If You Don't Laugh, You'll Cry - Laughing's Better!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tears of Joy

A few years ago, a friend of mine went to pick up her tiny granddaughter, normally a talky, bright little tad, from her first day of nursery school. When Grammy asked what the tiny girl had done all day, the answer was “I just cried.” Hmm. “Oh, then, what else did you do?” she was asked. “I cried. I just cried.” Came the reply. Her grandmother asked, “Well, tomorrow will be much better, I am sure. What do you think you might do, tomorrow?” The tyke would not change her tune. “I am going to cry, all day.”
Do you ever feel like you may as well just take a day or two and cry? I don’t, but may not be the worst way to spend some time. Let’s see now, I’ll cry on April 15 and finish on the 16th if there’s any left over. Ok, that takes care of ’09 so I’ll check that off.
I don’t usually cry at really sad, hurtful times but some music makes me cry, and I think I used to shed a tear or two at movies. Have stopped going to the theatre in recent years .I seem to remember crying at a movie called, My Foolish Heart but may have the title confused with the haunting song by the same name.
Between his junior and senior years, in college, (early 1980’s) our son went to Advanced R.O.T.C. camp, at Fort Riley, Kansas. My Tony and I drove out to bring him home and stayed at a Holiday Inn, in Manhattan, Kansas. We drove out to the fort and stood with other parents near the parade grounds and watched those beautiful young people march past us, singing (counting?) cadence. I quickly dug tissues out of my purse cause I knew I was going to shed some tears. I handed the little packet to a woman standing next to me. She said, “Oh, I don’t need those, I’m an Army brat and wife.” OK, I thought. A minute or two later, I felt a nudge,” Give me the tissues, she sobbed.”
By the way, we thoroughly enjoyed our Kansas trip. People were friendly and we enjoyed a tour of the Fort. I believe that was the trip where we saw Bison, up close. After picking up our son on the last day, we drove to the Truman Library and toured that.
In the 1960’s, the night we received the results of the Georgia governors’ race and learned that Lester Maddox was to be our next governor, I cried and cried, just so horrified that he was going to be racist and give our state a bad name.. We moved away not long after that but I understand he was a surprisingly good governor. In politics, one never knows what will develop. As some of us have learned, racism comes in all colors, religions, and ideologies and no one is immune.
Now, if I allowed it, ageism could make me cry. Because of my wonderful, enlightened family, it presents few problems for me. However, I see evidence of it often with others. Seems to me, some folks are in “de nile” and totally refuse to accept the fact that they or loved ones are getting older and simply lack the energy or strength they once had. The other side of that coin belongs to the well meaning but maddening group that assumes anyone over 70?, or 60?,or 55? has lost all their marbles and turned senile. Why, Tony and I went to see my Aunt Daisy when she was 102, living in a nursing home. She was chairwoman of the fall Bazaar; kept her own room clean; and enjoyed reading and writing letters ( I have some of them). I asked why she was in a nursing home? She said, ”Honey, my children are too old to take care of me!” She did tell me she was concerned about her baby sister who was 96 at the time.
The best tears are happy tears. I don’t cry when my children leave, on what to me have been really scary trips. My son was stationed in Germany and later, in Iraq for 12 months. (Above, Bruce in Iraq in February of 09) Oh, yes, I cried happy tears when he came home.
Then Dee has been on trips to Russia to sing and later to adopt Alesia. Dee went to Kazakhstan a couple of times to adopt our Michael. In some ways, these trips were more frightening to me than Bruce’s. She did not have the U.S. Army behind her. She was just one extremely courageous young woman going after a dream! Yes, once again, happy tears when I learned she was home!

Friday, August 28, 2009


When Tony and I married in February of 1957, he was in direct charge of seven grocery stores. The owner was a cousin of Tony’s and we were supposed to be buying into the stores. He did all the hiring, firing, accounting, buying etc. Tony had a Masters’ in Banking and Finance but he’d also grown up in his dad’s small grocery store. Believe me, this was an 8 day a week 12-14 hours a day job. He had a part time secretary, but I often caught him up on filing whenever I was in his office.

Of course, we bought all our groceries at the store. If I needed the car, sometimes I could take him to work, early on Sat. mornings, and he would then use the company truck that day. Well, I’d grown up shopping with Mother at the big chain stores, so one particular Saturday, I decided to shop for the week at the big A&P. OH MY!! When Tony found out, he started foaming at the mouth and turned purple - and made awful gagging sounds! I don’t know that I’d ever seen a person have that kind of fit and I had to assume that I’d made a bit of a mistake… That ended my shopping anywhere else but sometimes I surely did long for a piece of the old Jane Parker Spice Bar Cake with white icing.

The janitor of the main store was a man named Clemson. He’d worked there since he was a boy, but when I knew him, he was married and had 7 little girls all born in early fall months. There was a baby every year. Tony asked him why he just kept on having so many babies and Clemson said it just got real cold in the winter, when the fire in the fireplace went out!. Tony had to fire Clemson, one Saturday night because he was in the store drunk. Early Monday morning, when Tony got to the store, Clemson was there putting up stock as always. He said even if he was fired, he had no other place to go so he’d just work for free. No, he hadn’t even been taken off the payroll.

Tony was adamant that we trade not only at our stores, but at all locally owned places of business and he was exactly correct. We did that back then, and Dee and I still try to operate that way now. We don’t have a locally owned grocery store but we do mostly buy local produce and trade with a locally owned seafood place. Even here in our area of Atlanta, Tucker, there are some excellent places to eat that are owned by local people and I am happy to report that they are loyally supported, as they deserve to be.

One busy Saturday, when Tony was making his afternoon rounds of the stores, he encountered a grocery cart traffic jam at the front of the store. He grabbed an apron; put it on; started sacking groceries; helping folks with carry out etc. As he unloaded sacks into the truck of one family, he recognized the dad from high school. The man said,” Tony, it’s good to see you but I sure thought you’d have gone further in life than this. Here’s a dollar- wish I could give you more.” Tony loved that story - told it for years…

About Loyalty --- My dad used to say that even if the dogs in a family quarreled among themselves, they became as one when an intruder came into the picture. We were taught that was the way families were supposed to behave. We took care of our own. THAT is the way it has always been in our wonderful country. We don’t criticize our country to other countries, especially when we are outside our borders. I hope and pray that some of our young leaders will learn this as they mature.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

From Gulfport to New York

Recently, a dear friend mentioned Erma Bombeck and that brought back lots of memories. I bought all her books and thoroughly enjoyed them. One spring, when my kids were in college, my Tony and I drove to Gulfport Mississippi for a Trust Banking meeting. Lots of folks were there who didn’t really know each other so conversations could pretty much “dead end” - just past “where are you from?” “Do you have kids?” etc.

Now, on the way, driving down, I had read the latest Bombeck book so all her cute stories were still in my mind, plus several of them could relate to college age kids. I was just awful! I started telling her stories as if they were mine. You remember this one: every time my son comes home for the week end, he gets freezer burn on his face from standing in front of our freezer planning what he is going to eat next… Anyway, the first night I was the life of the party, entertaining the troops. The next night we had about a dozen invitations to join small groups for dinner after the big cocktail party. The only trouble was that I had used all my stolen funnies the night before, so talk about a “one night stand”…

Back in those years when the bank paid Tony’s way and we only had to pay my way, we had some pretty good trips. Tony had been president of the Georgia Bankers Trust Division. Then after we had lived in TN for a while, he became president of the Tennessee Bankers Trust Division. I love a trip and enjoy being with people, so I always had a good time.

On the same Gulfport trip, the local bankers provided a wonderful party, one night, where among other delicious foods, raw oysters were served - all you could eat. I love’em! So I really really made a pig of myself. At the end of the party, when all I could think of was crawling into bed and groaning over eating too much, I was informed that we were expected at a formal sit down dinner. Guess those people wondered how I got so plump when I was such a dainty eater! I was so full of oysters I could hardly move.

Years before that, when my kids were babies, the Mid-Winter Trust Conference was held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, in January, in New York city, of course. We could only afford that one once but I’m glad we did. We stayed 2 or 3 days over so we could have time to do some things. That was the year Hello Dolly, with Carol Channing, debuted on Broadway, and it was a huge hit. Some NY banker friend of Tony’s had obtained great tickets to some shows for us but Hello Dolly was the highlight. We loved the show, and later bought the cast album. A banker from somewhere offered us 500 dollars for the Hello Dolly tickets but I wouldn’t budge and I’ve never been sorry.

Hello Dolly was the best show I ever saw on Broadway. When Carol Channing pranced down the steps at the Harmonia Gardens and all the waiters were singing, I was excited out of my mind! I just stood up and started clapping and yelling! Then I was horrified at what I had done but, by then, everyone else in the audience was having fits too! Years later, we had the fun of being in the audience at the local dinner theater and hearing Dee sing in Hello Dolly, and it brought back all those happy memories.

Our money was pretty tight on the Waldorf trip, but in the hotel was a children’s shop. I found a lovely blue velveteen dress for Dee .She was about 18 months old and the dress was about a size 2, much too big, but it was marked so far down, I could afford it. I bought it and she grew into it. The photo above shows my dad and Dee wearing the dress I had bought. I still have the dress in my cedar chest.

This trip was in 1964, and President Kennedy had been shot the previous November. Our hotel room was a big, nice room with windows that looked over the alley leading into the private hotel entrance and parking lot. One rainy afternoon, I had been shopping, could not find a cab, so had walked back to the hotel. When I got to my room, the door was unlocked and a nice looking man in the Waldorf uniform was in our large walk in closet. I asked what he was doing there and he said a light bulb needed replacing. He closed the closet door with him inside, said he’d only be a minute. I sat down in the easy chair, kicked off my wet high heels and waited, trying to think what if anything I should do. When he came out, he thanked me and left. I was still sitting kind of dazed when the guy came back and said, Mrs. Thompson, you need to come lock this door behind me, you are not safe in an unlocked room!

That same afternoon, Tony had come back to the hotel in a cab but it could not drive close so Tony had to get out and jog across Park Ave. to the revolving hotel door. He had a hat pulled down over his eyes and was wearing a black trench coat. As he got into the revolving door, 2 men jumped in with him and, essentially, searched him. When Tony got to our room, I was still sitting in my chair. He said, “ You’re not going to believe what just happened to me!!!” He was white as a sheet. We traded stories and a little later when we met friends for dinner, found out that President Johnson was arriving to speak that night. Our windows looked out over where they brought him into the hotel. We made other trips to New York in later years but that was the one I remember most vividly.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Have you ever thought about all the different methods one employs to get along with people? At times I’ve thought, why can’t I just be myself and let others worry about getting along with me?

My kids used to giggle at the, often, sickeningly sweet voice I used on the telephone, especially with folks I didn’t much like. Since she’s not here to defend herself, I think I’ll blame my mother, at least partly, for that. Just as plain as day, I hear Mother’s voice, “ “Well, you are just so kind to ask but I’m sure we’ll feel well enough to get to Sunday School, next week. Tell me, how your dear mother-in-law is holding up with her AA program? I was so sure I saw her entering the Drunken Duck Tavern about noon recently. Collecting for the March Of Dimes? Well, I suppose those people were happy to share their little change with the less fortunate souls.”

As the young wife of a small town banker, I was called on to do every tedious job the older wives were tired of and could push off on me. I watched and listened and learned. There is a fine line between being efficient --- and being deemed bossy or overbearing. So I learned how to say things like: “Well, ladies, I’ve worked all weekend on this list and you are all just so smart and talented I’d be too embarrassed to make all these flower arrangements and place cards etc. I’m just not artistic so this is the list of what each of you are to do and have in the church social hall no later than 6pm , Friday. Got to run, now.”

I get tickled sometimes at language nuances.

One expression that was popular in our town was “over served”. For example most everyone knew that a certain well-known judge was nearly always OVER SERVED, at the country club on Saturday nights. This often resulted in his being given a ride home by various friends. I never heard anyone even remotely say he’d had too much to drink. But being over served surely implied that it was the fault of someone else and the judge was too polite to refuse. By the same token, in most small towns, the difference in the size of their bank accounts explained why some guys were alcoholics but others were just plain drunks.

There is one form of communication I really rely on.

My parents had a special whistle to call or alert one another. We were taught that whistle almost before we could talk plain and strongly encouraged to use it. We knew that we should pay immediate attention when we heard it. Later, we taught our children to employ it and now, my grandkids. The grands told me recently that their Uncle Bruce has taught them a shorter version that he uses with them when they are camping or shopping. Many, many times in my life when I have suddenly realized that I am separated from a loved one --- then, am so comforted to hear THE WHISTLE . I ANSWER immediately so we can find each other.

Of course, sometimes English is a foreign language right here in America.

The first Monday after we moved into our new home, in Tennessee, I could not turn on the oven in my new stove. I had carefully read the directions to no avail so I called the phone number on the instruction sheet. After finding a male human to listen to my troubles, I explained the problem, very politely, I thought. When I slowed down, a rough male voice said, ”Lady, I ain’t unnerstood a dang thang you jist said. Git somebody else to call who tawks raaaght.” Needless to say, the stress of realizing nobody in East Tennessee was going to be able to understand my Georgia accent, upset me terribly. I was crying so hard when I called my Tony at the bank, they got him out of a meeting. Using great self control to refrain from laughing, he wrote down the phone number and got it straightened out. You’d have thought any fool would understand plain English even IF spoken with a very slight southern accent….

We lived on Venice Road when we first moved to Knoxville. I was startled when I talked to another repair guy and he couldn’t understand Venice, like in Italy. I finally started to spell it and he said “Awww, you mean venus, like the planet!”

We had a maid during the early years in Tennessee, and her accent was so thick sometimes I had trouble understanding her. One morning she came in and said, with a heavy sigh, “Lord, mah har feels lak war!” Dee had to translate that. What she said was, my hair feels like wire.

All that East Tennessee eventually influenced Dee to an alarming degree. I realized that the day she said “Ah’m gonna take a shar,” meaning I’m going to take a shower. I started her on voice lessons right after that, and her accent returned to normal.

During my education classes, in college, we were told to be careful to say to a child about his picture, “Tell me about it.” Never ask what is it? and never say what you think it is. Sure as hell, you’ll just have called a child’s beautiful drawing of his granddaddy, a clown or worse a gorilla etc. But this little hint works in other aspects of our every day life. If you see someone who needs to talk about something, just say tell me about it, instead of God, what’s wrong with you?! The gentler tell me about it suggests that you have the time …and are prepared to listen. After all, communication is a two way street!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

News and Views

The most interesting little episode happened the other night. I was sitting here, at my desk, in my bedroom-study. Actually, I was reading when something in the story reminded me of Alesia. I stopped reading for a moment and thought about her and how sweet she is and how mature she is becoming. (One may assume that I absolutely adore her.) I heard a soft noise behind me and Alesia came in and said, “Granny, did you call me?” Well, no I hadn’t --- but she thought she’d heard me call her and had come downstairs to check on me.

My mother and I had what I called our radar --- an unspoken communication some might call ESP. I had that with my Dad too but not quite as strong. Dee and Bruce have it also. Dee knew the moment her father died, for instance. And now, Alesia seems to have developed it. I am delighted because it will sharpen.

At my age, 75.5, I never thought I’d be living with and dealing with teenagers. Of course, Dee is their mother so takes care of most everything but she and I often talk over various dealings with the kids. Most of the time, we agree. I tend to be more old-fashioned, of course.

I am truly appalled at the amount of skin being shown these days. I am not talking about Alesia who, by today’s standards, is fairly modest. No, I am talking about the wife of our president. What she wears in her home, away from the public’s eye, is her own business. This week, she has been photographed wearing short shorts while touring a national park. Yes, she looked just fine but that is not the point. She is the First Lady of the United States, and surely she could use a little common sense. Cotton or linen slacks or Capri pants would have been just as comfortable. Her lack of decorum is not a good example. The news shows asked for opinions, but the only ones I heard were from people under 50.They saw nothing wrong with Mrs. Obama wearing shorts. Guess next we’ll see her prancing around nude and showing her hefty bod! From what I’ve read, she is one tough woman. We’ll be hearing more from her for a long time.

This afternoon, Mike has been working on a picture which he calls grafitti, using each of our names - interesting use of decorative letters, looking a bit like mideval illumination? Anyway, it is bright and fun. He has a great deal of talent and I am torn between providing lessons for him v. letting him find his own way. I am totally opposed to a teacher putting limits on his work and demanding that he conform. I would be glad to have him taught how to use the oils, pastels etc etc . - whatever mediums he enjoys. He is a totally delightful boy with a sweetness that I adore. However, he definitely has a mind of his own.

When Dee first started talking about adopting a handicapped child, I was fearful, for all the reasons one might think of plus some original ones on my part. Well, Mike lacks part of his right arm and his hand, but believe me, he is not a handicapped person. There is little he can’t do for himself. His limb difference means he has a very tender heart for others. For example, there are things I need help doing and he understands how that feels, and helps me readily, without complaint. (Alesia is very sweet about helping me also.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Butler Family Memories

My mother had 6 sisters and 4 brothers. Eventually, all were married so there were 22 people in all who did interesting and/or funny things.

When I speak of Mother and/or Daddy, I am talking about my parents: Wilma and Bob. Mother’s parents were Grandaddy and Granny, to me.

It seems to me that Mother and her sisters Dot and Hazel got into the most mischief. They were not really malicious, for the most part, but surely high-spirited and relatively unsupervised. (Oh well, I guess they were malicious sometimes..!)

Mother started driving at a young age. She would drive all over town, with hazel working the pedals. That was before you needed a license to drive. Grandaddy was pretty well-to-do also, owning a drugstore, real estate company, marble works, etc. so, unlike a lot of people, they had a nice car.

Once Hazel was locked up in the smokehouse because she had been so bad. Must have been the end of summer because the entire watermelon crop was there, a lot of melons. Hazel took a crowbar and stabbed and ruined every melon in the building.

Mother was terrified of water because she said her brothers grabbed her and threw her into the swimming pool every time they could catch her. This would have been Doyle, Ralph, and Carl. Dan was younger. The three older brothers were big guys, over 6 feet tall; Dan was smaller.

At one time Grandaddy brought them a pet monkey. Mother hated it; said it was mean and not housebroken.

Mother was always smaller (Her adult height was only 4’11) so she was manhandled quite a bit. One day, Dot and Hazel were running away to hide after some kind of trouble; they climbed through a barbed wire fence, yanking Mother behind them. Her arm or leg was ripped open by the wire. There was lots of blood.

In her later years, Granny had stomach and digestion problems and could be heard passing gas all over the house. She always went into another room and closed the door very daintily but the sound was unmistakable, and the cause of many giggles among us grandkids. I remember once, Daddy called out to her, Beulah, what’s going on in there?! This really broke us up but mother was not amused.

Once when his sons were probably in high school, Grandaddy refused them permission to go some place, a party or outing of some kind. They picked him up and carried him to his bedroom and tied him down in his bed --- and left him there.

Another time, after mother and daddy were married, the entire family was at their house for Christmas. After bedtime, one of the brothers was snoring so loud, the rest of them went into his room and without waking him, picked him up, bed and all, and carried him outside and left him in the cold.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Learning to Cook in 1957

Although my mother was an excellent cook, she was not the greatest cooking teacher.. I fully understand and sympathize with that. I am not good in math and because of that, it was the subject I taught best. I understood how strange and very odd it seemed when that those numbers did those peculiar sums. I never even tried to teach music because I understood that on some level, not everyone hears, in their ear, what I hear.

When she was young, my mother was also not the most patient person. [That changed when she became a grandmamma.] Soo I became the table setter, napkin folder, lemon slicer, and ice in glasses person. Also, I worked at Sears on week ends from the time I was 16, took voice lessons, sang anywhere I could, sang in the adult choir at church, was a soloist with the high school chorus, took a full schedule in school and made decent but not perfect grades. My mother stayed busy too. So, while I lived with my parents, I did not learn to cook!

During college years, I still worked and sang but still did not learn to cook!

Then in 1957 I got married.

The first day in our very sparsely furnished apartment [bed, dresser, card table, 2 folding chairs, TV, and record player with 4 records, plus lovely sterling silver, china, and crystal] after a 3 day honeymoon, we went to the grocery store. Using a grocery list Mother had stuck in my purse, I bought thirty dollars worth of groceries. This was 1957 and that was a lot of money! Big fight #1.

That evening, my young husband informed me that he would leave for work the next day at 7 a.m. For breakfast, he wanted crisp bacon, eggs over easy, dry toast, grits, and coffee, and, oh yes, orange juice. Toast was the only item on the list I’d ever prepared, and, well, I could pour the juice.

I did not sleep well at all ----- and was up at 5 am to try to figure out how in hell to make grits. I have hated them ever since. Do you know that if you don’t keep a lid on the beady pasty little monsters, they will pop out all over you and the stove, and, yes, the cabinets and the wall??? I got all kind of burns trying to make crisp bacon and learned that there are only 3 seconds between crisp --- and burned Black! I threw out about 6 eggs because I kept breaking the yolks. By then, my hands were shaking so badly that I scattered ground coffee all over half the teeny kitchen. Well, the jackass finally ate and left, saying he’d be back at 11:30 for lunch and to have it ready because he’d only have 30 minutes at home. Thank God I had a package of bologna for his sandwich. I spent the rest of the morning scrubbing the floors and kitchen walls where the grits had flown.

The one thing I had watched my mother make so often that I kind of knew how to do it, was jello salad with fruit. There was a congealed salad in my fridge everyday for the next 40 years! What a lifesaver! That man ate jello like a starving person on a desert island.

Some months later, my mother-in-law informed me that Tony would not touch a congealed salad .I did not say a word, just nodded! When I asked him about it, he said the only kind she ever made was orange jello with grated carrots. I never made that one, needless to say.

One Sunday evening, I decided to make fried chicken. I put about half of a can of Crisco in a skillet and fried that sucker. Himself was so pleased when he came into the kitchen that he said he loved fried chicken gravy and please make some. I was horrified, and thought I was going to throw up. I slipped out the back door; went next door and slipped into my neighbor’s kitchen and asked her what to do. Oh, she said, just dump some flour into the grease and cook til it is thick; then thin it with a little water. Well, I added up to a good pound of flour but it didn’t get thick. Then, Tony came in and opined that he thought you had to add some water. Well, of course as I added water, I produced a large skillet full of white, tasteless glue that a spoon would stand up in. We gave up on gravy and ate our canned peas, jello salad, and just awful chicken.

My fried chicken was a disaster for years. Being southern, that was greatly distressing.

Every time I talked to my mother or one of her 6 sisters, they reviewed the method for making fried chicken. I went right by what they said, but just never got it right. I could make it look good. So Tony’s unmarried Uncle Jake always went to the family get togethers with us and insisted that I fry chicken to carry. Then he would carefully help the plates for himself and our kids from someone else’s platter. Finally, after hearing the chicken disaster story for the tenth time, my Aunt Hazel said, OK, you wash the chicken , salt it real good and --------- WHAT ???? [I stopped her] You SALT it??? Nobody ever told me to SALT it !!! All these women who had cooked all their lives thought any fool would have enough sense to salt the bird. Finally a happy ending after about 10 years…… You know, I don’t like chicken any more!

In some ways, I can be a tiny bit of a perfectionist, so I kept trying and folks say I am a fairly good cook now, although I prefer eating the wonderful meals my daughter cooks.

[Editorial Note: This is the first of a series of blogs about cooking.]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Memories of My Dad

A couple of artists I used to know were in Paris and decided to spend part of a day painting or drawing the Eiffel Tower. Their little daughter also liked to draw and had her own sketchbook. She asked what she should draw and was told to “just draw what you see.” That night, back at the hotel, when they looked at her sketchbook, she had drawn only about a 4 foot section of the bottom of the tower. That was a what she could actually see – a little girl’s view of the famous landmark.

Years ago, when people asked me how it felt to be my father’s daughter, my view of the well known baseball pitcher was not a towering, powerful athlete, but simply my dad . By the time I came along, being the youngest, he had come down from the big leagues and mostly played in and around Georgia. I was born in 1933 and times were awfully hard, with jobs difficult to find. He still pitched and managed baseball teams in the area. When he went to work, it was at a ballpark and that’s just the way it was.

I don’t remember that my mother ever missed any of his games, so of course the entire family went plus anyone who might be visiting. Mother knew how to keep score and always kept detailed accounts of each game. Dad was proud of that and they went back over her notes later. We were never allowed to sit where he would see us when he wound up to throw. We were always off to the side a bit. Strangers sometimes offered us cokes, or candy, or even some coins. We could not accept anything at all. That was final, no discussion. Us meant my older brothers, Bobby and Don. There are a little over 3 years difference between each of us.

Bob Hasty was 6ft 4in tall. A good weight for him was about 220 lbs. and in later years when he deliberately dropped down to about 190, he appeared to be thin. He felt that less weight would be kinder to his old bones. He had very blue eyes and black hair, though it turned gray fairly early, and he looked very distinguished.

He did not drink or smoke or cuss or chew – and didn’t approve of other folks doing it. [I never chewed?!] He had the notion that an athlete was a person young folks looked up to so it was important to set a good example. He almost never raised his voice and seldom lost his temper, may be once every few years. However, he could be stern and he expected his children to obey him. Mostly, he was a very kind and affectionate person, a wonderful listener, extremely patient.

Dad could play a mean fiddle and he played by ear. He loved music. His favorite song was “Danny Boy,” and he loved “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” I sang both for him many many times. I can’t even write about them without a lump in my throat.

Dad played for Connie Mack for 5 seasons, as part of the Philadelphia Athletics ballclub. Connie Mack made Dad take lots of dancing lessons as well as boxing lessons, to help such a big man learn to move more easily. I don’t remember his ever talking about the boxing but he dearly loved to dance. As a tiny girl I mostly learned to dance by standing on his big 13 D feet while we “danced.” He really had a good time doing his version of tap dancing too!

Especially in the south, we were accustomed to people coming up to Dad asking for his autograph and wanting to talk about baseball. It could be annoying to us, but never to him and he never refused or lost patience. People brought baseballs to him to sign and even mailed them to him.

When I was 15 years old, Mother, Dad, Don, and I went to a then, famous nightclub in NewYork, the Diamond Horseshoe. We did not have reservations and were seated way in the back where we could barely see the floorshow. A few minutes after we were seated, a waiter came to our table and asked Dad if he was Bob Hasty. Then another man came and escorted us to a ringside table up front. A few minutes later, men stopped at our table, one by one, with baseballs for Dad to autograph. Someone had made a quick trip to a sporting goods store and bought about a case of baseballs. Needless to say, that was great fun for a couple of teenagers.

When I married, my father-in-law, who lived near Augusta, was too sick with cancer to come to our wedding. So the first time my parents came to visit, we took them out to meet him. My dad sat back in the bedroom with Tony’s dad while the rest of us visited elsewhere. When Tony went back to check on them, he came back laughing and said they were so immersed in baseball talk, they didn’t even notice him.

We have three, fat scrapbooks that my mother put together, with mostly newspaper clippings about my dad. As a young person, I pretty much knew them all by heart but none really told about what a wonderful person he was, a true hero to his family.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Beloved Vintage Books

I was just thinking that there are so many good books that are not really new. They could most likely be found at the library, used bookstores, or garage sales. We find lots of good books and movies at the Goodwill store.

As an aside, Dee and I decided to live together, in the spring of 2005. This benefits both of us. Dee had adopted Alesia in late 2004, and needed me to be here for her while Dee was at work. I had lived alone since my Tony died in 1996 and had become aware that 9 years was long enough to prove what an independent cuss I could be. We bought a house together, having placed Dee’s condo on the market, and selling my Augusta home. SO – we had to combine the furnishings of a spacious 2 bedroom, 2 bath, condo with the furnishings of a rather large 5 bedroom home. Thus we got to know the Goodwill folks real well. It has been a happy relationship and they also have a clean nice store not too far from here.

Back to books, just thought I’d talk about some I’ve enjoyed .I don’t like doing book reviews. I reviewed books for the American Association of University Women, in Knoxville and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. I tried to be very careful not to teach the books I reviewed. However, since then, I’ve noticed that lots of reviewers do that. Tacky, tacky!

During World War II, my mother and I listened to a man reading a book, on the radio. I was probably 8 or 9 years old at the most. No matter what else was going on, Mother stopped and we caught up with Mary Yellan and her scary life, living with her Aunt Patience and her awful Uncle Joss. However Joss had a sexy younger brother and in about 1820, there were strange happenings on the Cornish coast. JAMAICA INN was a good first grownup book for me, and now I’ve read it several times. It was published in 1936, written by Daphne DuMaurier, who also wrote REBECCA and FRENCHMAN’S CREEK and others. I enjoyed all of them and one may be able to find them on Amazon cheap.

DINNER AT ANTOINE’S, by Frances Parkinson Keyes, was set in New Orleans and surely contributed to my love of that city, at least the way it used to be.

When my son went off to the U.S. Army, at 17 yrs old, I missed him so terribly, I decided to read all the books he had been reading - then write to him about them. So off I went to the library and came home with a sack full [not unusual for me] of Louis L’Amour’s wonderful books set in the old west. I read everything he’d written until then. I just checked at Amazon and they have some for as low as under one dollar – can’t beat that! By the way, my son came home at 18, went to college, and right back into the Army.

Erle Stanly Gardner’s Perry Mason was one of my heroes so I read every book about him. His only fault, and it was a big, tacky one, was that I desperately wanted him to marry Della Street, his secretary. Folks didn’t just screw around back then or at least Gardner’s didn’t!

On a more recent level, I need to write about an author I like a lot. Her name is Julia Spencer Fleming. She has won all kinds of awards and they are well deserved. She has a law degree from the University of Maine and lives in Portland, Maine. Her protagonists in this series of novels are Reverend Clare Ferguson and Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne. Clare was a military chopper pilot before accepting a call to the ministry. There are 6 books in this series and I was fortunate enough to start with the first one. As well as I remember, it was IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER. Then, A FOUNTAIN FILLED WITH BLOOD, OUT OF THE DEEP I CRY, TO DARKNESS AND TO DEATH, ALL MORTAL FLESH, and last to date, I SHALL NOT WANT. I understand there will be a new book out next spring. Most if not all of these books are available in paperback at a discounted rate, for used, from Amazon. Trust me, Clare is no sissy and these books are good mysteries.

I couldn’t possibly write about books I have enjoyed without talking about Lewis Grizzard. We didn’t get his newspaper columns, in Tennessee, so we just bought all his books. Every now and then, someone says to me, “ I still miss Lewis Grizzard” and I have to say, I do too. Lewis understood and wrote southern, mostly Georgian. He understood about grits, and cornbread, and Willy Nelson, and a commercial he liked with two female rear ends talking to each other. Much more entertaining than watching a glob of Drano unplug a pipe!

About 2 weeks before Valentine’s Day, some years ago, I lacked a little present to send to my son and his wife, stationed in Germany. We lived 22 miles from town, on the lake, with 2 lane icy snowy roads. My Tony was good about mailing things for me when I didn’t want to chance the bad roads. Anyway, I had a new Grizzard book so I decided to just make a tape with my reading some of the best chapters. I almost blew it, because I was laughing so hard trying to read about “what kind of wine is best to drink from paper cups”. The kids got a kick out of it so that’s all that mattered.

Books have helped me through some awfully rough times and I really feel sorry for those folks who don’t enjoy reading. I used to read 2 or 3 books at a time. You know, I kept one in the car for when I was driving children; one on my bedside table; and one in the living room. Now, I do keep a crossword puzzle book in the car’s glove box. These days I really prefer paperback books because of the arthritis in my hands but I’ll read anything that tells a good story. Sometime soon I plan to write about the autobiographies I have enjoyed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Feeding A Crowd

When I was growing up, we seldom sat down to dinner, at night, with just my parents and the three of us kids. My parents both came from large families and they visited often. Some came and stayed a while for various reasons and some of my cousins lived with us for a time. As a small child, I can remember being put to bed in one bed --- and waking up in another, most often between my two big brothers.

Our dining room table seated twelve fairly comfortably. It was always set correctly with dishes, silverware, napkins etc. and a tablecloth. The food was passed around in bowls and platters, from person to person. A blessing was always said and we usually held hands. Children did not leave the table without being excused, most often by my dad. [PHOTO ABOVE: My sister-in-law Myrtle, her daughter Raye, my brother Bobby, and Dee, in about 2001 at a family wedding.]

When dinner was over, my mother left the table and did not return to the kitchen until the next morning. She had prepared a big meal and had no intention of doing the cleanup. My parents never owned an automatic dishwasher, so dishes were washed and dried by hand, surfaces cleaned, and the floor mopped. All this of course after food had been put away properly. My dad often helped us and we had good visits with him while we cleaned the kitchen.

My mother was a wonderful cook and had studied nutrition at Bessie Tift College, in Forsyth, Ga. Her meals usually consisted of a meat, two vegetables, fruit or salad, a starch, and bread. Of course there would be a beverage, tea and milk, and often some kind of sweet. Rice and gravy, biscuits, or cornbread, and jello salads with fruit were often on the menu or some combination of them, depending on the season, or a garden.. We ate lots of dried blackeyed peas or other dried beans. The dessert might be a hot biscuit with syrup, honey, or preserves ……. Or her wonderful cobblers, pies, or 3 layer cake.

Salads were never lettuce types or slaw. They disagreed with Mother and she had a firm rule that if she couldn’t eat it, she didn’t serve it. Seafood came under the same rule. She’d eaten fish that made her sick when she was young so it never darkened our door. We did often have pickled beets, pickled peaches, a piece of canned fruit with cottage cheese, or wonderful homemade applesauce, stewed peaches or pears but not all at the same meal. Sliced, homegrown tomatoes were delicious but were always peeled. Only heathens or yankees ate tomato peelings, according to my mother. Dad kept knives very sharp and they were a joy to use.

What I am trying to convey is that with planning ahead those big meals were not as difficult as they sound. Also, no food was wasted. We ate it until it was gone or it was presented in a different way. We were puzzled by folks who said they didn’t eat leftovers. Lots of food is actually better the next day. I am thinking especially of greens [collards,turnips etc].Also, spaghetti sauces and some soups are better after their flavors have blended. We made beef stew from leftover pot roast and scalloped potatoes contained small bits of a delicious ham on its last leg ;0). Mother’s chicken salad or turkey tetrazini or just plain chunks of chicken or turkey in a well-seasoned white sauce on toast or rice were a treat.

Mother used to say that if you have men or big boys to feed , you have to cook something that will fill them up….. and she did that. Most always, we had either rice, grits, noodles, potatoes, or/and hot bread.

Another lesson I learned from her and later when I used a caterer was that just because you serve several items, people don’t eat 3 or 4 times as much.

My dad was 6’4, a big man, and my brothers and cousins were big people. They could polish off a 9x13 dish of macaroni and cheese plus the rest of a meal in no time at all.

Mother made 2 or 3 quarts of tea for each meal and sometimes made more. When it was available, she or Dad diluted it with whatever fruit juice they had on hand. Pineapple juice was a favorite as was fresh orange juice. Most of the time the tea was sweetened in the kitchen while it was hot. Hot tea doesn’t need as much sugar but, often, artificial sweetener was used. Saccharin was commonly the only one available and some of my aunts added a pinch of soda to blunt the taste of it somewhat. I don’t think Mother added soda. My dad could easily drink a qt. of tea at a meal, especially during hot weather. We did not have air conditioning, just open windows and electric fans.

My mother used to say she liked everything on a hog but his tail! So, of course we ate pork often. I guess my favorite was the tenderloin. She sliced streak-o-lean thin, soaked it in buttermilk, dipped it in seasoned White Lily Flour, and fried it in a little fat, probably lard or, later, Crisco.. Delicious! By seasoned, I mean salt and pepper.

Only one brand of flour or cornmeal was ever allowed in our house and that was White Lily. In later years, Gourmet magazine agreed with her and ran an article about how to order it if not available locally. I’ve kind of forgot but it has to do with the kind of wheat –duram, I think.

With all the talk of foods and cooking, I would be remiss if I ended without saying that my parents were almost fanatics about cleanliness and germs. Mother’s kitchen was CLEAN, hands were washed, fresh dishtowels were used etc. Antibiotics were not available until after WW2. Lots of scalding water was used, often poured over silverware.

Guess I could write a book about all this but time to stop. My typing finger is tired ! :0)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Neighborhood

I mostly grew up at 386 – 9th St. NE, Atlanta. Ninth is a fairly short street, maybe 5 or 6 blocks, at the end slanting down a steep hill that dead ends into the campus of Grady High School.

If there was a 1st St , crossing Peachtree, it would be near the Fox Theater but as it is, Ponce de Leon almost dead ends right there into Peachtree. From there out to about 14th St is the area now called Midtown but it was not called that when I was young.

I guess my point is that there were wonderful sidewalks all the way up and down, on both sides, and when I was growing up, we were allowed, even encouraged, to ride our bikes on the sidewalk. Yeah, we may have run over a few toes and scared some ol’ ladies but we mostly stayed out of trouble.

Piedmont Park ’s golf club was on Tenth Street, going back into the park of course. Also inside the park was a good size lake, swimming pool, and tennis courts, baseball diamonds, picnic grounds etc. Most of the lake area was surrounded by sidewalks and down a little from them were porch swings [don’t know what else to call them].This was another fun place to ride bikes and was only about a block and a half from home. Teens parked, and smooched, around the lake------- so I heard. Pretty mild by today’s standards, I suppose.

The section of the park that was on Piedmont Ave. was on an upgrade and housed the polo field. Behind that was the Piedmont Driving Club, a private club. My parents were invited to dinner or various functions there. My cousins’ wedding receptions were held there etc. Later, Mother said many, what she called, “new rich” joined. We were not members nor could we afford to be.

On Peachtree at 12th Street was a lovely old home that housed the Atlanta Women’s Club. There was a fairly large swimming pool, in the side-back, also bath facilities. That’s where we grew up swimming, because our mothers were members. I spent many happy hot, summer days there. Usually, my cousins and friends and I carried our lunches and stayed til 4 or 5 o’clock .

Right in front of the Women’s Club was the Art Theater. Margaret Mitchell was crossing Peachtree there when she was hit by a car and killed………….. a very sad day, indeed.

The Tenth St Theater was on the corner so we saw most every western that they showed on Saturdays. Movies ran continuously, so we spent the afternoons there. Our gang was anywhere from 5 to 9 girls so we all chipped in and bought a package of cigarettes which we smoked in the theater’s ladies’ room. If there were any left over, I had to take them home to save for next week because I had the only mother who didn’t open my purse. I was 12 or 13 yrs old when I smoked one cigarette a week.

The Tenth St. area was a community. People knew each other. Many shops were locally owned. Starting at Peachtree Place which is where 9th would be if it went through, there was the Jean Shop, owned by Jean, whose daughter was in our group.. This was an upscale, fairly expensive, dress shop. There were two locally owned grocery stores, a shoe repair shop, a toy store where I worked one summer, a bakery, another dress shop named Margo’s [Margo and I were in school together. Her parents owned the shop]. There was a Tailor Shop owned by Edgar Gay, who tailor made my Dad’s nice clothes because Dad was 6’4 and impossible to fit off the rack. Edgar also hemmed Mother’s coats etc because she was so short.

All of the above stores plus 2 grocery chain stores, 2 dime stores, a bank, and on tenth, a Chinese laundry owned by my friend Sue’s parents. Oh yes, there was a Lanes’ Drug Store across tenth from the theater. That’s where we bought our cigarettes because they didn’t know us.

From 5th St to 8th Street were 4 or 5 lovely, old churches. I grew up in First Baptist which took up an entire block between 4th and 5th. That’s where I was married. I did solo work in all of them but was paid soloist at Peachtree Christian, out Peachtree Road. First Baptist was finally torn down and the congregation built a new church, in Buckhead, guess the snobs finally won out. I’ve been an Episcopalian for years now.

I’m probably forgetting some places here but I love and treasure the fact that there were such diverse cultures represented and they respected each other; often calling each other by first names and inquiring about families etc.

The 10th Street I grew up with is gone now, the old buildings torn down. I stayed in a hotel at the corner of 14th Street some time back, built in the space where a magnificent, Victorian home stood. That’s where I rode my bike to my piano lessons.

Atlanta has changed a lot over the years.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Man and Beast

My mother used to say that some things may not be blatantly vulgar but are at least suggestive. While that was probably true at least back then, now-a-days they seem to skip the middle step – and go straight to gross !

I had trouble getting back to sleep about eight this morning so got up and read the Augusta Chronicle to check the obits as I usually do and read a little local news. Augusta is located on the S.C. line, divided by the Savannah River . I have family who live in S.C. so glanced at that news also.

I am not making this up. Recently, a man was arrested for having sex with a horse. Its owner said that it was at least the second time but this time she got a photo as proof. The man is in jail, I guess until a hearing. I wonder what he is going to say in his defense? His other girlfriend was such a nag? How about, she was just asking for it, naked as a jaybird? It was so dark, I didn’t know it was a horse? Thought it was my mother-in-law , she’s real tall too and she could use a little perfume? Or, mares are rite purty thangs --- look at’em real close!

Can’t be rape as the mare did not object. Told me she didn’t feel a thing! However she does want an abortion as that guy is real ugly.. She said, now that she thinks about it, she has noticed all the ewes run away when the guy appears --- and the dogs crawl up under the house.

Yes, the guy should definitely be punished. That poor mare is likely having to have treatments for S.T.D.s……..