Rotary phones at the club

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Yes, phones were at the club back in the 70’s. They were chunky, rotary dialers that sat on the middle of round tables that sat about eight people each. Every table had a number assigned to it that was visible to every other table in the club.

Taking you back to southern New England and a phenomenon known as Dial Tone lounges. Simply put, the set-up eliminated the dread of having to walk to a table and ask someone to dance. A lady could just call up a table and ask to speak to the guy with the long brown hair, moustache and blue shirt.

Typically, the sexes arrived en masse and the women and men would sit at separate tables. The fun would (could) then begin. A young woman would call that cute guy, and hope he would dance when she asked. Or, it could go something like this. “Hey there … look over at table 6. I’d like to know if you would like to dance?”

The guy takes a look at the girl, is underwhelmed, and says, “Hey thanks for asking, but I just got a cold drink and I don’t want it to warm up. My buddy to my right (the sorry looking dude with an overbite) might be interested in dancing!”

“Never mind,” she says and hangs up.

The phone rings at table 6, and the caller is from table 3. The man asks to speak to the tall blond to the right of the one who answered the call. The caller is a former classmate that the blond would rather not be pursued by. She politely says that she can’t combine academics and a personal life, and isn’t quite ready to dance anyway.

By the end of the night, the friends that came with the tall blond have decided to ditch her the next time they go to the club, and the discriminating young men got much less so the more they drank.

The Dial Tone lounge wasn’t much different than the typical disco scene. It just put a lot more emphasis in the early hours on hooking the cute guy or gal than getting an opportunity to shake the bell bottomed hip huggers under the disco ball. What woman would say “no” when a reasonably clean and sober man came over personally to invite her to dance at a typical club? After all, it wasn’t a marriage proposal.

Shortly after 12 pm, the call comes in to the ladies’ table 6. “Hey, anybody at your table want to dance with any of us at table 2?”

Image courtesy Pixabay.

 

 

The old red shop, it ain’t what it used to be

The old red shop has been transformed. What used to be a holding place for the lawn chairs is  a chic place to chill. Warmed with a couple of space heaters last night, we played a few tunes on the guitar. My brother and I play together once a year, so we really wing it. I do my best on a second steel string in the house. (I’m more of a nylon string, finger picking girl.)

At about 50 degrees, I didn’t last long. Loved the space and tossing back some beer added to the ambience. Walking back to the house with my Mom and Dad in the dark reminded me of how quiet and dark this Northeastern Connecticut area is. It would take time to readjust to life here.

Epiphany (peanut butter Sunday)

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One of the things I loved the most about our church in New Jersey was how simplified the lessons were in the family services. Children were the intended target for the messages, but adults learned memorable lessons as well.

Take peanut butter Sunday. Some called it Epiphany. In the Anglican faith, the twelve days of Christmas culminate with Epiphany. This is the traditional day to celebrate the arrival of the three kings to witness Jesus’ birth and to bring presents.

In our Episcopal church, the children were asked to bring peanut butter from home for their gift to Christ. Next to the manger with the baby Jesus figure, jar after jar was brought forward to the altar by young children old enough to carry them. The gifts were for donation to the local food bank after the service.

I’ve often wondered if the children remember that ritual on the final day of Christmastide. Personally, it makes me want to commemorate the day now by eating something with peanut butter! Do you see how strong association and memories can be?

Our culture is pretty quick to dismantle decorations and remembrances of Christmas after December 25. We were invited to savor the 12 days and the season. I’m really trying still by walking the neighborhoods to see the light displays and still playing holiday music.

In memory of this tradition in our church, this cartoon depicts what could have happened at the altar with the innocence of a young child in mind.

The farm animals and Christmas eve

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Four friends sat underneath the Christmas tree in the late hours of Christmas eve. Colored lights and glass ornaments gave a warm glow to the room. On the boxes, and in sight of the Christmas stockings, sat a donkey, a cow, a pig and a frog.

You may have guessed that these friends were of the stuffed variety. They were born one by one by the hands of the mother of the house. Four young children were asleep in their beds, with no idea at all how clever and loving their mother was. Each animal was uniquely made, but in a similar style.

All animals were made of soft corduroy and had yarn-braided arms and legs. Their faces had felt pieces affixed to their heads, and some had ears. The donkey was a soft grey with black yarn. The cow was a medium brown with slightly darker arms and legs. The pig was a medium pink, and the frog had a color reminiscent of our familiar friend Kermit. They were proud of how clean they were and how fresh they felt.

Each of them wondered just how their lives would go. The donkey hoped that he could spend a little time on someone’s windowsill to see what goes on out of doors. The pig wondered if there would be any mud patches to roll his body around in. The frog, of course, hoped for a pool of water less dangerous than the toilet bowl. Now the cow wondered just what value he held, but mostly he wanted to be held. He was anxious to be gifted to a young boy or girl who would carry him on new adventures.

The pig tried to climb onto the package next to him. The frog leaped and tried to jump onto the mantel by the stockings. The cow told them that they had better keep a bit quiet so that the children did not wake up. Besides, Santa would not arrive and bring the other gifts for the children if they were too noisy. He might think the children were playing.

It was a long night for the animals. After playing, they laid down to rest and, apparently slept through Santa’s visit! His cookies and milk were gone, and none of the animals had dared touch them. The sounds of opening doors and shuffling feet approaching got the farm friends excited. It was going to be a great new life.

Two, too large plates

gg2Hanging up a woman’s fur coat and a man’s overcoat were familiar rites of passage on Thanksgiving. When Joanna’s grandparents arrived, the day’s festivities got into full swing.

There is a front hall in the 1820’s New England farmhouse where she grew up. A long, yellow, stenciled bench there held hats and gloves. Above it, a rack held the coats. It was a short walk to the front hall, yet the coats were heavy for a young girl of ten or so.

At the table, the grandparents sat across from Joanna. Grandma wore a green print dress with a gold circled, pearl accented broche. Grandpa wore a double-breasted, blue pin-striped suit with a cranberry colored tie. The details of what her siblings wore don’t come to mind. There was a cranberry hounds-tooth skirt that may have fit the bill for Joanna. Her dad always wore a cranberry pullover sweater with buttons and a collar. There appears to be a clear color theme with at least three people!

Three small ornaments came out for Thanksgiving dinner. The first was something made in school in the form of a turkey of pine cone and pipe cleaners. The other two were wax figurines of a pilgrim man and woman. They sat on the windowsills in the dining room.

As Joanna wandered into the kitchen, her dad would be making cut celery with cream cheese and a sprinkling of paprika. It was the traditional holiday appetizer that they gathered in the kitchen to munch on while taking in the wonderful smells of the turkey cooking.

The pantry held the two traditional pies that would be eaten later. The first was a pumpkin pie, and the second was a mincemeat pie. They would be served with a hunk of white cheddar cheese.

At the table, the family sat down and began serving the food family style. Most tried to put a reasonable amount on their plates and knew they could go back for seconds. Not so with grandma and grandpa. They filled their plates mounded to about four inches high.

Grandpa, in his 80s, was showing serious side effects of his pernicious anemia with shaking hands. Still, each bite slowly made it into his mouth and they both cleared those dishes with no trouble whatsoever. Joanna’s mom explained that her parents had lived through the great depression and it had changed them.

Talk at the table began with family topics of what aunts, uncles and cousins were up to. Sometimes there would be stories of whose cars drove by her grandparents’ house that week. Other times grandma’s prized roses or lush blueberries were the topic.

“Old Mrs. Henkins was quite talkative on the phone this week. Every time I tried to make a call, she was talking to someone,” grandma said. Party lines on phones were, surprisingly, alive and well in some rural holdings.

“You talk plenty yourself on the phone, Helen,” grandfather would say. While a man of very few words, he reminded my grandmother of her talkative nature. The joke was that grandpa had selective hearing. He rarely even appeared to notice her talking unless there was a topic he felt obliged to join.

Sometimes there would be a sequel to the story of a broken fence and the neighbors’ cows coming into their property. Grandma was quick on her feet to run out banging kitchen pans to chase them back to their property. Next, the conversation would go to new recipes or television shows that the family was enjoying. Common, universal topics were discussed that didn’t anger or alienate anyone.

“Fred,” grandmother would say to her husband. “Isn’t this delicious? I don’t think I’ll be hungry later.”

The duck, the ghost and the cowboy

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Joanna walked excitedly down the rural lane with her older brother and younger sister. She kicked the leaves that were brittle and fragrant. The two flashlights they brought lit circles ahead of them. Wearing an old duck costume of a popular cartoon character, she had license to hunt for candy from the neighbors. Josh wore a cowboy hat and brown suede jacket that were family Halloween favorites. A sheet with two holes joined the pack. Underneath that bed-like garb was younger sister Josy.

It took a sibling on each side to keep Josy going forward and not stumble. With holes shifting as the sheet twisted, it was hard to keep a good sight. There was a big, pointy witch’s hat in the back of the attic closet, but Josy hadn’t picked it. There wasn’t time to invest in the face paint needed for a clever disguise. No, a sheet was efficient, cheap and available.

The smell of the air from the decaying leaves, the crispness in the air, the blackness of the sky and the naked trees set the Halloween mood. Running up to familiar doors each year and shouting “trick or treat” never got old. Carved, lit pumpkins illuminated some sidewalks. Broken and littering pieces of jack ‘o lanterns smelled ripe under the abandoned train trestle. Was it really fun to steal someone’s pretty pumpkin and do such violence to it? One had to be careful not to lose footing on the slick matter that oozed out of the assaulted orbs.

Josy turned to Josh and asked, “Have you ever seen any goblins?” The blackness of the night was spooking the youngest sister just a bit.

“Don’t worry, Josy,” he said. “Joanna and I know the safe places to go.”

Unlike a suburban prowl, trick or treating in the country is a long walk yielding less “loot.” “How cute,” was frequently heard, although the costumes didn’t change much from year to year. The sleeves and legs just got a little shorter, or longer, depending on who wore it. Next year, the ghost would be the cowboy and the duck might be a witch. It was a game of musical costumes.

When did Halloween become so much more about what you wear than how you feel? The frantic search to get the scariest, most unique costume is almost an obsession. How much candy you can grab in a pillowcase is the prize to catch!

Looking back at childhood, Joanna felt some regret that more effort and play didn’t yield a more exciting costume. The garb was a bit of an afterthought instead of an activity for creative family play. Growing up in a practical home, how much effort could be expended on something worn a couple of hours each year? Art and theatrical experience weren’t mainstream conversation. And joyful play with abandon was a solo art. On special days, it was a sibling production.

When we got home, we counted the 10 or 12 candy bars or packs of gum we each had. It seemed we had hit the jackpot! “Josh,” said Joanna, “were you surprised that Mrs. Martin didn’t come to the door tonight?”

“I think that when you get older,” Josh reflected, “that Halloween must not matter anymore to some people.”

Josy quipped, “It’s more fun to get candy than give it, I guess!”

We both laughed at Josy’s thoughts back then. Now I remember my part in helping children build good memories they will reflect on over their lifetime when I take the time to greet them on Halloween. What remains for Joanna is an appreciation for all that her senses gathered. The rich memories of star-studded nights and “magic” shared with siblings are in a long-term memory vault. The duck, the cowboy and the ghost remember those nights.

Where does your mind take you to feel the warmth of a flannel blanket around your shoulders? What’s the pumpkin that delights you?

Land softly and get your flannel on

winter-652726_640Sitting on a large rock, the young girl felt the warmth in the middle of winter. Snow-tipped juniper bushes touched the cottony snow mounds. Grey branches rose high above her head. The small berries on the juniper tree were lovely to see. Soon, the girl found it irresistible to jump with wild abandon in the juniper bushes laying low to the ground. She was careful not to break the boughs.

Soon cold, she went home and changed her clothes. A flannel shirt and some hot tomato soup warmed her body. The pleasure of that day has never left her. When life is too busy, hard, unrewarding and hard to live, her mind returns to that day. Perhaps her pinnacle experience happened at around ten years of age.

When I encourage others to find a peaceful and happy place in their minds, it’s a bit like asking them to get their flannel on. Joy is being able to find (or find again) a place or thought that lights a fire inside of us. Some days it may inspire us to big things. Other times, it provides embers enough to live another day.

My blog will touch on experiences like this. Show me that I’m not alone. If we can each find our inner flannel, we can help others find theirs. Along the way, notice the birds that sing, the trees that shade you, the water that glistens and the blue skies that are limitless.

Get your flannel on!

(Pixabay photo)