I first visited Manhattan in 1953, when I was 13, the guest of Vandy, my godmother. An avid reader of movie magazines, I asked if we could dine at the Stork Club, then one of the most celebrated nightspots in the world where glittering movie stars and celebrities always were being seen. And so, rather than instructing me in the Nicene Creed, Vandy took me to the Stork Club for lunch.
Everything was as I had pictured it, down to the Stork statuette on the table, and—would you believe—sitting at the next table was raven-haired starlet Piper Laurie with a slick-looking power player of some sort. This was the kind of crowd I’d always dreamed of running with, and I resolved then to move to Manhattan one day. Fourteen years later I made it—staying for another 45 years.
When I first arrived, the only people I knew were an uncle and aunt, and sometimes I’d go over in the mornings and watch TV game shows with her, a ritual that included drinking three or four martinis. (More...)
The Christmas season was fast approaching. The year was 1944, the war in Europe and the Pacific had swung in favor of the Allies, and the holiday mood was upbeat and festive in Dallas, Texas.
In those days, I was the foreman, laborer, and chief chicken plucker and poop scooper for the Harvey family Poultry Enterprises. My family was going to move into a more fashionable part of Dallas, and our wartime chicken-raising project would not be tolerated in the new neighborhood. I had butchered and dressed out all the fryers for our customers. Dad sold off the turkeys, laying hens, and George, the rooster, to a neighbor.
My grandmother, Nanna, who had lost her sight and lived with us, sat in the shade of our willow tree and plucked the feathers from the chickens I had butchered. Nanna had been raised in the 1880s on the Kansas plains and never shirked the drudgery of any menial job. She was an expert on all of the household skills like gardening, bread-making, and canning – skills needed to survive on the American Western frontier. She was an authentic pioneer woman. (More…)
Joe Callahan was my best friend in the Navy. We weren’t together very long, but while we were, we were virtually inseparable. When I returned to the Wilson after my leave to get married, Joe was on board fresh out of Internal Communications Electrician school.
The gun fire control gang, my unit, and the IC electricians both worked out of the IC room, home to the main fire control computer and the ship’s main gyro compass, the heart of the internal communications network, because all navigation and fire control systems were connected to it. IC electricians maintained the compass and the circuitry connecting it to other systems, as well as the sound-powered telephone system. The fire control guys and the IC gang were joined at the hip. (More…)
At the age of 12, I was not prepared for the war. It was a dark cloud that cast its shadow over what promised to be an enjoyable part of my life. I had just passed the 11-plus exam and had a scholarship to the local grammar school. My future looked rosy, but there were clouds on the horizon.
In England, we knew for some time that war was on its way. As I grew older, I read the national newspapers. They convinced us that Hitler’s aggression soon would be directed against England. The papers were full of news about Mussolini’s conquest of Ethiopia and the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Civil War was a harbinger of what was to come. It polarized European thought and opinion. The newspapers gave detailed reports of the aerial bombing, sieges, battles, massacres, the flight of civilians and all the terrors associated with the war. The nightmare grew closer. (More…)
The sky was an unbelievable blue with only a lonely, white, drifting cloud to disrupt its absolute rule in the heavens. The sea was a reflection of the blue sky, except near the shore, where the water became a translucent emerald-green.
From the rough planking of the dock Sham watched the ship, which had brought him and more than a few hundred others over the depths of the dark ocean, gently rocking as the small waves washed her hull on their way to the shore. His senses told him that he had never seen anything so lovely and yet so alien as the waters of the Caribbean. Simultaneously, he was conscious only of misery and loss. (More…)
The happiest season of the year was Christmas for the Chicago-based Henrikson family. I was the only kid among my friends who could say that I actually saw Santa Claus deliver presents.
Santa made regular appearances decades earlier to another generation of Henrikson and Dixon kids. My dad, Art Henrikson, wrote about these Christmas Eve visits to his Scandinavian grandparents’ home in the 1920’s as follows: “Each year someone would have to go to the store and leave through the front door…minutes later, conversation would lower. I’d hear a tinkle of bells and then a knock on the back door…there was Santa!” In the 1930’s, his younger cousin, Vince Bates, saw Santa at Big Grandma and Big Grandpa’s house a couple of days after Christmas and was amazed: “Of course, he had gifts for all of us, and of course he knew all of us by name, including me!” (More…)
Unbearable Florida heat and humidity, wives off on their own adventures, more than a slight danger of boredom—how are a couple of golden agers to spend their summer vacation?
Tim McMurrich and I have been friends for 45 years (although we lost contact with each other for 30 of those) ever since we were part of a stellar softball outfield in the ‘70s. We hatched our plan to tour Civil War Battlefields over cocktails during the Christmas holidays (not surprisingly our spouses began planning alternate summer plans the same evening). So, began an 8-day Odyssey (More…)
“Why bother with the past? It is not where you come from but where you end up.” This was a question posed by my younger son who was and is as American as Mom’s apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. I smile at him as we sit around a kidney-shaped swimming pool with sparkling blue water; the bright Florida sun glinting off the calm surface of the water with occasional swirls from the underwater jets and filtration system.
My answer was unthinkingly swift and spontaneous, as I had heard this type of question before, posed by students who were impatient to get on with life. (More…)
In the late 1970s, I started researching my family tree. My paternal grandmother’s grandfathers were Union soldiers in the Civil War, so I obtained their military records through the National Archives.
Charles G. Dixon married his sweetheart two days before he enlisted in October, 1864, in Company E, 8th Regiment, Illinois Cavalry. Private Dixon served only 9 months before his discharge in July 1865. A year later, he and Emma Gleason became parents of my great-grandfather, William H. Dixon.
Sanford C. H. Smith was a married father of four children when he enlisted in September, 1862, in Company H, 7th Regiment, Ohio Cavalry. Corporal Smith was captured during the Battle of (More…)
Fannie Farmer isn’t actually my friend, but if you are a home cook or know something about cooking in America, this should get your attention.
In my mother’s kitchen, when she baked a pie and it emerged from the oven bubbling with juice, she would wonder aloud, “Would it meet Fannie Farmer’s standards?” Her Fannie Farmer Cookbook was the reference for all good meals in our home. (More…)