Saturday, October 25, 2014

Remembering Grandma

By Harold Ratzburg

When an old Geezer like me (at 85 years young) sits down to put his memories of his Grandma on paper, you know your are going to go back a ways into ancient family history.  But here goes----
                My Grandma’s history goes back almost 130 years ago when she was born in Germany (1885) and somewhat later immigrated to the USA.  My records on Grandma are somewhat sketchy but we do know that she married Grandpa (William Ratzburg the Second) in 1901 when she was only 16 years old.  Grandpa was 17 years older, so it seems that they did things differently for match making back in the good old days. 
                They lived on the Ratzburg farm, out on Highway G, south of Marion, WI, where Tim Nolan now has his horse farm.  At first, they lived in a log house, where old family stories tell that Grandma had to take a broom to make sure that there were no snakes crawling around on the dirt floor at bedtime.  A frame house, with six bedrooms, was built in 1906 and things got a little easier for Grandma and the family. 
                Grandma had a difficult married life.  Grandpa was of the old German belief in that HE was the head of the house and whatever HE said goes.  He kept Grandma pregnant a lot of the time.  They had 12 babies born to them, of which 3 died in early childhood.  That time amounted to 22 years of child bearing, of which Grandma was pregnant for 108 months, or, 9 years total.  Talk about study German stock.

Continued HERE.

 Harold Ratzburg was born at the start of the Great Depression and raised on a Dairy Farm in Wisconsin.  He served four years in the US Air Force in the 50's and was stationed in Germany, where he met his wife Anneliese, who helped get him through College to become a Civil Engineer.  After a time as a Highway Engineer and College Instructor, he wound up as a City Engineer of a small town in New Jersey.  Twenty four years later he retired to become an old geezer telling old stories on his new fangled computer.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Madcap Adventures of Eliezer Gurevitch

 by Sandra Gurev

My father-in-law, Elias Gurev, was fifty-nine when I met him. He was tall, broad framed with a thick thatch of iron grey hair.  His legs seemed mismatched with his body as they were thin. They didn' seem like they could support his broad chest.  I never got to know him well due to a signicant permanent hearing loss from German measles  at age sixteen.  Our conversations were monologues and my attempts to ask questions went unanswered.  His loss of  hearing led to some degree of paranoia thinking people were talking about him.

When our sons were born in the late 60's, their grandfather would take Greg or Keith on his knee calling, "Come boychick, come and sit on grandpa's lap."  They enjoyed being bounced on his knee and gave him their complete attention when he regaled them with stories from long ago. His stories almost always touched on his heroism.  For instance, he told us about riding with Pancho Villa on his trusty mule, Rosita.  I listened in on his monologue with the boys and envisioned him wearing a colorful serape, sombrero askew riding hard through mountain canyons calling to Rosita, "Andele!"  The sunsets were brush stroked in lavender, mango, and magenta.

Other stories revolved around riding with the Cossacks through the Russian Steppes or as a sidekick to Genghis Khan.  Some of his leaders were ruthless barbarians but it didn't seem to matter.  Adventure abounded in his stories. Our boys sat with rapt attention , their eyes growing wider with disbelief with each ensuing tale.

One day my father-in-law became serious and his story took on a decidedly solemn tone.  He described a memory of a time when he was about  twelve. He lived in an expansive richly decorated home with his parents and sister in some unknown country.  He spoke lovingly of running his fingers over the ivory keys of the family's grand piano.  Then he said,  "We had to leave and I knew that I would never see it again."  Again his hearing loss prevented me from asking for more details, questions that I yearned to ask.

It wasn't until 2012 that I began to get answers to my questions.  I came across a yellowed creased petition requesting citizenship to the British protectorate of Palestine.  The year was 1930.  I learned that my father-in-law was born into a  Jewish family in Theodosia, Crimea.  His father had a well paying government position working for the Czar.  His family had enjoyed a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle.  Their  lives changed abruptly when an empathetic Cossack calvaryman paid an unannounced visit.  He had learned that the Czar's army was planning to launch a pogrom against the Jews of Theodosia.  The man urged them to leave immediately.  They needed to get on the first ferry to neighboring Turkey.  The family hastily piled documents, photos, perhaps a pair of silver candlesticks for the sabbath onto sheets and escaped through the cover of night.  His father managed to go to a bank before leaving only withdrawing enough money as he could without arousing suspicion.  They fled their home leaving the door wide open and safely escaped by ferry.  Most of  the remaining Jewish residents were terrorized and killed by the army.

Continued, Click HERE.

Sandy Gurev is a wife of fifty-one years and mother of two sons and four grandchildren.  Sandy was an elementary school counselor prior to retiring to Williamsburg, VA nine year's ago from Rochester, NY. Her volunteer work includes providing lunch to cancer patients and fitting women with wigs after they have lost their hair.  Playing competitive duplicate bridge and belonging to two book clubs rounds out her time.  Within the past two years she has written a memoir for her grandchildren and a couple of articles for the American Amateur Press Association. Sandy found that writing helped to reduce her perception of pain while she was awaiting back surgery.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hello, House ...

By June T. Basemir

I was thinking about you today and how you sheltered our family for 44 happy years. Nine years ago I moved on and built a new house far away and you moved on too caring for a smaller family, albeit with some major surgery to your inside walls.

I wonder if the squeak in the attic over the master bedroom that occurred in high wind storms is ever heard? We sent our oldest son up there one time, in the height of a fearsome storm, to see if he could locate what beams were rubbing to cause the squeak – all to no avail. I was sure there was a flaw in the construction and after some stormy night the beds would be covered in the morning with broken wood and Sheetrock, but thankfully it never happened. 

Whatever caused that squeak couldn't have been too serious. Maybe you were just exercising your voice against the elements. I suppose it should have been mentioned at the closing but frankly we didn't think of it. Besides those high wind storms didn't happen very often. After all this is only Long Island....not Oklahoma!

And remember whenever it rained how the water in the gutters on your north side over the kitchen window would fill up and water would pour down into the window well below until there was no way to stop the cascading overflow as it ran down the inside of the basement wall - flooding it? It wasn't your fault. We tried a number of ideas including a plastic shield to protect the window well from filling up but the ground became so saturated with the brick path on the other side trapping the water, it naturally had no place to go but down the inside basement wall. Of course, we could have had a man dig out the window well and remove the clay dirt that he said kept the water from draining away but at the time the cost of $600. was more than we could pay. It just wasn't there. So with each heavy rain I continued to mop the basement. The number of times the basement flooded was never recorded. Each time it happened was thought to be the last. The N Y Sunday Times did double duty in soaking up what our old towels didn't. I shutter to think of it now. We eventually bought an indoor/outdoor vacuum which shortened the process considerably.

And speaking of the kitchen window(s) what about the “pollen” that I saw floating down from above one summer day? It turned out that it wasn't “pollen” at all but the shavings of the carpenter bees drilling their 1/2” holes in the fascia board behind the gutter. I thought to stop their activity with hammering in wooden plugs the same diameter in each and every hole to trap them. Little did I know the habits of Carpenter Bees...that they drill the holes and lay their eggs deep inside; then come out the same hole again. No exterminator that we called (and we called three) would touch the removal of the bees due to their fear of being stung. My youngest son and I removed the board; heard the buzzing bees; and quickly walked away. A new fascia board replaced the old one shortly thereafter. [The old one had 17 holes in it.

For years we woke up each morning with a rat-ta-tat noise coming from under the bedroom windows. Finally it was discovered that a beautiful but territorial male cardinal bird was attacking his reflection in the basement window. How he could see himself in that dusty cobwebbed “mirror” was beyond me. After several seasons, we finally felt sorry for him and hung some newspaper against the inside of the glass. Eventually he stopped but the next year he (or his son) was back attacking the side view mirrors on both cars parked in the driveway. I pictured his beak becoming shorter and shorter as there was evidence of residue on the mirrors. 

First I hung a fake owl on the bushes nearby but he was not fooled. Then I was given a Japanese garden “cat” with black glass eyes that Japanese farmers use in their gardens with success. It was placed on the same bushes but that didn't scare him either. The bird knew no honest cat would be sitting on those high bushes. So I finally hung a sock on the mirrors which did the trick...but what a nuisance when it rained and they had to be removed in order to drive either car.... where to put a wet sock when all I wanted to do was hurriedly go out grocery shopping.

Now I have to ask...Does the Cardinal bird or any of his male offspring visit? Have the Carpenter bees come back? Does your basement flood in heavy rain storms and what about the squeak heard in the master bedroom during high winds? 

I hope I haven't caused you stress by recalling these stories but I was just wondering................................................. and thinking of you today. Do you miss us?

copyright 2014, June T. Bassemir

 June Tuthill Bassemir is the widowed mother of four and grandmother of 10.  An artist and writer, she  volunteers as a docent in a 1765 farm house.   June loves old cars and antiques, and has also enjoyed furniture stripping and rug hooking.  "I used to say I was a stripper and hooker.but with so many trips around the sun, no one raises an eyebrow anymore. They only laugh."  June has given up furniture stripping, but is still an avid rug hooker.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Heaven On a Hilltop

Appalachian life today

 By Richard “Clipper” Naegele

I dedicate this short story to "Boots and Foster" with love and admiration.

A mist hangs over the mountain top, and the air is crisp. Sammy saddles the old mule and heads down the holler toward the local store. Sammy is legally blind, and barely sees, but the mule is sure-footed and carries him safely down the hill past the other farms and out to the main road. It is quiet and peaceful as the mule clip clops along slowly. 
The birds are just starting to awaken, and stretch their wings. The doves can be heard rustling in the pine trees where they have roosted for the night. As he passes his neighbor Gerry's house, there are no signs of life yet, except for the riding horse grazing in his pasture, and the dogs that come to welcome Sammy and the mule, and to accompany them to the next bend in the road.

Sammy has to dismount to open the cattle gate, as he enters his neighbors land, and as he leads the mule through, he can smell bacon cooking at the Collier's farm. As he passes by, his neighbor waves from the back porch, and hollers a cheery good morning, while grabbing an armload of wood for the cookstove. The chickens scatter, clucking angrily, as Sammy passes through the Collier's dooryard.

As they round the next bend, a doe and her fawn are grazing on the lush green grass along the roadside, and scurry for cover when they see Sammy and the mule. As the road drops into the creekbed, the mule stops and sips from the spring fed, bubbling stream, where it meanders through a glade lined with hemlocks. A male cardinal, in all of his bright red plumage, perches on a fence post, and chirps them a good morning greeting. The mule picks his way carefully along on the gravel bottomed stream for about 100 yards to a point where the road once again climbs out of the creek bed and crosses one more pasture before reaching the hard paved road and civilization.


Continued CLICK


Dick Naegele, "Clipper," now hails from Tennesee, but most days find his heart in the Mohawk Valley of central New York State, where he plans to one day return. Living the life of the "Last American Cowboy,"  Dick was a trucker and logged over  3 million miles on the nation's highways.  He has owned his own business, been a government manager and also a professional firefighter.  A writer of many talents and experiences, his  writing sees the hearts of people that most of us often miss.  More of "Clipper's"  writing is located  on his blog,   "Along the Banks of Beaver Creek," at:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Waiting For Me

 by David Griffin

Clocks intrigue me.  I have five or six hanging on the walls of my little cave where I write and ponder the universe.  None of them keep the same time.  My favorites don't even work.  There's something about a stopped clock that means more to me than anything as mundane as the correct time.  At this stage of my life I don't need to be reminded of time passing as much as I need encouragement.  That may have always been true.
 I brought a clock home from a flea market last month and centered it in the middle of my desk, where it did absolutely nothing but sit there glowing in the pride of its century old craftsmanship, a 12 inch high pendulum clock with a white face of Roman Numerals behind a glass door.  I didn't wind it, but let it sit silent.  It brought back memories of my father, who once rebuilt a similar old clock.   
After a few days, I opened the little door on the front, wound the mechanism, set the hands to the correct time and gave the pendulum a tiny shove.  The clock went tick, tock.  In a few moments,  I reached in and stopped the pendulum.  I closed the little door, leaving the clock silent, and sat there thinking about the man who had provided me with so many lessons, some unwittingly.  More important, he had been present, in the best sense of the word.
 The clock Dad rebuilt when I was in high school ticked louder than most as it sat on the mantel in our living room.  In the small flat, my brother and I were annoyed by the ticking at night, and would get up after everyone went to bed and silence the clock.  Dad restarted it each morning without comment.  As I turned from the mantel one night after stopping the pendulum, I saw my father sitting in the dark in his easy chair.
 "It was keeping us awake," I said.
 "It's not very loud," said Dad.
 "I can start it again," I said, without much enthusiasm.
"Never mind," he said, "leave it stopped.  It’s a nice piece to look at, but we've got other clocks to tell us the time."
 "OK," I said.  Wanting to leave before he changed his mind, I said, "Gotta go.  I have a geometry test in the morning."
 "You’ll do well,"  he said.
 "I’m not very good at math," I replied
 "I mean you’ll do well in life,"  he said.
 I've always remembered that exchange.  I wonder if my father realized how much I valued his encouragement.  It was so much more helpful to me in those days than a lecture about buckling down and keeping my nose to the grindstone.
 Dad let the clock on the mantel stay stopped. The hands said 11:34 for the next twenty years.  Our little family joke whenever anyone asked the time was to answer, "eleven thirty-four."  When the mortician was ready to dress Dad's body before his wake, he asked for his jewelry. I handed him my father's old watch after setting it to 11:34. 
 Perhaps a stopped clock serves our real needs better than a working clock.  A clock in motion is a taskmaster.  It sets the pace and counts the hours.   A stopped clock has wisdom, it does nothing but wait. 
 I'd like the clock sitting on my desk to be like the one on our mantel in my teenage years, silent and wise, its  pendulum stilled from constantly swinging left and right like an ego's incessant hunt to find its own selfish purpose.  My father's clock didn't count the time and it didn't pester me with the lateness of the hour.  It didn't note my wasted days while I sought the purpose of my life.  When I wasted time and at first refused to accept my burdens and my gifts, it allowed me to cope with life at the speed of my own heartbeat.   It waited for me like an old friend or a mentor ...  like my father, who stood back armed only with hope as I searched out my own paths. 
 My father and I walked different routes on our journeys through life.  He knew that would be the case, so he seldom offered advice while I hammered out my plans and lived my own life.  He trusted I would find my way.  I have indeed found my way, but I sometimes hear his gentle laugh from farther up the path as he waits for me to catch up.

copyright 2012, David Griffin 

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Picking Pickles

 by Delores Miller


     Poverty-stricken  mid-Wisconsin families began in the 1940s to look for ways of supplementing farm income.   Milk cows, pigs and chickens were not sufficient.   Cucumbers was a quick and easy cash crop, or so it seemed unless you were the poor individual picking pickles.

      A contract with the Bond Pickle Company and their representative Laura Mauel was signed.  Other receiving pickle stations were located at Big Falls with Otto Faehling as agent  and Eastling at Manawa.  Quarter or half  acre was the usual size.  Seeds were planted  with the crop maturing the end of July, and continued until frost, sometime towards the end of September.  Ten weeks of cucumbers.

      Picked and priced by size, ten dollars for a hundred pounds of two inch size gherkins.  A dollar for a hundred pounds of the over-sized pickles with various prices in between.  Hot, humid,  sticky days, rainy days, early morning, flies,  mosquito bites, made no difference.  The creeping vines, prickly, the blasted pickles still had to be picked.  I  was allergic, itched and suffered from hives, made no difference, rubber gloves solved that problem.

      Hauled in gunny sacks to the pickle factory, located near the railroad tracks in Marion, east of the Plywood  and the Ziehm Brothers livestock pens.  Laura Mauel  ran them through a conveyor belt and graded by size.  Put in the wooden barrels, to ferment with salt, dill  and vinegar, eventually being bottled and sold in stores.

      And what to do with all the money earned, you say?  Buy school clothes, supplies, perhaps a new winter coat and a few dollars to spend foolishly at the free shows.  Money was hard to come by in those early teen-aged days.

copyright 2014 by Delores and Russell Miller 

 Delores Miller lives with husband Russell in Hortonville, Wisconsin.    In the summer of 2007 they  celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a party hosted by their five children and ten grandchildren.  It’s been a long road.  Dairy farming until retirement in 1993, they continued to 'work' the land, making a subdivision of 39 new homes on their former hay fields.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Isle of Devils

By Peter Schaub

Beautiful Bermuda was on nobody’s bucket list in the 1600s. Named for Juan Bermudez, who discovered them about 1505, the islands were feared by the Spanish and Portuguese who rode the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean to Europe. The reefs surrounding the islands are treacherous, making a purposeful entry to harbor all but impossible in that era. The screeching cahow birds would have sounded to superstitious sailors like wailing demons. They called the place the “Isle of Devils”.

Sea Venture was the flagship of the relief fleet sent from England to Jamestowne in 1609. Hit by a hurricane, six battered vessels made it into Jamestowne with most of the provisions spoiled. The Sea Venture carried the senior leaders and wrecked on Bermuda. Even as the gunwales were awash, Captain Newport, Admiral Somers and Governor Gates must have been wondering which fate was better: drowning at sea or being wrecked on that abhorred shore.

Unlike those shipwrecked Jamestowne settlers, Connie and I arrived safe and dry in Bermuda with our friends on a lovely April day. Bermuda is not only pink coral beaches, gentle turquoise waves, and great golf courses. We spent the next week meeting interesting people, learning about Bermuda’s history, and sampling the local favorite, the “dark and stormy” made with Bermuda dark rum. Our interest in Bermuda started with our interest in Historic Jamestowne where the recent discoveries are showing the connections between the earliest British settlements in America. For example, Bermuda limestone was found inside the Jamestowne fort site in a 1610 context. This was ballast used in the new ships built by the Sea Venture survivors.
We began our visit attending an art auction at the World Heritage Center in the town of St. George

Continued HERE

Peter Schaub retired in 2010 after 40 years in management at the electric utility in Washington, DC. He and his wife moved to Williamsburg, Virginia where they enjoy the arts and the immersion in history available within a community that includes the College of William & Mary, Colonial Williamsburg, and Historic Jamestowne. They also enjoy travel, especially when it has a connection to history. Peter is a Master Gardener, and an amateur letterpress printer, continuing a hobby that began in his teen years. He is currently president of the American Amateur Press Association.