Monday, April 25, 2011

dorland bell photos, hot springs, nc, 1920's

I hit the family archive mother load on Sunday. My aunt dug an old photo album out of a drawer at my grandmother's old house (no one lives there now, but we gathered there for Easter dinner for old times' sake).

Among other treasures were these pictures from my grandmother's girlhood, when she was a student at Dorland Bell, as I've written about before. They are, by far, the earliest pictures I've ever seen of her. I wouldn't have known it was her, except she wrote on the backs of the pictures - thank you, Grandma; I wish everyone was that diligent.

My aunt says the picture below is of Hot Springs; I choose to believe her.

Below is Hattie R. Carter, a classmate, and my grandmother, Linda Freeman, at the badminton net. Grandma once told me that she played a lot of sports at Dorland Bell, including basketball.

Below is Linda and another classmate, Elizabeth Lollan.

The picture below is labeled simply "school friends" on the back. Grandma's in the middle. I actually think this picture and the next are earlier than the Dorland Bell days; she looks very young.

Here are Lois Hill, Elizabeth and Eugenia Lollan, and Linda. I would not believe that were her if she had not written her own name on the back. I cannot trace any resemblance to how she looked as an adult...except she didn't like to smile for pictures then, either.

Nothing was written on the back of this next picture, but my aunt identified the girl in the front row, second from left, as Grandma. My aunt, who was a schoolteacher and later superintendent of schools in Madison County, said that she taught the daughter of the boy in the front row years later. She told me his name, but I didn't write it down, and promptly forgot it.

I love this next picture. On the back is written, "Picnic girls of Dorland Bell Hot Springs N.C. going up the Mt."

And, finally, graduation day at Dorland Bell. I believe this was in 1923 or 1924 (Grandma was married in 1924, and she and Grandpa were a pretty serious item by graduation day.)

I never thought I'd see pictures from this part of our family's history. It's almost beyond words, how much this means to me. Grandma's days at Dorland Bell made her who she was...she learned how to cook (and she was the best cook, the best), how to think about the wider world, how to take care of guests and treat everyone like they were special. She remembered her time in Hot Springs, her education, very fondly.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

new game: fungi or not?

I found these odd pine cone-shaped growths clustered at the base of trees on our property this afternoon. They were scattered in clumps across a few hundred feet. I can't figure out if they're fungi, or somehow part of a pine tree. The biggest I saw was approximately 4 inches tall.

My uncle says that he's seen them frequently, and they always get bush hogged or weed eated out. (I can't believe I just made past-tense verbs of "bush hog" and "weed eater.") I snapped two of these growths off at the base, and brought them home to see if I could identify them. So far, the internet is letting me down.

They have no discernible smell; maybe a little fresh and woodsy if anything (not piney in the least). When I cut them open, the inside was wet and woody.

Any knowledge or pointers to resources would be welcome...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

mom on television, 1956

I love this series of photos: my mother was interviewed on local Pennsylvania television in 1956 about Christian Endeavor, for which she served as regional secretary.

She doesn't remember the identity of the gentleman to her right, but he's wearing a CE jacket.

You can just make out the bric-a-brac on top of the television and shelves in the background.

There are so many wonderful aspects to these photos - Mom's pearls, the man's flat-top, the clearness of the screen contrasting with the ghostly background, and the link to a forgotten bit of family history.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

apple butter: pennsylvania, 1945 and 1952

These pictures are from my mother's family in Lancaster County, PA, on the farm. It's apple butter-makin' time.

This first photo was taken in about 1945, based on the age of the toddler (my aunt). My grandmother is standing in the center of the photo, bareheaded, with clasped hands. My great-grandmother is on the far right, holding a pot. My great-grandfather is seated, his face hidden behind the pot. I can't identify the others in the picture.

The above photo was loose, in a box with others from the same era. The rest of the photos were together in a pack. I was able to estimate the date as about 1952, given the age of the children. The location is the same - the family farm in Lancaster County.

Below is my mom's cousin. He's a retired lawyer now, with 4 grandkids.

My grandfather stands in the rear in the picture below, with the hat. He always did wear a hat well. My uncle is in the foreground. I love seeing pictures of him as a kid - he just died in December, and seeing pictures of his life is sweet. The rest of the people are great-aunts.

Making apple butter like this is quite a serious endeavor. Someone has to stir that paddle constantly, or it'll stick and scorch in the bottom of the cauldron. It's an all-day deal.

Great-grandma checking the apple butter's progress. This picture instills...I don't know...a kind of awe in me. She knew so much that I'll never learn.

My uncle looks like he's asking her a million questions.

There's a secret to making apple butter: a lot of standing around and talking goes on, if you're not the one stirring. My family in NC does it every year (very similar outfit, with big cauldrons and paddles) and it's a very social event.

A close-up of the cauldron. (I keep thinking of calling it a "kettle," but that's such an inadequate word for that behemoth.) Love the corrugated metal heat screen to the back.

The last picture on the roll: you can see more of the creek that runs along one side of the pasture. To this day we drive our cars down there, park and have picnics. I wonder if the cauldron is still lurking anywhere around the farm. I'll have to ask, the next time I visit.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

my rant about "winning"

At the risk of being a buzz kill, I have to say it. It's not okay to makes jokes at - or with - a self-destructing celebrity.

As much as such jokes have been a staple of popular culture in recent years/decades, as much hay as people make from them, it speaks poorly of us as a people. It's poor that we fail to recognize denial and illness for what it is, that we prod on others' madness. Even if we ourselves don't write the articles or link to the videos, participating in the culture of scorn makes us an accessory.

My Twitter streams and Facebook feeds have been filled this week with references to "winning" and "tiger blood." Most of the jokes come from friends of mine who went through seminary, who have degrees in service and compassion. I don't want to judge, but who am I kidding: I'm completely judging. I want to shake my friends. But, for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with cowardice and what I like to think is humility, I keep my mouth shut. But because I persist in the belief that 2 people, maybe 3 tops, read this blog, here I can vent.

Do we feel that other people are fair game for mockery because they put themselves in these positions? I'm not just talking about celebrities here. We are vicious with strangers in any situation, and for any reason...driving habits, wardrobe choices, public behavior, etc. Even when we never actually meet these people, our reactions to them matter. Every action of compassion spreads and multiplies, as does every action of disregard. We train ourselves in paths of behavior that get harder and harder to change.

One woman told me last week that she's conflicted about praying for the people in the Mideast during these times of rebellion, because that disaster is "man-made." She's much more comfortable praying for the victims of the floods in New Zealand...a simple, natural disaster. She couldn't see that the waves of poverty, oppression and politics have swept over people as surely and irresistibly as flood waters.

There's something wrong when we can't see the strings that tie us to each other, when we see events as isolated, and ourselves as blameless, even as we work together in the same systems as every other person. It's especially bad when we watch TV shows that pay for people's breakdowns. There's something wrong when we can't admit how the lives we lead affect those around us, even in ways we can't imagine. There's something wrong when we think that other people are as independent as we believe ourselves to be, and blind ourselves to the forces that created each moment, each illness. When we can't recognize our own illnesses for what they are.

Even if we're not capable of perfect awareness and compassion at every moment - and I mean, really, who is? I read the tabloid headlines at the grocery checkout, usually with guilty relish - there's something wrong when we stop trying.

Linda Holmes at NPR's Monkey See blog posted beautifully about this phenomenon in entertainment last week. It's a good read, I recommend it. She in turn was inspired by Craig Ferguson, the late-night TV host, who compared our celebrity culture to laughing at the lunatics in Bedlam. There are artists and journalists who are choosing to be compassionate; I wish there were more I could link to.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


It's been fun to find random letters and cards among all the photos in the family archives. These are a few of the best. First, a birthday card, from the 1940's or '50's:

Perhaps my favorite - a Halloween card, probably from the 1930's:

Two small, charming note tags:

Last but not least, a post card my great-grandfather sent my mother from St. Louis on one of his many business trips. Monkeys riding ponies! I can't decide if this is awesome, or absurdly exploitative. If so, of whom? If I were a monkey, I'd want to ride a pony.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

letter(s) from grandma

Today, in my continuing slog through my family archives, I found something precious and remarkable: a letter in three parts, from my grandma to me.

The letter is three pages long, each page written on one side of a sheet of stationary, and each page folded into its own small, numbered envelope. ("Read this first," "Second," "Third.") I wish I knew why she arranged it this way; it's whimsical in a way I didn't associate with my grandma.

Grandma (my father's mother) was born in 1905 and lived her entire life in Madison County, NC. She was raised on a small farm, married a farmer, raised a family, and spent her life serving the needs of her community however she could. She always cooked on a wood-burning stove, she taught Sunday school at the tiny mountain Baptist church up the road...she fed everybody she met in more ways than one. I could write a book about her - and perhaps will, someday.

We didn't have a whole lot in common, with me being raised in a suburb in Tidewater, VA. She impressed me terribly, and I was very proud of being her granddaughter, but she wasn't a snuggly sort of person. I knew she loved me, but she didn't dote. (Actually, she doted in her own way: she would always make a cake when we visited, and would tell both me and Dad - separately - that she'd made it just for each of us.)

I think that's why I got so choked up reading this letter today. Given the contents, Dad thinks that it was written soon after my first birthday, a little over a year after my grandfather died. My cousin O. was living with Grandma at the time. Grandma mentions a class she's taking; Dad remembers that she took a short course on the folklore of the Appalachians at Mars Hill College. "It wasn't very successful, for her," he said. "She already knew everything they taught."

My Dear Little E.,

I've been thinking of you every day and thanking our Heavenly Father for sending us a wonderful little girl.
How you are growing up to be a joy to all you come in contact with.
See next page.

The leaves are beginning to fall and looks like a beautiful carpet on a green floor. Then you can imagine the children have been playing and throwing apples and walnuts, since there's a tree on each side.
Today the clouds are all gray and moody looking but, I'm feeling very thankful. There were two little girls here yesterday and one called me Ma Maw.
See next

I know all about your birthday being past but, I'm not forgetting you ever.
Today the man will be here to do a little work on the house and O. will be going to school.
Oh! Yes this brings to mind - I went last Tuesday and will be going back for six weeks if I'm not a drop out. (Just one day a week.)
Hope you are enjoying yours.

Love you ever,