Monday, March 31, 2008



Old April showers
Made me stay
Inside the window
Half the day.

But I forgave them
When I found
A crocus peeping
From the ground.

(Pen and ink sketches were drawn and the poem was written by my
grandfather (Papa Lee), 1935)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Different World...1899...Brattleboro, Vt.

The sweet little girl in the white dress is my Mother. She was born in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1896 and lived to the ripe old age of 92. Her sister, my Aunt Helen, sits beside her.

The organ that is behind them must be an Estey ... because Brattleboro is where they were built and my Grandfather Prentiss was one of their salesmen. He traveled all over New England in his beloved car selling the Estey Organs, as well as repairing them. My blog of 2/03/07 features a picture of him in his automobile.

This picture was taken in the “front room” and I remember that we hardly ever used that area except when the organ was being played. The room was extremely formal and quite solemn. The woodwork and the furniture all seemed to be in hues of dark walnut. You can see the heavy curtains that were usually pulled to close it off from the dining room.

The most lived-in room of the house was the kitchen. There were actually 4 doors in that large room. One to the dining room, one to a front hall, another to a side porch and the fourth opened into my Grandfather’s wood-working shop. It could get very warm in the kitchen (with the wood-burning stove) so it was a great place to cozy up in the fall and winter months.

As I recall most of the summer entertaining was done on the big screen-enclosed front and side porches. Frosted mint tea was a favorite then as well as home-made ice cream. We had to work for the ice cream, though ...taking turns cranking the heavy handle. Needless to say it was well worth the trouble.

This home was in the family for many, many years and was only sold about 6 years ago. It was time to let go and I wish the new home owners a happy life there; but I often wonder if the ghosts of Grandpa and Grandma ever visit. I could swear I heard an organ refrain the last time I drove by.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The saga of Olga and the tub ...

Remember when we were kids and how we loved to sing those silly, sometimes off-color songs? The ones like “Be kind to your web footed friends, ‘cuz a duck may be somebody’s mother”.

Or how about “Do your ears hang low?” which changed to the very risqué “Do your boobs hang low?” when we were out of hearing distance from our parents?

There were hundreds of them, as I recall, but there is one song in particular that fascinated me. My sister Nancy introduced us to it and she would belt it out with gusto. There’s no particular tune attached. You just kind of sing and act it out at the same time.

I have never found anyone who has heard of this song so I will write it out for you here and see if it jogs anyone’s memory. It is the “Saga of Olga”.

Olga, where are you going?
“Upstairs to take a bath”.
Olga...with legs like toothpicks,
And a neck like a big giraffe

Da, da, da, da, da, da, da…

Olga stepped in the bathtub.
Someone pulled out the plug.
Oh my goodness, oh my soul,
There goes Olga down the hole…

Glug, glug, glug

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Historical Atrocity in World War I

Just when I think I can no longer be shocked by anything that our government does I find something new. I just finished reading Michael Lowenthal’s latest novel, Charity Girl, and it left me shaking my head.

This novel is based on fact and takes place in Massachusetts during World War I. It follows the path of a young 17 year old Jewish girl who has lost her father and whose money hungry mother offers her for marriage to a much older man … for a price, of course.

Frieda runs away from home and gets a job as a sales lady. She gets swept along on the patriotic frenzy of a country at war (“anything for our boys”) and succumbs to the charms of a young man in uniform. Unfortunately he leaves her with much more than sweet memories. He infects her with a STD (sexually transmitted disease) and gives the authorities her name as one of his contacts.

The Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety comes to the fore at this point and Frieda is picked up by the authorities. She is considered a “charity girl” and treated just as if she were a prostitute. She is literally jailed in a War Department Detention Home for Girls and allowed no outside contacts.

The rest of the story depicts her medical and emotional treatment in the home. As I read it I couldn’t believe that girls, whose only crime was being sexually naive, could be treated this way. The men who had created the problem got off with a slap on the wrist, a movie or two on STD, and the appropriate dosage of pills.

Upon further research I found out that nearly 15,000 women with STD’s were jailed, just like Frieda, during that time. I guess the majority would have been prostitutes and the government’s excuse was to keep these women away from their precious men in uniform. But it galled me to think that the innocent “charity girls” were caught in the net too.

This book brought to mind the book, “Snow Falling On Cedars” by David Guterson. The war in that story was WW II and he writes of the relocation of Japanese/Americans to Internment Camps here in the U.S. after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Another cause for shame and a low point in our history.

What is it about war that seems to give our governments a free (and heavy) hand to do as they please? Shameful acts are hidden under the guise of “the end justifies the means” and it always seems to take years to rectify the damage.

Sounds awfully close to what’s going on right now, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

PAPA LEE’S Typewriter…1942

When I was nine years old my sister Peggy and I spent a month with our grandparents in Plainfield, New Jersey. We had traveled by train from Boston and it was a grand adventure for both of us.

My Grandfather (Papa) was a writer and I often sat with him in the evenings and on the weekends when he wrote in his little office on the 2nd floor. It was crowded with papers and books and all sorts of fascinating office paraphernalia and smelled of his pipe tobacco. I loved it.

It was especially exciting when Papa would allow me to peck away on his old typewriter. I had visions of writing “the” book of the century but in all actuality most of it came out like this:


Thursday, March 06, 2008

The "Two Wolves" within us all....

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My son, the battle is between the two ‘wolves’ inside us all.

One is called EVIL. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false price, superiority and ego.

The other is GOOD. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

The grandson thought about this for a minute or two and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”