Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas, 1942

by Charles Langley

It was Christmas at Fort Dix. It hadn’t snowed and there were no twinkling lights ordecorated Christmas trees, but there was a nip in the air and it was Christmas. And I was alone.

There were seven thousand troops scattered around me, but I was alone.    I came off guard duty at two o’clock, showered, changed into olive drab and was free until reveille the next morning.

Well meaning civil authorities had decreed that military personnel without emergency passes could not use public transportation over the holiday. The hard working defense workers needed all the space. Those few soldiers who had their own cars, and ration stamps for enough gasoline to fuel them, were packing their vehicles with paying passengers for the trip home. For the rest of us, it was hitchhike or stay put.

Cpl. Al Walters and I stood by the road to New York and waited. Not a car passed in half an hour. My chances of seeing my wife for the holiday became very slim. We saw a lone car coming from the opposite direction and  changed our minds, crossed the road, and  got a lift to Philadelphia. We didn’t know a soul in the city, and it was foolish to go there, but it was Christmas. Philadelphia at its best is not a bright, fun loving town.  On Christmas in wartime it was really a drag.

We made our way to the Salvation Army Canteen. We were too late. The last of the food had been eaten, and the only ones there were four weary women who had spent the day feeding hungry soldiers.

They eyed with dismay the mountain of dirty dishes in the sinks, and the smeared pots and pans on every sinktop. But they were game and were ready to go forth into the fray when Al and I intervened.

KP in the army is a dreaded task. Elbow deep in hot soapy water scraping the stubborn grime from the bottom of a cooking pot is not a proper job for a first class fighting man. It isn’t even a fit task for untried dogfaces such as we, but we tied on aprons and dived in. The ladies,tired as they were, argued against our endeavor, but we persisted. We washed, dried and stacked the dishes, shined the pots so they gleamed like a shavetail’s boots, and then tackled the floor.

The ladies somewhere found two pieces of pumpkin pie and made fresh coffee. They sipped coffee with us while we pigged out on the home-made pie. I hoped that their sons, where ever they were, had such caring people near.

They gave us each a hug and a hand-knitted O.D. Sweater, and we were on our way. We had taken a chance of getting back to the camp late and missing reveille, but luck was with us and we got a ride almost immediately. The car radio was playing Christmas music.

"I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me."

I wished it were true.

"Please have snow and mistletoe, and presents on the tree."

 Not this year.

It had started to drizzle, but the moisture on my cheek wasn’t rain.   The barracks was silent and dark. I hit the sack, hoping to get a few hours sleep before the five o’clock reveille call. I said my prayers and hoped that my wife wasn't as lonely as I was.

God was in His Heaven. All was well. It was Christmas, and I was alone.

                                         copyright 2012, Charles Langley

Charles Langley  returned to writing after a long hiatus.  He has written over two hundred stories, articles or poems for anthologies, magazines, and ezines. Gannet newspapers featured Charles with  full page coverage of his work at the Bruno Richard Hauptmann trial in Flemington, NJ in 1935.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Two Poems

by William D. Cecil, Sr.

Black birches bulging between boulders
straightened by time
into trees sublime.

Seedlings once - heaving for light and air
who could know such power
in growth, that shower

and sun would force a young half-buried thing
to lift its heart
in gnarled splendor.

I like to think

of a brittle sassafras
extending itself
to the full height

of a precipice-
trusting blindly
in its strength.

Yet slowly dying
beaten by wind
into sharpened rock.
 William D. Cecil, Sr. was born in 1906 and lived 
for 96 years.  He was a lifelong educator, people person, 
and believer in nature.  He spent time recuperating 
from an illness in the late 1920s and thirties.  He used 
this time to write poetry and to heal.  He was a member 
of the Shakespeare Symposium in Lewiston, NY and 
wrote biographical material on an artist known for his 
depictions of Niagara Falls (Amos Sangster).
copyright 2012, Carolyn Cecil 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Marks On Paper

by Greg Shattenberg

Marks, my father’s carved blocks leave marks. Marks on paper. Stare at them and search for meaning. Search for a meaning that speaks to life. The blocks are not perfect. They leave imperfect marks. That can be fixed. Make a perfect context. Purchase a perfect context. Then the marks are all right. What do they need to speak of in this perfect world? They can convey the unspoken, they can talk of liberation. Demonstrate the boundless.

These crooked lines call to be touched. Smudged. Rubbed and felt. Senses as restrained now as they always have been. How is another touched. There is nothing to be fixed. Nice neutral paper. Stacked in a pile. The neutrality is a relief. All senses can be invested in the blocks, in the paper, making something containing a content, triggering a content, more than it is. More than a piece of paper. More than ever was there between my father and me. We keep our constraint. Maybe it is contentment. Knowing that something is there is enough. Everything does not need to be saturated with passion.

So the blocks sit and the papers sit. Tools. Objects to be manipulated. An arbitrary deck of given pictures. Not demanding anything, but irresistible in how much can be thrown into them. There is really little to fathom. A step up from arbitrary.

I now want art. Not knowing how to make it, it will have to be stolen. A bit of license, a bit of larceny and off to the races. Separate enough to be manipulated. Close enough to sense some risk. A bit unpredictable and the formula is in place. And no one is there to take back pieces which may not have been given. It is a search for order. Take and give. Hope for cumulative sense. Hope that the relief felt is not cumulative meaninglessness. Relief because it is a place which will not have to be revisited.

The press gets adjusted. The senses are recurring. Variations in paper thickness can be felt. Sometimes the ink lies down perfectly. Sometimes, without thinking, each part goes together as exactly as can be expected, and the colors talk to each other. The ink is saying yes, and the block prints. Little investments in thought staring back invisibly, being cumulative. A bit of language becomes a voice. My own voice is interjected. As imperfect as the blocks and something is heard. No, it is seen. No, it is felt and hopefully there is a song.



                            copyright 2009 by Greg Shattenberg

 Greg Shattenberg is an artist residing in West Paris, Maine.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Before a Storm Breaks in Midsummer

 by William D. Cecil, Sr.
Out swings a limb
 brushed by the wind.
Out slips a bird,
 hardly disturbed
by sharp swishing
 of leaves, wishing
their time had come-
 their flight begun.
William D. Cecil, Sr. was born in 1906 and lived 
for 96 years.  He was a lifelong educator, people person, 
and believer in nature.  He spent time recuperating 
from an illness in the late 1920s and thirties.  He used 
this time to write poetry and to heal.  He was a member 
of the Shakespeare Symposium in Lewiston, NY and 
wrote biographical material on an artist known for his 
depictions of Niagara Falls (Amos Sangster).
copyright 2012, Carolyn Cecil 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Souls of the Station

By Stephanie  Heigh

Try to envision it.  A gray and dreary edifice at 5:00 AM.  The world’s asleep, and here in this bus terminal shadows seem to skulk in every corner.

Over there we see a college jock, his gangly limbs spread out so as to cover and protect his backpack.  He is dozing, but from his iPod emanates the muted screeching of heavy metal.

His body is tanned and admirably conditioned from endless workouts.  He  is blissfully oblivious to his surroundings.

Across the cheerless, poorly lighted waiting room a fatigued looking  young father feeds apple juice to his pride and joy, a cherubic little boy with a profusion of dark brown curls.  Next to them the weary mother, whose smiles belie her exhaustion, colors with her three year old daughter, a pretty but somewhat whiney child.

“What a lovely picture, Sweetie,” croons Mama.  “Can you color one for Daddy now?”

At that moment a suited , thirtyish executive type enters haltingly, looks around, and hesitates.  Soon he spies a long,

splintered wooden bench.  At one end an ancient crone is curled in the fetal position, all grime and ragged clothing.  Deep in her tremulous slumber she escapes the intruders surrounding her. This is her turf - has been for a long time.

On the same bench perches a bouncy teenager munching on a pear.  Her hair is half purple, half emerald green. Pear juice drips down her chin, and she is completely unaware of the startling beauty of her porcelain skin and angel eyes.

After surreptitiously testing the seat for dirt with a snow white handkerchief, the  yuppie gingerly sits down.  What is he doing in a bus station anyway?  Two  hours to wait before his bus is to depart.  Two long hours.  He pulls a laptop from his shiny leather briefcase and begins to work, his eyes nervously darting back and forth in every direction.

A grizzled vagrant hobbles by.  Although his semblance is that of an elderly man, one realizes upon careful observation that this is not the case.  Life for him has been cruel - a constant series of woes.  His eyes, large and black as coal, stare into the wide blue orbs of the sweet young teen, a magnetic force rendering her motionless.  “This candy bar’s too much for me; will you have some, little miss?”

She shakes her head in refusal.  He turns and begins to limp away.  Suddenly a change of heart and a murmured “Okay…please, why don’t you stay?”  The small sad gift is bestowed upon her with a flourish, and she nibbles tentatively at the confection.  The vagrant’s eyes soften as he watches and then rewards her with a wide toothless smile.

Beyond the vast plate glass windows morning is breaking.  Buses rumble in and out of the huge terminal.  Gradually the sleepy would-be passengers become alert, stretch, fumble for their tickets.  Gathering their belongings, taking up their children, they shuffle out to board the bus.

Inside they settle back, and as the coach roars out of the terminal in a rush of exhaust they can see the sun rising over the hills.

Stephanie Heigh has lived in Sullivan County, New York most of her life, many years of it with her husband Robert,  a retired teacher.  Writing has long been her passion as well as reading.  While very young she found even cereal boxes  fascinating to read.  Her other primary interests are music and her grandchildren.  Stephanie's best loved job was in her small hometown library as a front desk clerk.  Besides meeting many wonderful people, she had the magnificent perk of borrowing any publication when it was hot off the press.  The library is still a second home.  Visiting there provides a warmth and human connection that no other venue does.

copyright 2012, Stephanie Heigh

Monday, November 19, 2012

By Drownng

by Carolyn Cecil
Dropped on McCullough Street,
Baltimore, the seventies.
Immersed in smells:
urine, trash, people.
German Shepherd chained,
neck raw.
Nineteenth century gothic,
slum-lorded, walls cracked,
once glorious- 
Fodder for nightmare:
impotent social worker.
Skin and bone's baby,
sopping, screaming.
Sisters claw each other, 
one of them the mother.
Grandma dying,
give the baby away. 
 copyright 2012, Carolyn Cecil 
Carolyn Cecil has been writing poetry for ten years.  She participates in a monthly 
poetry critique group where she is based in Baltimore.  Her poetry has 
been published in The Broadkill Review, Poet's Ink, More Stories 
Website, Loyalhanna Review and The Gunpowder Review.  She will read from
 her work on March 21, 2013 at Third Thursday, Takoma Park Community 
Center, Takoma Park, Md.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

It Was My Pleasure ...

by June T. Bassemir

On “Ladies Night” in 1979 I was asked to give a talk to The Model A Ford Club of Long Island.  These were my friends all dedicated to finding, saving and restoring the Model A Ford.  I was the only woman in the club, having been introduced to it by a friend who knew that I had just purchased a 1931 Sport Coupe.  He saw my need to get good advice for restoring the car to show room condition.  Before long, other women came to the meetings with their husbands, but I was the only woman trying to do it myself.  My effort was not to prove anything.  I just wanted to have a car with a rumble seat, for I had never ridden in one.   

My talk that night was called “How to Make Rags”.  I was deadly serious but my male audience laughed at my opening remarks.  Actually, it was a subject of great importance with vital information for those of us who are in the restoration business.  Whether it is stripping furniture or working on a car; good, white, soft, clean rags at your elbow are an absolute necessity.

I was prepared to show them the right way to make a rag with one of my husband’s cotton T shirts.  (He had taken it off the night before and I snatched it from the hamper just before I left the house.)  With my sharp scissors in hand I showed them how to cut off the neck and sleeve seams.  (Thick seams do not help when you get to the polishing stage.)   The trick here in “making rags” is not to use any Polyester material as it doesn’t absorb anything.  It’s like trying to wipe up some oil with a piece of glass.  Only cotton cloth is to be used.  Of course, the best items are: the already mentioned T shirts; flannel sheets (which take up too much room in the linen closet and anyway are hard to turn over on while sleeping …) real 100% cotton sheets (they never seem to wear out), old dishtowels (they are in abundance now that almost everyone uses a dish washer) and men’s flannel shirts.  Egyptian cotton sheets are the best, but let’s not be fussy.  They will give you more rags than you will use in a year.

When you cut up a man’s cotton shirt you follow the same rules as when you iron it.  (But no one irons anymore.)  You begin with the neck.  Cut it off and discard it; then cut off the sleeves being sure to cut off and throw away all seams and cuffs.   Slit the back into four nice square pieces, the right size for wiping up spills of most anything.  The sleeves open up and produce two pieces.  The front halves of the shirt are less productive because you have to cut off the pocket and both buttonhole strips, but save the buttons for your “Button Box”.  There you have it: a pile of good clean rags for wiping your hands, dusting or cleaning up. 

The talk was a success and at the end of it, I offered several piles of five ribbon-tied-up rags @ .50 cents a pile.  The demand was great and all sold very quickly.  

copyright June T. Bassemir, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Random Memories



By Harold Ratzburg

    Way back in the fall of 1942, I was a shy little ole farm kid, walking into the "big city" school in  Marion.  I, like a lot of other kids that day, was fresh off the farm, having graduated from Maple Valley Grade School, way out in the Town of Dupont.
    My only experience in the big city was when I came with my folks to do shopping in town, usually on Saturday night on "Market Day". 
    I got a little more experience in town when I went to religious training at St. John's Lutheran Church under the guidance of Reverend Olrogge, a real preacher type preacher, who could really preach a fire and brimstone sermon from his pulpit.  After our weekly religious training class was over, I would walk down town to the soda fountain at Mee's Drug store.  Each week my Ma would give me a quarter to blow in town, and that 25 cents would buy a chocolate malted milk and a Walt Disney, Donald Duck or Micky Mouse or Superman comic book.
    Clarence Mees made the best darned malted milk in the world!! (my opinion of course)
I don't know what happened to the ice cream industry since those days, because I don't think that they make malted milks anymore----just plain ordinary milkshakes.  It pains me that I haven't found a malted milk in years.
    Anyway, Mees' drug store is where my parents would pick me up and bring me home.
    Walking into MHS where I knew very few of the other kids was a little awe inspirering.
I found my way to the "Cloak Room"---maybe it was called the Coat Room---and claimed a coat hook in the simple square room.  The school didn't have lockers, just the room with the hooks, and that hook pretty much remained your hook for the rest of the year.
    As I remember, most of the time while in Maple Valley grade school, I wore the very practical---for farm kids----the good old bib overalls.  When we did get into town, I was always impressed by the city kids because they wore the classy pants that required a belt to hold them up and you could tuck your shirt inside the belt and not look like some "dork" kid off the farm, but I think by the time I got to high school I had graduated to the belted pants.
    I'll be darned if I can remember how I got to high school every day.  Brother Lyle tells me that he remembers that some neighbor up the road picked us up and took us to town and back on school days.  At some point, I suppose that after I got my drivers license----at sixteen I think----that I drove the family car back and forth and traded rides with other farm kids.  School buses came to town well after I graduated.
    I do remember that Dwaine Dieck, from the other side of town, did have his own car that he used to get to school.  It was a big old limousine type car, with wooden spoked wheels and  I envied him a lot.  Take a look at the photo attached to this article and you will see what I mean.
    Most of our studying was done in the "Main Room", which was a big room with a stage to put on school plays and for all us students to meet for general meetings and announcements.  As I remember, that is where we were assigned desks in which we could keep our books and not have to lug them around all day, and remember, back packs had not yet been designed for the general population like they wear these days.  There was always a teacher assigned to monitor us students, but we still got away with passing notes and clandestine whispered conversations.
    The Agriculture Building was a separate building to the south of the main building.  It was set up to teach us about milk separation and testing, carpentry, animal husbandry, and all the other things that us FFA (Future Farmers of America) kids needed to study.  One of my favorite classes through the years was 'woodworking' in which I built a three legged milking stool to be used at home to get under those damned cows to do the milking.
    Sports, back then, as now was a big thing.  The best players that made the sports teams  were the elite students in high school crowd---i.e.---the big men on campus.  My own sports career was a short one.  Dad needed the help at home for doing the evening chores, so for the first three years, I didn't have the time to try out for anything.  In my senior year, Dad let up a little, and I was able to go out for football.
    I was a pretty good sized guy, one of the biggest in the class, so guess what?  I made first string the first year I tried out for the football team.
    I had one big problem however----I was not as aggressive as I should have been.  Even in a game, after I tackled a guy and he still kicked me in the face, I didn't get mad.  I guess I was just a lover, not a fighter, and I didn't go after him when I later had a chance.  I figured that getting kicked in the face was just part of the game.
    "Buck" Hintz (Reinhard) was a lot more aggressive, and he was the guy that Coach Grasser went to when the Coach needed a guy to pick on a guy in the other team to get him ticked off and make a mistake.  Bucky was just the guy to do it.
    The most memorable game that I played in that year, was against our arch rival ---Clintonville----in the first game of the season.  What made it memorable was that they kicked our butt to the tune of sixty to nothing----60 to 0!!!!  I couldn't wait for that game to end and put us out of our misery.  The Marion Pigeons could do nothing right that day, and of course, having such an aggressive name as "the Pigions" didn't help us strike fear in the hearts of our opponents.  I was happy when many later years I heard that the name had been changed to "the Mustangs".
    Buss's Sweet shop----or was it Buss's Soda Shop----was a big part of our high school  culture back in the 1940's.  It was located a few doors south of Mee's Drug store and that is where a lot of the kids headed at lunch time.  He served up milk shakes and malted milks (not as good as Mee's) and hamburgers and all the usual fast food stuff that High School kids like 
    Mr. Buss was tolerant of us kids and he was fair in his dealings.  In the 1940's, World War Two was in full swing and there were shortages in everything, including Hershey Chocolate bars.  They cost a whole nickel back then, and Mr Buss, when he was able to obtain a box of the Hershey bars, would ration them out so you could only buy one bar at a time to each kid that had the money to buy them.  You can't get more fair than that, can you?
     The Photography club  was a lot of fun.  Mr Anderson, the Science teacher, showed us how to develop film in the dark room and arranged for me to use the school camera to take photos of school activities like the Football Bonfire celebration and other affairs.  All cameras back in those days used black and white film with eight photos on each roll.  Photos were kind of expensive considering the income of people in those days, so we had to ration our picture taking.  That meant that the number of pictures to look back on in our albums today after 60 years is very limited in comparison with the number of digital photos that are taken every day today.  Almost every kid has a cell phone with a built in camera  and photos are taken by the thousands every day.  It makes me think that sixty years from now when people look for photos of their old school days, they will find so many of them that it might scare them off from the research, IF-- they can find them in all their computer files and CD disks.
    One last memory of high school days in this story is one of disappointment.  Being a farm kid meant that every day I was needed to help milk those damned cows at home, and since the Scouts met once a week at 7 PM in town, my family just couldn't arrange for transportation to get me there.  To compensate, I managed to get a copy of the Boy Scout Handbook that every Scout carried and I studied that on my own.  With the manual, I learned how to tie rope knots, build fires, first aid, and all the other neat things that a scout was supposed to learn. It did help to ease my disappointment and that was the best I could do, but there were no merit badges that I could earn.  Damn those cows.
    So Folks, that wraps up my Marion High School memores, the ones off the top of my head.  As I look through the old copies of our Mario Year Book and read the comments of old friends that signed it, I realize that more memories come forward that could fill all the pages of the Marion Advertiser.
    So I better stop so that Dan has room to put in some paying ads that keep the paper in operation.

copyright Harold Ratzburg, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Art of Selling

by June T. Bassemir

The world of selling was taught to me many yrs. ago at a lovely NY department store called Arnold Constable.   This was before the meg-a-stores of today but the same principles of selling still apply. 

The first thing you must learn is that everyone that comes through your door is paying your salary.  It doesn’t matter if they buy something or not.  How you treat them is vital to your business.  They either go away with a good feeling of: “I like this store.”…. or “Well….. I’ll never go there again.”

Here is an example:  Recently, I visited a small organic farm store on the eastern end of Long Island. The dirt driveway leading to the building gave ample warning to the salesperson within, that a customer was driving up, but as I opened the screen door the attendant was seated behind the counter reading a book.  There was no greeting. Vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and onions were neatly displayed on the short counter.  I asked the price of the tomatoes to the seated lady.  “Four dollars”, she said but no smile framed her mouth and after a wordless minute I paid her and left with a plastic bag of cherry tomatoes.  What had just happened? She received $4.00 for the pint size box of tomatoes but did I feel like coming back for any other vegetables she had to offer?  No.  Was the book she was reading so important that she couldn’t put it down to greet me or even thank me after I paid her?  No.  Will I tell anyone in my social circle what a great place it is to find organic food?  No. 

Now take the same experience and apply good salesmanship to it.  The long driveway alerts the salesperson (who may be reading a book) that a customer is coming.  She gets up before the customer comes in; puts the book away and straightens the boxes on the counter to show she is busy.  A happy greeting is made to the customer as she enters the door and light conversation follows.  “Yes, the cherry tomatoes are $4.00 a pint but they have been organically grown and are tasty.”  Four dollars is given to the saleslady and then the customer looks at the other vegetables mentally noting what the place has to offer.  “Do you need any onions or lettuce” asks the lady?  “Not at the moment.” the customer replies …”but it’s nice to know that you have them and I may get them in the future.”  As the woman leaves she is thanked by the attendant and expresses a wish that she have a good day.  Yes, it is an oft repeated phrase but it’s appreciated.  Now what has happened?  Was there a good feeling between the two women?  Yes.  Will the customer come back for other purchases?  Yes, because you see, there is more to selling than exchanging money for products and most salespeople do not know this or if they know it they don’t care. 

If I were looking for a job, I would like to be the one to teach The Art of Selling to new employees.
copyright June T. Bassemir, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

El Cid

by W. H. Payne

Danny O'Connor sat on an upholstered barstool in the cool dimness and stirred his third seven and seven of the evening. The air conditioner droned and Johnny Cash was telling how he had fallen into a ring of fire and how it burned, burned, burned.

On the wall behind the bar hung crossed AK-47 assault rifles and beneath them a red and blue Viet Cong flag with a yellow star in the middle. Beneath that was mounted the long, black, wicked-looking barrel of a Soviet-built recoilless rifle.

Souvenirs of the never-ending war, thought Danny.

He fired up another Lucky and looked around at the other sergeants talking quietly in small groups at the tables scattered across the floor of the little Quonset hut. He thought of how much he liked the Sergeants Club.

In this, his second tour in Viet Nam, he had become well acquainted with the NCO clubs in the Da Nang area. On his first tour, as a grunt with the 1st Marine Division, he had rarely seen the inside of a club. Now that he was assigned to the Air Wing, swinging with the Wing, he had become a connoisseur.

He liked the Sergeants Club because it was cool. Not just the air-conditioning, all the clubs had that, but because it was quiet and calm. It was for E-5 Sergeants only, not for corporals and sergeants like the 4-5 clubs, which were big and noisy, or the 1-2-3 clubs for the lowest three enlisted ranks; privates, PFCs and lance corporals, which featured 18 year-olds puking into big plastic garbage cans and slipping on spilled beer. He wasn't a staff NCO, so he didn't get to go to the clubs for the senior sergeants and didn't want to anyway as they were filled with old guys in their thirties and forties.

No, he thought; give me the Sergeants Club every time. The best club in the 1st Marine Air Wing compound, except for the music. Danny preferred The Beatles, The Stones, Hendrix, Janis, The Doors, and The Temptations, not necessarily in that order. The Sergeants Club musical selections ran more often to country and western. But Johnny Cash was okay. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

“Hair today... gone tomorrow”

by June T. Bassemir

Her hair had always been her crowing glory… like some girls have a cute nose; others have large blue eyes or a flawless complexion.  Her “glory” was her curly brown hair.  That was when curly hair was in fashion and envied.  “Oh you’re so lucky to have curly hair.” was the oft repeated phrase.  It carried her into marriage, motherhood and grandmother hood.  But as the years flew by, so did her brown locks and she was left with less than the desired amount.  There was no hair-do that brought back the satisfaction of looking in the mirror and no hat that gave her a mental lift.  The decision was made…. to get a wig. 

She told no one but on Easter Sunday she stood at the door to greet the family.  Their reaction came…. in double takes.  “Whoa”…said her son, and she herself couldn’t believe how ten years vanished while wearing the wig.  The puffy eyes were still there but the lovely hair style topped what people saw of her eyes and the smile did the rest.

It was time to face the public in her favorite supermarket and to be active in the guilds she belonged to but when she walked through the different doors she was quite embarrassed.  There were blank stares from those she knew best and she had to say:  ”It’s me… it’s a wig.”...  With that frank admission people seemed to relax  but weeks into the new hair style she noticed some changes.

Her contemporaries didn’t really like the change.  They didn’t say as much, but she could tell.  And then those kind drivers who used to stop traffic and let an old lady cross the street, now hurried by to catch the car ahead of them.  Strangers no longer held the door open for her or regarded her with concern.     

Even so, she was pleased with the wig and found it did something else. While wearing it she noticed that her step was lively, her stamina was stronger and her active life style returned.  She could forget that without it, all regarded her as a limited old woman.  In other words she lived up to what she was presenting to the world.  The mirror reflected a wonderful transformation.  Her advice to all her friends is: “If it becomes necessary to wear a wig, don’t worry.  It will improve your self image and self confidence.”

copyright June T. Bassemir, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Beautician

by Frank Beresheim

Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to cut hair.  As a child I would make stick figure drawings, all with different hair styles, signing my name Iris, in all capital letters.  I always knew when someone got their haircut, and would always comment on how nice it was, and followed it with “did you ever notice how good you feel after getting your haircut?”  I liked to see the big smiles people would make when I told them.  I used to love to see the glamour pictures in the newspaper for all the star’s latest hairstyles.  I would cut the hair on my dolls, but the only thing was it didn’t grow back.  I had a very unusual childhood because of my obsession.

Aside from cutting the hair on my dolls, I would cut the hair on the family dog, Noodle, a really shaggy dog.  I managed to get him to sit still long enough so that I could cut his hair and style it.  It took a whole bag of his snacks, but I think in the end it was worth it.  I did the hair on his body very evenly, and on his head, he had a man’s haircut with the part on the side.  When Mom and Dad saw him, they both had a big smile, and commented on what a good job I had done.  They gave me the fee they would pay the dog groomer, and I was smiling like they were.   Hair started to affect my school life too.
All the girls in my class started to hang out with me because I would comb their hair differently, making them prettier.  My parents forbade me from cutting any of their hair so there would be no problems with other parents.  I was allowed to do nails, and I would do all the top nail styles, as well as putting extensions on their nails.  Some of their mothers started asking if I could do their nails too.  Big trouble was waiting for me in High School. Her name was Dana, but everyone called her Cruncher, she had short hair, and was a tall as well as wide girl, wasn’t fat.  She always dressed in jeans and button down shirts.  I thought she was a boy, because of her size and the way she dressed.  I knew the school was co-ed, but I didn’t think they allowed boys into the girls room, and when she walked into the girls room, I promptly told her this is the girls’ room, and she said “You bone head, I am a girl!”  I soon learned why they called her Cruncher, a boy was picking on her, and she grabbed him squeezing him so tight, she broke his ribs.  When I called her a boy, it opened a can of worms for me with her that I thought would never end.

Continued HERE

copyright by Frank Beresheim

Friday, August 24, 2012

Barn Building, 1911 Style

By Delores Miller
When the Lembke family came from Germany in 1883 they settled on a 120 acre farm in Section 21 of the Township of Dupont.  $350. mortgage payable to Horton Cottrell. Located on what is now known as Long Lake Road.  In their German homeland, they were peasants working for rich absentee landowners. Emigrant tickets were provided by relatives already in America.  In Germany  houses and barns were built together.  The cow herds provided heat for the adjoining house.
Neighbors in Dupont  were Pockat, Kussman, Schmidt, Knaack, Arndt,  Maas, Bork, Krueger, Durkey families  and others.  This was the Lake Michael School District.  Were longtime members of Trinity West Dupont Lutheran Church.  Many family members rest in the adjoining cemetery awaiting kingdom come.  Milk cans were hauled by horse and buggy or sleigh to the Green Valley Cheese Factory, just down the road a bit.
In Dupont  when they came,  there were no buildings.  Only a wild land of forests, trees had to be cut and land cleared.  Along with working the ground, rocks and boulders surfaced with the spring frost, to be hauled off the fields in a contraption called a 'stone boat'.  Hilly land useful for sledding in the snowy Wisconsin winters.
Because trees were plentiful, the logs were used to build primitive houses and barns.  These lasted for 20 years. 
By 1911, one hundred years ago,  Wilhelm (Bill) Lembke 1869-1953, his wife Hannah (nee Schade) 1871-1919,  had six  young children Arthur 1896-1942, Charles 1894-1893, Martha Piotraschke 1897-1928, Esther Genskow 1903-1983, Hilda Wangelin 1904-1981, and Clara Pranke 1900-1921.   Hannah died of dropsy, Art was killed in an automobile accident, leaving seven young children,  Martha died of gall bladder surgery complications, leaving 3 young children, and Clara died in childbirth.  How sad for Bill Lembke to lose half his family, yet he remained upbeat and happy.    Wilhelm Lembke died one October night in 1953 after husking corn all day.  He was 84.
In 1911  Bill and Hannah had been married for nineteen years and  they  felt it time to build a wood frame and stone wall barn.  A century ago.
Picking a location for the barn was important, west of the house to provide a wind break.  A rise of the ground for drainage.  Surrounding pasture land and room for crops, hay, corn, oats, wheat.  Building barb wire fences. Most barns were timber framed, post and beam forming  strong structures to withstand storms and heavy loads of animal feed.  100 years later it is still upright  to withstand the storms of life and other calamities.
The Lembke children were assigned to gathering these rocks.   Types of rocks were granite, a course grain, light color,  basalt, the heavy black dense rock, and quartzite or sandstone.  Stone mason crews  (who were paid a dollar a day) were hired to build a ten foot high  rock wall, two feet deep,  two and a half feet in the ground and seven and a half feet exposed.  The barn  measured about  36x80 feet with windows and doors on three sides.  Meaning there was about 272 feet total  of stone walls.  If each stone measures about a foot square it would take over four thousand stones to build the walls two rocks deep.   (Carl Much calculations.)  Weighing about 30 pounds apiece this comes to many tons of rocks.     Two or three doors, plus 14 or so windows would reduce the square footage. The Good Lord in his wisdom provided these rocks to Wisconsin farmers to build stone walls for their barns.  Mixed with mortar, sand, gravel and water to bind the rocks together.  Stones had to be split so a flat surface was on the outside  making a smooth wall.  Neat.  Stone masons were proud of their work, arranging the rocks by color, red, black, brown and gray.   It took six to eight weeks to build a stone wall. No one builds barns like this anymore.  Only in our memories the lore and legends of barn building.  No one lives there anymore.
The Good Lord also provided trees, to be hacked down, cut into lumber for the barn.  Tamarack, elm, hemlock.   Wood and lumber had to be dried at least a year, as green wood split, warped and shrank. Another crew of carpenters, specialty barn builders came to frame the barn.  A huge beam was placed on top of the stone wall, notches for floor joists, 24 inches apart, next floor boards. and the skeleton and roof beams, Neighbors wandered  in  to provide bull work on an exchange basis.  Women cooked huge meals for the hungry hard-working men and boys.  They too, in the early years of the twentieth century built their own barns.  With their own many rocks and trees.  The Good Lord blessed early farmers with stones, rocks and boulders and each spring a new crop sprung up with the frost.  And even now in 2011, the rocks are shoved to the surface each spring by the frost.
Beams, rigid rafters, a supporting structure of post and beam,  oak wood pegged.  All hand tools, no electricity no hydraulic lifts or other labor saving innovations..    Oak pegs held timbers together.  Drilled with a hand devise.   Pike poles used to push, lift and pull the skeleton of new barn.  Only the skilled carpenter climbers were allowed to work on the upper parts of the barn.  Square nails were used to connect the   one inch rough boards  to the frame work.    Two versions of roofs were available, and it was the skill and inclination of the barn builder to choose. The gable and gambrel or hip.   The Lembke barn was the gable type. Steep roofs in Wisconsin were necessary to shed snow and rain water.  Eave troughs were attached to the overhanging roof, to ease water away from the foundation.
Red cedar shingles were used to cover the roof.  Also provided by the Good Lord from the swamp.  Some were machine sawed with a primitive gasoline engine, others were hand sliced with an axe called an adz or froe.  Labor intensive.  But a good cedar shingle roof would last for thirty years.   This was replaced at one point by a crimped tin roof, which rusted.   Ventilators pulled moisture from the barn to the outside.  While most farmers eventually painted their bars red or white, the Lembke barn was left to weather the elements into a neutral grey.
More rocks and boulders were gathered to make a ramp or hill into the upstairs of the barn, so wagon loads of feed could be hauled right into the barn.  Bundles of oats and wheat were stored on the barn floor for thrashing.  Chutes and stairs connected to the bottom floor.  Straw stack outside over rough boards provided cover for pigs and young cattle.
This era of advancement in dairy farming would greatly increase efficiency and production.  Bill Lembke knew this and it was why he built his big dairy barn.  Stalls and stanchions for twenty cows, a bull pen, calf pens, horse stalls.  A gutter for manure collection.    A metal track attached to the ceiling and a carrier bucket could haul manure outside into a pile or in a spreader to haul on the fields. 
Upstairs in the barn, another steel track was attached to the peak of the roof.  This labor saving device was  invented and made possible the storage of large quantities of hay.  Hay was cut, either with a scythe or an early McCormick mower pulled by horses, forked on a wagon, or a loader, hauled to the barn.  Huge pronged forks clumped a bunch of hay, ropes pulled, with the aid of a horse, up and into the barn.  A mechanism  tripped and the hay whooshed into a pile in a particular mow.  No matter which conveniences were invented, dairy farming in those early years were still labor intensive.  Damp or wet hay, would cause heat, and combustion and fires resulted.  Bill Lembke was careful and never had that problem.  The barn was immune from lightning strikes or tornadoes.
Probably a barn dance was held to celebrate the new barn.  Daughters weddings were held at the farm.  Photographs survive from those happy occasions.
Another storage structure for feed, was a silo.   The Lembkes first had a glazed  clay tile brown silo built which had a hollow space in the middle so the corn silage did not freeze. A concrete silo was added  and in later years these were replaced by a  Madison Stave Silo.  Corn was chopped and blown into this silo to be used for cattle feed.
Even though a lake was a short distance away, a well was dug, and a windmill built on top, providing water for the barn and house.  A very labor saving device.    Other outbuildings were a piggery, coop for the chickens, ducks and geese. corn cribs, granary, outhouse,  woodshed, smoke house, carriage or car shed.
Around this time, too, it became apparent that a wood frame house needed to replace the two-story log house.  Rocks were again gathered for a basement, two story frame house with a pressed metal siding and cedar shingles.  This home held many happy memories.  Age and deterioration took its toll, and was dismantled and now the site of grain storage bins.
Two lakes to the west of the farm were called Lembke and Long Lakes.  Good fishing, winter and summer.  In 1956 Chas. and Clara Lembke deeded to Waupaca  County a parcel of land for Public Access along the shore of Lembke Lake.  The family enjoyed fishing and brought home many meals for the table.
The Lembkes and their  heirs, the Piotraschke  family farmed this land for 117 years until 2000 when it was sold to Kevin and Lori Watchman.  One hundred years ago this barn was built and still standing strong. 
A testament to hope, this 1911 barn of my Great Uncle Bill Lembke who held me on his lap and called me his little 'girlie'.
Information and opinions furnished by June Erdmann and Barb Sawall, great granddaughters of Bill and Hannah Lembke, and Russell Miller, Historian.
copyright 2011, Delores and Russell Miller

Friday, August 17, 2012

Worst Opening Sentence Competition



The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2012 is the latest in an annual series of competitions to find the worst-possible opening sentence to a novel.

Entries are divided into categories, with a single overall winner. This year's champion was judged to be Cathy Bryant of Manchester, UK, who came up with this disgustingly unforgettable line:

    As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting.

The competition's creator, Professor Scott Rice (aka the Grand Panjandrum) gave this zinger his own special commendation:

    As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and feces mix in birds’ rectums to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation, although eying Greta's face, and sensing the reaction of the congregation, he immediately realized he should have used a different analogy to describe their relationship in his wedding vows. — David Pepper, Hermosa Beach, CA

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