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’.

A Page from “The Willy Chronicles”

As I was rummaging among our winter coats the other day looking for something to wear to run errands, I was thinking how winter clothing has changed over the years.

50s pea coatWhen I was young, a hundred years ago, I remember pea coats, knit mittens and galoshes. Gael still has a coat from the ’50’s that must weigh a ton, corduroy with some kind of fur collar. Our first trip to Freeport, Maine to the LLBean store in 1969 when it was on the second floor of an old building with creaky floors, I purchased a great coat which I wore for years and then our oldest daughter took it over. It was heavy, but not as heavy as Gael’s coat.

My mother knitted the kids hats and mittens to match their winter coats and snow pants, and they wore bread bags over their feet, inside their rubber packs to keep their feet dry. Down filled jackets probably had been around for quite a while but they arrived at our house in the 1970’s. Gael still wears one our son discarded, many years ago. It is looking a bit worse for wear and there are feathers everywhere when Gael wears it, but he isn’t ready to give it up yet. It must be on it’s second zipper by now.

LL bean great coatI’m not sure when fleece arrived on the scene, but it changed my way of thinking. Gone is “the heavier, the warmer” phrase and jackets now are light weight and as warm as their predecessors and good for washers and dryers. I have so many heavy sweaters that I hardly ever wear anymore. Were our houses that much colder back when? I can’t part with them, some I spent hours knitting and have fond memories wearing them. I must admit I do really like the fleece jackets, vests, hats and mittens that are hanging on our coat rack. Most of the time they are adequate, for most of our weather and with good heating systems in cars these days, who needs a heavy, bulky coat to drive in.

Winter footwear has changed over the years too. Gone are the days of heavy leather boots. We’ve moved on to lightweight winter shoes, LL Bean boots and Muck shoes. Moriarty (sp?) hats, remember them? We probably have a few still kicking around in back of the cupboard, along with the knit hats and mittens the kids wore many years ago. I just can’t get rid of them yet.

Another kind of coat that we have is the waxed jacket. I bought several of these on one of my trips to England many years ago and they are great. I happened to visit England a few years later in the Fall and picked up liners for the jackets. Queen Elizabeth even has one of these. Hopefully, by the time you read this, you will have put your winter jackets, etc., away, all cleaned and ready for next fall, perhaps with a few moth balls thrown in for good measure. You might even have left a dollar bill in one of the pockets.

A Page from “The Willy Chronicles”

‘Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…..’

No, this article isn’t about who sang this song. If you know it was Janis Joplin you are probably about the same age as me and you would know that I just turned 70. This isn’t bad, but it is when I’m sure that I don’t look a day over 69!

Sorry I’ve gotten off track.

Willy, if I haven’t mentioned him before is a cat that used to come to our door at 6 AM and would scratch for food. He started this about 5 years ago. We would put food and water out twice a day for about 6 months. He wouldn’t have anything to do with us and would even wait to eat until we had gone inside. Once he thought Gary was too slow putting his meal down and he raced forward, bit Gary, and then raced out of reach! That is another story: The Rabies Watch.

the willysWith winter coming on, we started encouraging Willy to come in the house. After several weeks of moving his food closer to the inside (and the fact that winter had arrived, and he was living under our car trailer) he finally came in. Willy would eat, bed down for the night, wake up, eat and demand to be put out for the day. After, a couple more weeks, he would let us touch him but never hold him.

He did get used to us enough, so one day, armed with a big towel, we caught him, stuffed him in a cat carrier and we all went off to visit the Vet. He had an infected tail and it was amputated. The doctor said it had gotten broken (probably in a fight) and his ears had been torn. We brought him home with a 2-inch stub, all his shots on board and decided he would become an inside cat. But Willy had other ideas, he begged to go out almost immediately and as ‘good’ parents, we let him. Several hours later he returned, well after dark and wanted to come in. He was soaking wet and had a head injury. We figured his friends, who were still enjoying their freedom, had laughed at his shaved butt and stubby tail and he had to defend himself.

That did it, we did not let him out no matter how much he begged. It took months, but he seemed to settle into a life of tasty food, treats, and a warm place to sleep. I should mention he has 2 servants who cater to almost every wish and go out of their way to please him. And he stopped begging to go out. About 3 months ago when Gary didn’t realize Willy was near by and the door was open about 5 inches, he scooted through and out on the porch. He walked around the porch and went right back in. Hallelujah! I was close to a panic but could now calm down.

Fast forward to about 2 weeks ago, same scenario, door open a bit and gone! He sure can move fast but this time he explored about 15 minutes before he decided to come back, I’m in panic mode this time!

Now 3 days ago, someone came to the door and Gary answered it. Willy snuck through and again gone! We watched him taking his old route from years ago, across the front of the house, under the car trailer, to the first neighbor’s house, around the shrubs in front of neighbor #2 and out the back (which takes him to the next street). Full panic mode!! I couldn’t stand waiting to see if he was Gone-Gone, so I told Gary I was going out. I needed to exchange some of Gary’s clothes and get his medicine. In about 45 minutes, my cell rang, and Gary says, ‘did you find Willy?’ and I said,’ no I am not looking for him, I am at Tractor Supply’. Gary thought I was so upset that I had gone out on a search, but I was doing errands! Gary said Willy was in the kitchen, muddy and wet, but home! Hallelujah!!!

We have been trying to figure out why after the plush life we have given Willy, he would want to escape and the only thing we can come up with is that he has seen a former friend (namely girlfriend) and is willing to throw it all away for Love! Gary has noticed a lot of cat prints in the yard lately.

Happy New Year – 2018

happy new year 2018As the time is getting close, I will first wish one and all a Happy New Year. It is a bit hard to believe it will be 2018 (if you are reading this, it is 2018!) It seems like yesterday that we were all trying to decide how to say the years in the 2000s, should we say 20-01 or 2,001 and now we are 18 years later!

Now that the introduction is out of the way, on to the subject; New Year’s Resolutions. I did some research (on the internet) so you can agree or disagree but isn’t everything on the internet on the up and up?

New Year’s resolutions started with the Babylonians over 4000 years ago. They started off each new year with the resolve to change something for the better. Previously, it was usually something for someone else like pay off a debt or return a borrowed item. The Romans made prayers to their god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. Other groups made resolutions through the years, and for the most part the present-day resolutions, have gone from trying to help or improve life for others to self-improvement. The most popular goals include improve your physical well-being; eat healthy, lose weight, exercise (more), drink less (alcohol), quit smoking, get rid of old unhealthy habits. Other thoughts are laugh more, enjoy life, reduce stress, improve finances, get a better job or do better at the current one, volunteer, settle down, spend more time with family, go to church. The list can go on and on and I really commend those who take the plunge and can manage to reach their goal and stick with it, but the internet tells me that less than 8% achieve their goals.

Which now brings up the question of why can’t we seem to keep our resolutions and reach our goal, after all, whatever we have chosen to ‘improve’ without much doubt needs improvement or we wouldn’t have chosen it. I have given this much thought and guess what? The internet backs me up! We tend to set goals that are too hard, complicated or just plain too big, like lose 100 pounds, get a job that pays 4 times what I’m earning now, which probably would require more education, moving, etc., all of which I am not willing to do. You get the idea. We might have more success if we said lose 4 pounds a month and plan how to accomplish this, i.e.; walk, skip one restaurant meal a week, shop in the produce aisle for half of my groceries. Is there a light dawning? For most of us, we need to start small and build on that.

Another thought I have is going back to what was the original purpose for New Year’s resolutions; make someone else’s life better, return the shovel to your neighbor or give your parents back the money they laid out for your education. Now that would sure brighten my New Year!! I am sure you could make someone’s life better with just a friendly smile and a hug. Realizing the world we live in today, how about a smile and a wave or handshake. I am sure the Milton road crew’s life is made better every time Mary shows up with cookies! Probably their wish is that Mary’s New Year’s Resolution is to set a goal of a dozen or 2 cookies twice a month!