Back In My Day Winter 2020-21
Submissions from Local Seniors
We have gathered stories, poems, recipes, reminiscences, wise sayings and other utterances from parents and even older family and friends.
Here are some excerpts from our First Edition.
By Christine W. Noble
My Dad, Arthur F. Miller, was a creative, intelligent man, committed to his beliefs. When I was a kid (1950's & '60's), Dad's actions ALWAYS spoke louder than his words. - I'm not saying Dad didn't speak loudly. He could speak very loudly when he wanted your attention. More often than not, Dad shared his wisdom and beliefs through adages:
Haste makes waste. Once burned, twice shy.
As you make your bed, so you"ll lie in it. Don't take candy from strangers.
There is strength in numbers. Honor thy mother and father.
Leave your campsite as good - if not better - than you found it.
As you sow, so shall you reap. Put your money where your mouth is.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Never ask anyone to do something your wouldn't do, if you were able.
If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing right. Your home IS your castle.
Love and Loyalty go hand in hand, whether we're talking family or country.
Other things I learned by listening to and watching my Dad:
No man is an island. The people around you count on you.
You are part of something bigger than yourself. Know yourself.
The necessity of teamwork, the satidfaction of being included in a team,
the joys of being a followers or OR a leader.
Know what you can and can't do but don't underestimate yourself.
Perfection is a worthy goal. Not achieving is NOT failure.
A man who wears is something special.
As Tom Hanks echoed my Dad, in the movie "A League of Their Own",:
THERE IS NO WHINING !
"The Family Lady"
My Memories of Grandma by Joanne Bales
Being a Foster Grandma was the best job she ever had; she loved this more than anything. The neighbors called her "Family Lady", because she sold family home products to her neighbors.
A quote my Grandma always said was,
"When all else fails, read the directions."
by Kathleen A. Weber
Why, it's just a word,
neither dirty nor clean correct or absurd
At the moment of birth
we're the youngest we'll ever be,
growing older each moment "til death sets us free
We can ponder and whimper or fret.
We can cry
Wasting social security
on expensive hair dye
Yet none of these things
will stop time in its path
to spare our frail bodies
stop grim reaper's rath.
Our minds can go, too,
along with our frames
Where are those damn keys?
Again, what's your name?
Then all we have left
is our spirit, our core
But let's face it my friends,
do we really need more?
It gets us through life,
the good and the bad,
celebrates when we win,
picks us up when we're sad
It's that grit and that fight
that incorrigible greed
of making it through
to always succeed
Or at last be okay
with a loss now and then
Take a deep breath,
say, "Hit me again!"
So for now I'll just snicker
at wrinkles and sags
Put old age in its place
at the curb in a bag
By Christine W. Noble
My first Christmas memories are of the last Christmas our family shared with my Mother. It was 1956. It was a momentous year when we moved from a one-bedroom house trailer to a small, two-bedroom house in LaGrange, Illinois. Mom held a job ion a Zenith factory near Cicero. Dad drove a truck delivering fuel to Cities Service gas stations. We rented our home from Dad's boss.
We were not an affluent family, but we felt blessed living in a house. We had a front porch, a basement and our own backyard. I was five years old and had my very own bedroom! I had two big brothers: Leo, 9 years old and Artie, 8 years old. The enclosed back porch became their bedroom. They mad the basement coal room their clubhouse.
How special it was to prepare for Christmas in our new home! A real Christmas tree stood in the corner of our living room, in front of the picture window overlooking the front porch. With sewing needles and thread, we made popcorn garlands for our tree. We also encircled our tree with homemade chains of colored construction paper. There were glass balls, colored lights, Santa and snowmen ornaments made of wax Froebel paper stars dipped in wax and sprinkled with glitter, paper snowflake cut-outs, and a lucky glass pickle ornament hidden on the tree.
Our holiday mood was made merry and bright not only by decorating, baking and shopping together, but also by watching all those special
Christmas shows on our black-and-pwhite Zenith TV: The Ed Sullivan Show and Christmas episodes of The Lucy Show, George Burns, Ozzie and Harriet and Father Knows Best.
Most everything we know about Santa, we got from TV. Most everything we knew about Christmas and Jesus, we got from attending the Congregational Church and Sunday School, every Sunday, as a family. Our Christmas decorations included a small manger scene, displayed on the dining room buffet.
Surely Santa brought me a doll, or some other wonderful gift? After all, we left him a plate of cookies. But, I don't remember the gifts under the tree. What I do remember are the gifts that were hidden among the tree's branches. What fun searching for three little packages, hidden there just for me! And what delight and excitement when I found them!
One little box held a black-and-gold-colored bumble bee pin. His wings actually moved! What a treat: five years old and my very own jewelry!
Another little box held a red, black-and-gold colored lady bug pin. Mom had taught me the "Ladybug, ladybug fly away home..." nursery rhyme. Ladybugs will always remind me of our Mom and her love for her children. The last little box held a tiny, gold mouse pin. His tail could bend and wiggle.
Today the ladybug pin sports a red, plastic replacement bead on its back. The lost bumble bee pin has been replaced with a look-alike. And, the original mouse pin was returned to me a couple years ago.
In October of 1957, our Mom passed away. Dad remarried and by the time I was ten years old, two little sisters had been added to our family. As a family, we participated in - or attended - many Christmas pageants and Christmas Eve or Christmas Day church services. However, it was another home celebration that had found its place in my memory.
In the early '60's, we had moved to Romeoville, Illinois, to a home of our own. When I was about twelve years old, Dad orchestrated a very special Christmas celebration for our family.
It was late at night, Christmas Eve. We were assembled around our formica kitchen table. Chestnuts were roasting in the oven. All the house lights were off. Tall, thin candlesticks were lit and stood on the kitchen table, in front of Dad. He sat at the head of the table with the Bible laying open to the story of Jesus' birth.
In his beautiful, deep, clear voice, Dad read us the story by candlelight. The coziness of our family huddled together in the warm, dark kitchen. The sound of our Father's authoritative comforting voice. This was Christmas magic!
Tomorrow's memories are made today. Make your Christmas celebrations something special to share with family and friends. Focus on good and happy. Hope for the best - and do what you can to make it happen.
Santa Approved Sugar Cookies
From Everybody's Grandmother
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp Flavoring (Every Grandma has a secret)
2 1/2 cup flour
Mix Well, Roll Out and Bake
in a moderate Oven.
By: David Van Kavelaar
It's hard to believe that it's been fifty one years since my Christmas spent in the Republic of Viet Nam. Please keep in mind that today there are members of our military away from home and who will miss spending Christmas with their families.
I hope you enjoy this essay. And now, looking back........
We took to the hills on December 24, 1969 per orders from the 1st Marine Division rear in Da Nang. So, a short respite from the war was in store and we gratefully trekked up some forgotten hill number to rest and celebrate. No patrols, LP's (listening posts), or night ambushes for the forty United States Marines in the 3rd platoon of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment; no, a Christmas ceasefire was ordered. The grunts (riflemen) of E 2/7 had been in the bush since early September and, because of the numerous encounters and ensuing fire fights with VC guerillas and NVA regulars in that time frame, we were all relived to take to the high ground for the holiday. As dusk descended, we were situated as our hooches (two man tents) were constructed, fighting holes were prepared, and dinners (well, C-rations actually) were cooked by the plastic explosive C-4 and consumed. Night watch schedules were established where we'd sleep for 2 hours and be on guard for 1 hour. An interrupted four to six hours of sleep (with one eye open and both ears on full alert was the norm in the bush.
On Christmas morning, we all were in a pretty good mood as a chopper thudded onto our hill top and mail bags were dropped off along with WP's (cigarettes, candy, etc.) , ammunition, a Chaplain and, of all people, a barber. We curiously looked at the barber as if he was an alien bug or something; no way was he getting to shave our Fu Manchus or cut into our Mohawks. He stated for the record that every Marine will get their hair cut per CG (commanding general) orders but I gave the guy a lot of credit for correctly interpreting our cold steely glare to mean that hair cutting just wasn't going to happen. Yeah, we disobeyed orders but what were they going to do, send us to Viet Nam? The issue, wisely. was not pursued. So, we made an altar out of cases of C-rats for the Chaplain to conduct his Christmas Service. Half of us attended the service while the other half stood guard along the CP (Command Post) perimeter and then we stood guard so our brothers could attend the second service. The 1968 Christmas service which I attended the year before was in the warm confines of St. Helena's Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware. Now, literally half way around the world in the Land That God Forgot, the Christmas message was again spoken.
Now, despite a cease fire being in place, there was enemy movement in the tree lines and rice paddies below. This activity was carefully watched and the grid coordinate information where enemy activity was observed was passed on to the platoon commander, a young lieutenant, who forwarded that info to FSB (fire support base) Ross and LZ (landing zone) Baldy. The Christmas cease fire actually gave the Viet Cong an opportunity to set booby traps, regroup, and set up future ambush sights as we would eventually have to come back down into the wretched valley below and resume combat operations. But that would be tomorrow; Christmas would be observed and enjoyed today.
My new family on this Christmas Day consisted of men (average age 19 years old) from the farm lands, mountains, and cites of the U.S. including two guys from Chicago who seemed to have fist fights every other day, an American Indian Chief (Lakotan I think) from South Dakota, a Sergio Mendez look alike from Puerto Rico, a guy named Ed Q from Guam, a Cajun named Frenchy from the Louisiana bayous, and a host of some great colorful characters. The only commonality here was that we were United States Marines, a brotherhood forged from the heat and pressure of combat and made stronger by the sweat and blood we shed. Can't explain it; just believe it. When we say "Semper Fi", we mean it. After worship services, we opened our mail and shared cookies, candy canes, and a rum soaked fruit cake. Guys kind of moved away toward their fighting holes (fighting holes are for fighting, fox holes are for hiding) to read letters and cards from their mothers, girlfriends, and wives.
I had an envelope with thirty little little Christmas cards made by Sister Marie Julia's third grade class at the St. Helena's School where I had attended. Two of those children lived on my block in Edgemoor Gardens. Thoughts of home, the Christmas ritual of putting up the tree, and last minute shopping now began to surface. And we were still monitoring the enemy movement and activity in the valley below.
Around 1400 I borrowed a transistor radio from PFC Cruz in the second squad for a pack of Pall Malls. Bob Hope and the USO Christmas show was being aired on AFVN radio live from one of the military bases in country. Connie Stevens, the Gold Diggers from the Dean Martin Show, 1969 Miss World Eve Staier, Neil Armstrong (5 months removed from his historical moon walk), and Les Brown and His Band of Renown highlighted the program. Dancers, singers and comedians spiced up the show but Bob Hope, golf club in hand, was always the star as he cracked jokes about the military that was specific to the base they were currently on and also happenings back in the states. "Here we are in Bien Hoa, that's Vietnamese for duck!", or "...the Crickets, the Beatles, at least it answers the question where our new talent is coming from...under the kitchen sink". And for the anti-war protestors "...and how about the new draft lottery, last week 17 students burned their birth certificates". Bob quipped "The Marines have a great history...they've landed on more beaches than Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello!" and "Everything's going up back home: prices, gas, and miniskirts, even some guys are wearing them. Don't laugh, if you'd thought about it, you wouldn't be HERE!" During the show, another chopper arrived from 7th Marine Regiment rear with our Christmas dinner and what a banquet it was! Our meals in the bush were always C-rations that had the consistency of Alpo and tasted probably not much better. But today, hot turkey, roast beef, real mashed potatoes, all the fixings, pumpkin pies, nuts, hard candy....it was the best meal I had in over four months. On the flyer accompanying the meal was the Commanding General's Christmas Day Message that began "Today throughout the world, Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. For all men, regardless of faith, this is a period of peace and good will toward their fellow man." I wonder, because of destructive forces currently in America today, if that statement would be permitted.
No Santa Clause of Snowman sweaters were seen that day, our Christmas attire was flak jacket, helmet, jungle boots, and the same utility shirt and trousers we'd worn since September when we arrived in country. We ate our meal in shifts. Diners chatted among themselves as plastics sporks tore into the government issued feast while the other half of the platoon stood guard and kept a vigilant eye on activity below our hill. After the repast, I and others relieved our brothers of guard duty so they too could enjoy Christmas Dinner. While sitting on the edge of my fighting hole, a lonely feeling began to permeate as the USO show was winding down. As always, they would sing Silent Night at the conclusion of festivities and that was when emotions surfaced. With visions of Mary's and Joseph's tears of joy dripping on to the tenderly caressed baby Jesus, a tear or two of sadness splashed on the automatic M-16 assault rifle cradled in my arms. The irony was inescapable.
Shortly thereafter, explosions in the valley below brought me back to reality. Artillery shells were exploding below and puncturing the landscape by tearing trees out of the ground. The relentless deafening barrage was in response to the enemy activity we had relayed to the regimental rear throughout the day. The areas where enemy movement was spotted were being prepped with howitzer rounds for our descent from the hill on the 26th and, as the bombardment continued, the PRC 25 field radio hissed and crackled the following message welcoming us back to the war: "It is eighteen hundred hours, Christmas is secured.".
From BJ and me, may you have a peaceful and blessed Christmas Day surrounded by those lyou love.
Back In My Day Vol. 2
Lee County Council On Aging has gathered stories, recipes, reminiscences, wise sayings, rememberings, and even some tall tales from our younger days, from our parents and grandparents, and from even older family and friends.