It was March 2020 and Grandpa had left for his yearly trip to Chickasha, Oklahoma with his friend, Vin Cassidy. Before he left, we had been hearing news of a deadly virus in China, but things seemed to be simply fine here in the USA, so he left. He was probably two thirds across the country when there were cases in Seattle, Washington being reported. They continued toward Kansas first and then on to Oklahoma. About the time they hit Kansas, events started to be can-celled but so far, the Oklahoma event had not been. Grandma, being somewhat of a worry wart, suggested they head home to Vermont but Grandpa, being an Olney, moved on with no fear, even spent time with some ‘car guys’ from Seattle headed to Oklahoma. Suddenly it seemed that overnight a great concern hit the country and you could not keep up with the cancellations and closings. Grandpa and Vin headed to Oklahoma even though the event had been cancelled, thought they would just say, ‘Hey’. 

This is when Grandma said, ‘COME HOME!’. There was talk that some states were about to close their borders to all who were not essential. Of course, Grandpa would not believe he was not (essential), but they did high tail it back to Vermont. Now, we had to decide what to do with Grandpa once he got back. Answer: go to camp. Grandma packed food, water, clothes and other items in totes and put them on the porch 

because Grandma was not letting him in the house until he had quarantined for at least 2 weeks. The plan was to come to the house in Derby Line, get the truck and the packed items and head to camp. 

Problem #1: big snowstorm all the way from Massachusetts 

2. Truck would not start. So, Grandpa slept in the front of the 2006 Ford Fusion and the next morning shoveled out, jumped the truck and headed to camp. Thankfully, the snow did not last too long and with 4-wheel drive he could get in and out. 

The camp had no running water, (which causes a bathroom problem), camp not well insulated and totally open underneath so a bit tricky to keep warm with electric and wood heat. At this time, the lake was frozen over, still. 

Grandpa stayed over a week before he came out to stock up, again, still not being allowed in his house. Probably the children will ask, ‘what did he do?’ Well, he read newspapers, clipped old Life magazines, cut wood, and did yard work (once the snow was gone. Of course, some time was spent making his own meals, but he would bring his dishes to the house and Grandma would wash them and send them back. It was about 3 weeks before he was allowed home to shower and shave. 

To get all the yard work done and wood cut, he ended up staying for about 2 months. By now, Grandma was used to being a single woman and enjoying it, I might add. But it was Grandma who finally said, ‘pack up and come home’, Willy the cat misses you. And so, he did, and he is still there (home) today. 

The End. 

The Upside…

There probably isn’t one of us who hasn’t said, “I wish I could do this or that but just don’t have the time”. Well, now, chances are you do – have the time. 

I have heard people say that they would like to make their own bread, make a quilt, or just finish those projects that you started ages ago. You know, back when you had more time, whenever that was! 

Some will have more time than others. Those of you who are still going into work everyday or working from home to keep things, out there, running – Bless You. 

For those of us who are just sheltering in place with no children to home school and no job, we have an opportunity to get those extra projects done. 

What have you wanted to do that you felt you never had the time for i.e… clean closets, wash windows (a friend of mine was washing her walls) that particular activity isn’t on my bucket list but may be yours. I am sure everyone has a different list but if you are having trouble coming up with one, let me help you. 

Make pasta, make a quilt, hook a rug, frame your pictures and posters, organize your ‘stuff’, make bread, read books and magazines that have accumulated, write letters, notes and cards, learn a language, write a family history for your children and grandchildren, paint a room, clean your oven, make calls to others that you haven’t talked to in a while or to those alone and just ‘check’ on them, make a book of favorite family recipes, plan the first big get together for when we are safe and released from home confinement We will see an end to this (hopefully sooner than later). These are only a few suggestions, I’m sure you all could add many more to the list. 

Look at this time as an opportunity to do something you have wanted to do or just to ‘catch up’ and maybe for some of us just to slow down. 

One thing I know, if you have a dog, they are thrilled you are home and in hopes of an extra walk or two. Cats, they are probably just annoyed that the routine has changed. 

Until we can all get together again, stay safe and in good health. 

Christmas Past

Most of us have just ‘signed off’ on another Christmas and are packing away the decorations and ornaments and dragging the tree to the curb. 

We were late with the tree and decorations this year, so we will leave them in a bit longer. Can’t wait too long, as a lady at church today said that Walmart has all it’s Easter candy and related stuff already to put out this week. I refuse to buy Easter eggs in January! 

What I wanted to talk about is the change I have seen in the Christmas season since I was really ‘into it’. I remember the real highlight was the stockings that Santa left on Christmas Eve. I have a picture of my brothers, sister and I up at 3AM holding our stockings. I believe my mother took our picture and sent us back to bed! The stockings were, for sure, the most important part of the ‘gift getting’. I have often thought about why, but can just say, they were always fun. 

Gifts under the tree were great too but we could almost always predict what would be there. If you needed PJs, they were under the tree. The same with other clothing, shoes, school supplies, etc. The key word is ‘needed’. I am sure most of you reading this can relate to that. Santa saw to it, that things in the stocking, were fun and not necessarily needed. Probably some candy, socks, books, always a box of lifesavers (one item this Santa still gives everyone) and in the toe – a beautiful, large orange. 

When I tell my grandchildren about the orange and how it was so eagerly welcomed, they look at me like I have two heads! I must realize that in their lifetime, oranges have been available and affordable all year round. The orange has now been replaced with a gift card to Xbox. What’s an Xbox? A box with a X on it?? I dare say most things given at Christmas now are not on the ‘needed’ list and maybe that is good if it means families can afford the wanted list. 

So what I am saying, is that waiting for Christmas for some needed things is just fine, especially if Santa supplies the fun things right along with the needed. Wishing you a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

What’s On My Mind (the part I have left)

DUES ARE DUE
Are you an active member;
The kind that would be missed;
Or are you just contented
That your name is on the list?
Do you attend the meetings
And mingle with the flock;
Or do you stay at home
And criticize and knock?
Do you take an active part
To help the work along;
Or are you satisfied to be
The kind that just belong?
There’s quite a program scheduled
Which I’m sure you’ve heard about,
And we’ll appreciate it if you, too,
Will come and help us out.
So, come to the meetings often,
And help with hand and heart.
Don’t be just a member
But take an active part.
Think this one over, Brother;
You know right from wrong.
Are you an active member
Or do YOU just belong?

Reprinted from ‘SPLASH PAN’ winter issue 1961-62. Published by Profile Automobile League-P.A.L., The New Hampshire counterpart to the VAE.

I was under the impression that clubs, churches, actually any group relying on volunteers were having problems getting their member’s help with the projects, or starting new programs, was a fairly new problem. As you can see from the poem above, it was also a problem in 1960.

Of course, it was renewed in my mind before and after this last Waterbury event. I had no idea what needed to be done (which I have no excuse for except having a blind eye) because it always got done (and done extremely well, I might add) with little or no thanks to me.

It is a concern for those of us not getting any younger. I can think of several things we enjoyed over the years, that no longer are going on, because of lack of help. One was the summer baked bean suppers in Brownsville, Vermont. Every Saturday night in July and August we would go and wait in line for a wonderful meal of baked beans (3 kinds), potato salad, coleslaw, homemade rolls and pickles. All served family style with a choice of pie at the end. I was introduced to this when I met Gary in 1970. We looked forward to this for several years. Gary’s grandmother worked the suppers and most of that age group did a good share of the work. When these dear ladies and gentlemen could no longer do this, the suppers were cut back to just the month of July and now, I think, they have it just one Saturday in July. The point here is that the love of the suppers didn’t disappear – the workers did!

So, I would ask the VAE membership to be thinking of what you can do, to help make this organization, the kind of club that we are proud to hand down to our children and grandchildren and try to instill in them, a reason to ‘pick up the torch’ and carry it well into the future. Remember: MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK! And by the way, P.A.L. apparently had ‘ disappearing workers’, because it’s just a shadow of its former self – if it exists at all.

What Things Have Changed?

Every time I go to Williston and pass by Friendly’s restaurant, I remember my days in X-Ray school when we would collect our paychecks (second year students were paid $80/month plus call pay, usually amounted to about $160) and we would head out for Friendly’s for a cheeseburger deluxe and milkshake. The burger used bread for the ‘bun’ and added lettuce and tomato and of course, cheese. 

I can’t figure out if it was really that good or that we ate hospital food for 3 meals a day and going out was a once a month treat. I haven’t tried to order one, in about 15 years, but at that time they had stopped making them the way I was use to. So, the question is – has my memory been playing tricks on me? 

Another food item that has changed – the tomato. I know that you can buy them year-round, but my advice is not to. It seems that the last great tomatoes were in my garden 18 years ago (haven’t had a garden since). I do most of my shopping at the Farmer’s Market from May to October and I buy pounds and pounds of tomatoes, but rarely get the fabulous taste, that once was (or at least what my memory says). The only exception is the Heirloom tomatoes which are scarce in the NEK. I will have to branch out to larger markets this summer in search of the heirlooms and pay premium for the experience. 

This brings me to what I really wanted to talk about and that is the change in Vermont’s gold crop – Maple Syrup. I am not talking about the silly names they want us to use – Golden Delicate (think that was called Fancy in my day) and so on, but what I noticed was the taste. Unless you can find someone, who taps, uses buckets, gathers, boils (no osmosis) with wood fire – you aren’t getting the true taste that is real Vermont Maple. 

Some say I’m crazy (a lot might agree on many levels), but I believe I’m right and am sticking to it. We found a man in Enosburg who still gathers with horses (that makes a difference I’m sure) and I have found another hold out from Brownington. He agrees I am right about the taste but he says he is fairly limited in how much he can make, doing it the ‘old fashion’ way, because as he ages it is getting harder and he may have to give it up all together. In a lot of things, change is good, but in Maple Syrup – not so good. The only remedy that I can see for me is to have Wendell (Noble) dust off his buckets, fire up the evaporator, and did I mention find plenty of help to assist doing it the right way?! 

Birds of a Feather

Friday night (February 1, 2019) we lost a good friend and the area lost a knowledgeable, passionate historian in Ken Barber. 

ken barber

Ken was a VAE member and has contributed to Wheel Tracks many times. If you didn’t know him, I wouldn’t be surprised. He didn’t inject himself in the running of the operation, not to say he didn’t have opinions about its “runnings”. I think some of the reason was that things tended to annoy him, so he stayed away. 

He was an avid collector of information in the form of books, papers, magazines and photographs. He loved printing photo-graphs of local history from some glass negatives which he had collected. And with them, he had great recall and knew facts which, I fear, without being written down, will be lost forever. 

His knowledge spanned a huge number of things, from town and village history and changes, antiques, old tools, trucks and of course, cars. Recently Ken wanted my husband, Gary, to take him to Maine to get about 200 Life magazines from the 40’s and 50’s. After Ken looked them over he passed them on to Gary and they now reside under my dining room table! 

Ken was as concerned as Gary, about the loss of history, when things get thrown away or by people passing away. This would include the loss of skills, that at one time, many could do. I know Gael Boardman was impressed with Ken’s skill in producing hand hewn beams for a house Ken built for his family. I also know Ken would give Gary items knowing he would ‘hang on to them’. 

One of the reasons I liked Ken, so much, was that if Gary suggested going somewhere and I didn’t really want to go, I would say, ‘why don’t you ask Ken’. Gary and Ken, being like-minded, enjoyed the outings with each other and I enjoyed seeing them go! 

Ken could be kind of cranky and believe it or not, so can Gary. That along with their common interests and we have “Birds of a feather flock together”. Another ‘bird in the flock’ is Gary Fiske. Gary and Ken had become great friends with common interests. I can’t believe, however, that Gary ever gets cranky. Ken you will be missed by Gary and I, maybe not wholly for the same reasons but thoroughly missed none the less. 

Rest in Peace, dear friend. 

Wheel Tracks note…. Ken’s two sons, Glenn and Scott, while completing the obituary, decided to asked if someone would like to make a donation in Ken’s name, they can donate to the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts. Our treasurer, Don Pierce at 203 Colchester Pond Road, Colchester, VT 05446 is where it can be sent. 

Ramblings of a ‘Mature Lady’

As I ‘mature’ it seems that I become more aware or should say irritated with things happening around me, i.e. the idea that school should start an hour or more later in the mornings, to allow our children to “get more rest”, and thus they will certainly do much better in school. Poppy cot!! What is keeping these children from going to bed at a reasonable hour? I fear it is TV, iPods, computers, tablets, smart phones and NOT reading, homework, household chores, or even a job. Let me say here that I am sure there are some out there that do work or have household responsibilities that prevent an early or even reasonable bedtime hour, but I believe this is the exception and not the rule.

One of my concerns is that every generation (for the most part) are getting ‘softer’ and it will manifest itself in ways that are not good for us or them. I am part of the problem, as I expected less of my children than was expected of me. I am sure my brothers and sister didn’t think so at the time, but Mother expected less of us than what was expected of her. At age ten she took over as chief housemaker for her Dad, 3 older brothers and 1 younger than her. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry and went to school. Because she was 10 and not very tall yet, her brothers made her a box to stand on, to make rolling pie crust easier! Now wasn’t that a nice gesture? She never talked about it as a burden, in later years, but something she did because it was needed. My 2 brothers were up in the morning at 4 or 4:30 to go to the barn and help feed and milk the cows, home about 6 to bathe (so they wouldn’t smell of the barn) and still had a mile to walk to catch the bus for school, only to reverse the process when school was out. Walk home, change clothes and back to the barn. Did I mention that the bathroom time was scheduled, so 5 of us could get in and out on time with only 1 bathroom, to some, this would be third world conditions! And believe it or not, there were some people at the time, that didn’t have that in Athens, Vermont in the early 50s.

It was barn work that I threatened my boys with, when they were young, if they complained about doing some chores. Also, just an update, my brothers graduated from school, got jobs (now retired) and survived their early years just fine. I don’t know if they regret it, but I feel bad they didn’t have time for the school sports, etc., that most have access to today and wouldn’t want that to change.

Have school start later? Not in my opinion. Make it mandatory that children work 6 months on a farm; definitely! You can’t know what work is until you do some.

Is Grandma’s opinion popular with her grandchildren? NO WAY! They are thankful I am not raising them, and I am not their school teacher, but I do hope that there will come a day when the 4 of them are sitting around camp swapping stories and they decide that Grandma had a lot of things ‘spot on’.